Pursuant to 16 CFR Part 255, the Federal Trade Commission's Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, please note: (1) iPhone software and hardware developers routinely send me free versions of their products to review. I sometimes keep and continue to use these products that I did not pay for after posting my review, which might be considered a form of compensation for my review, but I do not believe that I let that color my review. (2) When I post links to product pages on Amazon or on the iTunes App Store, my links include a referral code so that when products are purchased after clicking on the link, I often receive a very small percentage of the sale. This helps to defray some of the cost of running this site, and gives me a small vested interest in having readers of iPhone J.D. purchase products using these links. Again I do not believe that I let that color my review of products. (3) Some of the ads that run on this website are selected by others such as Amazon or Google. If one of these ads comes from the seller of a product reviewed on iPhone J.D., that is a coincidence and I do not believe that it colors my review of that product. Other ads are from paid advertisers, and if I discuss a product from a company that is an advertiser, I will note that. (4) Some of the ads that run on this website are from monthly sponsors of iPhone J.D. When I discuss products from these companies on iPhone J.D., I do so to pass along information provided to me by the sponsor. Often, I will also provide my own commentary on the product, and while my goal is to be honest, please keep in mind that I was compensated to promote the product. If you have any questions about this, just send me an e-mail or post a comment on a specific product review.
One of the most powerful things that an attorney can do with an iPhone is use it as a mobile law office, allowing the attorney to get work done no matter where the attorney is located. Clark Stewart, a solo practitioner in Gadsden, Alabama who specializes in criminal defense and family law, demonstrates this in the following story that he sent me about how his iPhone helped him to get a client out of jail:
Back in May, my wife and I were enjoying a quiet night of sleep before driving the 6 hours with a toddler to Panama City for a much needed vacation. I got up to get a glass of water around 4am and checked my iPhone for new mail out of habit. I had several missed calls and voicemails. Upon playing my messages I learned that one of my clients was in jail on a bench warrant. The problem was that the judge in her case had recalled said warrant the afternoon before!
I called the booking officer on duty at the jail who was less than sympathetic to my client's plight since he didn't have a copy of the order quashing the writ. However, I did.
Earlier that day his Honor had e-filed said order. Since any new filings in all cases assigned to me come directly to my iPhone via email I now had proof for the jailer. But how to get it to him? He was unable to access his email from the booking computers due to policies and security firewalls. He could receive a fax though.
Being a sole practitioner at 29 years old, I don't have the capital for a fax machine and all the extra expenses they entail, but I do have the fax to email services of MyFax for $10 a month. I simply forwarded the judge's order to the jail's fax machine while I was talking to the officer, all from my iPhone.
30 minutes later my client was back on the street, and I could go back to sleep rather than facing the moral dilemma of sleep versus a cross town drive to my office to print out the order had I not had an iPhone.
In short, MyFax and my iPhone saved the day — at least, as far as my client was concerned. The next day drive to the beach with Elmo playing over and over on my kid's DVD player is another story!
What a great story. Because my practice is mostly class actions, complex litigation and appeals, I know that my natural tendency on iPhone J.D. is to talk about the use of iPhones in civil litigation. I'd love to hear from more criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors who have made good use of the iPhone in their practice.
I started posting an iPhone-related recap of Apple's quarterly fiscal earning conference calls back in early 2009. Back then, the calls were about all sorts of topics, and I thought it useful to tease out the iPhone-related angles from the call. But over time, the calls have become more and more iPhone-centric as the iPhone, and now the iOS, have become so much more important for Apple. We reached a turning point yesterday because it appears that around half of Apple's quarterly revenue came from iOS products. Wow!
If you want to hear the full call yourself, you can download it from iTunes or you can read the transcript provided by Seeking Alpha. You can also read Apple's press release here. Here are the iPhone-related highlights for the quarter that struck me as interesting:
[NOTE: This app was purchased by Corel and is now called WordPerfect Viewer. Click here for a review of the current app.] Although Microsoft Word is the dominant word processor used by lawyers, there was a time when WordPerfect ruled the legal market and the program still has loyal fans in the legal community. Unfortunately, if someone e-mails you a WordPerfect document on the iPhone, you cannot view the document with the iPhone's native document viewer. The smart folks at LawBox LLC (makers of the LawBox app that I've previously reviewed) have come up with a solution, a $4 app called WPD Viewer for iPhone that lets you view WordPerfect files. (There is also a $6 version for the iPad.)
To use the app when someone e-mails you a WordPerfect file, simply tap and hold down on the attachment. This will cause a pop-up box to appear in which you can tell the iPhone to open the document in WPD Viewer.
