Disarming My Smartphone.

The Backstory

(Probably more than you need or want to know…but hey, I’m writing and you are reading – you can skip this section and I’ll never know)

I have a rough time sleeping (I go to see a sleep specialist on Monday and have been through a sleep study previously). I oftentimes can’t sleep through the night (waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning and unable to fall asleep till 5 or 6) and oftentimes struggle with excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).

I’m in pretty good physical shape at this point – which is pretty amazing, especially considering all that I went through over the last few years with my health…sure there are still aches and pains and various nuisances…but I can live with them – the only one that really still frustrates me is this sleep issue – particularly the EDS.

I use my smartphone as my alarm clock – and I use Sleepbot to monitor my sleep – so I want to have my smartphone near me while I sleep…but this can sometimes be counterproductive. If someone sends me a SMS or FB message in the middle of the night I may hear it. If some stupid app I’ve recently installed and haven’t turned off notifications on (b/c I didn’t think they would have any!) decides the best time to notify me of something is at 2  or 3 am I may be woken.

The Recommendations

So I began searching for an application that would allow me to selectively mute my phone while still maintaining my availability. This would be simple enough if I didn’t need to be available for emergencies pretty much 24/7 (being in the pastorate and IT, where work oftentimes occurs off-schedule and with some urgency).

I did a little search around but didn’t come up with anything great. I find Google’s app store abysmal in its search functionality…even more inferior than its web search (which I use but loathe).[1] So, where does one turn when a google doesn’t turn up the answer? No, not Bing (sorry Microsoft!), Quora. You can see the question and answers here.

The main options offered where (a) CynagoenMOD’s ROM (but this would require placing the stock ROM – essentially the OS of the phone), (b) IFTTT (the programmability is nice, but it lacks, at least easily, all the features I need), (c) Locale (but it is fairly expensive for an app), (d) Tasker (but involves more programming than I was interested in), (e) Agent, (f) Do Not Disturb, and (g) Dindy (this is the app I’ve settled on).

My Choice: Dindy

An Android, open source application that can block phone calls and text messages at night.
An Android, open source application that can block phone calls and text messages at night.

I chose Dindy first because I’m a sucker for open source. If I have to choose between two products with the same featureset and one is open source and the other closed – I’ll go with the open source app almost every time.[2]

The killer feature I was looking for is the ability to let calls through if it is an emergency. In essence, if a phone call is made repeatedly (over a short period of time), it will be allowed through even if the app is set to reject calls. This way if someone really needs to get a hold of me, they can.

A secondary crucial feature is its ability to send text message responses to calls and texts I receive informing the person that I am unavailable and what they should do if it is an absolute emergency (e.g. call several times in a short span of time).

The one bummer is if the phone call comes from a land line you can’t send back a text message – so the person doesn’t know they need to keep calling…but honestly, whenever folks have an emergency (and oftentimes when they don’t :P) they blow up my phone with repeated calls…so I don’t think this will be a huge issue.

There are other features like the ability to whitelist and the ability to create different contexts with different messages – like if I am “away” from the phone, in a meeting, driving, or so on.

But there were two other apps that were close contenders with Dindy, lets talk about what I liked about them (that Dindy doesn’t have ::cough:: hint to developer 😉 ::cough::) and what they lacked that led me to utilize Dindy instead.

Do Not Disturb

An Android app which can selectively block calls, available in free and premium editions.
An Android app which can selectively block calls, available in free and premium editions.

This application comes at a free level, but really you’ll want the premium level. The cost is reasonable for an app. – $2.50. You can try the premium features in the free edition for two weeks for free.

Do Not Disturb lost a few points for not being open source (I don’t hold this against closed source projects, I have no beef with folks making closed source apps…but I trust that open source apps will be around longer, b/c someone else can pick up development if the original developer drops out…whereas closed source projects oftentimes are acquihired or simply shuttered)…

where DND really took a hit was in its lack of multiple modes besides day and night. Dindy provides me with the ability to create an infinite number of contexts – each with their own settings – with DND I’m restricted to two.

That said, DND does offer the ability to disable WiFi and data at night (saves battery) and to automatically (if desired) go mute during meetings (based on my calendar). Pretty sweet features.

Agent

Agent offers several automated "agents" that perform different functions - one being selective call blocking. It is closed source but free.
Agent offers several automated “agents” that perform different functions – one being selective call blocking. It is closed source but free.

