Dealing with business documents on my Windows Phone

I am starting to fill out my apps on my Nokia Lumia 900. The first class of apps I need are the apps to handle all the documents in my job/life — text documents, pdfs, office documents, etc.

* PDFs. Adobe Reader downloads by default the first time you need it, and it seems to be solid, renders well, no obvious problems. I haven’t tried it on huge docs yet but happy so far. Check this one off.
* PDF annotations. There are many apps to view and annotate PDFs on iOS. I am not seeing an obvious choice on WP. I do have the Kindle app and so I guess I could pop them into that as I believe it supports annotations, but that seems convoluted. Is there another choice?
* Signing docs. This is totally lacking as near as I can tell. I can use the web interface of Docusign or Echosign but that is clumsy for an inbound email. Is there a solution?
* Evernote — the evernote app is great, so I have all my text notes. Check this one off too.
* and Boxfiles for Dropbox seems to work well, can fully navigate all my Dropbox content, edit notes. And I can view PPTX, DOCX, etc files. Check.
* As I’ve previously mentioned, I lack a good Markdown editor targetting Dropbox, there are a dozen of these on iOS. Any choices? Does the built-in boxfiles editor support Markdown? I mean of course yes is supports editing Markdown content since that is just regular text with some conventions, but will it render the content into HTML?
* Office Mobile is also on the phone and I can do some things with it — I can create new word docs and edit them, create new xl docs and edit them. I seem to not be able to create new PPTs but can view and edit existing. I can save docs to Skydrive, to the phone. And also to Office365 tho I don’t have an active account for that.

So part way there, some holes to fill. Probably really important to fill these for tablets since I would expect people to do even more document work on tablets.

Thinking about gameday cell network performance

When I sit in Ohio Stadium for a football game, my fancy smartphone is a useless piece of metal and plastic. Some developers have tried to come up with apps to improve the gameday experience, but these apps miss the point. With 105,000 fans in the stadium, another huge set of ticketless fans milling around outside, all the stadium staff as well as security and service staff outside the stadium — there are probably 200,000 network devices in 30-40 acres all trying to jam onto the system, and all failing. The cell network simply can’t handle the load.

Our cell networks are wonderful things, but in the build out of our networks, the notion of broadcast has been left behind. 98% of the fans want the same exact data — top 25 scores, breaking football news, in-game replays, radio game feed. And yet the cell network and data apps feed this data to each user via dedicated single-user transactions. Cell broadcast exists in the standards but is not really in use in networks or handsets. Qualcomm tried to push Mediaflo for this use but got very little uptake and eventually shut down the service.

It’s unfortunate that the idea of broadcast has been left behind. It would be hugely useful in these kinds of crowded venues. I wonder if Qualcomm might not have succeeded had they just focused on NFL and NCAA football fans — people who spend stupid amounts of money on tickets and related gameday expenses, and who would probably spend money on dedicated gameday data services. It is not an easy service to provide tho. It requires spectrum, devices using that spectrum, and local content assemblage and editorial. There may be too many moving parts. It might be easier just to truck in lots of picocells to events and say screw it, dynamically expand the cell network as needed.

My iPhone sucks at keeping me in touch with the most important people in my life

The most important elements of my life are relationships. My spouse/partner. Kids, parents, siblings. My company, co-workers, project teams, classmates. Community groups that I am part of — churches, school communities, neighborhoods, charities, etc.

It is interesting that my most personal electronic item, my iPhone, does not really provide much support for these relationships. The top level apps are generic actions that work equally well with all my contacts e –mail, texting, calls, scheduling. There is little support for or focus on the most important relationships in my life.

* Why, when I start to compose an email and type “Liz” in the address book, does the mail app suggest all the “Liz”s I have ever known with equal importance, including people I haven’t contacted in 8 years? Why doesn’t my phone know that I mean the Liz in my immediate family?
* Why do I have to click as many times to send a text to my spouse as I do to send a text to a co-worker? Shouldn’t it be super quick to send a text to my spouse?
* Why is it 1000x easier to share my calendar with my co-workers than with my spouse? Part of this is an Exchange back-end problem, but…
* There are 100 apps to try to keep track of where your potentially cheating spouse is, but why are there so few good ones focusing on the positive scenarios? (Glympse:”” is a good positive tracker, a recent Ignition investment)
* The best way to see my children’s latest photos is to navigate to their facebook page — why aren’t these as easy to see as my photos?

And so on. It ought to be extra-easy to communicate with the closest people in my life — but it is no easier than communicating with some distant friend or business associate. It is easier to play a game on my phone that to communicate with my family.

