Archive for the ‘Mobile mail’ Category

When Apple announces launch of any iPhone related stuff be it the OS or device itself, the entire web goes crazy. Perhaps nothing else on the Internet other than those trojans, can generate such a traffic on the Internet. So like others I also joined the craziness bandwagon and tried to find out what Apple has packed for us in the new iPhone 4.0

A new name
Since iPhone OS is being used in iPhone, iTouch and iPad it will no longer be known as iPhone OS, from now it on it would be rather iOS 4. Fair enough!

Multitasking
After a long time iPhone will finally have the multi-tasking capabilities, might sound lame to a few people from the multi-tasking world, but Apple had it’s own reason to avoid multi-tasking till now. As always they managed me amuse me. If you are an entrepreneur  it’s always a good idea to challenge your people when it comes to creativity. That’s what apple does the best. Challenged it’s developers to add multi-tasking and still maintain battery life, viola we have selective multi-tasking. What Apple really did is went over all the applications it has in the app store and determined the kind of applications and the kind of multi-tasking they would need and from this pool selected the services and exposed them as kernel APIs. Neat way huh.

Unified E-mail
iOS 4 gets a unified in-box for multiple e-mail accounts. It includes threaded e-mail conversations and the ability to delete all conversations at once. As of in the older generations of iPhone, if you have setup multiple mail boxes you have to switch between mailboxes to read mails. The new OS now allows you to read them in a single view. It would be interesting tough to see how they are going to manage multiple folders in the mailboxes. I’ll wait to see that.

Folders
If you always thought that your applications are kind of unorganized on your iDevice (that’s a generic term I like to use for either iTouch, iPhone or iPad) and that dragging applications between pages can be boring, well now Apple has folders just for you. You can now create folders by dragging one app on top of another, a good way to create a sort-of application launcher. You can rename folders and drag on more apps at any time.

Camera software
The new iPhone camera has a lot of wow factor for me, the camera hardware is bumped up from 3 megapixels to 5, the onboard software gets 5x digital zoom and tap to focus. I wish I had that feature on my iPhone.

Video conferencing
Taking advantage of the front-facing camera is support for video conferencing. FaceTime, as it’s called, works over Wi-Fi in landscape or portrait mode for any iOS 4 device with a front-facing camera. Wi-Fi only for now, but 3G support may be soon on it’s way.

HD video recording
Ok movie makers this is potentially for you, one of the new features that iOS 4 adds  is a high-def recording rate of 720p at 30 frames per second and allows you to share the video in a single click. Mind the battery as the LED flash is always on during the recording. I won’t be surprised if Apple launches its own Mobile Movie Competition after this to beat Nokia Mobile Movie Competition.

iMovie for iPhone
Apple did provide you with a HD camera and it also provided you with the iMovies app using which you can edit HD videos from the phone. From there, you’ll be able to MMS, share videos via MobileMe, YouTube, and e-mail–but notably not through Facebook. iMovie will be able to pan and zoom and add effects, transitions, and themes. It will also tack geolocation into the movie titles. You can record videos directly into a video timeline and pinch to change the scale or drag to trim or edit the video. You’ll also be able to choose your export size. iMovie will cost $4.99 in the App Store. Looks like you can setup your own movie studio on your iPhone.

iBooks
The e-book reader war is heating and that is what Apple has brought to your cellphone if you don’t want to put your money behind Kindle, Nook or even iPad, Apple does make sure that they have the share of your money they are eyeing on. Later this month, you’ll be able to annotate, tap to bookmark a page, view and read PDFs, and select between books or PDFs within your iBooks shelves. The table of contents will display all your bookmarks and notes.

There are still other many features like iAd and others which i took the liberty to skip out in my post as I also wanted to talk a little bit about what iOS 4 missed.

The Misses

  1. The Apple vs Adobe war is no secret and so as expected, Flash support is still not it. Apple thinks of Flash as a battery hogging proprietary platform. But well in my opinion, look at any iDevice you won’t even miss Flash. Why the fuss, I don’t need Flash on my iPhone.
  2. FM Radio is a basic feature for most of the phone makers like Nokia, Sony Ericsson etc but Apple decided to give it a miss this time too. I would say why I would need FM radio when I have my own iPod packed in my phone. I would any time prefer to listen my own collection of songs rather than some DJ’s collection.
  3. The File Manager, a central app to manage all your documents, songs and photos on the device, is still not in. I wish this was included in iOS 4.