The iPhone will then launch the WPD Viewer app and the app will translate the document into a format that the iPhone can display (HTML) and then you can view the document. Some of the formatting gets lost, but the text is all there. You can scroll through and read the document, and if you want to search for terms just enter a search term at the top and the words will be highlighted in the document. Using the iPhone's standard copy-and-paste features, you can select text to copy and then paste into some other app. In fact, when you select text the pop-up menu allows you to not only copy but also bookmark or email, so in just one step you can select some text and then email only that text to someone.
If you double tap anywhere on the screen, or if you press the button at the top right with the arrow pointing to a line, a menu bar pops up on the left side. The four buttons on the menu bar allow you to (1) e-mail the text of the document (the text becomes the body of your e-mail), (2) bookmark the document, (3) export an HTML version of the document to another app (such as Good Reader) or (4) refresh the document. The refresh document button is necessary because in addition to getting documents into WPD Viewer via e-mail attachments, you can also use iTunes to send a document to the app, and using the refresh button you can reload the file list.
Speaking of file lists, the app stores the WordPerfect files that you send to it so that you can view them later. If you are done with a document, just swipe to delete it.
This is not a document editor app like Documents to Go or Quickoffice so you cannot revise WordPerfect documents with this app. Nevertheless, if you just want to be able to read a WordPerfect file when someone sends it to you, plus have the ability to copy and paste text from that document or convert the file into a pure text format, then this is the app for you. Indeed, to my knowledge, this is the only app for the iPhone or iPad that allows you to view WordPerfect documents, and thus I can pronounce that this is THE BEST WordPerfect viewer for the iPhone.
This past Friday, Apple announced that because a small number of people are experiencing problems with phone reception on the iPhone 4 when they touch the antenna on the bottom left side of the device, Apple is allowing all iPhone 4 customers to get a free iPhone case. Apple will allow you to select either its own Apple iPhone 4 Bumper case or other select cases. We don't know yet what the other choices will be, but I have been using the Bumper on my iPhone 4 for about a week now, and for the most part I like it, although there are some drawbacks. If you are considering whether to select the Bumper as your free case, perhaps my experiences will help you make your decision.
Easy to put on and off. Putting on the bumper is easy, as demonstrated by the simple instructions printed on the back of the packaging. You just slip it around the iPhone 4. It only takes a few seconds.
Doesn't distract much from the feel of the iPhone. I am not a fan of cases for the iPhone, and I have never used a case for my prior iPhones (the iPhone 3 and the iPhone 3GS). For the most part, I feel the same way about the iPhone 4. I like the feel of the iPhone in my hand, and I don't like the feel of anything on the glass of the front of the iPhone. For people like me, the Bumper has the advantage of being the "un-case" because it is so minimal and does not cover the front or the back of the iPhone.
Doesn't distract too much from the design of the iPhone. Another reason that I don't like traditional cases is that they completely cover up the iPhone. I love the design of the iPhone and I hate to hide it. Although the Bumper does hide the distinctive stainless steel antenna that surrounds the iPhone (a look that I really like), the design of the Bumper itself is very nice. I've heard people say that you can just take a rubber bracelet and wrap it around the iPhone to duplicate the bumper. That is wrong. The bumper is not just a piece of rubber. The actual sides of the bumper are a nice, smooth plastic, and the feel is similar to the feel of the curved sides of the iPhone 3 / 3GS. The rubber part is about and below that strip. As a result, you don't feel like you are holding rubber in your hand when you hold an iPhone in a bumper, instead the feel is quite smooth. Nevertheless, the presence of the rubber part of the Bumper does add friction (which I discuss below).
Additionally, the case doesn't just have cutout holes for the buttons, but instead includes its own very nice volume and power buttons that sit on top of the iPhone button. There is just a hole for the ringer on/off switch, which means that you need to use a fingernail to really reach that switch. If you frequently turn your ringer on and off, this might be a problem for you. But using the other buttons works great and looks great too.
If you want some great close-up pictures of the Bumper, check out this iLounge post by Jeremy Horwitz (who happens to be an attorney, just FYI).
Keep a grip on your iPhone. Many case manufacturers advertise that their product provides added protection for the iPhone. Interestingly, Apple does not. Here is how Apple describes the Bumper on the iPhone portion of the website:
Dress up your iPhone 4 with a Bumper. Choose one of six colors — white, black, blue, green, orange, or pink — and slip it around the edge of your iPhone 4. With metal buttons for volume and power, two-tone colors, and a combination of rubber and molded plastic, Bumpers add a touch of style to any iPhone 4.
Clearly, Apple is positioning the Bumper as simply a fashion accessory, making no promises that the Bumper will protect your iPhone. Interesting. I suspect that if you drop an iPhone 4 on a hard surface, depending upon how the iPhone hits, you might get more protection with the Bumper than without it, but that doesn't mean that you can't easily damage an iPhone 4 by dropping it, even with a bumper. For example, here is a video on YouTube showing that you can still damage an iPhone 4 even with a Bumper on it:
Nevertheless, I do think that the Bumper gives you real protection, not so much because it can withstand a fall onto concrete, but instead because the Bumper reduces the chance that you would drop the iPhone in the first place. The added friction of the rubber portion of the Bumper makes it much less likely for the iPhone 4 to slip out of your hand or out of your pocket.
