Third-party applications for iPhone have started to arrive. I have sampled a few of them and have already found three keepers. Two I am enthusiastic about; the third less so.
Scenario Poker. I had a version of Texas Hold’em on my now defunct old mobile phone. I similarly downloaded the Texas Hold ’em game for the iPod. I enjoyed playing both versions and expected that games on iPhone would be one of the things I would surely miss, at least until Apple got around to allowing software downloads to the device. I was wrong. I am already playing poker on my iPhone and it is almost perfect. I am using a Web-based application from Scenario software called Scenario Poker. If you have ever tried their Dashboard widget version of Texas Hold ’em, you will find that the iPhone version is virtually identical. Which is to say, it is a very good implementation. There are even two variations of the game for iPhone, one for Portrait mode and one for Landscape mode.
Note: if you try to load the above link on your Mac, rather than on your iPhone, you will get a message that says: “You should browse to this page directly from Safari on iPhone. Scenario Poker for iPhone is a web-based application, so there is nothing to install. Safari on iPhone will manage Scenario Poker’s resources automatically in its cache and store your preferences in cookies.”
The downsides of the implementation (compared to what a “true” game on iPhone would be like) are very few. The main one is that, to access the game, you have to load Safari and go to the game’s Web page. There is no way to directly click to load the game from the Home screen. You can make access easier by bookmarking the page or even saving it as an open page via iPhone’s option to have more than one page open at a time. But it is still not ideal and requires an Internet connection to do so. However, there is a pleasant surprise here. Because the game’s resources are stored in the cache, you don’t need an active Internet connection to actually play the game after it has loaded. To test this out yourself, load and start playing the game. Now go to iPhone’s Settings (leaving the game as the active window in Safari) and turn on Airplane mode (which turns off both the Edge network and Wi-Fi access). Now return to Safari. You will still be able to continue playing the game (icons of the players may go blank, but I had no other difficulties).
Bottom line: iPhone is only two weeks old and my Texas Hold ’em dilemma is already solved. Cool!
Movies.app. While this second Web-based application is optimized for iPhone, it is also fully functional from Safari on your Mac. Movies.app tells you what movies are playing in the theaters located within your zipcode as well as their showtimes. It has worked perfectly for me so far. Happily, it extends iPhone features such as Maps and Weather to provide useful info that I can access from wherever I happen to be.
iPhoneDrive. This is not exactly iPhone software, as it does not run on your iPhone. Rather, iPhoneDrive is shareware for your Mac that interacts with iPhone to fill in one of the missing gaps in iPhone’s features. With iPhoneDrive you can copy files of your choice to and from an iPhone. Using just iPhone’s built-in software, there is no way to do this, other than what is permitted via iTunes. The iPhone does not show up in the Finder nor in Disk Utility.
To be honest, the iPhoneDrive software has limited value in what it can do. First, you cannot access the copied files from iPhone. For example, if you copy a Word document to iPhone, you cannot open it from the phone. All you can do is store it on iPhone and later copy it back to a Mac. iPhoneDrive’s main value therefore is as a quasi-backup device or to transfer documents for one Mac to another. The transfer option gets to the second limitation: to retrieve a file on a second Mac, it too must have iPhoneDrive installed, requiring another download and shareware purchase. Third, I suspect (although I am not certain) that transferred files are not tracked by iPhone’s backup mechanism. This means that if you ever had to erase and restore your iPhone, all the files transferred to iPhone would be lost.
At some point, I begin to think that it might be preferable to simply get a 1 GB flash drive and carry that around for when you want to transfer files. Still, if you can find value from iPhoneDrive despite its limitations, it does provide the first user-friendly way to copy virtually any data to iPhone. That alone makes it worth a mention.