Sri Lanka’s and South Asia’s first citizen journalism iPhone app

Thanks to the brilliant Cezar Neaga with whom I worked for around two months on this, I launched today Sri Lanka’s as well as South Asia’s first citizen journalism app for Apple’s iOS platform. The Groundviews app works on the iPod Touch, iPad and is optimised for the iPhone 4’s Retina display.

The press release I sent out today noted,

“This innovative app enables those, particularly in the diaspora, to more easily access updated content published on the site” said Sanjana Hattotuwa, founding Editor of Groundviews. “Based on our experience in developing this app, we welcome inquiries to help develop similar iOS apps for other citizen journalism and mainstream media initiatives”.

Apple has around 25% of the smartphone market in the US alone, and it’s mobile app store is the world’s largest, with around 350,000 apps downloaded well over two billion times.

The Groundviews app is free and allows a user to,

  • Read all the latest updates to the site
  • Read all the special editions, including the critically acclaimed End of War Special Edition
  • Read all the sections on the site including the satirical Banyan News Reporters, the long-form journalism section and A-Z of Sri Lankan English
  • Follow all updates made on our curated Twitter feed
  • Search through content on the site
  • The app also allows users to quickly take a photo, write down the context and fire off an email to the Editors of Groundviews, enabling new forms of real time journalism that can help bear witness to challenging events and processes.

Featuring high-resolution graphics that look amazing on the iPhone 4’s screen, the app also allows for user customisation.

Download the app from Apple iTunes here. Screenshots of the app here.

Apple iPhone: From the really dangerous to the ridiculous

Photo from Gizmodo

First, the dangerous. A new security vulnerability on the iPhone that uses a simple SMS “to get near complete control of the iPhone’s functionality which includes dialing the phone, visiting Web sites, turning on the device’s camera and microphone and, most importantly, sending more text messages to further propagate a mass-gadget hijacking.”

I am almost nostalgic for the days when mobile phones were precisely that, not mini computers that ran the risk of the same infections and security vulnerability as PCs.

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Focus on the mobile user, and all else will follow…

Worldwide phone penetration continues to climb at a break-neck pace, with over 4 billion mobile subscribers at last count. (In comparison, the PC industry is forecasted to see its sharpest unit decline in history.) Prevailing economic conditions will accelerate this trend, as users consolidate pricey communication services into cost-effective, all-in-one mobile devices. And for the first time ever, half of all new connections to the internet will come from a phone in 2009.

Google’s mobile traffic reflects these milestones — having quintupled since 2007 — and it underscores users’ appetite for mobile data services. But as a community of operators, device manufacturers and software providers, we continue to get in their way. In short, and as a general rule, we make it too costly, too unfamiliar, and too difficult to do anything beyond voice calls.

In reply I offer up three suggestions: simpler data plans, better web browsers, and a smoother on-device experience. And in each case I’ll use Google traffic numbers as a proxy for total internet usage and user happiness.

Emphasis mine.

Writing in TechCrunch IT, Vic Gundotra, Vice President of Engineering for Google’s mobile and developer products backs with evidence my submissions to the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) community since 2004 that mobile phones will match the capabilities traditionally associated with PCs, especially when it comes to Internet and web usage.

In The future of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) – Technologies to keep an eye on, I pointed to smartphones (iPhone in particular) as a device that will lead the transformation of the mobile web as it is known today into a single web, accessible seamlessly though mobiles and desktops.

Wordpress and Internet radio on the iPod Touch – The future of mobile computing?

After purchasing an Apple iPod Touch recently, I really am quite gobsmacked at how powerful a device this is. There are certainly chinks – the accelerometer is temperamental, the iPhone 2.0 software has crashed more in the space of a month than OS X on my MacBook Pro has crashed in over two years, some apps are more unstable than others (pointing to a lack of quality control at Apple that vets all apps) and the “push” email and other services through MobileMe kills battery life to the extent that it is rendered useless.

But in terms of a music player, a video player and a mobile web browser this device is simply brilliant. The Nokia N series or the E series with Symbian don’t even come close, though the new Opera for Windows Mobile does seem to incorporate some of the best features of Safari on the iPod Touch (haven’t tried it).

Two apps that really stand out.

One, the WordPress App for the iPhone (and iPod Touch). Quite simply, in both design and functionality, it just rivals any PC as a blogging platform. The only drawback is that it is not as integrated with mobile Safari as I would have liked it to be (the iPod Touch and iPhone suffer a great deal from the lack of inbuilt copy / cut / paste features within and across apps) but for basic blogging and even to put up photos, this really works and well. The app is available on the Sri Lankan iTunes Store.

Best of all – it’s open source and free!

The other is not free but is a visual feast as well as extends the range of music on the iPhone / iPod Touch to many times more than what’s stored on the device. The Tuner for the iPhone / iPod Touch works over most “broadband” connections in Sri Lanka and basically is a mobile internet radio client with a snazzy interface. The higher bit rate stations won’t play at peaktime on SLT’s ADSL “broadband” but this is not surprising. On Sundays though and in the night, all’s good and the higher bit rate stations (anything above 96kbps) sound very good. There’s a HUGE range of stations to select from and it just guarantees that you’ll never be at an airport or lounge listening to Yanni or Kenny G again.

Click here to download the app (link connects you to the iTunes App Store – you’ll need version iTunes 7.7 or above)

Working on my iPod Touch recently at a wifi enabled cafe in Colombo, I realised that I was checking email, blogging, listening to streaming music and could monitor the Vikalpa YouTube Channel, read the entire NY Times and Time magazine (even offline), all my newsfeeds and access reminders and OCR scanned notes (through Evernote) and keep up with the goz on Facebook all from this one device.