Tag Archives: iphone app review

iPhone app review: Plane Finder

This is an interesting little app for anyone who’s ever wondered about the planes flying overhead. Tapping into a network of home based receivers, the app places the location of commercial aircraft across the UK and parts of Europe on a map. As shown in the screenshots the app allows aircraft to be selected, displaying a range of information, most interestingly the route, airline, height and speed, and there’s even the option to look up some stock photos of the aircraft.

While researching this app, I also came across a website that offers similar information through a web interface: http://www.radarvirtuel.com

Of limited practical use, perhaps, but I find this app a bit of fun when I see a plane passing over and like to imagine it full of holidaymakers or interesting folk bound for somewhere far flung or exotic. Simple things…

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iPhone app reviews: Twittelator, Train Search, Red Laser

Tracking down truly useful iPhone apps can be a tricky business. My iPhone is all but full with apps but when I think of it there’s relatively few I use on a regular basis; most falling into the category of ‘handy to have, just in case’. The App Store highlights the most popular and featured, which encompasses a good deal of the quality, yet some truly mediocre yet talked about apps can make their way into the top listings while niche apps may also fall into the relatively obscurity of the lower listings pages.

There follows three apps throughly worth investigating: Twittelator – perhaps the ultimate Twitter client for iPhone; Train Search – a newly released, free and excellent train timetable & live running app; RedLaser - scan the bar code of products you see in a shop and compare the prices online. For me each of these marks new heights in the function, quality and/or value of iPhone apps.

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TubeDeluxe: iPhone UK app review

I recently rediscovered Transport for London’s live departure boards for tube stations. I find this a useful feature as it allows me to plan my departure from home allowing me to arrive just in time to catch the train to work rather than just watch it leave as I do normally. It then struck me that there might be an iPhone app that incorporates it. Clearly the developers are way ahead of me on this and there indeed several that make available the departure boards in a handy interface.

To date I’ve been using London Tube Status which simply provides the status of the various London Underground lines. It does the job, looks nice and it’s free, however it seems I’ve been missing a trick. From the same author is TubeDeluxe, an app for just 59p which integrates the departure boards, journey planner, tube map and nearest station finder with the line status report. I browsed a number of London travel apps before going with TubeDeluxe and I have to say it’s proven a sound choice.

Let’s start with the departure boards. The Mule resides on the Met line; many miles outside of central London and with trains sufficiently far apart that you don’t really want to extend the commute even longer through having just missed one train and having to wait 10 mins or so for the next. Choose your line, your station and see when the train is due and plan your departure from home accordingly. Excellent. It’s effectively designed and on a line such as the Met where many station don’t show much if any live train information you can be keep a step ahead. Handily, for stations where the line is shared with Chiltern Railways, the departure boards show their departures too.

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Tweetdeck for iPhone – follower management finally goes mobile

Tweetdeck has long been one of the most highly regarded Twitter management applications, offering the ability to break down your Tweets of your followers by groups.

Although a single Twitter timeline can be manageable initially, an increase in users you follow can quickly lead to many posts being missed. Twitter users also typically contact users with a variety of shared interests and before long the a need develops to group users by theme enabling more efficient tracking of conversations and highlighting the posts of users of most interest. This is where Tweetdeck steps in; offering the best grouping and management of Twitter timelines currently available.

Naturally Tweetdeck developed as an application for desktop computers but has now, at last, made the jump to iPhone, allowing the same level of timeline management on the go. Best of all, the desktop and mobile versions sync with each other, ensuring the same groups are available on both devices.

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Truly useful apps: my iPhone home screen

The iPhone offers up to 9 pages of 16 apps. Sounds like a lot but with the number of apps out there offering an immense wealth and variety of functions, combined with the trial and error required to find truly useful apps, these can quickly fill up.

As iPhone app pages fill it becomes all the more important to organise the pages, making the most useful close to hand; those apps that are called upon daily to organise, plan, inform or entertain. Below is a guide to the iPhone apps I regard as essential and hold pride of place on my iPhone’s home screen. Now naturally the prominence of apps is something of a personal choice; each person probably places a different amount of weight on different tasks and their respective apps. These simply are mine. I don’t profess they’re the life-changing for everyone but I would certainly feel poorer without them. Non-default apps in bold.

Home page iPhone apps
Home page iPhone apps

1. SMS – Yes there’s e-mail and Twitter but many tasks still require the simplicity, immediacy and obtrusiveness of the text message. The iPhone’s SMS display is the best I’ve ever accounted, displaying messages to/from each contact in the style of a conversation.

2. Clock – Yes other, more attractive clock apps are available and I’ve got a couple installed but when it comes to setting the alarm for work I still call upon the default clock.

3. Calendar – To be fair I don’t use the default Calendar a great deal but it has its uses, such as the alert. For tasks to-do I use Things, below.

4. Weatherpro – A fine improvement over the default weather app. I’ve reviewed Weatherpro in detail separately but its highlights include detailed weather forecasts for throughout the day, animated satellite and rain radar maps and favourite cities, all combined with the best weather information for Europe available on iPhone.

5. Maps – The default Google Maps and still the best, utilised by many of my favourite apps. Simply superb and indispensible.

