I’ve just bought an iPhone…now what? Part 3

29 08 2010

Welcome to the final, ‘I’ve bought an iPhone…now what? post. For links to the first and second post, see the bottom of this post. In this final roundup of Apps, I cover the following genres from the Appstore: Productivity, Reference, Social Networking, Sports, Travel and Weather. To download an App, click on the relevant App icon.

Productivity :

2Do- One of the best todo Applications on the store, with a bolster of features that range from extensive search features and location based tasks. Unlike other Apps in this genre, 2Do features calendar integration which helps sort tasks into categories. 2Do also provides further integration features by importing contacts into the App, so they may be tagged in tasks, as well as featuring a sync and backup facility that syncs the todo data with your PC or Mac. (Lite and paid version, £2.39, scored 5 out 5 in an Appjudge review)

Opera Mini- The first real alternative to Mobile Safari, that doesn’t use webkit to power your browsing experience. Opera have opted to use their own in house compression software that allows users to surf the web quicker, especially over a 3G and Edge connection. The compression software cuts down the data that’s downloaded to view a site by up to 90%, meaning that not only does this App save you time, but money as well, since you’re using less bandwidth. Opera Mini also comes with some good features that help differentiate from Safari and other browsers, such as the Speed dial, which allows you to quickly access your favourite bookmarks, as well as Opera link, which syncs your bookmarks, history and passwords from the desktop client to your device. (Free, scored 5 out 5 in an Appjudge review)

Dropbox- For those with a Dropbox account, the official App, is a must. Not only does it provide you with an easy way to view all your Dropbox files on your iDevice, but it also allows you to upload content from your device. As well as this, files that are selected to go in the favourite section can be accessed later without the need for a data connection, meaning that your most important files are only a few touches away. To aid with navigation, the user interface of the App focuses around simplicity, with a search bar at the top, and content such as photos being displayed in the gallery view. (Free, scored 4 out of 5 in an Appjudge review)

Reference :

Articles- A good front end that allows you to search and view all of the articles on wikipedia. Rather than resort to the mobile version of the wikipedia site or another App, Articles hopes to draw in users with it’s clean and intuitive interface. Articles allows the user to just focus on the information that’s being shown by displaying the text in a clear format and shrinking images, that can be enlarged once tapped upon. As well as this, Articles features a number of other unique features that helps set it apart from other Apps, such as the ability to search for related Wikipedia articles based on your location and a bookmarks feature, allowing you to come back to favourite articles. (£1.79)

Dictionary.com- There will be times, when even the best of us need to look up the spelling or definition of a word, and for those times, you should turn to the Dictionary.com App. Unlike similar Apps in this niche, the Dictionary.com App stores the majority of the words on your device, meaning that the App weights in at 44 megabytes, but the advantage of this, is that you won’t require a data connection for looking up most words. As well as providing the obvious lookup functionality, the App can pronounce words, give example sentences and give the origin of the word as well as provide Thesaurus functionality. The App comes in two different flavours; a free ad supported version, and a paid App without the adverts. (Free and paid version,£1.19)

Wolfram Alpha- Sometimes Wikipedia just won’t do, and for those times in which you require a reliable answer, the Wolfram Alpha App will have you covered. The App gives you access to all the high quality information that the site offers, but it’s contained within an optimised interface, that promotes easy of use and navigation. For those of you with an iPhone 4, the App will alter image quality depending on the strength of the data connection that your device is receiving. (£.059)

Social Networking  :

Facebook- Rather unsurprisingly, the official Facebook client is the best way to stay in touch with your friends. The App has all the features of the main site, such as chat, events, notes, contact search and the ability to ‘like’ statuses. The App also boasts features that are unique to the mobile platform, such as push notifications, that will notify you when you receive a new message, notification or friend request. As well as this, the App has recently been updated to include, Places, which allows you to checkin at places, Foursquare style, and tag friends who are with you. (Free)

