Aviary Launches an Amazing Standalone Photo Editing App for Android and iPhone

Aviary, a well-known web based image editor service that is often popularly called as the ‘online Photoshop’, has just released a standalone photo editing application for Android and iPhone. While this is a new release for iPhone users, Aviary was already available for Android for long, but only as a plugin which enabled users to edit photos on-the-fly by sharing them from the Gallery.

The application is a fully featured photo editor and brings many of the photo editing goodness from its web counterpart (Phoenix).

The user interface of Aviary is very intuitive and simple. The home screen features your recent photos in a scrollable list from where you can directly open the photo for editing, capture a new photo using the Camera or import one from the gallery. Next, the editing tools are present at the bottom as a list that can be scrolled horizontally. Their positions can also be customized according to your needs by going into Settings.

 

Aviary offers a lot of photo editing tools to choose from. While I usually stay away from Instagram-like photo editing apps for Android that de-colorize my photos with some vintage effects, Aviary has some pleasant photo effects such as Soft Focus, Reflex and some more.

There is a bunch of other editing tools present as well for re-touching photo such as adjusting Warmth, Saturation, Contrast, fixing red-eye, adding blur and some more.

Apart from these, Aviary also offers a cool Stickers tool, which, as the name suggests, gives a number of stickers that can be added to a photo.

funny meme
An example meme, not made by me though.

A meme option is also present for adding caption to photos, which will definitely please a lot of people who love making memes and sharing them on Facebook, Reddit and other social sites.

My only gripe with the application is the absence of an Undo button. If I accidentally add a sticker on to a photo, then there is no way to remove it and resetting the photo is the only option left.

Overall, Aviary is a nice photo editing application. Obviously, you cannot expect a mobile app to replace your powerful desktop photo editing suite, but Aviary should certainly fulfill most of your basic photo editing tasks.

Download it from: App Store | Google Play Store (free)

Virgin Mobile USA Launching iPhone on June 29 with Plans Starting at $30

A couple of days ago, we reported that Sprint would announce later this week that it will start to offer the iPhone as a prepaid option via its Virgin Mobile brand. The announcement occurred days after Leap Wireless announced that it would begin offering the iPhone on a prepaid basis through its Cricket brand beginning June 22. Today, Virgin Mobile USA announced that it will begin offering the iPhone on June 29. Virgin Mobile USA is a prepaid brand operated by Sprint.

Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk unlimited data and messaging plans for iPhone start at $35 per month for access to Sprint’s Nationwide Network, and customers can receive a $5 per-month plan discount when they register for automatic monthly payments with a credit card, debit card or PayPal account, making iPhone available for as low as $30 per month. Customers can also use their iPhone as a mobile hotspot through Virgin Mobile for an additional $15 per month.

Virgin Mobile will begin offering service plans for as low as $30 per month with no commitment when customers sign up for automatic payments. All three of the carrier’s plans include unlimited texting and data (throttled after 2.5 GB), with different amount of voice minutes. With the $5 discount for automatic payments, the plans are priced at $30 (300 minutes),  $40 (1200 minutes), and $50 (unlimited minutes).

Virgin Mobile will offer the iPhone through its website and at RadioShack, Best Buy, and other select retailers.

Sprint to Launch iPhone Through Prepaid Brand Virgin Mobile in Coming Weeks

Today, MarketWatch reports that Sprint will announce later this week that it will start to offer the iPhone as a prepaid option via its Virgin Mobile brand. This announcement comes just days after Leap Wireless announced that it would begin offering the iPhone on a prepaid basis through its Cricket brand beginning June 22.

The Overland Park, Kan., carrier will announce this week it will offer the popular smartphone on its Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go brand starting as soon as July 1, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. Sprint follows Leap Wireless International Inc. in selling the device with prepaid service.

By offering the iPhone, Sprint may help satisfy its commitment to Apple to buy $15.5 billion of the phones over four years, an aggressive bet as more carriers are getting access to the once-exclusive device. Sprint’s prepaid service, which also includes the Boost Mobile brand, has been its lone area of growth as contract customers have fled.