Indeed, this is both a blessing and a curse. At work, I always keep my iPhone in my shirt pocket, and without a case it is easy to slip the iPhone in and out. With the Bumper, it is more difficult to do so. I have less concern about the iPhone falling out by accident if I lean over (the good) but it is more of a pain to pull out my iPhone and return it to my pocket when I am done (the bad). And this humorous post points out how this might be a problem if you wear tight blue jeans.
Indeed, this is the #1 reason that I like the Bumper. It significantly reduces the chance that I will drop the iPhone when it is in my hands. Just yesterday, for example, I decided to use the Bumper while I was in my house, and while I was walking upstairs my foot caught a stair the wrong way and I started to trip. Yes, I really am that graceful sometimes. I have no doubt that but for the Bumper, I would have dropped my iPhone, and I can only what would have happened to it as it fell down each of the stairs in my house. Ouch. But with the Bumper, I kept my grip on the iPhone. It was at that moment that I realized the true value of the Bumper.
Fashion. Since Apple plays up the fashion aspect of the Bumper, I suppose I should mention it here. Apple offers bumpers in different colors, so if you are looking to add a splash of color to the iPhone 4, you can get that with a Bumper. I'm not looking for that, so I just chose the basic black. But if you want to add color without getting in the way of the beautiful glass front and back of the iPhone, the Bumper will give you what you want.
Stays in place. The rubber portion of the Bumper makes it less likely for the iPhone to slip out of your hand, but it is worth noting that it also helps to keep the iPhone in place in other locations. If your iPhone is just sitting on your desk without a Bumper, I can easily see someone not paying attention and knocking the iPhone off of the desk. But with the Bumper attached, the rubber keeps the iPhone in place. It's not going anywhere unless you want it to. Also, if you want to tilt your iPhone at an angle, leaning against a book perhaps, so that you can view a movie or pictures on the screen, using the Bumper makes it very easy to do this. Without the Bumper, if you try to prop up the iPhone at an angle on a flat surface, it is going to slip and fall. Indeed, I have actually had occasions in the past when someone has called my iPhone while it was on mute and the vibration of the iPhone as it "rang" has caused the iPhone to move across the surface. If the iPhone is on the edge of a desk or table, your iPhone might "walk" itself right over the edge. That will not happen with the Bumper on the iPhone.
Antenna. And of course, if you find that you accidentally touch the part of the iPhone antenna that reduces reception, you won't have that problem with the Bumper. Obviously, that is the reason that Apple decided to give away cases like the Bumper for free. If you usually talk with your iPhone in your left hand, and if you are often in areas with marginal AT&T coverage, the Bumper may make it less likely for you to lose a signal and drop a call.
Accessories. My main gripe with the Bumper is that it doesn't work well with many accessories. It has a hole in the bottom for the connector port, so you can easily plug in the cord that connects to the USB port on your computer. But I also have a similar cord on the equipment that I use to connect my iPhone to my car stereo, and I suppose that plug must be a tad bigger because I cannot get it to fit in the slot of the bottom of the Bumper. I can see what is happening — Apple doesn't just cut a hole in the bottom of the Bumper, but also reinforces the hole with a plastic frame, as you can (sort of) see in the following picture. (You can click to enlarge.) That design decision helps to keep the Bumper more sturdy because there is a plastic frame around the Bumper, but because of the amount of plastic in the hole, it reduces the size of the hole for the connector port. It's a tight fit, and while it works for the cord that Apple gives you to connect to your computer, it doesn't work with some other cords.
Similarly, I use (and love) my Bose SoundDock Portable speaker system but the connector doesn't make sufficient contact when the Bumper is around the iPhone 4. And it's not just third party accessories: I use an Apple iPhone 4 Dock and because that dock is molded to the exact shape of the iPhone 4, you have to remove the Bumper every time you want to use the dock. What a pain. On the other hand, you can use a Bumper with the Apple Universal Dock if you don't use any insert adapters. (To be more specific, none of the iPhone adapters work; there might be a larger adapter made for an iPod that could be used.)
The headphone jack hole is also more recessed when you use the Bumper and the hole itself is tight. So far, all of my headphones do fit, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that some third party headphones don't fit as well with a Bumper. For example, Art of the iPhone reports that a pair of Sennheiser CX300s headphones wouldn’t fit with the Bumper attached.
