One for our overseas friends – 5 essential apps for surviving London 2012

There’s a lot going on in the UK this year with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Olympic games lighting up the summer calendar. It’s been recommended that we Brits skip our customary summer holiday to warmer climes in favour of a “staycation” in order to make the most of all the fun.

For our overseas friends who are considering a trip across the Channel/Atlantic/North Sea/Irish Sea this year, we thought we would come up with a few suggestions of essential London travel companions – for your iPhone.

1.       British Airways – Free 

You can view your check-in information, live departure times and gate numbers or can even book flights directly from the app. It provides access to your boarding passes and even allows you to check in with your phone. If you’re not planning on travelling with British Airways then check to see if your airline has a similar app.

 

2.       London Tube Deluxe – 69p/$0.99

This is a must for anyone planning to brave London’s notoriously busy underground. You can use it to plan journeys and check the status of specific lines which are prone to weekend closures. Available in multiple languages.

 


3.      
iPhoneBookUK – £2.99/$4.99

Unlimited searching of residential and business telephone numbers and addresses for anywhere in the UK. The “near me” function allows you to find the post offices, banks, pharmacies etc. nearest to your current location. Definitely cheaper than calling the expensive directory enquiries numbers.

 

4.       London Travel Guide – Lonely Planet – £3.99/$5.99

A detailed city guide with attractive photos and articles about things to see and do. It’s easy to use and beats carrying around a heavy guide book all day.

 

 

5.       Hailo – Free

A bit of a gimmick but worth downloading just to see how it works. The app claims that you can hail a black cabbie with just two taps on your iPhone and then choose whether you want to pay by cash or by card. You can watch the black London cabs circling around you on a map and see when yours is approaching!

Directory enquiries iPhone app launch

Remember me saying I was designing the website which was going to be launched alongside our new directory enquiries iPhone app (see this post)? Well they’ve both been launched now. You can find iPhoneBookUK in the app store now and visit the accompanying website at www.iphonebook.co.uk.

iPhoneBookUK provides you with an unlimited telephone lookup and address lookup. It finds both residential and business information and has a “near me” function which uses your location information to find results near to your current location.

Results are displayed alongside a Google map and you can add the telephone and address information to your iPhone contacts directly from the app. There is also an option to dial the number straight from the results page.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-check it out!

Creating overlapping, punched out text in Adobe Illustrator CS4

I was designing a brochure in Illustrator CS4 recently and wanted to create this effect but couldn’t find anything on the Internet that showed me how to do it. I ended up figuring it out myself so thought I would share how I did it. It may not be the most efficient way, but I got the effect I was going for!

1. Create the shape and the text you want to overlap and make two copies of each. I’ve just put this on a grey background so the text shows up for demonstration purposes.

For now, hide the copies of the shape and text that are lower down the list of layers by clicking on the eye symbol next to the layer you wish to hide.

N.B. When pasting, hold down Ctrl+F to paste in place.

2. Create outlines of the top text layer by right clicking on it and selecting “Create Outlines” from the drop-down.

It should then look like this.

Next, select the top text layer (which is now in outlines) and the top shape.

Find the “Pathfinder” window. If it is not already visible, click “Window” in the top toolbar and select “Pathfinder” or simply just hold down Shift+Ctrl+F9 to open it up. Now click the “minus front” button which looks like this  .

3. You should now be left with three layers. Hide top layer but you can now show the other two. Ensure the text layer is above the shape layer in the layers panel.

Right click text to create outlines then ungroup by right clicking again and selecting “Ungroup”.

Select and delete all letters that fall entirely within the shape; in this case – E R L A P P I. Keep any letters that overlap with both the shape and the background (V and N).

4. Now is a good time to reverse the colours of the letters and the shape. In this case I have made my letters blue and changed the colour of the shape to white. Now bring the shape in front of the remaining text and make another copy of it.

Select one copy of the shape and then the letter V. This can be done while holding down Shift while you select the two objects. Again, use the pathfinder window to “minus” the front layer. Do the same with the N.

5. You will now be left with two letters that look like they each have a scoop taken out of them!

Unhide the blue shape (top layer) and you can see effect take shape.

Select all and group by holding down Ctrl+G.

