Tom Hanks’ typewriter app a hit on iTunes

hanx-writer-app-by-tom-hanksRemember those traditional typewriters that hurt your fingers and made a heavy clunking sound every time you hit a key. They even used real paper – lots of it. No, us neither. Honest.

Well, if like Tom Hanks you lament the passing of the traditional typewriter, with its clunking sounds, sticky keys and smudged, unevenly spaced characters, you can now download an app for your iPad that emulates the experience. And you won’t be alone as the app, that was released last week, has already shot to number 1 in the iTunes App Store

It might have something to do with the fact that it has been developed by Tom Hanks, who not only has celebrity appeal but has also spent months waxing lyrical about the charms of this iconic old piece of machinery.

Hanx Writer (see what they did there) presents you with an on screen keyboard that looks like that of an old fashioned typewriter and makes all the authentic sounds as you type, including the distinctive “ding” when you move on to the next line. Your text appears in old school typewriter script as if it is emerging from the typewriter on the screen. There’s also the option to connect to a Bluetooth keyboard for a slightly more authentic typing experience, and you can even chose different (virtual) machines, for a premium.

Hanx WriterWhile the app replicates the sounds and, to a certain extent, the experience of using an old fashioned typewriter, it does have enhanced features that writers back in the back would have killed for, such as the ability to delete mistakes. You can also save, print, email or share documents.

The app comes in three different versions for iPad, with the basic one being free. You can upgrade to more sophisticated versions that allow you to use different coloured ribbons and backgrounds, save multiple documents and incorporate photos into your documents.

It’s probably not an app to use to produce an important report for work or anything that requires to be done quickly. And it’s probably wise to avoid using it on the train or other public place, if you don’t want to incur the wrath of those around you who may not feel quite so sentimental about sounds from a bygone age. But as a novelty app, it’s well-made, fun to use and allows you to pretend that you’re one of the great classic novelists or screenwriters tapping out a masterpiece, but without the inconvenience of Tip Ex or finger fatigue.

Have you downloaded Hanx Writer? What do you think?

iOS 6 Announced: Goodbye Google Maps, Hello Facebook

Apple last night announced this year’s update it’s mobile operating system – iOS 6. iOS 6

There are ‘over 200 new features’ according to the marketing fluff but a handful stand out as being significant including Apple’s new home-brewed map application, full Facebook integration to the heart of the operating system, updates to Siri making it practically self-aware, some nice tweaks to Photo Stream and a ticketing App called Passbook. 

The all new Maps app has been built from the ground up by Apple.  Now you may have been happy enough with the ubiquitous, fairly reliable Google Maps but Apple want to make it better – and further reduce their reliance on anything produced by their arch rivals Google. The map graphics are ‘vector-based’ which means you can tilt, zoom and pan around maps in a smooth and fluid way in a high resolution. Turn by turn navigation means you no longer need a separate sat nav or sat nav app and the ‘Flyover’ feature creates photo-realistic 3D views, but most likely only for major cities – and US ones to start with.  iOS6 Maps - Flyover

There’s also live traffic info (it will be interesting to see if this is available in the UK) and local search listings that include Yelp ratings, photos and deals.

Siri is updated to work on the iPad and adds features such as the ability to update your Facebook status, retrieve sports scores and make restaurant reservations. 

One new feature that’s long overdue is the integration of Facebook into the core of the main operating system.  This was added for Twitter in iOS5 but due to some corporate chest-beating Facebook was kept out until now.  You’ll soon only need to sign into Facebook once on your iPhone or iPad for all apps and web browsing and then be able to post directly to Facebook from Photos, Safari, Siri and Maps. Your Contacts and Calendar will update with your friends contact details, birthdays and events.  The birthday updates will be a relationship saver for many of us!iOS6 Facebook Integration

The main improvement to Photo Stream is that you will be able to share selected photos directly with friends and family via ‘Shared Photo Streams’.  These shared streams will automatically update on their iPhone, iPad or Macbook when you add new pics.  Imagine how jealous you could make your friends back home by instantly sharing a stream of photos from every step of your road trip across the States or as you descend the slopes in the Alps! Or perhaps you could share a stream of pics of your new baby with only interested family and friends rather than broadcasting them to all and sundry on Facebook.iOS6 - Photo Stream

