Angry Robot

iPhone App Review Hoedown

Note: there are obviously issues with the App store and the apps contained therein. Because of restrictions imposed by Apple, developers haven’t been able to properly beta test their apps. Also, Apple doesn’t allow apps to do certain things, and the iPhone OS 2 is so far quite unstable itself. So while I may criticize the performance of some of these apps, in many cases it’s not the developers’ fault, and we could expect improvements over the weeks to come.

Apps that Sync With Desktop or Web Apps

Generally, if you’re using the desktop or web apps already, you’ll want to use these on your iPhone.

Evernote (free)

I’ve written about evernote before and suffice it to say that if you use it, you’ll want the iPhone app. It’s not without its problems, though. It’s crashy. It doesn’t cache your notes locally, so it’s slower than it needs to be. It has a voice record feature, but it won’t convert speech to text. That said, if you use evernote, having access to your notes from anywhere is reason enough to use this.

NetNewsWire (free)

If you use NNW on the desktop or the newsgator line of products, this is a no-brainer. It’s a good, clean interface. It will open entries in its own browser, with the option to open the link in safari. It’s usability is marred only by Apple’s limitations on apps, meaning that your feeds won’t update until you open the app, and then you will have to wait a bit. Also, I had one massive crash that took down the whole phone and left NNW unopenable until I had deleted and redownloaded it. I suspect this may have been a WebKit problem, though.

1Password (free)

If you don’t use the 1password app on the desktop, this will be of no use to you, unless you’re a complete security fetishist. Its usefulness is also marred by SDK restrictions, i.e. it doesn’t integrate with mobile safari. So what it will give you is a list of your website logins and secure notes, if you use that feature (I don’t).

Jott for iPhone (free)

OK, I don’t know the advantage of this except for the most hardcore Jott user. That’s because you can just call a jott number and have your voice turned into text, you don’t need to use a dedicated app. I suppose if you want to see the notes you make in jott on your phone, this is for you. But I mostly like jott as a voice portal to other services (evernote, google calendar). It’s unclear how to do this from the iPhone app.

Klick (free)

Theoretically, Klick allows you to access flickr. I couldn’t get it to work though. Delete. I hear exposure is okay in this category.

Simplify Media (free)

Once you install and run the desktop app, this allows you to connect to your iTunes library and stream anything on it, which is certainly an attractive proposition, especially considering you can do so over both WiFi and the cellular network. Unfortunately, the app does not deliver on the promise, even on my own network – expect to get familiar with the word “buffering”.

Standalone apps

The Converter ($0.99)

Even in ‘simle mode’ this is needlessly complicated for what most people will want. I don’t need to convert torque, and I don’t need ‘candareen’ and ‘baht’ clogging up my list of weight measurements. I’d like something simpler that loads quickly, please.

Google Mobile App (free)

Awesome. It simply offers a search box, and will return results including contacts, web searches and things near you. Quite possibly the best interface of any iPhone app, for its simplicity and emphasis on guessing what you’re looking for. (Developed by Alcor, the mind behind quicksilver)

Remote (free)

This is Apple’s remote control for iTunes and Apple TV, and it is excellent. It displays album art, allows searching and rating, and has a superior interface than the iPhone’s own “iPod” application. My one complaint is that this thing doesn’t work with Front Row, which is baffling.

OneTap Movies ($2)

This is a location-aware movie showtime app. It works as you would expect, but has many excellent features: it links to the IMDb page for any movie result, gives you a trailer, and will open up a map showing directions to the theatre. Highly recommended.

Pennies ($3)

Pennies is an expense recording utility. You type in the cost of something you bought and assign it a category, and pennies will keep a record of everything and tell you if you go over the budget you set. It’s a beautiful app, but the inability to define one’s own categories limits its appeal.

Beatmaker ($20)

The most expensive app I own is also my favourite: perhaps that’s rationalization at work. Or, it’s because Beatmaker is an example of a full-fledged app, not a minor utility. It’s really only of interest to electronic musicians, as it’s an MPC-style sampler (well, sample-playback tool) and sequencer. Because of its power, it’s got more of a learning curve than most iPhone apps, but once you figure it out, it’s an excellent beat sketchpad. It comes with a bunch of sample packs, but you can also download desktop software to copy over your own. The interface deviates from the usual iPhone look, and is actually quite nice.

Stanza (free)

Stanza is an eBook reader. It integrates with free eBook depository feedbooks, which provides a collection of public domain masterworks and Cory Doctorow books. You can also download a desktop app and then sync other books wirelessly (haven’t tried this yet). The presentation is top-notch, and it’s graceful to use. Download this for sure.

WikiMe ($1)

WikiMe is a location-aware Wikipedia interface. It’s simple, and kind of a genius idea. It might be very handy for tourists.

That’s everything that I’ve tested sufficiently. Coming soon: iPhone Games Review Explosion!

2 comments on "iPhone App Review Hoedown"

  1. ramanan says:

    OneTap is pretty nice, but I find it is slower — and a lot more busy — than NowPlaying/BoxOffice. Stanza works really well, great find.

  2. D says:

    I haven’t tried NowPlaying, but something faster than OneTap would be good. I basically tried one app in all the categories I was interested in, and if it seemed to do the job and/or it cost money, I stuck with it.

    I could have mentioned Moka VNC Free, too, as I’ve tried that. It wasn’t super-great. It’s a frustrating category – there’s another app, the App Formerly Known As Teleport, that sounds much better, but it’s $25 with no free version so you can’t give it a shot first.

    Oh, and I’ve since gone with Todo (the $10 one you linked to). On account of the sync with web clients – perhap I will write more about this at some point.

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