All posts tagged ‘iPhone’

File Under: Browsers, Mobile

Firefox Home Syncs Your Faves to Your iPhone

Mozilla’s new Firefox Home app for Apple mobiles is now available for download. You can get Firefox Home for the iPhone and iPod Touch in iTunes. It’s a free download.

As we mentioned when we first told you about it, the Firefox Home app is not Firefox on your iPhone. It’s a companion to Firefox.

It securely syncs your bookmarks, browsing history, user preferences and open tabs from the last time you used Firefox, and it brings them down to your iPhone or iPod Touch so you can access that stuff on your mobile. It works in tandem with Firefox Sync, Mozilla’s hosted, cloud-based service that keeps all of your installations of Firefox synced up with one another.

Browsing my Firefox bookmarks on the iPhone

It’s especially welcome now, as most of us use multiple screens every day — one or two computers, and at least one smartphone with a web browser. Firefox Sync tied our work machine and our home machine together by syncing all of our browser data in the cloud, and Firefox Home completes the circuit for iOS users, making all the hard-to-remember stuff — your myriad “starred” favorites and bookmarked URLs — available in your pocket.

Needless to say, this app is only going to be useful to you if you’re a Firefox user with an iPhone or iPod Touch. Android users have had Mozilla’s mobile version of Firefox available on their phones since April.

You also need to have Firefox Sync set up to use it. If you don’t have an account, you can sign up when you install the app on your phone. You will also need the Sync add-on for Firefox (newer versions of Firefox will ship with Sync pre-installed). As Charlie Sorrel notes in his Gadget Lab post, this is a bit more work than syncing your desktop Safari data to your iPhone, which just involves checking a box in iTunes (and you can keep Safari and Firefox in sync — and by extension, the iPhone — using Xmarks, but only on the Mac). Opera’s mobile browsers have easy syncing as well. But unlike those choices, this isn’t a new browser or a half-way-there solution, it’s a direct line to the same browser data that’s on your desktops and laptops.

Once the app is set up, you can search your history, access your Firefox bookmarks and see the tabs you most recently had open when you walked away from your computer. All of this info is accessible from within Firefox Home’s search bar, which is sort of a miniature version of the “Awesome Bar” in Firefox. It will search both page titles and URL strings, and it will auto-suggest results as you type.

Searches use the Awesome Bar approach

Just like using the Awesome Bar in Firefox, everything shows up in a single list as you type, and a little icon shows up next to each item to tell you what sort of result it is — a bookmark, a piece of history, an open tab.

Click on an item and the page opens inside an in-app browser. It’s your standard iOS WebKit browser in a pretty blue wrapper, and it performs about the same as the built-in browser inside other popular apps like Twitter.

So Firefox Home is not Firefox on your iPhone, which is something we’re not ever likely to see. Mozilla’s brass has made it clear that Apple’s app policies are too restrictive for Firefox, and the company doesn’t want to dumb the browser down for the iPhone. For people who use Firefox as their primary browser everywhere else, this app is the next best thing.

You can read Mozilla’s announcement for more links, troubleshooting tips, and feedback channels.

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File Under: HTML5, Web Apps

YouTube Launches New HTML5 Mobile Site

The mobile version of Google’s video-sharing website received an upgrade Thursday. The new m.youtube.com has a bunch of new features, including high-quality video playback in the browser using HTML5.

Surf to YouTube’s mobile site with any modern mobile with a browser that supports HTML5′s <video> tag (works great on iPhones, iPads and Android phones) and you’ll notice that when you click on a video thumbnail, the video loads inside a new browser-based player.

The old site on an iPhone used to launch the YouTube native app, taking you out of the browser. In fact, the first time you visit the site on an iPhone, you’ll be prompted to “install” a bookmark on your home screen. This is likely a step to move people away from the YouTube iPhone app and toward the web-based app.

The switch to an HTML5-based mobile experience comes only a week after YouTube published a public memo stating several places where HTML5 falls short when compared to Flash for delivering video. But Flash currently isn’t an option on mobiles. So, while HTML5-based video playback may not be YouTube’s first choice on the desktop (even though the company has been experimenting with it), it makes perfect sense on mobiles.

The whole mobile YouTube site has been optimized for the small screen, and the experience on the phone is now much tighter. For one, the video quality is markedly better, and the web-app’s interface has been updated to look like a native app, with big, touchscreen-friendly button icons.

There are also new features that aren’t in the YouTube iPhone app. The library is easier to navigate, the search box suggests results as you type, videos can be bookmarked like web pages, and favorites and the new “like”-style ratings have been added.

Continue Reading “YouTube Launches New HTML5 Mobile Site” »

File Under: HTML5, Mobile, Web Apps

Gmail Mobile Is Always on the Move


Google has updated its mobile Gmail interface for iPad users. The company announced the update Monday on the official Google Mobile blog. To see the updated interface, just surf to Gmail using Safari on your iPad.

