11 Cool New Apps for the iPhone
AOL Radio (Free)
This is for the people who scoffed at the lack of built-in radio for FM and AM frequencies. AOL radio offers music from slightly more than 30 cities, with radio streamed to your phone regardless of connection -- EDGE, Wi-Fi or 3G. AOL Radio uses Location Services to track down local radio stations, which are displayed by Cities in the Locals tab, with all of the available stations displayed by genre under the Stations tab. Two other interface tabs called Favorites and Recents do exactly what their names imply: they display favorite stations and recently played stations.
When a station is selected, track information and artist are displayed next to the station's logo or album art. With certain songs, a magnifying glass -- similar to the Spotlight icon in Mac OS X -- displays underneath the track information; tapping this icon allows you to Find on iTunes, Find on AOL Music or Remember This Song for future reference. Adding stations to favorites is simple: Just tap the star icon in the upper right portion of the station's menu bar.
A cautionary note: This application reminded me exactly why I use the iPod/iPhone to listen to my songs: every station I tried just happened to be running commercials at the time. That's not a reflection of the application, which worked exactly as it should have. It's a commentary on radio stations in general. One neat thing I noticed with AOL Radio: you can close out of the app by hitting the Home button, silencing the radio. But if you press the sleep/wake button on top of the iPhone, the radio plays, even if the screen is off.
Shazam (Free -- for a Limited Time)
This little app will help you identify a song, even when you can't recall its name. Shazam allows you to record music from any source using the built-in microphone. After analyzing the tune, it kicks back results in seconds.
The interface couldn't be any easier to use (I detect a recurring theme with iPhone apps). You record a snippet of audio -- the default allows for 12 seconds of recording -- and the results of the lookup are displayed with astounding accuracy. I've sampled a dozen songs so far. Not only does Shazam give you the song name, artist, album and label, but there are even links to the iTunes store so you can purchase the song or album. YouTube videos are also linked, if any are available.
From there, you can build up a collection of songs you've recorded -- called Tags -- attach photos to them, share them with friends or delete them.
Bonus Freebie: Midomi
This application is similar to Shazam in that it allows you to take bits of audio and use that to find a song. Where this differs from Shazam is that you can actually search for a song by singing, humming or whistling the familiar bits, or by using the Shazam-like ability to record audio for look-up. You can also search for a song or artist just by stating the name or typing it out. Midomi is a simple app with a basic function; the fact that these two music-finders are free means you can try them both and decide which one you like best.
This application has a very simple purpose: to help you figure out tips for restaurant bills. It's a single-screen application that's exactly what you want during what is perhaps the most stressful part of eating out with friends: figuring out who owes what.
Upon launching the app, you're faced with a blank subtotal section and the question "How much was your bill?" A slider adjusts the tip percentage from 5% to 30%, and another slider adjusts party size from 1 to 12. A Tip and Total section breaks down the results, and hopefully, ends all discussions about who owes what.
Simple. Effective. And you're bound to save the $1.99 purchase price by making sure everyone at your table pays their fair share.