Sunday, April 5, 2009

The 5 Best iPhone Apps You’ve Never Heard Of

Sorting through the thousands, and I do mean thousands, of apps available in the app store and separating the crap from the truely useful can prove to be a difficult task. And there are plenty of blogs and websites out there telling you which iPhone apps are in the top 10 but what about the great apps that haven’t been brought to light because they’ve remained buried among the hundreds and hundreds of apps that make farting sounds. That’s why I’ve created this guide - I did all of the leg work for you so all you have to do is download and enjoy. You can use a minute of all that extra time you now have to tell me what your favorite app is in the comments. So, here they are, in no particular order:

Spreadsheet: I think the name of this app is more than adequate at explaining what it does. What else can I say? I’ve been hearing for over a year now that Dataviz, the makers of Documents to Go, the popular word/excel/powerpoint viewer and editor available on BlackBerry devices, was working on bringing all of those much needed features to the iPhone. We might very well have to wait another year for all I know but in the mean time we still have spreadsheets that need to be edited on the go and Spreadsheet does that very well. Spreadsheet use’s the XML format which is compatible with most popular spreadsheet software including Microsoft Excel. Spreadsheet also gives you an easy to use web interface for easily transferring your spreadsheet files back and forth from your computer to your iPhone. You must be on the same wifi network for this to work though. In my testing it worked extremly well at transferring files, I transferred several files without any issues.

i.TV: Now I don’t watch TV that much anymore, but that’s precisely why I find this app so useful. When I do want to catch up on the latest happenings with Dr. House, I can never remember what time or channel it comes on - I have enough to remember! You can quickly find the time and channel the show you want to watch is on via the apps search function. Or you can just flick through the TV listings just like surfing through your cable boxe’s guide channel. I find it much easier flicking through the channels on my iPhone than clicking through with my TV remote. But it doesn’t stop there - you can also read reviews and watch previews of various TV shows, right there in the app.

But not only does this app offer an easy way to find the time and channel of your favorite TV show, it can also manage your Netflix que. I don’t subscribe to Netflix anymore so I can’t offer any insight into how fully featured that part of the app is but I can say if it’s anything like the other features it works great.

Finally, you can also browse local theater listings as well as read reviews and watch movie trailers. The movie feature of the app alone is almost as fully featured as most stand alone movie apps that I’ve seen. You can arrange by “Coming Soon”, ” Released”, or by “Theaters”. Did I mention that you can watch trailers and read reviews?

This app is definitely a hidden gem if you don’t already have it installed. Not only is i.TV fully featured and easy to use, but it has also cleared up some screen real estate on my phone by essentially combining three apps into one. I found that I actually preferred each of the apps features more so than the stand alone versions. You don’t find many apps that do more than one or two things really well but this one does - download it yourself and let me know what you think in the comments.

Drinks Free: If you’re like me and you like to have the occasional cocktail but you flunked out of bartender school (ok, so I’ve never flunked out of anything in my life but I probably would if I went to bartender school) this is a great app. This app appears to have well over 1000 different drink recipes which are pre-arranged in alphabetical order. You can search for drinks by name and you can save them as a favorite which makes them quickly accesible in the future via a favorites icon. You can view drinks by categorie, some of which are: beer, coffee/tea, homemade liqueur, milk/float/shake/, etc., so lots of great options for sorting or finding drink recipes. The search function is pretty nifty as it displays results as you are typing so you can still find the recipe for your hot date’s favorite drink even if you’re drunk and/or don’t know how to spell. There are drinks on there that I’ve never even heard of - what the hell is a “Bloody Smurf?” I really don’t want to know. Just please don’t hurt Papa Smurf.

iSpeak: If you frequent other countries and the locals keep sending you to a (word for prostitute) when you are actually asking for directions to the store, you may find this app handy. iSpeak is a set of translation tools that allows you to translate from English to Spanish or vice versa as well as English to various other languages.

If you’re still having trouble with the pronunciations, you can even have iSpeak read the words or sentences out loud to you. If you still can’t communicate efficiently, well, then I recommend that you take a Spanish course before traveling to Mexico. I also like the pricing structure of this app; instead of charging an insanely high price, the developers allow you buy only the translation packs that you need for $2 each - so you’re not gonna have to visit your local blood bank once a week for a year to pay for this app. We are also going to be seeing a lot more of this type of pricing structure in the app store over the coming months with the release of iPhone software 3.0.

There’s not really a whole lot of extra bells ‘n whistles to this app but sometimes developers focus too much on the “bling” and forget what their app is really supposed to do in the first place, which makes for a lot of lackluster apps. But not this app, iSpeak does one thing really well, and that’s translate - suficientemente bueno.

Instapaper: This app is one of my personal favorites, and it also happens to be the simplest app on my phone. Coincidence? Nope. It’s just another example of how an app that does one thing really, really well can be far better than an app that does 100 different things haphazardly.

I usually end up bookmarking web pages that have interesting stories that I just don’t want to read that very moment and then I end up with hundreds of bookmarks mixed up with my real bookmarks and I have no idea what is what. This app really makes saving news for later much more convenient.

Basically, you register for a “free” account and then you install a bookmarklet in the web browser on your computer which places a read later icon for you to click anytime you come across a story that you want to read later. Then you install the app on your iPhone and sign in using your account information and after a little setup you’re done. Now whenever you find an article on the web that you want to save for later reading, you simply click the little icon on your browser toolbar and it’s saved to all your Instapaper compatible devices automagically. You can have your news automatically sent to your Kindle as well, which should make all of you Kindle users out there jump for joy.

Now, if I can just find an instawifepleaser I’ll be all set. Anyone know where I can find one?



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