Walt Mossberg

Ten iPhone Programs to Check Out

I’ve spent part of the weekend downloading and trying out dozens of the more than 800 new third-party iPhone applications that launched with the debut of Apple’s (AAPL) “App store.” The store is part of the new iPhone 2.0 operating system, which not only comes with the new iPhone 3G, but is also a free upgrade on older iPhones and a $10 upgrade on the iPod Touch.

These first applications range from serious programs for doctors and pilots to silly parlor tricks that take advantage of the iPhone’s motion sensors. One, called PhoneSaber, merely displays an image of a Star Wars-like light saber and makes varying light saber noises as you wave the phone in the air.

Here are ten apps I think you might enjoy checking out, in no particular order. These aren’t meant as full reviews, just pointers to interesting items. There may be ten others, or 200 others, you think worthier of attention. Feel free to add comments with your own suggestions.

  1. AIM. Finally, a native iPhone program for accessing one of the world’s most widely used instant-messaging networks. It lacks some of the more rarified features of the PC or Mac versions, but does the basic text-chat thing quite well. One downside: because Apple isn’t allowing third-party programs to run constantly in the background, you can’t receive new messages in AIM while doing other things. This will supposedly be remedied by new Apple server technology due later this year.

    AIM on the iPhone

  2. MotionX-Poker. This is a simple poker game played with dice instead of cards. But it can be mesmerizing, because it makes full use of the iPhone’s graphics engine and motion sensors. You play each hand by shaking the phone to roll gorgeously rendered 3D dice, which even sound like dice. The $5 game comes from Fullpower, a company developing many motion-based programs that was founded by software industry pioneer Philippe Kahn.

    MotionX Poker

  3. TruPhone. This is an Internet phone-calling program that works over the iPhone’s Wi-Fi radio, potentially saving you big money over using the device’s regular cell phone capability, especially when calling internationally. Biggest downside in my initial tests: it sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t.

    Truphone on the iPhone

  4. FileMagnet. One of the frustrating things about the iPhone is that it has no easy way for users to transfer files from their computers and store them on the phone, even though it is capable of viewing many types of files. FileMagnet, which costs $5, places a small program on your computer, and then wirelessly transfers any files you drag into it to the FileMagnet program on the phone. It works with Microsoft Word files, PDF files, images and more. Biggest downsides: it only works on Macs, but I’d bet a similar Windows program will come along soon.

    FileMagnet on the iPhone

  5. SpeechCloud Voice Dialer. This free program allows you to dial anyone in your contact list by simply saying his or her name.

    SpeechCloud on the iPhone

  6. Movies. This is a free service that lets you find movies in your area, watch the trailers, buy tickets to them, and view a map to the theater.

    Movies on the iPhone

  7. Remote. This free program, written by Apple itself, allows you to control any copy of iTunes, on any Windows or Mac computer, over a local wireless network. It also works on Apple TV boxes.

    iPhone Remote

  8. Where. One of many new IPhone apps that attempt to provide information based on your location, Where, which is free, aggregates local content from services like Yelp and Eventful, which also have their own iPhone apps.

    Where on the iPhone

  9. Pandora. The new iPhone version of the wildly popular Pandora music-streaming program, is also free. It creates personalized radio stations based on artists you like.

    Pandora on the iPhone

  10. MLB.com At Bat. This $5 program lets you track games in progress, which is no big deal. The big deal is that you can actually watch video clips of key plays before the games are over.

    MLB on the iPhone

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