I'm amazed by all the creative uses developers are finding for the iPhone camera. One of the latest is the just-released Babelshot. If you're in a situation where you have a bit of text in a foreign language that you need to translate, such as a restaurant menu, you can simply take a photo of the item, select the portion of the text you want to translate, and Babelshot does the rest. It supports automatic translation between 32 languages. You don't need to do any typing or anything. Babelshot only works for small amounts of text. You can also optionally enter in text manually. The app is $1.99.
Apple's App Store has been a rousing success, given the nearly 100,000 apps. Yet it's also been a headache for developers, and many iPhone users also complain about it. In my opinion, its function is changing. Whereas initially it was a way for consumers to find apps and for developers to get noticed, that function is not scalable. After all, how can you possibly shoehorn 100,000 apps into 20 categories? In my opinion, the App Store is simply a mechanism for buying apps, like a shopping cart. Consumers need to find other ways to locate useful apps, and developers can no longer pin their hopes on making the top 10 or top 100 in a category.
The big news today is the announcement of the Droid, a new smartphone from Motorola and Verizon that uses Google's Android software. As Todd posted yesterday, the iPhone market share is surging ahead. But the Android market really seems to be heating up too. A press release out today from Wirefly says that five of the top 10 most-anticpated smartphones right now are Android phones, with the Droid leading the list. And clearly these devices are going to push the envelope.
We all want voice recognition. What could make things simpler? You just ask your iPhone to call one of your hundreds of contacts, and it does so. No searching, no flipping through the list. That's the promise. The reality is, of course, a bit short of that. Still, there are a number of applications that are trying to make this a reality. Vocalia is among them, and it claims to be the only 100% hands-free speech recognition app for the iPhone that enables speech access to your address book, iTunes library, and Safari bookmarks. Some users, seemingly the more savvy ones, find that it works really well.
Here in Iowa there's a distinct chill in the air. Have you ever tried to use an iPhone wearing gloves? It doesn't work. What you need are gloves that expose just the tip of your thumb and index finger. And the Etre Touchy website offers exactly that. Might make a nice Christmas gift for the iPhone lover in your family. Or for yourself.
Well, you know about rumors: they're sometimes baseless. But this one seems to make sense. After all, both the iPhone and iPod touch already have an FM receiver built in. Why not an app to let you tune in radio stations? According to 9to5Mac, Apple is working on just such an app. So what's the holdup? They're trying to program it so that you can purchase music from within the app. Of course, you can already get streaming radio stations via apps such as Wunder Radio. But the FM app will be over-the-air, such that you can tune in local radio stations.
Sometimes app lists are useful, sometimes not. This one's excellent. 100 iPhone Apps to Seriously Boost Your Brain Power is a categorized list of apps that are oriented toward helping you learn things. The categories include:
• General Knowledge Triva, Quizzes, and Games
• Science and Mathematics
• Literature, Arts, and Culture
• Test Preparation and Study Tools
• History and Geography
• References and Guides
• Vocabulary and Grammar
I've found it surprisingly convenient and fun to read books on my iPhone. So I was delighted to see the recent release of 301+ Short Stories for $.99. The app offers hundreds of stories by 89 of classic short story writers, including Charles Dickens, Kate Chopin, Ambrose Bierce, Defoe, Joseph Conrad, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Poe, O. Henry, and H.G. Wells. Lots of my favorite writers here. And now all in the palm of my hand. Plus, you can adjust the text size for easier reading.
I've always loved the sound of thunderstorms, and now I have some great ones on my iPhone. A company called Naturespace has recorded 65 thunderstorms from around the U.S. and put them into the Thundergod app. They use stereo effectively to track the thunder across the sky so that you feel like you're actually in a thunderstorm. There's a sleep timer so that you can fall asleep to these relaxing sounds. The app isn't cheap, at $9.99, but the quality of recording is excellent.
I can't wait for this, though it will probably never come to rural Iowa. According to a post on the New York Times blog, a new standard has been approved that will let broadcasters use a tiny portion of the broadcast spectrum to send TV signals to mobile gadgets. Can you imagine? Just turn on your iPhone or iPod touch and watch TV. You won't need to be connected to a service or to the Internet. The signal comes over the air. You can read more in the announcement that was released on Business Wire.