Passbook is designed to let you keep tickets for events, in-store discount vouchers and boarding passes in one place. 

iOS6 Passbook

The new Passbook app is the simplest way to get all your passes in one place, such as boarding passes and baseball tickets. Passbook lets you scan your iPhone or iPod touch to use a coupon, get into a concert or check into your hotel. Passbook automatically displays your passes on your Lock Screen based on a specific time or location, so when you walk into your favorite coffee shop your loyalty card appears and you can scan it to buy a coffee or check your balance. 

There’s a whole additional bunch of iOS 6 features that are less exciting but you can read more here if you so choose.

Let us know what you think about iOS 6, the new Maps feature and the Facebook integration by leaving a comment below!

iPad2 unveiled – is it really iPad V1.1?

Steve Jobs last night unveiled the iPad 2, the second generation of the gadget that introduced the tablet computer to the world.

Almost 15 million iPads have been sold around the world so the announcement of the iPad 2 was eagerly anticipated with daily alleged ‘leaks’ and stories from Elton John’s supposed informed slip that it would launch in March (although he probably just read’s the same tech blogs as the rest of us) to last week’s claims that iPad 2 production had been delayed by 2 months pushing launch into June.

Back in reality, the well-oiled Apple product and presentation machine announced the new iPad in March and first deliveries will hit stores on March 11 in the US and March 25 in 26 more countries, presumably including the UK. Pricing will match that of the current iPad.  Expect iPad on Contract deals to be announced by the UK mobile phone operators very soon.

So what’s new in iPad 2? Not as much as you might expect. It has the same display as before but an ‘all-new’ product design that’s 33% slimmer and 15% lighter.  There’s a new dual core A5 processor that delivers faster performance, with graphics rendered up to 9 times faster which should make gaming and movie editing much much slicker.  The iPad 2 also comes in white and black, although the back is still the lovely aluminium.

The rumoured, and much needed, cameras have been added with a VGA front facing camera for video calling via FaceTime and presumably Skype.  A rear facing camera captures ‘720p video’ which presumably makes it a roughly 3 megapixel camera.The video calling feature will delight many folk, mainly work away Dad’s and geo-divided families, but I have to say I rarely use it on my Mac so I’m less excited than some.  I’ve no idea what use the rear facing camera has so far – the iPad 2 is going to  be pretty unwieldy to use as a camcorder or for augmented reality Apps and games.  Answers on a postcard…

The other major design ‘change’ is the additional of an optional cover that doubles up as stand.  The jury is still out on this accessory.

Jobs waxed lyrical as ever, spinning the new second coming as he always does.  His use of language and reference to the copy cat tablets from Samsung and HP suggests the iPad 2 is really a defensive move, aimed at keeping half a step ahead of the competition rather than reinventing the iPad all over again.

“With more than 15 million iPads sold, iPad has defined an entirely new category of mobile devices,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “While others have been scrambling to copy the first generation iPad, we’re launching iPad 2, which moves the bar far ahead of the competition and will likely cause them to go back to the drawing boards yet again.”

So the iPad 2 will undoubtedly be a huge success and it is an improvement, but you should view this as a smaller step like the difference between the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 3G.  Expect more innovation in the inevitable iPad 3 this time next year.

Oh, and if you’re not bothered about cameras, a little bloatedness and the need to run video heavy Apps why not buy the iPad 1 when prices are slashed by retailers over the next few weeks!

What’s new in iPhone 4?

As widely predicted the Apple iPhone 4 has today been announced by Steve Jobs. It’s a totally new iPhone featuring some really big improvements along with some very cool new features. I’ll cut straight to the important stuff and tell you about the big new features that have been revealed so far.

iPhone 4 in black and whiteSexy, slim, glass and steel design

The iPhone 4 has a brand new design. It’s the slimmest smartphone in the world at only 9.3mm thick.  I haven’t checked this so don’t castrate me if Apple’s statement is a little fanciful – they are famed for making up their own definition for what constitutes a ‘smartphone’ in the past.  iPhone - Glass and stainless steel

Gone is the scratchy, slightly cheap and crack prone plastic.  The iPhone 4 has a super slick looking glass front and back with stainless steel around the edges.  They’ve even created a new grade of stainless steel just for this product!