[UPDATE: Attorney Katie Floyd — who hosts the great Mac Power Users podcast along with attorney David "MacSparky" Sparks — posted a long comment to this post that is worth reading. Regarding accessories, she had this to say:
1) My friend Allison Sheridan of the Nosillacast Podcast hosted at podfeet.com notes that if you use a dremmel tool and file out the little "ledge" on the inside of the bumper at the dock connector, you can get a few more connectors to fit. I've been a little hesitant to do so.
2) I spoke with the folks over at SendStation about their Dock Extender product. Unfortunately, it does not work with the Apple bumper. But they're working on an updated model that will. They say it will likely be a few months before they have something in production.
3) SendStation's suggestion was to "modify" your existing peripherals by slightly filing off the edges of the plugs by a few millimeters to make them fit. Again, makes me nervous so I haven't tried this myself. Apparently there are some videos on YouTube of people doing this. I advise caution.
4) The Universal dock sold by Apple will work with the bumper but without any inserts. It won’t work even with larger iPod insets. The problem is that because the case ads a few millimeters of distance between the dock connector and the port the connector isn’t long enough to fully connect. You have to remove the universal adapters all together and you’ll find that this allows the connection. This approach works as well with some of my third party accessories including my iHome speakers with a dock connector. Of course, the universal dock connector is $50 compared to the iPhone dock’s $30 price tag so you’re spending $20 more per dock.
Thanks, Katie, for the information.]
Thanks, Katie, for the information.]
Oleophobic Screen. One of the things that I love about the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 is the oleophobic screen. I get smudges on my iPhone screen all the time, but with just a simple wipe on my shirt, the smudges disappear thanks to the coating on the screen. Unfortunately, with the Bumper on the iPhone, this is harder to do. The rubber around the edges causes friction so you cannot easily slide an iPhone in a Bumper against your shirt. Instead, you have to more deliberately take a part of your shirt or some other cloth to wipe the screen without touching the Bumper. It's a minor inconvenience, but one that I don't like.
Minimal Protection. I noted above that an advantage of the Bumper, for people like me who are not big fans of cases, is that it is so minimal. But if you are looking for more protection, the Bumper might not be enough for you. For example, my wife tells me that she likes knowing that she can toss her iPhone into a purse without worrying about keys or some other items scratching the iPhone. Thus, she wants a case that completely covers the back and sides of the iPhone and wants something like the InvisibleShield protecting the front screen. Of course, you could just use the Bumper along with an InvisibleShield on the front and back, but with a full rubberized style case that surrounds the entire iPhone, you are likely to have more protection if you drop the iPhone and something (like a concrete sidewalk) hits a corner or the back.
Conclusion. Because I know that I normally don't like to use cases, I forced myself to use the Bumper for an entire week so that I could get to know all of the advantages and all of the quirks. Now that my self-imposed deadline has passed, I plan to remove the Bumper for most of my everyday use. But that doesn't mean that I don't like the Bumper and won't use it from time to time. Hopefully, I'll be using it the next time I trip on the stairs. I also plan to use the Bumper whenever I travel to make it less likely for the iPhone to slip out of my hand at an airport or out of my pocket in a cab. And I'm sure that I will use it from time to time at home or at the office when I want to more easily prop up my iPhone on its side or when I want to put the iPhone on a flat surface such as a table without worry about it sliding off.
At its original price of $30, I would have said that the Bumper was overpriced but valuable enough that you should consider getting it for your iPhone 4, even if (like me) you are normally not a fan of iPhone cases. But now that Apple is giving Bumpers away for free, it seems like an easy decision to get one — unless you prefer the features in another case that Apple will be offering starting later this week.
The big news this week has been commentary, speculation, conjecture and downright silliness about the iPhone 4 antenna issue. Who knows what Apple will say at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern today (although Scoopertino has a humorous prediction). I'm sure that the announcement will be analyzed six ways to Sunday, but hopefully it will move us towards the end of this unfortunate chapter in iPhone history. There were a few other news items this week of note, such as:
And by the way, here is one of the Fifty People, One Question films, one called PostSecret. It interviews interesting people and features Mastermind Theatre's great Pictures of Audrey in the soundtrack:
I believe that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone ever sold, and every day I am finding new things that I love about it. One of its many advantages is that it does a much better job of getting a 3G signal. Areas that used to be dead zones for me — such as certain locations in my office, 46 floors up in the air and far from cell towers — are now areas in which I can initiate and receive calls. I don't know if the improvement comes from better internal circuits, updated firmware, or the unique antenna on the outside of the phone, but the better reception is certainly real.