Availability
Developers get iOS 4 on Monday (i.e. today), which means that the general public won’t. iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, and iPod Touch (except the first generation) will get a free upgrade on their existing iPhones on June 21, though not all features will be supported off the bat–for example, FaceCall, which requires a front-facing camera that those devices don’t have.

E-mail: iOS 4 gets a unified in-box for multiple e-mail accounts. It includes threaded e-mail conversations and the ability to delete all conversations at once.

Folders: Create folders by dragging one app on top of another, a good way to create a sort-of application launcher. You can rename folders and drag on more apps at any time.

Camera software: As camera hardware jumps from 3 megapixels to 5, the onboard software gets 5x digital zoom and tap to focus.

HD video recording: New to iOS 4 is a high-def recording rate of 720p at 30 frames per second (and keeps the LED flash on for HD recordings). One-click sharing from the phone.

iMovie for iPhone: The iMovies app can edit HD videos from the phone. From there, you’ll be able to MMS, share videos via MobileMe, YouTube, and e-mail–but notably not through Facebook. iMovie will be able to pan and zoom and add effects, transitions, and themes. It will also tack geolocation into the movie titles. You can record videos directly into a video timeline and pinch to change the scale or drag to trim or edit the video. You’ll also be able to choose your export size. iMovie will cost $4.99 in the App Store.

Video conferencing: Taking advantage of the front-facing camera is support for video conferencing. FaceTime, as it’s called, works over Wi-Fi in landscape or portrait mode for any iOS 4 device with a front-facing camera. Wi-Fi only for now, but Jobs hinted that 3G is coming.

iBooks: Later this month, you’ll be able to annotate, tap to bookmark a page, view and read PDFs, and select between books or PDFs within your iBooks shelves. The table of contents will display all your bookmarks and notes.

Bing: Apple is adding Bing to iPhone’s search. You’ll be able to choose Google, Yahoo, or Bing for your search engine.

Enterprise integration: Data protection, device management, wireless app distribution, deeper VPN support, and support for multiple Exchange accounts (and Exchange Server 2010) are coming to iOS 4.

iAds: A new ad platform builds ads into apps, and keeps the app experience bound within the app. Translation: You won’t get kicked out of the app if you click an ad.

Miscellaneous additions: Half curl page transitions and draggable map annotations all for app developers.

Availability: Developers get iOS 4 on Monday, which means that the general public won’t. iPhone 3GS, iPhone 3G, and iPod Touch (except the first generation) will get a free upgrade on their existing iPhones on June 21, though not all features will be supported off the bat–for example, FaceCall, which requires a front-facing camera that those devices don’t have.

Ever since the “push” became the buzz word for iPhone 3.0 OS, I was curious to find out how the push notifications worked with iPhone. My initial thought was that, iPhone needed a dedicated push server visible within the operator network, just like Blackberry, but then how did iTouch used the same apps and still used the push notifications for the Wi-Fi. I began investigating and found a cool technique that Apple implemented for it’s push notifications, but I also found out a few things that I really didn’t like.

Why Push?

There is an inherent problem with the iPhone OS and the problem is that there is no “backgrounding” on iPhone, which means unlike other smart phones, the apps don’t run in background on iPhone when you exit them. This effected applications for iPhone which needed constant polling with a publication server. E.g. a RSS reader application won’t be able to poll the feeds for the new updates from the phone. To read the feeds, the user will have to open the application and manually fetch the feeds. To address the issue Apple came up with a smarter approach. They implemented push mechanism for iPhone.

Poll vs Push

An application constantly running in the background of your phone and polling for feeds or updates causes battery consumption. So if you have multiple applications doing the polling from your mobile device, your battery might get drained pretty quickly than you expect. Push however doesn’t implement the poll mechanism and you get updates as it happens.

So how does the “push” work in iPhone?

Okay, consider this, you have an application on iPhone which enables to have the push mail experience for your Gmail or AOL or any of your home grown IMAP email server. Here is a representation of how “push” mechanism would work with iPhone.

 

iPhonePush

Apple implements an intermediate server (under their own control and not under operators control or visibility) called as the Push Notification Server (PNS). The device (iPhone) maintains a constant TCP/IP connection with this server. The application developers server (or the 3rd Party Server) maintains a session with the mail server. When a new mail arrives an alert will be sent from the application developer’s server to the PNS which then pushes it to the iPhone 3.0 through the open TCP/IP socket connection. So if you had a RSS reader application, to have notifications sent to you automatically as update on a feed is available, the application developer will need to constantly monitor the feeds and notify the PNS as anything happens.

Essentially what Apple has done is moved the polling or processing need from iPhone to an intermediate level called the “App Developers Server”.

