BlinQ: Control your TV with your iOS Device

At a recent tech expo,  a newer contender in the world of universal remote apps for iOS devices caught my eye.  Although not an original idea, this particular implementation has a relatively low cost considering its rich feature set.  This type of app represents the direction I believe that TV is going: businesses should be prepared to engage customers in new ways using ancillary content like ads, interactive games, and social content.

Ryz Media’s BlinQ TV has the newest twist on this idea. BlinQ’s big “get” is that, instead of routing commands over Wi-Fi, BlinQ gives you an IR blaster that plugs into the device’s headphone jack.  The small blaster can control a TV, cable box, and most other devices with no intermediary hardware. Best yet, it’s very affordable at ten bucks.

BlinQ offers a guide that allows you to forget channel numbers and just concentrate on content. It does this by focusing on the popularity of shows among BlinQ users–the popular stuff is at the top, and there are pop-ups that alert you to trending shows. You can recommend what you’re watching to your friends via Facebook and Twitter.  This product is a great look into the developing relationship between the TV and mobile devices; as soon as we don’t have to find a little gizmo to plug into our phones to get this functionality, absolutely everyone will use their phone as their remote.  So, start thinking about what kinds of games and social features you might want to integrate into your company’s TV advertising campaigns, because it’s going to be the norm in the very near future.

Three Productivity Updates to Google Sync for iPhone and iPad

Adding Google email accounts, contacts, and calendars to their iDevice is one of the first things Google software addicts do when they get their shiny new Apple hardware. Google recognizes that a huge chunk on their mobile customer base carry Apple gadgets, so they have updated some of their Google Sync features to further enhance the Google experience on the iPhone and iPad.

Now you can search through ALL of your emails versus just the range of messages you selected to sync on your device. Before, you had to access the mobile-friendly Gmail site to search all of your mail (live or archived) on your account.

You can also accept, decline, and edit calendar appointments directly from your device. Now I can turn off all of those email notifications to alert me somebody sends a calendar appointment!

Finally, “Send Mail as” works in any account you have set up on your device. In other words, if you manage multiple accounts from your device (I personally manage 5), without physically switching accounts, you can select from which account you want to send or reply to a message. For example, if somebody sends me a message to my personal account, I can [passive-aggressively] send them a reply from the right account by tapping the “From” field and selecting that address.

The new features work for both Gmail and for all the small businesses (myself included) using Google Apps accounts. Google Sync is a must-have if you live by Google software AND by Apple hardware. Visit the Google Mobile Site to learn how to setup Google Sync on your iDevice.

[via: Google Mobile Blog]

Apple ditches MobileMe, introduces iCloud at exciting price point: free

Although Apple’s cloud services have been rumored for years, no real information has surfaced before today about exactly what to expect. But at their Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) today, Apple announced that they’re going cloud in a big way: starting this fall, MoibleMe (a paid service to synchronize your mail, contacts, and calendar) will be replaced by a new, free service called iCloud.

What is iCloud? At a basic level, it’s a replacement for all of the services that MobileMe used to cover: iCloud provides free synchronization for your Mail, Calendars and Contacts through new applications that push your updates to any iOS devices you may own, including the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Similarly, App Store and iBookstore purchases are now automatically synchronized between multiple devices. What does that mean for you? Hassle-free work from the field, with the same calendar and mail set-up on your phone or tablet (provided those phones and tablets are the iPhone and iPad!)

The real win for small business users comes in the form of document sync, however. Last week, Apple announced that their iWork suite of apps, including Pages, Numbers and Keynote, we’re being ported to work not just on the iPad but also the iPhone and iPod touch. These apps, for those who aren’t familiar, are Apple’s answers to Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, respectively.

Today Apple is announcing that their iWork suite of apps will allow document sync through their iCloud service, with 5GB free storage for documents. While 5GB isn’t a huge amount of storage for music or pictures, it translates into thousands of documents sync’d seamlessly across your devices. For users on the go, this may finally make Apple’s iWork suite of software a viable alternative to Microsoft’s suite of desktop software or even Google Documents.

