Part dining site and part slot machine, Urban Spoon is a great app for those times when you just can’t decide where to go for dinner. All you have to do is start the program and it will immediately search for your location using the iPhone’s GPS. Once that’s done you get a screen where you can choose a nearby city, the type of food you’d like, the price range or all three by touching the lock icon underneath the option. Or, if you truly want to fly by the seat of your pants, leave everything unlocked.
Then, simply shake your phone, or if you don’t want to shake your phone, push the button that says “shake.” The dials will spin and you’ll end up with a restaurant name. Click on the name to get the address, phone number and an option to read reviews. Don’t like what you see? Select “shake” on the top left to go back and try again.
If you don’t want to be quite so random, you can instead choose browse, search or near me from the bottom of the screen. Browse allows you to see a comprehensive listing of restaurants in your area, search lets you find a restaurant by key word and near me will bring up a list ordered by distance from your current location.
My favorite feature of the app was, of course, the slot machine aspect. I’m one of those people that never knows where to go, and it can help to have the iPhone do the deciding for me. However, one thing I didn’t like was that it didn’t pick up any restaurants in my local city. In fact, I was sitting in a restaurant when I tried the app and it wasn’t even listed as an option. Hopefully this will improve as Urban Spoon expands the application.
This fishing game is extremely user friendly and actually hard to put down. To get started, you simply pick a fishing locale. Options abound with varying levels of difficulty. For example, you can begin with a docile pond and work your way up to deep sea fishing on the “waves of doom.” It may seem like a no-brainer that you don’t want to fish in any spot with doom in its name, but that’s where the big boys hang out – the fish that will garner you more points.
So how do you catch a fish? Simple. Flick your phone. Then watch the buoy that appears at the end of your line. When the buoy goes under, start reeling in by touching the screen and moving your finger clockwise. Two bars at the top of the screen will help you to adjust your reeling speed so that your line stays balanced and the fish stays on it. When you catch one, you have to throw it back, but you keep a picture and weight in your photo gallery. Really proud of your latest catch? You can email it to anyone in your contact list by selecting the “brag” option under the image.
If you get sick of fishing by yourself, you can play the vs. mode. Either play against the computer or another player on your same phone or link up two phones over a network. Then decide on your venue and whether you’d like to compete to see who gets the most fish (by weight) overall or who gets the biggest catch of the day. Win and you get a trophy. Lose and you still get a trophy, but also a big “you lose” across your iPhone screen.
Overall, this game is a lot of fun. The music and graphics are nothing to write home about, but that’s not always necessary when you’re just looking to pass some time.
Sonic Boom is the perfect stress reliever. Any time you feel the need to blow something up simply launch this app and have at it.
This app is incredibly easy to learn, especially since when you open it up it will present you with a tutorial on how to use it. After the tutorial, you are presented with an image of a firecracker which you can make bigger by using the native pinch/pull gestures. To light your firecracker swipe your finger on the brown match strip at the bottom of the screen. Once you see flames you can tap the fuse. (If you don’t, nothing will happen.) After the fuse burns down you’ll be privy to a nice explosion complete with the firecracker being blown to bits.
If you really enjoy explosions, you can even slow down the action using the on-screen speed adjuster so you can relish in your kablooey a little longer, and when you are done you can put your finger on the screen and spin the remains 360 degrees.
Feeling a little vindictive? Try touching the options menu. Then you can touch the picture of a camera to add photos to the side of your fireworks. This is a good nonviolent and legal way to punish that certain somebody who might be deserving. Another interesting feature is the compatibility with the Sonic Lighter app. If you have another phone with that app running, you can use the lighter on your fuse by putting the phones near each other.
This is another one of those non-practical apps that is still darn fun to use.
Gone are the days of holding up your lighter at rock concerts, not to mention the fire hazards. Now you only need your iPhone and this nifty little app. It presents a graphical rendition of a the flint of a lighter on the screen. Just flick it by moving your finger downward and a flame appears. (Move your finger upward and you see sparks but nothing else ever happens.)
Once you have your flame, you can move the iPhone around and have the lighter “interact” with the sides of your iPhone by sizzling and setting off “smoke.” It’s a good way to pretend to damage your phone when it is getting on your nerves.
Another thing you can do is hold down the valve of the lighter causing a flame thrower like effect. Or use wind effects (which are on by default but can be turned off) to effect the state of the flame by blowing into the mic. Just don’t blow too hard or, naturally, you’ll extinguish it.
Like with many other iPhone apps, you can use the pinch/pull gestures to affect the size of the flame or just put your finger in it and play around – splitting and breaking it without the risk of burning yourself.
There is also an option to set it to show a normal flame, a blue Obama flame or a red McCain flame. Then you can view a worldwide map of other users around the world and what flame they have chosen. The manufacturer added a note saying you can still use the colors now after the election. This is great since I think the blue flame just looks really cool.
This is probably the best piano application available on the iPhone – and it’s infinitely more superior because it is free. It reminds me of those song books you can buy for kids that give you a simple little keyboard and the basic notes you have to play within the pages.
All you have to do is touch the realistic looking “keys” and play. They look just like the ones you would find on a regular piano, only smaller. You have an entire octave of notes to choose from, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to change the pitch in order to play any complicated songs. However, you do have the black in-between keys for flats and sharps as well as the ability to play chords.
I had a lot of fun playing simple tunes that I remembered from when I was a kid, and I actually had a hard time putting it down and moving on to other things I needed to do. Even funnier is that as soon as I did, my roommate picked it up and started tapping out the theme song to Inspector Gadget for a solid ten minutes.