The other application – which is quite the slick operator – is called Agent. It does quite a bit more than muting – it also takes action when your battery gets low, automatically remembers where you parked, and automatically goes into mute mode when you are driving (and, of course, all of these are configurable).

It also provides reporting capabilities which tell you what agent has been up to – when it has turned on and off certain functionality. Pretty sweet.

In addition it allows (unlike either DND or Dindy) disabling of auto-sync and of bluetooth (to save battery life).

Where it lost out to Dindy was in its lack of full customizability. It is limited to three contexts (meeting, driving, sleeping) and doesn’t allow for customizing how many calls the individual has to make before they are let through (I have it setup to allow through on the second call – which is what Agent has as the default, but Dindy’s customizability is really nice…and I like having options).

Dear Dindy

So, to recap, here is what I’m hoping Dindy might add in the near future:

  • Integrate with my calendar to allow automatic muting for meetings (bonus points for allowing keyword based filtering of which meetings like DND offers).
  • Include the ability to turn off wifi, data, bluetooth, and data sync as part of “going silent.”
  • Auto detect when I am driving and go silent.
  • Allow me to schedule the days/times I want Dindy to go silent at night (I forgot to mention that Dindy lacks and both DND and Agent offer this feature), so I don’t need to remember to start Dindy’s mute mode manually each night.

Dear DND and Agent

You both have great projects. Should you implement the features I mention that Dindy is currently missing, let me know. 😉

PS Google, Microsoft & WordPress

  • Google: I know you want to move to the new WebP project, but it makes my life difficult when you have your images in WebP format.
  • Microsoft: I am pretty unhappy you aren’t integrating WebP into IE.
  • WordPress: Please add WebP as a default allowed file format for uploading.
  1. [1]I’ve written several times on the past on alternative search engines as well as on my belief that social search engines could provide a way to give much better results.
  2. [2]Though if it is not under active development and the closed source app is, I’ll go with closed source…I’m interested not only in what the app can offer today but also what it will offer in the future.

Free Caller ID for Your Android Smartphone

I hate the phone. I hate phone calls. I hate when I don’t know who is calling me – especially b/c that usually means it is a REALLY important call or that it is a telemarketing call. I’ve been using Contactive for a while now and it is pretty amazing – and the price is nice too (FREE).

Contactive Free Caller ID App for Android Image
The Contactive Android smartphone app provides effective crowdsourced caller ID for free.

Contactive pops up when an incoming call is occurring and shows the name of the person or organization calling, the phone number, and associated social network profiles. It integrates with a number of social networks to ensure that it has the fullest amount of contact info. available about your contacts – so even if someone isn’t in your phone’s address book, if they are your friend on a social network, Contactive can use social network info. to identify them.

Contactive uses a crowdsourced model for building its database of caller IDs. When a call is completed it allows you to choose if the caller ID was correct and if it wasn’t to recommend the correct name. Personally, I love this. There is something so satisfying about typing in the name of an annoying telemarketing company after they call…knowing that now every user of Contactive will never again have to be bothered.

To learn more about Contactive you can visit their website or go to the Google Play page to download the app right now.

Free Money! (No, Seriously)

Back in the good old days (late 1990’s) companies like AllAdvantage paid us just for browsing the web (and having a small window that covered the bottom of our screen and rotated ads). I made some money off these programs (I think maybe $100 from AllAdvantage), but due to abuses these programs turned down (folks found ways to automate the process of appearing as if one was using the computer).

Bag of Money, image thanks to mcol and OpenClipart.
Bag of Money, image thanks to mcol and OpenClipart.

Well, it looks like the good old days may be coming back to us – so get in while you can. Okay, honestly, I think at least this company has a more sustainable and less cheatable model. I actually think its a bit of genius and I expect them to do well – though some competitors might come onto the scene who will offer them a run for their money.

What am I talking about? An Android application called Locket. If you have an Android smartphone (e.g. Verizon Droid, Samsung Galaxy, HTC One, and almost all smartphones that aren’t Apple iPhones), you can use this application.

The concept is simple. When you turn on your phone’s screen to take some action (make a phone call, browse the internet, text message, play a game, write a note, check your bank balance) you are immediately presented with the “lock screen.” You may a swipe motion to “unlock” the screen – this “lock” mechanism prevents you (at least theoretically) from accidentally pocket dialing folks.

