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.

Twittelator

I have long sought a fully featured Twitter app. Managing as I do multiple accounts and several hundred users, I need a Twitter client that will allow easy management of high volumes of tweets, allow grouping, the ability to select users from a list rather than having to remember their usernames (essential for follow Friday) and functionality to browse tweets by theme and users by location. Some Desktop apps do this well – Tweetdeck is a favourite in this respect – but no iPhone app has come close – that is, until now.

At £2.99 Twittelator is one of the more pricey Twitter apps, but for a Twitter users who demands the full package of Twitter features on the go it seems thus far unmatched. Features are on the whole well executed, and although it takes a while to work out what to press for what feature – I chanced upon the conversation tracker – it largely works well and is designed with flexibility in mind. Underlining this are the options which support just about all the preferences a user might wish for. Tweetie and Tweetdeck have done me well until now but both are clearly outclassed by Twittelator and although I’ve only used it for a few days I’d recommend it without hesitation to the dedicated Twitter user.

Train Search

The launch of the National Rail app some months ago met a mixed response; at £4.99 many thought it expensive, not least compared to similarly priced apps available previously and perhaps also due to the public service nature of the service the information is being provided about. As the National Rail app was launched the permission for other apps to use the National Rail API were withdrawn and the National Rail app has essentially enjoyed a monopoly on live train information until now.

This has changed with the launch of Train Search by the CrossCountry train operator. Available free of charge on the App Store, this offers much of the functionality of the National Rail app, albeit arranged in a different manner. It’s clear that good thought has gone into this app; developed by a German company is seems and with all of the functionality you’d expect from such. The app actually provides more information than the National Rail counterpart; stations such as London Marylebone show platform numbers for the first time and all train services show the number which indicates the train operator. This latter feature is useful if you’re taking a route operated by more than one company and you want to ensure you take, say, the quickest service.

The app is split into a trip planner, which also indicates running time for current services and timetables, which shows departures at the present time, again indicating any delays, or timetables for the future. The app allows favourite stations and routes to be added for easy reference. The use of GPS is well integrated and distance to stations are automatically calculated, including journeys from current location to a specified destination. The map feature displays the walking route from the current location to the station along with estimated distance and walking time.

If you haven’t paid and installed the National Rail app and you train by train any amount then this app really is a must. Well thought out, well executed and with an impressive clutch of features; Train Search sets a high bar for train time apps from now on.

RedLaser

This app scans the barcodes on items and then displays the prices from a number of online retailers. It’s ideal if you’re shopping in the ‘real’ world and want to make an informed choice whether to buy it then and there or off the net. I’m still testing this app out but initial experiments work well and this has a lot of potential when shopping.

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