Excellent examples of what the iPhone is capable of are found in the impressionistic works of artist Jorge Colombo. He created his New York City-inspired cityscapes (guardian.co.uk/theguardian/2009/mar/16/art-iphone-shortcuts) using his iPhone and an app called Brushes ($4.99). This app provides you with a set of digital painting tools and requires some skill to use effectively.
Recent App Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.