The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

A few weeks back, Plastic’s CEO, Sep Seyedi, was attending WWDC 2012 and sent an email to us here at the office recommending we checkout a specific application. Right away, I knew it was going to be something great because Sep wouldn’t waste our time with anything less than fantastic.

Thus, I immediately  proceeded to download and launch National Geographic’s National Parks app. Right away, I could see why it caught Sep’s attention and compelled him to tell the rest of us about it.

 

National Geo’s Parks in an App

 

National Parks has all the elements of a great app. It is beautifully designed, easy to learn and use, and the attention to detail is impeccable. It also offers substantial amounts of functionality for those want it. However, what impressed me most about this app was its clean, intuitive and uncluttered UI, coupled with its cool transitions and animations. Not to mention the stunning photos that utilize the iPhone’s retina display.

This app is perfect for those who want to plan their next great camping trip. Users are given all the basic park info that is necessary to plan a getaway to any of the 20 most visited national parks in the United States.

This includes information on how to get there, when to go, entrance fees, special advisories and of course the parks contact info. Users are also given weather conditions (current and a five-day forecast), stats about the park (number of annual visitors and park size) and some amazing photos of the scenery.

Additional information is available in the form of park guides, which users can purchase in app. The first guide is free of charge and subsequent guides cost anywhere from $0.99 – $1.99. With the guides users get additional photos, park secrets, suggestions of what to see, what to do and photo tips.

Photo tips are a great feature of this app. The National Geographic Society is known for amazing photography and now, with this app, users get all the information they need to snap their own masterpieces.

With the photo tips, users get the location (GPS coordinates), time of day, camera details and difficulty levels for each individual photo. They also get an overview and some fairly detailed instructions from the actual photographer who took that particular photo.

All in all, National Parks delivers a great mobile app experience. It offers a bunch of features wrapped in a very pretty package and believe it has a little something for everyone.

Granted, not all people are into camping and the outdoors. However, most people do appreciate the beauty of nature, and some people, myself included, value the beauty of a great app.

I have discussed this app with some colleagues and, as people who truly appreciate great design, attention to detail and great usability, we know that those elements are extremely important to producing a great experience for the end user and we all agree that the Apple Design Award was well deserved

Yesterday, Plastic’s management and creative teams got up early to hit the links for a day of fun in the sun (and a bit of rain) at the 4th annual IAB Golf Tournament.

We brought one our amazing artists with us to hole six North. He spent the day creating custom illustrations of the teams that came through the hole.

These amazing drawings were then printed out after the tournament for the groups to pick up and display proudly in their homes or offices!

To anyone who didn’t get their illustration, please feel free to tweet us @plasticmobile and we’ll be happy to mail you your copy.

A big thanks to everyone who participated and to iab Canada for yet another successful event.

The latest in Android anti-virus, called Sophos Mobile Security, has produced a report identifying the top five most frequently encountered scary problems on the platform. The first, PJApps-C, is Android’s most significant chaos causer. See the chat above and the list below for more on Android’s scariest viruses.

1. Andr/PJApps-C.

2. Andr/BBridge-A.

3. Andr/BatteryD-A.

4. Andr/Generic-S.

5. Andr/DrSheep-A.

Read more in depth about each of them HERE

While many people may not give a second thought to the mobile computing threats emerging as the mobile industry continues to grow and expand, there is some cause for concern. Thankfully, the company Veracode has got our backs. They’ve recently released a free ebook about mobile security that offers 10 simple ways to ramp up the company protection against a very real growing mobile threat. Get the free ebook HERE.

WWDC 2012

In light of Apple’s 23rd annual World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco this week, the talk today at our bagel Wednesday meeting, was all about the tech giant and what they did and did not unveil.

While we all know better than to speculate about what Apple will do next, there were two major expectations for this conference: a new phone and TV.

Per usual, Apple had another thought. Here’s list of the best to come and the expected items that were not actually on their list:

Featured Highlights:

- A super-powered 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display screen that offers an extraordinary 2880-pixel by 1800-pixel resolution, sharper than high-definition TV

- Software update, Mountain Lion is set to arrive next month

- iOS 6 was foreshadowed at the conference, but likely won’t arrive until at least September

- Maps app to replace Google maps

Missing Features:

- A new iPhone 5

- An Apple TV update or new hardware

Surprisingly, Apple stock was reportedly down today – which one of our developers speculated might be because of the absence of the two big Apple products mentioned above. Tune in to our Tweets @plasticmobile to stay on top of what’s going down Southwest of us in San Fran.

