My Top 10 Favorite iPhone Apps of 2008

While it’s certainly no secret that I’m a fan of the iPhone, I’m starting to become even more of a fan of the amazing 3rd party apps out there for the iPhone (and in most cases for the iPod touch). I currently have 69 3rd party apps installed. I’ve actually downloaded/purchased more than that. However, the 69 ones that I have currently installed are the ones that are my favorites and that I use on a regular basis. Each week I get exposed to more and more new apps and my favorites are always changing. So out of those 69, which are my absolute favorites? Which ones can’t I live without? If the iPhone was suddenly limited to only 10 3rd party apps, which would I keep? Here are my Top 10 Favorite iPhone Apps of 2008:


#1 i.TV



Although this was already a great app when I first reviewed it, it just keeps getting better. The latest update practically eliminated two other apps I was using and added a feature that I’ve been waiting for since day one and that’s the ability to remotely schedule my TiVo HD to record shows from anywhere I happen to be. i.TV is a TV listing, Movie listing, Netflix queue manager (search for a movie and you can either see the show times for it or add it to your Netflix queue), and now TiVo scheduler all it one! It’s an amazing app and it’s FREE (yes, it does display ads). 



#2 Remote



Remote is one of Apple’s apps. This App turns your iPhone/iPod touch into a Wi-Fi remote for iTunes running on your Mac or PC and your Apple TV. Change songs, switch playlists, control which Airtunes speakers the music will play from and even use the iPhone’s keyboard when you need to type things on the Apple TV like passwords, searches, etc. Very well done and definitely one of my favorites.



#3 Say Who-Dialer



I’ve tried to use various voice recognition technology through the years and most of it has been a disaster when it comes to recognizing MY voice. However, Say Who-Dialer does an amazing job in letting me say the name of the person I want to dial AND the particular number for that contact I want. ie. “Bruce Mandel Mobile”. It’s gets it right 99% of the time for me.



#4 AroundMe



I’m not sure how I missed this one earlier. AroundMe is one of those location based apps that tells you (by category) what’s near your current location. Need the closest coffee shop, bank, gas station, etc. While that’s not really too amazing, this one does one thing that I haven’t seen in the rest. It actually has a feature that I’m shocked Apple hasn’t done yet as a separate app. It will tell you where your closest Apple Store is. This is a GREAT app for travelers!



#5 Accuweather



If you’ve been following my “iPhone App of the Week” posts each Friday, then you know that this was last week’s pick. It is by far the best weather App I’ve used to date! I’ve even moved it to the main Home screen in place of Apple’s Weather App.



#6  Mobile Banking



If you’re a Bank of America customer, then this app is a MUST HAVE. Not only does it let me check my balances of all my BOA accounts, but it lets me transfer funds and even find the closest BOA ATM or branch. I hate paying ATM fees!



#7 ToDo



I’ve tried the free ones and others that cost too and my favorite task manager is “ToDo”. I like it because the UI is simple, yet powerful. It has all the features I want in a task manager without being overly complex. It works the way I do. I rely on this app all the time.



#8 SuperBall 2



I have a few games on my iPhone and it was really a toss up between this one and my Blackjack game. However, SuperBall 2 for me has been the most addictive and once I finished the free version, I had to have more! With this game, I’m never bored when I have to stand in a line or have some time to kill.



#9 Facebook



I’ve been dabbling in social networking this year and have settled on Facebook to keep tabs on friends and family. So having a native Facebook app on my iPhone is very nice. This app now in its second major release has been great. There is one major thing missing though. While it’s easy to see photos, upload photos, see/write on your friend’s wall(s), etc., the one thing that seems to be missing is the ability to send a friend request right from the iPhone. I find this to be odd. I can accept friend requests, but can’t initiate them. On more than one occasion I have been standing with friends only to discover that they are on Facebook and have to wait to I get back to my computer to add them. Otherwise, it’s a great app and if you use Facebook, it’s a must!



#10 BigTipper



A tip calculator? Is this really necessary and wow, it cost money? Necessary? probably not. However, I just love the way that this one is designed. I’m a sucker for a well thought out UI and on those occasions when I’m not going to tip 20%, it’s great to have. I use this all the time. It’s the best one I’ve seen to date.



Missing in Action!