A few other features of note: Apple is also announcing iBackup, a feature that securely backs up your iOS devices over Wi-Fi whenever you charge your devices. Not only are your apps, books, and music backed up, but also your device settings. This should make things easier for users upgrading from the iPad to the iPad 2, or from the iPhone 4 to whatever comes next from Apple. As well, it should relieve some stress from users worried about having to connect their iPad or iPhone to their computer via USB every time they want to manually backup their devices.

Other things like photo sync and iTunes in the cloud offer services to sync your photographs and music between devices, and you can read the full details in Apple’s press release.

iMessages for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch bring rich messaging experience to iOS 5

Tons of exciting news coming from Apple today regarding their new version of their mobile operating system, iOS 5. One feature in particular that may interest our readers is iMessage, part of the new Message app that will come free with the new OS update.

iMessage is something that should be familiar to BlackBerry phone users, as it brings to iOS features similar to BlackBerry Messenger. In addition to multimedia features like rich text and being able to send pictures to your contacts, iMessage is launching with an enterprise-ready feature set including:

  • Delivery receipts
  • Read receipts
  • Typing indication
  • Pushed to all devices (meaning you get the same messages on your iPad, iPhone and iPod touches, if you own multiple Apple devices)
  • Works over 3G and Wifi
  • Secure Encryption

This last feature, secure messaging, is something users have long associated exclusively with the BlackBerry platform. That will soon be baked into iOS for all your devices is a huge, free upgrade for businesses that have already transitioned to the iPhone for their employees.

The news keeps rolling in, so stay tuned to this space to find out what else is changing on mobile from Apple, and be sure to check out Apple’s overview of new features coming to iOS 5.

Improving Apple

I love Apple products. There, I said it. However, as comes with the fanboy territory, many of us have started to notice small things that we would change about our favorite iOS features.  Over at Apple Matters there’s an article about just this – in particular, how certain apps for your iOS devices can be replaced with something better.  The highlights:

Their list starts with Instacast, which does a better job of managing and finding podcasts than searching through the iTunes Music Store on your iPhone.  Podcasts represent a surprising share of iTunes traffic.  I can see why when I look at the really great ones like The Complete Guide to Everything, Laughing Historically, and the New Yorker Fiction Podcast. If you don’t have a favorite, you should definitely go exploring.  Similar to Instacast, although it is not on the list at Apple Matters, Stitcher is quickly becoming the most popular way to manage podcasts among my friends.

Next comes PhotoSync, which wirelessly syncs your photos between your iOS device and computer. If it only synced everything (not just photos), this would be a real game-changer.  Stil,l if your mobile life involves a lot of photo management this could really help you out.

Finally, they list Stash Pro, an image management application. It’s more expensive than the other apps we’ve discussed at $3.99, but it does allow you to download images directly from websites. Plus, you can add keywords, titles and ratings to images for superior organization of large sets.

I’d be amiss if I left my latest favorite Apple hack out of this post. It doesn’t come from the list over at Apple Matters, and it isn’t a software hack: it’s Applecores.  Pictured with this post is the cool, affordable little solution to my biggest Apple beef: tangled headphone cords.  You all know the story- you neatly wound your headphones and put them in your pocket, only to later you pull them out and boom! A bird’s nest of tangles and knots!  Well, no more.  Applecore offers their simple and effective solution for the Apple cord tangle for only a few bucks- a bargain, in my opinion, to be freed from the daily headphone de-tangle.

Samsung MobilePrint adds Mobile Printing from Android and iOS Devices

HP was first to build AirPrint capabilities into select HP printers for mobile users who want to print directly from their iOS devices. Now Samsung has unveiled its MobilePrint app for Android and iOS devices that allow direct printing all WiFi and network-enabled Samsung printers. The MobilePrint app allows users to print emails, web pages, maps, photos, and Microsoft Office and PDF files faster when traveling for business, working remotely, or visiting with friends and family.

Announced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the MobilePrint app will detect and connect directly to Samsung wireless printers in the area via WiFi or a network link. Samsung Mobile Print/Scan app users can then print directly from their devices with the click of a button, eliminating the hassle of driver installations and network configurations.

