Happy New Year and welcome to the iPhone blog's 2008 "TiPby Awards"! This year we're breaking them into two parts: Editors' Awards (below), and Reader's Choice (which is already underway in our forums and will wrap up later in the month). If you haven't voted yet, get on over to the forums and vote now. If you haven't guessed our Editors' Awards... Read on after the break!
Apple only has one current-generation handset, so unlike our sister-sites CrackBerry.com, Treo Central, and especially WMExperts, we're not technically doing this category. If we were, however, and even if this wasn't the iPhone blog, and even with new entrants like the Android G1, the Treo Pro, the BlackBerry's Bold and Storm, and more HTC Touches than you can shake brand dilution at (including the admittedly awesome HD), the iPhone 3G continues to be the disruptive influence in the industry. What Apple did with User Interface with the original iPhone in 2007 and iPhone OS 1.x, they actually managed to eclipse in 2008 with the SDK and iPhone OS 2.x. They sold 10 million units faster than even their own predictions, outsold everyone in the smartphone and feature phone spaces last quarter, and finally -- and most importantly -- brought mobile computing to the consumer masses.
We were tempted to say capacitive touch screens, but the iPhone had that way back in 2007. No, this year was all about Apple provisioning over 10,000 pieces of software, developers making millions in sales, and most importantly -- users downloading hundreds of thousands of apps quickly, easily, and directly on their iPhones. Steve Jobs said Apple, in their 30+ year history, hadn't ever seen anything like the attachment rate of the App Store. No one else has either, including Google, Microsoft, Palm, and RIM who have all since struggled to catch up. That right there is the very essence of innovation.
There are so many games, and increasingly so many great games, that it makes this category especially hard to decide. Super Monkey Ball's demo, for example, helped make the original iPhone SDK event spectacular, showcased 3D OpenGL graphics and just what the SDK could do (in two weeks!), and made a mint for a major gaming house like Sega, establishing the $9.99 price point (which both EA's Spore and THQ's Star Wars: The Force Unleashed built on in spades). Ultimately, however, we're going with Rolando, one of the newest games, and one that has benefited enormously from both the continued maturity of the platform and experience of the developers, Ngmoco:) It's become an overnight smash hit and with good reason: it's not a port but a real iPhone game, made by iPhone developers, to leverage the specific strengths of the iPhone. And most importantly, it's fun.
Some joke that the iPhone is a "toy" or not ready for business. Unfortunately for those of us having to make a pick in this category, the opposite is true. Due to it having a real, desktop OS heritage and tons of screen real-estate, it's not only possible to do some really productive things. We flirted with a few heavyweights like 1Password, task list champion Things, and "native" Excel 2003 editing and iDisk accessing MobileFiles Pro, but we wanted something that provided cross-platform power, and that brought us back to VNC powerhouse Jaadu. Remote access to your Windows PC, Linux box, or Mac in the palm of your hand? That's productivity. (The fact that it's saved us many a long, sometimes frozen drive into the office only slightly affected our decision on this one...)
Facebook stayed near the top of the free app chart, off and on, since launch, but even in its much improved 2.0 version still couldn't quite compete with their WebApp. Twitter loomed large as well, with a myriad of contenders starting with the pre-App Store Twitterrific. Pinger even made an impressive go at aggregating presence. But for us, the 800lbs gorilla is BeeJive IM, which just fills the missing iChat space as well as any non-multitasking app possibly could (especially with Apple's Push-Notification Service still in limbo... ahem)
Again there's an embarrassment of riches here. Ocarina turned CrackBerry Kevin from frenemy to fan, getting him to literally play Marimba on his iPhone's speaker and then quickly try to see what Dieter was playing on the other side of the world (ish). WeightBot showed that interface could still be innovative, and Sea Dragon brought Microsoft Labs and their deep zoom technology to the iPhone table. Yet, and even with the dark-ish cloud that covers the use of private API's, we're giving this one to the impressive Voice Search in Google's Mobile App. Why? You lift the iPhone to your ear and start talking. It brings us one step closer to Star Trek.
