One Week Of iPhoning

Last Friday I got my new iPhone.  I’ve been playing with it quite a bit since then, and learning what it can (and can’t) do, and can honestly say I think I’ll never go back to a “dumb” phone again.  In fact I sometimes wonder how I got along as long as I have with the cobbled together methods I used to use for keeping track of things.

So, the phone is not really new – it’s a refurbished one – but it’s new to me.  AT&T offered a price drop on refurbished units, so with a two year contract they were now $149 for the 16GB model.  Considering I’d figured on a way to pare my library down small enough to fit that and not feel unhappy about it, and the price was now right – combined with my Sony Ericsson w600i being four years old – it was finally time to place an order.  It took me almost no time at all on Friday to get it activated and get all of my contacts and information into the phone to at least be able to use it for the rest of the day until I could spend some time tweaking the settings and getting everything just how I want it.  Using Google Sync to first get all my contacts into Google, and then sync them over the air with push notifications to my phone directly, that’s just beautiful (and much better than having to keep everything nice and neat on the laptop, and using bluetooth to sync with my phone, like I did with my last phone).  Having calendar items get changed in one place and that pushes out to my phone within a few minutes finally makes it worthwhile to use and keep a calendar of my day.  Yes, I’d been using Google Calendar anyway, and even have iCal on the Macs synchronized to those calendars, but I don’t always have my laptop with me so it’s hard to discuss availability with someone (or check my schedule in general) when I’m not in my office or at home.  And the fact that I can share calendars with Stephanie, so she can post events that she’s doing – or we can post family events on a calendar to see when we’re all planning something – means I also don’t have to “check with the wife” for everything if someone asks me what I’m doing next Saturday.

Now most of that has just as much to do with Google as it does to do with the iPhone, but without one of the two the other would be less useful (yes I know Google can sync with Windows Mobile and Blackberry devices too, but they have their own shortcomings that make those devices less useful to me).  But the App Store is where I started having the most fun with the phone.  So far I have 35 applications installed, and I’ve spent less than $10 total on all of them since most were free:

  • Air Sharing
    Bought this one, and it’s worth it.  Your phone becomes a WebDAV server, which you can connect to through any number of methods on any OS.  Upload stuff to the phone, and it can be viewed there too.  Hello, versatile USB key!
  • Barcode
    Does those funky boxlike barcodes (QR codes) which aren’t yet that popular in the US.  Neat toy, haven’t used it much yet.
  • Checkers Free
  • DirecTV
    Access my DVR remotely and tell it to record something.  Out somewhere and found out there’s a show on tonight you want to see?  Look it up and ask your DVR to record it for you.  Love this.
  • Facebook
  • Flashlight
    Simple, silly – paint the whole screen white.  Not a great flashlight, but enough to see up the steps without tripping over a cat.
  • Free Wi-Fi Finder
    Uses a database of free wireless hotspots, and can direct you to the nearest one based on your GPS location.  Or put in a location and find out what’s around it.
  • GasBag
    This is a keeper!  Based on your current location, find gas stations nearby and what their price is.  If you find the price different – or another station – you can enter it for the benefit of others.  Used this over this past weekend while driving around South Jersey, and probably put in 5-10 prices as we went past stations.  Hey, why not?  Someone will be thankful.
  • Google Earth
  • Google Mobile App
    Quick links to Google services, such as Reader, GMail, Earth, GOOG-411, and more.
  • Have2Drink, Have2Eat, Have2Snack & Have2P
    Find nearby places for a drink, meal, snack, or bathroom.  Again, they’re free, so why not?
  • The iBall
    Outlook not so good
  • JellyCar
    Neat little game, haven’t played it much.  Found it through a website doing app reviews.
  • Lose It!
    Track your food intake and exercise, and help setup a weight loss plan.  Looks neat, don’t know how useful it really is since I’ve never used something like that before.
  • midomi
    Ever sat somewhere and wondered what that song is you’re hearing?  Fire up midomi, click on the button, let the phone hear it for 10s and it’ll try to tell  you.  Gives links to YouTube if available, and information about the artist.  Also lets you hum or sing a few bars, type in what you think the title is, and more.  Much like shazam, this one seems to have more features (and is just as good with the features they share).
  • Minesweeper Classic
  • Mocha VNC Lite
    VNC.  From my phone.  Cool.
  • MotionX GPS
    A paid-for app, which uses the phone’s GPS capabilities to show your track over a map, set waypoints, etc.  Is it a full-featured GPS?  No.  Will it replace your Garmin?  Probably not.  Is it worth the $2-something I paid for it?  Hell yeah.
  • Network Utility
    Ping, traceroute, whois, port scan.. pretty useful.
  • Pandora Radio
  • Remember The Milk
    A web-based to-do list, this is quite useful for remembering what you have to do.  Stop using your head to hold on to your agenda, write it down and use your head to complete it.  I like this one in particular because the web interface is nice, and I have dashboard widgets for the Mac to use it there too.  This requires a Pro account with RTM, but you get a 15 day free trial (or sign up for a free account and use that, then decide if having the app on your phone is worth it).  Since I like the idea, I don’t mind throwing them a little cash to keep them afloat and hopefully keep the services alive.
  • Remote
    Pair it with your iTunes library on a Mac.  Control said library from within your wireless network.  Or vote up new songs if you’re at a friend’s house.  Very nifty.
  • Shotgun Free
    Pump-action shotgun.  Cock it.  Fire.  Feel the stress melt away, as long as your target didn’t see you do that.
  • speed tester
    Find out just how fast your wireless (or 3G) connection is.
  • Sudoku (free)
  • TouchTerm SSH
    First app I bought.  It’s SSH, on your phone.  Yes, I can fix things at work from the passenger seat of a car travelling at 70MPH.  Yes, I already have once.
  • TwitterFon
    Twitter app for the iPhone.  Looks nice, seems solid – now I just need to make up my mind if I give a damn about Twitter.
  • Virtual Zippo(r) Lighter
    Must-have for any concert.
  • The Weather Channel
    I hate Accuweather.  I *want* an app that pulls down the NWS data directly, I’ll settle for this.
  • Who Called?
    Look up phone numbers on a website dedicated to tying telemarketers to their phone numbers.  Don’t recognize a number?  Punch it in and see if someone else complained about them.
  • WordPress
    I thought about writing this with this app, but it doesn’t handle fancier HTML formatting nicely (no visual editor).  But if I want to post something on my website quick and easy, this is nicer than using the web interface and can even save local drafts.
  • 9-Toolbox (Free Event)
    Now and then, an app will go “on sale” for free for a little bit, and that’s what happened here.  I don’t know how much, if at all, I’ll use these applications – but why not grab it while it’s free?  Not like I don’t have space for it.

I’ll touch on the accessories I’ve purchased some other time – partially because the jury’s still out on one of them :>

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