Posts Tagged ‘iTunes’

Our smartphones have come a long way when it comes to audio, but the problem is the thinner they become the less likely the audio quality will improve.

Take the iPhone for example, no one can argue that it is a superb phone and the audio output is pretty good, but it could be much better. Without a massive advancement in technology, this isn’t happening anytime soon.

Shure, the audio specialists, make some of the best earphones in the business, but even they think that plugging the Shure 535’s into the iPhone really doesn’t show off their potential. Try it, plug-in your best headphones into your iPhone and listen to a track, then listen to the same track with the same headphones on your computer with a dedicated sound card and you will very quickly hear the difference.

The only solution is a portable amp which magnifies the audio signal to amplify the sound. Otherwise without this, the louder you make the music the more distorted it will become. These portable amps need to be powered and are normally expensive and bulky and are aimed at the audiophile.

The guys over at UAMP want to change this with a Kickstarter campaign.

“We wanted to capture that premium sound you get from hi-end audio equipment and make it available on every device, without the complications, terrible interfaces, or exorbitant costs. Uamp provides the same hi-fi sound for a fraction of the price and size of standard amplifiers. The Uamp unit measures 43 x 43 x 9mm and weighs just 26 grams – we’ve crammed all the electronics of a hi-end amp into one tiny device. Its nano design means it can easily fit into the smallest of pockets, allowing you to carry it with you anywhere – walking, jogging and cycling, or travelling on the bus, train and plane. Combined with its ten hour battery life, Uamp is truly a portable device.”

The difference here is not only its size and ability to be recharged by USB, but also its price. With postage to the UK, this will cost you about £40 which for anyone who has spent £250+ on headphones it’s a small price to pay. UAMP have kept this simple and stylish, with little LED’s and a slick design. You simply plug-in your iPhone and then your headphones on the other side and away you go.

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With a 10 hour rechargeable battery and adjustable EQ levels, working with every device no matter the makers, this really is an amp for the budding audiophile. Priced at about £45 all in on this campaign, it really is worth a punt, especially if the manufacturer delivers as much as they promise.

uamp

UAMP

So TheTechSpy has been busy this weekend playing with his iPhone and like all Gadgeteers out there, couldn’t wait for a glimpse of iOS 7 on a device.

Now let’s get the boring stuff out the way, we were testing the beta software for reviewing purposes only and in no way condemn you putting this beta software on your iOS device before its official launch unless you are a developer. TheTechSpy does not recommend any of the software used or take any responsibility for them, these are just the ones we used.

It is quite a simple process, so here is what we did;

1: Backed up our iPhone to iTunes

2: In the mean time we downloaded the beta software for our iPhone 5 CDMA A1429 from here

3: And then downloaded a DMG extractor

4: Use the free DMG extractor to open the downloaded file and extract the DMG/IPSW and put this in a location that you know (it will be the biggest file in the folder)

5: Once complete, we clicked on our device name on the left pane of iTunes.

6: Clicked the Summary tab

7: With our finger on the Shift key, click the “Restore” button and point the browser to the file you have just downloaded.

8: iTunes then began to restore the iPhone with the iOS7 beta software.

We are very pleased with the firmware version and are looking forward to the official launch in September to get our teeth really into this software.

 

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I am sure most of you have tried to send files from one iOS device to another and I am also sure most of you have found that the process is not as straightforward as you wished it to be.

The method that we all have pretty much resorted to is either emailing it across, cloud services like Dropbox or Apple’s very own iCloud or attempting file sync with the USB cable and iTunes.

Well all of that is about to become a thing of the past as some developers have created an app called Instashare which you will be happy to know does its job with ease.

Instashare is very similar to AirDrop but for iPhones and tablets. It uses WiFi or Bluetooth without a connection to the internet to transfer files from one device to the other. The app is also in beta phase for OSX which will allow you to transfer from mobile device to Mac which will be very handy indeed. 

You can get these apps for free, but TheTechSpy recommends stumping up the 69p to make it ad-free as they are simply annoying and it makes for a much better experience. The interesting thing is the developers are currently working on the same apps for Windows and Android, so expect cross-platform transfers some time soon. 

Instashare

 

Continuing on from Part 1 of the iOS Replacement Apps blog, here are some of the next apps which could replace the stock apps on your iPhone to make your life easier and maybe even a little more fun!

 

Apple: Safari

Non Apple: Opera – Free

Now, let me first say, there is not a lot wrong with Apple’s offering, Safari is a great browser but sometimes we get bored and just want those added features. Opera includes all the standards, tabbed browsing, bookmarking and of course the “find in page” option, but also has some added features like share options to easily share with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google + and of course email.

One of the best features is the in-built data usage tracker, which can show you how long you have spent off of WiFi which could become particularly helpful while on holiday on those expensive roaming charges.

This app is a step up from Apple’s offering, but you may also want to take a look at the competition in the form of Google Chrome which is also a great alternative.

 

Apple: Camera

Non Apple: Camera+ – 69p

Camera + is an immense app which will change the way you take photos with the iPhone. Not only can you take photos with it, but also edit them after. While taking a photo, you can edit the exposure and focus in real-time. You also have a variation of shooting modes (Burst, stabilised and even timer) and the unique ability to have the iPhone’s light on continuously to take a picture so that you can see what you are doing in low light conditions.

Editing shots are easy, but you can also import into Lightbox for even more possibilities with the choice of automatic sync available. From the app, you can transform your pictures with almost professional tools, allowing many possible Effects, brushing and layering at your fingertips. The app also allows you to share with the likes of Facebook and Twitter direct from the app after editing and is now available on the iPad.

