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A pick of some of the best smartphone apps

IF you have a cellphone contract and recently got an upgrade, you’re likely to be in possession of a smartphone. A smartphone is basically any cellphone that has a complete operating system and is able to connect to the Internet and other devices wirelessly. To put it simply, a smartphone can be thought of as a handheld computer.

A fully functioning operating system allows users to install and run more advanced applications. It also provides a platform for application developers to create apps. There are now thousands of smartphone applications available across cellphone networks and brands — some free and others available for purchase. The Apple iPhone App Store alone boasts over 200 000 download-able apps. Many of them are utter rubbish, but there are a few gems among the rough that may be worth downloading.

Apps have become the building blocks for making your smartphone unique and range from travelling guides to learning how to do yoga. Also remember that there are several applications that do the same thing (some better than others), but this also means that an appealing application that appears to be exclusive to the iPhone, for example, may be found for your particular smartphone brand under a different name. What follows is a few particularly interesting and potentially useful smartphone apps.

eSkyGuide app logoApplication: eSkyGuide
Platforms: Blackberry and iPhone
Cost: $5 (roughly R35) per year

This traveler’s app allows you to look up flight schedules, airport codes and other critical travel information straight from your smartphone. This particular version also lists phone numbers for airlines, hotels, international emergency numbers and car rental services.

GoodFood app logoApplication: GoodFood
Platforms: Blackberry, iPhone and others
Cost: Free!

The GoodFood app is a popular restaurant guide for smartphone users. Using your smartphone’s built-in GPS, GoodFood automatically locates your position and shows nearby restaurants. It also displays the ratings for each restaurant submitted by other users of the app. “Find one with a high score, enjoy your meal and post your own rating to share with fellow travelers. – goodrec.com

The Essential Garden GuideApplication: The Essential Garden Guide
Platforms: Multiple platforms (also available for iPad)
Cost: $0.99 (about R7)

The Essential Garden Guide app is a comprehensive guide that covers everything you might need to know to start your very own garden of abundant produce. The app has been created from a collection of 15 years worth of contributions from renowned agricultural. It includes basics such as soil preparation as well as extensive information on all types of fruits and vegetables.

Fuel Saver app logoApplication: Fuel Saver
Platforms: Available on multiple platforms
Cost: Generally free

There are several fuel saving applications available for different smartphones that all aim to help users prevent wasting petrol. This particular version uses your phone’s accelerometer to sense when drivers are speeding, accelerating or braking too hard and other bad driving behaviour that uses excessive petrol. The app emits a series of beeps when bad driving is detected and is aimed to teach users how to drive in the most fuel-efficient manner.

Anti-mosquito app logoApplication: Anti-mosquito
Platforms: Samsung Wave and others
Cost: R11 (for Samsung Wave)

This app supports the belief that certain sonic frequencies repel blood-hungry insects such as mosquitoes. Also known as “Sonic Insect Repeller”, this app turns your smartphone into an insect reflector that is claimed to be effective, chemical-free and safe to use around children and pets.

Flashlight app logoApplication: Flashlight
Platforms: Available on multiple platforms
Cost: R11 (for Samsung Wave)

A handy little app that could help you find your way in the dark or get you out of any Blairwitch Project situation. Flashlight apps work by allowing you to switch your camera’s flashlight on for as long as you need or emits a strong beam of light from your entire screen. Very useful for finding lost keys in the dark or signaling for an emergency.

Teen dream machine

THE SAMSUNG CORBY: For nimble-fingered tech savvies

Samsung CorbyTHE iPhone has certainly set the standard for new cellular descendants with newer mobile releases favoring the larger, full-touch screen. There is also a major focus on making cellphones exclusive social networking devices.

Samsung has followed suite with the release of a few touch-friendly iPhone clones – one of which is called the Samsung Corby. The device is specifically aimed at the youth market and it’s easy to see why; it takes a tech-savvy youth to get to grips with it. However, touch technology is amazingly intuitive and it shouldn’t take long for anyone to learn to use a Corby – provided you have thin and nimble fingers and thumbs.

Social features
On the plus side the Corby is certainly a very social phone. It is fully Facebook, Twitter and MySpace compatible and can be used to upload content to a variety of sites, such as YouTube, Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket. One is also able to receive updates and live feeds via Facebook, MySpace and Twitter through a simple pop-up SNS (Social Networking Service) notification feature.

With a Corby, users can upload photos and videos and view such content on these sites through a feature called Communities. However, community access is only granted after an extensive disclaimer is displayed, which includes the clause that any content uploaded may be accessed and used by third parties. Be warned that there is a risk of being spammed with adverts once your personal details are divulged.

The screen
The 2.8-inch QVGA screen is large and crystal clear – something that Samsung certainly gets right. I thought the screen would get smudgy after a few hours of fingering and was surprised to find that it didn’t leave a single fingerprint behind. Apart from three buttons found on the front, the phone is entirely operated with the screen using one’s fingers and thumbs.

This may pose a problem for some as the Corby does not favour users with fat fingers. You have to use your thumb to type / touch anything comfortably and I’m sure that the average thumb is not as small as most of the keys on the touch-screen. A better option is to use a stylus (a phone-poking pen with a thin, touchy tip). Yet the Corby comes with none.

What’s on the menu
The Corby has an elaborate menu – two and a half screens worth. These all have a function and purpose but Samsung could have easily gone for a minimalistic approach by combining some of these. For example, there are separate synonymous icons for “Google” and “Internet” as well as separate “stopwatch” and “timer” functions. I guarantee that consumers would agree that less is more and imagine that a lot of the Corby’s multiple functions would go unused.

Apart from the 27 pre-installed widgets an additional 75 are available for download from Samsung’s online Widgets Store (not unlike the iPhone App Store). The Corby makes use of quad band connectivity to download content and browse the web, which is no 3G experience but is still sufficiently fast.

Nonetheless the Corby is easy enough to navigate and it doesn’t take long for all the mysterious symbols to start making sense. There does, however, seem to be a slight misunderstanding between the scroll and the zoom functions – often confusing themselves with each other. What also lacks is an on-screen QWERTY keyboard – making message-making rather difficult.

Other features
The Corby has an impressive memory and can support up to 8GB of external storage. Battery life is said to be 9 hours of talk time and an incredible 730 hours of standby time. It has a camera yet this is a mere 2 megapixels and has no autofocus or flash. It does have a “smile shot” function which is becoming all the rage – i.e. the phone will only take a photo of a person when he/she is smiling.

There are two unique features belonging to the Corby, namely “one finger zoom” and “smart unlock.” As the name suggests, one finger zoom enables consumers to zoom in and out with one finger, while smart unlock is a feature which enables users to unlock the phone by drawing a letter on the screen. One can choose from 9 letters with which to secure their phone from teenaged trespassers.

The verdict
The S3650 Corby would definitely appeal to youngsters that are keen on technology and consider themselves as active social networkers. It is also a phone for those who like to personalise and customise and comes with extra covers slanged “fashion jackets”. The relatively low price of R1500 implies no fancy stuff, but the wide range of features and downloadable content is certainly relevant to the target audience. Tech-savvy and mobile-intuitive traits required.

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