Barnes and Noble Nook Simple Touch Reader – A delightful surprise

My wife and I went to Barnes and Noble (the only book store within a 20 mile radius btw) this weekend to pick up some physical books for our trip to Hawaii this week. I have already downloaded the Nook app on my iPhone and her iPad, but she was too worried to take the iPad to the beach for fear it would be stolen or damaged, and I didn’t want to use up all my batteries reading on my iPhone. She ended up getting 3 paperback books @ $15.00 a pop and I ended up getting a hardcover book that just came out. I total, we paid close to $100 for 4 books. Is it just me or have prices gone up? I was already irked that the book I wanted was only available in hard cover, which is hard to carry around and hard to read comfortably at the beach.

barnes_and_noble_nook_simple_touch

I had heard a few weeks before that B&N was rethinking their Nook line and possibly looking to partner with someone who would handle the hardware. Walking into the store, I also saw the “Sale” signs, but I didn’t think about getting a Nook, because whats the point of buying a tool that can only do one thing when you could have an iPad that did many.

When we got back home from our trip to the bookstore, I checked to see if the book I had bought was available as an eBook, and it was available for 1/4 the price. Then I checked to see if it was available at the library in eBook format, and it was. Then I checked to see how much the cheapest Nook was and it was currently on sale for $79 (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/Compare-NOOKs/379003181). For almost the price of a hard cover book, I could buy an eReader. Then I did some Google searches for the Nook Simple Touch Reader (STR) and found that you could;

  • Root it and install apps on it – not really appealing for me because I would have my iPhone, but would have been appealing if I had bought books on Kindle, because you could download the Kindle app from the Google Play Store.
  • Sideload eBooks (ePub,Mobi,PDF) via a MicroSD card.

So now for the price of one hard cover book, I could buy the Nook STR and borrow the book I wanted to read from the public library, download eBooks and sideload them to the Nook STR and also access the books I had already purchased from B&N.

Then I checked the books my wife had bought, and bingo, those were available from the library as well. So now, she wants one as well, so I’ll be returning her books tomorrow and setting up her Nook with her books that she’ll be reading on the trip.

Price paid for physical books = $100
Price paid for (2) Nooks = $160

What that doesn’t count is the (2) 2GB Micro SD cards I purchased @ $6.00 each, and it doesn’t count the free books that I can sideload or borrow from the library.

Must Have Mobile App – MobileDay

Have you ever tried to join a conference call on your mobile phone while driving? I’ve done it once or twice while driving into the office and let me tell you, it’s not the most pleasant part of the day. It usually consists of me trying to remember bits of the dial in phone number and then flipping back to the email to get the conference call passcode.

MobileDay is a free app that scrapes your mobile calendar for meetings that include phone numbers and organizes them by day. What’s also great about this app is that all the pertinent meeting information is displayed, and allows you to easily email everyone on the meeting that you are running late.

MobileDay - Calendar View
MobileDay – Calendar View

With one tap, the app will dial into the meeting for you and dial in the passcode. Can’t get much easier than that!

The app will also store your conference bridge information such as passcodes and moderator codes, so if you were to setup a meeting via MobileDay, it would enter in all the appropriate phone numbers. You can also start an impromptu call using the “Quick Call” feature that dials you in as the moderator and allows you to invite people via email or text.

http://www.mobileday.com

New features in iOS7

So I bit the bullet and installed the iOS7 developer preview on my iPhone 5 and had a chance to play around with some of the new features, some of which are a welcome addition, and others which are just fluff.

iOS7 Home Screen
iOS7 Home Screen

Task Manager

If you click on the Home button twice, the window used to slide up to reveal the task bar that listed all the running applications. In iOS7, you get the same type of list, but you also get the accompanying window view of the app to see what is on screen. As you scroll left and right, you can easily flick an app upwards to close it out. I like this upgrade to the task manager, and it makes it much easier to manage the running apps in iOS7. Jae’s rating: 8/10

iOS7 Task Manager
iOS7 Task Manager

App Folders

When the app folders functionality first came out, I loved it! It was a welcomed feature for the OCD to help organize the hundreds of apps I had on my iPhone. I soon had a love and hate relationship with these folders, as they topped out on 16 apps (on the iPhone5 with more screen real estate). Now with iOS7, an app folder can house 9 apps per page, but you can have multiple pages and you can access them by swiping left or right. Jae’s Rating: 9/10

iOS7 App Folders
iOS7 App Folders

iOS7 Shortcut Bar

I’m not sure what the official name is, but if you swipe up from the bottom of the screen, you’ll get a panel that has shortcuts to iOS7 default apps and settings. From this panel, you can toggle on and off, airplane mode, wifi, bluetooth, Do Not Disturb and rotation lock. You also get a screen brightness slider and music controls. Right beneath that, you have the Airdrop feature, as well as the Airplay feature. Along the bottom of the panel, there are icons for the new iOS7 flashlight app (I have one less app to download on my phone), alarms, calculator and camera. Overall, I love this new shortcut bar. Jae’s Rating: 10/10

iOS7 Shortcut Bar
iOS7 Shortcut Bar

Camera

I’m one of the users that Apple commercial is talking about. I own a digital camera, but haven’t used it over 4 years. Why? Because life happens, and the one thing that is always with me is my iPhone. So with iOS7, we get some new features that should help taking pictures with the iPhone more seamless. First is the new camera interface. Across the top you have the flash features and an icon to turn on the front facing camera. Gone is the slider to switch between camera and video mode. Now you can swipe the viewfinder left and right to switch modes. In addition to the capture modes, you have 1 additional camera mode called “Square”, which formats the picture in a square as opposed to the weird vertical shape.