 

Apple: iBooks

Non Apple: Kindle – Free

iBooks I think has a nice feel to the app, but some of you may not like the life-like design that Apple opt for. The only problem I see with this app, is those of you who like to purchase books and build up a huge collection are going to be stuck with Apple’s collection and of course staying with iOS from now on. Kindle changes that, you can buy books through the Kindle store which offers over 1.5million titles including books, magazines, newspapers and PDF’s.

The attraction for me is that you can pick the book up from the very page you left on in any device across iOS, Kindle devices, PC/Mac and Android meaning you are not stuck with iOS for the rest of your life. Some of the newspapers available are the The Spectator, The Daily Mail and The Guardian and the best features include dictionary look-up, search inside the book and the ability to change font, size and margins.

A great all-rounder which is free and solves a lot of issues.

 

Apple: Music

Non Apple: Groove 2 – £1.49

Once again the stock music app from Apple does the job, but it does have some short comings. Along with being a little bit boring and no major changes in the app being done in the last few years, one of the things that really gets to me is the creation of playlists. Going through my huge music collection to add songs to my newest playlist, I would like to be able to briefly hear the song I am about to choose (just like you can in the iTunes store before purchasing) but Apple have missed this.

Groove 2 is a great app which studies your listening habits and creates a wide variety of instant mixes like your own personal DJ. They claim that you will never have to create playlists again.

Winning quite a few awards, this app has some cool features. When you are in the car, you can use smart gestures to control volume, playback and get new mixes while keeping your eyes firmly on the road. It can also create playlists for you with a touch of a button which before BBQs and parties can be a valuable tool to save time.

You will not regret upgrading to Groove 2, if you are serious about your music, this is the app for you.

Apple Apps

 

 

 

 

Bowers & Wilkins have been the leaders in the iDevice speaker world with its amazing Zeppelin for quite some time now, the new Z2 promises to be as much of a “Stairway To Heaven” of sound as its predecessor.

The blimp-shaped Zeppelin has been well known to be the top of the crop when it comes to iPhone speakers, with its critically acclaimed sound output and unique design it truly was the speaker to own. One of the issues with the style is the size, it doesn’t fit in everybody’s space and with the likes of Bose releasing the SoundLink earlier last year, B&W have had to come out with the sleek bookshelf-sized Z2.

The Z2 not only looks good but also sounds superb! Sporting AirPlay and the latest lightning dock, it will pretty much take any of the Apple line-up. With the use of the iPad/iPhone you are able to purchase more Z2’s to put in every room of the house controlling each independently wirelessly from the palm of your hands. AirPlay on the Z2 works perfectly with Last.fm, Pandora and Mixcloud on your iDevice so that you can stream music effortlessly.

The British hi-fi experts know how to make great speakers, but this comes at a price….£330 in this case which will not appeal to everyone’s wallet. The Bose SoundLink  is a lot more portable, has a rechargeable battery, will connect via Bluetooth to any device and is priced at a more comfortable £249 with impeccable sound for its size.

Z2

Apple are very good at what they do, but if you are looking to get more out of your iPhone, you can find  alternatives to the stock apps. Apple are sometimes a little slow to update their own apps and this is where other developers create improved versions to monetise on the company’s flaws. Check out this list we have put together:

Apple: Mail

Non Apple: Mailbox – Free

Mailbox is one of the most anticipated apps of 2013, created by a team of 13 people and recently bought by Dropbox for a rumoured $50m, they certainly have done well. The email client uses gestures to control your inbox and can quickly get your inbox to zero if you like to do so.

One of our favourite features is the “Later” option, which allows you to ignore an email when it comes in and pushes it to another time of your choice. You can delete emails and even move them up further in your inbox to prioritise them, all via gesture control. Another good feature (which improves on Apple’s Mail app) is replying back to an email and attaching a photo, a simple feature which Apple seem to ignore. The only issue with Mailbox is that you need to go onto a reservation list as the app was so overwhelmed with downloads, but, we can assure you….it is worth it!

Apple: Calendar

Non Apple: Week Cal – £1.49

You can find a lot of apps to replace Apple’s Calendar as this has stayed relatively the same since it started. Week Cal has vastly improved the views, allowing you to “drag-n-drop” events at any point, linking contacts/places to events and even colour coding individual events to show on your calendar. You can even add entries into multiple calendars which is a great feature for the business user.

This app works well, has many modifications and options for the user to toggle which make it personal and is very easy to get the hang of. If you are a serious calendar user…it’s a must-have.

Apple: Weather

Non Apple: WeatherPro – £2.49

The stock weather app does the job, but it doesn’t excite in any way. WeatherPro is amazingly reliable, has seven day forecasts and even drills that down to 3 hour sections. You can save favourite locations which will show you wind direction, air pressure and temperature (with the important “feels like” approach to temperatures). This app also supplies sunrise and sunset times with lovely high res weather maps and also can show you satellite/radar imagery of your location.

If you are looking for the more detailed weather app that you can trust, this is well worth the money.

Apple: Videos

Non Apple: OPlayer – £1.99

The main problem with the Video app is its lack of playback format options which are quite limited. Unless you download from iTunes, you will struggle with some of the newer formats. OPlayer deals with this brilliantly, playing almost anything thrown at it with no real issues, allowing you to even choose between language options (if the video you have has multiple audio) and subtitles. If you have a NAS at home, you can even stream videos direct to your phone from the NAS over a WIFI connection (Streaming support HTTP/MMS/FTP/SAMBA) or through Dropbox.

This app does its job well, but be warned, the developers have recently run into licensing issues with AC3 (audio) but promise to get this fixed promptly.

Apple Apps