Gone is the split-screen interface for composing e-mails. Now, you get a tasteful, lightboxed modal overlay — fewer distractions, cleaner and more room for the text of your e-mail. A screenshot is above. The changes will only show up for iPad users, and the new site (for now) is only available to English-language users.

It’s not a major update, but it demonstrates a new way of developing the web app that allows Google to respond more quickly to user feedback. Google switched the product over to a more easily-iterative HTML5 codebase last year. The mobile Gmail site gets updated more frequently — usually just small stuff here and there — and is becoming faster and more usable all the time.

On my own iPhone, I switched from the native Apple mail app to Gmail’s mobile web interface long ago, and I’ve never gone back. I still use the native mail app to send e-mails when I have to (from Twitter or Instapaper, for instance) but for everything else, I use the Gmail web app in Safari. In the early days, it was fairly painful, but it’s gotten much faster and much more usable since Google switched to the current iterative approach. The floating control bar, the swipe-to-archive gesture, the menu navigation and the way threaded conversations expand and contract are elegant, innovative enhancements that all web app developers can learn from.

What do you use for mobile e-mail? Native or web app? Let us know and tell us why you chose that route in the comments.

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File Under: Browsers, Mobile

Firefox Home App Syncs Firefox Faves to Your iPhone

Want mobile Firefox on your iPhone? Sorry, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon (the browser maker has often cited Apple’s SDK restrictions as the primary hold-up). But Mozilla is hard at work on the next best thing — Firefox Home.

The application has not yet been submitted to the App Store, but the early prototype Mozilla is showing off this week looks promising.

Essentially, Firefox Home takes two of the best parts of Firefox — built-in syncing and the “Awesomebar” — and wraps them up in an iPhone app. That means you can easily get to all your bookmarks, favorites, recent browsing history, currently open tabs and other info from Firefox inside of a handy iPhone app. It’s an evolved version of the Weave-for-iPhone idea we originally told you about a few months ago.

If you’ve ever been frustrated trying to remember a long URL for a site you visit all the time in Firefox, but never in Mobile Safari, then this is the app for you. There are already some similar solutions out there — Instapaper is a great way to send URLs from your desktop to your iPhone — but none of them give you access to as much data as Firefox Home promises to deliver.

The pages are viewed within the Firefox Home application, though keep in mind that Mobile Safari is doing the rendering in the background, not Firefox. Still, given that running Mobile Firefox on the iPhone is really close to impossible, Firefox Home is probably about the best solution we’re going to see.

The data syncing is all handled by Mozilla’s servers and is encrypted end-to-end so your data will be kept private even if you’re on a public Wi-Fi network. Naturally Firefox Home will be a free app, provided Apple OKs it.

And why wouldn’t they? Well, who knows, but there’s one possible hitch — it can sync your internet porn, and we all know Brother Steve doesn’t want you to look at porn. Of course Opera’s mobile app was recently approved, so hopefully Firefox Home will be ushered through as well.

Hopefully Firefox Home won’t fall victim to Apple’s capricious approval process, because it certainly looks like a great way for Firefox fans to access their data from the iPhone.

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File Under: APIs

Dropbox API Lets You Add Cloud Storage to Your Apps

dropboxDropbox, the free, web-based file backup service, has rolled out a new API that gives developers a way to access, edit and save any file in a user’s Dropbox account.

The Dropbox API works a bit like an Amazon S3 storage bucket except that you, not the application in question, have control over your uploaded files.

The Dropbox API uses familiar tools like JSON, OAuth and OpenID, so web developers can essentially offload their user’s storage needs to Dropbox. For users, the usual risks of tying your web app to a cloud storage mechanism are mitigated by the fact that Dropbox keeps a local copy on your hard drive.

While the potential for integration with web apps is very cool — imagine if all your Flickr uploads automatically synced to the Dropbox folder on your hard drive for an instant backup — the first place you’ll likely see the Dropbox API in action is on mobile devices.

Storage limitations and, in the case of the iPhone/iPad, Apple’s imposed restrictions, mean that it’s difficult to build mobile apps that can access local files, let alone read, write and sync.

That’s the basic problem the Dropbox API seeks to overcome — using the Dropbox API means there’s no need for local files on your mobile device and everything is automatically synced back to your PC. The only catch is that you need an internet connection for the syncing to work.

Dropbox has already worked with a number of developers to integrate the new API prior to the launch. For example, Air Sharing, GoodReader and QuickOffice can now tap into your Dropbox account to edit and sync your Dropbox files. The new API ships with client libraries in Objective-C (pretty much required for the iPhone/iPad), Python, Ruby and Java. To create an application you’ll need to register with Dropbox and then, once you have access, you can grab the client library of your choice and check out the online documentation.

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