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July 26, 2009

My favourite iPhone apps

We just hit the one-month anniversary of having our iPhones on Thursday, so I wanted to post something about my favourite apps on it. Believe it or not, I haven't actually gone crazy with it, despite what I thought might happen when we first got them. I do find myself spending an inordinate amount of time using it, however. Even a month later, the shine hasn't worn off. This is probably the first time we've ever been one of the leaders in getting something new, rather than getting it months later. Got them on the second day.

Keep in mind, this isn't a list of best iPhone apps. I wouldn't claim to be an expert on these things, and obviously I haven't tried out that many. But these are good ones, and they keep me coming back to the phone day after day, hour after hour, etc. All of these apps are available from the Apps Store, though I'm linking to their actual web sites here.

1) Blogpress - This is the app I have to start with, because it literally caused me to start this blog. Yes, seeing my cousin's blog kinda/sorta gave me the idea that maybe I should start blogging again, but my history of sticking to something, including a couple of attempts to start blogging, kept me away from doing it. Then I discovered this app in the App Store, saw it was only $0.99 (it was on sale, it's now $2.99), and I thought "what the hell?" My second thought, after impulsively buying it, was "now that I've paid for it, I'd better damn well use it." I had originally downloaded the free "Livejournal" app because my original blog was in that format, and it was pretty good too. If you've got a Livejournal blog. But you can post to both your Livejournal blog and many other kinds of blogs, all using Blogpress.

2) Facebook - This free app allows you to do all of your Facebook stuff on your iPhone. It's good for catching up on your friends, doing your messages, updating your wall and stuff like that. Unless I'm missing something, you can't use any of the applications that you normally use on the web site (like my favourite, Word Twist), but that's not surprising. I would think that would be hard to do. But for simple interfacing and networking with your friends and family, it's very handy to be able to do that on the go.

3) Twitterific - I've tried a couple of Twitter applications on the iPhone, and for me, Twitterific is still the best. It has a very clean interface, lets you move easily from your timeline of all the people you're following to your own timeline. You can reply to somebody else's post, send direct messages, see the thread of a conversation between multiple twitter users. Even better, Twitterific will place you at the bottom of your new post listing instead of at the top. That way, you can start basically from where you left off, instead of having to scroll down and figure out where you stopped last time.

Posting is remarkably easy, with an URL-shortener as well as the most important thing that seemed to be missing from Tweetdeck: the ability to shorten the text of your tweets if they happen to be over 140 characters. It doesn't always work, because sometimes a tweet just can't be shortened without deleting something, but it will try. Tweetdeck on the computer will do that, so why the iPhone app won't is a mystery to me. Incidentally, if somebody can tell me I'm wrong and show me how to do it, I'd greatly appreciate it.

The only things on my wishlist for any subsequent Twitterific updates is the ability to see who your followers are and who you are following, rather than just the number of them. And, most importantly, the ability to actually "cancel" posts rather than just closing the Tweet window. If I attempt to re-tweet somebody and can't make the post fit into 140 characters, I don't want to have to delete everything in the tweet. I'd rather just hit a "cancel" button and have the whole thing go away.

4) Wild West Pinball - This is the one game on the iPhone that I'm addicted to. The game is very simple, the graphics flow really nicely, and it's also a very stable app. Yes, the fact that there's only one table is irritating and there are too many times where the ball goes into annoying places and then down the drain, but it's the best pinball app I've tried on the iPhone. There are probably apps that have more tables or excel at a couple of things, but they have serious delinquencies as well. Wild West Pinball is good at a lot of things rather than being great at something and terrible at something else. And the fact that I can't put it down until I've tried a few games every time I pick up my phone has to count for something, doesn't it?

5) Stanza - Finally, I am an avid reader of e-books, and Stanza is an excellent reader for your iPhone. It has a crisp, clean interface; it's easy to read, and you can do all the normal changes of fonts, magnification, and so on. I believe you can set it up different ways, but I use the default. A tap on the right side of the screen goes forward; on the left goes backward. Tap in the center and you get all the information about your book, from the number of pages in the chapter to what percentage of the whole book you have completed. You can even turn it from black text on white screen to white text on black screen, if you're so inclined. Your books are easy to download from various sites where you have purchased them or you can put them on from your computer. It also supports many formats, such as e-reader and the like. Best of all, it's free! I'm going to give E-Reader a try too, because I did notice that the iPhone version of it is a lot crisper and cleaner than the Treo version I was using before. But it's going to have to blow my socks off to get me to stop using Stanza.

If you see anything you like, I'd love to hear about your experience. Got any apps to recommend to me?


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