Sure this approach works for the battery benefits where background applications can claim as much as 80% of battery drain as compared to 20% on Push notifications using Apple’s technique. However the way I see it, there are some issues.

So what are the issues?

The first issue that I see from an application developer stand point is that, if I had to write a RSS reader type of application then I would have to deploy my own backend server which would monitor the feeds for the end users and notify PNS to have notifications on updates. Basically not all applications really need a backend service, but with this technique that additional layer has to be implemented. So if the number of users for my applications grow, I’ll need to setup a server farm and to recover the cost I’ll need to increase the cost of my application or charge the user a service fee which is not good either for me nor for the user.

The second and most concerning issue that bothers me is, privacy issue. Well if a third party application developer needed to constantly monitor your inbox or IM or even the RSS feeds, then it would need your credentials to establish and maintain a session with the actual mail server/chat server or should know exact feed URLs so that it can monitor them incase of RSS. How many people would really feel comfortable to know that their email usernames and passwords are being stored on a 3rd party server probably unencrypted and probably anyone managing the server would have visibility to it? To me this is the biggest issue with this approach.

After a really long break from blogging, I am back with a good news for all the mobile gurus in India. India, the global IT center and the hub of innovative ideas has a reason to be proud of. We have a first Indian company to be recognized in GSMA mobile innovation awards and its none other than my previous company Netcore Solutions Pvt. Ltd. where I had a fabulous 3 and half years of my career. All credit goes to the mentor, founder and MD of Netcore Mr. Rajesh Jain, who always trusted his vision and never gave up in spite of number of challenges and problems.

A complete coverage on this story is available here.

This achievement for Netcore was not at all a cake walk for Netcore. Given the numerous unpredictable problems, especially the one created by mobile operators trying to block mytoday.mobi and forced Netcore’s service provider to shutdown the 676787 short code through which Netcore used to provide SMS services. The operators were threatened the rate at which Netcore’s services were becoming popular and tried to impose an unfair business act. They couldn’t tolerate some one offering information to users at very low rates and wanted to keep the whole pie for themselves. Still today the operators charge you as much as 6 Rs. for a piece of information, which is your right to have it. This monopolistic strategy of the operators didn’t work, Netcore came back online pretty soon and after that there was no way any one could stop it. The result … its in front of you.

Even today, my operators block http://www.mytoday.mobi on their GPRS services. If you didn’t knew about mytoday.mobi till now, then try it on your GPRS enabled handset and if its blocked, then ask your operator to unblock it. Trust me there are loads of content and services which you always wanted to keep handy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely my views and are not that of Netcore. I don’t represent the company. Any news or information about the company are available through company press release. 

I just came across a post that talks about the launch of a new version of Gmail in U.S. Well this version almost has some of the features that I had envisioned in my mind when I made a mobile mail service for my previous company. However the version that I wrote was a browser based service that works with any POP3 or IMAP4 server available on Internet. The interface is XHTML based interface and shows inline preview of mail body in the Inbox listing, shows compressed previews of image attachment with option to download it on your cellphone and converts PDF attachments to XHTML for online reading.

However this mobile mail was far from being my ideal mobile mail application. It was more of prototype in my venture  to the mobile world. In my perspective an ideal mobile mail will have

1) Mobile server.
2) Mobile application.

The Mobile server would be heart of this mobile application and would be the one that can integrate to multiple mail servers (even to the free email service providers) and would run a service that integrates multi-network chat protocols including support of the enterprise chat server. It would be running a SyncML service to keep your addressbook and calendar in sync between your desktop, mail server and mobile device. If this kind of server is being deployed in a corporate environment, then it can also have a page adapter for mobile devices so that the users can browse the intranet applications easily on their mobile device.

The mobile application would be like one of the free mobile apps like Movamail or Whoosh but with SyncML support and multiple reply options. The SyncML support in the application would help the users with devices without SyncML support to be in sync. The multiple reply options to a mail can be

  1. Reply via mail.
  2. Reply via Chat.
  3. Reply via Call.
  4. Reply via SMS.

On selection of Call or SMS option the application would pickup the number from the mobile addressbook and invoke the corresponding handler APIs.  On selection of Chat option the application would initiate a chat session via the mobile server if the user is online or will leave an offline message or mail in case the user is not available.

An application like this powered by an intelligent server would give  complete control of communication to the user while he is on move. Today we have alternatives from different vendors that lets you chat, make VoIP phone calls, check email, Sync address and calendars, but what lacks is a single application that integrates all the multi-protocol chat and email network.