Locket is a small Android application that “takes over” your lock screen. When you turn on your screen you’ll see an image (an ad). Its unintrusive, oftentimes interesting, and you can unlock like usual. Every (well almost every) time you unlock your phone, Locket gives you $.01.

Granted, that isn’t much. You aren’t going to get rich off this program – but seriously, it doesn’t reduce your productivity at all and I actually find the lock swipe mechanism to be better than that included by default with my Samsung Galaxy S3.

I’ve been using Locket for around 24 hours and have earn $0.18. Hahaha. Yeah, it isn’t much, but lets multiply that times a year: 365 * .18 = $65.70. It still isn’t much – but it almost covers a month with Verizon or AT&T of cell service and you are essentially being paid to do nothing.

I don’t use my phone super frequently. I use it for more than most people do (e.g. note taking, medicine adherence monitoring, banking, health monitoring, and so on) but not as frequently as many (I hate texting and phone calls) – so I imagine that others might earn a fairly easy $150 a year. Nothing to sneeze at, imho.

So, go get it. What does it cost you? No, I’m not getting paid to say this…I just like for people to use good products (and sometimes I do get paid, but not this time). 🙂

Escaping the Trap of Cell Phone Tracking

[Editor’s Note: This article is a guest post by JoBeth Hartford. She works for a mobile media company writing video scripts. She hopes to start her own mobile tech publication someday in the future. The article tackles the topic of cell phone tracking – mainly from a non-governmental angle – not highlighting the recent issues revealed by Snowden’s disclosures regarding the FCC. Personally, I’m not concerned about “Big Brother” watching me, I figured we have been being watched for years now. 🙂 My recommendation: stick with a smartphone, they make life easier…]

Introduction

The idea that the government can access private phone calls has always been a hot topic, bringing up questions like “Is government listening in?” “Are phone logs tracked?” “Can text messages be accessed?” After making headlines during the Bush administration, this subject has been in the news again recently, when it was discovered the government has been tracking cell phone records of people of interest.

The idea that your phone may not be as secure and private as previously thought has many people understandably concerned. After all, most people think when they call their friends, family, co-workers, or the guy who is handling their car repair, any information will stay between the exchanged voices on the cell phones.

The FCC and Phones

As it turns out, cell phone privacy is a real enough issue that the Federal Communications Commission recently planned a vote on whether to require cellular carriers to better protect their customers’ privacy. The new rules, if approved, would make sure that cell phone companies were taking “reasonable precautions” to safeguard any personal information, including which phone numbers their customers were dialing, the locations of the calls being made, and even how many minutes or hours the calls lasted.

The FCC began to take a hard look at cell phones and privacy matters after a security researcher discovered a couple of years ago that cell phone companies often utilize a specific type of software that is capable of gathering data about how and what consumers are doing with their cell phones. While the cell phone companies contend they only use the data to learn more about their phones and networks, it was concerning enough to cause the FCC to take action.

For most law-abiding citizens, the thought their mobile service provider or even the government can monitor a text reminding their spouse to pick up milk, or their calls to friends about what their kids are up to, is definitely troubling. While it seems safe to say people who are not doing anything wrong have nothing to worry about, the situation has Big Brother overtones that have many people wondering what to make of all of it.

How Cell Phone Users Can Take Action

Fortunately, there are steps cell phone users can take to help protect their privacy as much as possible. People who are truly concerned about this issue should opt for a disposable phone, which may be more difficult to trace back. Of course, this type of phone may not be the best solution for folks who truly need all the bells and whistles of a fancier device. In this case, people can use a free app such as Protect My Privacy, which stops other apps from getting a hold of contacts and other personal information stored on the phone.

Certain brands of cell phones also tend to be more easily accessible. For example, some phones are automatically linked to its owner’s Google account, which means each and every text and call is easily tracked. Inquire about your phone’s connections and privacy features. For those who are concerned about privacy, simply purchase a different type of cell phone.

What’s your opinion about the personal security of cell phone usage? Share it in the comments.

OhDontForget: Useful, But Not Perfect.

Oh Don't Forget SMS Remind Service logo.
Oh Don’t Forget SMS Remind Service logo.