We saw a lot of progress in less than 6 months time! Although I have a lot of favorite iPhone apps, there was one that I was hoping for that we didn’t see in 2008 and that was a native Slingbox App for the iPhone. Nor did we see a native Sirius/XM radio app. Of course I’d like to see the iPhone itself updated with Cut/Copy/Paste, Flash, MMS messaging, video recording and more. Hopefully we’ll see these things and more in 2009! Happy New Year!


Also be sure to check out Time Magazine’s Top 10 iPhone apps of 2008. We clearly have different tastes 🙂

TSA makes me go huh?

I’m traveling today for a family visit and once again I decided to use the new option at Northwest Airlines that allows me to have the boarding pass sent to my phone instead of printing one out. See my earlier blog post on it here. However, today things didn’t go as smoothly. I got to the TSA security desk and for some reason the scanner wouldn’t scan the barcode on my screen. They said that it hadn’t worked all day.

So I was wondering what would happen next? You guessed it, they made me go back to the ticket counter (or in my case the electronic kiosk) and print a boarding pass. Luckily I had plenty of time and the airport was not crowded today. Once I returned to the TSA desk, they looked at my “printed” boarding pass, initialed it and I was on my way.


No big deal right?

This got me thinking, why did I need the paper? If you think about it, you can print a boarding pass at home right? You could even fake one (don’t! it’s against the law!). So what was different about a piece of paper vs. my iPhone screen. Granted the scanner, scans the barcode on my iPhone and then displays my name which will match my ID and even says which flight I’m on, but the paper never gets scanned. They just look at it. They spend more time scrutinizing your ID. So couldn’t they just look at my phone? Or wouldn’t it make more sense just to use your ID and have a computer there that says which flight your on? The funny thing was that when I got to my gate, I asked if the scanner was working with phones and they said yes and instead of using the paper boarding pass, I used the electronic one on my iPhone and got on the plane no problem.

I continue to be amazed by the lack of thought that goes into this whole airport “security” thing!

My Top 10 Gadget Picks for 2008

It’s that time to look back on 2008 and pick my absolute favorite gadgets of 2008. These are the gadgets that either have brought me the most joy or benefited me the most. These are also the gadgets that if something were to happen to, I’d replace with another one just like it immediately. I go through a lot of gadgets in a year, so it’s really hard to narrow it down to just 10, but here goes:


My #1 Favorite Gadget of 2008 is the iPhone 3g

Now with over 10,000 3rd party apps available, this is the gadget that just keeps getting better. I use my iPhone 3g more than any other gadget I own.

Here are my other 9 picks:








For those who are having trouble seeing the widget above:
Logitech Harmony One
Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray Player
Garmin nuvi 765T
Apple TV
Nikon D700
Nkon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
Apple MacBook Pro 15.4in Late 2008 model
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080p projector

Honorable Mention

Another Gadget that I’ve used quite a bit in 2008 is my di-Pro GPS for my Nikon DSLRs.

So what’d you get?


I’ve been reviewing my favorite gadgets, services and apps all year long. Now it’s your turn! Tell us what you got this holiday season (tech wise) that you’re excited about? Use the comments section below. Tell us what it is, why you like it and provide links if you can? Did you get or give anything from my holiday gift guide?

iPhone App of the Week – AccuWeather


Another weather app? What’s my obsession with weather apps?

With all the bad weather we’ve been having this week I’m using my NEW favorite weather app more than ever. Yes it wasn’t long ago that I named MyWeather Mobile as the iPhone App of the Week. After that I got hooked on The Weather Channel app. Now I’m absolutely in love with Accuweather.


Why AccuWeather?

Why not just use the built-in Weather App that’s already included with the iPhone and iPod touch. Anyone that lives or travels near/to snow will identify with what I’m about to say. The built-in Weather App is simply inadequate. Sure it will give the the expected high and low tempurature for the day and even tell me that it’s going to snow or rain, etc. However, what it doesn’t tell me is WHEN? and HOW MUCH? Simply seeing a little icon for Saturday that shows snow is meaningless. I need to know if it’s going to be 1 inch or 12 inches. I travel often, so up to the minute winter weather issue is critical! Now, if you live in, let’s say Florida or Hawaii where the weather is pretty constant, then you probably don’t need this level of information.