6. Settings – Default iPhone apps, always useful to have handy.

7. Contacts – Again, necessary to have at hand.

8. Night Camera – An improvement on the default camera app, Night Camera’s most useful feature is the movement detection, whereby it takes a photo only when it detects the camera is still. This makes it superb for clear, unblurred photos in all manner of conditions and I have it on this setting by default. Also offers timer and normal camera modes.

9. TubeStatus – This free app tells me the status of each of the London Underground lines. Clear, nicely laid out at-a-glance guide to how my commute will be.

10. Pro RSS – All the newspapers and other news sources you want easily at hand with what’s widely regarded as one of the best RSS readers for iPhone. I check the news and tech news websites each morning on the way into work.

11. WunderRadio – This glorious app turns your iPhone into an Internet Radio. It seems to be regarded as best in class and certainly offers the best selection of stations of any such app that I’ve found, including, crucially, all of the BBC radio stations, often with multiple bit-rate options.

12. Facebook – Does what it says on the tin, the Facebook site optimised for iPhone through this app. I like it a lot of quickly and easily checking what everyone has been up to. I find the chat element of it doesn’t work so well but on the whole it does the job. Allows you to update your status and post images, so it’s a good on-the-go option too.

13. MyDiary – Simply a replacement for a written diary. I use Things to remind me what I need to do, however MyDiary is a fine app for logging the progress of the passing year.

14. Things – An excellent to-do app which does have a desktop Mac equivalent that I haven’t yet used. I find this app does a fine job of managing my to-do requirements as it is and I know I don’t use it half as much as I could (and probably should) do.

15. YouNote – While Things reminds me what I need to do and MyDiary logs what I have done, if I come across something in my travels I need to quickly note down, be in in text, as an image or in audio then YouNote is the eminently flexible way of doing it.

16. Tweetie – Last but certainly not least – as I find the bottom-right location really quite handy – is this very well regarded Twitter app. It does pretty much everything I’d call upon a mobile Twitter app to do with its location-based features adding an impressive extra dynamic to Twittering. Not only can you search for Twitterers nearby (my favourite option) but you can also use the GPS to update your profile location and post your location in a map link.

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iPhone app UK review: Wikipanion

Standard Wikipedia entry view
Standard Wikipedia entry view

One of the iPhone’s most outstanding features is the combination of unlimited data transfer through the mobile network combined with wifi to allow access to information almost anyway. It’s a logical step then to create an iPhone optimised interface for that greatest online oracle of information: Wikipedia. Although iPhone’s Safari browser does a superb job as ever of displaying the full Wikipedia website, there’s something to be said about the speed and ease of access that an app can offer. Thinking about it, a number of my favourite apps could easily be replaced by visiting a website, however having the information a single tap away in a format that’s clear and doesn’t require resizing and scrolling is naturally going to be more appealing.

So it is with Wikipanion. This application has proven a little gem when it comes to discovering the answer to all manner of questions, factual disputes and trivia ponderings when away from home. However as we’re rarely talking about matters of life and death, these are items of information that you want to find quickly. This is where Wikipanion really comes into its own compared to browsing the Wikipedia site. The search box is located in the top of the screen for immediate searching. Search results appear in a iPhone-screen sized page as you might expect with the various columns being displayed one at a time, which fits nicely and clearly enough.

As you might expect though this does make for long pages from a site which is known for in-depth content. Fear not, however, as a couple of handy features make the longest of entries quick to access. The first lists the contents of the page, which allows you to jump to the various sections of the entry nice and quickly. The second button links to other, related entries. Combined these make for speedy navigation around and between Wikipedia entries. Highly recommended.

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Essential apps for UK iPhone users part 1: WeatherPro

Having spent the past few weeks tracking down the best apps to integrate it best into my life, I can now start recommending some of the must have iPhone apps. As a British iPhone user I’m specifically looking at iPhone apps from a UK perspective. A great many apps simply aren’t relevant for day-to-day use in the UK, however they’re still featured in the UK app store on the basis that should you travel to that part of the world it would come in handy. It would be nice at some stage for some form of regional filter to be added to iTunes to help separate the wheat from the chaff. However until that happens it’s down to iPhone users to recommend the best apps to each other for their own country or part of the world.

The British are renown for liking to debate their oft altering weather, so let’s have a look at the best app for UK and indeed European weather forecasts. Having read the reviews of a number of the weather apps available in the apps store it becomes clear that the majority are North America-centric and offer limited if any UK and European coverage. Fortunately, as we’ll be discovering throughout this review of apps, there are some absolute gems of apps available for those who seek them out.

Free apps are unsurprisingly the most popular downloads from the app store, however some apps are worth forking out for, which is just what I decided to do with our first app under review…

WeatherPro location weather overview
WeatherPro location weather overview

1. WeatherPro

Don’t get me wrong, the standard weather app that comes with the iPhone isn’t bad; it offers plenty of locations and provides an at-a-glance forecast for the days ahead. Grand. However for a weather-focused culture such of ours, do we not hanker after something more? Just that bit more detail. “Ooh, wind’s got up, hasn’t it… And with that wind-chill it must be -2C … Could do with setting the mercury … and know if the weather front will reach us later”. All these questions are more can be answered with WeatherPro (link to app on iTunes.) Currently at £2.39 it’s not the cheapest app, but as its no.1 in weather apps on the UK app store attests, this is an app worth having.

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