Voice Dialing Google Voice from iPhone

I’ve been using Google Voice for a few months now and I’m more or less happy with it. I occasionally get word that some calls haven’t gotten to me but I can live with it as telephony is not really my primary method of communication at this point.

The one thing missing from making GV feature complete for me was voice dialing from the iPhone- a feature I use quite frequently as I often need to make and receive calls while I’m otherwise too occupied to bring up the keypad. Really. Also, it’s cool.

Took me a while to figure this out but its quite simple:

Choose the contact you want to voice dial. For me there are only a few I’m really interested in so I’ve no need for this, though you can do something like that too if you want.

Add a new number for this contact or edit a current number, though I prefer to have their legitimate number in there as well.  In the field for their new number add:

your google voice number, your google pin number, 2 (to make a call) and finally the number you are calling.  It’ll look like this:


This page shows how to find the comma (pause) in the iPhone menu.

Flash vs Usefulness

Not that I really need to pitch into this bloodbath of a conversation, but I just wanted to share a thought on the iPhone and Flash:

No matter how well optimized Flash could ever possibly be on the iPhone, it would always offer a substandard experience with the slightly possible exception of video playback. And while Flash playback is important, it is also obviously becoming less so with HTML5 video players quickly picking up the slack.

The big problem comes with all the other things users expect and experience from Flash on the Desktop. You’ve got games, you’ve got banner ads, you’ve got entire sites designed in flash (when they really should be HTML). These Flash movies are almost always designed for a specific desktop size or higher, be it 800×600 or 1024×768. Many of them allow you to right click. They all ultimately expect you to be interfacing with a mouse and keyboard easily at the ready. At best you’re going to get a mix-and-max of sub-standard to downright awful browsing experiences. One could even argue that Apple got full web browsing so right on Mobile Safari by ignoring Flash completely.

At best a Flash designer could possibly create two versions of the Flash interface: one Desktop, one “mobile.” And then of course you’d be designing for every potential Flash enabled phone out there, regardless of speed, screen size, or interface.

Whether you chose to write your Flash for the desktop or you chose to “optimize” for mobile, if you targeted both at any point you are now providing a lowest-common-denominator, feature incomplete interface that will likely not look or interact as well as versions specifically designed for Desktop or mobile. So let Flash be Flash, a time wasting game interface and the bane of mobile users searching for restaurant menus everywhere. The iPhone doesn’t need it, and if it had it it would be worse for it.

Ipad: The Dream of the Netbook Realized

Dawn and I are ubiquitous computer users: our laptops are always sitting along the periphery of our lives.  They come out too look up a quick reference, or to read the days news.  We download our baby pictures on them and share those pictures with family through them.  We do our work on them and we relax on them.  They come into the kitchen with us when we need a quick recipe reference.  It goes without saying that we watch video and listen to music on them as well.

The problem, and honestly this wasn’t much of a problem until now, is that they are rather bulky.

The netbook was supposed to be the solution to the bulkiness of a “full sized” laptop.  Early adds for the EEE series of laptops featured a rather unrealistic image of a woman sitting on a beach, computing her heart out on the toy-like EEE.  But as we’ve seen the netbook evolve from a tiny keyboard, tiny screen computer to a more or less full sized but underpowered laptop.  This evolution speaks to the problem of netbooks:  A tiny form factor and tiny screen don’t mean much if the way you use them is the same as on a full sized computer.  The squinting and key-hunting become more a burden quickly.

The potential of the iPad is that it takes the small-form factor and makes it true.  This is a device you will take to the beach, into the kitchen and undoubtedly into the bathroom.  Gestures and quick magnification will make using it second nature, and unlike Microsoft’s ultimately failed Tablet PC, the fact that the machine’s operating system was built from the ground up with this form factor in mind will mean that this time it will work.  The stripped down feature set and relatively powerful processor mean that not only can we watch high quality video but we’ll likely be able to edit it to some degree as well.  The same goes for music.

The funny thing is that I thought that all of this was what made the iPhone special, but it was not enough to take the laptop out of the equation, and the reason was that the iPhone is simply too small.

Low impact lifestyle computing is what the Netbook promised; its what the iPad will actually deliver.

Microsoft Writes Itself out of CE

This morning I thought I’d look around and see what bombshells Microsoft dropped at their CES keynote last night but I really couldn’t find much, and what I could find seemed really insignificant in light of things like this, this and this.

Ballmer is driving the company into the ground.  I don’t know if it is zealous focus on “winning Search” or his love of the cash cow that is Microsoft in the Enterprise but all of their Consumer Electronics seem to be flagging or flatlining.

Off the top of my head.

  • Did they even mention Windows Media Center?  What was once the centerpiece of Microsoft’s attempt at taking over the living room has been completely overshadowed by cheap set top boxes and game consoles.
  • Hardly touched on WinMo 7 and Zune, out of what I can only assume is embarrassment.  They have nothing even approaching Android let alone iPhone OS and they know it.
  • Their Xbox announcement wasn’t really the “game changing” user interface breakthrough Project Natal, but a pay-to-play MAME ripoff for old people?
  • Their game lineup for 2010 is pretty lackluster (not including Mass Effect 2)
  • They even kind of waffled on their “Slate” announcement.  For good reason though- no one really has any idea what Apple is up to with their new tablet concept, and from what it sounds like, “iSlate” is so far removed from the tacked on uselessness that was Microsoft’s Tablet PC initiative that they might as well not show anything at all.
  • Huge focus on Windows 7?  That’s all well and good but “Windows Everywhere” ain’t exactly what it used to be and we’re seeing Linux (Android, embedded, etc) ALL OVER THE PLACE at this show.

Bottom line: Microsoft’s corporate inertia has rendered them unable to keep up with the ecosystem they had a huge hand in creating.  Blame Steve Ballmer, blame their org chart, whatever, they’re done.

Severing a limb in the name of savings

I’m turning back the clock folks.  Despite my love for the iPhone and all of the ways it enriches my life, I’m giving it up.  I’m going back in time to the year 2002, when “smart” phones meant WAP web browsing and a good camera was VGA.  Yes, I turned off my iPhone and popped my SIM card into this beauty:

Sadly, Lollercoaster not included.

Despite its insanely designed keypad, this phone actually does almost everything a modern smart phone does- browses the web, takes pictures and records video, plays mp3s, allows bluetooth syncing and tethering and SENDS MMS!  Note: Iphones were only given that privilege in 2009. One thing it does not share with the iPhone, besides the touch screen, app store and incredible functionality, is the $30 DATA PLAN!

As much as I loved the iPhone, I simply could no longer abide our ridiculous phone bills every month and something had to give.  So as of today, my iPhone is a glorified iPod Touch, crying out for a SIM card and connecting to the net only through Wi-Fi.   C’est la vie.  We’ll see how long I can last.