Android and Windows Phone have much better support than the iPhone, enough to make me consider switching some days. Just being able to pin a contact to my home screen as I can with Android would be a nice first step.

I’d really like an app on my first iPhone page that is my spouse/partner app:

* A thumbnail of him/her
* A count of important items I need to respond to — email, texts, vmails
* quick buttons to call, text, email him/her
* his/her current mood — each of us can quickly set this and it transmits to the other’s phone immediately
* what’s on their/our calendar today and this week
* their photostream from facebook, twitter, their phone, etc
* the latest messages we’ve exchanged
* countdown to birthdays, anniversaries
* where they are right now (ie Glympse functionality)
* honeydo lists — things she/he needs me to do
* and so on. The app probably needs to be very customizable as every relationship is different.

And I’d like something similar, not quite as much info, for my kids, my parents. And maybe key friends or coworkers. Right now, my phone is a distraction from my personal life, rather than a tool that helps me to improve my personal life. For this most personal of technologies, that just seems wrong.

Where are the great sports apps?

I am a huge sports enthusiast. I love the Buckeyes (despite all their current woes!). I follow with interest the Seahawks, the Browns, USC, UW, the Big Ten, the Pac Ten, the SEC. I watch excessive amounts of college football, college basketball, pro football, and pro basketball. And of course I get sucked into Olympics, the Stanley Cup, World Cup, or pretty much any other major sports event. Except baseball, which is incredibly boring.

I spend waaay too much money on sports. It is embarrassing to add it up.

* Season tickets to OSU football games, parking pass, and all the travel and other costs associated with attending OSU games — thank goodness my folks and sister usually cover the tailgate, thanks!
* Occasional bowl tickets and bowl trips. The 2002 National Championship win against Miami was the greatest trip ever.
* Other sporting event tickets a couple times a year. Latest: Rat City Roller Derby here in Seattle. Highly entertaining.
* A stupid amount on cable/satellite service. Because despite all the promise of IPTV and sites like Hulu, if you want to watch live HD sports, you pretty much need to pay for cable or satellite. And not just the basic package either, but the packages that pick up all the ESPN channels, the Big Ten network, and the Fox Sports channels. And given all the recent NCAA football TV deals, I am sure my costs will just go up here.
* And of course I buy magazines, t shirts, jerseys, “giant foam fingers”:, “Fatheads”:, and all other kinds of fan gear.

My daily web reading includes all the online sports media. The major branded sites of course, but also all the blogs covering college football, and there are some great ones — “EDSBS”:, “Dr. Saturday”:, “Smart Football”:, and oh so many more. And the beat writers for local media covering the teams I care about — the “Dispatch”:, the “Plain Dealer”:, the “Seattle Times”:, the “Orange-County Register”:, the “LA Times”:, etc. I hit the web sites, consume the RSS feeds, subscribe to the tweet streams.

NCAA basketball pools? Bowl Pickem contests? Regular season pickem challenges? Of course, though I have never really gotten into fantasy football, thank goodness, because I would probably love it and burn way too much time playing it.

I’m not alone in my obsession or my spending. Thank goodness sports mania is more socially acceptable than other bad habits, the amount of time and money spent on sports each year is mindboggling. College football as a business took in $3.2B in revenue last year, making $1.1B in profit (“PDF”: There are games on nearly every day of the week now, and possibly spinning into Sunday in a big way if the NFL labor problems continue. And TV coverage is growing apace, with all the major conferences following the Big-10’s lead and spinning up dedicated networks. 50 million fans attended games last year, a “record”: — only stadium capacity limits prevents this from being even larger.

The NFL is an even larger beast in revenues — $9B in revenue (“PDF”…/May11_Views_Insights_NFL.pdf). Not as many people attend the games as at the college level, but the media rights, merchandising rights, etc. are worth far more.

