No man is an iLand
The iPhone application store has plenty of toys to keep you company.
A little more than a year ago, the newly released iPhone was considered a provider of convenience: phone, Internet, e-mail, music, camera, maps…uh, clock. But that wasn’t enough for some hackers. Before you could so much as sign your love letter to Steve Jobs, the Internet was teeming with step-by-step directions on “jailbreaking” the iPhone—opening it up to downloads of third party–developed programs. Netflix-queue managing software, custom icons and even a Nintendo emulator were suddenly a standard and free (albeit shady) part of the new iDeal.
Apple eventually wised up: Subsequent software releases added new features, like the ability to pinpoint your location or send texts to multiple people at once, but also blocked jailbreakers out of the system. Of course, the savviest programmers found another way in, so Apple put out another upgrade—and so on.
Last week, this back-and-forth ended with the release of the free iPhone firmware 2.0, and with it the application (app) store. No need to jailbreak: Touch the new app icon on your phone’s desktop, choose from more than 500 programs—video games like Super Monkey Ball, guitar tuners, travel guides—and watch as the selection appears on your screen in seconds. Like most iTunes Store purchases, these programs set you back anywhere from three bucks to upwards of $30. But almost 200 of them are free, meaning that, overnight, Apple increased its iPhone features exponentially. Here’s some of what your new phone can do at zero additional cost, plus functions we’re bummed aren’t standard.
Take control of your digital world Assuming you have a Wi-Fi network at your house—and if you’re an iPhone owner, how could you not?—the Remote app allows you seamless access to your computer’s iTunes library; in other words, you control music playback from a remote device (i.e., your iPhone). Pretty sweet, especially during parties when, inevitably, drunken song requests rear their hazy heads. If something at said party goes awry, send a text update or photo to your blog (in real time) using LifeCast, an app that opens a direct path between you and the Internet. And speaking of communicating with computers, Dial Zero, a surprisingly simple and useful app, stores the contact info for customer service lines at more than 600 companies, as well as directions for what buttons to press to speak to a live person right away. Instead of navigating annoying dial-in menus spend time, um, reading or some shit.
Settle bar bets once and for all Don’t have an iPhone? Then you’ve surely got that one iPhone-toting friend you force to surf IMDb or Wikipedia to find out when exactly Romano died on ER. Well, you’re gonna want to keep that friend even closer now that Midomi is in the picture. Forgot the words to some tune? Launch the program, hum or sing the melody into your iPhone, and the program will tell you the name of the song. (It provides a list of possible answers; we tested the app and it nailed “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, but not Boz Scaggs’s “Lido Shuffle.”) You can also use the MySpace or Facebook applications to quickly determine whether that hottie across the room is, indeed, single (or, at the very least, “in an open relationship”).
Become the most popular kid at the nerd convention Even with all of this technology at our fingertips, we’re still a long way off from creating a real-life light saber. But score the PhoneSaber app, and you’ll control at least the sound effects. Touch the light saber icon to unsheathe it from slumber, choose your color (red_=_dark side) and swing the phone around while thinking of the time that Ewok jumped you with a switchblade. The accompanying noises will have onlookers questioning their own awesomeness in comparison. Snag World 9 to add Super Mario’s jump to your own hops. Avoid a bludgeoning from the frat-boy onlookers with iPint, an application that fills your screen with the nectar of the gods, then empties as you tilt the phone.
Wait for it…still One of our favorite hacks back in the day was the voice recorder, an app that’s been ported into the iPhone via Jott. But it lacks the ability to tape phone calls—which seems like the natural progression of things—and the range is pretty terrible. There are also plenty of applications for getting images online, but would it kill Apple or AT&T to finally allow picture messaging between phones? Plus, while we’re thankful for the AOL Instant Messenger chat app and the multiple life-organizing programs—EasyTask Manager and A Personal Assistant, to name just two—we’re still hoping for a slew of Google product downloads and GChat support. (Google and free go together like Microsoft and sadness.) But now that the iPhone application store is launched, these, and plenty of other tweaks, can’t be far off.
Visit apple.com/iphone for more on these apps.