The pricing on Virgin Mobile for the iPhone remains unknown, and it is also not known if Sprint’s Boost Mobile brand will also have access to the device. Rumors in the past have suggested that Boost may add the iPhone in September.

Currently, Virgin Mobile’s existing smartphone plan start at $35 per month with unlimited data (throttled after 2.5 GB). However, the report says that it is unknown whether the iPhone will be eligible for the carrier’s cheapest plans.

It seems that Apple is starting to get into the pre-paid market heavily with the iPhone.

Apple Reveals Two New iPhone TV Ads Featuring John Malkovich

Last month, Apple revealed iPhone TV ads featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel. Today, the company has begun running  a pair of new television ads for the iPhone 4S and Siri featuring actor John Malkovich.

Turns out, the past two celebrity ads scored very well with viewers, registering higher scores from advertising tracking firm Ace Metrix than any other iPhone 4S ad released so far this year.

Malkovich is best know for his acting style and his iPhone 4S ad reflects his somewhat peculiar persona. The first ad is called “Life”:

Malkovich: Life.

Siri: Try and be nice to people. Avoid eating fat. Read a good book every now and then. Get some walking in. And try to live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.

Malkovich: That’s pretty spectacular advice, actually. Thank you. I enjoyed this chat immensely. You are very eloquent.

Siri: That’s nice of you to say.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0t-lsULa8ZM

The second ad is called “Joke”:

42

“I Kant answer that. Ha ha!”

“It’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya.”

Life: the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.”

“I don’t know. But I think there’s an app for that.”

“I can’t answer that now, but give me some time to write a very long play in which nothing happens.”

“I find it odd that you would ask this of an inanimate object.”

“That’s easy… it’s a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of life or existence in general.”

“Life: a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate beings. I guess that includes me.”

“A movie.”

“I give up.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=hiBIT8Kgr4w

It is not every day that Apple disappoints me, but I found these ads to be disappointing! The bottom line is that these ads are monotonous, depressing, and terrible. Remember when Apple’s iPhone 4S/Siri ads used to be fun to watch, struck a cord, and magical? You know, ads like “iCloud Harmony” and “Roadtrip“? And my favorite, “Santa“. That ad was genius and magical.

I hope, at some point Apple gets rid of the celebrities and brings normal people back.

 

Apple To Drop Google Maps In iOS 6; Will Debut Homebrewed Mapping Solutions

Apple is ready to ditch Google Maps in favor of home brewed mapping solution on its iOS operating system that powers iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, reports 9To5MacContinue reading Apple To Drop Google Maps In iOS 6; Will Debut Homebrewed Mapping Solutions

Amtrak Using iPhone to Verify Tickets

The number of industries iPhone and iPad are disrupting at a rapid rate is incredible! Today, the New York Times reveals that Amtrak, the government-owed American passenger railroad company, has chosen to use the iPhone as a ticket scanner for its 1,700 conductors.

iPhones will be equipped with a barcode scanner in a case similar to the Linea Pro cases that Apple uses at its retail stores for its point of sales system. The phones will be able to scan barcodes on paper tickets, as well as digital barcodes on smartphones.

The article also points out that Amtrak’s ticketing system was long overdue for an upgrade. Before the adoption of iPhones, the prior ticketing system involved punching a hole in a paper ticket and physically transporting those tickets to a central location where the information was entered in a database. Wow, that sounds ancient.

Amtrak also has an iPhone app that allows riders to book tickets, check train status and schedules, and more. The app is available for free via the App Store.

iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User: Screen

iPhone 4S

For an introduction and background to this series, please refer to my first post on the topic: New Series: iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User.

After looking at the setup experience, the first thing I wanted to look at is the much talked about Retina display of the iPhone 4S. I had heard a lot about how fantastic it is, and read a lot about the technical stuff like pixel density on that screen, but hadn’t experienced it outside of using my friends’ phones for a few minutes. The few minutes I spent with my friends’ phones did not impress me much but I attributed it to the fact that I had spent so little time with the display.