Unfortunately, much recent media attention has emphasized reception problems with the iPhone 4 instead of the reception improvements, including the possibility that an iPhone 4 user can get worse reception if the user places a hand over the bottom left portion of the phone, something that a right-handed person like me would rarely do when using the phone but might be more common for lefties. In my experience, this is not an issue in areas with strong 3G coverage, but if you are in an area with weak coverage — including, for example, areas where you could never get coverage with prior iPhones and are only now getting coverage with the iPhone 4 because of its improvements — then the problem is real. I have not been able to force a call to drop under these circumstances, but I have been able to slow down downloads of data, so I can see how it is possible that others might see dropped calls with a hand touching that part of the iPhone 4. A good recent post on Engadget evidenced how different people are seeing different issues, some seeing no iPhone 4 reception problems and others seeing real problems. All in all, I think that Harry McCracken summed it up best when he recently wrote:
The iPhone 4′s innovative antenna-wrapped-around-the-case improves reception. Except when you use the phone in an area with marginal reception, aren’t using a case, and bridge the gap in the lower left-hand corner with your hand. In that situation, it can be deadly.
Had Apple simply told all iPhone purchasers from the outset something similar to what McCracken wrote, perhaps we wouldn't have seen all of the media attention, especially the attention that resulted from Consumer Reports articles concluding that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone on the market and yet also stating that because of this antenna issue, Consumer Reports doesn't want to recommend that anyone buy the iPhone 4.
Last night, Apple announced to media outlets such as Macworld and Engadget that it will hold a press conference tomorrow, Friday June 16, at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern to address the iPhone 4 — and presumably to address this antenna issue. I'm curious to see what Apple says, and I'm hopeful that Apple's announcements will allow people to move past this issue, because for me, the bottom line is (1) the iPhone 4 is an amazing smartphone, truly the best in class and (2) if you want to get better reception, that is a reason to BUY the iPhone 4, not a reason to avoid it, although you may have to be careful about how you hold it (or use a case) in those weak signals areas in which, before the iPhone 4, you might not have gotten a signal at all.
Justin Horn of the When Will Apple? blog ran some tests two years ago and found that his iPhone 3 charged in 90 minutes when plugged in to a wall outlet and in 140 minutes when charging over USB. He recently ran similar tests on the iPhone 4, and his results are described in a post on Justin's blog and shown in the following graph, which Justin gave me permission to republish here:
In his test, it took Justin an extra 30 minutes (130 minutes versus 160 minutes) to get a full charge on USB versus plugging it into a wall outlet. And perhaps just as importantly, his tests show that you get more charge along the way using a wall outlet, so if you only have 30 minutes to spare, in Justin's test you'll go from zero to 25% over USB and zero to almost 35% with a wall outlet.
Different computers have different USB charging capacity, and the latest Apple computers provide more power over USB than earlier models. Thus, I expect that if you expanded this chart to cover different Mac and PC computers, you'd see different results charging over different USB ports. Having said that, I think that it is fair to say that if you want the fastest charge, use a power outlet.
Many attorneys who read iPhone J.D. write to tell me how they are using their iPhone in their practice. I love to read these stories, and with your permission, I'd love to share your stories with others. I find that when I hear what others are doing, it usually gives me more ideas for making the most of my iPhone in my practice.
I received a note the other day from Oxford, Mississippi attorney Tom Freeland. Tom's law firm Freeland & Freeland (and its predecessors) has been in the same location for over 100 years, but having one foot in history doesn't stop Tom from having another foot in high technology. He runs the great NMissCommentor blog which discusses everything from Mississippi and federal Fifth Circuit law to technology to food and drink. (One recent post on the Ramos Gin Fizz spawned a vigorous debate in the comments over how to best make that drink and whether to use soda water. Like Tom, I'd trust the New Orleans restaurant recipes over anything on Wikipedia!) Tom is also on Twitter as @NMissC.
Tom Freeland wrote to me the other day to share this story on successful use of his iPhone and laptop at trial. And as Tom suggests, I suspect that he could rely even more on the iPhone and less on a laptop in the future. Here is Tom's note:
I'm just at the end of a criminal trial in federal court (the jury is deliberating) that was estimated to take four to six weeks; we're at four weeks plus a day now. [Jeff notes: Tom's trial is now over; Tom represented a defendant in a Medicare and Medicaid fraud trial, and while some defendants were convicted, Tom's client was found not guilty.]
At the pretrial conference, I pointed out to the judge that many of the lawyers were from small firms in other towns (and states) and asked if we could bring smart phones and computers with wireless access into the courtroom to stay in touch with our offices, something that is not allowed under the local court rules. (The rules were amended last year to prohibit wireless "broadcasting" from courtrooms to assure, among other things, that liveblogging would not happen from the courtrooms. While this was apparently because of the experience in the Northern District in the Scruggs cases, as one of the bloggers who actually blogged those hearings, I am unaware of any blogger who was "live"— it was explicitly against the court rules.)
The court allowed it, and has been extremely tolerant of the lawyers use of these devices as long as they do not make a sound. (Any ringers going off result in a $100 fine, something that two lawyers have experienced. I have a very careful check-the-phone process precourt, and have just had the sound off on my computer all through the trial.)
