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June 30 2010

How to be independent from iTunes

I’m a heavy iTunes user. And no, I’m definetly not proud of it. Since I bought my first iPhone I hate Apple every day that they forced my into the relationship with iTunes, the RAM-eating syncing hassle, especially on any Windows system.

But enough with all the whining and enough with all the promises that may be true someday - I need a solution for my daily life, now. Let’s see what we can do to bypass the software.

So the iPhone was the first device that relied in many cases to the cloud to get all its features to work.

I will tell you nothing new that you can already sync Mail / Contacts / and Calendars via the web. It just works seamingless, e.g. with Google services.

Apps are also available via the App Store App. (In fact it occurred to me several times that I loaded an app-update in iTunes, synced both, but the iPhone still hasn’t got the updated version.) If you additionally want to get past the 20 MB restriction on mobile networks, you have to be a Jailbreak user.

For Podcasts there are a number of apps available which let you download or even stream episodes with the iPhone, my favourite is Podcaster 3 (formerly known as RSS Player, which was formerly known as Podcaster 1), because of the incoming push notifications when a new show airs.

For Movies and TV series there’s the fabulous AirVideo. Saves also space on the flash drive. Another solution could be the recently announced Hulu+ app, which let you stream a lot of American TV Series. Also not free, but worth the consideration are the streaming service put.io or for german television lovers MobileTV.

Music is also very important, radio apps like Last.fm or Pandora are not enough for me. The perfect solution are streaming services like the well-known Spotify, MOG, steereo or muziic, which is based on YouTube. If you still want to sync your music library locally there’s even more Jailbreak goodness with PwnTunes. PwnTunes turns the iPhone in a USB device that is recognized on any PC, just like a mp3 player where you can drag & drop your music files.

Photos easily backed up via the official flickr app or a third party uploader like Pixelpipe with access to many services. For documents there’s Dropbox, Notes are anyway stored centrally in Evernote.

For general access to the iPhone filesystem, including adding Wallpapers or Ringtones, I highly recommend the free i-FunBox software. It’s like SSH-ing into your phone, but without the need for hacking your phone.

Other iPhone software for replacing the compulsory iTunes Backup mechanism are listed on this site.

Did I miss a use case in your daily life where you still have to sync? Any other suggestions for staying sync-free?

April 08 2010

iPhone OS 4.0 justifies Jailbreaking

Yeah, you could read the title again. I mean it.

After the unveiling of the new iPhone OS, shipping this summer, tech blogs are pretty amazed at the new features Apple brings to their smartphone. Well, I’m not, because the important parts were already covered years ago by software available through the Jailbreak Store, namely Cydia. Others have written about the “freeing” of Apples closed system before, so I won’t tackle this in detail.

But what bugs me really hard is the fact that Steve Jobs said the whole time their system was good as it is. Noone needed apps one the 1st gen iPhone and noone needed Multi-Tasking either. Every time the crowd has to tell Apple what’s important.

With 4.0, some of the feature enhancements which come with a Jailbreak gets covered with original software - the same thing happened with 3.0 quite analog (e.g. Copy & Paste). Let’s look at some of the new pieces:

  • Folders gives you, well just folders - Jailbreak counterpart: CategoriesSB
  • Possibility of Wallpaper customization - Jailbreak counterpart: BossPaper (with more features); not to forget the famous theming program Winterboard.
  • Possibility to set up multiple exchange accounts - Jalbreak counterpart: The simple tweak MultiExchange.
  • Multi-Tasking is available, but in a somehow crippled way - Jailbreak counterpart: Backgrounder in conjunction with different possible GUI’s, the Palm Pre like ProSwitcher or Circuitos, etc. Interesting to note that these got invoked via doubleclick on the home button…

Now you can say “but Apple did it in a way preserve ressources and don’t drain the battery”. But that’s just not true. Or please give me another reason the whole feature set will only be available on the 3GS model? ProSwitcher instead works on all iPhones (of course not so smooth as on the current model, but at least the user has the choice.)

Apple did take care for some of their flaws, but Jailbreaking will continue to be the only way for some people - including me - to use their iPhone, until Jobs will open up the App Store in general and looses the draconian way to run the platform.

I could only imagine what a exorbitant thriving ecosystem would be created by embracing developers and give them real access.

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