Appendix 2 iPhone orientation – iPhone Application Development

Appendix 2 iPhone orientation

This appendix serves as an orientation to the iPhone; it is for the librarian wanting a basic introduction to the device but who doesn’t know what they need to ask. Before we jump into the basics I’d like to attend to the different learning styles and preferences to learning about technology: some of you will prefer to learn about objects other than by reading – if you consider yourself a tactile learner I suggest making a visit to your iPhone dealer; if you have an Apple Retail Store in your area (http://www.apple.com/retail/) take a trip to this store to get introduced to the device by an Apple representative.1 This introduction to the iPhone is essentially my research framework. It is a viewpoint that has informed my work as I’ve gone about research and writing on mobile technology use in libraries and for information-seeking tasks. Its value as a framework helps me to frame possibilities for applications and research questions for further study.

The most significant thing to know about the iPhone is that it is essentially a handheld computer. Alternatively, we can split the question ‘What is an iPhone?’ into three parts: software, hardware and infrastructure capabilities.2 The iPhone has an operating system: so we’ll look at the software of the iPhone. The iPhone is also a piece of hardware – so we’ll talk about the pieces that make up the iPhone too – the multi-touch screen (the main input mechanism), the camera, etc. Finally, the iPhone has infrastructure affordances. This means that you have a variety of wireless connectivity options – you might connect with your telecoms wireless network for data access – and it is also possible to get WiFi and Bluetooth connections on the iPhone.

The combination of these three attributes makes possible a range of applications. Consider the Mobile Me application for the iPhone. There is a component of the Mobile Me iPhone app that can help you to locate your phone, should you lose it. And this is a great example of the integration of this phone’s hardware and software, which means that it can be located with a laptop. The basic functionality of the Mobile Me iPhone app is to create an integrated personal information system: your email, your contacts, your calendars from your home Mac computer as synced with your iPhone and other Mac systems like a MacBook. As we progress through iPhone development, it is hoped that what librarians may come to view as mobile technology will be one component in a diverse range of possible tools from which users will access information, be it desktop access or another type of information and communication technology.

iPhone software: the iPhone operating system and its component parts

The operating system of the iPhone is a lightweight version of the Mac operating system. The iPhone operating system or iOS is usually upgraded every year by Apple; this update of the iPhone OS is accompanied usually by the release of a new model of the device. The work shown in this book is accomplished using an iPhone that is running the iPhone OS version 3. What does this mean exactly? The iPhone version 3 OS is differentiated from the OS 2 in that the previous version was more closed off in terms of things developers could do with application development. Additional computing features are available with each advance of the software, i.e. additional functionality for the device. These new versions of the iPhone OS do not require one to relearn how to use the phone – operating system advances should not be feared, as they really just extend functions of the iPhone. As an example, in earlier iterations of the iPhone one could not copy and paste from one app (like Mail) to another (like your Safari Browser). The ability to transfer data between apps on the phone is now standard. Version 3 of the operating system also included things like mobile push notifications – meaning the app could have a notification to the user about a specific piece of information they had requested – or other important status updates. In-app purchases were also added in the newer release, meaning that a developer had the option of including in the application a way for users to decide if they wanted to pay money for some portion or access of the app – theoretically, you could make a free app, meaning users would be more likely to download the application, and then at the point of use within the app purchases could be made, if the user desired. Each of these new components of the operating system really only gave developers more freedom to do more in their applications. Each advance of the iPhone operating system will lead to greater possibilities for the application.

What is all this about apps on the iPhone?

There are certain core apps the iPhone comes with, so from one perspective you can think of the apps on a phone as basically its functions. The most central type of app on the phone is the green box with an unmistakable phone icon, the Phone app, used to make calls, of course. It is located at the bottom of the screen, what you might term your iPhone ‘dock’. Note also the Mail, Safari and iPod buttons here, too. These core apps are important and instructive design examples. Pay particular attention to the green icon for the Phone app. Earlier in the book, I modeled some designs for location-based phone tours in libraries and indicated to the user that the green buttons on the app are those that will call the tour. Although the iPhone software developer kit we worked from will give us the freedom to make changes to the colors, shading and size of buttons, remember that an iPhone user has these core applications as a sort of hint as to what the phone can do, so you don’t want to make the user relearn what new colors or new functions of the phone are, if you do not have to – in other words, take these core apps as a starting point for apps you can develop for your library.