Expenditures don’t stop at watching games — fans will obviously buy anything having do to with their teams. I consider my collection of jackets and hats to be fairly modest. I haven’t begun to tap into the richness of the market. The range of products and services available is stunning, for example:

* “Grill grates”:
* “Longaberger baskets”: These first two make some sense given the tailgating scene
* “Pottery”:
* “Furniture”: Starting to get a little far afield
* “Credit cards”:
* “Travel”: Not just physical goods!
* “Toys”:
* “Wine”:
* “Fishing reels”:
* “Fashion Apparel”: For some definition of “fashion”
* “Perfume.”: What does a Florida Gator smell like? Or aspire to smell like? and how is that different than the fragrance aspirations of an LSU Tiger
* “Galvanized Buckets”:

My smartphone/tablet doesn’t really deliver much to me. Given all this enthusiasm, it is suprising to me that the iPhone (and other smartphone) and iPad experience for sports is so tepid, so undeveloped — no one has figured out how to extract money from me on my mobile device. My #1 app for following sports on the go is Twitter. I download a bunch of free score apps (ESPN and Yahoo Sportacular are both reasonable) which are fine, but I don’t pay a dime for any app or service. Given the willingness of people like me to pay for damn near anything, this is surprising. There are a bunch of sports checkin apps, but they don’t provide any real value — no better game info, no scores, no video, and honestly the enthusiasts just aren’t on these services.

What’s missing?

* Video. Realtime, clips. This is the biggest glaring problem. Particularly on football Saturdays. I want to see highlights of my team, highlights of other games, full videos of other games, plays of the day, video summaries of action in other conferences. During the week, video highlights of the upcoming opponent, clips from last year’s game, etc. And I want it on demand. I can get some of this flipping around channels on the TV but I can’t get it on my device. I’d pay for it but no one is offering.
* Opponent information. The tweet stream is good but I’d love more. What are all the opponent blogs says. What are the opponent mainstream press sites saying. Latest updates on injuries. Some curation/editorial would be good here. In the week we play Nebraska, where do I go to read all the pregame Nebraska material — blogs, newspapers, analysis, forums, etc? Where do i load up on Nebraska Hate gear? Where do I find Nebraska jokes?
* On site experience. There are some real challenges to deal with with respect to on-site, game day services. The load of 150K people all trying to use their phones around Ohio Stadium is crushing. If I was a carrier I’d offer a peak location package, truck in some antennas (cell and wifi), and charge more for peak location use. No idea if the economics would work out here. Beyond just connectivity, I’d like “PointInside” like features at the game. Where and when does the band perform. Where are various other pre-game festivities. Where is the best tailgating activity. Where can I grab a pedicab. Where are the porta-potties.
* Scores and stats. The ESPN and Yahoo Sportacular apps are fine, but they totally break down under Saturday load. There must be a way to better architect these for load. I am always super frustrated at some point on Saturday due to the lack of current reliable score info.
* Deep focus. The existing mobile apps from ESPN, etc, are all super generic, covering all sports and all teams. I’ll pay for depth coverage of college football or of Ohio State. I won’t pay for apps that cover tennis, golf, baseball, and football equally well.
* Gaming. Fantasy football is obviously popular at the NFL level. Nothing comparable really exists at the college level. Yet the level of personal identification with teams, the level of passion is probably greater at the college level. A great college game will need to leverage the intense rivalries in the game.

Sports enthusiasts have proven they will spend stupid amounts of money on their sports mania. It is surprising to me that no smartphone apps have done a good job targeting this user base and trying to separate them from some of their money. I spend more money on stupid casual games apps on my smartphone than I do on one of my main avocations in life, and this seems out of step.

What’s on the first screen of my iphone — year-end 2010

I’ve made a number of changes on the first page of my iphone since “last survey”:

Firstly, the bottom row: Mail, Messages, Safari, and Calvetica in place of the Apple Calendar app. Calvetica doesn’t offer a lot more features but has a pleasing look. I’m not sure I will stick with it but worth a try. But I use all these apps constantly so they all deserve bottom row status.

The rest of the first page then, a set of communications apps:

* The Apple Phone app for voice and voicemail.
* The GroupMe app for group texting. Actually I have been bouncing this position between GroupMe for group texting and Google Voice for wifi texting. And I still have the Messages app in the bottom row. I would really love one app that did texting, group texting, and on either wifi or carrier networks.

A set of cloud apps:

* Evernote. For text and increasingly for photos. In fact I have pretty much relegated the standard iPad camera app to the dustbin, by using Evernote for photos, they are dumped into the cloud immediately. Handy.
* Dropbox. For docs that don’t fit well into Evernote — spreadsheets, etc.
* WordPress. For managing the blog.

“News” apps:

* Echofon for Twitter stream access. I’ve tried the official Twitter app and it is fine, but I am used to Echofon.
* Byline for RSS feeds. I’ve been using this for a longtime, there may be better choices, but I am comfortable with.
* NPR for general news. Echofon and Byline both just feed me topics I have self-selected, I need a source of news that informs me more broadly, the NPR app is about right for me.

