The excitement surrounding the opening of the new iPhone App Store has been enormous, and when it opened in early July, millions of people visited the online store and began downloading apps for thefir iPhone 3G and upgrafded iPhone and iPod touch. Within a week, over 10 million commercial and free apps had befen downloaded. Be sure to check the App Store for current pricing and user feedback.
Expanded review section in future issues of iPhone Life
This mini-reviews section will be a regular part of all future issues. In it you'll find the software that best suits your needs—and a few hidden gems as well. We will likely expand the number of apps reviewed in this section in future issues of iPhone Life. We review PocketMoney,
Here are some of the programs that made a splash in the first few weeks after the App Store's launch.
Camera PRO: Adds features missing from the iPhone's camera app
Camera PRO adds some of the capabilities missing from the iPhone's Camera application, including the ability to digitally zoom in and out, two levels of burst mode, and a black & white mode. The program also offers some more advanced features, including a silent shutter option, self-timer, the ability to set .jpeg quality, and to save images in both .jpeg and (higher quality) .tiff formats.
Camera PRO adds a number of important features and makes the iPhone's camera much more capable and fun to use. Once you've tried it, you'll forget about using the built-in Camera app.
- Makayama Software
More reviews by Editor Rich Hall
Play this classic against realistic opponents of your friends when connected to a network via Wi-Fi (supports up to 9 players). You can switch between first-person and top-down views by rotating your iPhone or iPod touch. Opponents can bet, bluff, and have secret "tells." The graphics are crisp and sound effects realistic.
The game is gorgeous and the $5 price very reasonable. The game plays well and the controls (taps and swipes) are intuitive. The game is stable and reasonably quick, but the AI has been criticized by some as being too simple and easy to beat.
- Apple Inc.
PocketMoney's interface is simple, but the program packs a strong feature set for managing all your personal finances. It lets you set up and manage a variety of accounts quickly and easily, including checking and savings accounts, credit cards, and more. PocketMoney makes very good use of category lists (utilities, food, entertainment, etc.) to minimize text input throughout the interface. You can get rid of default categories that you don't ever use, or add new ones tailored to your own needs.
The program lets you create a virtually unlimited number of accounts, categories, and subcategories. In addition, you can generate various report types, back up your data, set a password, and import data from the Palm OS version of the program. The developer maintains a very good online FAQ and Tips page. They plan to add recurring transactions, filters, and budgets to the program in the near future.
PocketMoney is easy to use without sacrificing features. I am not a particularly well-organized manager of my personal finances, but PocketMoney makes it simple enough for me to feel quite competent at this stuff!
- Catamount Software
If you like blackjack, you'll love Blackjack 21. The first thing you'll notice is how great it looks and feels—the table, the cards, the slick animations, the buttons and graphics—all have a realistic look and feel to them. Although the default screen looks are great, you can customize the table and the cards from within the game's Settings screen. I love the cowboy-style "Saloon" table theme.
The great looks are nice, but it's the game play that really gets you hooked. Blackjack 21 makes excellent use of the iPhone's toucah screen to make the game easy to play. You use swiping gestures for all of your main actions during a hand. For example, you swipe left across the screen to stand or down to ask for a hit. There are a number of tap-and-swipe combinations you need to learn to interact with the game, but it's easy to get the hang of it. Once you do, game play is very fast. Blackjack 21 keeps track of your winnings and achievements, and remembers exactly where you left off last time you played. You can start playing, stop to take care of business, and hop straight back into the game.
The game offers a huge range of options, from altering the minimum bet, to dictating how the dealer will play, and lots more. Most of the default settings were fine for my taste, but you may want to tweak them if you're a hardcore blackjack ace.
Blackjack 21 plays as great as it looks. It will be a surefire favorite for blackjack fans and those on the lookout for great iPhone games.
RSS feeds and feed readers are the best tools we have for managing and keeping up with information overload these days, and Google Reader is one of the very best (and most popular) feed readers. Byline is a native iPhone app that lets you stay in sync with all your Google Reader feeds and read them offline. It's also simple to set up; just give it the e-mail account you use with Google Reader, let it do an initial sync of your feeds, and you're ready to go.
Byline keeps your read, unread, and "starred" items in sync with Google Reader (so changes are reflected when you access Reader from another Web browser). Its interface is fairly basic, displaying summary headlines and short summaries of the article. Syncs of new items are relatively quick, and most everything you do in the app is snappy and responsive.
The best trick up Byline's sleeve is its offline handling of starred items and Notes. Anything you add to these areas in Google Reader (within Byline or from a browser) is made available offline as a full page within Byline. These items are displayed within Byline's own mini-browser, which lets you use all the standard iPhone double-tap and pinch to zoom actions on them.
Byline is a great iPhone companion tool if you're an RSS fan and a Google Reader user. It works well, and the offline rendering of starred items and Notes pages is excellent. This first version is a little bare on features. For example, it does not have the ability set how many items are displayed or to view individual feeds rather than all items, and it can't share items. Hopefully, more features will be added in future updates. Still, it's a very worthwhile first version as is.
