Streaming UBDFM on iOS Devices

You can stream UBDFM natively, without installing any application, on any iOS device (iPhone / iPod touch / iPad) by

This is shown pictorially bellow and may not be a perfect solution, I heard that it does not play in the background but I’ve tested it on my sister’s iPad with iOS 4.2 and it seems to work flawlessly. Feedback is appreciated =)

Pictorial Walkthrough

  1. Open Safari and go tohttp://bit.ly/ubdfmbrunei or http://202.160.1.55:8000/listen.pls

  2. Add this page to the Home Screen

  3. Give the link a name

  4. Enjoy easy access to stream UBDFM on the homescreen

iPhone Development – Day 1

So today I thought I’d try to build an iOS application. Managed to cobble something together over lunch with a lot of copy-paste work going on and no reading of the documentation. Not exactly an ideal way to develop but hey I managed to get a functional application that I wanted. Very rough around the edges but functional nonetheless. I wanted to try it out on actual hardware and realized that I had to sign up for the iPhone Developer Program in order to do so. It costs US$99 a year (~BND$140) but thought I would try give it a go especially since I want to develop an application. So I…

  1. Go through the process of logging in
  2. Entered my personal/billing information
  3. Selected the appropriate program
  4. Reviewed my personal/billing information
  5. Did not read the 37 page license agreement (PDF link), but checking the box anyway

And I get greeted with this:

Apple Online Store is unavailable
Your country either does not have an Apple Online Store or does not offer Apple Developer Products for Online purchase. To complete the purchase of your program, you will need to complete and fax the Purchase Form below

Apple Online Store is Unavailable

Grrrrr. Imagine if I did read that 37 page long license agreement only to be greeted with that. I would have been even more infuriated. Couldn’t they have told me that when I entered my country in my personal details? Or if it depends on current location, they could have done that via my IP. Either way they could have just told me upfront that this is not available for me.

As I won’t be able to get the full experience of the app store approval process I did manage to read this iPhone development story which is a good read and does document some annoyances for developers. While I did not manage to get to the point of transferring any Android application to a physical device I am sure it will not be as difficult as this and I believe it is free as well. But kudos to iOS developers and especially Stack Overflow for having resources that I could just copy and paste and get a functioning application all in a matter of hours without reading the documentation. What happened to policy of developers not being able to tell each other how to program for iOS?

Of Keypads and Touchscreens

If there is one thing you’ll always use on your phone it will be the keypad/keyboard whether it is a physical one or an onscreen version. I’ve always seemed to prefer phones with traditional keys (non QWERTY) as I like having the tactile feedback and also the ability to blind type. With the past 2 of my phones (Nokia 3110c, Nokia E51), I’ve had the issue that the keys are pretty hard to press (i.e. it requires quite a bit of force to press down) so after a long text message or instant-message chats, my thumbs would get tired. This led me to look into the ‘clickiness’ of keypads of phones as I was looking for a phone under $200 recently (with Bluetooth, card slot for music, a 3.5mm headphone jack & preferably 3G). I was pretty disappointed with the results and only found the Nokia 6303c had a nice ‘light’ keypad which buttons not requiring too much pressure to activate (The Nokia 3120c was pretty nice too but not as good as the 6303c).

There are several factors playing into the physical keypad of a phone: button spacing, button size, button placement and button activation pressure (as mentioned above). With all these factors playing into the keypad it made me wonder whether touchscreen keyboards would be better. Currently I have my sister’s HTC Hero and managed to play with a friend’s iPod touch recently. So I managed to get a good feel for both of them and here are some takes on their usability.

Android (1.5) - QWERTY Keyboard layout

Android (1.5) - QWERTY Keyboard layout

Initially the Hero’s onscreen keyboard was frustrating to me – especially in portrait mode. It made me think I had fat fingers and it was painfully slow to type and correct any mistakes. There is auto correct which does a pretty good job but when it comes to words that it doesn’t recognize it can get frustrating. First of all if you type a word, it will display several suggested words (which it thinks you’re typing) above the actual word being typed. If you press space (to move on to the next work) it will automatically use the word it thinks you’re typing. An example is if I want to type “Bsb” it will auto suggest “Van” and if I press space it will replace “Bsb” (that I typed) with “Van”. Now you can add “Bsb” to the dictionary and it will be recognized the next time but this can be annoying if you’re using acronyms or names of places or just a language that it doesn’t understand (e.g. Malay). You can use the onscreen keyboard in landscape mode which makes this much easier for thumb typing but I think the lack of multi-touch implementation (there is multi-touch on the browser with pinch zoom) on the keyboard phone prevents users from typing even faster. At at times the keyboard lags behind the typing so you get delayed typing. In my frustrations of the Hero I honestly wanted to get a Bluetooth keyboard or find a way to use a Nokia phone as a Bluetooth keyboard. Take note that the screen size of the Hero is smaller than the iPod touch / iPhone and makes the keyboard mode even smaller and harder to type on in comparison. After a few days with it, I’ve managed to make it more manageable but still I had better results with the iPod touch in the limited time I’ve had to play with it. Finally I have switched the keyboard mode to phone keypad which emulates the typical 1-9 button configurations with the appropriate letters as a normal phone with physical keys and it can toggle predictive T9 input on or off easily at the touch of an on-screen button.