AccuWeather is a full featured weather app. In my opinion it’s got the best UI (user interface) of all the ones I’ve tried to date including the one that I paid for (MyWeather Mobile). AccuWeather not only can give me a much more detailed forecast including hourly forecasts, but it can even show me a video of the most recent weather report for my area. Very slick! Very very slick indeed! Of course it’s location based like the others and you can save your favorite locations. You can also see an animated radar weather map. The Risk screen shows you exactly what’s likely to happen whether it be Thunder Storms, Rain, Snow, Ice, Wind, or Fog. 



AccuWeather starts off with a very well designed display of the current conditions. This also includes a nice background photo representing what it’s doing outside right now. Cloudy, Clear, Raining, etc. I not only get to see the current temperature, but also the wind chill factor (feels like). 



The Bottom Line

There are several weather apps out there. Some are free, some cost $, however, AccuWeather is by far the best designed one and most stable one I’ve seen and used to date. Best of all it’s FREE! You can download AccuWeather for the iPhone and iPod touch here from the App Store.


Be sure to check back next Friday for my “Top 10 iPhone Apps of 2008”. Of course I think you already know what one of them will be. 🙂 Some come back and see the other 9.

Web Conferencing More Important Than Ever In a Recession

I’m a fan of web conferencing! It just makes sense. I can remember the old days of getting up at the crack of dawn to get on a flight to Chicago for a meeting. My part in the meeting would last an hour at best. Then I was back on the plane home. Keep in mind that this was a one day trip because it was close. If it was further away or the meeting was earlier in the day, then that would be mean flying out the night before, getting a hotel room and hoping that the meeting would end early enough for a return flight right after the meeting. Otherwise, a one day meeting could turn into a three day trip. Thankfully now I have Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro and I have many of my meetings wherever I happen to be as long as I have a good internet connection.


Web Conferencing is NOT just for the big guys

Although Acrobat Connect Pro is aimed at larger organizations, there is a FREE version that is very powerful for most individuals, freelancers and small businesses. It’s called Acrobat Connect NOW. You may remember that I blogged about this when it was code named “Brio”. Now the service has been officially rolled out and access to it is even built-in to the Creative Suite 4 apps with a menu command under the File menu called “Share My Screen.” Although I encourage you to use Adobe apps whenever possible, you can use Connect NOW with any app that you wish to show someone. It could be PowerPoint, iPhoto or whatever.

As a matter of fact I used this technology to present to several users groups in 2007 and 2008 that I otherwise would not have gone to. One of the advantages of Acrobat Connect Pro is that the meetings can be recorded. As a matter of fact you can check out the presentation I did for the North Coast Macintosh Users Group on Adobe Photoshop Elements 6. They were able to distribute this link to all of their members who couldn’t make the live presentation. Other than a low audio problem I was having with my headset, they were able to see and hear the presentation over 2,000 miles away. Once I was done, I turned off the light and walked upstairs and I was home. 


I found this great article listing the “10 Reasons Why Web Conferencing is a Must Have Technology During a Recession“. Definitely worth a read.


How does Adobe Acrobat Connect NOW stack up against the competition?

Sure there are other players in the field. You might have heard of WebEx, Go To Meeting and others. The problem with all the other solutions is that they usually require the meeting participant to install something or somehow change a setting or two on their computers or networks. Acrobat Connect NOW is Adobe Flash based and since 98% of computers on the internet today have the Flash player installed, they can join your meeting without installing anything extra. This also means that Acrobat Connect NOW is fully cross platform. So it doesn’t matter if you’re presenting from a Mac or PC or if your meeting participants are on Mac or PCs. Now if you are sharing your screen there is a small plug-in (Add in) that gets downloaded automatically (upon your approval) and installs automatically. The whole process takes a couple of minutes on average. So even if you walked up to a computer that had never used Acrobat Connect NOW you could log on with your account and start presenting in less than 5 minutes flat.


What do you get for FREE?

