Tungle me this

Tungle Logo

Tungle has been one of the most powerful tools that I’ve come across in a long while. One of the biggest challenge for me as someone who is constantly working with people inside and outside my organization is the ability to schedule meetings. Tungle solves this issue for me. Tungle is essentially a public free/busy on steroids and crack at the same time. It allows you to publish all of your calendars (work, personal, fun, etc) and allows others to book time with you. It is not, however, a calendar server.

Tungle gives you multiple ways to publish your availability to its servers. You can download an iCal client, Outlook client or sync it with a service like Google Apps. I primarily use it with integration to Google Apps. The one thing I like about it with this feature is that it automatically updates to my calendar on my mobile devices as well. If you are using Tungle to schedule a meeting with others who are also on Tungle, a really efficient way of managing schedules is with the iPhone app. It allows you to see the availability of people that have made their information available to you and schedule the meeting.

The best feature, by far, is the ability for others who don’t use Tungle to book meetings as well. In short, vendors who work with me love it. My schedule is usually pretty full on a daily basis. It’s part and parcel of an exciting day at Canpages Technology. The best way for vendors to get my attention is to book my calendar for a follow up or even a conversation and they can do this without giving me a call. I’m surprisingly hard to reach on the phone.

Using it for me was quite intuitive for both users and non-users of the site. For non-users, you use my personalized link to my availability and when you load the screen, the interface is simply time slots in half hour chunks that are available to be booked.The idea here is to propose multiple time slots, add your subject line, location information and any message and Tungle sends me the information. I like the Tungle iPhone app for this part because all I have to do is to turn on the app, go through each meeting and I’m done. Very quick and very efficient all in all.

While I love Tungle, here are some quick things that I think would make this an even more phenomenal product:

  1. The ability to schedule meetings directly from Outlook. Right now, the Tungle plug-ins sends me back to my Tungle site in order for me to book meetings
  2. I would love an Android app for it. I use both my iPhone an equal amount so it’d be nice to have an Android app.
  3. Ability to customize daily availability by user or group. For instance, I’m available to co-worker only until 6 pm but much more available to friends after that

Why Windows Phone 7 is not Microsoft’s mobile saviour

I have always been a huge fan of Windows Mobile and at the heart of it, Windows Phone 7 really is Windows Mobile in spirit; it is a platform that is meant for consumer small devices. Microsoft’s strategy has always been targeted at the business community and hence they have always seen their main competitor as RIM. Apple came out of left field and proved that there was a market for non-professionals and both Microsoft and RIM were both left stunned. Google has snuck into the market in the past two years and has quickly gained around 3.5% share of the mobile market.

In my opinion, Windows Mobile has always been a superior OS technically in comparison to the iPhone. I cannot think of any feature outside of specific gestures that are not available on Windows Mobile. The core of its strength is that it is a true OS with less limitations than the iPhone. Unlike the iPhone, most problems are solveable by a developer. Don’t like the native home screens, there are a number of alternatives including SPB Mobile Shell. Don’t like the native keyboard, there are alternatives to that like Swype and TouchPal. Don’t like the browser, there are a ton of solid replacements like Opera and Skyfire. Launching a new OS that is technically better is a moot point as Windows Mobile today is a technically better product than the iPhone.

While Microsoft never had the hearts and minds of the user community, the biggest loss they are facing now is the that of the development community. Proof in that is in the lack of new applications. Every new web service builds apps for the iPhone followed by the Android. Rarely for Windows Mobile. Even with web APIs widely available, there are very few third party apps built for Windows Mobile. Back then, for a developer, there were no real choices and no real competition outside of Windows Mobile. Today, it is cheaper, cooler and more profitable to develop for the iPhone and the Android platforms.

Microsoft has to find a way back to the developer community’s hearts by giving away Visual Studio for free and even as far as giving away devices for free. They could even bundle Visual Studio with a mobile device for cheap. But they have to bring back their developer community before they do a push to their user community. Once you have a handful of high profile apps, then they have to do an Apple-like push for their platform. Their battle ahead to compete in this space is not technical; it’s a marketing war.

