I wanted to write a slightly different type of iPhone app review today. Instead of focusing specifically on one or two apps, I wanted to bring you with me as I walk through the tools I rely on daily as I check out the social media ‘scene.' Also, I'd like to prefix by stating that the iPhone has been an amazingly capable and flexible platform for web-based activities such as this. Not only does it work better for me than any mobile smartphone I've used in the past, but has completely replaced my trusty Nokia 770 internet tablet.
When I pick up my iPhone in the morning, the first thing I check is new e-mail. Not very exotic, but this is something that needs to be done well on any smartphone. I'll disclose here that I've never used a Blackberry for any length of time, so I won't argue that it's the best mobile e-mail platform. However, the iPhone has a very strong, capable e-mail client. In fact, it has really come a long way from the 1.0 release on the original iPhone. Good attachment handling including PDF and Office documents, support for multiple POP/IMAP accounts, and good integration with other iPhone apps and even many 3rd party apps. Plus, Apple has their own tightly-integrated service called MobileMe.
One small issue I have with the e-mail client is the steps involved with switching between e-mail accounts. In essence, if you are looking at a particular e-mail, you have to hit the ‘back' button 3 times to get out to the account list. Why isn't there a shortcut to straight to the account list, or better, switch directly to a different account? Every other mobile e-mail client I have used has this simple feature.
Personally, I check FriendFeed all the time to get a feel for the topics of the day, and to see if any ongoing discussions are happening that I can contribute to. FriendFeed has an excellent iPhone web client that is more than adequate for this job. I usually keep a browser session open specifically for FriendFeed so I can check it at different points in the day.
There are so many resources for accessing Twitter on the iPhone that I can't cover them all here. Twitter itself has a nice, clean mobile site if you point your mobile browser to m.twitter.com. However, I use an iPhone-optimized free service called Hahlo, it is really leagues better than any other web site in the same class, and even better than most Twitter iPhone apps! It supports everything you can do on the main Twitter site, plus integrates Twitter Search (formerly Summize).
If for some reason you don't love Hahlo, here are just a few of the other apps and sites you can check out: Twitteriffic, Twinkle, Twittelator, TwitterFon, Twittervision, Twitfire, and LaTwit. Also, Summizer is a mobile version of Twitter Search and Fring is just all-around amazing.
Google Reader and RSS
I am a huge fan of the Google Reader feed reader utility. It has social features as well as an intuitive keyboard-accelerated, web-based interface. In fact, I would argue that most of my real absorption of the social media space comes from the feed subscriptions I follow in Google Reader. Their team has also provided an excellent iPhone-optimized web site. As long as I have some network connectivity via wireless or cellular, this is my preferred way to catch up on my feed reading.
However, there are times when I know that I'll be out of all network access and I may still want to read some articles. Up until recently, there wasn't a good way to do this. However, a great iPhone app called Byline that was created specifically to sync with Google Reader and allow perusal of articles at leisure. Any annotations that are made, like ‘share with note' or ‘starred,' are synched back up when reconnected to the internet. Plus, Byline just got a big 2.0 interface makeover and is a pleasure to use. I recommend it if you prefer to use an app over a web site.
If you aren't a fan on Google Reader, there are a lot of other RSS readers for the iPhone (this is by far not a complete list, and App Store links all): NetNewsWire, SyncRSS, Web Feeds, Free RSS Reader, The Black RSS Reader, Daisy Feed, and NewsStand.
LinkedIn and Facebook
I tend to check both of these sites regularly to see if there are updates from my friends or colleagues. Both of Facebook and LinkedIn have superb iPhone apps developed by the respective companies running those sites. However, both companies also have really nice iPhone-enabled web sites! So you have a choice if you want to go for the ‘heavy' app interface (LinkedIn, Facebook) or the lighter web interface (LinkedIn, Facebook).
I am signed up for a lot of ‘microblogging' and other social sites, but I don't check them nearly as often as FriendFeed and Twitter. Luckily, they all have some sort of footprint on the iPhone, either via app, optimized web site, or mobile site. See the list below:
- BrightKite: Just go to the primary BrightKite site to get an iPhone optimized version, or get the brand-new free app
- Flickr: Flickr has a fantastic mobile site. There are quite a few Flickr iPhone apps too, for example Mobile Fotos which I review here
- Pownce: Both an iPhone app and an iPhone-optimized site
- Last.FM: An awesome app and bare-bones mobile site
- Pandora: A bar-none high quality music streaming application for the iPhone
- Yelp: A great app and functional mobile site
- Tumblr: All tumblelogs have mobile support by appending ‘/mobile' to the end of the URL. I also recommend iview for photo tumblelogs.
Although there are many applications and web sites (like seesmic) that will let you watch video on the iPhone, there is no direct support for video recording.. yet. There is hope though. Recently, Qik has been working on their iPhone client intensely and it should be in the iTunes App Store any time now! According to Kevin Rose and Chris Pirillo, it's looking like a winner.
So as you can see, there is a huge amount of support for the iPhone when it comes to social media. And I haven't even touched (no pun intended) on the plethora of iPhone-specific social networking applications out there that are GPS-enabled. There are so many, in fact, that they have their own iTunes App Store category.
If you are looking for a way to take your online presence on the road, this device is a one-stop shop. Due to the lack of video recording capability and not-quite-business-class e-mail support, you may end up going for a different phone. But no other phone gives you the breadth and diversity of activities that are available with the iPhone.
As a final note, I just wanted to include a link to a fantastic free WordPress plugin that gives you an instant, gorgeous iPhone optimized theme for your site. It's called WPtouch and it I recommend it highly.
Read more by Phil Glockner at Scribkin.com.