6. Finally, set the shadow effect. In the top menu bar click “Effect” and scroll down to “Stylize”, select “Drop Shadow” and an options box will open.

You can set the shadow size, opacity and position in this box. Make sure “Preview” is selected so you can see how the shadow looks before clicking “OK”.

7. You now have a shape with overlapping, contrasting text. When saving, ensure you save on a transparent background so that you can see the through the punched out text on the shape.

 

9 Inspirational iPhone App Website Designs

I have been given the task of designing the website which is going to launch alongside our new iPhone app. To give you a little background, ukphonebook.com is an online directory enquiries service which Simunix developed 12 years ago. Owing to the success of this service, it has long been our intention to create an iPhone app version of it as we felt it would be perfectly suited to that platform, and so came iPhoneBook.

Before beginning a project like this, I always turn to Google to track down some inspiration. I started off by Googling, “best iPhone app website designs” and a long stream of best of and most beautiful lists appeared in my browser. Here are a few of the examples of good design that I picked out as my inspiration for the iPhoneBook app website:

Amble

Nice, muted colour scheme. It’s not cluttered but there is more information as you scroll down the page. I especially like the map shape at the bottom of the screen – a very clever and subtle touch. It’s not obvious how you purchase the app from the App Store though.

Attic

I love this. It’s so striking and immediately you are presented with the app icon so you know what you’re looking for on the app store. Hardly any text, just a few screenshots and a clear link to the App Store. Stylish, bold and simple – perfect!

edovia

My favourite combination of colours: grey, black, white and blue (very in keeping with ukpb/iPB). The stripes of colour are eye-catching, it’s not overloaded with effects, it’s neatly laid out and there are plenty of screenshots.

Dig Deep Fitness

Clean and simple.

ShakeItPhoto

Apart from the logo and tagline, there is virtually no text. It doesn’t need it, just a QuickTime Movie of the app being used. Very cool B-)

NotifyMe

Fresh and clean but the tabs at the top seem a bit out of place.

TrackDebt

Vertical and horizontal stripes! Wouldn’t have thought this would work but coupled with the vivid green it looks really fun. Hardly any effects used which seems to balance out the bright colour scheme and bold patterns.

Convertbot

This is where I got most of my inspiration from. The black bar frames the image of the iPhone nicely, this was an idea I borrowed for my design. Colour scheme is soothing and elegant, just the effect I was trying for!

Read Me Stories

Super colourful, not too much information – just a brief description, a demo and a link to purchase it on the App Store. The texture of the background looks effective too (I also borrowed that idea for the iPhoneBook website background – did it using the noise filter in Fireworks).

The iPhoneBook website isn’t live yet so don’t judge my design skills on what’s there now! We will be launching the app and website in the new year.

We’ve arrived

T2A has arrived! The API which can be used for finding, validating and verifying data has been launched along with its own developer forum, plus Twitter and Facebook pages in order to encourage interaction amongst users.

We’ve made the full range of Simunix data available to developers via this API which can be incorporated into any system to build professional websites and business applications. There are a large range of services that we provide, each of which fall under one of the following five headings: Location Services, Find People, Telephone Numbers, Address Information and Data Validation.

We have provided code examples and created extensive documentation to help with the implementation of T2A. We are also hoping that users will make use of the Developer Forum to share ideas and get help from an active community of developers.

The newly designed T2A website makes for easy navigation through the various search options and also allows users to have a go with an online demo of each service.

We are priding ourselves on the fact that we provide the most competitive pricing for this kind of service. The pricing page details the different credits packages available with information on the number of credits you get, package price and price per credit (we offer volume discounts). There is also information about how many credits each service uses.

Visit www.t2a.co to have a look for yourselves. We are always open to any thought or suggestions you may have about T2A so please don’t hesitate to share!

The new era of cloud computing

Our Managing Director, John Lewis, was a guest speaker at a conference last week; ‘Through The Cloud With Intelecom’.

Cloud computing is the buzz thing for businesses and consumers alike just now, but we at ukphonebook.com have been providing ‘cloud’ based services since our launch in 2000. For those that don’t know what cloud means, it describes the way in which software, data, services etc. are delivered to your computer.

