Wednesday, July 08, 2009

What Makes A Great iPhone App?

What follows is the result of a conversation with my techno-geek yougest brother. He has the latest for everything .... and I do mean EVERYTHING.

Let's get it over with: he loves his iPhone. Love it. It's never quite inspired the awe in him it did in some others, who were stroking their new Jobs - given gift the way the apes at the start of 2001 stroked the monolith. But now there's so much stuff you can do with it - and the groups of people have moved from "ooh, shiny" to "here, look what THIS app does..." what are your favourite iPhone apps - and what makes a really great iPhone app that you'd share with friends?

Is it stuff like:

- useful information

- "fun" ways to work with info - like the "twist and shake" function to sort your "to do" list on Done!

- gaming

- customizable look and feel

And what apps have you hated?

Now don't get take me wrong here. I'm not trying to be sarcastic.

The iPhone is a great device. It doesn't necesarily have features that no phone before it has had, but it does the things it does very well. Apps are a huge part of the phones success.

For me when I am checking out an app I look first at the user interface, and then at its content and features. An app may be capable of solving all the problems of the universe, but if those features can not be quickly and easily accessed by a great UI then what good does it do anyone? The apps that stand out from the pack are the ones with great features, enabled by a great UI.

Apps I really like right now ....

* Pandora. How can you not like free streaming music anywhere you have signal?

* Daylite. Expensive yes but so useful, and the UI is brilliant.

* GV Mobile. I am an avid Google Voice user and this app makes integration with my iPhone very easy.

* Dial Zero. This app has a user managed database of phone numbers that get you directly to a human for most big companies. They either have a special number or a sequence of codes you push in that bypass the auto answering system. Users can vote different numbers up or down depending on how well they work.

* Tweetie - Hands down the best Twitter client. Clean, well-thought out. Clever in all the right places. It's no surprise the developer worked on the original iPhone.

Apps I don't really like but use anyway ....

* Mint, I love the web version, but the iPhone app is just not very full featured. However what it does offer is useful, it's just a shame because it could be so much more.

* AT&T app.

As far as apps I hate ......

* Jobs - Worst task tracker ever. Beautiful icon though. Too bad it looses data randomly and the dev won't update it.

To be a bit more analytical .... this is how I'd "evaluate" the worth of an app:

* Instantly accessible - If the user has to read instructions, the app is a failure.

* Gorgeous design - Had a conversation with an apper today who said designing the icon of an app is like designing an album cover. I'd agree with that. This is one case where ugly does not sell.

* Does what it's supposed to but has a clever twist - Don't violate the first point in trying to be clever but still be clever. Hey, this Apple, right? We can have zen rules for design.

* An active developer - Watch for updates and dialogue. Does the developer engage the audience? If so, I guarantee the app is going to be a winner. If not, well, we know what happens...

OK .... now what do YOU think? If you have an opinion .... jump in and leave your comment.

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