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

This week, I want to discuss yet another Clear-like task management app. This one is different from the rest and I definitely recommend checking it out (especially if you are a fan of Clear and, well just apps in general).

If you remember, a few weeks ago I wrote about an app called Well Done, which in my opinion was a cheap knockoff of one of my all-time favourite apps (Clear). Overall, I thought Well Done showed some potential in the added functionality it offered, but failed overall because of a lack of refinement and fine-tuning.

Task

This brings me to Task, which is another task management app that has recently come out of the woodwork following the success of Clear. Task, however, is the only app that I think can stand in the same shoes as Clear.

Task offers a simple and intuitive interface, fun gesture-based interactions and allows users to add to do items quickly and with ease.

Same Same, but Different

 

Yes, Task has obviously been heavily inspired by the Clear app – the similar interface and the use of some of the same gesture-based interactions are very evident. However, I believe enough significant changes were made to give the app its own unique look and feel.

For example, the colour coding in Clear, which signifies the importance of each task, has been removed and replaced with a small yellow badge that appears on a task when it is marked important, taking away the range of importance levels and leaving the user with just the options of important or not important.

The benefit of removing the colour coding is that, in some cases, it may simplify things a tad. For example, when all tasks on a list share the same level of urgency, Clear’s rainbow colour-coding loses its value and may even become somewhat of a distraction to users.

Another difference between Task and Clear lies in the manner in which users add new tasks to their lists. In Clear, users perform a downward swipe, which would pull down on the list exposing a blank task at the top. However, Task users swipe upward to expose a blank task at the bottom of the list.

While the gestures for creating new tasks are different within either app, the gestures for marking tasks as completed and for deleting tasks remain the same. However, the transitions and visual feedback cues are slightly different. The transitions in Task are reminiscent of the fold-to-unlock jailbreak.

Added Functionality

 

Task users have the added ability to mark tasks with dates and set up a notification for a certain time on that day. Using this feature is very intuitive and easy. The combination of gesture-based interactions, coupled with the fold-to-unlock transition, makes this feature also very enjoyable to use.

Another little feature: Task has a nifty gesture-based interaction for checking the time and date. Users pull down on the list to see the current time and date and simply let go when they’re done.

Missing Functionality

 

One thing I really missed in Task was the ability to create multiple lists to better manage and organize my many tasks. Clear allows users to do just that, and also made navigating between lists easy and fun with its use of the pinch gesture.

 

Final Take

Overall, I like Task, but not because I think it’s anything new or particularly innovative. Rather, I like Task because it’s a further refined take on something that was both new and innovative.

I think Task succeeds where others, like Well Done, have failed. Meaning, it has succeeding in re-creating Clear in a way that captures its essence (minimalist, simple and fun), offers a comparable level of UX and can still be differentiated as something relatively new.

Do you have the Task app? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know what you think!

Sep Live Blogs from WWDC12

Our very own co-founder and technological guru, Sep Seyedi, will be tweeting live from the WWDC12, starting on Monday of next week.

On the off chance your not a Twitter-lover and glued to your Twitter feed, we’ll be posting some of the most nerd-worthy notes on this blog page.

Stay tuned for updates and earth-shattering sneak peaks – or something like that…

11:56 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: And that’s a wrap, folks!http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/11/apple-wwdc-2012-liveblog/#WWDC

11:55 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @iMore: iOS 6 Beta goes live TODAY- #wwdc

11:44 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: Apple officially gives Google Maps the boot, launches own Maps app with turn-by-turn navigation -

11:43 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @iMore: one tap after finding a destination, monitor traffic, update ETA, reroute available, works from lock screen as well #wwdc

11:40 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: “In iOS 6, we have built an entire new mapping solution from the ground up, and it is beautiful.”http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/11/apple-wwdc-2012-liveblog/#WWDC

11:40 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: Apple demos Passbook, a one-stop shop for tickets and boarding passes -

11:31 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: Apple unveils new features for Safari: unified search, iCloud Tabs multi-device syncing and more -

11:30 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: FaceTime over cellular!http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/11/apple-wwdc-2012-liveblog/#WWDC

11:27 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: “We have been working closely with FB to create the best FB integration ever in a mobile device” http://engt.co/KhuW9j#WWDC

11:24 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: Siri comes to the new iPad  #wwdc

11:22 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @iMore: working with car manufacturers to enable steering wheel button to bring up siri #wwdc

11:20 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @iPhoneinCanada: Siri now available for Canada! #wwdc

11:17 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @GlobeTechnology: iOS 6 has 200 new features, including major updates to Siri

11:15 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @iMore: game center – 130 million accounts, tons of use,75% of customers self-report “very satisfied”

11:14 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi – RT @iMore: 140 M iMessage users, 150 billion messages, 1B+ a day. twitter – 3x growth increase after iOS 5, 10+B tweets from iOS 5.

