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Google + Amazon = remind me again why I should buy an iPhone?

You may or may not know that I don’t just do webby, governmenty stuff. I also record music, write a bit and try to make short films (try being the operative word because we don’t seem to have got anything concrete off the ground so far!) Anyway, Dan, with who I do all of the above activities, is a rabid iPhone owner who is constantly ribbing me for my love of Googles Android OS. Every time we go down that route I try to come up with a number of reasons, other than the devices it runs on being cheaper and it being inherently a more open system, that Android is as good as, if not better than, his iPhone (I use a HTC Hero, by the way).

The only thing I really thought that my phone was lacking that the iPhone can do is provide instant access to media such as music and movies through a bespoke interface (iPhone, and iPod Touch for that matter, has a built in version of iTunes). But, no more! Thanks in part to Dave Briggs I have found a solution!

Reading Daves post about the new Kindle at the weekend, something caught my eye; a mention of an Android app which syncs with the actual device piqued my interest. I’ve been intreagued with eBooks for a while but have never really wanted to invest in a device like a Kindle as I was never sure whether I would use it. After reading about the app I hunted it down. A quick search for Amazon in the App store, however turned up not only the Kindle app but also an Amazon MP3 store app. Suddenly I got very excited.

I downloaded both these apps and gave them a whirl…

Kindle first then. Set up was a synch, just entered my Amazon account details and it registered the Hero to my details. At the moment the app takes you to the Amazon web store front for browsing and purchasing, however Amazon states that the next version of the app will have a bespoke store front which would be ace. Purchasing is a one click method and the books are saved on your account. I picked up Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Raven by EdgarAlan Poe, as they were both freebies (public domain, y’know) and bought At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft which was 79p (to test purchasing). Once bought, you simply head back over to the app which syncs with your Amazon account and downloads the books. Select a book and your away. Reading is straightforward, tap the edges or swipe to change pages. Tap the center of the screen to see where you are in the book. There are options for font size, colours and brightness which you can tweak to help with reading. And that’s it. The app remembers your position when you put down a book which is brilliant (according to Dave this also syncs back to your Kindle device which actually sounds like real life witchcraft!) and they’re fairly easy to read. In all I’m not sure it replaces books for me as I still like having the paper copy in my hands, but it’s nice to have the ability to read eBooks without relying on having an actual Kindle device. Come the age of the Android tablet, this app will be an absolute necessity.

Next up, the MP3 store. This is another app which does what it says on the tin. Log in with your Amazon details and, once again, you’re away. It has its own built in store front which is nice and lightweight and background downloads content which is very useful. Simply find the album or song you want, click on buy and away it goes. Simples. You can play downloaded songs straight from your phone through the built in speakers or via a pair of standard 3.5mm headphones and, as Amazon MP3′s are DRM free, you can transfer them straight to iTunes via your PC. Pure brilliance. My only criticism is that it would be nice to have some filtering options to see special offers and the like.

So, as I say, remind me again why I need an iPhone? Android OS is becoming more and more relevant to smartphone buyers and, while I’m uncertain of the legalities, I seriously think that Google need to be bigging up apps such as these and even shipping them with the OS. For the consumer they provide comparable, if not better due to the lack of DRM, functionality when compared to their Apple counterparts.

Just give me some on the go movie rentals and decent commercial game downloads and I will never look at an iPhone again!

Lincoln Christmas Market and Screengrab!

Two topics in this post, one which I should have blogged about a month ago but somehow totally forgot to!

Lincoln Christmas Market Website

Lincoln Christmas Market Website

I’m particularly pleased with the Lincoln Christmas Market website. Launched mid July 2009, it’s self hosted on a WordPress MU install. The idea behind it is to provide a platform to easily release information about the market as it becomes available, be very customisable for the City Council and also promote discussion and involvement. There are plans to use it to liveblog the actual market, posting pictures and video as they are taken. Hopefully I’ll post up about this when it happens as I should be involved!

I’d also like to point out that the pic in this post was taken using the Screengrab! plugin for FireFox. This is a doody little plugin that, with a single click, can take a grab of the current view of any web page, the whole page or a selected portion of the page. This saves you having to trim any unwanted junk out or stitch together a screenshot in Photoshop. Very cool and a real timesaver!