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YOUR TECH: An app for every need

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In a magnificent coincidence of bad timing and bad judgment, two events converged to form a not-so-perfect public relations storm in the land of iPhones last week. On the plus side, in less than nine months, Apple Inc.'s iTunes AppStore, the handy little place where you can buy and download application programs for the iPhone or iPod Touch, rang up its 1 billionth sale on April 23. Lucky Connor Mulcahey, 13, of Weston, Conn., won a $10,000 iTunes store gift card, an iPod Touch, a Time Capsule backup device and a MacBook Pro, not to mention all sorts of new friends at school.

Then there was Baby Shaker. As The Washington Times reported the same day young Mr. Mulcahey won the AppStore jackpot, Baby Shaker was an egregious application for the iPhone that simulated something one should never do, let alone simulate: shake an infant to quiet his crying. Once Apple's attention was called to the program, it vanished; both Apple and software maker Silkalosoft issued apologies, according to ZDNet's AppScout Web site.

So what should you put on your iPhone? Some suggestions, from my own experience and those of some close friends:

• Google - This free app gives access to Google's search network, Gmail and other applications. The coolest thing is the voice search: You speak, it looks, and the recognition is very, very good.

• Facebook - Also free, this is addictive (kind of) if you're using so-called social media to keep in touch. When traveling, I found iPhone's Facebook app to be a great way of staying on top of things.

• Tweetie - Yes, for Twitter; no, not free. It's $2.99, which isn't a heck of a lot of money, though. I would give this a qualified "must have" because it's a good Twitter client, but it'll take some getting used to and some effort to learn and use. A simple "write a tweet" icon would be wonderful, guys.

• FCTasks - The heart of the Franklin Covey organizer has been reduced to an iPhone app for $5.99 - roughly one-twelfth the cost of my first Franklin planner. If you're into the Franklin Covey system, you'll love this: Enter your tasks, assign priorities, delegate, check things off, the works. It's got a very good interface, is a quick learn and shows good design and forethought. (If you're not a Franklin Covey-ite, you'll probably want a "Getting Things Done" app, such as Nozbe, which is free.)

• iheart radio - This free app lets you hear all sorts of Clear Channel radio stations (including the District's WMZQ-FM) no matter where you are, so long as you have Wi-Fi (and perhaps a regular data connection, but I've not tried that). Some of the stations also feature talkers such as Rush Limbaugh, Laura Schlesinger and Glenn Beck, so you can get your fix. AOL Radio (also free) covers many CBS-owned stations.

• XpenseTracker - This will set you back $9.99, but if you're in business, and especially if you're self-employed, you need this. Period. Enter your business and travel expenses, generate reports and records and even take snapshots of your receipts for export to your computer. Brilliant isn't the word to describe this; it's beyond genius.

• Congress in Your Pocket Plus - $9.99 will put the 111th Congress' information (members and key staffers) on your iPhone. Impress your friends, lobby a bit and learn biographical details. For $99.99, there's a "pro" version that includes a year of updates and more information than a K Street office.

• Soonr - My friend Barbara Krause - one of Silicon Valley's great public relations pioneers - says this free app is great for viewing documents online and working collaboratively. From what I've seen, Ms. Krause is right, and at least until the iPhone 3.0 operating system, this is a good way to share stuff. How this will be monetized is anyone's guess.

• LCD Clock - For 99 cents, this app turns your docked-and-charging iPhone into - wait for it - an LCD clock and calendar. Nice idea and kind of a novelty for the price.

• Bump - This is a free contact-sharing application. Set up a digital "business card," and when you bump hands with another Bump user while holding your iPhone, the info is transferred. Neat.

• i.TV - Another free application. Enter your ZIP code and cable provider and get a customized TV listing that's easy to read and follow. Great stuff; I've used it often on the road.

For more iPhone application advice, check out www.appleiphoneapps.com and also www.appreview.com. The latter offers its advice as - you guessed it - an iPhone app.

• E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.