Facebook Places: 4 in a Square

Facebook Places
Image by David Armano via Flickr

Facebook places is the latest major feature addition to the massive social network. You can use your iPhone or other compatible phone or iPod Touch presumably, and check in to any location when you’re out. You can describe what you’re doing and tag friends who are there with you. Essentially, you can look at this as a simplified version of foursquare built into Facebook itself.

The similarities with foursquare don’t end there though as interestingly, the logo for places is actually what looks like a 4 in a square. In an interview, the lead designer on the project has said that it’s purely coincidental and that the team had found the news stories around the web on the subject funny.

They are probably telling the truth but I can’t help but feel that they must have had foursquare on the brain while developing this, and for no one to see the 4 in the square is quite surprising really. Nevertheless, the service is here, and while it does lack the badge gaining and rewards system that foursquare has, what it does have in its favor is instant access to potentially half a billion registered users right out of the gate.

I say right out of the gate, but in truth the service is rolling out slowly, first across the US at the moment, and then later everywhere else. To be honest, as much as I would like to say how much this is a terrible idea and how everyone should just use foursquare, I can’t help but feel that this is a better implementation. It’s all integrated, there are no unnecessary gimmicks and it’s easy to understand. Obviously, privacy is going to come into play here, but there are ways to make sure that only your closest friends can see where you are by using friends groups.

No one is going to be forced to use this and therefore I can’t see any big privacy backlash incoming. For those who use it, I think it could prove useful. The original premise of Twitter was to communicate with close friends and possibly meet up with them. Twitter has since morphed into more of a social discussion tool instead and this and other similar services like foursquare and gowalla fill that original spot in the market much better.

The foursquare founder recently said in an interview that he thought this new service was uninteresting and that there wasn’t much to it, but I disagree. I think that simplicity is key and that this service has potential to be more useful than his one is. It’s still fun as well but not in such an obvious way.

This kind of location based social networking seems to be the latest trend with most main services integrating it in some way. Google have latitude which allows you to track your friends on a map using mobile or iGoogle. Twitter now also have a location system. It’s slightly different to Facebook places and others in that you don’t check in to a location but rather post in as much or as little detail as you choose, where you are when you post. This is entirely optional but is more proof of how social networking is set to get more and more intrusive into every aspect of our lives. This trend is set to continue but hopefully we’ll always have control over the privacy of these location services.

It’ll be interesting to see how this works when they launch it here. It will also be interesting to see how it gathers the location, whether it be GPS, Wi-Fi or mobile phone towers, as well as how the service develops and how good the uptake is.


iPod Nano 6th Gen & Shuffle 4th Gen Wishlist

The current, outgoing lineup. Image via Wikipedia
The current, outgoing lineup. Image via Wikipedia

I’ve recently talked about my wants for the next generations of iPod Touch and Apple TV which we could see next Wednesday. The Apple TV is not necessarily a certainty for the show but it will come sometime soon. They just might focus on iPods only for the time being.

I now want to go over what I hope the next generations of Nano and Shuffle will bring to the table. These aren’t products that I would typically buy these days due to the iPod Touch doing so much more, but they are fun to speculate about.

iPod Nano 6th Gen

  1. Touch screen and no click wheel – The leaked shots of cases for a supposed new, smaller and square nano combined with the leak earlier this year or a 1.7 inch touch screen would indicate that Apple are going in a radically different direction with the nano this time around. Personally I find the click wheel fiddly on my old 2nd gen nano and I think it’s time they got rid of it, iconic or not. They still have the classic to fly the click wheel flag.
  2. Cut down version of iOS – because the device will be so small, they can’t use the regular iOS interface. They’ll have to cut it down further to fit on this device but it will save space and look great.
  3. Camera – I hope the camera stays part of the package although it is weird to envision one on a device so small as it could be difficult to hold. Still, I hope they do keep it and up the resolution as well as allow stills to be taken.
  4. Radio – Hopefully the radio also stays as this is a feature I personally would find very useful.

iPod Shuffle 4th Gen

  1. New form factor – The only way I could see the shuffle getting any smaller would be if they incorporated it into a necklace or into the headphones themselves. Personally I’d prefer to be able to use my own headphones. You could do a wearable necklace shuffle with the controls built into the the strap somehow. You could then have a cable tidy solution to stop the headphone cable hanging down and bouncing everywhere as well. However, they will probably just play it fairly safe, or just remove the product entirely and replace it with the new, smaller nano.
  2. Voice control – The nano already has voice over support. iPod Touches come with a mic in the headphone control and this feature would make sense on a device like the shuffle which obviously doesn’t have a screen and is designed to be used during exercise.

