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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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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