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Little apps I like for the iPhone

The iPhone can certainly make life easier on a number of levels, and that has greatly increased with the advent of the App Store. There are thousands of selections for every taste, even bad taste. In 2007 Steve Jobs told us web based apps would do the trick, but he finally relented and we all benefited from the tremendous success and variety of the App Store.

So, without further ado, here are some little apps you may have missed that have made my i-life better.

  • Backgrounds [App Store link] A nice little app that points you to large collections of wallpaper for your iPhone or iPod touch. You can select a category such as Movies or Nature, and browse away till you find something you like. When you are happy, download the image and it will show up in your camera roll. Do the usual tap, and select it as wallpaper and you are ready to go. The pictures are generally of very high quality, and are sourced from Flickr. The developers claim about 50,000 images are there for the downloading. The app is free, although some unobtrusive ads do show up on the margins of the images. There are a lot of other ways to find iPhone wallpaper, but this is quick, easy and free. I like it.
  • Open Table [App Store link] Using your GPS (if your iPhone has one), or simply by giving your location, find the nearest restaurants that have, you guessed it, open tables. Then click on the time you want, and you have a reservation. It doesn't get any easier than that. It works in many U.S. cities, and in London, Toronto and Vancouver B.C. I gave it a go here in Southern Arizona, and found many restaurants with tables available You can set up an account at the Open Table website, but it is not required. Without an account you can select the restaurant, the time you want, and give your name, email, and phone number. Then click on 'confirm' and you are good to go. If you do sign up for a free account with Open Table, you can collect 'Dining Reward Points' when you book a meal at a member restaurant. Collect enough points and you can get some hefty discounts off your next dinner. Open Table also works on the iPod touch. Things that should be added are search by type of cuisine, and I think there should be a direct link to restaurant websites. Open Table is free.
  • Distant Suns [App Store link] I love to star gaze, and here in Arizona we get about 300 clear nights a year. There are several nice star map programs for the iPhone, but I am very partial to Distant Suns written by Mike Smithwick. This program goes way back to a PC version in 1985, and there have been Mac ports for OS9 and now there is an OS X version. The iPhone/ iPod touch version is scaled down from the big computer versions, but has excellent graphics, location awareness, and does the math to tell you what is visible at the moment and what is not. It is an impressive way to explore the universe above you. Distant Suns is $5.99 and well worth it.

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