Rather cleverly the stainless steel edges are used as the antenna.  Genius design.  The ‘aluminosilcate’ glass is “chemically strengthened to be 30 times harder than plastic”.

The design looks amazing in the photos and I can’t wait to get one in my grubby mitts. I may pitch my tent on Regent St tomorrow (for full disclosure I must admit to not owning a tent…).

New ‘Retina’ super high resolution displayiPhone 4 - Retina display

The iPhone 4 will have the highest resolution display ever built into a mobile phone.  Their new ‘Retina display’ shows 326 pixels per inch, which is so dense that the human eye cannot distinguish individual pixels (when held at a normal distance).  The display has four times the resolution of an iPhone 3GS. It features IPS technology which according to Jobs is “quite a bit better than OLED”.

The display is likely to set a new benchmark in mobile and I think it will come into it’s own when you see it in the flesh. The only downside is the display is no larger than the iPhone 3GS at 3.5 inches.  I would have preferred to see it grow a little but I guess the trade off would be a bigger product that wouldn’t fit in my pocket.

New 5 megapixel camera and HD video capture

The iPhone 4’s camera is a big improvement.  Not only is it a 5 megapixel camera but it records HD video too. The HD video captures 720p at 30 frames per second – HD TV quality video recording in your mobile phone.  Sweet.

The camera has finally got an LED flash and the new camera technology is claimed to work extremely well in low light thanks to it’s ‘backside illuminated sensor’. I hope this lives up to the hype. There’s also a front facing camera for self-portraits and the new FaceTime video calling feature.

FaceTime video calling

iPhone 4 will feature the brand new FaceTime video calling feature.  You can video call other iPhone 4 users (over WiFi only for now) using the aforementioned front facing camera, switch to share something you can see with the main camera and flip between landscape and portrait mode mid-call.  I’m not sure how this will work for the person on the other end… will they need to change to modes at the same time?iPhone 4 - Facetime video calling

Now, this is the only feature I’m not sold on.  Video calling has been available for years via 3G – Vodafone’s 3G launch in 2004 seemed to be built around it – but it hasn’t ever caught on.  I also have video conferencing available via Skype on my laptop but I’m quite happy to stick with IM and occasional voice calls – I’m not bothered about using the power of the interweb to watch my mates pick their nose 200 miles away.

Maybe it would be different if I had kids? Perhaps Apple will do it properly and bring video calling to the mainstream? However given that both parties need an iPhone 4 and WiFi I suspect this will only be used by a small minority on rare occasions, at least for a couple of years as the base grows.

iMovie for iPhone

To make the most of the new HD video capture Apple are releasing an iMovie App (for the princely sum of $5) that will let you create movies with your video clips, photos and music which you can then email directly to your friends.iPhone 4 - iMovie App

It looks very cool and easy to use.  Ideal for shooting, editing and sharing mini-movies on the fly.

I’m hoping you’ll be able to upload straight to You Tube and Facebook too – perfect for embarrassing your friends before you leave the club or showing off your snowboard skills whilst still on the slope.

The $5 charge – which I assume will end up at £3.99 in the UK – is a little bit of a surprise.  Maybe this is the start of Apple charging for more of it’s coolest new features?

Gyro and Accelerometer

It took me three attempts to spell it correctly but the iPhone will be the first phone to have a built-in three-axis gyroscope as well as the accelerometer of old.  This enables lots of technical sounding cool things such as capturing angular velocity (presumably the precise speed and angle you’ve dropped your beloved iPhone 4?)  but in real speak it means you will be able to have an even more awesome gaming experience because it will be loads more accurate to your every move.

Multi-tasking and more talk timeiPhone 4 - A4 Processor

iPhone 4 will feature the Apple A4 processor which will support multi-tasking.  It will also help the iPhone 4 to give you 40% more talk-time than the 3GS – fixing the biggest issue I have with my iPhone.

