Wed 14 May
Let’s face it, I’ll probably never create an iPhone application of my own. I don’t have the time, for one, and even if I did, I haven’t got the programming talent. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some ideas for some applications. And because I’m one of the lucky few who have a blog, I’m not just going to let these ideas go to waste — no, I’m posting them right here instead. To be sure, none of them are game changers, but all of them would find a place on my iPhone’s home screen if someone out there makes them.
A dictionary is one of the most useful, satisfying tools anyone can ask for, in my opinion. Wouldn’t it be great to have a dictionary application in your iPhone, where the heft and bulk of a traditionally printed dictionary becomes immaterial? And wouldn’t it be great if the dictionary allowed you to look up additional definitions at Dictionary.com and M-W.com? Also, wouldn’t it be great if it could keep a running list of words you’ve looked up, or words you need to refer to often? I think so.
One of the best things about recent upgrades to the iPhone is the map application’s ability to triangulate your current position, where you’re standing right now. I’m not sure that ‘useful’ would be the right term for this application, but I do think that it would be interesting at least to be able to use this feature to remember where I’ve been. With a click of a button, the iPhone would triangulate my current position and essentially mark my tracks as I walk or drive across town or even across the country. Each mark would drop a pin on a map, record the time and day, and connect it back to previously marked locations. The data would be exportable and synchronizable, so that something more interesting — and more immediately useful than I can imagine at the moment — can be done with it offline.
Of course, there’s already a reasonably capable contacts module stashed inside the phone application. But what I have in mind for Super Contacts is a kind of meta viewer that would also aggregate people-related activity from throughout the iPhone — regardless of what application that activity happens in. Super Contacts would sit on the home screen for easier, quicker access to all the addresses and numbers for my contacts, which would already be an improvement. But more to the point, it would also show me all the text messages I’ve exchanged with a given person, and all of the emails and a log of phone calls, too. And, who knows, it might also tie in with future contacts-related iPhone applications, including whatever Facebook is almost assuredly cooking up for the platform.
This is really only half an idea for an application, I know, but I’ll tell you my real motivation: I also want to bundle in complete support for all of the data fields that are available in the Mac OS X Address Book. It’s an unfortunate but profound truth that not all of the information that goes into the Address Book is synchronized with the iPhone. In particular, I’m referring to the ‘related names’ field, where a contact’s spouse, child, assistant, etc. is stored. With my terrible memory for names, this is a critical piece of information that I desperately wish the iPhone would carry for me. It boggles my mind that Apple chose not to sync this data, and so I figure it’s just as reasonable — or unreasonable — to hope for a third party solution as it is to hope that Apple will fix the situation itself.
Using the iPhone’s built in camera, this application would allow me to scan bar codes for books, DVDs and basically any packaged goods, while out shopping in the ‘real world.’ Scanning a copy of Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody,” for instance, would automatically add that book to my shopping cart at Amazon.com — or some other user-selected retailer. If Amazon.com isn’t working on something like this already, they should be; for a relative pittance, such an application would effectively turn Barnes & Noble’s hundreds of brick and mortar stores into a nationwide chain of huge, high-resolution, immersive catalogs for selling their own wares. Actually, I take back what I said at the top of this post; an application like this would be a game changer.