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.





How to Find Good Apps

15 08 2010

Unfortunately there is no magical formula for finding a good App. The Appstore has well over 225,000 Apps on the store, at the time of writing, and as a result trying to find a good App, amongst the mediocrity and down right rubbish, can be quite a daunting and a time consuming task. However, in an attempt to provide a guide for you, and other weary App hunters, I have put together some pointers for finding good Apps.

User Interface

In a nutshell this is how you will interact and navigate around the Application. A good user interface will promote the use of the App through highlighting and making it easy to use the App’s features. As you may have noticed, through the general day to day use of your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, Apple excels at this. As you can imagine, the user interface plays an important role and if you’ve read any of the reviews on the site, you will of noticed that one of the first things I scrutinise is, the user interface, since it heavily influences the final product.

Examples of a good user interfaces can easily be found on the Appstore, through simply looking at the provided screenshots, however, I’ve decided to highlight two Apps; the first being, I’am T-Pain. The developer has spent a lot of time creating a visually appealing interface that not only promotes navigation around and the overall usability, but also encourages user to use the App. While, the I am T-Pain App is a good example of an elaborate user interface, in the opposite end of the spectrum, Spendometer, provides a much more straight forward approach, which when in comparison to the elaborate visual eye candy of the T-Pain App, looks almost bare bones. Regardless, the point remains the same, since Spendometer still provides a good interface for the user, but in a starkly different way to the T-Pain App. Spendometer focuses upon allowing users to easily access the functions and interrupt the data easily.

Price

It would be natural to assume that as the price increase, so does the quality of the Application, and while you wouldn’t be far wrong, as always there are some exceptions to the rule. Such an example of this is the official Twitter Application, which unlike it’s competitors, is free. The Twitter App is arguably the best Twitter client on the iOS platform, since the Twitter service merely bought the developers of the high successful Tweetie 2 App and re branded it as the official Application. Another example of this, can be seen been the paid and free version of the Runkeeper Application. The paid version adds very few additional features when compared with the free version. If you can put up with a small advert banner, along the bottom of the App, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t pick the free version over the paid Runkeeper App.

Relevant Feature Set

A number of Apps on the store have an impressive array of features, however not all are relevant or useful. A good App should tow the line between the quantity of features and the quality and relevance of them.  A good example of this is 2Do, an App that aims to please those with the desire to track, manage and set a vast to do list. 2Do has an ever expanding array of features that are all designed around the core functionality of the App. The App offers a number of relevant features, such as the 2Do sync that backups and updates the 2Do data on your computer. As well as the extensive search feature, combined with the calendar integration, helps the user sort and find tasks.

What do the people say?

One of the easiest ways to find good Apps on the Appstore, is to spend a little time doing some research before committing to a purchase. The Appstore provides a rudimentary way for people to rate and review Apps that they have downloaded, and while some can be unhelpful, you can still get a useful insight into the quality of an App. Rather unsurprisingly, Apps that are good tend to get a higher average star rating than their bad counterparts. Also, make sure that you read the reviews for the latest version of the App

Another good way to find out about Apps is to have a look around the site and search for Apps. If you have a new iPhone, check out my posts, ‘I’ve just got an iPhone, now what?, part 1 and part 2. Furthermore, for an example of a good App, see my review of Flight Control or Opera Mini. For an example of a bad App, see my review of Kickball.

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2Do : Time to organise your life

11 06 2010

The Basics

Category: Productivity

Release Date: 8 April 2010

Seller: Guided Ways Technology

Price: £3.99

Size: 9.6mb

Version: 1.2.5.2

Requires: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad (Requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later)

Recommended: Works best when paired with the free sync helper- available for download here.

The Review

There are a number of productivity applications on the AppStore, so in this crowded genre, how does 2Do, a calendar and to do list hybrid, stand out from the rest?

The first thing you are greeted with upon opening the app is a slick interface, with an addition sign in the top right hand corner- to add a task, simply type the icon. From here you can then select from what kind of task this is- a to do, project or list, you then can additional details- the level of detail is up to you, the only required field is the name. Now that you’ve setup an impossible number of tasks for yourself, it’s now time to make sure that you remember to do them. Luckily, 2Do is on hand to make sure you don’t forget to pick up ‘little Timmy’ from football practise, with both local and email notifications. Local notifications consists of the app pushing notifications in the form of alerts-which can be configured to feature a sound, and for those of you with an email address that you’re attached to- 2Do will send your tasks over there too.

The app helps breakdown tasks through a number of ways, the first is called focus view, in which tasks are sorted into categories- you may have ‘work’, ‘home’ and ‘birthdays.’ As well as this, todo’s can be assigned a priority level from one to three. In term of searching, the app also has a number of options for the user. At the top of  todo list, is a search bar, from which the user can search for tasks using keywords, tags, people, soundex, and you can ever search within a date range. All of this, allows the user to effectively search through and sort tasks, regardless of how many they set.

At the heart of 2Do is the notion of integration and this comes increasingly apparent as you start to use the app. When you create a task, you can add a number of ‘actions’, such as ‘Call’, ‘SMS’, ‘Email’, ‘Browse’, ‘Visit’ and ‘Google’. When you select one of the actions, you are given the choice of adding additional information, and it’s here that the app starts to integrate with information and other apps on the iPhone. The first four actions- Call, SMS, Email and Browse, all give you the option of adding in a contact from the address book. Visit, allows the user to ‘use their current location’, using the built in GPS, or add an address. While, ‘Google’, allows you to enter in a web address to visit later. The ‘action’ tasks, helps differentiate these tasks from others, however I would like to see other actions, specifically based around social networking- so you may have under ‘Browse’- Facebook/Twitter profile.

Integration doesn’t stop there, as the app will import your different calendars groups into the app, so you can group tasks under the appropriate calender.  And when you’re done with the app for the day, sit back and wirelessly sync all the changes and new tasks with your computer, using the free 2Do sync software. The software will sync the data to a number of services, including, iCal, Toodle and Outlook.

As you may have gathered so far, the application offers a number of ways to set, search and organise your tasks, however the level of user control is only really realised once you open the settings page. From here, you can access page, after page, after page of setting that help customise the experience to your taste. You can change themes, what invokes the app badge, the type of content that the app displays- there is far too much to cover in just this review.

One nice feature is the ability for users of the app is to vote on up coming features. The developers have also includes a features roadmap, which details the features in both future and past updates. This is a welcome touch, that keeps the user aware of where the developers are heading with the app and gives you a voice too in how this app will further develop.

Conclusion : It a crowded genre, 2Do shines out from the rest, with some well thought out features and unprecedented user control. The application is built around the user with numerous ways to create different types of tasks, integrate them into your contact ecosystem, and then remind yourself to do them. This is an app that should be residing on your iPhone for a long time to come.

Rating :

+ Functions based around managing, searching and sorting tasks

+ Excellent integration

+ Fully customisable user experience

– No landscape mode for text input

Like 2Do? – You may like…

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