Foursquare- The App gives you access to the up and coming service, based around ‘checking in’, with your friends as you travel around different locations. In an attempt to encourage users to continue to check in, the App incorporates game mechanics, based around points and mayorships. Each time you checkin, you are rewarded with a set number of points, on top of which, bonuses points can be added, for performing certain actions. Checkin to a location more times than anyone else, and you become the mayor, with some shops and restaurants offering special discounts to their mayors. But, if someone else checkins to the location more than you, then you’ll lose your mayorship, along with your special discounts. As well as the gameplay elements, Foursquare provides information regarding the area you’ve checked into and allows users to add tips. Overall, the unique gameplay elements, combined with the location based information, makes this an App to have. (Free)

Twitter- The web service Twitter has recently bought out one of the best Twitter Apps on the Appstore, ‘Tweetie 2’ and re branded it as their own with some minor changes. The App gives you access to all the same functionality of the website such as the ability to send direct messages, share photos and videos, realtime search and Tweet, along with all the relevant hashtags. (Free)

Sports :

Sky Sports Score Centre- Love Football as much as I do? The Sky Sports Score Centre App allows you to keep up to date with all the related news, score and fixtures of your team, when you’re on the move. The App allows you to create a customised homepage, which is based around your favourite team, and features content, such as next fixtures, latest scores and league position. You can also access scores from all the different leagues, as well as text commentary, team line ups and photos. Overall this is a very well polished App and one of the easiest ways to find out the latest scores. (Free)

Golfshot: Golf GPS- For those of us without our own caddy, the Golfshot App is the next best thing. The App provides detailed maps and information on over 33,000 courses across the globe. The App has a number of features that aim to aid golfers that utilises the device’s GPS, such as the ability to touch a point on a hole and get distances to that point and from there to the green. (£17.99)

iSport- If you find yourself in an unfamiliar location and feel the need to play your favourite sport, whether that be football or tennis, the iSport App could become one of your best companions. The App makes use of the GPS function in your device to locate the nearest football pitch or tennis court. All you need to do, is decide which sport you want to play, and from there the App will provide a map to your chosen location as well as contact details. The user interface is simple and to the point, allowing you to quickly find the information that you need. (£0.59)

Travel :

London Tube Deluxe- Whether you’re visiting London for the first time, or you’re a resident, the London Tube Deluxe App will help you navigate the maze of underground trains more efficiently and quicker. To achieve this the App has an array of features such as, a tube map, live departures board, timetables, status updates and push notifications. But by far the most useful feature being the journey planner, which allows you to pick a station to start from and a destination station and the App will do the rest. The App can offer multiple routes based on the number of changes and time, as well as working around any station or line closures. (£0.59)

Google Earth- Imagine having the ability to pinch, scroll and touch your way around the entire world- with the Google Earth App, you can. The App is a cut down version of the Desktop client, in terms of functionality, since it lacks some of the features, such as the variety of layers that you can apply for additional information. However, overall, this App is worth having, purely to show how capable your device is. (Free, featured in a monthly disposable App post)

NextBuses-Rather than stand in the cold and rain, wondering when the next bus is due, you should stay inside and check the timetable using Nextbuses. The App covers 370,000 bus stops around England, Scotland and Wales, so chances are good that your local bus route is covered. You can search for routes and destinations and the App can locate the nearest stops using either GPS or an entered postcode. Nextbuses also allows users to favourite their most used bus stops for easy access. (£0.59)

Utilities :

Torch for iPhone 4- The names says it all really. It turns the LED flash on the back of your iPhone 4 into a torch, allowing you to illuminate darkened areas. Torch for iPhone 4 will also allow you to send Morse code, via the flashing light, if you happen to know it. The App features a nice user interface, with some detailed metallic textures being used. As you may have guessed by now, this App is only for iPhone 4 users. (£0.59)

RedLaser- This App aims to help shoppers save money when they are out and about with their iPhone. RedLaser makes use of the camera that’s integrated into your iDevice to scan barcodes and then with this information, perform a price comparison search to find the best price for the product that you’ve scanned. For times when the camera fails to read the barcode, the App uses a smart search feature combined with a manual code entry form to find the product. The App reads barcodes from both the US, UK and Europe. (Free)

