Tom Moccia: It not only seems like just yesterday that the original iPhone was released; it feels as if it’s been around forever. I’m not really sure how to explain the iPhone phenomenon, but I love the tight-knit community that has grown up around it. Omar Correa and I run BuyMeAniPhone.com, a site devoted to news, reviews, tips, and tricks, and dedicated to the iPhone and the people who love it. Since we both have families and full-time careers, we have to make the most of the time we do have to dedicate to our Web site. In this article, Omar and I explain how the iPhone has been an invaluable tool in the creation and production of BuyMeAniPhone.com.
Omar Correa: I have been a huge fan of the iPhone since Apple released the first version of the device. Shortly thereafter I was looking for reviews of iPhone accessories, but wasn’t satisfied with what I was finding. Most reviews were brief and not very useful—nothing more than a photo and a couple of paragraphs of text. I’ve always been a big fan of CNET.com and their video reviews, so I thought: Why not create a site devoted to video reviews of iPhone-related products? Two years later, BuyMeAniPhone.com is going strong and attracting more and more visitors daily.
I suppose it’s no surprise that the most useful tool I’ve found for managing the site is my iPhone. It has many apps and many functions that help me keep the site current and stay in contact with all my editors. For example, I use the RSS feed reader NetNewsWire to keep up to date on all the latest iPhone news from other sites. If I come across a great story or juicy rumor, I can e-mail my editors from within the app and send them a link to the actual story so that one of them can create a post on it.
I also use the Google Mobile app in conjunction with our Google Docs to make certain documents accessible by our editors. For example, we have our “review product” spreadsheet saved as a Google doc so that our editors can use Google Mobile to see what accessories or apps they need to review and what the review deadlines are. I also use SMS, e-mail, instant messaging, and other iPhone functions to stay connected with Tom and the other editors, but I’ll let Tom go into those details below.
Staying in touch over nine time zones
Tom: Because Omar lives in Texas and I’m in California, it’s vital that we communicate regularly about site-related topics. In addition, we have to stay in touch with our four other Writer/Editors: Ryan Walton in South Carolina, Danny Smallman in South Yorkshire, U.K., Marcin Banaszek in Warsaw, Poland, and Emil Aquino in Washington Township, New Jersey. That’s a big geographical spread, covering nine time zones. We find that e-mail, SMS, and instant messaging are key tools that help to keep everyone in the loop.
Frankly, without my iPhone I would never have become Senior Editor on BuyMeAniPhone (BMAi). After I became an iPhone owner in late July of 2008, I stumbled across BMAi and stopped back every few days to read some posts and watch some review videos. Sometime around the middle of October last year I read that one of the site’s writers was leaving. I e-mailed Omar from my iPhone and asked if he was looking for a replacement. I submitted a writing sample and Omar gave me a shot.
Making the most of Macworld
The first time I realized that my iPhone was going to be essential in conducting BMAi business was when I attended Macworld last January. I had hundreds of manufactures to talk to and only two days to do it in, but the first thing I had to do was get there!
Fortunately, Macworld was held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and I only live about 2 hours away. Bay Area traffic is horrible, so I decided to use the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to get there. I used an app called iBart to check out schedules, rates, and BART routes into San Francisco.
After I got off BART, I needed to find my way to the Moscone Center. Fortunately, I had upgraded my iPhone to version 2.2 of the OS, which added walking and public transportation directions to the Google Maps app. I pulled up Maps and used the iPhone’s GPS capabilities to find the most direct walking route.
Macworld inside the Moscone Center is enough to make your head spin. Over 500 exhibitors are spread out in two different buildings: the North Hall and the South Hall. Like other trade shows, they give you little booklets with exhibitor information and a map showing you where the various exhibitors and meetings are located. The printed material suffices, but it’s sometimes hard to use, and it’s easy to get lost among the other brochures and product info stuffed in your bag/carrying case.
