iPhone, uPhone, weAllPhone

Image courtesty Apple, Inc.

Image courtesy Apple, Inc.

By Will Rourk

Apple Computer’s iPhone has been a leader in the field of “super smart” phones by elevating mobile device technology to the level of a true computing platform. Naturally, this has spurred the development of software, which extends and customizes mobile phone functionality. The App Store—where upwards of 30,000 applications are available—has been the key agent in mobile accessibility by allowing iPhone and iPod Touch users the ability to download custom applications directly to their devices with a network connection. This is a model that most mobile device providers are following today, such as Blackberry’s App World, Google Android’s Marketplace or Nokia’s Ovi Store and the soon to be released Windows Marketplace for Mobile.

The enhanced functionality afforded by today’s mobile phones can be a convenient supplement to office computing. Consider the network tools that come pre-installed on an iPhone. You can stay connected to your office and clients in a variety of ways over AT&T’s EDGE and 3G networks, as well as WiFi, with built-in SMS texting, calendars and, of course, voice connection service. With “push technology,” Apple integrates all of your communications features with its MobileMe service, which allows instant syncing of text and voice messages, contacts, schedules and web browser favorites between your workstation, laptop and iPhone/iPod Touch. Recently Apple has released the MobileMe Control Panel for Windows so you can sync-up your Outlook calendars and contacts and even your Internet Explorer bookmarks to your iPhone. An alternative to this is Google Sync which uses Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync to allow syncing with your Outlook calendar as well as your Google calendars and Gmail contacts.

During site visits, there are a variety of unit conversion tools and code database client apps. The Architect’s Formulator is an app that provides access to over 200 formulas specifically for architects including electrical, carpentry and plumbing formulators, formulas for concrete and excavation and steel design, HVAC and more. MadCAD.com is a subscription service that enables online access to AIA codes and more through their iPubs Store.

Mobile 3D is an emerging technology that allows you to view 3D models and data on mobile devices. Apps such as cadTouch and Solid Works’ Drawings Now allow viewing of DXF, DWG and proprietary 3D file formats on the iPhone. An app called iTracer is a 3D raytracing utility that allows one to build and render 3D content on the iPhone.

If you don’t have an iPhone (and never plan on getting one), technologies are emerging for most all of the major mobile device manufactures to allow enhanced communications, project management, specialized information access, and 3D content to enable design professionals to stay connected to their projects. You don’t have to be a member of the Apple tribe, but you do need to know where developments begin and how they work across platforms.

Will Rourk is a digital media specialist in the University of Virginia Library System’s Digital Medial Lab.

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