Monday, December 28, 2009

My first year using an iPhone: Favorite Apps

As 2009 rolls away, I thought I'd take a moment to share with probably no one what I've come to enjoy most on my iPhone 3G, purchased in January of this year. In other words, yet another list of "my favorite apps" to clog up the Internet. In the past 11 months I've installed and removed dozens of apps, but these are the ones that I use almost every day.

First things first: you would be a fool not to jailbreak your phone. Only 10% of the customer base does so, but it is a no-brainer. There are easier and harder ways to do this, and if you are not tech savvy you might find it difficult. Always a struggle when Apple issues a software upgrade (so resist the temptation to upgrade your phone's software whenever the opportunity arises - wait until DevTeam gives the all clear), but the JB community has managed to keep up so far.

If you are already running iPhone OS 3.1.2 and have a Windows PC, here are clear instructions for jailbreaking your phone, from Redmond Pie, a great site by Taimur Asad, a student at Bahria University in Pakistan.

Having said that, here is what I have found to be my everyday essentials (just Google for more info):

1. (JB) OpenHebrew3. Made by Tom Zickel, an undergrad at the Technion, it is the perfect way to make an iPhone handle Hebrew, long before the iPhone was introduced (just this month) to the Israeli market. Still the best.
2. (JB) Ultrasn0w. This is already a bit outdated, but it is how I achieve "unlock" status on my slightly dated baseband. Be careful here! If your baseband has been updated along with 3.1.2, you might not be able to use this trick. Instead you will need something called (JB) Blacksn0w. Unlocks the phone so you can pop in a GSM chip from any provider. Most local telcoms sell pay-as-you go chips. Essential for international travel and getting cheap local rates. OK, I don't use this every day, but whenever I am overseas, it is essential.
3. ($) News Feed Elite. A great aggregator of news sources, very customizable.
4. Skype. Only works out of the box in Wifi environments, but with (JB) VoIPover3G will work in 3G-land also.
5. ($$$) Slingplayer. $40 well spent. Same as Skype, designed by AT&T to work only in Wifi, but with (JB) VoIPover3G will work under 3G. Of course, you need a SlingBox connected to your cable box at home. But once you have it all set up, watch your home TV ANYWHERE!
6. (JB) VoIPover3G. Requires going into the guts of the phone with SSH (abbreviation for Secure SHell; get [JB] OpenSSH), but it damn works!
7. ($) Tweetie. Best twitter app I've come across.
8. ($) WhiteNoise. Great way to go to sleep. Pick your sound, from crickets to waves on the beach to white noise. Also a free lite version, less sounds.
9. (JB) Backgrounder. Allows apps to run in the background. Combined with (JB) ProSwitcher and you have a Palm-Pre style quick application jumper. Can be a real battery drainer if you aren't careful.
10. ($$) WorldMate Gold. Expensive but useful way to keep track of all your trips, flights, hotels, car rentals.
11. Shazam. What the hell is that song? Run this app while the music is playing, and it will go out and get you all the details.
12. ($) Missile Command. Favorite game from grad school, rendered nicely.
13. ($) HebrewBible. The whole Hebrew Tanakh, searchable. Also includes Siddur.
14. ($) TopDictionaries Hebrew<->English Translator. $10, but the best dictionary out there. Uses its own keyboard inside the app.
15. Wikipanion. Nice gateway into Wikipedia. Great way to settle disagreements about facts.
16. ($) PocketTouch. $.99. Nice gesture-based way to flip through songs. Great in the car or (I am told) while exercising. It was better as a JB app, but the developer went legit.
17. Sportacular. Great way to stay current on sports scores, pushes game updates.
18. (JB) BossPrefs and (JB) SBSettings. Install in that order. Great way to gain control of the phone's settings quickly.

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