The iPhone is the most important computer I have ever had – second only to my first office computer in 1993. Back then on a Friday afternoon in the beginning of the World Wide Web, I installed the program Nupop on my PC. Nupop opened an universe absolutely new to me – the universe of discussion groups by E-Mail and Usenet. I found myself quickly immersed into hundred thousands of newsgroups and mailing lists and enthusiastically subscribed to some twenty of them. After a quite weekend, I unsuspectingly opened my mail box … and suddenly my smile froze: “Cling, clong, cling, you have 713 messages!” It took me a day to wade through them (I red all of them) but, for the first time, I had the feeling of being connected with the whole world – or at least the whole library world.
Whereas the desktop computer connected me with the world, the iPhone connected the world with me. Let me explain this strange statement: Today, the Web 2.0 comes with sophisticated tools and great omnipresence, but – in a nutshell – added nothing to this 93’ feeling, at least not for me. That changed completely when I bought an iPhone one and a half year ago. Looking up information or doing networking on my iPhone gave me a second “aha-experience”: Now everything was nearby (in the pocket), and it was available wherever I was and whenever I wanted! No idea has to be put off to a later date, no question remained unanswered, there was no undiscovered curiosity and no longing unquenched. (By the way: that is exactly what the new generation of library users expects from us.)
iPhone Applications (Apps)
I don’t know if you are familiar with the iPhone and its Applications? iPhone Apps turn the iPhone into a sound studio, into a glass of beer, into a game, into a car navigation. There are 120.000 Apps in the iTunes shop, which have been altogether installed more than 1 billion times in the last two years. A study reported that most people use their Apps only once, but I don’t believe that. I installed some 60 Apps and use them regularly and frequently (some are only nice gimmicks for posing). Equipped with Internet, Apps, and GPS, the iPhone is a perfect substitute for my laptop. You can take the whole world of information with you, and the whole social network too . Which Apps are especially useful and noteworthy?
My favourite iPhone App is NewsRack . NewsRack is a sophisticated RSS-Feed Reader and serves as my information centre (as every information is RSS-able today). It shows all the news feeds from my beloved blogs, newspapers, TV stations, announcements of our clinic, and so on. It can be synchronized with your Google Reader subscriptions and – most important – it permits the forwarding of interesting news items to Web 2.0 services such as Twitter and Delicious. You may know that in an interactive environment, reading is not enough; you have to be able to share the information as well – comparable with the snap of one’s fingers. The second great advantage of the iPhone / RSS couple: I can read the news wherever I want and whenever I have the time to – usually not on the job. NewsRack is a bargain at 3,99 Euro.
There are numerous RSS reader Apps for the iPhone, many for free. You may like to test some of them as well.
Although you can read Twitter messages by NewsRack too, I strongly recommend installing one of the many Twitter Apps to get the full advantage of the Twitter interactivity of retweeting, replying, and direct messaging. Twittelator Pro  is one of the most powerful ones and it makes a lot of fun playing with its many features. I have had good experiences too with TweetDeck (there is also a free desktop version) and Echofon (formerly Twitterfon), but Twittelator is my one and only (but with Apps, you’re always spoilt for choice). On Twitter I follow 99 people , which is way too much, because some of them post hundreds of tweets a week. So I found myself quickly overwhelmed by over 400 tweets a day – in addition to the 100 news items on NewsRack. (One of the next issues will answer the question if you could omit Twitter or RSS.) Twittelator allows easy retweeting, replying, direct messaging, following, unfollowing, searching, and whatsoever – 3,99 Euro.
Skype is yet another powerful social networking thingy, it allows you to keep contact, chat, and phone all around the world for free or small money. In addition, my library is using Skype for communicating with our users – free.
iBlogger allows editing and writing of blog entries on the road. Embedding of pictures is easy and straight forward. If you want to add a picture to your post, just make it with the built-in iPhone camera – 7,99 Euro. There is also a free WordPress App for editing WordPress blogs, but unfortunately it has problems connecting to blogs not hosted at wordpress.com.
Social Network Portals
In the meantime, every social network community or shop has an iPhone application – it’s like a scourge. Facebook, StudiVZ (the German Facebook), MySpace, eBay, Amazon, each and every network offers its dedicated client. There are also some social networks built specifically for the iPhone such as iRovr and iPHONEcolony, but I have not used them and I do not think they could compete with the above mentioned “standard” networks. A more detailed (but now a little out of date) comparison of 13 iPhone Apps for communities was done by Adam Hirsch in the blog Mashable .
Flickr and Delicious
Of course, these two dinosaurs of the Web 2.0 do also have their respective iPhone Apps. At the iTunes store you can find at least a two dozens of Apps for both the photo sharing site Flickr and the bookmark sharing site Delicious. Free as well as paid Apps let you do almost anything, what you can imagine, including basic stuff such as browsing photos/bookmarks, uploading photos/ bookmarks from the iPhone, and of course sharing photos/bookmarks. More Apps for managing bookmarks are annotated at the German iPhone Blog . One feature especially nice to mention: due to geotagging, some Apps  are even capable to show you photos made at your very location (Fig. 8). In one of the next issues location based services will be covered in depth – there are one major advantage of smartphones.
An German blogger puts the Iphonization into a nut shell : “meanwhile, the iPhone is quite good integrated in my daily routine. Thanks to some good Apps much has shifted to the iPhone and is used in public transport in the previously unproductive minutes. Besides Twitter, I do not use hardly any social networks regularly on the desktop any more. The result: in the office there is more time for real work and the flow. In fact, the iPhone has not discouraged me from work, but quite definitely reduces distractions.“
But beware: you don’t have to run to the next Apple shop buying iPhones! Almost every major phone manufacturer offers devices with similar if not identical applications. Look for Google Nexus, LG eXpo, Nokia N900, Sony Ericsson Xperia, or Blackberry Storm, to name just a few.
After 13 issues dedicated to Web 2.0 only, I would like to widen the coverage of this column to include other interesting things such as the mobile library, electronic media, future of reading, etc pp. I’m still looking for a suitable name. If you feel inspired, please email me your suggestions with the label Oliver’s Thoughts!
1. You may find all iPhone Apps for Social networking at http://www.apple.com/webapps/socialnetworking/
5. Adam Hirsch: iPhone 2.0 Apps: The Social Networking App Comparison [URL: http://mashable.com/2008/07/17/iphone-social-networking-app-comparison/ visited 12.3.2010]
7. Flickit Pro: http://www.greenvolcanosoftware.com/flickitpro.html, Mobile Flickr http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mobile-flickr/id337423904?mt=8
8. Florian Fiegel: iPhone, Social Networks und der Flow. [URL: http://florian-fiegel.net/iphone-social-networks-flow visited 12.3.2010]