I’m going back and forth on whether to spend the money and buy myself an Apple iPhone. In a lot of ways it seems like a very cool phone, and certainly it has far more features than my clunky old LG. I know about the core functions, but my first glance at the iPhone Application Store was totally overwhelming. I mean, there are HUNDREDS of applications. Tell me, what are your favorites and do you stick just to free apps, or have you bought some too?
A month ago, this would have been a relatively straightforward question to answer because the iPhone was really the only credible and interesting truly smart next-generation phone on the market, but in just the last few weeks a triumvirate of Google, T-Mobile and Taiwanese-based HTC have introduced the highly competitive G1. Biggest difference? It has a real (albeit tiny) keyboard, a somewhat smaller screen and far fewer apps available. On the other hand, the G1 runs “open source” applications, so the app marketplace will likely be big and vibrant in a short period of time.
I know you asked about the Apple iPhone, but I wanted to point out that there is indeed another player in town, and given that it’s such a nightmare to switch from one cellular provider to another, if you are already with T-Mobile I’d definitely check the G1 out before deciding to switch.
Now, on to the iPhone!
The five applications that I use most frequently are a mix of what’s already included with the phone and apps that I’ve downloaded from Apple: Mail, Facebook, the mobile web-based interface to Google’s Gmail service, the iPod features and Twinkle, a mobile Twitter application.
I have 84, yes, eighty-four, different applications on my iPhone. And only about twenty of them are part of the standard iPhone set, so the rest have been downloaded, either for free (the vast majority of them) or for a small fee ranging from $0.99 up to $9.99.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. Seven of those are simply web page bookmarks that are conveniently and attractively displayed on the iPhone as if they were separate applications. So I have seventy seven apps. Far more rational!
Now my confession: most of what I have on the phone are games. There has been an extraordinary outpouring of enthusiasm in the gaming community, all the way from the big players (Electronic Arts) to savvy individual programmers with brilliant ideas, and there are tons of awesome games for a dollar or less. Unlike your existing cell service, these are all “one time and you own it” fees, none of the idiotic “$1.99 for one play, $4.99 for ten plays, $9.99 for unlimited play for 60 days” of other cell phone gaming services.
When I want to demonstrate the coolness of the iPhone, I turn to “Shazam“, a program that samples your environmental audio and identifies what song is playing (which is just wicked cool at a restaurant or party!), “Koi Pond” which turns your phone screen into a peaceful koi pond. Tap on the screen and you create ripples, causing the fish to swim away from your finger. Sounds bizarre, but it’s curiously calming and very zen-like. The third app I like to show is “Motion-X Poker“, a simple poker dice game that does a beautiful job of utilizing the many capabilities of the phone and its physical interface. For example, to shake the dice you shake your phone. Simple, wonderful fun.
I’m a cribbage nut, so while I have tons of games, my favorite is actually “Cribbage Partner“, though the interface is retro 70s computer game. The game play itself is simple, fast and enjoyable, though, and it’s perfect for keeping my skills sharp in this highly competitive card game.
When I seek to get depressed, I can go to the Apple “Stocks” application, but given the volatility of the market, I have given that one a definite miss recently. More useful are both “Showtimes” and “Movies“, which are what we iPhone folks call “location aware applications”: the iPhone has a built-in GPS, letting these applications know where you are located. This makes it easy to, for example, find the closest theater that’s showing a particular movie, even if you’re in a strange city. Nice!
My kids love “Aurora Feint” (a Bejeweled-like puzzle matching game), “Crash Bandicoot” (a comical racing game a la Mario Cart), “Super Monkey Ball” (rolling a marble – with a monkey inside! – along various challenging pathways), “Tap Tap Revenge” (kinda/sorta “Missile Command” set to music) and “Space Monkey” (I don’t know how to describe this one. It’s just cute).
Of these, just about everything I’ve mentioned is free or $1 or $2 dollars max. “Crash Bandicoot” and “Super Monkey Ball” ere $9.99 each and are top-notch professional quality (read “good enough to sell on the Nintendo if they were available for that platform”) games with complex worlds and gorgeous graphics. But then again, “Aurora Feint” is also an amazingly well-done game and it’s free!
Those are the best of the 77 games, uh, applications I have on my Apple iPhone. What’s amazing about the phone, something that people with other cellphones just don’t get, is that because the apps are cheap or free, you can easily grab an app, download it, decide it stinks, and delete it. No foul, no problem, no huge waste of money. Very, very profound change in the entire concept of cellphone-as-mobile-computer.