Trying to keep track of what I’m supposed to be doing and when is complicated. I’ve gotten much better at it over the years – but I still manage to miss a meeting here or there, forget to pay a bill, or so on. I use Asana, Google Keep, and Google Calendar, along with their integrations into my Galaxy S3 smartphone to keep me going.

But now the question is – how do I keep other people going? I’m in the position of assigning responsibilities to folks – if it is something with an impending deadline, how do I remind them that the deadline is impending without wasting my time? And how do I remind someone if something needs to be done on a certain day or at a certain time of day? These are more difficult questions.

Right now I use a combination of Boomerang and Ohdontforget – neither of which is a perfect tool and both of which I wish would have their functionality integrated into Asana.

So what is On Don’t Forget? Its an SMS reminder service that allows you to schedule an SMS message to be sent to a specified phone number at a specified time and can include the ability to repeat the message on a specified basis.

So, lets say Isaac needs to do something for me tomorrow night at 7 pm, but I know he might forget –  I can use ohdontforget to schedule a SMS reminder to go out to him at 7 pm. This won’t help if he is out of the area, but as long as he is in the area – it is a lifesaver.

The service does cost $5/mo., but I’ve bit the bullet and signed up and have been using it for a few weeks. The biggest feature it doesn’t have that I would like it to have is the ability for individuals to reply back to my initial message with a status update: e.g. CANT, COMPLETED, POSTPONED, etc. Then I should get notified by email or text regarding this update. This way I not only know someone has been reminded, but I can also relax knowing that the task has been done (or make alternative arrangements if it isn’t getting done).

Besides that, I’d also like to see them add the ability to search sent SMS messages, to delete SMS messages en masse (especially sent ones), and to create templated messages. But all of these are fairly minor compared to the ability to receive status updates regarding tasks (and also to auto-kick off a snooze/delete of the reminder once the task is completed).

Interview with Open-Mesh.

Introduction

I’ve been using Open-Mesh for several years now, first at Calvary Community Church and more recently at a consulting client’s location. Recently I decided to reach out to Open-Mesh and ask if they’d provide me with an interview and included a number of questions. Michael Burmeister-Brown, President of Open-Mesh, responded to my questions and I have included his answers along with any commentary I might have below.

I’ve also included additional information I gathered from Open-Mesh representatives in recent conversations as I’ve been installing this new mesh network for a client and I’ve included what information I could dig up about Open-Mesh’s corporate background as well…Enjoy!

Interview

Thanks to OpenClipart.org and pgbrandolin for the image.
Thanks to OpenClipart.org and pgbrandolin for the image.

Dave: What happened to the MR500 line of products?

Michael: The MR500 has been discontinued. It was never designed as a successor to the OM2P series, but a second, dual band line. Its successor will come out this summer (2013). The successor will include:

  • Dual Band 2.4/5 ghz.
  • Clients and Mesh will occur on both bands (MR500 was mesh on 5 ghz, clients on 2.4 ghz).
  • Much higher power / receive sensitivity providing greatly improved range / speed. [Dave: From personal experience, the distance was a real issue with MR500 units, a limitation inherent in the 5 ghz spectrum which has a more difficult time penetrating walls and other obstacles.]
  • Each band will support 450 mbps, providing an aggregate output of 900 mbps.
  • The addition of 802.3af POE support, meaning the new units will support standard POE switches. [Dave: Current units in both the MR500 and OM2P lines require injectors and the warranty is voided if units are directly connected to a standard POE switch.]
  • Layer 7 (application) bandwidth control and monitoring. This will allow administrators to control which websites / web applications users can run and how much bandwidth they will be allowed.
  • Active Directory / RADIUS support allowing integrated authentication to company servers.
  • The POE version will have a single gigabit ethernet port while another variation without POE will have five ports.
  • Price point will be $299. While this is more expensive than the MR500 it is still almost $1,000 less than the equivalent Meraki model (MR24).

Dave: What about the future of other products?

Michael: We will be introducing a 5 ghz-only OM5P model identical to the OM2P-HS but operating on 5 ghz. This will allow customers to use all the OM2P-series housing options and build out a 5 ghz or hybrid network consisting of 5 ghz and 2.4 ghz models. Most computers / tables phones in the last couple of years support 5 ghz so this will be an increasingly viable option. It will also be considerably lower in cost than dual-band units while providing more flexibility in installation. The OM5P will have an MSRP of $99.