So, having used it constantly for a few days, what was the verdict? Frankly, I don’t see what the big deal is. Yes, it is clear and crisp. It is very, very clear and crisp. However, the Super AMOLED screen of my Focus and the ClearBlack AMOLED on my Lumia are both equally clear and crisp. In fact, I love the deeper colors on the base Lumia screen much more than what the iPhone 4S produces. It could be a result of bigger tiles on my Lumia compared to the many folders (with tinier icons) on my iPhone, but in “real world” use, the Lumia comes off as being as clear and crisp as the iPhone and the colors richer/deeper than the iPhone.

 

IMG_0048Screen Capture (11)

 

Yes, I could zoom into a specific icon and see how there is virtually no pixelation, but I never zoom to that level with my normal eyesight. Under normal circumstances, I look at the Lumia screen (with the dark theme enabled), and I look at the iPhone 4S with the normal brightness, and I must say, the Lumia screen comes out looking better.

(Please excuse my screenshots – I tried to make sure the brightness levels on both the phones were similar, and also, it looks like screenshot tools on *both* the phones seem to be just average?)

The other area where the Retina display is supposed to do better is reading. The claim — web pages, books, etc. are much better to read on that display compared to the Lumia? Here too, I did not see a tremendous difference.

IMG_0049Screen Capture (12)

 

IMG_0053Screen Capture (15)

IMG_0051Screen Capture (14)

IMG_0050Screen Capture (13)

Perhaps my expectations were raised really high? Maybe. Perhaps I should have tested it with long periods of reading? Maybe, but I don’t read pages and pages of books on the phone. The most I read is a multi-page web article, some part of books/magazines, and of course emails. I have provided some samples of the same above, and the Retina does not come off as being vastly different from the Lumia.

I would like to state emphatically, the iPhone screen is fantastic. However, in comparison to the Lumia, it does not seem to be dramatically superior. The Lumia holds its own despite “lower specs” across the board. The ClearBlack AMOLED on the Lumia “pops” the colors very well and the text renders quite well too. Oh, and a completely personal takeaway: when I turn on the Lumia, there is an immediate “wow” factor; maybe because of the colors, the brightness, the curved glass screen, or a combination of these and other factors that I can’t really pinpoint. Whatever it is, it makes the Lumia screen feel better than the iPhone screen, to me. Some friends on Twitter said that I need to give the Retina display some time and I will realize the beauty of it. I have seen it is a good screen, but after 4-5 days of extensive use, I really don’t see a huge upside in that screen.

Also, since I promised to talk about size as well, let me say that strictly speaking, the Lumia 800 that I am using now and the iPhone are not too different in size. However, my previous phone, the Samsung Focus, was 4″ diagonally and I really, really like that size. When I started using the Lumia after the Focus, I felt that the Lumia itself was a bit small (it is 3.7″ diagonally) and the iPhone is even smaller. So, compared to my ideal screen size of 4″, the iPhone seems smaller. However, for this experiment, I will not bring it up since the Lumia 800 and the iPhone are comparable in size.

Do you have any feedback on this comparison? Have you seen something I did not? I would love to hear from you!

iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User: Out Of the Box Experience, Setup

iPhone

For an introduction and background to this series, please refer to my first post on the topic: New Series: iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User.

As someone who has switched (and reset) Windows Phones quite a bit, for one reason or the other, I know how painful it is to get the phone to “my state”. Yes, entering my Windows Live ID and setting up Facebook account sets up a ton of stuff automatically (Contacts, Calendars, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pictures) but there are still a lot of personalization items which I have to repeat every single time. Here is what I have to do every time I set up a new Windows Phone, after setting up my “accounts”:

