iPhone apps - the 10 smartest and the 10 stupidest
One man's meat is another man's poison
The soon-to-be-released iPhone 3.0 software will offer a slew of new capabilities to iPhone developers. With that sea change in mind, we thought now would be a good time to take a look at the highs and lows of the current crop of apps for the iPhone and iPod touch.
Not merely the best and worst, but rather two Reg-ratified Top Ten lists: the 10 smartest and 10 stupidest apps that the iTunes App Store has to offer.
As of this weekend, App Store watchdog Apptism reported that there were over 43,000 apps offered on that online marketplace. Needless to say, our twenty picks - and the also-rans that follow them - could easily be joined by thousands of others.
Before you dive in, note that all product links are to the App Store, and all marketing quotes are verbatim. They'd have to be. You just can't make some of this stuff up.
Smart: FTP On The Go
They say: "If you are an IT professional or webmaster, FTP On The Go is the reason your boss should buy you an iPhone!"
The Reg says: Not only does this pocket pal pack a passle of FTP goodness, it also includes a surprisingly capable text editor.
Website unwell? Fire up this little puppy, navigate to your website, download the errant file, make your changes, then upload it back to your server.
There's also support for Office and iWork docs, PDF, iPhoto, FTPS, and the use of your iPhone or iPod touch as a file storing and sharing device.
Stupid: Rate a Fart 2.0
They say: "We are confident that this is the best fart app available on the app store to date."
The Reg says: "Best fart app"? Talk about damning with faint praise. Rate a Fart, though, is a highly versatile gas-manager: relish a library of over 700 farts, then record and upload you own farts and share 'em with your friends. Web 2.0 meets intestinal discord.
But despite its farty finesse, this app is for folks who either find stupidity diverting or have embraced it as their lifestyle.
RaF's FAQ, for example, includes this stupid Q&A: "Q) Is a poop a fart? A) No. Don't record your poops." C'mon, we could have told you that.
They say: "Bloomberg offers news, stock quotes, company descriptions, market leaders/laggers, price charts, market trends analysis, and more."
The Reg says: Simply the best, most-complete, up-to-the-minute portable window into the financial Meltdown - and nascent recovery? - that we've seen.
Track your individual portfolio, keep your eye on foreign indexes and futures, or simply wallow in your own personal shame and financial degradation.
Bloomberg's interface looks pretty damn slick as well.
They say: "Next time you are at a bar with like-minded singles or see a girl you wouldn't mind dating simply break out iPickupLines and let the laughs begin!"
The Reg says: Take this app out when on the make, and the aforementioned laughs will be at you, not with you.
Examples of suggested pickup lines: "If you were the new burger at McDonalds you would be the Mcgorgeous!" "If you were a booger I'd pick you first." "Baby you're like a student and I am like a math book, you solve all of my problems."
And, of course, in the flatulent iPhone tradition, "Do you mind if I hang out here until it's safe back where I farted?"
Noel Coward would not be amused.
They say: "With Shazam you can identify music tracks, buy them, and share the tags with friends."
The Reg says: Just point your iPhone toward any recorded music, press the Tag button, and in a befuddlingly brief bit of time, Shazan identifies the song, then presents you with info about it, its lyrics, the artist, related videos, and more. You can photo-identify your tags, buy the tune directly from iTunes - everything except splitting a spliff with the lead singer.
Shazam's accuracy is nothing short of astonishing. In our tests, it even correctly identified the 1966 version of "Hey Joe" by the relatively obscure L.A. garage-rock band, The Leaves. Nice.
Stupid: iGirl - She Obeys (Lite)
They say: "iGirl Combines Fun and Flirtation to Offer Users a Playful App for Entertainment."
The Reg says: This poorly rendered 3D object of dork desire can be swiveled, poked, and fantasized about by a deeply repressed male user.
From the makers of the equally pathetic Drunk Sniper - Urinal Fun ("TURN YOUR IPHONE OR IPOD TOUCH INTO MALE BODY ORGAN!!!"), this Lite version can be upgraded to the 99¢ full iGirl - She Obeys version, which offers more clothing, hair color, and "action" options.
Plus "blowing-on-your-iPhone" fun. Don't ask. Please.
Smart: Pandora Radio
They say: "Just drop the name of one of your favorite songs or artists into Pandora and let the Genome Project go. It will quickly scan its entire world of analyzed music...to find songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice."
The Reg says: Like its computer and music-device counterparts, the iPhone's Pandora creates and plays "radio stations" composed of tunes it thinks parallel your tastes. Pandora knows the sonic landscape far better than you, and will generously lead you to new - and welcome - discoveries.
If you don't like one of Pandora Radio's chosen songs, you can skip it - but only six skips per hour are allowed.
Stupid: iStrip - Sexy Pen
They say: "iStrip is a sexy 'Virtual Novelty Pen' for your iPhone or iPod touch!"