Battery Doctor Pro- This App is aimed around making sure that you get the most of your iDevice’s battery life. Batttery Doctor Pro gives you detailed statistics on your battery and from that, it can predict how much time you’ll squeeze out of the battery, based on 16 usage models. As well as this, the App gives a health report on the state of your battery, gives tips on extending the life of your batter and logs each time your charge and the duration. Overall, this App is a must for all users, since we all could do we getting an extra few minutes out of our battery. (£0.59)

Weather :

Weather Pro- For when the stock weather App won’t cut it, the Weather Pro App will. The App covers over 2000,000 locations worldwide with seven day forecasts. The App focuses around detailed weather forecasts and weather radar can be displayed for the majority of European countries, as well as the USA. The App boasts a clean interface that centres around displaying the weather information on a light blue background. The App is also optimised to work off any type of data connection, whether that be a weak EDGE connection or a strong WiFi signal. (£2.39)

AccuWeather- For those who take the forecast a little less seriously and would rather not shell out for an App. AccuWeather is still heavy with the details, giving users access to information such as air quality, UV index levels and radar. The App also features a clean interface, with a small ad banner along the top. Overall, this is a great, free alternative to the default Weather App. (Free)

Windfinder Pro- This App is aimed at kitesurfers, windsurfers, sailors and paragliders. The App gives forecasts for over 15000 locations worldwide and gives information such as wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, cloud coverage and perception, just to name a few. (£1.19)

Got an App that you think should be in here? Let’s hear about it, in the comments section below. Part one of this post is available here. Part two of this post is available here.

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Welcome to the Social Epicentre

21 08 2010

We live in a world in which we have a dual identity, one in the real world and the other, on the internet, and for most this comes in the form of a Facebook or Twitter account. As well as this, there has been a rise in Geo location and the integration of this with the social sites, with the rise of services such as Foursquare. However, at the moment, all of these web and social services are failing to interact with one another. For example, I can check in with Foursquare, but then I can’t create a Facebook event using this Geo location data and invite friends to it, and I can’t check Twitter for related tweets about the location that I’ve checked into. In an attempt to bridge the gap between some of the social services, the Hotlist App  aggregates data from your Facebook account to populate the App with events and friends. From there, other services, such as Yelp and Twitter, provided additional information, which all contributes to a stream of relevant information that the user can use to their advantage.

The Basics

Category: Social

Last Update: 30 July 2010

Seller: Hotlist Media, Inc

Price: Free

Size: 1.2 mb

Version: 1.0

Requires: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

The Review

One of the key features that sets the App apart from other social services, is the level of integration that The Hotlist offers. On the most basic level, the App connects with your Facebook account so it can import friend’s details. From there, based on events in the Hotlist database, the App can provide reviews from Yelp, the girl to guy ratio and, probably the most helpful, Tweets from people at the event, which gives users an insight of the vibe of a venue without stepping a foot inside. The integration of this data, combined with your friends from Facebook, gives the user access to information that allow them to make better informed decisions.

The overall level information that the user can gain from using this App is staggering, however, the developers need to continue to expand the level of integration, with additional services, such as Foursquare. I understand that this will rely heavily on how open social services are willing to be when it comes to integrating their data into the Hotlist App, however the more relevant services that The Hotlist aggregates, the more useful the App becomes, since with more relevant and quality information, users can make better decisions.

Along with the integration and aggregation of external data, the App is also well stocked out with features, such as directions to events which exports to the Google Maps App. Users also have the ability to track their friends through both a profile page, which reveals additional information on the person, as well as a news stream that mentions when and where your friends will be.

At the time of writing, the App covers over 1.2 million venues across 86 cities, and the App encourages users to add venues through the database via a simple entry form. At the moment the coverage of events in England is mainly focused around the main cities, however over time, as the service matures, the coverage will spread as people add places to the database.

While the App has good features as well as the integration of your social data, the App would benefit from additional features such as push notifications, for when friends check into or create an event. At the moment, the user has to continually check the App to find out the whereabouts of friends and events. The Hotlist also lacks a settings page, that allows users some basic controls over the experience. On a basic level, users should be able to change the theme of the App, as I don’t think the bright orange header will appeal to all. A good example of user control over the user interface of the App, is the Google Mobile App, which allows users to change the colour of the header. If the Hotlist was to adopt a similar features, it would broaden their user base, since it allows users to tailor their experience. On a more complex level, another setting could help reduce the amount of data that the App downloads. One example of this, is when looking at an event profile, the pictures of all the people who are attending are downloaded. There should be a setting to turn this, and similar data intensive features off.