iOS7 Camera Viewfinder
iOS7 Camera Viewfinder

Along the bottom right, you have an icon that allows you to apply filters in realtime as you are taking the picture. The filters that are available are; Mono, Tonal, Noir, Fade, None, Chrome, Process, Transfer and Instant.

iOS7 Camera Filters
iOS7 Camera Filters

You can also apply these filters after you take the photo by editing it, and you can also remove them after you take a photo within a filter. These updates are not that great, considering how reliant everyone is on their iPhone to take photos. I would have liked to see more camera type functionality, like being able to sequence shots.¬†Jae’s Rating: 5/10

Photo roll Management

Although I wasn’t that happy with the new functionality in the camera, I really like the new photo roll management aspect of iOS7. Instead of showing you all the photos you took in sequential order, the new photo roll feature in iOS7 groups your photos into collections and moments. It might seem confusing at first, but I quickly got a hang of how the photos were grouped and it makes it easier to find the right photo from the past instead of having to scroll through endless photos. The photos are now grouped by Years, then Collections (location and dates), and then Moments.

iOS7 photo roll - years
iOS7 photo roll – years
iOS7 photo roll - collections
iOS7 photo roll – collections
iOS7 photo roll - moments
iOS7 photo roll – moments

I really like the organization structure of the iOS7 photo roll, it makes it easier to manage the 1,000+ photos on my iPhone. Jae’s Rating: 9/10

Wallpapers and Background Images

In iOS7, there are a number of enhancements to wallpapers and background images. I never really customized my wallpaper and lock screen and just went with what was available on the system, but with iOS7, you can now use your panoramic shots you took using your nifty iPhone5 and set it as a background image. iOS7 will use the¬†accelerometer and gyro to move the background image as you physically move the phone. iOS7 also includes 2 dynamic wallpapers, which are similar to the ones on the Android platform. Jae’s Rating: 1/10

iOS7 Dynamic Backgrounds
iOS7 Dynamic Backgrounds

Safari

I actually don’t use Safari on my iPhone5, but instead have started using Google Chrome as my default browser, but unfortunately, it’s not as tightly integrated into the OS as Safari is. For instance, links to iTunes apps and songs don’t automatically open up iTunes when clicked on from Chrome. Also, for development purposes, if you are developing a website for iOS, it’s safe to assume that most users will be using the native Safari browser.

Across the top of the Safari browser is the URL input area and immediately to the left of the URL is the “Reader” switch to present a text only version of the web page you are viewing.

iOS7 Safari and Wappalyzer
iOS7 Safari and Wappalyzer
iOS7 Safari Reader
iOS7 Safari Reader

Across the bottom of the Safari window, but the top URL input field and bottom row of icons will disappear as you are scrolling through the page to allow an unobstructed view of the page. You can swipe the screen left and right to go back and forward from pages. The middle button is the share button that allows you to Message, Mail, Tweet, or Facebook post the URL of the web page. The bottom row of icons allows you to Bookmark, Add to Reading List, Add to Home Screen, Copy or Print the web page.

iOS7 Safari Share
iOS7 Safari Share

In addition to the Share button on the bottom of Safari, you have access to Bookmarks and Tabs. The tabs view is a new enhancement that allows you to scroll through all open Safari tabs, open a new “Private” tab.

iOS7 Safari Tabs
iOS7 Safari Tabs

iOS7 Safari also allows you to apply the Wappalyzer plugin (I blogged about Wappalyzer here) to pages you view in Safari. This is a pretty cool addition to the Safari platform.

Overall, I like the enhancements to Safari in iOS7, so much so, that I might start using it more frequently. One last enhancement I would like to see in iOS7 Safari is the browser syncing feature that Google Chrome allows. Jae’s Rating: 8/10

Wi-Fi

This might seem like a trivial enhancement to many out there, but iOS7 now has an Auto-Login feature for Wi-Fi connections that need authentication. There is a network at my office that I need to join each time I come into the office, and it’s a PiTA. With this new feature in iOS7, now my iPhone5 can automatically join the same network using the correct credentials and I can be on my way. Jae’s Rating: 8/10

iOS7 Wi-Fi Auto Login
iOS7 Wi-Fi Auto Login

There are many other enhancements in iOS7 that were announced, but these are the ones that stick out to me the most. Oh, and I almost forgot the last one. Automatic updates of apps. No more having to see that red 1 or 17 that my wife sees on the App Store icon.

-Jae