The devices have been heavily used and very handy, such as being able to text my office with research projects or in search of documents. (I've a full set on my laptop and if they get me a bates or exhibit number, we're in business.) A couple of times, wireless access to cases to respond to factually distinguish a case has been critical. I've had intermittent access to wireless, and so have relied mostly on Westlaw on my laptop, although your comment about FastCase today on your blog has made me wish I'd thought of it on occasion when a new case was cited in chambers. I would be a little self conscious about staring at my phone in that context, although with as many as a dozen lawyers in chambers at once that might not be that attention-drawing.
I've used my iPhone in trial for the exact same purposes — keeping in touch with folks at the office so that they can bring us what we need in court, and looking up cases on Fastcase. I've also used Fastcase on an iPhone when in chambers during a jury charge conference, and to avoid being disrespectful it is helpful to have one of your partners on the front-line talking with the judge while you are in the background pulling up and reading a case, but then once you are done you can talk about the case and distinguish it as appropriate. I feel bad for attorneys in courts that prohibit the use of an iPhone and similar devices during trial because they are incredibly useful.
If you have a story about the successful use of an iPhone in your law practice, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'd love to share the story here.
I have been using an iPhone 4 for almost two weeks, and the only problem I have had with it was that every once in a while during the first few days — when I was in the middle of doing something else — I would suddenly get an error message on the screen saying "No SIM card installed." The error was odd because it never happened when I was actively using the AT&T network, although I'm sure that my iPhone was communicating with AT&T towers in the background. One of the times that it happened, I snapped a picture of it so that I could post it here:
Whenever this happened, if I restarted my iPhone (hold down the button at the top for a few seconds, slide to power off, then press the button at the top to turn the iPhone on again), the iPhone would again see the AT&T network and not display the SIM card message. Nevertheless, it was annoying to have to restart my iPhone. At one point, I actually had to restart my brand new iPhone 4 twice during the same day.
I have seen all kinds of advice online regarding what to do in this situation. Some people suggested returning the iPhone to an AT&T store to get a new SIM card. Some people have suggested going to Settings --> General --> Reset --> Reset Network Settings. A third suggestion, and the one that I used, was to use a paperclip to eject the SIM tray on the side of the iPhone 4, take out the SIM card, put it back in again, and then replace the SIM tray. After doing that, I have now gone over a week since without seeing the error message again ... long enough for me to decide to post here that this was a fix that worked for me, at least so far.
I was surprised to see that this is not an issue unique to the iPhone 4. People have been complaining online for years about seeing the same message on the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 3G. I had just never heard about it before. And the problem isn't even unique to the iPhone; there are lots of posts on the Internet with people making the same complaint about other phones that use SIM cards.
I have also seen a few posts that suggest that the problem is that there is dirt or a smudge on the SIM card. Thus, if the problem does happen to me again, I'll try to gently wipe off the SIM card with a lint free cloth before I return it. Maybe there was a speck of dust on mine and the simple act of removing it and returning it knocked the dust off without me even noticing it. (And if there were any Whos down in Who-ville on that speck of dust, I apologize for not hearing you.) (Yes, perhaps I have been reading too many Dr. Seuss books to my kids.)
[UPDATE 8/5/10: After several weeks of everything being fine, the problem happened to me again last week IN THE MIDDLE OF A PHONE CALL. The call dropped, and I thought that maybe I just lost a 3G signal — something that doesn't happen to me very often, but at the time I was in another city and wasn't paying attention to the strength of the 3G signal in that area. But then I looked at the iPhone and saw the dreaded No SIM message. Arggh! So on Friday, July 30, I visited my local AT&T store, and the helpful salesperson said that the best fix is to replace the SIM card, which he did quickly. So far I've been using this new SIM card for about a week without any problems, but I'm keeping an eye on this. I'll keep you posted on my experiences.]
[UPDATE 8/23/10: See this post.]
Hopefully this problem will never happen to any of you, but if it does, now you know some possible solutions.
I never thought I would review a flashlight app on this website. I don't mean to imply that an iPhone isn't useful as a flashlight. For as long as I've had an iPhone — and even before that when I had a Palm Treo — I've occasionally used the screen of my phone as a flashlight. For example, if I find myself walking upstairs in the dark at night, I may turn on my iPhone to make sure that there are no children's toys that I might trip over. Nevertheless, I've always thought that it was a little silly to pay for a flashlight app considering that most any app will light up your iPhone screen enough to provide some light in the dark. If the iPhone doesn't seem bright enough, just tap an app like Mail or the Calendar that has a lot of white space.
But with the iPhone 4, there is finally a real reason for a flashlight app. The LED light that provides a flash for the camera provides much more light than the iPhone screen, even if your brightness is turned all the way up. Thus, having an app that turns on the light quickly can be quite useful.