Dave: The site is pretty simple and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of advertising out about Open-Mesh. Will this change?

Michael: To date we have not done extensive sales or marketing outreach, but I think you can see this is beginning to change by the website and especially the resources page. This summer/fall will see significant increases in this area as new people come onboard.

Dave: How many employees do you have at Open-Mesh?

Michael: I am not sure of the exact count – we are a geographically diverse company with two separate teams in Germany and others in Italy, Canada, China, and of course, the United States.

Dave: For organizations interested in Open-Mesh, how do they know your product will work and that you’ll be around in the future?

Michael: Our sales have doubled each year for the last three years and we have just under 40,000 networks managed on Cloudtrax. Feel free to reach out in a couple months and I’ll be able to share more information on new offerings – especially regarding Cloudtrax.

Open-Mesh Corporate Profile

Open-Mesh is a low profile organization. Unlike many sites that have detailed information about their corporate officers posted on the site, Open-Mesh has none. Go over to CrunchBase and you’ll find a bare-bones company profile. There is no company page on LinkedIn and searching for Open-Mesh employees surfaces only two.

One could take this as a sign that the company is small and unstable, but when it comes to technical companies this is oftentimes the sign that employees are pretty hard-core geeks who spend more time coding and building than they do marketing themselves. It seems to be the latter in the case of Open-Mesh.

Luckily, finding information on Open-Mesh President Michael Burmeister-Brown, who provided the above interview, is a little easier than finding information on employees generally – and Burmeister-Brown’s background is nothing to laugh at.

Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek tells us that Michael founded Central Point Software in 1981 where he served as President, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) until 1991. Central Point would be acquired by Symantec in 1994 for $60 million.

In 1992 Michael founded another company – Second Nature Software  – and began serving as its president. This company had an environmental focus and committed all its profits to The Nature Conservancy – over $2.5 million. It appears to have closed its doors as of 2012.

Michael founded another company, NetControls.com in the mid-1990’s and in 1997 this company was acquired by Yahoo!. Michael continued at Yahoo for five years working on Yahoo’s News Ticker and Yahoo Messenger products.

He has also served as a Director of WebTrends since October 1996. I am unsure whether this position is ongoing – Bloomberg doesn’t clarify.[1]

Michael became a co-founder of NetEquality seeking to ensure that internet access was available for everyone – especially low-income communities. Originally, NetEquality was associated with Meraki, but when Meraki boosted their prices and abandoned the low-cost market, Michael decided to step in and found Open-Mesh.

Want a face to put to that name? Check out Oregon Live’s article here and scroll down the page halfway.

Other News

According to conversations with Open-Mesh representatives I’ve had over the last several weeks, here are a few other tidbits I’ve gathered:

  • There is a significant firmware upgrade on the way for Open-Mesh devices this Spring [unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the details of what is included…but it was pretty exciting.].
  • Another upgrade will occur in the Fall/Winter of 2013 which will include one of Meru’s best features – automatic load balancing across available APs.

Send Me Your News

If you have additional info. or updates on Open-Mesh or CloudTrax, I’d love to hear them and I’ll try to add them to the current article as appropriate.

Support Open Mesh

I’m impressed by what Open Mesh is seeking to accomplish, it seems like a company with an honorable and worthy mission. I’d encourage you to join me in supporting them.

  1. [1]This information on Burmeister-Brown consists of info. gathered from Bloomberg but also from NetEquality, Wikipedia, and Second Nature Software’s site.

Why I Love Unroll.me And You Should Too.

I’ve been using unroll.me for some time now – perhaps a year or two – and it is an awesome tool for anyone who has a gmail account.

no spam!
no spam! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are like me you get a lot of spam messages – just total crap like “hey, you are cute, want to video chat?” or “do you need medications? we have viagra!” or “you don’t know me but I want to give you $10m.” This sort of spam, Google does a pretty good job of handling – but then there is another, legitimate form of spam – these bulk emails sent out by various companies that you probably said hi to once in your life and now send you all the time emails about their latest products, sales pitches, and newsletters. They can become very overwhelming. At times I receive 30+ in a single day.

