The world’s biggest social network brings a tightly honed experience to the iPhone and iPod touch, but nonetheless still enables you to access your contacts, feeds and other important information. This sense of focus makes it in many ways superior to using Facebook in a desktop browser.
We did a bit of a double-take on seeing Microsoft’s name attached to this, not least given the lack of a price-tag. But PhotoSynth is a really great panorama app; it’s user-friendly and fun to use, especially when watching your panoramas take shape while you capture them. (The iOS Camera app also has a panorama mode, but PhotoSynth’s more flexible and works with older devices.)
The prospect of Nike+ but better and for free might sound unlikely, but that’s what RunKeeper provides. Previously split into ‘pro’ and ‘free’ versions, the developer now generously includes all the features in one free app.
That means you can spend no money, yet use your iPhone’s GPS capabilities to track your jogging and cycling routes, and examine mapping and details of your pace and calories burned. Activities can be shared online, and treadmill runs and other exercise details can be entered manually.
RSS has a reputation for being a rather dry technology, feeding you dull lists of headlines. Pulse flips RSS on its head, providing streams of feeds that grab your eye with photographs. It’s perhaps not for the hardcore RSS crowd, but if you follow a small number of feeds, it’s a great choice.
Plenty of apps exist for transferring content between your computer and your device, but Dropbox is free and easier to use than most of its contemporaries. Dump files you want to sync in a folder on your computer and Dropbox for your device will enable you to access them, download them for offline viewing, and, in many cases, view them.
For anyone commuting by train, National Rail Enquiries is a handy app to have installed. There’s journey planning, timetables and a location-aware ‘next train home’ option, along with progress tracking, so you can see when a train’s likely to show up. It’s not as usable nor as pretty as UK Train Times , but it is broadly similar – and five quid cheaper.
National Rail Enquiries
FaceTime is a great alternative to standard voice calls, but it’s no good if you’re trying to contact someone without a Mac or compatible iOS device. Therefore, Skype remains an essential download. The interface is simple and usable, enabling anyone with a Skype account to make free calls to other Skype users and cheap calls to anywhere in the world. If you’re on Pay and Go, this is particularly handy, but the app also enables iPod touch users to utilise their devices for calls.
Although some aspects of cinema listings app Movies by Flixter are disappointingly US-centric (notably regarding details on upcoming movies and DVDs), it succeeds where it matters. Select a film and the app figures out where you’re located, lists nearby cinemas, and displays times your chosen film is showing. Efficiency can be further increased by pinning favourite cinemas to the top of the list.
Virtual pianos and guitars are all very well, but purely digital musical toys are more suited to Apple handhelds. TonePad is the best of them, using a grid-based interface that enables you to turn notes on and off and compose pleasing and harmonious loops; your creations can be edited, saved and uploaded to share with other users.
There are many free news apps, but Reuters News Pro offers a breadth of coverage that makes it a winner. Preferences enable you to tailor the app’s output to the UK, and the toolbar provides swift access to news, pictures, videos and stock markets coverage.
The official Twitter app might lack some of the features found in the likes of Tweetbot , but it does provide a sleek and simple means of using the service. It also directly mirrors the latest navigational scheme on the Twitter website.
In all honesty, Comics is a little awkward compared to using it on an iPad, but you won’t find a better comics experience on an iPhone. The app is free, as are dozens of downloadable comics – and once you run out of those, many more are available to buy. Reading works on a frame-by-frame automated ‘zoom’ basis, and is surprisingly usable.