Mobile Minute: Get some use out of web apps for the iPhone
Apple's decision to keep 3rd party apps locked out of the iPhone (for now) is still disappointing both users and developers alike, but that doesn't mean we can't get some actual functionality out of some truly unique web apps. For this week's brief Mobile Minute, I'm going to highlight some web apps, utilities and bookmarklets designed specifically for the iPhone that are rising above the rest.
To get set up with these bookmarks, visit the LifeClever site in either Safari or Internet Explorer and add them to a folder of bookmarks you're synching with the iPhone. Perform a sync and you're ready to go.
This one integrates with an app only available for Mac OS X and it doesn't technically offer an iPhone-specific UI, but it nevertheless deserves mention as it is one of the most powerful, creative and well-executed web apps I've ever seen. Webjimbo offers a web interface to Bare Bones' Yojimbo, a Mac OS X app that makes it easy to store the barrage of information, serial numbers, passwords and PDFs we navigate every day. As long as you're comfortable with leaving a Mac on at home (or work) with your copy of Yojimbo running, Webjimbo allows you to view, edit and create notes in that database through the magic of web standards and some AppleScript. While it reportedly works on an iPhone right now, and iPhone-optimized interface is on the way.Webjimbo costs $30.00, and a demo is available.
3. RSS readers
No mobile phone web app roundup would be complete without at least an RSS reader or two, so I thought I would highlight three. While MobileSafari can certainly view 'just the internet', the ability to sift quickly through a lot of information with the power of RSS was sadly overlooked for the iPhone 1.0. Here are a few ways to get around this oversight:
- Google Reader: I've used gReader on other mobile phones, but it seems to do something a little different when viewed on the iPhone. The UI is slightly different (though still very similar to the traditional version you'll see on any phone), and switching back to a list of headlines from an individual article is lightning-fast, as if the team tweaked their caching specifically for MobileSafari. If you're a Google Reader user, this is a great option for checking your feeds on the go with an iPhone.
- NewsGator Mobile: NewsGator has introduced a work-in-progress reader that is iPhone-optimized, but the real kicker here is that it synchronizes with NewsGator's bountiful RSS products for both Mac OS X and Windows. The feeds you have in FeedDemon, NewsGator Inbox for Outlook or NetNewsWire for Mac OS X will appear in m.newsgator.com when viewed on an iPhone, and read items will appear as read once you get back to your NewsGator product on a desktop computer. For those who need true integration between a mobile and a desktop RSS reader, there really is no other way to go.
- .Mac Reader: For some bizarre reason, Apple quietly (read: silently) introduced reader.mac.com a day before the iPhone's release on June 29th. Even though Safari on Mac OS X and Windows features a decent built-in RSS reader, MobileSafari enjoys nothing of the sort. Fortunately, this .Mac Reader seems to act as a powerful web app for the RSS feeds you're synching from Safari or IE, as it kicks into gear when visiting any of those feeds on an iPhone (to be clear: you do not need to be a .Mac member in order to use this web app). Once an RSS feed is selected from your bookmarks (or, *gasp*, typed in manually), you'll will be taken to this .Mac Reader which parses the feed and displays it in a slick Safari RSS style. Caching is also done very well here - selecting a particular headline typically opens the article very quickly (even over EDGE), and navigating back to the main list of headlines is a snap as well. Even though I am a die-hard NetNewsWire users, I have opted to copy some of my favorite feeds over to Safari so I can use this .Mac Reader instead of the iPhone-optimized NewsGator reader; the .Mac one is much faster, especially over EDGE.
Truth be told, there is a steady landslide of iPhone web apps surfacing, and you can keep tabs on them via our iPhone tag or the dedicated iPhone page of our sister site, The Unofficial Apple Weblog. Of course, feel free to share your own killer iPhone web apps in the comments.