There is an iPod there? What is that?

Yes, there is an iPod application on your iPhone. You might already be familiar with the iPod, but if not it is essentially a music player for mp3s. You probably know that you can also watch video or possibly listen to a podcast on the iPod. Why do you need an iPod if you have and iPhone – you might ask? There really isn’t any reason to own an iPod if you have an iPhone as the device simulates the functionality perfectly. You might have a very large music library or video library, in which case the 8 gigabytes (gigs) of space on your iPhone might not be sufficient and then you might want an iPod, featuring more hard drive space or an iPhone with more disk space (the 3G iPhone has 8 gigs of disk space while the 3GS has a choice of either 16 or 32 gigs.3

Figure A2.1 The home screen of the iPhone running the iOS 3. Icons are an important element of mobile design

Mobile Safari browser

Yes, a fully operational mobile browser is one of the core apps of the iPhone. The iPhone as a mobile internet access tool is one of the most profound developments for mobile access to information. All of the apps developed in this book will begin as apps that are viewable from the Mobile Safari browser – we get them onto the iTunes App Store after confirming that they operational there. You can view what your app looks like on the Mobile Safari browser before getting it onto the App Store. Also, you can use the Mobile Safari browser as a means to look at other parts of your library web presence and investigate how their presentation appears on a mobile browser. If you don’t plan on having an iPhone you can use the simulated mobile Safari browser in the iPhone simulator, which is included in the free download of the iPhone SDK.

Integration with the iTunes App Store

It is vitally important to keep in mind that this device, with its data plan, is able to download applications from the iTunes App Store. That is to say, the apps that the iPhone comes with are just the beginning. These come standard on the device. Additionally, a number of iPhone apps are available for free from the iTunes App Store. All of the examples in this book that are available on the iPhone are available for free.

App Store is the button on your iPhone home screen that provides access to these software components. The red circle with the number 5 inside indicates to me that I have five applications that have updates to them – what this means is that after I have downloaded an app the developer may still make modifications to the software and send those updates to the iTunes App Store, and the App Store contains all the details about new functionality or other bug fixes in the software. Of relevance to you, the librarian, itching to make your own iPhone app is that the app you upload to the App Store can be updated with periodic software releases, so don’t worry if the app isn’t perfect, as you will have the ability to upload a new binary and update the app from the iTunes App Store if you choose to. Additionally, from the Apple website iTunes Connect, you are able to configure your app icon and other graphic display components even after you have made the app available on the iTunes App Store. In a way the traditional release cycle of software stools where a finished product is shipped after development is no longer the case for application design. You can continue to refine the application even after it is available on the user’s iPhone. This is forgiving for the developer, and perhaps for the user, as it may lead to a more interactive software use. Because the user is able to respond with feedback and comments from the App Store, if the comments are requests for features that you can go forward with developing, then in the next release of the app that you post to the iTunes App Store you can list the added features of the new app, a wonderful development cycle for your users and you.

iPhone hardware: the multi-touch screen and other things you can touch

When I first started using computers in the early 1990s, there were desktop systems that did not come standard with hard-drives. In order to use different applications of an operating system, the user was required to switch between different disks – this was an essential requirement for many computers. The iPhone has a flash hard drive – the one I used to test and run application on in this book is an iPhone 3G. The 3G comes with 8 gigs of storage capacity.

The multi-touch screen?

The multi-touch screen offers you the ability to pinch the screen so as to zoom in and out the view of the page. If you’ve seen other high-end handheld devices like any BlackBerry or Android you may notice that some feature full keyboards. The iPhone has a keyboard-like interface on the screen in which you can key in your information from the touch screen. If you’ve never used the iPhone before, it can take about ten to fifteen minutes before you really get up to speed typing like this – part of the reason is that the keyboard is quite small. Once you get the hang of it, this shouldn’t really prove a problem.

What else is included in the iPhone?

The 3G iPhone comes with a 2-megapixel digital camera – you are able to take pictures with the phone and when you sync the phone to your computer you can download the photos – the device has pretty good integration with many other Apple tools, so you can download the photos to your iPhoto software and edit the photos from there.

Figure A2.2 The keyboard interface of the iPhone. The user can rotate the device 180 degrees for a slightly larger layout

The microphone in the device allows you to create voice memos. This can be useful if you are involved in any focus groups in your library and you want to record the transcripts for future analysis.

