Killer iPhone Apps

Give an iPhone owner half a chance and they will happily launch into a lengthy demonstration of the latest slew of ‘apps’ that they’ve downloaded for their pocket-sized gadget. Apps are, essentially, packages of software that utilises (hopefully) the best properties of the iPhone’s hardware – ie the multi touch screen, GPS, and the impressively sensitive accelerometer. These properties, combined with a powerful operating system (Unix) and fast internet connection speeds mean that the iPhone is, in short, a creative programmer’s dream come true. Here at CR, we’ve been checking out a wide variety of apps and have compiled a round up of our currentfavourites…

Give an iPhone owner half a chance and they will happily launch into a lengthy demonstration of the latest slew of ‘apps’ that they’ve downloaded for their pocket-sized gadget. Apps are, essentially, packages of software that utilises (hopefully) the best properties of the iPhone’s hardware – ie the multi touch screen, GPS, and the impressively sensitive accelerometer. These properties, combined with a powerful operating system (Unix) and fast internet connection speeds mean that the iPhone is, in short, a creative programmer’s dream come true. Here at CR, we’ve been checking out a wide variety of apps and have compiled a round up of our current favourites…

Color Expert
Category: Reference
Code Line Comms
Cost: £5.99

According to the iPhone app store, “Color Expert is an interactive colour wheel and swatch library that helps artists and designers identify, translate, capture and show­case colour.” Select a colour from the colour wheel and Color Expert will provide the Pantone reference as well as rgb values (managed cmyk colour conversion is planned for the next version). More excitingly, take a photo using the iPhone’s camera and the app will find the nearest Pantone match for whatever you’ve snapped. It will also work out complimentary and analogous colours and offers a fairly good set of Pantone swatches. You can then email the data directly from your phone to your email account.

FontViewer
Category: Utilities
osxWerk.de
Cost: Free

We’ve included FontViewer in our roundup not because we think it’s perfect, but rather because it represents a step in the right direction. FontViewer is a fairly basic reference tool for graphic designers: it lists the system fonts found on Apple computers and allows you to examine a type sampler for each font. However, there’s great potential in the idea. For example, what about an app that provides a similar function to the What The Font? tool on myfont.com? Something that would allow users to upload an image (taken with the iPhone camera) of a font that would then be identified by the app? Now that really would be useful. We await version 2…

CameraBag
Category: Photography
Nevercentre Ltd
Cost: £1.79

CameraBag is, as the name suggests, a ‘bag’ of different camera effects for use with your iPhone’s camera. Simply take a photo and then select from a list of different effects, including Lomo­graphy lookalikes Helga and Lolo and others such as Infrared, Ansel, Fisheye – et voila, your photo­graph takes on the relevant appearance. Or you can choose an image from your photo library, scroll through the different camera styles and save any that you like the look of. An options panel is available for camera behaviour, image size, preset cropping effects, preset border effects and more. Free updates in the future will include addi­tional lens filter effects.

Oblique Strategies
Category: Music (weirdly)
Far Out Labs LLC
Cost: Free

Oblique Strategies, subtitled, “over one hundred worth­while dilemmas”, is a deck of cards originally created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt to help creatives get out of a rut. Now in its fifth edition, it has long been championed by creative types suffering from ‘block’ (the first set came out back in 1975). The idea lends itself rather neatly to an iPhone app: each card in the pack contains a phrase or cryptic remark which can be used to break a deadlock or dilemma. Essentially it functions rather like a ‘magic 8-ball’ toy, throwing out a series of quirky, inspirational phrases at random, such as “emphasise the flaws”. The app version contains all five editions of the cards and allows the user to draw the top card off a shuffled deck in order to read it. Brian Eno’s involvement means the appli­cation has been misplaced in the music category of Apple’s app store. It should probably be moved to productivity.

