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Mark Howson

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I'm the eccentric British one with an obsessive compulsive desire to try the latest iPhone apps and games and write commentary and features for 148Apps. Feel free to get in touch with me anytime!

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Underwhelmed by Apple’s Touch of Creativity

Posted by Mark Howson on January 27th, 2010

iPad, a name formed from a hybrid between the iPod and a pad of paper, was revealed to the world at a two hour Apple event finishing less than an hour ago. The new touch screen computer is a kind of giant iPod running a custom version of iPhone OS, 3.2, the SDK for which is available now to ADC members.

Featuring a 9.7” multitouch display for use with all 10 fingers at once, the iPad looks very similar to an iPhone zoomed up to around 300% scale. The same home button adorns the right (or bottom) of the display depending on if you’re using it in horizontal or vertical orientation, and it’s about half an inch thick, dimensions achieved thanks to Apple’s new custom hardware architecture.

In addition to the usual Apple touch screen apps (Music, Photos, Maps, Calendars), all of which have been customized with fairly stunning interfaces in Apple’s reincarnation of the tablet, iWork has been ported to the touch screen ($10 per application - so $30 if you want to make presentations, write documents and edit spreadsheets on the go) complete with brand new interface designs to make the most of touch, and the huge QWERTY keyboard, which appears to be more suitable for using on the lap with two hands than with rhythmic thumb jabbing as we’ve seen from iPhone and similar devices.

Also featured is Apple’s attempt at an eBook reader, which I didn’t hold out too much hope for before launch. Once again Apple have produced a versatile user interface, using finger actions on screen to turn the page and an ‘App Store’ style book shop with best sellers priced at $14.99, and older novels as low as $4.99 in the industry standard ePub format, wrapped, presumably, in custom DRM.

Third party apps were also on display, with Apple setting a ‘two week’ challenge to a small subset of developers, who got to play with the iPad for two weeks prior to the event and create some prototype applications. EA demonstrated racing on the touch screen with Need for Speed, the New York Times showed a version of their paper with built in video clips and NBA showed a new version of their application with live, full screen match highlights - all fairly standard fare.

Why Apple’s Tablet Won’t Revolutionize Reading, At Any Price

Posted by Mark Howson on January 27th, 2010

Maybe it’s because I’m pessimistic, but when I hear other blogs talking about the revolution to reading the iSlate will bring, I just don’t buy it. Yes, the iPod did wonders for music and the iPhone has changed the mobile phone landscape overnight, but reading is different - and if the rumours of a multi-purpose, all in one device are true, Apple doesn’t appreciate the importance of keeping it separate.

I should start by explaining that I’m an avid reader and follower of all things literary, so much so that I just spent £238 having an Amazon Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/kindle) and it’s accompanying leather case shipped across the channel to arrive on the 27th - so I’ll have two things to look forward to that day! A quick count of my bedroom highlights the presence of over 150 books, from Harry Potter to Dan Brown and with a load of lesser known authors in between - Jasper Fforde anyone?

What makes the Kindle great is its single function eInk display. It reads books, and that’s about it (there’s an experimental web browser too), but it does it brilliantly. The screen has no glare, only uses power during a page turn so you get seven days from the device without needing to charge it and - perhaps most importantly - reads even under direct sunlight.

As much as I love Apple’s glossy displays, they don’t perform well in bright conditions (try shining a torch at your iPhone) and in my mind a big 10” one just wouldn’t be suitable for reading on the go. It’d be too big and bulky to chuck into an oversized coat pocket, too uncomfortable to hold in just one hand and would you really want to take a $1000 tablet to the beach with you?

Welcome New iPhone Owners! Starter Apps and Info.

Posted by Mark Howson on June 20th, 2009

I know what it's like. The anticipation of getting a shiny new gadget. You stand in line waiting patiently for the assistant to become available, or sit at home wondering what the UPS guys excuse for being late will be this week (my local UPS plant has had three power failures in the last month, apparently). And whilst you can't MMS anyone, and the nearest to tethering you'll achieve is if you get some sticky tape, attach your new phone to the computer screen and pretend, you know you're holding a pretty awesome piece of kit.

Whilst this article isn't really designed for people who've already experienced the wonderful world of apps (I'd recommend they explore our reviews or forum), for a new iPhone or iPod touch user the sheer variety of apps and games available can be intimidating and some gems might be hidden under the surface.

But fear not, new iPhone users, because I, an eccentric British man writing to a 4am deadline, am here to guide you through the perils of the App Store and give you some pointers as to what you might want to buy, what you really should avoid and how this whole apps business works.

Read on for dozens of great apps and more info.