iTunes App Store: get these applications first

Consider all these cursory overviews at best, as I've just spent a few minutes with each. All testing was done over Wi-Fi, not EDGE or 3G. Most of these first applications are the ones I'm recommending. I'll be adding listings for applications I've been less impressed by later.

Each 'Price' hyperlink connects directly to the App Store page for each application.


Price: Free
Should I?: Yes

The latest build of Twitteriffic from Icon Factory adds location-aware tweeting, picture uploading, and a variety of interface options including a left-handed mode. It's giving me errors that imply my login is incorrect but is still pushing and pulling tweets. As with all things Twitter, this may be a problem with the service, not the software accessing it.

Like the free desktop version of Twitteriffic, the iPhone version has in-line ads that are nominally intrusive. If you'd like to ditch them entirely, a premium version is $10.

All-in-all a very polished application that will give Twinkle a run for its money.


Price: Free
Should I?: Yes

With a single download, Apple's official Remote software for the iPhone and iPod touch pretty much negates the need for something like the Sonos music system for most households. Remote adds an interface for controlling your computer's iTunes or an AppleTV that is nearly identical to the iPod interface on the iPhone, minus a few niceties like Cover Flow.

Album art is slurped up over the air; frames from movies being played are occasionally sent to the phone to show you what part is being watched. It's top-quality integration of various platforms.

It only works over Wi-Fi, so no turning on music at home while you're at work to confuse the dog.

Remote is going to go over great at parties. Now someone just needs to find a way to use the iPhone to dim the lights. (Expect Apple Ambiance products late 2011!)


Price: Free
Should I?: Maybe

The official AOL Instant Messenger client is a solid first entry, capable of easily bringing down lots of contacts and holding instant message conversations. It does not appear to work in the background even using the Apple messaging server that was revealed weeks ago. That's a huge disappointment, but one I expect will be remedied soon, either by AOL or a third party.

It's free, though, so no harm in slapping it up there. It is better than nothing.


Price: Free
Should I?: Wait

Jott is an interface to the free voice-to-text service. Tap to record a short message and soon you'll have a text message inserted back into the Jott iPhone app's to-do list.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the Jott app is quite ready for production. On my first attempt the message didn't come back within a couple of minutes. (This may be typical for Jott; I've never used the service before.)

Worse, when I tried to open the app later to check if my message had been delivered, the app crashed. They'll get it worked out soon, I'm sure.


Price: Free
Should I?: Yes

A location-aware mobile service that ties into Facebook, Twitter, and other platfors, Loopt will show you not only where your other Loopt-using friends are at, but highly rated nearby restaurants. It has an easy mechanism for inviting friends to Loopt as well as determining which of your contacts are already using the service. So far I have zero friends that have accepted my invites — hrm! — but the potential for connecting with other people in the real world is going to be incredible.

One irritation: Loopt (and other applications that use location data) prompts for permission each time it accesses the GPS (or GPS-a-like services of the iPhone EDGE). I would like to grant the app a permanent proxy to that service, but it's not a huge deal.

Loopt could be a massive hit but like all social services it needs more users to become ubiquitously useful.


Super Monkey Ball
Price:: $10
Should I?: Yes

While many of the games available for iPhone 2.0 are sort of embarrassingly unpolished, Super Monkey Ball is bright, pretty, and immediately accessible. That's not to say that it's easy — I threw my poor monkey off several platforms before getting the knack, but my very cursory play (about 10 minutes) give me an inkling that I'll be rolling my monkey around with less-deadly precision in no time.

One quirk: I couldn't figure out how to get out of the play field back to the main menu without quitting the app entirely.

If nothing else, this is a good app to show off the phone to your friends. However, there doesn't appear to be a free demo, which is a shame.


Price:: Free
Should I?: Yes

Fraser Spiers' Exposure is a mobile gateway to Flickr, with full access to your contacts' photos, nearby images based on geotagging, and complete search of the Flickr library from your phone. It's the best mobile interface to Flickr I've ever seen. And it's free, although ad-supported. A $10 version called "Exposure Premium" comes without ads, but frankly I didn't find the ads in the free version to be distracting at all.

Essential for Flickr users.


Price:: Free
Should I?: Yes

Midomi lets you hum a song into the iPhone (10 seconds or more is best), then tries to match that snippet with a real song. I just hummed the only song that is ever on my mind — Kelly Clarkson's masterpiece "Since U Been Gone" — and was presented with a selection of options for the correctly identified song in seconds, including links to buy it on iTunes or options to watch it on the iPhone's built-in YouTube viewer.

What would be an amusing trick in a web browser is an impressive and handy application on a mobile phone. It's totally free — and a total hoot. Get this one immediately. (I expect it won't be quite as instant over EDGE, but on 3G it should be fine. Also, the first time I tried Midomi the app stalled out on me, but it appears to be working fine now.)
More coming, but I wanted to get these going. Please chime in with your discoveries!