The Reg says: Younger readers may not remember novelty pens that contained a small capsule in which a lithesome lass' garb would slip-slide away when the pen was tilted, usually leaving her attractively starkers.
iStrip digitizes that genius idea, but with a couple of twists: sad-looking models, ludicrously amateurish graphics, and - of course, this being the App Store - no nudity.
No strip. No sexy. No pen. No class. No way.
Smart: Kindle for iPhone
They say: "Kindle for iPhone allows Apple iPhone and iPod touch owners to read Kindle books using a simple, easy-to-use interface."
The Reg says: While Stanza (recently bought by Amazon) is arguably a more feature-filled ebook reader, we prefer Kindle because of its effective simplicity and Amazon's recently upgraded and iPhonified Kindle Store, with nearly 300,000 instantly downloadable books.
While you might think that an iPhone or iPod touch's small screen wouldn't offer a satisfactory reading experience, we've found it to be more than satisfactory - and also discovered that having a book-filled iPhone available at all times is a great boredom-banishing convenience.
Stupid: Wooo! Button
They say: "Simple yet guaranteed addicting, Wooo! Button is simply that...a button that belts out an emphatic 'Wooo!'"
The Reg says: Yup, that's all it does. Tap the rather attractive button and your iPhone shouts "Wooo!"
Actually, it's wee bit closer to "Wow!," but does it matter? No.
Simple, to the point, and thoroughly pointless.
They say: "Inspired by professional drum machines, samplers, and sequencers, BeatMaker combines them into one inspirational instrument."
The Reg says: Here's incontrovertible proof that the iPhone is no toy.
BeatMaker is a full-fledged music-maker, with 16 trigger pads (up to five at once) to play samples either from its included library or recorded on the go. A multi-resolution, multi-track step sequencer supports pattern creation and assembly.
Add bit-crusher down-sampling, high and low-pass filters, complex envelope controls, network sharing, WAV and MIDI export, BPM info, and a whole lot more, and you've got a party in your pocket.
Stupid: SoftServe Poop Machine
They say: "Created especially for all you fans of iFart and the dozens of other fart and poop apps on the app store. Did we say Chocolate Fudge? Mmmm!"
The Reg says: Really, what exactly can you say about an app such as SoftServe Poop Machine? That its controls for curvature, length, and thickness allow you to create an inspiringly aesthetic digital dump?
How about, instead, we simply shout for professional help: "Dr. Freud! Dr. Freud! Calling Dr. Freud!"
Smart: Vlingo - Voice App
They say: "Using innovative speech recognition technology, Vlingo lets iPhone users dial their contacts, search the Web, look up numbers and maps for local listings, and send status updates for Facebook and Twitter."
The Reg says: If - when? - Apple incorporates voice control into the iPhone, let's hope its as versatile as Vlingo.
Voice recognition is surprisingly strong for an app that doesn't require you to memorize proprietary keywords. In most cases, you just tell your iPhone what you want it it to do, and it does it.
They say: "Did you know Jared is a star? He was in a Blockbuster commercial. It was about sausages. It was great."
The Reg says: Stupidity is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes a truly stupid app can be thoroughly disarming - such as Jared (aka Jared: The Butcher of Song or Jared: El Carnicero de Canciones).
This li'l yellow off-key singing head first appeared as a highly pixellated Mac app in the mid-90s and quickly became second only to Clarus the Dogcow in cult reverence. Jared is the digital world's "Shaggs" - sincere, unaccountably charming, and very, very stupid.
They say: "With Remote, you can control the music on your computer or Apple TV from your iPod touch or iPhone."
The Reg says: This elegant app is from Apple, and it shows. (That's a cue for you Apple-haters. You can thank me later for such a choice piece of raw meat).
Remote does just what it says, simply and gracefully. From anywhere in your home that has Wi-Fi coverage, you can control playback, view album artwork, edit, and search your iTunes library, control AirTunes speakers, and even muck about with Genius playlists - if you've ever found that odd iTunes feature to be of any interest or value.
Stupid: The Crazy Frog
They say: "Stressed out? Take this test of sanity. Simply stare into the frogs eyes and keep a straight face."
The Reg says: Here at No. 3 we're entering the rarefied world in which dwell the truly stupefyingly stupid.
The original, authentic, and animated Crazy Frog and its associated ear-melting ringtone had at least a modicum of wit, if not charm. This insipid rip-off, sadly has nothing going for it whatsoever - not even the original sound.
Boring frog + boring noise = boring (and exceedingly stupid) app.
They say: "It's never been easier to organize all the details of your busy life - in one iPhone application!"
The Reg says: First there was the basic database app Nutshell, which morphed into FileMaker, which eventually spawned the entry-level, templates-based Bento info-manager for Mac OS X.
Now Bento is available for the iPhone, and it's a cute beaut. It comes bundled with 25 info-organizing templates from Classes to Vehicle Maintenance. Templates can be modified using 15 different field types, and the data within them can interact with other iPhone apps to make calls, view maps, and send emails.
Bento for the iPhone can sync with Bento 2.0v4 for the Mac, or simply be used as a standalone app.
