This past weekend, my iPod Touch went kaput. I was listening to some streaming audio, which suddenly started to sound very garbled. I took the iPod out of its case and found that the screen was just as garbled, displaying random dancing pixels. Thankfully, the guys at the Bridge Street Apple Store took pity on my out-of-warranty Touch and decided to go ahead and replace it. I was so glad that they did because I quickly realized that I really can’t go on without one of these things. When I thought it was gone for good, I was already trying to think of ways I could have it repaired or get a new one. I’ve grown so accustomed to how great the thing is, I couldn’t have done without it. That got me to thinking about the things I could do with and the apps I use on it that are irreplaceable…
MLB.tv is easily and by far my favorite app. It’s a bit pricier than most apps at ten bucks, but well worth it. I do get the expected baseball scores and stats, but I also get live audio, something MLB could (and does) charge far more than ten bucks for. I often spend an hour or so outside each day mowing grass or working on other things outside. I’d probably usually hate doing that sort of stuff, but I now really look forward to it because I can listen to Atlanta Braves games while I’m doing it over my WiFi connection. Plus when I come back in I can look at video of the big defensive plays or home runs, usually posted within minutes after it happens.
However, the biggest asset of this app is also its worst. You can view a few selected live games, but they are beholden to MLB’s completely idiotic blackout policy. So it’s really not worth bothering with because you likely won’t be able to see live games of your favorite team anyways.
Another favorite of mine is Free RSS, which you can easily understand from the name alone. It’s a simple, lightweight, no frills RSS reader. You can quickly view headlines and entire articles from your favorite sites, usually within just a minute or two. It’s also very good about finding feeds, even if you don’t know the specific RSS address. Just point it to your favorite sites and it does that for you. The only lacking part about this app is that it doesn’t have a universal “All Read” button that applies to all feeds.
I also really love mobile dedicated apps like Graffiti, Around Me, or BrightKite. If I’m out and about and can pick up a WiFi signal, I can quickly find out where stuff is at as well as what other visitors thought about them. There’s a trick to these sort of things though, and it’s just a simple matter of accurately gauging which one is the most popular. Graffiti is pretty much dead because it suffers from a lack of activity. Around Me is great in that it doesn’t rely on this activity, and BrightKite is the most useful app right now because it tends to be the most popular. BrightKite users themselves tend to leave little more useful info than their location, but it’s still fun.
But perhaps the best function of my iPod Touch is its ability to gill in the gaps that I’ve not anticipated. Unless AT&T has some reason to intervene, there typically is an app for that. Even if I don’t know I need an app, I can quickly find it when that need arises through the App Store. This has applied so many times in the past, from uses like a way to manage my Netflix list (PhoneFlix is my favorite) to looking at XBox Live accounts (1337pwn). But the best medium for this is through games. All of the consoles have game stores nowadays, but it usually involves a cumbersome process of entering account or credit card information. With the App Store, you do that only once. And when you want a new game, you can find it and have it installed in a minute or two with only a few button presses.
This isn’t to say the process or the App Store is perfect. If you’ve followed the news at all, you know that Apple and AT&T have really cracked down on they will and will not permit you to do with your own device lately. They could find out that if enough tire of this, enough will jump ship to other platforms. But hopefully that will just encourage competition and make the OS even better than it already is.