Language study is not the only area where the iPhone is likely having an influence on the humanities. Apps like Philosophy – The Essential Collection ($1.99) introduce the student or amateur to the thinking of great philosophers, from John Locke to my current favorite and somewhat confounding writer, Friedrich Nietzsche. I see his “the will to power” as an important concept to help us through these troubled economic times. The Essential Collection comes bundled with the iFlow reader, which works well enough. I think it would be even better if it had text-to-speech capability.
A variety of language translators and phrase books are available on the App Store, but Human Japanese ($9.99) offers a more thorough study of the language. It patiently walks the learner through the vocabulary, provides language exercises, and has an essential introduction to Japanese language and culture.
Human Japanese is a powerful language study program with a beautiful interface.
Feeds has the most attractive interface of any of the native readers. There are options to change its default theme colors, but I’m quite happy with how it comes. Its inline browser is fast-loading and easy on the eyes. The app is fairly solid, crashing rarely, and offers you standard choices of actions you can take on a feed item (star, share, etc.).
Doppler is the most solid performer of all the native RSS apps I’ve tried. It has almost never crashed or hung up during operation. It includes a fairly attractive browser that presents individual feed items well. It also has a good range of action buttons for use with feed items, located along the bottom of the screen. These allow you to share or e-mail the item, open it in Safari, share it with a note, star it, or mark it as unread.
An individual feed item, displayed in Doppler’s in-line browser.
BoltReader also has a plain UI with muted colors and a grayscale look in various places. Its sync routine is divided into two parts: feeds and images. The syncing process is fairly slow, but you can view folders that are already updated while syncing is in progress.
BoltReader’s Folders view screen.
Byline was the very first native RSS app I tried on the iPhone. It is among the most stable of all iPhone RSS apps—it very rarely crashes or freezes up—and it usually does what it promises it will do. It offers full two-way sync with Google Reader, allowing you to star and share items, e-mail items, and create and share notes. It also has landscape mode, an inline browser to view full posts, and an offline reading capability.
Byline’s Folders View screen.
Despite the fact that Web apps are viewed by some as the ugly stepchild of the iPhone, my most-used app is Google Reader. It’s like Marvelous Marvin Hagler—the fantastic, undisputed middleweight boxing champion back in the 1980s—because it’s so much better than its rivals. Part of the reason it’s such a great app is that Google has regularly and lovingly tweaked it, adding niceties that make it easier to use and features that bring it ever closer to the capabilities of its desktop counterpart.
In this blog I’m getting back to my roots, literally. The people at Antenna Theater have something very special to show you in their blend of the iPhone, natural world and the arts, and it’s called ECOcal.
The Yahoo! app for the iPhone is in the News category in iTunes, which is a bit odd, since the app does so many things. Most recently the company added voice search to its app, so that you can speak your queries. (Voice search has been available in Google Mobile App for some time.) In addition to offering search, Yahoo's app offers news, e-mail (Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, or AOL), status updates from Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, RSS feeds, Yahoo Calendar, Address Book, and Messenger — and much more.
Wattpad describes itself as a "YouTube for Ebooks," and the free app in the iTunes store gives you iPhone access to one of the most popular ebook-sharing communities, with hundreds of thousands of novels, short stories, fan fiction, essays, jokes, and more. And like YouTube, there seems to be some copyright violation. But most offerings appear to be legit.