They say: "No matter what your love life brings to the table, you will have a big soft pair of lips to kiss whenever you want!"
The Reg says: This app is so disturbingly stupid that we hope it's merely a put-on. But we fear it's not.
Dial your preferred kiss type, and iKissMe will reward you with a kiss sound effect when you, yes, kiss your beloved iPhone.
To again quote the developer's description, "iKissMe is a great way to practice your kissing skills, or just to bring you up when you're feeling down."
Our hearts go out to anyone who finds succor in this app - it's multi-touch narcissistic osculatorial masturbation at its most unsettling.
Smart: LogMeIn Ignition
They say: "LogMeIn Ignition provides one-click remote control of PCs and Macs."
The Reg says: Who hasn't struggled to help a noob co-worker, friend, or family member over the phone? Telephonic troubleshooting sucks.
With LogMeIn Ignition, your iPhone becomes your trusted troubleshooting partner. You simply take remote control of another computer - as long as it has a LogMeIn client installed - and work your will with it. Not only can you help others, but you'll also have always-on access to your own computers.
LogMeIn Ignition is pricey for an iPhone app and requires a LogMeIn account, but that's a small price to pay for becoming an IT god.
They say: "Whether you want to just sit quietly and meditate on the flame, or just load up an alternative screensaver to keep your device looking interesting, this is the candle flame app for you."
The Reg says: Our paragon of stupidity is merely a %$#@!ing video of a %$#@!ing candle. Yes, it's calm. And yes, it's a candle. But that's it. That's all.
Okay, so it "WILL slowly shrink over time," but that's the entire extent of the tricks this "candle flame app for you" can perform.For five bucks.
But wait. There's more...
Although the 20 apps above all deserve their glory or shame, there are many more worthies that inspire either commendation or condemnation. Here are but a few notable also-rans:
More Smarts: The Honorable-Mention Top Ten
- Air Sharing Pro - document manager ($4.99)
"The most powerful way to view your documents on the go."
- AP Mobile News Network - news aggregator (free)
"Read, share, search and save breaking news. It's local. It's comprehensive."
- Bloom - music creator ($3.99)
"Bloom is an endless music machine, a music box for the 21st century. You can play it, and you can watch it play itself" - Brian Eno
- Epiphany Recorder - recording app (free)
"Epiphany is the ONLY recorder that lets you capture important moments AFTER they've happened."
- GigBaby! - music tool (99¢)
"Use it anywhere and any time to practice harmonies, capture and record ideas, compose new music, and share your music with others over the network."
- Mocha VNC - VNC utility ($5.99)
"Connect to a Windows PC or Mac OS X and see the files, programs, and resources exactly as you would as if you were sitting at your desk."
- ShapeWriter Pro - text-entry app ($4.99)
"Instead of tapping one letter at a time, you simply slide your finger from letter to letter on the keyboard and lift to complete an entire word."
- Simplify Music 2 - remote-music app ($2.99)
"Access your home computer's digital music library on your iPhone or iPod touch, anytime and anywhere."
- Stanza - ebook reader (free)
"Your entire summer reading, your class syllabus for the whole year, all the reference materials you will ever need: all at your fingertips. Literally."
- Time Tracker - time-accounting app ($2.99)
"TimeTracker helps you keep track of your time everywhere and everytime right on your iPhone or iPod touch."
More Stupidity: The Dishonorable-Mention Top Ten
- Bar Fight Bottle - bar-fight simulator (99¢)
"WARNING: You are not meant to actually hit anybody with your bottle!"
- Beans - lunch'n'farts simulator (free)
"Once you get a few scoops of baked beans the fun begins. Keep eating to keep the party rocking."
- Carsplosion! - car-destruction animations (99¢)
"Rather than solve [the annoying-driver] problem through bouts of road rage, virtually explode these punks with Carplosion!"
- Golf HECKLER! - insult generator (99¢)
"Play a fart or burp sound in your fellow golfers backswing or a belly LAUGH after a missed putt."
- iGouge: Eye Poking Fun! - eye-poke animations (99¢)
"Have you ever wanted to engage in a nice eye poke but couldn't because it's not socially acceptable or friendly?"
- iLoogie - Spit and hock a loogie! - expectoration animations (free)
"Have you ever wanted to spit on your boss, annoyiong buddy, or mother in law? Us too!"
- iPuke - vomit sound effect (99¢)
"Perfect for ... when you want a subtle way to tell the waiter you didn't particularly enjoy their food."
- iPwn - prank app (99¢)
"DO NOT USE THIS APPLICATION ON YOUNG CHILDREN OR PEOPLE WITH KNOWN MEDICAL CONDITIONS."
- Ms. Fart - queef sound effects (99¢)
"Why listen to an old man fart when you can listen to a lady?"
- Proposal "Will you marry me?" - proposal generator (99¢)
"Let's state the universal truth: You'd like to be unique without being pathetic ..."
And that's it. Preservation of our sanity demands that we stop here, but surely you know of more candidates for both the smartest and stupidest categories - and that's what Comments are for. ®