Fortunately, Macworld offers a free iPhone app that simplifies all this. It’s called iMacworld, and it lets you locate an exhibitor on an interactive map. You can search by North or South Hall, category, product name, or exhibitor. It also includes session schedules and will display messages from IDG, the organizers of Macworld, about what is going on, when it’s happening, and any schedule/exhibitor changes. Also built into the application is a reference section that gives you exhibitors’ phone numbers, addresses, booth numbers, and Web sites. (When you tap the Web site, it will open in Safari.) This app made my time at Macworld much more productive than it would have been.
Conducting BMAi business
There are many other ways that my iPhone helps us conduct BMAi business. In addition to coordinating our editors’ work, we use the iPhone’s e-mail, SMS, and instant messaging capabilities to communicate with manufacturers and product vendors. These messaging capabilities make it easier to arrange for review samples, get our questions answered, and keep the vendor informed about the progress of the review and when it will be posted.
Interestingly, Twitter has become an invaluable tool for us. It helps us let site viewers know when new reviews and important news have been posted to the site. We also use it to publicize giveaways and guest appearances on our Live Video Webcast. Twitter (search:BuyMeAniPhone) also gives us more personal contact with developers and viewers of our Web site. This, in turn, helps us keep our fingers on the iPhone pulse, which makes it easier to spot hot products and trends that are becoming more relevant. Finally, we find that our interaction with people on this more personal level is much more satisfying than simply posting information on the Web site.
Although the existing iPhone camera could be improved, it meets our needs as it is. The entire BMAi staff finds it helpful to take pictures of new products we discover when we’re out and about. We e-mail them to each other so we can share our opinions on the merits of the product and whether we think a review of it would be interesting to our readers. Also, the camera makes it very easy to share ideas on how to set up production areas in order to achieve the best quality video possible.
Maintaining a good social network is very important, not only in the tech industry but in any profession. The more people that you help, the more will help you! I urge everyone to join a Relationship Networking site such as LinkedIn, especially in these tough economic times. People move from one company to another more frequently than ever, and these sites make it very easy to keep in touch with personal and professional contacts. The nice thing about most of these sites is they have an iPhone app so you can access them from almost anywhere.
The iPhone has become an invaluable tool in my life. It helps keep me organized at home, work, and BMAi. It reminds me about birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates. It makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and family and let them know what we’re doing. In short, I absolutely love my iPhone and use it more than any other communication device that I have ever owned. I’m excited to see where it will take us in the future.
Using the iPhone in our personal lives
Tom: Like almost everyone else, I use the iPhone for personal e-mail, text messages to friends and family, looking up odds and ends on the Internet, and relieving stress by playing my favorite games for a few minutes throughout the day. One of my favorite apps is DirecTv, a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) scheduler that is essential for people like me—fans of East Coast sports teams who are living on the West Coast. DirectTv lets me look up game schedules and program my home DVR from my iPhone.
Some people like to read before bed, but I like to play any game from Skyworks. My personal favorite is Arcade Bowling designed by David Crane. To give our relatives back East a real-time look at what we’re up to, we take photos of family outings and immediately e-mail the images to them—all from the iPhone. How cool would it be if iChat was available for the iPhone and Apple implemented video capability on the device? Then we could let them experience a live feed from our trip to the zoo! Until it becomes available, we have to download digital photos and videos we capture with the iPhone and video cameras, and upload them through our computer to MobileMe. We also sync them to the iPhone, so we can share them with others when we’re on the go.
Omar: When I’m in the car or at work and want to listen to music, I turn on my Pandora Radio app and start streaming music through my FM transmitter in my vehicle or on a speaker system in my office. I love to customize my Pandora personal stations with music that I want to listen to.
The iPhone is also a great distracter for my two- and three-year old daughters.
They love playing with Koi Pond, an app that lets them run their finger across the surface of a pond, watch the water ripple, and watch the koi dart away. Their latest favorite app is MemoryMania, a card matching game that’s lots of fun. They also love taking pictures and swiping through the Photo albums. Of course I can’t forget to mention the best feature of the iPhone for distracting two kids—video playback. Nothing can draw a silence in the back seat like Elmo and Sesame Street. I’m starting to realize that I may be raising two tech-savvy kids that will be hard to keep up with once they’re older.