Zoompass Tags

I was quite honoured when I was selected as “one of the first Canadians” to receive my Zoompass Tag. To incent or reward the use of this new idea, I was also zoomed an additional $15 into my account. It was definitely a nice gesture.

The Zoompass Tag is essentially a sticker that is intended to be put on your phone. I suspect it is embedded with an RFID chip of sorts inside it. Zoompass is geared to be a mobile payment tool and this is a logical step in it’s evolution. It allows the account holder to be able to use the Zoompass site or mobile app on the phone before and now you can physically use your phone to swipe at a pay station. All in all, quite clever. When I used it at the Tim Horton’s yesterday morning, the attendant was quite impresses and quickly jotted down the name of the product.

There are a few issues for me personally. The first is that I have at least 3 phones that I use and I use them interchangably. It’s not a major issue as I am quite unique in that regard. The other issue I have is the sticker itself. For one, it protrudes quite a bit. I’m worried that over time, it will be jarred off the phone. Secondly, I chose to put the tag on my iPhone. The issue is that I use a silicon sleeve and that didn’t seem to adhere well on it on first attempt. So I ended up sticking it on the phone beneath the sleeve. That didn’t seem to work when I was at the Tim Horton’s the first time. I had to remove the sleeve to use it. I’ll try again to see if it was a Kelvin issue.

Overall, I love the idea. It’s neat and convenient. It also frees up my wallet from one additional card in my 5-card wallet. It does consolidate my use of Zoompass.

Things I love and hate about the iPhone

It is a pretty known fact that I LOVE the Windows Mobile platform and consider it the best mobile platform purely from a technology standpoint. However, when I joined Canpages in November, I was given the opportunity to purchase any phone that was available by Rogers. Given that I owned both HTC Android phones and Rogers did not carry any Windows Mobile phones that was worth acquiring, the only real choice left really was to get a 16GB iPhone 3GS. I approached that decision with a lot of mixed feelings. In my initial use of the iPod Touch, I really disliked the experience. However, I only used it for a few hours at a time, I was willing to give it another try. Here are some of my thoughts after almost 4 months of use.