Reference apps:

* Stocks and Maps. I’ve tried to find upgrades to the Stocks app but there is nothing great that I have found. I’d like something that tied to my Yahoo finance portfolio data.
* Weather HD. I am toying with apps that replace the Apple Weather app. Weather HD looks nice but otherwise is no more functional. I really want something like the WX for Ipad app.

Utilities: Settings, Calculator, Clock. Don’t love any of these but need regular access to them, and not worth the trouble to go find upgrades (tho the Apple Clock alarm issues this year have been annoying).

And finally, a folder of Travel apps: TripIt, KAYAK, Southwest, Flight Update, Urbanspoon, OneBusAway, Yelp. The first four get solid use.

Apps that don’t quite make the first page:

* App Store.
* Google Voice, previously mentioned
* A sports app — ESPN Scorecenter or Yahoo Sportacular. I like the Yahoo app.
* Facebook and LinkedIn. I rarely use these anymore. Just don’t get any distinguishing vale.
* Kindle and I rarely read Kindle books on the iPhone. More frequently I shop at Amazon.
* Goodreads. Growing in use.
* US Bank mobile banking app.
* Starbucks Mobile Card app.
* Wolfram Alpha. Very episodic use.
* Redfin and Zillow. Also very episodic.

iPad apps — first week likes, dislikes

So here is my first week of good and bad apps, I have spent way too much trying things out. My motto — “Buying iPad apps so you don’t have to!”

These look good and I actually use them:

* “iAnnotate”: As “previously discussed”:, the user interface is byzantine, but it works largely as promised — i’ve read and annotated close to 100 pdfs now. One commentor says it dies on large PDFs so not perfect yet.
* “WordPress”: Really a much better interface than the iPhone version. It is not bugfree, a lot of people including me are having problems with copy/paste. But nice.
* “Evernote”: Solid effort, works well.
* “Wolfram Alpha”: Now that the price is no longer insane, this is a great app to have. I wish it failed a little more noisily when the wifi connection was lost, but still good.
* “Pages”: Nice looking and adequately featured.
* “Kayak”: Nice extension of iPhone app.
* “Tweetdeck”: I find the portrait display to be a little odd but in landscape mode does a nice job of using screen space.
* “Weather HD”: Doesn’t display nearly enough forecast data, but it is beautiful. The night scenes make me feel like I am getting forecasts for a moon of Jupiter.
* “NPR”: I’m not a major NPR junkie but a lot of useful info in here.
* “Bloomberg”: Don’t know if this is the best stock app but it is free!
* “Soundhound”: Nice looking and faster than Shazam.
* “Minigore HD”: Beautiful, my timewaster of choice on the iPad.
* “Statsmate HD”: Might all be available in Wolfram Alpha but I find this useful as a way to quickly get stat table info.
* Apple’s calendar app. It looks beautiful.

Close but…

* “Papers”: I really really wanted this to work but I cannot get Web of Science access to work via UW proxy. Sigh.
* “Kindle”: and “iBooks”: Both look fine and I am glad I have them, but I will still do most of my reading on the Kindle, better battery life and easier on the eyes and lighter.
* Apple’s mail app. OK it works and in landscape mode has a nice message list, but not much else featurewise.
* “Marvel”: Beautiful and I could see using this, but difficult to figure out what to buy/try.
* “Crosswords”: Looks nice but fatally fatally fatally flawed. Won’t download the NYTimes daily puzzle here on the west coast at 7pm the previous evening when it is available. Pisses me off. I will stay with 2 Across even tho it is lo-res because it downloads at the right time.

Kind of a waste:

* Apple’s Contacts and Maps apps. All this new screen space and nothing notable feature wise. Yawn.
* The iPad store. I use this a lot but boy does it need work. With a kajillion apps, it is hard to find what you want, hard to remember what you’ve already mentally discarded, etc.
* Numbers. Does not have enough spreadsheet functionality to be useful.
* USA Today. No depth.
* Twitterific. All this screen space and I get one lame list.

Never used — what does that say?

* Apple’s iPod and iTunes apps. I just don’t use this as a music consumption device.
* Apple’s Notes app. This one is so lame compared to so many of the other billion alternatives.

No shows: Facebook, Byline, Tripit, RTM, Echofon

What’s on the first screen of my iPhone

Been 3 months since I last talked about what apps I’m using, there have been some changes.

The bottom row remains Mail, Messages, Calendar, Safari. I use all these many many times a day, almost hourly. Calendar is the least used but I still need it all the time.

