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.


House Keeping…House Keeping?

1 08 2010

This post is just to cover some general house keeping with regard to the site and upcoming changes. First of all, I apologise for the slow posting this month- the “I’ve bought an iPhone, now what?” posts took far longer to research and write up than I anticipated, and incidentally I shall be releasing the final part of the trio sometime in August. Speaking of the new month, I plan to get back to posting more regularly with the usual concoction of reviews, rants and news pieces.

Now that’s out the way, let’s talk changes. I’ve decided to break up the monthly news update and spread it across the month with smaller posts. This ensures that news items are up to date and relevant, while avoiding overly long posts at the same time. Fans of the Disposable App of month, should fear not. The monthly feature shall not die an early death, but rather it shall inherit a post of it’s own, meaning you can expect a more thorough run down.

Round up of July’s Posts

Updated: I am T-Pain

In the early days of Appjudge, I reviewed the first iteration of the I am T-Pain App, which was a unique App that made use of the Autotune technology. The App scored a mediocre three stars out of five because despite the great user interface, the technology powering the App gave sporadic end results. Since then, the developers have released a major new update that takes advantage of the iPhone 4, as well as expanding the feature set for the 3GS users.

Default Wars : Battle of the Browsers

For a long time, the only choice in terms of web browsing on the iOS platform was through Apple’s walled garden- mobile Safari. However, with increasing pressure from competitors and users, Apple eventually allowed the first real alternative browser onto the platform, in the shape of Opera Mini. Unlike Mobile Safari and other browsers on the Appstore, Opera is not powered by Webkit, but rather their own compression software, that claims to not only save data charges, but also give users a significant speed boost. I explore, compare and contrast the two browser to work out if either is victor.

I’ve just bought an iPhone, now what? Part 1

In a three part post, I cover the whole Appstore from top to tail, by picking three Apps from each category. In the first post I cover the following categories: Books, Business, Education, Entertainment, Finance and Game.

Cloud computing : Is it already here?

The cloud, the internet and online services are the future of computing, apparently. I explore just what is meant by the term, Cloud Computing, and whether the future is far away, or, if cloud computing is already here.

I’ve just bought an iPhone, now what? Part 2

The second part of the three posts, in which I handpick the best Apps from each of the categories from the Appstore. In this post, I cover the following categories: Health and Fitness, Lifestyle, Medical, Music, Navigation, News and Photography.

Default Wars : Battle of the browsers

10 07 2010

In a number of upcoming posts, I will be looking at suitable replacements for the default apps that come preloaded on your iOS device. In this first battle, of many, I look at what alternatives that users have when it comes to browsers.

Ever since the iPhone has been conceived, there has been only one way to experience the web, and that was through Safari. With the rise of the Android platform, and the relatively open approach to apps,the control that Apple has exercised over the Appstore has been highlighted. There have been a low grumbling for awhile, from developers and users alike, about the lack of browsers for the platform. While this has improved, with the introduction of other browser apps such as mini Browser Pro, sphere web browser and the yet to be approved Firefox sync app ,that allows you to transfer your bookmarks, passwords and history from your computer to your iPhone and iPod Touch. However essentially, they are merely adding functionality or a different user experience to the Safari browser, since they are still founded upon the webkit technology that powers Safari. As a result, these applications merely add minor features that Safari lacked, rather than providing speed increases or a totally new experience.

The first real alternative browser app for the iOS platform emerged from browsing giants, Opera, who had been demoing the Opera Mini app on an iPhone as early as January 2010. However, many doubted that such an app would be approved by Apple, since the Opera browser posed a serious threat to Apple’s mobile Safari. To increase the pressure on Apple, and to draw attention to the app approval process, Opera posted a cheeky ‘count up’ from the time they submitted the app to Apple for approval. The tactic worked, with the App being approved after 20 days, 8 hours and 31 minutes, and Opera Mini became the first alternative browser for iOS users.