It used to be that companies (and people) would have all their software installed on their own servers, PC or Mac and the data would also be hosted locally. This meant huge IT departments were necessary to manage the hardware and network infrastructure. Cloud changes this and the concept of Software as a Service or SaaS as it’s known becomes the norm. What this means is that, as Internet browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari become more powerful, very sophisticated programs can be delivered to your computer desktop via the Internet.

Taking it a stage further, thanks to high-speed broadband, your data (photographs, music, films, spreadsheets, databases etc) can also be stored and accessed remotely. There are massive advantages to this, perhaps the most important being that your data is completely secure and you can access it from anywhere in the world that has a good Internet connection.

At the conference, John spoke about the paradigm shift needed in the minds of Directory Enquiry (DQ) operators like BT and The Number to move away from the traditional call-centre based service delivery of 118xxx services to the concept of home-workers delivering the service using Simunix Ltd’s 118-Express solution.

118-Express works in tandem with Intelecom’s telephony platform to provide a full featured DQ solution that will work from any location. The potential cost-savings for DQ providers are significant as they can focus on service quality and value for money issues rather than managing huge call-centres and the associated hardware installations.

The average cost of a 118xxx call is now almost £2 compared to 50p before the service was opened up to competition in 2003.

Through the cloud of software delivery

14 April 2011, York

John Lewis, Managing Director of York-based online directory services provider Simunix, was guest speaking at the “Through The Clouds With Intelecom” conference in London earlier this week about the growing importance of cloud computing and its effect on the Directory Enquiries (DQ) industry.

Simunix has been providing ‘cloud based’ services since the launch of its online directory enquiries website, ukphonebook.com in 2000. ‘Cloud’ describes the way in which software, data, services etc. are delivered to a computer without the need for large IT departments.

Companies (and people) often have all their software installed on their own servers, PC or Mac and the data is hosted locally meaning huge IT departments are necessary to manage the hardware and network infrastructure.

John explained, “Cloud changes this and the concept of Software as a Service, or SaaS as it is known, becomes the norm”. This means that as Internet browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari become more powerful, very sophisticated programs can be delivered to computer desktops via the Internet.

John then took it a stage further, “Thanks to high-speed broadband, your photographs, music, films, spreadsheets, databases etc., can also be stored and accessed remotely”. The main advantage to this method of storing data is that it is completely secure and is accessible from anywhere in the world that has a good Internet connection.

At the conference, John spoke about the paradigm shift needed in the minds of DQ operators like BT and The Number. He suggested they move away from the traditional call-centre based service delivery of 118 xxx services in favour of home-workers delivering the services using Simunix Ltd’s 118-Express solution.

118-Express works in tandem with Intelecom’s telephony platform to provide a full featured DQ solution that will work from any location. The potential cost-savings for DQ providers are significant as they can focus on service quality and value for money issues rather than managing huge call-centres and the associated hardware installations.

The average cost of a 118xxx call is now almost £2 compared to 50p before the service was opened up to competition in 2003.

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UK organisations wasting over £25,000 a year on expensive 118 calls

23 March 2011, York

A recent survey conducted by York-based Simunix, provider of the online directory enquiries service ukphonebook.com, of its 2 million plus users has revealed an alarming lack of awareness amongst its corporate customers of the true cost of calling directory enquiries from mobile phones.

Many large organisations, both private and in the public sector that provide mobile phones for employees are unaware of the unnecessary charges staff are accruing by calling 118 numbers from their mobile devices. An awareness campaign has been launched by Simunix after its market researchers found that some organisations could be saving over £25,000 a year by encouraging staff to use the mobile version of ukphonebook.com instead.

Simunix performed a study to determine exactly how much the various mobile networks charged for a one minute call to the two biggest directory enquiries providers, The Number’s 118 118 and BT’s 118 500.

The 3 network emerged as the most expensive network for calling 118 118 and 118 500, charging £2.55 and £3.58 respectively for a one minute call. Orange, T-mobile and Vodafone were all around the £2 mark with O2 emerging as the cheapest option charging £1.53 for a one minute call to either of these numbers (this is actually cheaper than dialling from a BT landline).

“We were shocked to discover how much people are paying for this information”, says James Bradley, a Marketing Executive at Simunix. “If organisations are to clamp down on this unnecessary expenditure, they need to offer their staff an alternative”.

