The PFG Guide to iPhone Apps, Vol. 1

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Douchebag got an iPhone and now he thinks he’s an authority to talk to me about apps? Vain, much?

It’s presumptive to assume that after less than a week of usage, I have anything to tell y’all about what apps are worthwhile. Few things in the tech sector get more press than app guides.  But, while I don’t have the experience edge per se, what I am is thorough, people.  I bought a $50 App Store Card the day I bought the phone and promptly hit the Internet to look at what came with the highest recommendations. Some are obvious, some seem to still be on the come up. Those are the ones I’m gonna shout out here.

Viddy [Free]: Touted as a sort of ‘Instagram for Videos,’ this service seems to be amassing users at a frantic pace.  Other apps like Keek already give users the option to post short videos [read, 15-30 seconds] but Viddy’s design and interface has the same slick appeal as its photographic colleague, down to the vintage filters you can put on your videos.  The orientation grid being a face with eyeline is a nice touch, too, and perfect for keeping your face centered filming yourself.

SloPro [$1.99]: Seems silly at first, but the few videos I’ve taken with SloPro have been both impressive and at times creepy.  The hook is this: when you film anything with your phone, it records at 30 frames-per-second.  So when you slow it down, it looks like everyone’s doing the robot.  SloPro records the video at double the framerate [on the 4S only], so that when it gets slowed down, it looks smooth and fluid.  Been trying to get that perfect shot of you and your friends walking slowly down a hallway?  SloPro’s the tool to use.  Note: there’s a free version, but it’s useless. You can’t save your videos, and a watermark appears across them after you finish recording. So if you want it, drop the two bucks and save yourself the irritation.

Rocket Man [Free, ad removal for $1.99]: If you’re a transit rider in Toronto, you need a TTC app.  Previously, I’d used Red Rocket, which cost $2.99 and worked great on my iPod touch, but seems to have stopped updating after iOS4, which is unfortunate.  What is fortunate is that Rocket Man actually makes it easier to locate and select favourite stops. Just ping them on the map and the app tells you the route number and time of arrival.  One strike: I wish it was easier to read a list of stops on any given route.  When I’m in an unfamiliar part of the city and want to know how far down my stop is, Red Rocket presented all the stops in a list; Rocket Man plots them all on a map you have to tap individually.  Not the end of the world, just a minor gripe.

TonePad [free, Pro for $0.99]: TonePad is a silly little app that turns your screen into a grid of dots.  Swipe your finger across the screen and some of the dots light up and play tones.  With a click of a button you can shuffle, flip or rotate the tone pattern, making for new musical discoveries.  All the music made on TonePad [by me anyway] ends up sounding like ‘Selected Ambient Works’-era Aphex Twin, but there ain’t nothing wrong with that. The Pro version adds the ability to make ringtones out of your songs, which is a nifty feature.

TuneIn Radio [free, Pro for $0.99]: One of the things people like to hate on the iPhone for is the lack of radio receiver, which seems silly but I admit was something I kind of liked about my Android phone. But, with one app download, not only do you get a local radio receiver, you get streaming radio from around the world.  The app allows you to set presets, has a sweet ‘Car Mode’ with a stripped down version of the controls on giant buttons for people who want to listen while driving, and keeps stats of your data usage on both Wi-Fi and Cellular networks, so you can be sure you don’t blow your data plan.  A great app from top to bottom.  I recommend you add WEFUNK Radio from Montreal immediately. The Pro version nixes ads and lets you record streams.

Photosynth [Free]: What the hell, an app from Microsoft running on iOS?  a good app from Microsoft running on iOS? I was as surprised as you are.  Photosynth is basically just a photo-stitcher, like the feature you find on most digital cameras these days. You take multiple photos in succession, the software ‘stitches’ them together and you get panoramic shots. Like this one.

Now that’s just something I did quick-likes [close inspection reveals the lines on the road don’t line up perfectly], but you can see the potential.  What’s even cooler is that you can stitch in all directions, it’s totally possible to create 360-degree shots in all directions, provided you keep the edges of the frame line up, something the app assists with very nicely, snapping the next photo automatically when it’s approximately lined up.  User control is still needed to make it as smooth as possible [I had to crop the above shot to get rid of the jagged edges along the top] but it’s a really, really cool program, cheap as free. Note:  while the app’s free, you’ll still have a pop-up asking you to make Bing your default search engine every once in awhile. I haven’t found it problematic yet.

Zombieville, USA [$0.99]: I have to mention this one, if only because of the story attached.  Up very late a few nights ago, I saw a section on the app store for zombie-themed programs.  Since I love the undead as much as anyone, I had a look through it.  Unfortunately, since I’d been irritated by constantly being asked by my laptop if I really want to download the apps I was buying, I turned off the feature that asked for my password before completing the transaction.  Therefore, when I went to scroll down using my trackpad, I did it while the cursor was hovering over the ‘BUY’ button for this game.  So, I bought it on accident.  Luckily, it’s actually a pretty good game. You basically run along a darkened street, fighting off zombies with guns and melee weapons, scrounging in abandoned houses for ammo and money to buy upgrades. Sometimes you’ll find other survivors to help you out, sometimes you’ll find a car or helicopter to mow down zombies for that level. As you progress, zombies get more durable and survival becomes narrower.  The controls are super tight and sufficiently simple, the violence goofy but satisfying and the action deceptively intense. I mean look, it’s no Infinity Blade [or even Scribblenauts, my favourite game for the iPhone currently], but if I had to buy something on accident, I’m glad it was this. There’s also a sequel, also for $0.99

So that’s it for now, friends.  Now that I’m officially a fully immersed member of the Cult, and with the WWDC a few short weeks away, I’m sure tech talk will pop up more frequently on here, but I’ll do my best to keep it to a minimum. Besides, it’s time I started doing something cool with this technology, instead of just talking about how cool it is.

Any apps you think I should know about? Holler at me in the comments.

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