Saturday, 14 November 2009

Appetite... Part 4

First up on Screen 4 is Fire Eagle. It's a geo-location tool from Yahoo. This is a web-link to a mobile website rather than an AppStore app. You can hook it up to other services, such as Brightkite, and it then plots your location here at Fire Eagle. However, seeing as no-one ever goes to or looks at Fire Eagle, I'm not sure that there's a point. Every so often, the service emails you to reauthorise its connections with other apps. It bears all the hallmarks of an in-house Yahoo R&D assignment that has long since been left to rot. Writing this prompted me to think about deleting this link.

Google Earth... other than a passing a bit of time searching for the roof of your teenage penpal in Connecticut's house, what's the point? Google Maps incorporates satellite imagery plus much more and so represents a better everyday app. I'm sure I'm missing something.

Instapaper lets you save webpages from your Safari web-browser, several Twitter apps and even from the desktop for reading offline at a more convenient moment. It transposes web content into an eBook style format, which can be customised and it even includes a scrolling feature, the speed of which varies based on the angle of the iPhone screen.

iProRecorder isn't really necessary now since the addition of the Voice Memo app which comes out-of-the-box with iPhone 3.0 software. However, the built-in audio quality options and UI experience is great. I used this app to record Interactive Voice Response scripts which I then sent to the AudioBoo team to use for their PhoneBoo service, just using the built-in iPhone microphone and the quality was excellent. They didn't use my recordings in the end because @katiemoffat beat me to it by about ten minutes. Grr. Not that I'm bitter ;)

Labyrinth cleverly replicates those little childhood puzzles where you guide a ball-bearing around a little wooden maze by tilting it. I rarely play this now, but it fits neatly into my entertaining bored kids category.

LastFM is quite good, but I always think of this service as a great example of one of those websites that are so good, you never have to visit them. LastFM's integration into many other services and devices which enable scrobbling, means that whenver you use your iPod or listen to Spotify (except the iPhone app version) every track you play is automatically 'scrobbled' to your LastFM library. This means that when I occasionally do fire up this app my 'Neighbourhood' playlist automatically digs out things that I'm likely to enjoy, based on what it has learned. I also use it to play specific artist's music by creating a 'station'... this is another good way of finding other artists who play in the same ball park. That said, it does seem to like forcing certain artists down your throat with alarming regularity. More frogs to be kissed I'm afraid.

LinkedIn - the world's dullest social network has its own application. It's UI is fractionally better than the web version but it seems to insist on you logging in every single time. Still feels like work though.

London Tube - Although I sometimes feel like I know the London Underground network like the back of my very veiny and multi-coloured hand, occasionally I use this as a quick refresher. It's quite nicely designed, much like the tubemap itself.

LotteryView - I don't always buy a lottery ticket, but when I do I check the results here. I suspect that this has been surpassed by newer and better apps but it does the job.

LowGrav - is a cheap rip-off of the ancient but great Playstation anti-gravity racing game WipeOut, which I love. It's a reasonably fathful facsimile, but I'd be SO much happier playing actual factual WipeOut on my iPhone.

AppBox Pro is one of those applications which actually brings together a bunch of seemingly random but useful tools. They're pretty useful to call upon when you need them I suppose. It's just that you don't often need them. Nonetheless, it's quite pretty. There's a Spirit Level, a National Holidays Calendar and even a Ovulation Calculator!! But the Unit Conversion Tool is probably the most useful.

Card Snap Lite lets you take a quick photo of a business card for scanning (fine on the 3GS, you'll need a Griffin Clarifi case with built-in close-up lens on a 2G or 3G iPhone). It then uploads the photograph to the cloud somewhere and within 24 hours the data is OCR'd off the card and sent back down to the app... and automatically added into your address book. The full version of Card Snap is prohibitively expensive at £8.99 (it was £11.99 until decent competitors appeared in the AppStore last week) but it captures more fields from the card. It's pretty accurate, but it is frustrating having to wait up to 24 hours for the OCR'd data to be returned to the app. A competing App, (BC Reader, more later) does everything in the iPhone there and then, has a sexier UI, but is much less accurate.

TVCatchup is great! It's a weblink rather than an app, but it lets you stream live TV (actually 20 second delayed TV) on your phone. It's good over wifi and pretty good over 3G.

It's restricted to UK IP addresses, but is very useful. It's available on the Web too with even more channels, but the small screen size associated with the iPhone makes it a more powerful proposition. A must have. Fire up Safari, go to and add a link to your homescreen.

WordPress. I haven't got a WordPress blog but often wish I did. I just can't bear the unintuitive setup process. I know that if I stuck with it and maybe forked out some cash I'd end up with a pretty sexy blog with all sorts of nice bells and whistles, but I'm time poor and it's an 80/20 deal. Blogger, even though it's a bit noddy, is good enough. Nevertheless, maybe one day someone will over to port me across to WordPress. I'll hang on to this app just in case. now has a proper iPhone app as opposed to the mobile website tuned for iPhone which I made house room for to accommodate this. I'll be honest, I kind of preferred the webapp version. This avatar makes it look like a cheap, tatty knock-off compared to the slick 'a' which the webapp uses. Plus, it doesn't let you browse round the different departments... it's Search only. This seems a pretty fundamental oversight. However, they've left this out to give house room to an experimental service called Amazon Remembers where you take a photo of something you want to remember and it tries to find a product similar to it. Odd.

Foursquare is, as far as the UK is concerned, one of the newer kids on the geo-location block. It's very London-centric, although they did launch in Manchester two weeks ago. Look and feel wise, it's not half as much fun as Gowalla (more later) and if you want to add a new location, you have to work pretty hard to complete full address details. As with similar tools, it integrates with social tools including Twitter to enable you to update your followers as to your whereabouts. I'll stick with it for a while, but other geo-location apps are more fun.

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