Recent App Reviews
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.
Although Google Reader is the champ, there are other RSS readers
I wrote about winning (and losing) virtual fortunes in the summer issue of iPhoneLife magazine - available now at newsstands and bookstores. I'd won a measly quarter-million or so at the time. By the time the article was published, I was up to $1.5 million in poker winnings alone.
Now, thanks to iTunes, that million+ is gone, all gone. A few days ago I fired up iTunes and hooked up my iPhone to buy a new app and it told me there were apps it wasn't aware of. I said OK at the next dialog box and watched in horror as app after app was removed. They were gone before I could stop it.
Most closed reading systems offer classic books that are no longer subject to copyright and other restrictions. The exception to this is the Iceberg Reader system. Scrollmotion (the developers of Iceberg Reader) have partnered with Random House, Hachette, Penguin Putnam, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Simon & Schuster, and are able to offer a uniquely contemporary selection of books.
Classics does not offer content that you can’t find elsewhere, but it does offer an incredibly unique interface that helps replicate the experience of reading a hardcover book.
Rather than displaying a list of books, the main interface is a digital bookshelf with cover images for each of the books in the library. Tap on an image to open the book and start reading it. Even the page turns are animated. Unfortunately, like a hardcover book, there is not much else you can do. Underneath the slick graphics and animation, this is really a no-frills reading experience.
In addition to the well-known document viewer, Readdle Docs, Readdle also publishes a number of eBook collections, including Shakespeare, Fairy Tales, Horror Books, Love Stories, and others. I tested their system out with Shakespeare and was quite impressed.
BeamItDown eBooks is probably the most unique closed reading system. Instead of breaking text into pages, BeamItDown uses its “iFlow” technology to display the content as a continuous stream of text scrolling up your screen. You can sit back and watch as the text passes right before your eyes. (eReader offers this functionality as well.)
BeamItDown utilizes the unique iFlow technology to display the material without interference from cumbersome page changes or screen swipes.
The last entry in this section is Stanza, which is the most feature-rich expandable eBook reader available for the iPhone, and while it may not sync with the Kindle 2, it does just about everything else. To start, the main library gives you full-color thumbnails of each of your books. This helps replicate the feeling of actually browsing through a bookstore. To make it even better, when you turn your iPhone sideways, you get your library in coverflow view, just like in iTunes.
Jamendo, a free application released earlier this summer gives you streaming access to more than 21,000 free music albums and over 200,000 tracks. Jamendo is the top site in the world for free and legal music downloads, with all music made available under the Creative Commons licenses. This video gives a good overview of the application. The service offers five categories of music: Electro, Instrumental, Jazz, Lounge, and Pop.
Releasing the iPhone Kindle app is probably the smartest move Amazon has made since introducing the Kindle. While the Kindle app is pretty bare bones, it does offer a few significant features that make it worth a closer look First of all, it’s tied to Amazon.com, and all of the 200,000+ books available for the Kindle can be read with the iPhone Kindle app. In addition, the prices of Kindle eBooks are very competitive, with most best-sellers costing $9.99 or less.