I spent much of my Saturday — between my ritual Roman olive oil bath and harpsichord lessons — checking out the new iPhone Applications Store. You may have heard about the app store from the breathless media coverage Apple gets whenever it farts in the direction of a new product, but I think most people have trouble understanding what all the fuss is about.
Maybe a look at the apps I selected (all free — I might buy the MLB.com app for $5, but I’m not sold yet) will help:
1. Facebook. The new iPhone Facebook application basically brings all of your Facebook functionality (status updates, friends, chat, and inbox) to a format that’s easy to use on the phone. In other words, you don’t have to go to the Facebook Web page on the phone and keep resizing everything. The best part of the Facebook application is that it is a handy way of keeping your contacts organized. Since your friends control their own phone numbers, email addresses, etc., you never have to worry that they’re out of date. Want to call your friend? Just find their page in your contacts list and touch their phone number on your screen. Want to email them? Same thing.
2. The New York Times and AP Mobile Web news applications. Basically these are just the top news stories, by category. You can customize by your own region or interests (sports, technology). The iPhone specific interface makes these stories much easier to read than most Web sites, and the Times has even figured out how to put ads in there without making them annoying.
3. WeatherBug. One of the more disappointing applications that came with the original iPhone was the weather application, which was basically good for telling you what the exact temperature was outside, but had no forecasting or better information. WeatherBug has all that and then some.
4. LiveSportz. Similar to the in-game Web application on the ESPN site, LiveSportz has continually updating play-by-plays of any game in progress.
5. Twittelator. This application lets you post to Twitter — which, if you don’t know, is a “micro-blogging” site that lets you keep your friends updated whenever you see something funny, want to pass along a photo or Web link, or make a sandwich or whatever. By the way, you should all be on Twitter. Go sign up now.
6. Movies.app. One of the most simple, yet fun, applications, Movies.app lets you search for movies playing near you, sort by theater, and even watch trailers directly on your phone.
7. SportsTap. Somewhat similar to LiveSportz, this gives you constant updates on games in progress. Very simple screen makes it easy to follow.
8. iPhone Baseball. Probably the nerdiest thing on my iPhone, the iPhone Baseball application has statistics for every single professional baseball team and player dating back to the very beginnings of the sport. Want to know how many double plays Keith Hernandez grounded into in 1977? It’s all right here. (He grounded into 17, by the way, but he played in a remarkable 161 games).
9. PhoneSaber. OK so the baseball thing isn’t the nerdiest thing on my phone. This application makes Star Wars-style lightsaber noises when you swing your phone around. This will show those jackass wookies at the convention who’s boss…
10. iPint. This is a short game that also makes your phone look like a full beer. Then the beer empties when you “drink” it. This has no real-world relevance at all.
11. Yelp. The popular food and services rating site, formatted for your screen. Great for when you’re in an unfamiliar part of town and desperately want lobster bisque.
12. YPMobile. The Yellowpages.com application. Haven’t used it much, but it looks great.
13. AOL Radio and Pandora radio. Two popular Internet radio stations, customized for the iPhone. What’s neat about this is that I can just select a station and plug it into my Bose dock at home and discover new music while I polish my many gold medals and trophies (“World’s Number One Grandson!” is a favorite).
14. Jott. I haven’t gotten around to using it yet, but Jott is one of the most buzz-inducing apps out there. Basically it turns your phone into a voice recorder — and then translates your recordings into notes and emails them to you. Perfect for when you’re me and you get another brilliant idea.
So there you have it. Basically these applications turn the iPhone from a phone/iPod into a phone/iPod/blogging device/radio/complete waste of time. Now, if you’ll excuse me, this lightsaber is itchin’ to lance some Sith.