Other hardware on the device includes speakers, so that should you want to listen to your recorded voice memos, and do not have headphones available, you could use your phone’s speakers to play them back. Additionally, you don’t have to have headphones to listen to whatever mp3s may be loaded on the device – you could just use the phone’s speakers to listen.

There is a button, the home button, at the bottom of the device. If you are inside an app and you want to get back to the main screen of the iPhone you just push the home button and this will take you back to the desktop of the iPhone. If you are already on the iPhone desktop and click the home button this will bring up a search screen that will allow you to search the contents of the phone.

Wireless infrastructures

Technically, the telephone telecommunication system is a portion of the iPhone that we don’t really see. We don’t necessarily even think about it that much, or perhaps will only think about the wireless infrastructures supporting our phone when those infrastructure fail to work properly. Consider the high demands that data use places on data networks in large metropolitan areas of the United States where iPhone uptake is great: these areas will see large demands on the infrastructure whereby the data tends to slow in high peak times.4

The other things you will want to know about the wireless infrastructures of the iPhone include its ability to connect to a WiFi network. The phone can be configured to search for WiFi networks or you could choose to disable this ability in order to save battery life. The phone’s battery will drain more quickly if you have it scanning for WiFi networks intermittently. The reason you may want to use WiFi to access the Internet is that at times you may be in areas where your wireless signal to your telephone provider will not reach you: places that are below ground, or simply places that do not have network access. Not all areas you will travel to guarantee coverage – there may be blank spots in the network – and this is where WiFi will come in useful.

Bluetooth is a means for connecting the device to other wireless devices. Bluetooth might be used by some applications for connecting to another iPhone – if you were playing a gaming app and wanted to play against a friend you might use the phone’s Bluetooth wireless capability to play collaboratively. You might connect other peripherals with Bluetooth as well. Other peripherals include connecting a phone earpiece, so you don’t have to hold the phone to your ear – this would support hands-free use of the phone.

You may have heard of tethering as a means for connecting your laptop to the Internet through the iPhone’s data plan. Tethering is made possible through the iPhone, under the settings tab and then enabling Bluetooth. At the time of writing, the iPhone 3G is capable of Bluetooth tethering for the 3G network, but this service is not currently available in the United States.

Summary and conclusion

Why is it important to think about these three components of the iPhone? Considering the hardware, software and infrastructure gives you an insight into what is possible to design for, and what is most convenient for the user based on this framework of constraints and possibilities.

In summary, some of the limitations inherent with mobile are: a relatively small screen, so reading lengthy text is not going to be the primary use of the device; the input is a keyboard-like interface, but again, this isn’t going to be for lengthy use. However, the hardware also makes possible certain tasks: the portability of the phone coupled with its connectivity – the ‘always-on’ nature of the phone – means that the iPhone apps you develop create a connection between your library and the library user that is accessible for them at any time. There are resources of the library that are very well suited to be connected through the iPhone and others tasks that may not be as well suited. I think we are now ready to start designing, as we understand the functionality of the iPhone and how its capabilities make possible some interesting services for your library and bring your library into increasing importance and relevance for the end user.

Consulted

http://www.apple.com/iphone/specs-3g.html

http://www.apple.com/iphone/iphone-3gs/tethering.html

Norman, D.A. (2002) The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.


1.Also, the service and layout of these stores are paragons of the way you would want to see other information-providing centers. Think about what the Apple Store does so well that our libraries could mimic. A visit to an Apple Store will give you professional insight regarding service and layout for your own libraries.

2.The words capabilities and affordances are used interchangeably in this book – affordances are simply what is possible because of the device – I borrow this term from The Design of Everyday Things, a classic usability text by Donald Norman.

3.There is a curious irony to the iPhone and iPod: if you cannot afford an iPhone and you wanted access to apps on the iTunes App Store, you could purchase an iPod touch – which runs the same operating system as the iPhone; some applications will not function on the iPod touch if they were only designed for the phone, but you get the picture – the iPod touch might be the device for you as a stand-in for the iPhone, depending on your need, budget, etc.

4.Richtel (2009) 3G Phones Exposing Networks’ Last-Gen Technology, New York Times, 13 March, available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/14/technology/14phone.html (accessed 14 September 2010).