Unroll.me helps with this. Each day instead of receiving a mass of emails you receive a single “rollup” email from unroll.me containing all the newsletters, etc. you likely don’t want/need to read. You can then review them at a glance and decide on several actions: (a) you can unsubscribe from them (and unroll.me handles all the fancy stuff, don’t worry about jumping through hoops – click unsubscribe and let unroll.me take care of the rest), (b) you can leave the newsletter in the rollup, so it just comes once a day along with all your other bulk emails in this rollup from unroll.me and you can decide at a glance if it is worth opening today, and (c) you can choose to have the email (and future instances of it) delivered directly to your mailbox if it is something important and you do want to read it.

You can always access your “rolled up” emails at any time in the unroll.me label unroll.me automatically creates – so its not like you lose any messages.

unroll.me just recently finished a rewrite of their user interface and the improvements are great and make the service much more intuitive. I highly recommend this service – and you really can’t argue with the price (free).

Thoughts on the Samsung Galaxy S4.

I didn’t buy the original iPhone, I figured I’d wait for the technology to mature. I did buy the iPhone 3G, in fact my wife is still using it to this day (though I recently bought her an iPhone 5 which we will be transferring over to momentarily). I enjoyed my iPhone, it was a device ahead of its time, breaking barriers and making way for greater innovations to come…but then I replaced my iPhone with a Verizon Droid and since then I have never looked back.

Android Market on Samsung Galaxy S.
Android Market on Samsung Galaxy S. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That said, in spite of having a number of nice Android phones (mainly b/c my employers paid for my cell service and I received discounted pricing through corporate pricing packages) it wasn’t until the Samsung Galaxy S3 that I finally felt satisfied. I love it – and as the months have passed by it hasn’t shown the same degradation in performance I noticed with previous Android phones.

Tonight’s big news in the technology world is the public presentation of the Samsung Galaxy S4…and boy does it look fine! I’ll share with you what I’m excited about regarding the phone and then provide a bibliography for further reading…

  • It will be available on Ting, an MVNO, meaning we can finally get high quality smartphones on low-cost MVNO’s!
  • It has a 1.9 GHz quad core processor.
  • The dual camera mode which will allow the photographer to still be in group photos.
  • Dual Video Call will be useful when attempting to demonstrate technology processes while also providing face time.
  • S Health which tracks calorie burn, heart rate, and pulse…and hopefully a lot more soon.
  • S View which protects the screen while also allowing one to receive important info.
  • Knox for separating work from personal phone usage in a single device.
  • S Health – Especially the S Band Bracelet (monitors steps, calories burned, and sleep quality), HRM (Heart Rate Monitor), and a body scale (e.g. weight scale plus some). The devices are reasonably priced from $69-$99/ea.
  • Mobeam – Which allows one to use barcodes on the phone with traditional barcode scanners at retailers, no need for NFC or QR codes.
  • GamePad – Somewhat like an Xbox controller which attaches to one’s smartphone and allows you to play games…this could significantly expand the types of games one can play on a phone.

I don’t particularly care about:

  • The bigger display.
  • The better resolution.
  • The 13-MP camera (8 MP is fine for me).
  • Air Gesture / Air Wave.
  • Eraser.
  • Group Play.
  • S Translate – How about a quality voice-to-text dictation method? Google Voice is still inept.
  • S Voice Car – This could be cool, but I need to get a mount for my car before this would really be useful.

Bibliography:

Working with iPhone Data (It Really Shouldn’t Be This Hard).

Image representing iPhone
Image via CrunchBase

Charity has been using an iPhone 3G I bought years ago for a long time now. Recently I bought a used iPhone 4 for her and today we finally made it over to an AT&T store to get a new SIM card (the SIM’s are smaller for the iPhone 4). While all the contacts where transferred – the text messages, pictures, and notes weren’t and by the time we got back to the house her new phone had already blown up with text messages. Now the challenge was how to get her pictures, notes, and text messages off of her old iPhone and onto the new one without overwriting the new text messages on the new one.

Sure, it would be easy enough to create a backup through iTunes of the iPhone 3G and then restore it to the iPhone 4 – but that isn’t what I wanted to do…I don’t like data loss!