Simunix currently provides organisations of all sizes throughout the UK with access to its own online directory enquiries service, ukphonebook.com. Many organisations have reported savings of thousands of pounds a year since incorporating the service into their systems as it removes the need to dial expensive 118 directory enquiries numbers.

The mobile version of this online directory enquiries service is now being offered to all corporate ukphonebook.com customers. Most of the UK’s police forces have already incorporated the service into their mobile operations.

James continues, “ukphonebook.com for mobiles is the perfect alternative. It’s a low cost, easily accessible source of information”.

Users of ukphonebook.com can search for telephone numbers and addresses from as little as 3p a search. If an organisation was to perform an average of 600 directory enquiries calls from mobile phones per month, they could potentially be saving up to £25,560 a year by using Corporate ukphonebook.com for mobiles instead.

The cost of calling directory enquiries, whether it is from a mobile or a landline has risen steadily since the industry was deregulated in 2002. Even dialling 118 118 or 118 500 from a BT landline costs users £1.68 and £1.65 respectively for a one minute call. Unless organisations take measures to prevent their staff from regularly calling these numbers, they will continue to lose money.

However, for those who cannot be convinced away from dialling for directory enquiries, Simunix are encouraging them to do a bit of research into the different 118 services available. John Lewis, Managing Director of Simunix says, “People will dial the number that first pops into their minds, which thanks to aggressive advertising campaigns tends to mean they are calling two of the most expensive services out there”.

He continues, “We are encouraging people to take the time to find cheaper alternatives. At Simunix we provide our own directory assistance number, 118 365 which costs 50p for a one minute call – that’s a third the price of calling 118 118 or 118 500”.

Simunix first launched the online directory enquiries service, ukphonebook.com in 1999. The public version of the website is available to private users who are given 5 free search credits daily with the option to buy more if needed. There is also a mobile version of the public website which is free to search and requires no registration. Since then, the company has gone on to introduce a number of additional directory solutions to the market including 118 365, 118-Express, TPS Manage and ZoneSearch.

-ends-

The cost of calling directory enquiries from a mobile phone

I realise I may be starting to sound a little obsessed with how expensive it is to ring directory enquiries these days, but I feel it is important that people are made aware of where their money is going.

I conducted a little study recently to see just how much it can cost a consumer to ring a 118 number. Through previous research, I already knew how much it cost to ring two of the biggest directory enquiries providers (118 118 and 118 500) from a BT landline – £1.68 and £1.65 respectively. However, I had heard horror stories of people being charged even more extortionate amounts to ring from a mobile phone so that is where I focused my investigation.

This is what I found:

This table shows how much it costs to make a one minute call to each of these three directory enquiries numbers from the various mobile networks.

So the 3 network emerged as the most expensive for calling 118 118 and 118 500, charging £2.55 and £3.58 respectively for a one minute call. O2 has emerged as the cheapest charging £1.53 for a one minute call to either of these numbers (this is actually cheaper than dialling from a BT landline!!).

You will fare a little better ringing our cheaper than cheap 118 365 with one minute calls from a mobile averaging out at £1.15 across all networks. The cheapest networks to call 118 365 from are Orange and O2 costing 57p and 66p respectively for a one minute call.

Remember though folks, the cheapest way to find address and telephone information is by using online services such as www.ukphonebook.com which gives you 5 free search credits daily. We now even have a mobile version of the site so there’s no excuse to be paying the price for directory enquiries!

Don’t worry, we’re still the cheapest for directory enquiries

We recently sent out an email to all registrants of ukphonebook.com reminding users of our low cost directory enquiries telephone service, 118 365.

This email appears to have caused some confusion amongst recipients who have misread the small print and been led to believe we are charging people £49 per minute to use this number!

I can assure you this is not the case. To clear the air, here are the details of exactly how we charge users of the 118 365 directory enquiries number:

Calls to 118 365 cost 50p for the first minute with no additional connection charge. Calls are then charged at 0.83p per second after the first minute which is equivalent to 49.8p per minute. Calls are usually successfully handled within the first minute meaning that your directory enquiries call should generally cost no more than 50p.

The culprit