First screen: the default Apple apps that have a home here are Weather, Maps, Camera, Calculator, Settings, Clock, Phone, Stocks.

  • I use Phone a lot but wonder if it needs a spot since I can get there through double-click of the button, but for now it remains.
  • Stocks is the other that is least used, I just don’t check Stocks all that often, it may be the next to get shoved off the page.
  • Weather I use a lot and I have like 20 cities stored. I’ve considered some of the paid options but I like the simplicity of Apple’s app.
  • Maps I use daily. Have started to use the bookmark feature a lot. It is not a perfect app, I wish I could see my custom maps I’ve created at Google Maps.
  • Calculator I use frequently since I am taking courses. However it may get pushed off in favor of something better soon…
  • Camera gets used weekly for throwaway pics — parking spot at airport, etc. I don’t care about all the fancy photo apps since I use a real camera for photos I care about.
  • Settings continues to have a homepage spot just so I can turn wifi on/off. There has to be a better app for this.
  • Clock — I use the alarm when travelling and the timer for cooking.

Non-Apple apps on the first page:

  • Echofon, my current Twitter app. Solid. Used every couple hours
  • Byline, RSS reader. I used to just use the mobile google reader site which is pretty good, but this is better.
  • WordPress for blog posting. Sadly my post frequency is way down but still need it.
  • Tripit for travel details. I love Tripit.
  • 2 Across for the NYTimes crossword (subscription required). I usually skip monday/tuesday puzzles since they are fairly routine but enjoy the later puzzles. I generally finish tho my times are not competitive with real crossworders at all.
  • Todo, synced with RememberTheMilk. Love todo lists. Is this the best app? Maybe not but I flipped to it some time ago and remain happy. It has like a jillion more features than I use.
  • Lose It! to track daily calorie usage. Been working to drop a little weight this fall, and this app helps. If I track my calories I can usually control my portions.
  • ESPN Scorecenter. Particularly on football Saturdays. I got cranky this week because the ESPN data feed seemed to be a half hour or more behind, grr. So I looked at CBS Sports,, Fox Sports, ScoreMobile, and Sportacular. For the most part these all miss the mark, they are just a rendering of the web property into an app. This is useless. The ESPN app lets me pick my teams and sports and focuses just on the scores of those entities, that is what I want. So for now, it remains the king.

Things that recently lost their front page status:

  • Facebook. OK I like the fact that old friends can find me. But the constant nattering about Mafia Wars, Farmville, all the surveys and crap that Facebook Inc wants me to do — this is all a waste of my brain. And damned if I can figure out how to tell Facebook to quit nattering at me about all this crap. Twitter has a much higher signal-to-noise ratio for me.

Things that want to get to the front page:

  • some note taking app. I am trying out aNote right now. Not blowing me away. But I do keep little snippets of notes and would like something here…
  • iMathlab. A MATLAB lite app. For some classes of quick calculations this BLOWs the calculator away. The first version was buggy but getting better.
  • AccuDial. OK this isn’t really right yet. But a dialer app that a) dials conf calls correctly, b) syncs with cal, and c) is remotely configurable by folks at my office (perhaps thru cal sync) would be most desirable.

Apps that I am playing with but not sure what will happen to them:

  • LaTeX Help. Doing way too much math formatting these days.
  • Ego. Needs more drivers — Facebook for instance.
  • Gist. Interesting but doesn’t really help me yet.
  • foursquare. Not really getting into it.
  • Bento. I want to like it but I always end up finding databases requiring too much overhead.

Games come and go. Current things I am trialing:

  • Word Spin. Boggle-ish.
  • Missile Command
  • Fling
  • DoodleJump
  • Puzzloop
  • Cribbage
  • Civ Rev (tho I actually haven’t used it yet)
  • Shanghai
  • Flight Control
  • Bebot

There are a whole bag of travel apps I keep around that get occasional use: Urbanspoon, ZAGAT, Yelp, KAYAK, Flight Update, Topo Maps. Hugely useful at times. And a bunch of useful but not frequently used apps — Starmap, Zillow, GuitarToolkit, Clinometer,, Air sharing, Air Contacts, WiFiFoFum, MiGhtyDocs, m.UW, LinkedIn, Pandora, Shazam, SMugMug.

Apps still on the phone but I never use: Google Earth, Whole Foods, Remote, Drinks Free, Wine Guide, EBay, Offender Locator, Healthmap, Kindle, NikeID. Just haven’t bothered to delete. They all seemed like a good idea at the time. Kind of like that Flock of Seagulls song — seemed like a good thing to download at the time.