The iPhone 4 has not been out very long, but we already have a ton of flashlight apps, many of which cost $0.99. I haven't tested any of them because there is an app called LED Light for iPhone 4 Free that does the job just fine and, as its title suggests, is free.
The app could not be more simple. Start the app and you see a button. Touch the button and the LED light comes on. At that point, I recommend that you just leave the button in the on position. Every time you exit the app the LED light goes off, and every time you return to the app the LED light comes back on.
If for some reason you have the need for a flashing light — a strobe light — just tap the button at the bottom. A slider comes up so that you can control the speed of the strobe effect.
Using the flash for a long period of time surely wears down the battery, but I suspect that when you use an app like this as a flashlight, you are typically just using it for a minute or less. If you plan to use the app as a strobe light for your next disco party, consider plugging in your iPhone first.
By the way, this is one of the first apps that I've used that has Apple's new iAds in it. If you are curious to see how an iAd works, that is another reason to download this app. And I cannot think of a better app for an iAd. It makes little difference what is on the screen while you are using this app — all that really matters is that the LED light goes on — so why not stick an iAd in there. It certainly doesn't get in the way.
[UPDATE: MacRumors reports that Jason Ting, the developer of LED Light for iPhone 4 Free, made $1,372 from iAds revenue in just the first day that his app was available. Apparently, giving away a free app can be quite profitable! To be fair, though, this may just be a lot of people who, like me, saw this app as an opportunity to try out iAds for the first time. As more and more apps have iAds and thus the novelty to users wears off, revenue to developers may decrease.]
As I noted above, we already have several apps in the App Store that do the same thing. In fact, before I downloaded this one, I downloaded the free app LED Torch Flashlight and it works very similar to LED Light for iPhone 4 Free except that it lacks the strobe light function. Even though I doubt I will use that function very often, why not get one that has that feature just in case you want it. Having said that, I'm sure that we will soon see many more LED flashlight apps for the iPhone 4 adding lots of additional features. Perhaps we will see one that integrates with Facebook, posting a status update every time you use the app. "My light is now on." "My light is now off." Maybe there is some feature to be added to a flashlight app that will actually have some utility, but for now the LED Light for iPhone 4 Free app seems to do everything I would want. And the price is right.
If you own an iPhone 4, I think that you will find this app useful from time to time.
There are lots of great stories about people finding their lost iPhone by using the Find My iPhone feature available to subscribers of MobileMe — sometimes because the iPhone is stolen, but often just because a person cannot remember where they left it. As useful as Find my iPhone is, be aware that if you find yourself in a tall building, the feature doesn't work very well.
For example, my law office is on the 46th floor of One Shell Square. When it was built in 1972 it was the tallest building in the entire Southeast, and it remains the tallest building in New Orleans. From my office, I have a great view of the city and the Mississippi River, but that high up I don't have great AT&T reception (although it is much improved with the iPhone 4). Here is a view of the Mississippi River and the Warehouse District in New Orleans, taken from my office using an iPhone 4 (click to see the full size, original file):
The Find My iPhone feature, like the iPhone Maps app, uses GPS and cell tower triangulation to determine where you are located, but I suspect that it presumes that you are at ground level because whenever I am on the 46th floor of One Shell Square or any other tall office building, I find that Find My iPhone is really off. For example, here are two recent readings when I was sitting at my desk in my office. My office building is located where I placed a green rectangle with arrows pointing to it, but my iPhone thinks that I am located many blocks away. In the first picture (using Maps), it thinks my iPhone is close to where the New Orleans Convention Center is located. If I didn't know better, looking at this map I'd think that someone in town for a convention had stolen my iPhone. In the second picture, taken a different day (using the Find my iPhone app), my iPhone is supposedly on the other side of the Superdome from my office.
If you subscribe to MobileMe and you lose your iPhone, by all means use Find My iPhone to try to locate it. But just keep in mind that if you lost your iPhone on the upper floors of a skyscraper, you can't trust the Find My iPhone map.
Click here to get MobileMe discounted at Amazon for only $89.24 (about $10 off).
I've raved in the past about Fastcase, a must-have app for any lawyer using an iPhone. The app allows you to search and access caselaw and statutes on your iPhone, for free. Up until now, you could use the app on an iPad in expanded screen mode, but today Fastcase is releasing a new version of the app that runs natively on the iPad to take full advantage of the large screen and which also runs even better on the iPhone. [UPDATE 7/17/10: The app is finally in the App Store.]