Better call quality

The iPhone 4 has a second microphone which works with the main mic to suppress background noise and improve your call quality.

Verdict

This is the biggest iPhone upgrade yet.  It’s a totally new phone with a stunning new look, some great new features and improvements that tackle it’s previous weaknesses around the camera and battery life.

I can’t bloody wait until it launches!  :)  Now how much will it cost to cancel my O2 contract early….

Let everyone know your first impressions by leaving a comment below!

Do ilove the iPad?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post on GadgetStylist. The day job has taken up all my time in the past few months. Funnily enough its the day job – working for Review Centre – that has given me the chance to write once more, thanks to my chance to play with an iPad…

When Apple announced the iPad I was impressed by the gadget behind the hype and felt that I needed one in my life – but I was unsure why.  I already have an iPhone and Macbook so what could I possibly use an iPad for? Perhaps playing with one for an evening would help me figure this out?

The iPad PositionI was also concerned about the ergonomics. Laptops sit nicely on your lap with the screen angled pretty well whether you’re watching iPlayer or browsing websites.  The iPad, whilst sexy and slim, needs to be held or propped up when in use.  The Apple promo videos all seem to feature the demonstrator sitting with their legs crossed or hanging over the arm of a sofa with the iPad propped up on their knees – is this to be known as ‘the iPad position‘?

Anyway, Review Centre is giving away an iPad as part of a competition and that gave me the chance to play with the prize before it was safely locked away…

First impressions, the iPad really is a very cool, highly desirable piece of kit.  Its ridiculously slim, feels wonderful in your hands and the build quality is simply ‘solid’.  It oozes style.  In many ways the iPad resembles a giant iPod Touch with the same single ‘home’ button on the front, simple volume controls, mute switch and power/sleep mode button – which is no bad thing.iPad

One criticism is the lack of a built in camera.  Several friends have mentioned this as something that would put them off buying a first generation iPad as they wouldn’t be able to have video calls with family and friends.

Switching on the iPad, you’re presented with the iPhone operating system that so many of us are now accustomed to – but on a huge scale.  As you can see from any screen shot all your Apps and the main functions are again represented by those iconic rounded square icons.  Business as usual. The addition of customizing the background image and a landscape version of the icons is a nice if frivolous feature that will surely come to the iPhone itself in OS4.

Web browsing on the iPad is probably the best feature when the product is fresh out of the box.  Using the multi-touch commands to scroll and zoom around a website is so much more engaging and fun than using a mouse or touchpad.  The large display makes a huge difference when compared with the iPhone.  However the omission of Flash, which has been discussed at length elsewhere, means the experience of web browsing is compromised on some websites.

Where the iPad will live or die is by the Apps that are built for it.  The handful of Apps I got to try where good if not ground breaking but this is just the beginning.  App developers the world over will be beavering away at creating Apps that really define what the iPad can do.ipad-2

The huge display means Apps have a lot more room to play with. For instance, the Mail feature is much easier to use than on an iPhone because you can have your inbox and messages open on one page.  The beefy processor should enable multi-tasking in future software updates and will enable plenty of App innovation.

The handful of games I tried were fun and more engaging due to the bigger screen if a little gimicky.  I think the iPad could be great for RPGs and strategy games as the multi-touch interface should be perfect for marshaling your troops or planning attacks on rival castles.

So, my first impressions are mixed.  Out of the box it’s a super-sized iPod Touch, but without the portability.  Hmm, so why would someone want an iPad? I think it would be great for keeping the kids entertained, awesome for watching movies on a flight (with the addition of a stand accessory) and it will find its place as a casual web browsing and entertainment device in the home.  I quite like the idea of putting an iPad on a stand in the kitchen and letting Jamie or Gordon take me through cooking a recipe step by step!

Do I still want one of my own?  Yes.  Do I know why? Not really – but I’m confident that the Apps that come out will unlock it’s full potential in the coming months.

The iPad launches in the UK in late May with the Apple store taking orders from May 10.  Orange, Vodafone and O2 have all announced they will launch the 3G version of the iPad too.