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Apple Watch: NZ App-enings: VoiceMail, Syncrasy and Sleepine

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Some apps seek to come up with a completely new way of doing things, which can be very laudable. Others seeks to take something that isn't particularly good and make it attractive to use. This is the approach the New Zealand developers of Touch Voicemail took. Because let's face it, if there's one experience on your iPhone which is substandard, it's voicemail. Not because the app for it is no good, but because there is no app for it - you use the phone to call a number provided by your cell phone provider. It's clunky because you have to call the number, then navigate buttons to get what you want - play through your messages, delete etc.

It's a pain. I must admit my heart sinks whenever I see I have one.

Or it did, anyway, for now you can now get an app which makes this into a much more usable and elegant experience: Touch Voicemail, created by Bridge Point Limited based in Hamilton, recently became available on the App Store (free, upgradeable for a fee to Pro version).

With Touch Voicemail, your calls are directed through to Bridge Point's messaging servers. From there they connect via the internet to your iPhone. The app uses 3G or Wifi to collect your messages, then displays them on your smartphone - no dial-in. Hallelujah. The upshot is, you see what messages you have directly on your iPhone. The interface is nice, clear and uncluttered - it's very easy to use. But sorry, overseas readers, so far this great idea only works here in New Zealand, with other countries considered for the future.

To use, once you've downloaded the app, you are prompted to sign up. After that, you log in, add your details and you're in business (otherwise, you can't access those servers to collect your messages).

The free version gives you a standard voice message, but if you get lots of voicemail, consider upgrading to the Pro version. Then you can click the + in the top right corner and create and save new greetings. You can choose which greeting (from ten) is active in advance with a tick, so you can make one greeting for meetings, one for driving - whatever your recurring activities require. For example, you could have one suggesting calling someone else in your organisation, since you're doing this or that.

The Pro version incurs a monthly charge of NZ$2.59, or NZ$24.99 yearly from the app's Settings page. This is charged through your iTunes account. Some people will find this service indispensable for this minimal outlay.

When you have selected an individual message from the inbox, the play screen has a share icon at top right. One of the share features is the ability to send a message to a contact via email.

Touch Voicemail relies on 'Unconditional Call Forwarding', a service supported here by Vodafone, Telecom and 2Degrees (check, if on PrePay, that your particular PrePay has this option, or it won't work).

Bridge Point's Ben Wilson told me the little company is excited about the changes Apple is bringing in with iOS 8, and that feedback from early users has been vital, but Bridge Point is taking a leaf out of Apple's books and working to make the app better in itself, only considering adding features they think most users would use. Uptakes amongst tradespeople and sales staff has been particularly strong.

More information at touchvoicemail.com

Syncrasy

AUT's Creative Technologies' wunderkind Judi Klein has finished her app work. The young Auckland has been completing the final component of her masters degree, culminating in a demonstration of the iPad app she created.

The resulting app, Syncrasy, will not be available on the App Store until later in the year. It was designed in light of educational technology research combined with software development. Judit's research aimed to bridge the disconnect between the two perspectives by looking at the software development process as an influential factor on the use of mobile devices in tertiary education.

The app itself is innovative - it enables real time collaboration between iOS users based on their location and proximity. The dynamic nature of the interaction means that a shared canvas, built up from images and text contributed by multiple users, exists only while the participants are within a certain distance of each other. It adds in the content of new participants who join the space, and removes the content of those who leave.

Clever, huh? And offering some exciting real-world possibilities in education and the workplace.

Sleep better

Auckland doctor Chen Luo is one of a 'bunch of doctors' (GP, sleep specialist and psychiatrist) developing an app to help people with insomnia (sleeping problems) without any pills. It's aiming to be dead easy to use and it's being designed to tap into Apple's forthcoming HealthKit APIs. Sleepine aims to be cheaper, faster and easier to use than other initiatives.

A pilot clinical trial run by the group showed 70 per cent of patients improved with the face-to-face version of the Sleepine therapy they developed.

If anyone, is interested in insomnia or is interested in taking part in the study, please visit the quick 10-question questionnaire here, or contact them directly be email at hi@sleepine.com.

This is the second to last Apple Watch on the Herald. I would love to continue to write about NZ ventures, developers and initiatives on my mac-nz.com site, since I have plans to move Apple Watch elsewhere, so please email me at mac.nz@mac.com.

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