Tag Archives: iphone apps

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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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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iPhone one week on

I’ve now had my iPhone for a little over a week which makes it a good time to give some first impressions on this much hyped and applauded mobile.

For me it’s marked a wholesale change in my interaction with a mobile device. I’ve previously used a Dell X51v PDA and have just upgraded from the Nokia N95. Nevertheless in the past week the amount and the variety of applications I’ve used have completely blown away that of previous devices. The N95 is a fine phone, however without a data package it’s impractically expensive to use it to connect with an online life. Even the PDA, with a Windows Mobile OS failed to offer an user friendly or efficient solutions to many of the tasks I looked at carrying out and was limited to Wifi connection.

So how does the iPhone fare?

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Hotmail on iPhone for free – how to

The iPhone gives options for syncing with several e-mail services and systems but does lack the very widely used Hotmail service.

From the App Store, MyBoxMail offers Hotmail but for a hefty price-tag (by App standards) of £5.99 for what should really be a basic service on the iPhone. So the question is whether you can get Hotmail on your iPhone for free, and the answer is a resounding YES.

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