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Minority Report: 10 top iPhone 2.0 apps

More spice for the 3G smart phone
By Seb Janacek, Contributor on
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1 of 10 Seb Janacek/ZDNET

More spice for the 3G smart phone

1: Google Mobile App

The iPhone is a surprisingly large place to be in, lots of data, phone numbers, email, apps and websites and the free Google iPhone app does an admirable job of letting the user sift through the multitudes.

In the same way Google has become the world's favourite home page its neat little app could do the same for the iPhone. Enter a search term and the app checks files on your device as well as online. The software also provides a series of suggested search terms to save excessive typing. The same quick results and minimal interface you expect from Google.

Photo credit: Seb Janacek

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2: Vicinity and Locly

Thanks to the GPS chip inside, the new iPhone is all about location. A couple of rather neat applications that take advantage of the positioning technology are Vicinity at £1.79 and the free Locly.

Both applications do much the same thing: they calculate your current location and serve up directory services, showing you the local pubs, taxis, restaurants and ATMs. Both apps also link to geo-tagged Flickr and Panoramio galleries. Vicinity wins over its rival on two counts. First, it's a true app, whereas Locly simply identifies where you are and sends you to its website.

Secondly, the Flickr pictures it links to are somehow far superior with some cracking shots of local landmarks and a couple of Banksy artworks, as opposed to a mysterious moustachioed man and a morose looking Goth sitting in a graveyard. Either app beats having to carry a copy of the Yellow Pages around with you.

Photo credit: Seb Janacek

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3: Facebook

Unsurprisingly, this rather slick free app lets you access the biggest social networking site on the web. The neat interface allows you to update your profile, check out what your friends are up to, chat to them with the in-built messenger service and add photos. It's actually more fun to navigate than the site itself. Or at least it makes a refreshing change from the usual navy and white website.

Photo credit: Apple App Store

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4: Loopt

A complete cheat, this one, as it's not available in the UK yet so we didn't get the chance to play with it. Loopt was the app that caught the imagination at the launch of the new iPhone. It takes advantage of the iPhone's GPS capability to plot your position, and the position of other Loopt users on a map.

You'll either hate this or love it. You'll hate it if you have any concerns over personal privacy or are cheating on your spouse. You'll love it if you have loads of friends with Loopt accounts you can meet up with on a whim and make ad hoc plans to go for a drink. The application shows your position on a map and shows the location of other friends who have installed the app on their own devices.

Photo credit: Apple App Store

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5: Picoli

The camera on the iPhone has been panned by most reviewers but at least this application helps you make the most of your grainy 2-megapixel images. Picoli at £2.99 lets you perform a respectable range of photo adjustments. Think of iPhoto/Picasa rather than Photoshop but adjust saturation, dither, illumination and sharpness to trick people into thinking your pictures were taken on a Nokia N95.

Photo credit: Seb Janacek

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6: Twitterrific

Obsessed with Twitter and the whole micro-blogging scene? Then this is for you. It's a particularly good app if you appreciate well designed interfaces as the slick screens let you follow what your friends are doing and update your own status. It seems an application particularly suited to the mobile device and lets you add simple updates of modern life to all your loyal followers.

Photo credit: Seb Janacek

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7: Google Reader

Notably absent from the iPhone's core applications is an RSS. Technically speaking, Google Reader isn't an iPhone app, but given the dearth of usable and free RSS aggregators at the App Store this is the best option. NetNewsWire Lite, a ported version of an excellent PC and Mac application, leads the narrow field of apps. But feeds can only be added via the Newsgator website and it struggles with more than a dozen or so feeds.

Meanwhile, SimpleRSS is easy to operate but since it only allows you to subscribe to a single feed it is an affront to the definition of an aggregator. So far, your best bet is to bookmark Google's Reader service which certainly looks like an app, and allows you to search for as many feeds as possible. The interface allows you search feeds and add them easily.

Photo credit: Seb Janacek

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8: Super Monkey Ball

Another of the apps showcased at the iPhone 3G launch, this is a remake of the Sega classic. The premise is simple: you have a monkey in a glass ball rolling about on a series of precarious floating platforms over an azure sea.

Get the monkey to the next level by rolling the ball carefully down the narrow zigzags and pitfalls through a portal at the end. You control the monkey by making use of the device's built-in accelerometer, tilting the iPhone back and forth.

Labyrinth, the game that inspired it, has also been ported to the iPhone and is free. It's another great example of a game that uses the iPhone's built-in sensors to great effect with great game play but alas, no bubble-enclosed monkeys.

Photo credit: Seb Janacek

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9: Pianist

Essentially you get a piano keyboard with a good grand piano sound for your £5.99. This is a great application to flash around to friends and family to show what the touchscreen can do. You can record music on the device but navigating along the full-size keyboard will give aspiring Glenn Goulds a real challenge at closing time in the pub. It doesn't half crash a lot, though.

Photo credit: Seb Janacek

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10: Cube Runner

The graphics are simple in this excellent free game. Guide a fast-moving, arrow-shaped space ship through coloured cubes rather than into them. What makes is great? Two things. First, the brilliantly simple but incredibly responsive controls - you guide the ship around hazards by tilting the iPhone. Secondly, and more importantly, if you watched The Empire Strikes Back on the big screen and wished you could pilot the Millennium Falcon through the asteroid field, then your wait is over. It's even better if you get the soundtrack playing on the iPod in the background as you sail through the closely packed cubes and cursing droids.

Photo credit: Seb Janacek

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