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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News Update: Missing prototypes, the official twitter app surfaces and more…

29 05 2010

The story of the missing iPhone 4G prototypes

Apple, once well known for keeping their products secret until launch, have had problems keeping the new iPhone under wraps. It all started when, an Apple engineer, Gray Powell, left an iPhone 4G prototype in a bar. The phone was then found and sold onto tech blog, Gizmodo for a reported sum of $5000. While the police investigation into the first blunder continues, another iPhone has surfaced in Vietnam. To top things off, a white faceplate, for what looks like the new iPhone has appeared as well, suggesting that Apple will continue the tradition of providing a white and black model of the iPhone- the difference being this year, the white iPhone will have a matching faceplate to complement the back of the device.

Twitter gets an official app

Twitter recently acquired Tweetie 2 and have since made minor modifications and rereleased it as the official Twitter app for the iPhone. This was an interesting move from the Twitter team because rather than build their own app, like facebook, they’ve bought, arguably the best, Twitter client for the iPhone. Furthermore, they have yet to release an iPad version of the app, which has led some to believe that they may be living that format for other clients. The reality may be that they are working on the iPad application as we speak, only time will tell. But one does have to ask, does the Twitter app- available for free, here, make other Twitter clients redundant?

Site Update

Since the revival of the site, we have covered two apps, Runkeeper and PewPew 2, and we don’t intend to stop there. We are continuing to work on bringing the site back up to date, with revamps to the Flight Control review- since we first published the review, Firemint have gone live with an iPad version and a slightly update iPhone and iPod Touch app. We also have a few articles that are underway, one covering iPhone OS 4.0 and the other based on my initial thoughts on the iPad. And apart from that, you can of course expect, more reviews of apps.

Disposable App of the month

It’s been quite some time since the last disposable app of the month- in case you don’t know, the premise is simple. We search the appstore for apps, which are worth downloading and trying, but are unlikely to remain on your idevice for any lengthy period of time. This month’s app is, Layar.

Layar, takes advantage of augmented reality technology, which basically utilises a device’s camera, to then overlay information on top of this. The app has a number of layer which you can apply, such as wikipedia, Twitter, Google local search and Foursquare, just to name a few. Applying the Twitter layer, will for example, show the location of nearby tweets, while the wikipedia layer, will overlay information on important landmarks and buildings. This app is worth a try, if only to view this interesting technology, which could one day be integrated into other services.

Please note- for the augmented reality browser in Layar, the app requires you to have an iPhone 3GS, since this feature makes uses of the compass, accelerometer and camera. iPod Touch and iPad users can still download and use the app, however, they will not be able to use the augmented reality browser feature.