Since this is a bit of a technical post, I thought I’d pop this video in. It’s broadly related, but it also has the advantage of giving the non-techies something to enjoy in amongst all the jargon. It’s also a contemporary celebration of the classic British tradition of the ‘pun skit’. Four Candles 2.0, if you like…
I actually thought I had all the apps I could use.
I use Twitter for iPhone all the time; the Facebook app has improved and that now gets daily use; the National Rail app is a must; I’m a regular NetNewsWire user to read my RSS feeds; I use Things, Dropbox and Evernote on the Mac, so of course I the have apps on hand as well; I pretty much collect photography apps, though Hipstamatic, TrueHDR and ClassicINSTA get the most use; I have the Kindle app and the iBooks app for those times I do any on-the-go book reading; and I have the Spotify app just in case I get bored with my own music.
But for the most part, I have a pretty good system when it comes to all of the blogging, tweeting, facebooking, googling, scheduling, organising, and photographing I might need to do. As a result, I hadn’t picked up a new app for quite a while, but just over the past couple of months, there have been a few real goodies that have got me quite excited. Several just in the past week.
Over and above what I consider to be the standard essentials I’ve linked to above, what follows are the five iPhone apps currently giving me the most joy, entertainment, peace of mind and satisfaction.
1. Papa Sangre
The first one that deserves a mention is Papa Sangre. Yes, it’s a game and I’m not a gamer – but it’s one that uses audio rather than video. Quite surprisingly good – and just a little bit scary.
You’re in a pitch black space, and you have to navigate towards sounds (and away from monsters) by taking careful steps. If you put a foot wrong, you get eaten – quite horrifically, though of course, you see nothing. It’s all your imagination at work. Theatre of the mind.
The trick is that it uses binaural audio, which gives the impression of being in three dimensions. You have to use headphones for it to work – but it really does work well. As well as direction, you can almost judge distances. Pretty clever stuff. I’m a fan.
Despite the rather obvious fact that the iPhone has a camera, it had never occurred to me that it might work as a document scanner. I figured the resolution would be too low to be useful or something like that – but even though I have a 3GS and not the iPhone 4, CamScanner+ is able to get very good multi-page PDFs out of letters, books, business cards and so on.
Even better, it’ll upload them straight to Dropbox (which I use a lot) and Evernote (which I’m finally starting to use more) or to Google Docs. You can also email the documents straight from the application. The scan will fit the page to a shape, so you only get the bits you want, and the readability is remarkable.
The good thing is that once it’s on Evernote, it becomes searchable. Evernote will find words within a photograph or scan. So that’s a good app to have in combo.
I can’t think of a way to describe Momento that doesn’t sound pointless. But it’s really compelling. It’s simply a diary – not a blog or a twitter stream, but a personal record of things you do or think.
However, not only does it more or less work like Twitter without publishing, it also integrates with services like Twitter, Facebook, Last.fm, Flickr and so on to bring into one place all the things you do, make and say, both publicly and privately – so that you can refer back. Best of all, it allows you to tag each of your entries so that you can find all of the posts that were about dogs, for instance.
I’m noting down whenever I listen to an album or watch a film – and then I can just search the appropriate tag to find all of the records I’ve listened to or movies I’ve watched sometime in the future.
It seems like the integration of all your external feeds in one place would be the killer thing about this app, but for me, simply having a diary that allows me to “tweet” stuff that’s for my eyes only is a really good outlet, and a good place to reflect on what I’m doing, how I’m going and what I’m feeling.
You can export your data if you do want to blog it – but It’s also pin-protected, so nobody can read it if they pick up your phone.
This is far and away the most useful piece of software I own. It’s not just an iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch app – you can get it for Mac and PC as well. I strongly recommend you get it.
1Password saves your passwords for you in a secure place that you can back up using Dropbox. You have a master password that will get you into them, but online, every service you use can have a different impenetrable password, and you need never remember it again.
1Password will also generate strong passwords for you as well. The first thing I did when I installed it was to go and change all of the passwords on all of the services I use online – using 1Password’s suggestions. I’d been using a single password (or some variation on it) at most of the websites I go to, and these days, that’s just asking for trouble.
Now, my Facebook password can be J7cu2Aun395jHFsi2p1 (it’s not, but it could be) and I don’t have to remember it. I don’t even have to remember whether I’m dubber, adubber or andrewdubber on Flickr and Last.fm – and I’ve also got all of my card details from my wallet locked up in there as well.
So that’s 145 different websites I’ve used that need a login, 18 different software licence codes, and a bunch of secure notes with my insurance details, passport number, tax details and so on in there. And it’s super-secure, even if you lose your phone or laptop.
The iPhone app is great because not only can you copy and paste your passwords onto webpages directly on your phone, if you’re away from your computer (which has all your passwords stored on it) you can simply find your password on your phone (which you always have with you) and copy it from there.
I can’t tell you how pleased I am with 1Password (particularly with its Safari integration on the Mac, which allows me to simply use the shortcut cmd + and it’ll log me into whichever site I’m on. It’s genius. You need the desktop software anyway – and once you have that the app is pretty much indispensible.
5. Radio New Zealand
After spending a good deal of time on the back foot as far as the internet goes, and still using Windows Media files for its webstreaming content (sigh), Radio New Zealand finally catches up and makes not just a good iPhone app, but an important one – especially for kiwis like me who live abroad.
It is, quite simply, a great app. It looks great, it works great, and the content that’s available for it is indepth, thoughtful, relevant and interesting – because it’s RNZ programming.
In fact, radio stations everywhere could take a lesson from the thoughtfulness, simplicity and user-friendliness of the app. As the now clichéd line goes: it just works.
If I was to have one niggle with it, it’s that programmes can’t be stored for offline listening (say, on the train, where you inevitably lose signal or on a flight where you can’t be connected), but apart from that, it’s very well thought through. I’d have been tempted to put a ‘surprise me’ button in there somewhere too, but that’s just me. I do like the serendipity of stumbling across things I wouldn’t have known I’d be interested in… but for a listen on demand bit of software, this certainly does the trick.
The search is good; the division by programmes as the key unit of consumption – but also drilled down into individual interviews and programme segments where appropriate – rather than dividing things up by ‘stations’ or ‘brands’ (although RNZ really only has two to choose from) is exactly right; and the ability to line up a playlist keeps you going in the order you choose, and makes sure you don’t miss anything worthwhile.
A superb addition to the phone.
What are your favourites? What have I missed?