Monday, May 30, 2011

Back...and Jailbroken

Ok, first an apology for the lack of recent posting. Things have been absolutely skyrocketing at TownHog, so it's been hard to find the time. However, with the recent addition of Charles Barletta to the team, I'm looking forward to getting my arms around the absolute torrent of new business.

Now, what you really came to hear about. It's official, I have now broken the Apple shackles. Yep, Jailbroken, and I'm not going back. Why? Well, it started with my trusty 3GS iPhone slowing down and feeling it's age. Apps were taking forever to open, mail was a crawl...in short, it was clearly time for a new iPhone. However, I have recently been feeling the frustration with the limitations of the iPhone, especially with the UI. Notifications taking the entire focus of the phone, no matter what you are doing; the psuedo multitasking, and the badges everywhere. Push notifications that sometimes work...the list goes on. It got worse when I saw the Windows Phone 7 "Metro" UI: looking at it, I felt like the first time I saw the iPhone and compared to my Treo. WP7 is fast, smooth, very efficient in it's information presentation...elegant, even. Comparatively, the iPhone feels almost cartoonish.

I resolved it was time for a new phone, and spent over an hour at the local AT&T phone store. Yes, AT&T: I still cannot stand the idea of only being able use voice or data, not both (sorry Verizon), and I need to reliably depend on enough coverage nationwide for my traveling (see ya, Sprint), as well as the best selection of smartphones (alas, T-Mobile). I compared the best to the best:

I compared apps I use regularly on my iPhone, UI and usability. Note that I left out Palm, for the reasons I previously blogged about. What I came away with:
  • WP7 is the best UI, but the Apps are just not there. Less than 10% of my regular apps could be found.
  • Android is close. The UI is still too free-form for me, and the apps are nearly there, but still missing many critical ones. Of the ones that were there, the features were severely limited, compared to my versions.
With that, I resigned to the iPhone 4. Yes, I would have preferred to wait for the iPhone 5, but the rumors are Apple is skipping it's usual summer refresh, and instead focusing on the holidays; I can't wait that long. So, iPhone 4 in hand, away I went. I do love the increased speed and neat new hardware features (finally, HD video and front facing camera), but the OS still frustrated me. Last week, it came to a head: I use the iPhone as both an alarm clock and bedside clock. I woke up several times during the night, glanced at the clock, and could not discern the time until I clicked on the push notification on the screen that completely took over all of the display. My alarm went off in the morning, and I found myself having to dismiss a series of notifications before I could even hit Snooze. Enough was enough.

And then I read about MobileNotifier. A fantastic project, it clearly understood the pain of what so many iOS folks have endured, and resolved to change it. Instead of taking over, it unobtrusively puts the message along the top of the screen, where it does not interrupt what you are doing. If ignored, it goes away, and you can summon a list of the recent notifications with a double top of the main button. In other words, it puts you back in charge of notifications on your iPhone, and does not interrupt your work. Brilliant. Only issue: it is only available if you jailbreak your phone. My frustration reached it's nadir: with the redsn0w solution, I was free in minutes, and away I went. 

MobileNotifier is all it purports to be and more: it truly has changed the way I use the phone. Best of all, it also has been updated today, were I can now reply to a message with a quick message overlay, all without leaving the app I am in. It's elegant, able to visually display what app the message is from, and absolutely the way I wanted iOS to always be. Oh, and it's free, though that may be while it's in beta; I'll happily pay for it, once it's released. Suffice it to say, I am delighted once again, and jailbreaking has also lead to some more exciting discoveries, which I look forward to sharing.

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