RJDJ Album
Category: Music
Reality Jockey Ltd
Cost: £1.79

The makers of RjDj describe it as a “mind twisting hearing sensation”. Connect your headphones and choose between several different ‘scenes’ created by different musicians. Each scene reacts to sounds picked up via the microphone of your iPhone to create or influence what you hear. In other words, the sounds around you are analysed, mixed and mashed, twisted, effected, looped and echoed in such a way that ambient noise becomes weird and wonderful music. You can hum and clap to add to the composition and record your mind-bending tracks to listen to at a later time. There is a free ‘Single’ version with only one scene available to play with. Highly addictive.

Bloom
Category: Music
Opal Limited
Cost: £2.39

Bloom, like RJDJ, is also an interactive, generative music toy but rather than reacting to sounds picked up by the micro­phone, interaction takes place via the touchscreen of the iPhone. Tap the screen to create elaborate and unique melodies which are looped and repeated. If you stop interacting with Bloom, gener­ative software takes over and Bloom creates music of its own. Developed by ambient pioneer and producer Brian Eno and musician and soft­ware designer Peter Chilvers, Bloom is part instrument and compositional tool and the blobby user interface has the feeling of an interactive art piece. Let’s have more apps like this please.

SynchStep
Jailbroken phones only
Cost: Free (donations
welcome) from synchstep.com/

Greg Elliot, creative techno­logist at Poke New York, developed this clever appli­cation which puts your iPhone or iPod Touch in tune with the pace that you’re moving at. SynchStep takes advantage of the device’s accelerometer to monitor the speed of a user’s footfall and matches it with suitable music from your iTunes library. If it can’t find the information in your iTunes files, SynchStep will automatically find, download and store BPM data gathered from the internet. Don’t move to the groove: get the groove to your move!

For All Seasons
Category: Entertainment
Nanika Limited
Cost: Free

Created by Andreas Müller, For All Seasons is, he tells us “an iPhone port of an old piece of mine called For All Seasons that I released in 2005 for pc and Mac. For All Seasons is an attempt to use interactivity to help explain a memory, and the emotions that are attached to that memory, to someone else.” Start the application and then choose one of the four seasons. A text explanation of a memory related to that season appears on screen. Once you’ve read the information, tap the screen and the letters on the page form the basis of an inter­active animation bringing that memory to life. Lovely stuff.

iGameboy
Jailbroken phones only
rob-sheridan.com/iphone

One of the common gripes with Apple’s iTunes app store system is that Apple controls which apps are sold. This allows it to control the quality of appli­cations, but it can also refuse to sell apps that perform tasks just as well or arguably better than soft­ware Apple itself produces. It’s unlikely, for example, that the official app store will sell an alternative web browser to Safari…
This app by Rob Sheridan shows how non-Apple-approved apps can change the look of your iPhone’s interface – in this case, giving the iPhone’s ‘winterboard’ the look of Nintendo’s classic 1989 Gameboy interface. Anyone for Tetris?

Locly
Category: Navigation
Acknack Ltd
Cost: Free

Locly is an app that makes use of GPS and also internet access. Should you wonder where you are and what services, shops etc are in your immediate vicinity, open up the app and it will find what­ever you want, be it a selection of cafés or restaurants, or perhaps a highly-regarded sausage emporium. It will also access local images from Flickr, pull up Twitter or Wikipedia entries that are relevant to your location or even information on nearby items of interest found in Safari. The blurb at the apps store promises that it “will work in most countries”.

Air Sharing
Category: Productivity
Avatron Software Inc
Cost: £3.99

Air Sharing allows users to mount your iPhone or iPod touch as a wireless hard drive on any Mac, Windows or Linux computer – as long as you’ve got a Wi-Fi connection. This is a brilliant idea although it does assume that you haven’t filled all your available memory with photographs, music and other applications. But assuming you still have some storage space to spare, then it’s more than just a handy hard drive … not only can you drag and drop files between your iPhone and computer just as you would with any other portable hard drive – but you can also use the iPhone as a reader to view stored docu­ments in many common formats such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, pdf, html, rtf and more.

For more on iPhone apps, see the current, December, issue of Creative Review.

apple.com/iphone/appstore/
iphonehacks.com/

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