No big deal I figured. There must be tons of free software programs out there to handle this sort of thing…Ummm, I was wrong. So here is what I’ve learned in the process and how I managed to get things moved around for anyone else who wants to avoid any data loss. 🙂

Pictures

Pictures are the easiest:

  • Attach the old iPhone to your computer
  • Create a new folder called something like iphone_pics on your computer
  • Open the iPhone via Windows Explorer (click on My Computer–>iPhone (it may have a unique name)–>Internal Storage–>DCIM–>another folder (probably named something like 800AAAAA).
  • Copy and paste images from this folder into the iphone_pics folder you created earlier.

To then transfer the pictures back to your iPhone you can use the iTunes interface or plug in your new phone, navigate to the images folder using the same process as above and cut and paste the files from your iphone_pics folder into the new phones’ image folder.

Notes

You’d think that forwarding the notes to Gmail and placing them in the Notes folder that later versions of the iPhone use to sync notes across devices would work – that the phone would download said notes, but it doesn’t! I was able to extract the raw text of the Notes by using MobileSyncBrowser.

Alternatively, see this article by Dave Taylor on emailing oneself notes.

Note: While there is a note syncing function in later versions of iOS, it does not appear to be in 4.2.1 which is what my iPhone 3G is running, even though this article seems to suggest it is present in 4.0.

SMS

Here again I resorted to exporting the text messages to a flat text file using MobileSyncBrowser. You’d think there would be a better way to do this, but I haven’t found it!

Dead Ends

I thought that perhaps if I could upgrade my iPhone to a newer version of the software I’d be able to get my data off – perhaps using the notes sync function, etc. I downloaded and installed whited00r, but that didn’t work as it wiped all the data before installing, and couldn’t restore the data from the iTunes backup I had…I ended up restoring back to iOS 4.2.1 from a backup in iTunes.

Software Options

I found numerous applications that claim to help in various ways in extracting data from your device – though few of them seem to offer the ability to then port it into a new device. Here is what I found. Let me know if any of these worked well for you. I tried several, but most of them where very crippled and/or expensive.

  • Backuptrans iPhone SMS Backup & Restore – This application claims to backup iPhone SMS messages and then restore them to an iPhone. Very crippled without registration. Cost is $19. Not too bad. I need to check with the wife and see if having her historical SMS messages on the iPhone rather than in a flat text file is worth the cost…If so, I’ll probably give these folks a try.
  • 91 PC Suite – Believe it was a free program but has been succeeded by Moborobo. Still available for free download. Moborobo looks pretty slick, but it doesn’t yet support iPhone. The 91 PC Suite app. crashed on startup on my Windows 7 machine.
  • Decipher Tools TextMessage – This company offers several applications – one for managing SMS, one for voicemail, and one for browsing files in an iTunes backup. Cost is $19 for the TextMessage application. Didn’t see anything about the ability to transfer the SMS to another iPhone.
  • DigiDNA DiskAid – This software looks slick and appears to be powerful, but does cost around $20 and I didn’t see anything about transferring from one iPhone to another.
  • MacroPlant iExplorer – Another nifty application, but it doesn’t appear to do device-to-device transfers and the cost is $35.
  • Reincubate’s iPhone Backup Extractor – Allows for extraction of data from a backup, cost is $25. No device-to-device transfers.
  • Cucusoft’s iPhone Tool Kits – Cost is $35. Does the usual, but not device-to-device.
  • iPhoneBrowser – Open Source, hasn’t been updated since 2009. Needs a jailbroke phone.
  • MobileSyncBrowser – Lets you perform full exports using the trial version. This is what I ended up using. There is a basic version for $10 and a premium version for $20. Uses iTunes backups rather than live data off of phone. Does not perform device-to-device sync.
  • ImToo iPhone SMS Backup – Backs up SMS, no device-to-device sync, $10.

There are innumerable options out there, but they all seem to be lacking – especially on the device-to-device front…and many of them seem a bit on the sleazy side. I’d be hesitant to download them or give them my payment information.

Conclusion

Before you upgrade your iPhone, do a full backup immediately preceding, then get the SIM out as quickly as possible so no further SMS etc. messages come in. Once the new phone is loaded, restore the data from the most recent backup. You’ll avoid all this headache.

For those who are in this same situation – I’ve spent hours trying to figure out a resolution to this dilemma to no avail. If you find one, let me know.

Technical Appendix

For those so inclined, here is some additional technical information from a geeky perspective along with some relevant articles.

  • SMS is stored in a SQLite database – at least the backup files are.