- Phantom Fish
Voice Dial features large, bold buttons for its most common commands and navigation choices. The program does require some initial training—you'll need to record its three default system commands (Accept, Cancel, Repeat), as well as individual commands for contacts, apps, and Web bookmarks. Similar mobile apps, require zero training and are ready to go out of the box.
A pre-release version suffered a little in terms of the accuracy of voice recognition. Makayama says this will be improved in the final version.
If Voice Dial delivers its promised improved recognition accuracy, it should prove to be quite a popular app. The interface is slick and very usable. The need for training to use the app should also be reduced or eliminated.
- Makayama Software
I've never been any good at keeping up with my cars' log books, but this new app from Catamount Software should change that. MPG lets you easily record and track just about everything that you do with, or that gets done to, your car. You can track fuel use, oil changes, tune-ups, inspections, tire rotations, trips, miscellaneous expenses, and more. You can even track multiple vehicles in one app, and use (and customize) category lists for quick picking of items to track.
MPG is a great replacement for dog-eared vehicle log books. It makes tracking the use and care of your vehicle(s) easy.
- Catamount Software
Launch PhotoDial and tap on a person's photo to place a phone call to them—it's quick and easy. The program lets you choose whether you want to display your contact pictures in rows or in CoverFlow mode (like the one used by the iPhone's iPod application). It would be nice if you could place selected photos on the Home screen and tap on them there to place the calls. But Apple is very protective of the Home screen turf, so that is not very likely to happen.
PhotoDial has a simple interface and works well. I preferred the standard rows layout, but the CoverFlow option is nice to have and will probably be well-liked by many users.
- Makayama Software
Given the sheer volume of weather information we have available these days, it is crucial for a mobile weather app to present this information in an easy-to-access layout. Fizz Weather lets you easily swap between its primary and detailed views via tabs along the bottom of the screen. The views offered are: 5 Day, 2 Day, Now, Map, and Airports.
Fizz Weather provides weather information for over 58,000 cities worldwide, You can link to Google Maps from within Fizz Weather, and the program supports GPS location lookup. One of the nicest features in this program is its clean and easy-to-use layout. Each of the views is very well designed.
Fizz Weather offers a very good alternative to the iPhone's built-in Weather application. It provides more detailed information and a broader range of maps, forecasts, and overviews. It presents this information in an attractive interface.
- Fizz Software
This one puts 50 variations of Solitaire on your iPhone or iPod touch. It includes excellent background graphics and special effects, your choice of card back designs, unlimited un-dos, a timed scoring system, and more. You also have online access to high-score tables and interactive training for versions of the game you're unfamiliar with.
The touch implementation is very natural and intuitive. All the games have options and variations. It would be nice if there was a button to click when a game is obviously won. Also, they need to change Cribbage and Poker so that an onscreen message doesn't cover up the final score. The author is very responsive to suggestions and has already updated his software several times. (Hal Goldstein, Publisher of iPhone Life)
- Digital Smoke
This app helps you track spending and stay on a budget. See your monthly income and expenses, track the expense categories that you spend the most on, and quickly spot when you are going over budget. Entering budgets and transactions is simple. You can graph expenses vs. your budget, compare yearly expenses, have reminders sent when you go over budget, and more.
This is a basic month-to-month budget tracker and not much else. It allows you to create different spending categories, allot the amount you are going to spend in that category, and track the amount you spend. The results are displayed numerically and graphically, and it's easy to spot spending trends and make adjustments where necessary. Some users have found the interface difficult to grasp.
This one lets you read and publish "tweets" on the Twitter social network, allowing you to stay it touch with family, friends, and associates. All Twitter posts answer the question "What are you doing?" The responses can range from the simple and mundane to the detailed and profound. The interface of this app is simple and easy to use.
There's a free version of this app, but the premium version includes an extra theme and (more importantly) does not display any advertising. The UI is great, and built-in hints and tips make it easy to access the functionality built into the program. The built-in Web page viewer is a plus.
- The Iconfactory
This simple app lets you record voice memos, discussions, interviews, ideas, verbal to-do lists, and more. A simple one-button interface lets you start and stop recordings. Once recorded, they are listed in the app, starting with the most recent recording. You can pause recordings during playback and e-mail them to a friend or associate.
This is a simple and very functional recorder—a real value at 99 cents. The audio quality is good, and according to user feedback, the developer is responsive to suggestions for improvement. The ability to e-mail a recording to an associate is a definite plus.
LocalEats is a quick way to find the best restaurants in the top 50 U.S. cities. You can quickly find restaurants near your current location, list restaurants by category, get detailed descriptions of the offerings and driving directions to the establishment, and quickly view a local map.
The interface is clean and the app is easy to use. The map and "near me" features make it easy to find a good place to eat. With a few worthy exceptions, chain restaurants are banished from this app. This one is great if you travel a lot, or are planning a vacation in or passing through a major city.
- Magellan Press, Inc.
This simple unit conversion calculator lets you specify your most common conversion "modes" in the main menu for quick access. Units supports most common conversions. Currency conversion rates are updated daily from the developer's server.
This flexible and easy-to-use app lets you convert just about any unit. Conversions are done on the fly, as you enter the length, weight, currency, etc. It's fast, simple, and inexpensive.
- Crossroad Solutions