I don't own an iPad yet, but apps like this push me closer towards getting one. Ed Walters, the CEO of Fastcase, sent me some images so that I could see what the app looks like on an iPad and gave me permission to share them here. It looks like this app really shines on the iPad, with a large screen making it easy to read cases and statutes. Click on any of these pictures for full size views:
I see that there is a slider that allows you to increase the font size to make it even easier to read cases. It is unclear to me whether you can also change font sizes in the iPhone app; the app still isn't live in the App Store as I type this, so I'll have to see for myself later today. I also love that in landscape mode on the iPad, you can see both the list of cases on the left and the case itself on the right:
Obviously, the app preserves the "Save" feature, and that is one of my favorite parts of the Fastcase app. There are several cases that I find myself referring to frequently, and it is great to be able to essentially carry the cases around with me at all times just by saving the case to the Saved Documents area of Fastcase.
Ed tells me that if you use Fastcase on an iPhone, the changes in the new version are more subtle, things like different page navigation. It is not yet clear to me whether this version of Fastcase is optimized for iOS 4 to provide, for example, fast app switching; again, I'll find out later today when the app is out.
As I mentioned last Friday, the American Association of Law Libraries recently named the Fastcase app the best new product of 2009-2010 — high honors considering the other great legal research products to come out recently such as the new version of Westlaw. The honor is well deserved. I love having an iPhone with me in court because I know that I can always use Fastcase to pull up any case that I need. For those with an iPad, you now have that same ability, although with a larger screen that ability is far more compelling.
Click here for Fastcase (free):
Last week I mentioned that you can use the Glyphboard web app to access 48 special characters, such as an Apple, that you can paste into the title of a folder. After the article was picked up on Daring Fireball, I got a large number of comments on that post, including some pointing out that you can do a similar trick with Emoji icons.
Emoji is the Japanese word for picture characters, and in Japan, Emoji are incredibly popular for use in text messages and instant messaging. There are tons of different Emoji images ranging from happy and sad faces to animals to flags to musical instruments, and most Emoji characters are in color.
Emoji has been a part of the iPhone since version 2.2 as an alternative keyboard, but it is typically available only to Japanese iPhone users. (Indeed, I remember reading way back when that few Japanese customers would consider buying a smartphone that lacked Emoji, so Apple essentially had to add the feature for that market.) Nevertheless, it is possible for iPhone owners outside of Japan using iOS 4 to enable Emoji just by downloading a free app and restarting your iPhone. This does not require jailbreaking your iPhone. Sebastien at the iPhone Download Blog has a great post on how to enable Emoji on your iPhone running iOS 4, so rather than repeat the steps here I'll just refer you to his article.
Once you have turned on the Emoji keyboard on your iPhone, you can just switch to that keyboard and select a picture character to use in the title of a folder using the same steps that I outlined last week. In fact, it's even easier because you don't have to copy from one location and them paste into a folder name; just enable the Emoji keyboard and directly type any picture that you want.
Some pictures look better than others. For example, I tried to use an umbrella for the folder containing my weather apps, but it didn't look very good against a dark background. So instead, I used the sun icon, and that works quite well.
I also like using some musical notes for various music-related apps and a color airplane for some travel apps.
I don't plan to have picture icons for all of my folders, but so far I find that having pictures on a few folders is nice. Indeed, it seems faster to identify a folder with a unique picture. I suppose that is because of the old picture-thousand-words phenomenon.
UPDATE: I see that Alan at Art of the iPhone has a similar post today, and in his examples he puts an Emoji icon right before the text in the folder name. That's another interesting way to do it, so check out Alan's post to see that approach.
I got my iPhone 4 this week, and many of you did too. It is still an object of curiosity; I traveled to Miami this week and was stopped by many people who saw me using the iPhone 4 — both friends and strangers — to ask about it. But I saw that I was not alone, with many other people using iPhone 4's, and all of them had a story about what they went though to get it (difficulty in pre-ordering, waiting in line to get it, etc.). Apple announced this past weekend that they sold almost 2 million iPhone 4's and I suspect that they are well over 3 million by now. Here is the iPhone news of the week that caught my attention:
Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners is one of the guys primarily responsible for the Palm Pre. When the Palm Pre debuted, McNamee boasted to Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal that the back of the Palm Pre had a reflective surface that one could use as a mirror, stating: "Never before has a device like this been designed for a woman." He got a lot of grief for that statement, but I suppose there may be times when you need a mirror and all you have with you is your phone. For those of you contemplating buying a Palm Pre over an iPhone because of that mirror (ahem), rest assured that the iPhone 4 now has you covered.
Apple added the front-facing camera on the iPhone 4 so that you can participate in video chats using the new FaceTime software. Nevertheless, if you ever find that you have a sudden need for a mirror, you can use that same camera to get a quick look at yourself. Just launch the Camera app. The screen will display an image from the camera on the back of the iPhone, but if you tap the button at the top right of the screen the Camera app will switch to the front camera. Now you can see yourself. Fix your hair, make sure you don't have food stuck in your teeth, or heck, just admire yourself if you want to. Your iPhone won't judge you. At least, not yet. Who knows what Apple has planned for iPhone 5.