Monday, July 14, 2008

Browsing in the Apps Store

Free Applications Worth Checking Out:

#1 Remote - an iPhone remote to control iTunes and Apple TV. If you own Apple TV is this a MUST HAVE app and its free. In simplest terms it turns your iPhone into a remote control for Apple TV and also iTunes running on your desktop or laptop computer. Couple your devices with the iPhone and you will get menu lists of songs and video by artist, title and type and you can search just like with iPod music and video selestions.

#2 AOL Radio - an application powered by CBS that allows you to listen to live radio over the internet. The interface provides lists of stations by genre (country western, jazz, talk radio, news, etc) and you can stream favorite shows like KCRWs The Business, Design and Architecture or This American Life. Drawbacks - battery eater.

#3 Save Benjis - with Save Benji's the idea is to find the cheapest price available on the web for all kinds of products. You can browse by category or enter the bar code into a search box and Save Benjis goes out to the web and finds the cheapest prices for that product. For results it not only provides a list of the cheapest prices and places to purchase but also a product description and reviews other buyers have written for the item. Drawbacks - it should have a build in bar code reader for the iPhone camera to read.

#4 Currency - a one trick pony app that lists the current exchange rates for countries and major currencies around the world and it is free. Drawbacks: a currency converter could be added but simplicity does have its virtue.

#5 Whrrl - a really cool concept, mapping, social networking, location and friend tracking free app that (like video iChat) is most useful if you have a bunch of friends or family and everybody buys into contributing to its premise and, did I mention, its free.

#6 Pandora - a streaming music service that provides free music for your iPhone based on picks (thumbs up/thumbs down) preferences you make while listening. Pandora was created on the web first and this little free app for iPhone provides a clean and platform specific design. The company claims CD-quality audio and the streaming works well even on edge. Drawbacks - it is a drain on battery, however if you have a docking station or one of those docking stations mounted in a case with stereo speakers, you are golden.

#7 Box Office - this free movie finder app is also a bit of a one trick pony, however, doing a simple yet very useful iPhone app seems to be the key to the kingdom. You can browse either by movie or by theater and it uses the current location finder to assist you with knowing where you are. You can configure the settings to open the geographic range or distance from home. The app also lets you read reviews from Rotten Tomato and purchase tickets through Fandango

#8 vSnax - basically a news and entertainment aggregator of video content, vSnax provides clips from CBS, VH1 MTV, E! and others. While you might find much of the content gossipy, aimed at the Brangelina twitters, and for guys and girls who want to ogle Ford Models, the service seems to work smoothly on both Edge and Wifi and its free.

#9 WeatherBug - this weather app adds additional features to the temperature and weekly forecaster that comes installed in the iPhone. Those added features are live heat index, humidity, dew point, rain amount, wind speeds and wind direction. There is also a button for radar which didn't work when I clicked on it and according to internet accounts was broke for other reviewers as well, But its free and if you are a weather buff, you'll want to check it out.

#10 Jott - Jott records voice memos and converts them into text notes. Swipe a task after you complete it, and it strikes through the words. If you don't like tapping words in on the keyboard or need them converted, Jott can be useful. Drawbacks: they need to improve speech recognition and recording length, add more of the features offered in their phone-based service, and send crossed out notes to the trash. Free.

#11 eBay Mobile - I have never purchased anything on eBay and just like I don't go to garage sales or buy things out of the back of a plain white vans on the backstreets of Chinatown in New York, I don't plan on buying things on eBay. However, if you are an eBay auction denizen, you will find this mobile eBay app indispensable for searching, bid, check on sold items, monitoring your accounts and this elegant interface makes viewing items on the fly super easy.

#12 Shazam - A clever idea to a obscure problem: ever been in a cafe or coffee-shop and your hear a song playing on the music system and its killing you because you can't name the song or the artist? Pull out your iPhone, launch Shazam, click he "Tag It" button and the little app will listen and name that tune in 15 seconds. Once it is tagged it will keep it on a list and you can then buy it from the Apple iTunes Store, view rock-vids or send track info to friends via email.


#1 City Transit - this is the BEST NYC Subway map available and at $2.99 one of the cheapest (don't bother with the $15 one) In addition to the maps of NYC underground system, it has Long Island Railroad (LIRR), and Metro North Commuter lines as well as an antique map for aesthetic pleasure. The app captures service advisories that keep you up to date and links to Google maps and "where am I" features for finding the nearest stop that make app this a must for native New Yorkers and tourists alike. I no longer live in the City but having this app on my iPhone gives me the vicarious thrill be being back on the streets. Drawback: The screen res for the maps is fairly low and while you can make out the station names and lines, it is bit-mappy and quality should be improved.

#2 GuitarToolKit - a guitar tuner that uses the iPhone mic to detect sound that has a metronome and cords feature. $9.99 is the lowest price for a basic standalone guitar tuner from the local music store, so having this on your iPhone is a plus and a bargin to boot.

#3 Comic Touch - another simple unadorned app that adds comic strip bubbles (speak, thought, whisper, exclaim) and alllows you to write captions under your iPhone photos. Turn your life into a comic strip then you can email episodes to friends for $5. Drawback: If this App catches on, it might become cute email round-robin spam that you hate getting from friends and family.

#4 Mobile Flickr - a full-featured Flickr app developed by Karl von Randow that allows you browse photos by sets, tags, search for photos, read and make comments, or see photos from other Flickr members. Uploading to Flickr over wi-fi is fast but it can be slow taking pics and saving them, the $3 charge is better than the $9.99 (w/o ads) for the competing Exposure app that has no upload feature and poor user interface.

#5 MLB at Bat - MLB at Bat has to be a mobile app on the iPhone that sets the standard early for sports applications. $4.99 will get you wireless score access and in-game video highlights for every game on the MLB schedule. MLB Advanced Media has scaled the app to stream video to Edge phone smoothly at lower resolution and higher quality video to 3G and wifi connected iPhones. At this point MLB is selling at the $4.99 price through the end of this season and it will not be known if they will require a new sale/upgrade for next year and if the price to will remain the same. A similar service has been available on the web for a $3.99 month subscription.

Drawbacks: MLB stripped down this mobile version and could have easily provided box scores, team and division standings and player stats to make this window into baseball full-featured. As it is you will have to couple this app with another like the free SportsTap or Baseball and you might want to hold onto them if MLB decides to stop their service after the World Series. NOTE: MLB has issued a cease and desist order against the baseball enthusiast who wrote the amazingly detail rich Baseball App because he used team logos to frame all his stats and historical data the MLB app fails to provide in At Bat.

If the name of the app appears in italics it means the screen capture next to the description is for that app.

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