The MobilePrint app will also allow for mobile devices to see images that were scanned by a local Samsung Printer. Users can quickly review and edit documents that have been scanned into a local Samsung printer. Using this feature, mobile devices can detect documents scanned to a local multifunction printer or, alternatively, be sent the scanned document by the MFP user.

The Samsung MobilePrint app is available for Android smartphones, Android tablets and iOS devices and can be downloaded from the relevant application store or marketplace.

Scan QR Code and Make Payments with Mobio App

If you haven’t seen on of these…

Then you haven’t been paying attention to the internet over the past year or so. They are called QR Codes and simply put, they give users access to the information encoded on the image by simply scanning the image using your smartphone’s camera and a QR Code reader app. Instead of typing a long url or manually adding a new contact, just create a code and other mobile users can scan it and automatically gain access to the encoded information quicker than typing on a tiny smartphone keyboard.

The Mobio QR Reader app not only gives users the ability to scan the codes automatically (no taking a picture first), but now you can make mobile payments to anyone who accepts “Mobio” by simply scanning a code that corresponds with your purchase.

Once you download the app, create a profile, and enter your financial information, Mobio organizes all of your transactions through one trusted device. No more credit cards or wallets, data entry or passwords. Mobio is not just smartphone user-based, businesses and organizations can reach out to a broader “mobile” audience by offering Mobio payments to patrons. Using easily (and securely) encoded and scanned QR code technology, Mobio makes identity management and protection simple and convenient for both individuals and organizations, resulting in increased value from purchases and better management of all interactions.

The Mobio QR Code Reader app is a free download for both iPhone and Android mobile devices. For more information, visit the Mobio Website.

Google Docs Gets Mobile Editing Capabilities

Google Docs is a great web application that allows to you to create, save, and share documents with other users and other devices. If you are on the go and needed access to your documents via your mobile device, you can sign into your Google Docs account and have your document available to you.

…But that’s all you could do. Google has decided to step up its game and add read and write capabilities to Google Docs for Android and iOS Devices (iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad). So now, if you happen across a typing error in a document or a wrong figure in a spreadsheet and can’t wait until you get back to the office to make the change, you can now tweak you document and still keep to your busy schedule. This is especially helpful if you collaborate with other members of your organization and you need to make “mission-critical” changes (I’ve always wanted to say “mission-critical”) sooner than later.

This also points out another solid feature of Google Docs. Editing documents, whether using a desktop, laptop, OR now a mobile device, can be done in real-time. So users who have access to your document see changes as you make them and you can see their changes within seconds on your mobile device. And added bonus if you are an Android user is that you can use Android’s voice transcription to add text to your document as well. So you can save some time and speak text directly into your document.

Android OS 2.2 “Froyo” users and iOS 3.0 and up devices should start seeing the “edit” button at the upper-left side of a document they are in within the next couple of days. To check out Google Docs on your mobile device, visit

WordPress 2.6 for iOS Adds Enhanced Video Support

I manage a couple of WordPress sites and write for a couple of others, but I hardly use the WordPress apps for my mobile devices. BUT when I need to use it to adjust something real quick like a typo, or a broken link in a post and I am NOT sitting around a computer, BOY do the WordPress mobile apps come in handy.

So I’m pretty geeked to tell you that WordPress has added some additional features for iOS devices (Apple) that just may get me to use the mobile apps more often.

The “set up” (leading up to the grand finale) features include:

– Autosave feature and improved Local Draft Support so you’re mobile posts don’t get completely trashed if your phone or the app freezes up…and it does happen.

*Drumroll please*

– The WordPress 2.6 for iOS devices now includes enhanced video support. Now you can capture and post videos directly to your WP site without any converting, or uploading to additional video sharing sites, then embedding the video to your WP site. So for all you Vloggers with an iPhone and a WP blog, you can now shoot and post vlogs on the fly.

There are a bunch of other bugs that they worked on, so check out the improved WordPress 2.6 for iOS app – it’s free, but requires iOS 3.0.2 or later.

(No word on any improvements to Android or BlackBerry versions…doh!)