CHRIS LEGGETT CHECKS OUT THE STRANGE AND WORNDERFUL WORLD OF APPS
Applications for mobile devices have taken off like wildfire, with nine million downloads registered on Apple’s iTunes App Store alone in its first nine months. These handy apps act like programs for your mobile phone and, when combined with the functions of your phone (such as GPS and wi-fi connectivity) can do anything from locating restrooms to monitoring traffic on the motorway. They add ongoing functionality to your mobile phone, with first and third-party developers constantly coming up with new, useful and exciting applications. And the best part is that they are either free or relatively cheap, and all are extremely accessible, thanks to intuitive app stores for your device.
Most application stores can be accessed directly from your mobile (provided that your phone supports applications). With Apple’s iPhone, it’s as simple as registering an iTunes account online (visit tinyurl.com/q8kj8n) and then pressing the App Store icon on your phone’s touchscreen and logging in. BlackBerry users must download a program at tinyurl.com/d4wp8k in order to access its recently launched application store, App World. Nokia handset users can access their app store by registering and then synching their devices at the Ovi Web site (www.ovi.com). Windows Mobile users need only point their browser to tinyurl.com/pchc6o. And when Android devices become available in New Zealand, users will be able to peruse apps at the Android Market.
Once you’ve registered appropriately for your respective system, you should then be able to browse the many available apps by type and price, and you can even read user-submitted reviews of many apps.
Here are some of the hottest mobile apps currently on offer for your iPhone or BlackBerry smartphones, and a sign of what to expect from Nokia and Microsoft’s app stores for their respective platforms. BlackBerry users will have to check that each app is compatible with their particular device, and there are variants for many of the apps listed here on all platforms.
Format: iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android
Use a wi-fi connection to make voice calls free of charge! This handy Skype application allows you to make cheap phone calls (or free to other Skype users) over the Internet. It’s a little limited in functionality when compared to its bigger brother on PC and Mac, but it’s a sure-fire way to keep your phone bills to a minimum.
Twitterific, TwitterBerry, ceTwit, Twidroid
Format: iPhone (Twitterfic), BlackBerry (TwitterBerry), Windows Mobile (ceTwit) and Android (Twidroid)
Make Twitter truly mobile with these two free apps for iPhone and BlackBerry. Keep your followers up to speed with your movements with nary a computer in sight. Perfect for sending Tweets when carting a laptop around is obtrusive and awkward. Being free apps, you may encounter the odd advertisement in between reading Tweets, so it’s your call whether you step up to the premium editions or not.
The iPhone’s wi-fi detection is somewhat limited, but Wifi Trak is a free app that detects any and all wi-fi networks within range of your device and allows you to connect directly. It also relays information about the strength of the signal and the security of the network, and provides a more comprehensive and robust range of settings for managing wireless networks.
Format: iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile
Ever heard a song you like on the radio, but have no way of finding out the name of the song or the artist? With this app, you simply place your device near the speaker for a few seconds and Shazam will search its extensive database for the song in question. It’ll provide all the info you need, right down to the album artwork!
ATM Hunter uses the iPhone’s GPS functionality to locate the nearest ATM on MasterCard’s international network (virtually every ATM under the sun). It will provide a list of nearby ATMs with a host of information about them, and also a link to Google Maps to show you precisely where they are in relation to your current position.
Price: Approximately $1.70
It’s currently rather easy to inconveniently bump on-screen buttons while talking on your BlackBerry Storm. StormSlider emulates the iPhone’s ‘lock’ screen, which activates automatically when you’re on a call so that you won’t inadvertently launch other functions.
Social Networking Apps
Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn
Format: iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile
All of the major social networking sites have their own smartphone applications that allow direct and optimised-for-mobile access. There’s no need to navigate your phone’s browser to update your status – simply tap the appropriate icon and you’ll receive all of your updates in an instant. Not all of the functionality of their computer-browser-based counterparts is available, but these applications are extremely intuitive nonetheless. Oddly enough, there doesn’t seem to be an app for Bebo, however, and there’s unfortunately no LinkedIn app for BlackBerry devices.
Take a virtual Rubik’s Cube with you wherever you go! iCube makes clever use of the iPhone’s touchscreen to allow you to rotate the cube’s parts.
Developed in New Zealand by Orsome Software, BubbleWrap combines everybody’s favourite annoying habit with an addictive game. Pop as many bubbles as possible before the timer runs out, but be careful of the ones that reinflate! Copycat versions can be found for BlackBerry devices.
Tap Tap Revenge
This Guitar Hero-inspired app is widely regarded as the best free game available on the iPhone and was the most heavily downloaded free iPhone game of last year. Tap each of the descending coloured balls in time to the music as they reach a line at the bottom of the screen; successful taps increase your score. Tap Tap Revenge 2 is also available for free on the App Store.
A truly pointless test of stamina: how long can you hold your thumb to your iPhone? And can you improve on your score? It may be of interest to the super-competitive, but your device’s battery life may inhibit enjoyment. And whatever happened to a good old-fashioned stopwatch?
Staple’s Easy Button
Now this we just don’t get. The instructions for the use of this app are as follows: 1) Click the Easy Button, 2) Your stress is released, 3) Repeat if needed. Seems a little presumptuous if you ask us. Apparently, BlackBerry owners have been downloading this app like crazy.
iSteam simulates a mirror fogging. Just shake your iPhone and the glass will fog up. You can then draw patterns on the glass with your fingers. Or, do it on your bathroom mirror and save yourself $1.29.