The event is next Wednesday at 6.00 pm UK time. It’ll be interesting to see if any of this and all of the other rumours end up coming true. I’m excited to find out.


Apple iTV and iPod Touch 4th Gen Wish List

With rumors of a new iPod Touch and an updated and renamed Apple TV in full swing, I think it’s time to highlight some of the things that will really make these products amazing. It will be interesting to see how many of these will appear at the Apple event likely to take place in mid September.

iPod Touch 4th Generation

  1. iPhone 4 power – An A4 chip should be included so that all the same games and apps can be run on this new iPod.
  2. Retina Display – The new screen from the iPhone is likely to make an appearance in the iPod Touch as well, as long as costs aren’t too high.
  3. Twin Cameras with FaceTime support – I always thought having one camera would be a cool addition to the iPod Touch for quick photo taking and easy uploading. Video recording and a front facing camera for FaceTime and possibly Skype video calling would be a great bonus.
  4. FM Radio – Sometimes it’s nice to have a radio for when you don’t know what you want to listen to. At the moment I have to use my phone for radio. It works but I’d like to be able to use my usual headphones and save my phone battery. I think Apple could do a great job with something like that, and they’ve already proven it with the iPod Nano last year.
  5. A built in Mic – If the iPod had a mic build in just like an iPhone then you could use Skype like a real phone. It can be a hassle and uncomfortable to use an inline mic or a headset.
  6. Gyroscope – It’s the latest innovation for iPhone gaming, and it should come to the iPod as well to keep them equal.
  7. Podcasts Subscriptions – Your podcast subscriptions should be transferable to the iPod for easy downloading and managing of episodes. Currently you can download episodes through iTunes but you must search for the podcast you require every time which is far from ideal.

Apple iTV

  1. Low cost – If the sub $100 price tag is true then it will become a mainstream product where the original Apple TV failed to. This product category is really maturing now and has the potential to become another pillar of Apple’s business alongside the iPod, iPhone and Mac.
  2. App store – An app store is essential. With this they can do what they did with iPad in making modified apps to suit the device. Things like NetFlix, Cable TV integration like Google TV, an iTunes subscription service and even games are likely to come from this.
  3. Gaming – This device will likely represent Apple’s best chance of entering the console games market to date. iPhone games have exploded and if priced well iTV games can do the same easily. If the box has bluetooth, they can even make a controller like a PS3 duel-shock to play games on. Even without that, the potential for casual games is enormous.
  4. Podcast Subscriptions – At the moment you can stream your downloaded podcasts over the air from your computer to your Apple TV automatically. This is complex though and I think there should be a way to subscribe directly on the device itself to cut out that complexity and give people more options.

These are a few of the most talked about as well as my own ideas for these devices. Whether or not the new Apple TV will be showcased at the upcoming event or not is unknown, but even so, I’m really looking forward to it and hope as many of these come true as possible.


Tweetie Will Become Twitter for iPhone

Twitter Blog: Twitter for iPhone.

I’m very excited for this. I’ve been a big fan of Tweetie 2 on iPod Touch for a while now. I was a bit reluctant to purchase it at first especially when you had to buy it again if you had the first version.

Once you install it though, it becomes clear that it is a very well thought out and designed application. While appearing very simple at first, it’s looks are deceiving and it does feature all of the same functions as an app like Tweet Deck does. They are just hidden away while you don’t need them.

The re-branding of the app is a good idea. The Facebook app has been at or near the top of the App Store popularity charts since it was released, especially in the social networking category. Twitter apps have certainly been popular, but people have been wary of unofficial apps, especially ones which aren’t free, no matter how good they are.

Having an official, branded Twitter app for free will surely shoot it right to the top of the app store download charts upon the re-release of tweetie. This will also ruin the market for other twitter apps but to be fair to everyone else, they’ve had a good run and Twitter could and really should have done something like this months ago.

Paid un-official apps are going to be a very tough sell now especially when a free app does everything better. Not only that, but free apps which use advertising to generate revenue will also be in trouble because the Twitter App will likely not use advertising either. I would assume that they’re not planning on surprising us with ads in the app. Twitter are known for not wanting to advertise in the traditional way, and are looking at different, unorthodox methods for generating profit.

You would assume that Twitter will follow facebook and make the app ad-free and focusing on advertising on the main website itself.

Whatever they choose to do, I’m very excited about this and the future of Twitter in the mobile space and overall.