This app can be used as a simple teaching tool for those just starting their music careers and also as a fun way to entertain others or to simply amuse yourself. Just be aware that if it gets into the wrong hands it can be really annoying. So keep it away from toddlers and those who think they are masters of rock.
Finally, an app for all the Zelda lovers out there. Anyone familiar with the Ocarina of Time will love this app (okay, so I wasn’t, but someone else brought it up) as well as anyone who is musically inclined or who likes to think they are.
To use it, you simply hold your iPhone parallel to the ground and blow into the microphone. (If you’re not sure where the microphone is, there is a convenient helper arrow that shows you.) Once you’ve got a good amount of air going into the phone, push the “keys,” the four circles on the display, to change the pitch of your instrument. You can push one at a time or up to all four if you have the dexterity and long enough fingers. Blow softer the instrument plays more quietly; blow harder and it gets louder.
This game doesn’t have a lot of options, but there are a few to note. Choose the globe button at the bottom of the screen and you’ll see where everyone is using it worldwide and get to spy on some of the songs being put out. Be aware that you should do this at your own risk since some are better than others. Push the gear button to share your music with the world.
It is amazing the work and effort that went into this app and it is really a joy to play, though you can also get lightheaded pretty fast. Play long and play often. Just be careful not to wake up the neighbors.
Using this fun app you can change your voice to one of five different styles. The first and probably my favorite, which you get to by touching the triangular gray button, makes you sound like some kind of evil monster by making your voice higher pitched and crackly. The second style is accessed through the lion’s face and replaces your voice with a growl.
A third option is accessed through a circular button and sounds like you’re talking into a space helmet with a fuzzy and echoing sound. The fourth and fifth buttons look like a pacifier and an robot head with a baby talk/crazy babbling sound and a mechanical sound, respectively.
If you’re using just your iPhone, you may think the app doesn’t work. That’s because you have to hold it to your ear like you would if you were talking on the phone to hear the sound coming out of the speaker. (See, you don’t need a Bluetooth to look like you’re talking to yourself!)
Another option is that you can use headphones or connect an external mic. Then you’ll be able to see the screen as you use the app and watch the patterns that are formed due to your pitch and echo and adjust them using your finger.
It’s a lot more fun when you can see the screen while you’re speaking, but it’s a good diversion either way. The only problem I had was trying to think of what to say. It’d be pretty cool to have a script prepared that related to each voice. You could even make your own radio show.
The PayPal app is pretty self-explanatory. It is a watered-down copy of the PC version of the program by the same name. You can use it to send money over the Net to anyone that has an account registered with the service. It doesn’t matter whether or not they have the mobile version. Additionally, you can see about a month of history and check your current balance.
If people you’re sending the payment to are in your contact list, you can simply press the blue plus symbol icon to find them in your address book. Then all you have to do is touch their name and either the phone number or e-mail address and the info will automatically be entered in the payee box without your needing to type it in.
If you aren’t a current PayPal member, you can select the sign up option in the app. You will then be directed to the PayPal website so you can create an account. Though PayPal Mobile is useful, it is definitely no replacement for the version available through paypal.com. It’s got enough functionality for you to make a basic payment, but not enough for you to effectively manage your account if you need to do any more than just send money.
This app is very easy to navigate, with all the buttons you need at the bottom of your iPhone screen. There are no flashy colors or sound. Everything is simple as can be. This app is a good way to pay someone in a pinch if you don’t have the cash but do have your phone handy.
WeatherBug on the iPhone is true to its desktop counterpart. It uses the iPhone’s location-based services to present you with your local weather when you launch the app. The information you get includes the current temperature, the wind chill, the humidity level and dew point and the forecast for the next two days.
Delve further into the app using the buttons on the bottom of the screen and you can view weather radar using Google maps. It looks very similar to what you would see with a televised weather forecast, showing green blobs for light rain and white blobs for snow, etc. Choose the video button and you can take in a weather forecast with Rachel, the WeatherBug meteorologist, who is a real person and not a computer composite. However, this forecast covers the entire United States with little specific information for each area.
My favorite feature is the ability to view local WeatherBug webcams and “see” what it looks like outside in my area. If there are a lot of cameras in your area, you can receive up to five choices. I was a little frustrated that the choice for my area is at least a 15 to 20 minute drive from my house and it was the only option available. But I suppose that is not meteorologically significant. If you live in a more rural area though, you may be somewhat out of luck.
This app is a step above the built-in iPhone app since it has loads more information, and since it is available free of charge, no iPhone should be without it.
This app is a good tool for the amateur stargazer. With a swipe of the finger you can explore the nighttime sky that is right above your head. The program shows you where all of the constellations are and what planets are using your iPhone’s GPS function to pinpoint your exact location.
If you see too many or too little celestial bodies compared to what you view when you look up, you can adjust this by telling the app how much light pollution is in your area by using the preferences option. You can also touch “what’s up” to see the stars and planets without the labels. Once you know what you should be able to see, hold up your phone and you will know where to find them. If you turn the phone, the star map turns with it so that it always oriented in the proper direction.
There’s another way this app works well as a learning tool. Simply touch the constellation button at the bottom of the screen and you will get a list of all of them. Choose a name and up comes a detailed description of its location and how it got its name. Then touch find to see where it is on the star map. Alternately, pick “other” from the bottom of the screen and you get a list of galaxies and star clusters. Then navigate the entire sky by using your finger to move around the star map.
This app is an update of one of my favorite programs back in the ‘80s on the Commodore Amiga. It’s nice to see a it being created for the iPhone era with little extras that improve it. All in all this is a great educational app for anyone wanting to know more about the night sky.