Android (1.5) - Phone Keypad layout

Android (1.5) - Phone Keypad layout

I can honestly say that the iPod touch (and thus the iPhone) has a very good onscreen keyboard: Apple must have done great user experience testing and I have to say they have got it nearly perfect. The onscreen keyboard was large enough to type with both my thumbs in the portrait mode with few mistakes from the little time I had with it. I know that they have tweaked the keyboard making buttons ‘bigger’ based on which letter is more probable and this worked well for the words in English that I typed. I found that the auto-suggested word is just as cumbersome as the Android implementation: when typing a word that it does not understand, it will only show a single suggested word (as opposed to Android’s multiple words) and pressing the spacebar will auto-correct it to the word that it thinks you are typing. To prevent this, just tap the ‘X’ to close the suggested word panel. It didn’t seem that you could add words to the dictionary from normal text input which means you could get frustrated typing non-recognized words (you can add words to the dictionary via Safari but its a bit of a kludge).

On both on-screen keyboards I wasn’t too impressed with inputting symbols. Perhaps I’m just not used to it yet but I found it too troublesome and time consuming to type symbols. After playing with on-screen keyboards I still like physical keys and honestly I like the way Nokia has implemented the keypads on their devices along with the symbol selection. So in the meantime I will look for a Bluetooth keyboard on EBay to see if anything looks good.

Related Article: A good comparison on the virtual Keyboards on iPhone and Android

Bmobile’s iPhone Promotion

If you haven’t heard, b-mobile has subsidized iPhones 3GS’s with a b-mobile subscription contract of 18 months. This is one of the first subsidized mobile phone price plans I’ve seen in Brunei. The other would be DST‘s October promotion offerings that offered a Nokia E75, Nokia E52 and Sony Ericsson C901 with contracts of 6 months. With b-mobile having first introduced their mobile broadband Zoom! which was followed up by DST’s Go!, what I hope to see is more competition among the 2 mobile phone providers which in the end leads to the consumer winning. Recently in Singapore, M1 and StarHub released their iPhone plans which led SingTel to change their previous plans (most notably the increase of free data to 12GB, from a typical measly 500MB/1GB), so as consumers we have to love competition.

I went down to b-mobile to find out more about the iPhone and they mentioned that is it the never locked version and that they are handling the mobile phone service while AV Electronics handles all the other iPhone/Apple/iTunes/Applications related aspects of this deal. While talking to the guy at the bmobile counter he did mention that bmobile was getting the iPhone and DST was going to get the Blackberry. Rumour has it that the Blackberry will be reveal next year but timing is still not confirmed. If it does come to fruition people will be happy (especially the High Commissioner of Canada, who urged Brunei to set up a Blackberry Network).

Initially when asking about the HTC Touch Diamond Pro and Samsung Jet (which was a few weeks back) the guy told me that the details would be released later, but on further inquiry today I was told that both are available but you would have to custom order it and the personnel could not disclose the price plans as marketing was not present. I find that awkward that they are selling a product but have not disclosed the pricing. Anyway the price plans for the subsidized iPhone are as follows.

Note: Contract is for 18 months and the total costs listed are based on the prices for locals that included 1 annual license fee of $25 and a deposit of $50. For foreigners add another $50 to the total cost (as deposits for foreigners is $100 vs $50 for locals).

iPhone 3GS 16GB

Phone Cost (B$) Monthly Cost (B$) Total Cost (B$)
Smart $35 Package 999 35 1704
Smart $45 Package 799 45 1684
Smart $55 Package 599 55 1664
Smart $65 Package 399 65 1644

iPhone 3GS 32GB

Phone Cost (B$) Monthly Cost (B$) Total Cost (B$)
Smart $35 Package 1199 35 1904
Smart $45 Package 999 45 1884
Smart $55 Package 799 55 1864
Smart $65 Package 599 65 1844

Price Plan Details:

Free Voice minutes Free SMS Free MMS Free Data
Smart $35 Package 300 100 20 1.5GB
Smart $45 Package 500 200 30 3GB
Smart $55 Package 1000 300 40 10GB
Smart $65 Package 1200 500 50 Unlimited

Note: Beyond the free data, the user is chargeable at 20c/MB up to $40 at which the user can use unlimited data

If you are planning to take b-mobile up on this subsidized iPhone I would recommend subscribing using the Smart $65 Package as it has the lowest up-front payment, the cheapest in the long run and provides the best in terms of perks (especially the unlimited data). With the iPhone you use it as a broadband modem at it would be easy to exceed the 1.5GB/3GB of the 2 lower priced plans and considering that $40 corresponds to 200MB which isn’t much at all. If you take the $65 package, the iPhone can be considered as a Zoom! subscription ($65/month for iPhone vs $60/month for Zoom!) but has so much more benefits.

If you’re looking for a iPhone or even if you’re just looking to get a mobile broadband subscription (Zoom! from b-mobile or Go! from DST) I would recommend the Smart $65 Package bundled with the iPhone of your choice. You get an unlimited broadband connection which can be tethered to your computer wherever you are and the highly coveted iPhone which is currently the best smartphone platform at the moment.