iPhone apps

Our increasing reliance on Apps

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We are all becoming increasingly reliant upon the world of Apps – be it in the Microsoft, Apple or Google eco systems. We run our lives in the cloud on mobile devices and with total reliance upon various software, apps or similar.

I am an unashamed Apple fan, our household is now totally Apple based and my working life is only partially blighted by the world of Microsoft! The recent update by Apple to OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and its link to iOS 8 is brilliant so I am a ‘happy chappy’ at the moment.

However, what has become very clear to me in recent months is just how reliant we can become on certain apps on our phones or tablets, and what a pain it is when one (or more) stops working! Let me explain;

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I have for years run financial software on my phone and home computer, initially on Windows mobile and then since the dawn of the iPhone on that. I had to make a move when I swapped to an iPhone and had been very happy with a program called ‘pocket money’, it had a sister app called ‘mpg’ which allowed me to record my mileage and fuel economy and link fuel purchases directly back into pocket money. Sadly the developer of both apps died around 12 months ago, there was supposed to be a person taking on the development but this has not happened and now the apps are no longer bug free (or even available in the App Store).

So I have had to find alternatives – which you would think would be easy, but I can assure you it isn’t! Despite there being a huge number of financial apps available most are frankly poor, the same with mileage and fuel logging apps.

Luckily I have found two good ones; Account Tracker for my banking, and Road Trip for my mileage, but the upheaval of transferring data and setting it back up has been quite disruptive – not something I want to repeat in a hurry! We are about to have a move to the cloud at work, hopefully I am now well prepared for that as well!

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National Trust garden app.

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I am a big fan of the National Trust – they do a lot of good saving our heritage and managing vast areas of our countryside. They are also becoming far more ‘modern’ in their outlook – their first iPhone app came out a year or more ago and is excellent for finding places to visit when out on the road.

Well now they have a second app, and this one is very clever and quite ‘with it’ for a body like the National Trust.

The reason? It uses augmented reality – now this is something that is becoming more common – we have it in a number of the house sale apps. You open the app, do a search for your current location and then using the camera as you look around the screen shows you what houses are available in each direction – clever!

Well the National trust app uses this idea to give information in its gardens as you walk around – simple but very clever and helpful. The only available guide at the moment is for Stourhead but more will follow – I cannot wait to try them!

Just goes to show that very ‘traditional’ companies or organisations can embrace technology effectively as well as ‘leading edge’ companies.

Another great app!

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I would be the first to admit that I am a bit of a geek – I love my iPhone and all of it’s apps. The Apple adverts suggesting that ‘there is an app for that’ are in reality quite correct!

coming over the channel

I have financial apps (two), mileage apps, weather apps (lots of those – at least 3) plus various social networking apps and of course my WordPress Blogging app! My iPhone now truly is what I would class as a PDA – I run my life on it.

One of my more recent purchases is ‘plane finder‘ – I saw it on a friends iPhone and thought it was great. It plots aircraft movements across the world in real time, so if a plane flies over me I can tell you what it is, where it is going and even where it has been in the last week. Yes, that is a bit sad – but fun!

on approach to Gatwick

Yes, it is basically a gimic app (unless you are a plane spotter – and I am definately not!). But I recently found a ‘practical’ use for it, I watched my sons flight from Vienna to Gatwick in real time! I had all of his flight details so entered them into it and it found him (once he was airborne, it doesn’t appear to pick up flights as they take off or as they land).

I was able to follow his flight exactly as he headed back across Europe right up until the point he was on approach to Gatwick.

Ok, so it’s still a bit sad, and no my wife just doesn’t get it – but I do love this app!

The British and the weather

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It seems apt that as we are enjoying some particularily warm weather that the British Weather forecast has just celebrated its 150th birthday!

I am sure they used to get it right!

On 1 August 1861 the Times newspaper published the first ever weather forecast. The forecast was put together by Admiral Robert FitzRoy, who led the meteorological department in the Board of Trade which was later renamed the Met Office. History does not tell us whether the forecast was accurate or not!

I suppose it is because of our changeable climate that we Brits have such an obsession with the weather, I have numerous weather apps on my iPhone  – most of which give conflicting reports! But they are probably the most used apps on my phone!

My experience of the Met Office is that if anything they appear less able to forecast accurately now than they could 20 years ago (assuming you discount the Michael Fish ‘no hurricane’ debacle!). My wife has a theory that they just look out of the window in the morning to amend their forecast – and I think she may be right!

Dare I say it –  is this a sign of our climate changing?

An ethical shopping App

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so, I am trying to stop looking at new Apps for my iPhone – even the free ones. But then along comes a ‘nice App’ that is ethical – got to be a rare thing in this world – do I buy it?

The Ethical Company Organisation’s best-selling Good Shopping Guide has been turned into an app, using its ethical product research which aims to cut through corporate “greenwash”. The ethical shopping advice will initially be available for use on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad at £2.99. Ten per cent of net revenue will go to green campaigners Friends of the Earth.

The app lists over 700 well-known brands, ranked in 72 product-specific league tables under seven main sections, from food and drink to health and beauty to travel and energy. A summary table shows “the good, the bad and the ugly” brands in relation to the environment, human rights and animal welfare. Points scores give an overall “ethical rating” to easily identify the best performing brands and companies.

The launch last year of Barcoo, which allowed customers to scan the barcode of products in shops and find out how environmentally friendly a company is, or how it treats its staff was the first app of this type. The new app does not use barcode technology, as the developers felt too many smaller and newer brands would “slip through the net” – good thinking.

Although there is growing awareness of the benefits of fair trade and organic goods it is fair to say that consumers still need help in getting an overall ethical footprint of the product and the company behind the brand. It is sometimes surprising to find that there is not a price premium on ethical goods.

Popularity is no predictor of a high ethical score in the guide. In the tea section, the UK’s biggest brand, Tetley Tea, scores an Ethical Company Index (ECI) rating of just 57 out of a 100, compared with Cafédirect Tea (100), Yorkshire Tea (96) and Typhoo (91).

I feel myself wavering!