The Basics

Category: Productivity

Release Date: 11 May 2010

Seller: Opera Software ASA

Price: Free

Size: 1.0 mb

Version: 5.0.2

Requires: Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Required iOS 2.2.1 or later

The Review

Opera mini has an entirely new approach and is far removed from the Safari user interface, since it features the classic Opera red and dark grey ascents with a much heavier emphasis on a visual approach to the interface, which is extended across all aspects of the browser. This different approach can be exemplified in the different ways that the two browser take on displaying settings. Safari’s setting are text based and contained within the iPhone settings section, while Opera’s are accessed within the browser and they are split down into sections through the use of icons.

The most striking use of the visual approach is the speed dial, which is the first thing that is presented to the user when you open the browser. The speed dial provides you with a large visual approach, from which you can quickly access and manage your bookmarks. Tabs are handled in a similar way, with them being easily accessed from the bottom navigation bar. Each tab is represented with a small screenshot of the page, however unlike Safari, you can move tabs by simply holding and dragging them around each other.

The main feature on which Opera mini is promoted, and perhaps the key deciding factor on whether you pick Opera or Safari, is speed. Rather than use webkit, the technology behind mobile Safari, Opera is powered by their own in house compression software. In effect the software compresses websites and the data, allowing the browser to perform at higher speeds, while not compromising the experience. The Opera rendering engine can cope with anything you throw at it, meaning that you won’t encounter any unsightly checkerboards while flicking through content at high speed. I personally found that Opera mini was faster when on 3G, however was slightly slower when using it on my home WiFi network. Obviously this is going vary from person to person. Below is a speed test comparing the two browsers.

Graph from Lifehacker

One similarity that Opera shares with Safari is along the top, with the address bar on the left, and the Google search bar to the right. Begin typing into the address bar, and Opera will begin suggesting websites, from your history, as you input text. However this is where the similarities end, with the differences even extending down into how you select and copy text. Opera does away with the default text options and opts for a longer hold to bring up the ‘select, copy, paste’, which isn’t as intuitive.

Opera has a number of other features, such as the ability to save pages for later reference, or more importantly, offline viewing. Another good feature is that of Opera link which helps bridge the gap between the desktop browsing experience and that on the handheld device. The free service, which require an account, allows users to sync bookmarks, speed dial sites and history between your Opera browser, and Opera mini. The notion of closing the gap between the desktop and mobile experience is becoming increasingly popular, with many programs offering services that help merge the experiences together. Opera link isn’t the only synchronization tool, since Firefox recently submitted their app, Firefox sync, to Apple for approval.

Some people have criticized the approach that Opera has taken when displaying webpages. Upon loading a page, it displays the content in a zoomed out view, so you can see the webpage in it’s entirety. Touching an area of a webpage causes Opera to quickly zoom in, bringing the content into focus. Users have complained about this approach, however, I believe that they maybe missing the point. The idea is that the zoomed out view gives the user a vantage point from which they can view the site. They can then decide upon how they want to interact with the site and then select the appropriate area and zoom in. This will help save time when compared with Safari, since if a user wanted to engage with content at the bottom of a webpage, they would have to take time to scroll to the bottom. An Opera mini user, can see the content from afar, and one touch of the screen takes them to the content.

Conclusion : Overall, Opera mini is a great alternative to mobile Safari, especially when you are attempting to surf the web without a WiFi connection. Opera Mini isn’t suppose to provide a desktop browsing experience; instead it focuses upon usability and speed, which is achieved through a combination of technology, such as the compression software, and features, such as Opera link. Unfortunately, at the moment you won’t be able to fully replace Safari as the default browser, since iOS opens links that are within mail and other apps in Safari. However, Opera Mini matches Safari in terms of usability, and beats it terms of speed and feature set. Considering the app is free, and only 1.0 mb, all users should find room for Opera mini on their device.

Rating :

+ Compression software improves browsing speed

+ Great features set

+ Easy to use

+ A quality alternative to Safari, that’s free

End result of the first Default War : 1-0 to alternative apps

Like Opera Mini? – You may like…

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