My iPhone 3g apps – initial round-up

I’m taking a busman’s holiday over lunch to write a quick round-up of some of the apps I’ve installed so far on my new iPhone 3g. Hope it’s helpful for other users bewildered by the array on offer. They’re in no particular order.

iFob

Groundbreaking ambient networking app that allows you to broadcast a mini-profile and connect/text-chat with other users physically close to you (it bleeps you). At the moment only works within a WiFi hotspot – so useful for meeting like-minded folks at conferences, clubs, coffee shops, pubs, etc. Also currently needs no central server to work, which is neat. But it’d be even better if it worked on the basis of your location whether you were using 3g or WiFi and bleeped you when you were within a specified distance of another user. Nonetheless, a pioneering app – we’ll doubtless see more stuff like this in future. [Update: Well, at least we will if Apple deigns to allow background running of apps on the iPhone with a future firmware update. This app does have a ‘run in the background’ option, but I presume this only works within WiFi hotspots, if at all (not had a chance to test it yet). To work to full potential, iFob would need to run in the background all the time – over WifI, 3g or Edge networks.  So currently it looks like other, less restrictive smartphones will prove a more fertile breeding ground for apps of this ilk.]

[Developer: iCloseBy.com, FREE]

Shazam

Amazing little app that listens to a song in the background wherever you are for about 12 seconds and then identifies it for you. I tested it on some really obscure tracks and it only failed once (with Philip Jeck, an experimental noise artist). A real ‘wow factor’ about this one. Only works with recorded tracks, though, so it wouldn’t ID songs at a gig. Doesn’t work if you sing into it, either, in case you were wondering…

[Developer: Shazam Entertainment, FREE]

Vicinity

Checks your location and lets you see wikipedia articles relating to the area you’re in, as well as details of nearby banks, bars, pubs, cafes, convenience stores, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, takeouts and taxi firms. Nice interface and works pretty well, but it obviously bases the info on nearest town/village “as the crow flies” rather than necessarily the one you’re in. It told me I was in nearby Leytonstone instead of on the edge of Walthamstow and made its recommendations on that basis, meaning none of my local services, cafes or pubs appeared (although it did include wikipedia articles on my area). It also needs to include petrol stations. Nonetheless, should prove very useful when out and about, particularly in major cities.

[Developer: ActiveGuru, UK price £1.79]

Byline

Grabs feeds and full stories from your Google Reader account for online or offline browsing. Useful as a stop-gap until Google brings out an official Reader app or webapp, but for a paid app it should really give you more customisation/user-related options – e.g. browsing your individual feeds and letting you share/star items etc. There are other free RSS readers available if you’re not wedded to Google Reader, which would probably be a better bet in that case.

[Developer: Milo Bird, UK price £5.99]

Last.fm

A killer app for me. Great functionality. Free. Listen to your own or any last.fm stations over WiFi or 3g. Features track scrobbling, groups, etc. too. Top marks. Now, if only Apple would allow the iPhone to run apps in the background while you do other tasks…

{Developer: Last.fm, FREE]

Tap Tap Revenge

Great little (free) beat-matching game where you have to tap or shake the iPhone in specific ways in time to various tracks.

[Developer: Gogo Apps, FREE]

Pianist

Full 88-key piano on your iPhone with sustain and soft pedals and song-recording features. Uses multi-touch, so you can play chords. Difficult to scroll the keyboard while playing though, since the app only shows one octave on the screen. It’s also a little annoying that you can’t trigger two adjacent keys simultaneously by hitting the gap between them, as you could on a real piano – you have to press each with a separate finger. Otherwise very good.

[Developer: MooCowMusic, UK price £3.49]

Band

By the same developer as Pianist, Band features a rock drumkit, bass guitar and more basic piano than Pianist. Also has a ‘Blues Bar’ with pre-programmed blues riffs, a second drumkit with pre-programmed funky rhythms and an ‘audience applause’ sound effect. You can record individual parts and merge them into a saved composition. Superb.

[Developer: MooCowMusic, UK price £5.99]

Enigmo

Fantastic puzzle game of the Lemmings variety, except you have to guide a stream of water droplets into a container. This is the game I’ll be playing the most. Addictive, great graphics, quirky physics, gets the grey matter working and easy to get the hang of. Some of the reviews posted in the Appstore bemoan the lack of instructions. They seem to forget the title of the game is ‘Enigmo’ – figuring out what the various tools do is all part of the challenge.

[Developer: Pangea Software, UK price £5.99]

G-Park

Handy little location-based utility that remembers where you’ve parked your car (or just where you are when you press the button) and guides you back to it when you want.

[Developer: PosiMotion, UK price 59p]

BBC iPlayer (web app)

Works fine when you find something to play, but it only plays the shows that are available as streaming video on the Beeb website (a handful of the total programming on iPlayer). The interface, however, is abysmal and there’s no easy way to see a list of those programs that are available on iPhone. Only when you find and click on the programme you want will you know if you can watch it (because a little play button appears in the middle of the window if it’s available). Needs some serious work on the interface, this.

[UPDATE: I was wrong. Had a bit more of a play with this and if you click on the ‘find programmes’ button in the BBC iPlayer box it does indeed only list programmes available to view on iPlayer – it can just take a while for the play button to appear on the thumbnail. There seems to be more here than I originally thought, too – still only a fraction of the complete content, but more than is available in streaming format on the website I think. However, the interface still sucks – the prominent Google ads are very obtrusive, especially. But, heck, I know the Beeb needs all the cash it can get, and as long they keep pumping out great content I won’t moan any more about this.]

[Developer: BBC, FREE web app]

Right – lunch break over, so that’s all for now. I’ll try to augment this list later in the week, when I’ve had a bit more of a play around. Now, back to the grind…

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