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  1. I don’t see the iPhone remote for iTunes as the big replacement for a Sonos. My Sonos isn’t valuable to me because it has a remote or can be controlled from a computer…but because it gives me synced music in 4 locations of the house and plays multiple sources in different rooms. It also runs headless…pulling the music from the NAS Drive, no computer required.

    Remote Buddy has had an iPhone remote for iTunes and other apps for some time now (albeit run as a web server/web page).

    I think the remote is handy for people right now who simply use iTunes as their music library running from computer->stereo. Can it control an AppleTV? And for those who use a dockable solution…it is of no use at all.

    So…I think putting in bold the “negates the need for a Sonos”…isn’t quite accurate…since you have to have a computer directly connected to a stereo.

    Just my $.02

  2. I use the traditional cell phone Jott service, and Jotts usually take a couple of minutes because the voice messages that can’t get translated by their bots actually go through real people who transcribe them by hand… and ear.

  3. @AGraham999: For big full-house installations there’s still much to recommend the Sonos. But for people like me who live in a small apartment and already have or want an iPhone, this pretty much replaces any need we’d have for anything else.

  4. Joel,

    Well it replaces it IF you have a computer tied to your stereo. That’s a small group. But hey…yeah…it is cool. But for people who use their iPods or iPhones to jack into their stereos or dock…it does no good whatsoever.

    It is a cool feature…no doubt, but I’d look at Remote Buddy if I were you…it controls EVERYTHING…not just iTunes. I use it for home automation and Front Row. When I click on Open Front Row, my lights dim, my stereo amp kicks on the right input, etc. I’ll bet they release an iPhone app very soon.

    Don’t get me wrong though…I’ll surely play with it. I can always tie it into my Sonos system!

    Insteon for life.

  5. The guy demoing x10 in that vid sounds like his voice is going through a Star Wars modulator.. croaky 🙂

  6. Super Monkey Ball:

    Tap the clock to pause the game. This also allows you to back out to the menu. It comes up in a tip before games start.

    This game is a blast and perfectly designed for its new interface.

    Another app worth noting is Nullriver’s Tuner which brings easy internet radio listening to the iPhone.

  7. Something about the NY Times reader hit me in a weird way.

    I’ve seen newspapers on websites for fifteen years, and RSS for somewhat less than that.

    But somehow, this seems to be where everything actually clicks into place. As if up until now it was a sort of awkward patch, that unlike blogs and other things born on the web, newspapers didn’t really fit. And now they suddenly have a home.

    This little interface, built on a UI foundation purely for portables, and itself designed as a way of viewing newspaper content and nothing else, really does seem like the ultimate digital arrival of the newspaper.

    Today I have seen the future.

  8. @Anonymous (#1)

    Unlike Joel, I will have to wait for the iPod Touch 2.0 Firmware. I have already purchased the StarMap application and will let you know what I think soon.

    In a happy coincidence my Palm Zire died last week. The only thing I have used it for since getting the ‘Touch last October was SkyChart.

  9. I cannot believe that Apple wants to CHARGE me to update my touch software just so I can have the privilege of purchasing other software that they probably get a huge cut of. That is freaking pathetic and Apple should be embarrassed.

    This when I was just getting over the irritation from the debacle that was the last update back in January when my touch was dysfunctional for over a month because Apple kept shoving their “software update” in my face and I couldn’t get rid of it.

    My opinion of Apple continues to decline. Why does Apple insist on taking the fast train to Microsoft-ville by pissing its customers off?

  10. @Anonymous (#1)

    After trying every couple of hours I finally got the iPod Touch 2.0 Firmware upgrade off of iTunes at 3am(EST). Quite nice. Kind of shocked their is no option to put wallpaper behind the icons?! Steve must like plain black. I prefer a steampunk clock works graphic.

    I don’t like StarMap as much as SkyChart. It’s harder to read, and a little buggy. It will not remember my location, or time zone. The “accelerometer” feature is pointless too.

    The free iCSC (Clear Sky Chart) app. is convenient but you can access the same thing from a web page via Safari. It would be handy if iCSC could recall the last chart if you get out of Wi-Fi range.

  11. If you like baseball, MLB’s At Bat is a gleeful experience: over wifi, the video clips are crystal clear. You can jump to more detailed info on each game by clicking through to MLB’s mobile site. If the other big sports pull this off, there will be no stopping us. Add the option to create custom fantasy lineups that update automatically and I’ll spend $100 on it!

    Quordy is an amazingly addictive version of the Facebook app Scramble, which my friends and I play daily. I can’t put it down.

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