11:13 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: Now Apple’s talking iOS -http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/11/apple-wwdc-2012-liveblog/#WWDC

11:11 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: Apple introduces Power Nap, updates your Mac while it’s sleeping -

11:10 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @SAI: Mac OS X Mountain Lion Launching Next Month For $20 #WWDC

11:08 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: Apple slips out new AirPort Express with simultaneous dual-band WiFi -

11:04 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: GameCenter is coming to the Mac -http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/11/apple-wwdc-2012-liveblog/ #WWDC

10:58 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @iMore: OSX Mountain Lion to host suite of new iOS-synced apps at #WWDC12 http://bit.ly/MvBQUv

10:54 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @iMore: dictation! talk to your mac, let it do the typing for you – works everywhere. web pages, 3rd party apps – all over #WWDC12

10:50 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @iMore: Documents in the Cloud – launch an individual app, the docs you can access are shown to you in the doc picker.

10:44 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @engadget: $2199 is the starting price for the next-gen MacBook Pro – http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/11/apple-wwdc-2012-liveblog/ #WWDC

10:40 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - RT @appleinsider: Apple updates MacBook Pro with Ivy Bridge CPUs and Nvidia graphics http://dlvr.it/1j4XDc

10:04 AM PST @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi – Siri opens up the Keynote #WWDC2012 pic.twitter.com/tZpoYrLg

9:44 AM PST - @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - And we’re in!#WWDC2012 pic.twitter.com/PeYuN05c

9:20 AM PST - @PlasticMobile@SepSeyedi - The keynote lineup flows inside Moscone and the wait continues for the doors to open‪#wwdc12 pic.twitter.com/yeecj1d7

6:34 AM PST – @PlasticMobile / @SepSeyedi – Line up for #wwdc12 keynote already around the block with still 3 1/2 hours left t.co/DyASkowY

There has been a lot of conversation about mobile payments lately, but I feel much of it is simply future predictions and speculations. While I understand why – widespread adoption on the retailer’s side, although growing, is still lacking – it’s time for some action. So when, “Pitch the Plastic: The Mobile Payment Era Has Begun,” showed up on my radar, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does the title carry our company name (Plastic Mobile, woo!), but also a few examples of some great startups pushing the movement forward with innovative new mobile solutions.

The first of the two, iCache Geode, launched just a couple days ago and hopes to thin out your wallet (while bulking up your iPhone) significantly. iCache Geode is an iPhone case that carries a detachable card with a rewritable magnetic stripe within it, which performs as any of your credit cards. Also, it offers an e-ink display on it’s exterior which displays barcodes in substitution of loyalty and membership cards.

How secure is it? Each time you open the app, you must first pass a fingerprint test to enter. To use either feature, download the app and input your credit card numbers and take pictures of barcodes on existing cards. With just a few clicks, the card within the case becomes whichever card of your choosing and the barcode whatever you’d like to display. Take the card out and swipe/scan at any existing POS system. Pretty neat.

While I obviously 100% support mobile innovation, I can already see a few things potential going awry. For instance, if I purchase iCache Geode (at $199 I might add), I would absolutely have to justify the buy by not carrying my credit cards, loyalty and membership cards with me. But what if my phone dies?  What if I drop my phone and break the case? Just like that, there goes my investment.

My clumsiness aside, I’m afraid that retailers’s adoption rate will be very slow. Most retailers have been trained to be careful when accepting credit cards as it is, checking the card, name and signature. Will there be hesitation on their part when seeing the unfamiliar? Do they need a dotcom giant, Like a Google or PayPal, behind them to give them the necessary cred?

Last, many of us are anxiously waiting for the next generation iPhone later this year. If there is a hardware redesign, this case won’t do. It’s been designed solely for the iPhone 4 and 4s and that may pose an issue in the future. In addition, with rumors of Apple bringing NFC to the iPhone, this product might become all together obsolete.

All in all, it’s great to see some headway with mobile payments and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the iCache Geode delivers and hopefully helps to move this space forward. What have you heard about the iCache Geode? Tweet us your thoughts @plasticmobile.

I recently experienced one of the worst cases of smartphone withdrawal after losing my iPhone while fishing on Balsam Lake in Ontario. I’m not sure exactly when and where it happened, but I’m fairly confident that my phone is currently baffling a school of minnows.