iPod application is fantastic
I haven’t tried the Zune yet but I have to say that the iPod is a fantastic music player and the integration to iTunes is quite seamless. I love the fact that it can carry a copy of my favourite music with me any time I want.
Multi-calendar support
I like that you can synchronize multiple Google Mail calendars to the iPhone which you really can’t do with Windows Mobile. While it wouldn’t be the core feature I’d abandon an OS for, it’s definitely a worthwhile feature for me as there are a handful of people whom I care to know what their schedules are.
There’s an app for that
The tagline for the iPhone ads is quite true. And at the heart of any smartphone OS, it is really about apps. There’s an application for almost everything that you can think of. Unsurprisingly, I install a lot of applications. Most free and some paid. I am a bit mixed about if they are cheap or not. In comparison, I probably spend as much if not more on apps on the iPhone as there is no concept of trial versions for apps and I’m constantly paying for apps in order to find a few good ones.My must have apps on the iPhone are Newsie (Google Reader integration), Pocket Informant (much more intuitive than the default calendar), Trillian (instant messaging), Tweetdeck (Twitter the way I think about it) and Shoutcast (Internet Radio)
Awesome on-screen keyboard
This came as a surprise to me actually but the on-screen is not only adequate but I would classify it as extremely usable. There are so many little things about the implementation of this product that made me not miss my hardware keyboard as much as I thought it would. I love that it predicts my mistyped words at a relatively high accuracy. The only times I would have to go and manually correct words would be when I use words that are common among my friends. I like the fact that it remembers the casing of the word that you’ve corrected so you don’t have to remember what it was before. The one thing downside of the on-screen keyboard and this is common for all on-screen keyboards is that it does take up a lot of screen real estate when it’s activated.
The User Interface is mediocre
When the iPhone first launched in 2007, it had the best User Interface out there. It’s greatest differentiator – it was understanding that the use of a stylus was an utter failure and reduced the adoption of mobile devices. It kept the user interface simple and to the point. Even then, the user interface wasn’t perfect and it still isn’t. It’s even hard to say if it’s even the best user mobile interface out there. It’s not dramatically worse than anyone out there. This part is more directed to fanboys who claim that this is the most intuitive interface. While there are a slew of frustrating problems, here are three that drive me crazy. The first is difficult for one-handed use. Many apps have buttons on the top left or right of the screen. This actually makes it difficult for one-handed use. I like the fact that for Windows Mobile, the menus are usually on the bottom left or bottom right hand side. Another is the use of the keyboard. Depending on the app, you either have to press a button on the screen or a button on the keyboard to execute a function. Minimizing a keyboard is even more confusing. Sometimes it’s clicking on another part of the screen and sometimes there’s just no way of minimizing the keyboard. In both Windows Mobile and the Android, there’s usually a button that minimizes the keyboard. Last but not least, is the settings of the app. Sometimes you have to configure the settings within the app and sometimes you have to go to the General Settings that is native to the iPhone app to set it and sometimes depending on the function, you have to check both. In both Android and Windows Mobile, they are always within the app unless it’s native to the Operating System.
Native apps like phone, calendar and mail are quite rudimentary
Although I rarely use the phone functions of my phone today, when I use it, I have certain expectations of it. For one, I am used to using the dial pad to spell out the name of the person. The dial pad is a lot bigger and it is much faster to type through than using the full keyboard. With the iPhone, I first have to click on the phone icon, followed by clicking on the contacts, scroll up to the search bar and then start spelling out the name of the person I’m trying to call. With my Fuze, this same use case is simply press on the phone button, start using the numeric keypad to spell out the name of the person I want to call and it’ll automatically start matching the names of the people that I want to call. The saving grace for the 3GS, however, is that, just like Windows Mobile, the voice command does not need to be pre-programmed and is a relatively quick way to dial someone’s number if you can pronounce the name properly.
It drives me crazy that I still can’t accept calendar invites that come from Google or Outlook which is where the majority of invites come from for me. I still use my Fuze to accept invites. This part is extremely frustrating to use and is a major fail for me.
Perhaps I’m extremely use to the way Pocket Outlook works. After all, I’ve used it for about 7 years now but I find the iPhone mail app quite unintuitive. There are really two major things that bug me. The first is the inability to mark all mail as read. I do get a large number of emails at work that I know I don’t have to read right away. As such, I’d like to mark them as read so that I know when new messages come in. Right now, the badge on the email icon means nothing to me because I have to check each mailbox to see if I have real new mail in each mailbox. This task is further encumbered by the fact that navigating to each mailbox is quite cumbersome.
No running of applications in the background
Most of my entertainment applications don’t require me to have the need to run the app in the background. However, for a number of important apps that I use, the lack of ability to run in the background is detrimental for my use. Take for example, Newsie which is my Google Reader application. I oftentimes have to turn on the app, leave the phone for a few minutes while it synchronizes to the server before I can actually start catching up with my reading. This is a bit of an annoyance but not detrimental to the the device during my day. However, because I can’t do a background sync on Pocket Informant, I can’t rely on the alerts as I’m never sure if the information is up to date or not. The only way to work around it is to constantly open the app to ensure that it’s synchronized properly.
I used to be of the opinion that the Smartphone aspect of the iPhone was an after thought. After five months of using it, I had to change my opinion a little. The iPhone is still quite a smart phone but it’s focus is more on media than traditional work tools which is what I personally look for in a device. As a play phone, the iPhone is a fantastic product. As a work phone for me, I still find it quite cumbersome and lacking.