With Acrobat Connect NOW you get a static URL for your meeting room that you can use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unlimited use. You can have up to 3 connections/participants in your room at once (including you). However, let’s say that one of your participants is in a conference room with 50 other people connected to a projector? No problem. It will still only count as one participant. You can of course share your screen (any app or document on your screen would be broadcast to the participants). You can even hand off this ability to any of the other participants whether they have an account or not as long as they are in your meeting room. You can even request or grant control of your computer/their computer which is AWESOME for remote troubleshooting/help desk work. You can share your live image via a webcam and of course there is Voice over IP. However, if you want to get on the phone, there is an teleconference number assigned to your account. It’s not toll-free to dial, but it’s there if you need it. There’s also a text chat feature. There’s even a File Share pod to distribute supporting files and a Whiteboard for live brainstorming.

As a matter of fact there are a host of other free very useful services on Check them out!


What’s the catch? Why is this free?

Simple! If you like it, you’ll use it. If you use it, others will be exposed to it. If they like it and need MORE, then they may opt to go to Acrobat Connect Pro. 


What if I need more than 3 people in my room, but don’t need all that comes with Connect Pro?

There is something in the middle of FREE and the higher cost professional option. It’s called Acrobat Connect. With Acrobat Connect, you get up to 15 people in your room at once. It’s $39/Month.


Don’t hesitate

Sign up for your Acrobat Connect Now account NOW!

Travel is a luxury. Communication is not. 

Learn more:

Adobe Acrobat Connect NOW

Adobe Acrobat Connect

Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro

Movie Rental DVDs That You Don’t Have To Return

The last time I was in my local Staples store I noticed a display of DVD Movies. While that doesn’t sound unusual, these DVDs were for rent. However, unlike traditional DVD rentals, you don’t have to bring these back. These disposable DVD’s are by Flexplay.


How does this work?

You go to a store where Flexplay discs are sold. You find a title you want and pay the cashier for it ($4.99 list price). Now you can enjoy the movie whenever you want. I actually had mine for about a month and a half before I actually watched it. Once you break the seal and expose the disc to air, you’ll have 2 days (48 hours) to enjoy the movie (as many times as you like) before it becomes unplayable. After 2 days, you simply recycle the disc. No late fees. No having to return the disc.


The Bottom Line

This is yet another method to enjoy movies on your time without having to buy them. Not every title is available via Flexplay. However, if you want to pick up some classic flicks that you don’t have to worry about when you watch them, then this would be a great way to go. It’s also cool for travelers. As a matter of fact this would be a better way to go in airports than the current InMotion kiosks. Unopened Flexplay DVDs have a one year shelf life. I would like to see the price drop by about $2 and I would be a lot more interested in this format. I like that this format doesn’t take up any hard disk space on your laptop or iPod/iPhone. I also like the fact unlike iTunes movie rentals, there is no requirement whatsoever to be connected to the internet to start watching the movie. 

Learn more at where you can also see a list of titles.

See their promo here:

iPhone App of the Week – iWant

There are quite a few iPhone apps that try to be your one stop shop for all the businesses around you that you may want to go to. While I have tried many of them, for some reason I keep coming back to iWant. iWant is a location based app that allows you to quickly find the closest restaurants, bars, cafes, grocery stores, drug stores, clothing stores, movie theaters/show times, hotels, department stores, banks, gas stations and car rental places.


How well does it work?

The interface is quite simple. Nice big icons that cover each of the above categories. Once you tap a category it will start to display all of the businesses around your current location based on the category you tapped on. It seems to do a pretty good job of finding just about every business I could think of around me in each given category except for the banks. There are three Bank of America banks nearby and it didn’t list any of them. There is a Comerica bank about a block away and it didn’t find that one either. Not sure if there is some brand preference going on or not, but it doesn’t find every business in every category. Even with this shortfall I still like it as I’ve found the same limitation in the other apps I’ve tried as well.


A couple of added benefits

Once you tap on a business, you get to see the address and of course the phone number which you can tap to dial. You also get to see it on the built-in Google Map app for easy directions to if from where you are. The Action menu at the bottom of the screen allows you to email your current location to anyone you like and it will automatically generate a link with your coordinates. This is cool when you are unfamiliar with the area and you’re trying to explain where you are. You also have a built-in option to email the developer. I wish more apps included this ability. You can also easily control the search radius with a slider.


The Bottom Line

It’s hard to go wrong with this app. It’s easy to use, it’s fast and best of all it’s FREE! Download it from the App Store now.

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