Conclusion: A promising app with a bright future that is heavily dependent on both users, since it’s up to them to add to the database, and the developer’s relationship with social services. As I mentioned before, it’s vital that the developers continue to integrate other social services into the App in order to ensure that the Hotlist continues to be ahead of the pack. As it stands, this is a good App, which integrates data  and services in a new and inventive way. With a few changes to the App, mainly the introduction of a settings page and regular updates, this could be a five star App.

Rating:

+ Integration and aggregation of data and services

+ Features

+ Inspired new approach to the social App genre

– Minor adjustments- settings page

Like The Hotlist? – You may like…

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Kickball! : Location, location, location

22 06 2010

The Basics

Category: Social Networking

Release Date: April 1st 2010

Seller: Gorloch Interactive, LLC

Price: Free

Size: 2.6 mb

Version: 1.0.1

Requires: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (Requires iPhone OS 3.1 or later) and an account with foursquare, available free from here

The Review

Kickball! is a third party client for, foursquare, a new type of social platform which is founded upon the idea of ‘checking in’ at locations as you go about your daily business. Not only does this allow friends, family and coworkers to track your location, as you check in at the cheap motel for third Friday in a row, but it allows fellow users to leave tips, such as ‘ the bed in room 4 is quite squeaky.’ Foursquare also throws in a competitive element, in which, the person who has checked in at a location the most, becomes the ‘Mayor’. While this does give you bragging rights, it can also have additional benefits, because in some cases, businesses have started to offer rewards to ‘Mayors’, such as at certain Starbucks stores in America. So, despite the fact you’re cheating on your partner, you are at least the Mayor and getting 10 percent off at the motel.

Kickball adds a small set of minor features, in an attempt to differentiate itself from the stock foursquare app. One such example of this, is the improved friend search, which allows users to add friends via searching the iPhone address book, twitter, phone number and first and last name. Furthermore, a ‘I’m here to’ feature allows you to quickly check in when you bump into friends. Users can also upload photos of locations and be notified through push notification when friends upload their photos. The app also boasts searching for people and places through use of a Google maps view. While this is a nice touch, it does require that you have a decent data connection, since anything less than 3G, can make searching via this method more of a time consuming hindrance than a help.

The most noticeable difference between the foursquare app and Kickball, is the vastly superior user interface. You can tell from the moment that you open the app that the developers have focused most of their collective energy into the look and feel of the application. If the developer’s goal was merely to provide a superior interface from which to interact with the foursquare service, then they have succeed. They have utilised black and red to striking effect, with white overlays that appear when additional information is being displayed. The result of this is an app that looks polished and professional. By comparison, the foursquare app looks bland and outdated and users will have a hard time reverting back to this, once they become accustomed to the sleek interface of Kickball.

Despite this, there are a number of problems with Kickball which undermines the app as a replacement for the foursquare app. To begin with I found that searching for places was not as comprehensive when using Kickball and manually adding new places was made harder, since Kickball requires you to enter an address in as well. However, the biggest problem with the app is the instability, since the app will often quit- booting the user back to the home screen, or, fail to make contact with the foursquare service. Both problems truly hold back the application from replacing foursquare’s app as the gateway for iDevice users to the service. As a result, the entire time I was using Kickball, I also had to have the foursquare app, because I couldn’t rely on Kickball for checking in, which complete defeats the purpose of it.

Conclusion : In the end, the outstanding U.I merely acts as a thin veneer, hiding the cracks in the polished surface. The minor features that Kickball brings to the table and the entire app is undermined since the app is unreliable and feels more as a beta product, than that of a finished product. Until these issues are sorted (and they can be in an update) foursquare users should stick to the foursquare app.

Rating :

+ Slick interface

+ Minor features

– Crashes and instability

– Search not as comprehensive as foursquare app

– Oh, did I mention the crashing?

Like Kickball? – You may like…

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