Even though it came out early in the year, the Jawbone 2 managed to hold on to its position both on top of the charts, and in our hearts throughout 2008. Chad summed it up: "Not the smallest out there, but not the biggest either, it sure looks good though. But it also does what few other headsets can do; eliminate background noise. I think your next headset purchase might have just been made." Indeed, Aliph has managed to pack the technology of the original Jawbone into a smaller size that manages to pretty much match the performance of the original. Plus, the earhook is leather-wrapped, long-time listeners to the podcast know we can't resist the combination of leather and microphones.
Protection of a hard case + thinness of a skin = a big win for the Seidio Innocase II. "Soft-touch" helps keep the otherwise iconic glossy plastic and sleek metal and glass slab scratch-free and firmly in hand. We are big fans of the iPhone form factor, obviously, so we wanted to pick a case that didn't mess with that. Skins are nice, don't get us wrong, but sometimes you just want the protection of a hard-case. Add in the fact that this hard case allows you to pull off the bottom for easy docking and you have this year's winner.
Chad reviewed and recommended it. Dieter recommended it. Jeremy recommended it. And the iPhone, lacking a user-replaceable battery, practically demands it. What more can we say? Nothing that Chad hasn't said already about the Griffin PowerDuo: "can’t be recommended enough. I am very pleased with the quality and versatility of this accessory, and I can proudly say I use it every day."
MobileMe was a fiasco, but one that Apple ultimately fixed. The lack of cut/copy and paste, video recording, MMS, unified inbox, pervasive landscape keyboard, and many other individual omissions, while still vexing to many, remain vexing from 2007, which makes them all the more shameful, yet all the less timely for our purposes. Likewise, the continued presence of iClones, which nearly 2 years post-iPhone introduction, remains merely a depressing reminder that 2008 passed by entirely without significant innovation from the so-called competition. Even the bewilderingly announced-at-WWDC-and-promised-for-autumn Push Notification Service which has still failed to even re-materialize in beta form is somewhat excused by the aforementioned MobileMe launch fiasco: the only thing that would upset us more than no PNS is one that Apple rushes out only to have it crash and burn the first time people try to use it. We'll even take a pass on App Store's lack of demos, discoverability, and developer shenanigans and fart-fueled races to the bottom. Our EPIC FAIL of the Year is Steve Jobs abandoning the Macworld Keynote. Even if it's Apple's last appearance, even if there's nothing Steve-note worthy to announce, when you go out, you don't just go out with a bang -- if you're Apple, you go out with a Steve Jobs "Boom!"
Stories is more appropriate. Nothing sparked more interest, not the iPhone 3G release or iPhone Nano speculation, not the
stock manipulation rumors about the health of Apple's CEO, not the holy geek trifecta of Transformers star Megan Fox in a Star Wars shirt brandishing an iPhone or even AT&T's end-of-year Midwest service outage. Jeremy was all over this for TiPb, both on the blog and in the forum: the stories of the year were and are the endless cat and mouse game between Apple and the iPhone Dev Team, jailbreaking each and every new firmware release, and the New Year's advent of the long, long anticipated iPhone 3G unlock. Could the continued popularity and power of the Jailbreak and Unlock encourage Apple to relax their SDK restrictions and carrier tie-ins for 2009? Doubtful. Which means we may already have a hint what the story of the next year will be: Jailbreaking and Unlocking the TiPb predicted iPhone HD...
Well, that's it -- TiPb Editors' Awards for 2008 gone and done! What will we see in 2009? Who knows, but we're excited to find out!
Did you agree with any of our picks? Disagree? What would YOU have given the nod to? Feel strongly about it? Get over to the TiPb iPhone forums and let your voices be heard for our Readers' Choice awards!
Happy New Year
--The iPhone blog team