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A Book Review
by Dave Comeau

Best iPhone Apps Title: Best iPhone Apps
Author: Josh Clark

Price: $19.99
Publisher: O'Reilly Media, Inc.
(oreilly.com/catalog/9780596804282)

ISBN: 978-0-596-80427-5
Media: Book, 228 Pages. No CD. 45-day free online edition at Safari Books Online

Interest Level: Beginner
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

So you've got your fancy iPhone and you've browsed the web, made phone calls, and played the heck out of the iPod. What's next? Why, the App Store of course. For those who have been living under a rock, the app store is part of Apple's online store, and it can greatly extend your iPhone or iPod Touch's capabilities. You can download, for free or for a modest fee, a wealth of over 100,000 applications. New applications are constantly being added. These applications (Apple calls them "apps") run a wide spectrum of usability, from work to play, to travel, or use at home. The app store is organized by categories, but it can be difficult to sift through all the numerous apps available. Josh Clark's new book sorts out the clunkers and gives us only the best apps out there.

Content:
The book itself is glossy, colorful, and slick. It is laid out in easy-to-follow categories: "At Work", "On the Town", "At Leisure", "At Play", "At Home", and "On the Road". These main categories are color-coded on the page edges and have icons for quickly finding apps suited to your pursuits. These categories are further broken down into subcategories to help you find exactly what you need. For example, different genres of games in the "At Play" section, or "News and Media" in the "At Leisure" section. There is a table of contents for quickly finding what you need, and is broken down by category and subsection.

You could certainly read the book cover-to-cover, but to me, it is most useful as a reference to look up whatever type of app appeals to you. Say you're looking to lose some weight and wanted to find the best app for watching your calories. You assess the seven main categories and choose "For Your Health", and of its three subsections, choose "General Fitness: Best App for..." and within that "Dieting and Weight Loss" on page 214. On page 214 you'd find a review of the "Lose It" app with four screenshots and a review.

The writing is conversational and easy to follow. This book is appealing and highly readable overall.

Strengths:
  • Apps arranged into categories that make sense. Makes it easy to look them up.
  • Colorful, graphics really jump out. Writing style is conversational and easily accessible.
  • Most screen shots are different from those in the app store. This can help you make a better choice than if you were just in the app store itself.
  • Online version free for 45 days.

Weaknesses:
  • A glossary would be nice. I remembered the name of an application but couldn't find it easily. Thankfully the table of contents makes apps quite easy to find.
  • Lacks a Free vs. Paid section. I'm thrifty, and it would be nice to see what I could get for free. The App Store has this, to some extent.
  • Technology — new apps come out every day, and there is no transition from the book into an ongoing update. This is of course the huge challenge faced by traditional print media in today's world. It would be nice if the author had a website/RSS/twitter/blog, maybe he could update readers if shining new apps have come to light.
Summary:
Best iPhone Apps is well written and provides an excellent summary of many of the best apps out there. It really condenses the App Store into a thoughtful display of the best of breed in many categories, and does it in a colorful book that you can read at your leisure.

DaveC

Reviewer: Dave Comeau

Dave has been a Mac user since 1989 when his father won an SE to replace the family's fleet of Commodore 64's.

Dave lives in South Philadelphia, and works at MEI, training and installing (Mac!) publishing software solutions.

He enjoys tennis, home automation, and stereoscopic video and photo creation.

This site has many more reviews, all written by MLMUG members.
View all our book reviews. Or, view our
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© 2009 by Dave Comeau & MLMUG
Posted 11/26/09
Updated 12/01/09