The following two days without a phone proved difficult, to say the least. I found myself reaching for my nonexistent phone every time someone else’s started ringing. Finally, on day three, I was able to find a replacement. Much relieved, I then proceeded to devote more than four hours playing around with my new device as though trying to make up for lost time.

I first recovered all my data from a backup, then reacquainted myself with all my go-to apps, setting them up just as they were prior to losing my phone. Once I had finally got that out of my system, I moved on to installing and trying out a collection of new apps. Frankly, it had been a while since my last visit to the App Store, so I needed my fix.

During this App Store binge I cam across some pretty cool apps – two in particular. The first app, Timegg, is a fresh alternative that is perfect for those who  have grown a little tired of iOS’s native clock app and are craving some change. The second is a great photo-editing app that uses gesture controls to deliver a great experience.

Timegg is a sexy and well-designed app that can be a fresh alternative to the native iOS clock app. The interface and the navigation are extremely simple and intuitive. Especially, when you consider all the functionality that is essentially displayed and accessible from a single screen.

Users can easily navigate between the colour-coded Alarms, Reminders, Timers and D-day sections by either swiping horizontally near the header section at the top of the screen, or by tapping the corresponding corner in the bottom portion of the screen.

I especially liked this because it works great as an alternative to the conventional iOS style tab navigation that you usually see at the bottom of the screen. Moreover, it allows for better consistency among all four sections. This consistency makes learning to use and navigate the app extremely easy (once you learn to use one, you have essentially learned them all).

I’ve been using Timegg mostly as an alarm for the past few days and am very pleased with it. You are able to set up to 8 alarms and doing so is very fast and easy.

You are able choose from one of 16 pre-loaded wake-up tones, or set a song from your music library, as I like to do.

I really enjoyed how easy it was to set up repeating alarms. It was much quicker than the native clock app and delivered a superior experience. Instead of being taken to another screen to individually tap each day that I want my alarm to go off, I could quickly select multiple days without multiple taps. More importantly, I could do it without having to be taken to another screen, only to be returned to that initial screen.

Overall, Timegg is fun and a little refreshing. It may not offer some of the functions that the native Clock app does (World Clock & Stopwatch), but it offers its own unique set of functions and does so in a user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing way.

I have read one review complaining of unreliability. Citing that the app sometimes fails to deliver notifications if left running in the background for long periods of time, and only delivers those notifications once the app is re-opened.

I haven’t experienced any such problems myself, but I also haven’t been using the app for that long. I’ll keep you posted as I continue to use it, and will let you know if I come across any reliability issues in the future.

 

 

Snapseed

Snapseed is one of many photo-editing apps that can be found in the App Store. In Canada, this app is currently sitting in the #5 spot on the Top Free chart, and I can see it climbing even greater heights.

Even though I found the overall app great, the selection of tools and filters to be extensive and the sharing capabilities to be on par with other similar apps, the thing that impressed me most and made Snapseed stand out, was the use of gesture controls.

These gestures are intuitive and don’t take much time master. They make switching between adjustment options within each tool or filter very simple and fast. Users can swipe up or down to switch between the various adjustment options and swipe left or right to adjust how heavily that option is applied.

I found that the use of gesture controls in the app worked great to increase efficiency and enjoyment. I almost always enjoy using apps that employ gesture controls, because I find that tapping has become slightly repetitive and mundane.

Retailers of all kinds are gearing up for this first-ever conference on mobile transactions. Taking place at the Old Mill Inn & Spa on June 26 and 27, 2012, Mobile Transaction and Commerce Summit, promises to be a networking and learning opportunity for every customer-based company from big name retailers and online merchants to banks and financial institutions.

With speaker sessions hosted by retail industry experts and enterprise pioneers, attendees have the chance to hear solution-focused presentations and discussions on how to better integrate mobile payment and commerce into marketing strategies.

Some of the speakers include top marketing executives from Gap, Best Buy and Deloitte, as well as the Head of Mobile for JetBlue Airways and our very own Plastic Mobile Co-founder and President, Melody Adhami, who will discuss using m-commerce to transform the retail experience.

Basically, this inaugural conference is a must-attend for any retailer with a transaction-based business model and a customer base. Why? Because mobile commerce and transactions represent a huge piece of the puzzle in retailers’ imminent future, with mobile shopping predicted to account for $163 billion of sales worldwide (12% of global e-commerce turnover) by 2015.

The Mobile Transaction and Commerce Summit is an excellent opportunity to get a deeper knowledge of focused trends and hear some practical examples of dos and don’ts from those in the know.

Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know if you’re attending the MTCS this month.