  • Reinstall all my apps. It is a bit easier now with web marketplace and apps like Reinstaller, but I still have to manually reinstall each app.
  • Customize each app with login information, settings for the app, etc.
  • Set up my live tiles for various apps. Some apps offer secondary tiles (like “Sports News” in a newspaper app, for example), so these have to be manually set up.
  • De-dupe contacts across Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. This seems like a bit of functionality which was left off for lack of time. On Windows Live website, these contacts are in fact de-duped, but on the phone, they are not. So I have to go in and clean up manually.
  • Create my People Groups and pin them to Start Screen. I like this feature a lot, so I do like to create three groups: immediate family, cousins, and close friends. That way, I see the updates from these groups bubble up over all the other noise. There’s no way to save these Groups in the cloud so they automatically come when I sign in.
  • Adjust system settings like letting Bing use location services, my Office username, etc.
  • I don’t play many games, but if I did, almost none of the games save their states in the cloud, so all game progress gets lost when moving phones.
  • Connect to PC to set up wireless sync (and check if there are any updates available for the phone).

As you can see, there is a lot of work to be done after signing into various accounts to set up a new phone. How does it go with iPhone? Read on!

New Series: iPhone 4S Used by a Windows Phone User

iPhone

Those who read my posts know that I have been a Windows Phone user since it launched in late-2010. I like the platform a lot, and do believe it is more efficient for the way I use a smartphone. Before I switched to Windows Phone, I used an iPhone 3GS. Since then, my exposure to iOS has been through my iPad (1 and 2) and my iPod Touch. However, those iOS devices are at most used for an hour a day, so it is not fair to use that to compare against the Windows Phone platform.

So, when I recently got an opportunity to get an AT&T iPhone 4S, I jumped on it. I decided to give it my full attention, use it as my primary(-ish) phone for some time, and compare and contrast iOS with Windows Phone after actually using it. I figured, rather than compare specs on paper, which anybody can, it would be better to compare usage. With that in mind, I present this new series, where I will talk about various aspects of using Nokia Lumia 800 Windows Phone vs. using an iPhone 4S. My intention is to look at the common tasks one performs with a smartphone and how they differ across these two platforms. This is not so much of a “competition” to determine who “wins”, it is more of a comparison to identify the tasks where one platform may excel and the other may not.

I plan to break the series into the following:

What I do not want to do is:

  • Look at hard specs like cores, PPI, version of bluetooth supported, etc. If any of these happen to make it more difficult for me to do normal things, I will point them out.
  • I am going in with the assumption that we are going to live in a heterogeneous world where I may have a Windows PC and related apps along with my iPhone or iPad. As a result, I will try to stay away from stuff that is clearly going to remain “Apple-only”. For example, iMessage or certain aspects of iCloud which do not carry over to say, a Windows Phone, like contacts and calendar sync. There are other platform-specific tie-ins with Windows Phone like Xbox LIVE Achievements, which again, I won’t go into.

I am genuinely excited, both, to try the iPhone 4S (it’s been about 2 years since I used an iPhone), as well as to compare that experience to how I do things on my Lumia. Is there anything specific you would like me to look at in this experiment? Let me know!

iPhone Accounted for 78% of AT&T Smartphone Activations in Q1 2012

Today morning, AT&T reported its quarterly results for Q1 2012. The carrier revealed that it sold 5.5 million smartphones last quarter, and 4.3 million of those activations were iPhones. 21 percent out of the 4.3 million iPhones were new activations. Also, the total 5.5 million AT&T sold last quarter was a new record for the company.

In fact, sales of Apple’s iPhone accounted for over 78 percent of smartphones sold on AT&T. AT&T said that iPhone sales were “helped by AT&T’s 4G network, which lets iPhone 4S download three-times faster than other U.S. carriers’ networks.” The carrier’s results compare to 3.2 million iPhones on its rival carrier Verizon.

AT&T also said that about 30 percent of its existing postpaid smartphone subscribers are on 4G-capable devices. In iOS 5.1, the iPhone 4S began to tell users that they are on “4G” when utilizing AT&T high-speed HSDPA network.

The carrier also reported revenues of $31.8 billion, up $575 million, or 1.8 percent, compared to the same period a year ago. Notice how carriers only disclose sales numbers for iPhone and no other phone. Android’s still “winning” though!