Enough with The Beatles – today’s real news is on the iPhone

Apple’s announcement today that it added The Beatles to the iTunes Store overshadows two news items of much greater importance to iPhone and iPod Touch users.

The first is that Google Voice finally squeaked its way through the App Store’s approval process. U.S. users with a Google account now have better mailbox and voicemail functionality than before, with free text messaging, voicemail transcription, call screening and call blocking. The service also offers cheap international calls. Google has tussled with Apple in the past about the Google Voice app, just one battle in an already contentious relationship between the two companies.

Second, an update from Twitter late today now allows push notifications. @ mentions from people you follow now push as a notification to iPhone and iPod Touch users, making Twitter a much more real-time conversation tool.

Qrank set to launch movie and sports channels, currently serving 200K users

Rodney Gibbs, CEO of Austin-based developer Ricochet Labs, today made some impressive revelations about the company’s highly addictive Qrank iPhone app.

The biggest news of Gibbs’ brief presentation, made at the InnoTech Austin conference, is that Qrank is set to launch partnerships with several sports and movie channels. Gibbs mentioned ESPN Sports as an example of a media partner. These partnerships will allow for various channels by topic. In the example of ESPN, a sports channel will let fans focus solely on sports trivia.

Ricochet is working to allow more playable rounds of trivia each day. Qrank currently limits users to one round of trivia per day.

Some other quick facts about Qrank, according to Gibbs:

  • about 200,000 Qrank users to date
  • 200,000 total downloads on iTunes
  • 70 percent comeback rate, the rate that measures how “sticky” the app is with users
  • 3 million games played
  • there are currently about 36,000 active live-game venues

Qrank is working on a system that will allow for the redemption for real-world prizes. The ultimate goal is to drive traffic to businesses.

In addition, Gibbs predicted an Android release for Qrank as early as this fall.

The iPhone 4 has killed the competition.

iphone 4There isn’t much left to say by now about the iPhone 4.

Whether you like it or not, its place among the competition is firmly rooted. And even though consumers haven’t even received their free cases yet, it’s clear that Steve Jobs has ravaged his competition when it comes to innovation and overall user experience.

Yes, the device has a serious flaw. But how the phone performs in other areas drastically overshadows the bad:

  • The Retina Display is superior to anything else on the market.
  • The iPhone 4 shoots terrific video, and the camera control interface makes sharing and uploading very easy.
  • iOs 4.0 feels natural. It’s fast, slick and intuitive.

AT&T service is mediocre at best, and its data pricing is insulting, but once the phone opens up to other carriers within the next year, these issues will likely be resolved.

By now most of us are well entrenched in iTunes. No other service has yet to offer the usability, selection of songs, books, and audiobooks. Songs purchased in the iTunes Store are DRM-free.

Apple has once again set the pace for mobile innovation, and the next two years will be the most exciting yet for the standards they’ve set.

In which i buy an iPad

I’m writing this post from a new, 16gb wifi-enabled iPad. I was late to the iPad party. First, it took me awhile to decide whether I wanted an iPad. Once I made that decision, it became very difficult to actually purchase one. Both Apple Stores here in Austin have been sold out for weeks and have implemented a waiting list to distribute what little stock they do receive each week.

I received an email from Apple today telling me that the iPad i reserved two weeks ago was in stock. I had 24 hours to pick it up before it would be released. I imagine this is the typical purchasing experience of most people who aren’t able to get one off the shelf.

The iPad is beautiful to use. It’s very fast, and the display looks terrific. I wish the resolution matched that of the iPhone 4, but I’m certain that it will in future iterations. What’s also lacking is a front facing and rear-side camera for FaceTime.

Typing on the iPad is somewhat effortless. I’m writing this within the WordPress for iPad app. I wouldn’t want to write more than two pages or so of text, but for quick posts there’s a lot of value.

Many of my iPhone apps needed to be upgraded in order to work on the iPad in full resolution. Some popular apps, including Facebook, don’t have an iPad version yet, which means users will have to use a small version, or zoom in to a more pixelated experience.

I’m looking forward to using Netflix for iPad, which let’s me stream movies from my instant queue. I haven’t installed Pages, as Evernote and Simplenote seem to meet my writing needs.

iPhone 4’s FaceTime commercial shows you exactly how not to hold your new iPhone

By now we all know the story about the iPhone 4’s reception issues, specifically those involving a dramatically reduced signal if you hold the phone in your left hand, with the lower portion of your palm covering the bottom left quadrant of the iPhone’s bezel-based antennae.

In fact, the problem can be replicated by simply holding the phone on either side, just where the bezel gaps are.

The reception problem is frustrating enough. But what’s more annoying is that Apple is treating the problem not as a hardware issue –– one that needs to be fixed –– but rather as a communications problem, one that requires gently prodding disappointed customers into the false realization that this is a non-issue.

Recently, when one customer emailed Steve Jobs to complain, Jobs famously replied, “Just avoid holding it that way.”

Apple has since added slightly more finesse to the company line, but the bottom line remains the same: customers should shutup and be happy with what they have:

Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.

But note that even Apple’s own commercials depict users holding the phone in the exact opposite way Jobs and Apple say you should. Absent from the iPhone 4 commercial are cases or bumbers, with nary a glitch or a slowdown in reception.

See my screenshots below from the latest Apple iPhone 4 FaceTime video.

Apple’s own marketing depicts the phone being used incorrectly, and in a way that compromises voice and data performance: