It’s been about 3 weeks since Steve Jobs announced the iPhone software roadmap and released the iPhone SDK (software development kit.) Until this evening I had not taken time to explore the available web apps (web applications) for the iPhone. As I’ve watched a set of severe thunderstorms roll into our area (on TV) north of Oklahoma City this evening/morning, I’ve started to explore several web apps and have to say I am VERY impressed. Wow. To think these are just “1st generation” web applications for the iPhone… It’s mind boggling to try and imagine where we are going to be in just five years in terms of mobile applications. These are the applications I explored this evening, with some brief descriptions and comments.

Podcaster: This web app lets users subscribe to podcast feeds and listen to / watch them them DIRECTLY on an iPhone. Normally with podcasts, iPhone users subscribe to them in iTunes and then have to synchronize the iPhone to their computer to get the podcasts transferred over. With Podcaster, that process can be skipped as long as you have an Internet connection. The site does not yet support OPML import, evidently, and it appears all non-approved Feedburner podcast feed addresses may be blocked, but I absolutely LOVE this web app and see huge potential here. I subscribed to the Best of YouTube podcast, Discovery Channel Video Podcasts, National Geographic Video Shorts, NOVA | PBS, NPR Science Friday, NPR Technology, This Week in Tech, and some others. On my home WiFi connection the downloads are VERY speedy. It is AMAZING to be able to access podcast audio and video this way! I’ve spent a bit of time watching YouTube videos on my iPod, but honestly not that much time– I can really see the value of being able to access podcast channel content this way WITHOUT having to sync up with iTunes. This web app is superb.

iSwaggle: One of the current limitations of SMS text messaging on the iPhone’s standard SMS interface is that users can just send text messages to single individuals. iSwaggle addresses this shortcoming, permitting users to create groups with varying privacy and message permission levels so single SMS messages can be sent out to multiple folks included in groups. People have to confirm they want to be in the group in order to receive messages, so that is good from a privacy/SMS spam standpoint. I setup an iSwaggle group for our family to use, mainly for alert messaging, as well as our “Celebrate Oklahoma Voices” project.

Kudit: The Kudit web app site includes variety of applications divided into categories including calculators, tools, score keepers, social, games, and toys. Some are offered free, others provide a free trial but require a subsequent purchase which activates the tool for a period of time. (Like 3 months.) Free calculators include Words Per Minute (typing speed on your iPhone) and Resistor value (enter the color sequence of a resistor to look up its value.) Calculators available for purchase include a VERY cool tip calculator (which allows you to rate the service and thereby change the percentage of the tip, and specify how many ways to split the total bill.) A free stopwatch tool is available, but I’m not sure it is any better than the built-in stopwatch on the iPhone which is part of the “Clock” application. My favorite application is probably the scorekeeper for the game “Spades.” Enter bids for each team, and then enter the tricks taken by each team to have your iPhone keep score. The “Give Food” application under the “Social” category links users to the website “Free Rice,” where users can guess the definition of vocabulary words (and see advertisements, which I am guessing funds this initiative) to donate grains of rice (20 grains per word) to “hungry people.” I’d never heard of that site before. Another site available is thehungersite.com. On this site, visitors simply click a link to have site sponsors donate food to the needy. A “Fair Trade” store is available where people can shop and via their purchase donate more money to feed the hungry. I’d be interested to read more about the legitimacy of these websites. If they are legit (and I don’t have a reason to doubt they are beyond my “normal” critical eye) these sites would be worthwhile to introduce to students in school computer labs. Got a few extra minutes at the start or end of class? Guess some vocab words, help donate food for the hungry… No iPhone required.

43 Actions: 43 Actions is “a GTD (Getting Things Done) inspired, mobile to-do list and advanced organizer. Designed specifically to let you manage your daily life on the go, using the always-on internet access in your iPhone.” I have wanted to start using the service Jott.com ever since I heard Liz Kolb describe it in her “Cell Phones as Classroom Learning Tools” presentation for K-12 Online 2007. Since 43 Actions supports Jott, I think I’m about to become a new Jott user! This is a “donor exclusive” feature for 43 Actions, however, so I have made a donation via PayPal to the 43 Actions development group so I can experiment with this functionality later this week. I went ahead and transferred all my current “to dos” and project categories from TaskPaper to 43 Actions. I have enjoyed using TaskPaper, but the fact that I don’t have those to-dos on my iPhone has been a MAJOR limitation and disadvantage. I’m eager to start using 43 Actions this week and will post later about my experiences. For more on my experiences and perspectives on the “Getting Things Done” organizational system, refer to prior posts in my recently added “organization” blog category.

ADDITION 31 MARCH 2008: I HAVE JUST LEARNED THAT THE HAYS, KANSAS, CONFERENCE ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 8TH HAS BEEN POSTPONED TILL THE FALL BECAUSE OF LOW REGISTRATION NUMBERS. ;-(

I’m going to see about sharing an iPhone web app presentation at the upcoming “Mobile Teaching and Learning Conference” at Ft Hays State University (in Hays, Kansas) next week. I am sharing the keynote address at the conference in the afternoon, but will be sharing two breakout sessions as well in the morning. The conference takes place on Tuesday, April 8th.

Well, it has certainly been an exciting evening and morning… and not just thanks to these iPhone web apps. We’ve had tornado sirens go off several times here in Edmond, Oklahoma, and tornados as well as strong straightline winds have caused damage as well as downed power lines just north of us.

Tornados are here...

Thank goodness for doppler radar and television meteorologists who stay right on top of these storms. Such is life in tornado alley in the spring.

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  • http://mrwilliams.edublogs.org J.D. Williams

    I have an iPod Touch. I’m hoping that they come out with a version of Mobile Scrobbler (www.last.fm) that works with the Touch. I know there are ways to do it now, but I’m hoping that its developed (well, it already is developed: http://dev.c99.org/MobileScrobbler/) and free (or cheap) once they start putting out the native programs for the iphone/ipod touch.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Hopefully we’ll see applications like this which don’t require that users run JailBreak and hack their iPhone. This sounds a lot like Pandora, which have used and really like a lot. It would be cool to be able to play “smart” music channels like this via an iPhone or iTouch. Does anyone know if there is an iPhone application for Pandora?

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    The developer of Podcaster contacted me and let me know the site had a bug that was not permitting podcasts to be added. I was able to successfully add and subscribe to my podcast and other podcasts with feedburner.com web feeds this evening. Still no OPML import ability or PodNOVA sync, but what is here is GREAT. Looking forward to seeing continued improvements.

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    OK, I stand corrected now that I’ve read through more of my emails– indeed you CAN import OPML directly into podcaster, and I DID this successfully tonight! Yes! This is the link to use, you can get OPML from iTunes, PodNova, or another source. The file must have the extension “opml” to work, however:

    http://podcaster.soprotech.com/import

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  • http://mrwilliams.edublogs.org J.D. Williams

    I haven’t used Pandora, but from what I’ve heard it is a lot like last.fm.

    I think it would be awhile before Pandora would be available in some form on the iphone/itouch because it is flash based.

    I did see this: http://bitcartel.com/pandorajam/
    but I’m not to mac savvy so I don’t know how usable this link is.

    I do stream my Sirius satellite radio to my itouch through orb.com, but you can only do that with a windows machine running an add-on program.
    Setup for Sirius and XM through Orb: http://uneasysilence.com/archive/2008/01/12823/

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