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Home » Applications, Cell Phones

More Bad iPhone Apps

Submitted by on August 13, 2009 – 1:19 am 4 Comments

This is the second part of my review of iPhone apps unworthy of your ninety nine cents. You can read the first part here.

Certain applications are well-written and might have been quite useful, if only they weren’t designed to rip you off. Take Textfree for example. This app is advertised in the iPhone app store as giving you unlimited free text messaging. The app costs just under six bucks – not cheap by iPhone store standards – and allows you to send and receive SMS messages via Textfree’s email service. When people respond to your messages sent from Textfree, their messages also cost you nothing.

Textfree promises free and unlimited text messaging

Textfree promises free and unlimited text messaging

This could have been convenient – not to mention economical – if it wasn’t for one little gotcha: apparently there is a hidden yearly fee for using Textfree. While the description for this app in the iPhone store promises unlimited free messages, this offer is in fact limited to one year and after the first year is up, you will be charged extra.

But if you read carefully, there is a veiled hint at a yearly fee

But if you read carefully, there is a veiled threat of a yearly fee

How much extra? Nobody really tells you, so, I guess, it’s supposed to be a special surprise for you. There is more. Textfree promises a text messaging experience free of spam. Yet, if you open this app right after installing it, there is preloaded spam already waiting for you.

This ad came pre-loaded with Textfree

This ad came pre-loaded with Textfree

As if that was not annoying enough, sometimes when you launch Textfree, it will display pop-up ads for other iPhone apps. So to summarize Textfree: hidden costs, spam, pop-up ads. Otherwise, it is a nice app if you don’t mind having someone’s hand down your pocket.

And this ad poped up the second time I started Textfree

And this ad popped up the second time I started Textfree

Private Pics is a characteristic example of a good idea poorly implemented. This app allows you to create password-protected folders for all those snapshots you take with you iPhone. Not a bad idea, considering that certain photos are best kept private. When you run Private Pics for the first time, you choose your password and set up as many different protected folders for your photos as you want. You can have a folder for your receipts, a folder for the classified documents you photographed while digging through the papers on the desk of your commanding officer, and a folder for the photos of you and your ex-KGB friends using a jar with a radioactive isotope to pull a practical joke on a former colleague. Ah, all the fun things we do…

Private Pics and its tiny password field

Private Pics and its tiny password field

Private Pics will show you all the images in your default iPhone photo folder and you can tap on them to add them to the password-protected folder of your choice. The images are then copied from the default folder to the protected folder. This copy process actually duplicates content on disk and this makes the application sluggish. After you finish copying the photos to the protected folder, you must not forget to go to the default folder and delete the originals. Why couldn’t Private Pics simply moved the photos instead of copying them is beyond me. This would have made the app much faster and more secure.

Private Pics makes it difficult to browse many images

Private Pics makes it difficult to browse many images

In my book, any security application that relies on the end user not to forget to do something is absolutely useless. Adding to the overall inconvenience, Private Pics displays images in a one-per-line arrangement, also showing when the image was added to the gallery. While in certain circumstances this information may be useful, this layout means a lot of scrolling. Private Pics provides no options for controlling the layout of galleries, the size of thumbnails, or sorting options.

Another application that could have bee useful, if it’s authors put a little extra thought into it, is Speak It! – a text-to-speech utility for iPhone. The voice quality was surprisingly decent and almost comparable to TTS applications for desktop computers. Regretfully, this app has a couple of annoying problems that completely negate all it’s positive aspects. Imagine that you pasted some text from, say, a Web page into Speak It! You clicked the “Read It!” and it’s not reading it! Your text is too long: a memory limitation Speak It! developers have conveniently forgot to disclose in the product description.

Speak It! will not save your text on exit by default

Speak It! will not save your text on exit by default

Now, suppose you cut down your long text down to size and Speak It! is now actually reading it back to you. Then your iPhone automatically locks and Speak It! stops reading. This app is not smart enough to tell iPhone not to turn off the sound. Or imagine this: you typed some text into Speak It! text window and then you had to leave the app temporarily to make a call. When you re-open Speak It!, the text you spent five minutes typing in is now gone. The app gives you an option of saving text, but it will not save anything on exit by default. Very annoying.

Poor quality of most iPhone apps is matched by low standards for accuracy of application descriptions in the iPhone store. A promise of free and unlimited usage, for example, in some cases guarantees you either one or the other, but not both at the same time. Promised functionality is delivered only under specific circumstances not disclosed before sale. It would seem Apple is making too much money on iPhone apps to put it’s foot down and enforce some basic requirements to maintain product quality and to squash false advertising. The kind of people who would buy an iPhone in the first place, would not mind spending a little bit of money on half-baked gadgets and software. Still, this is no reason to take advantage of them.

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  • Great article I learned a lot from it, I hope I can write as well as you someday :)

  • Gabriel Kenney says:

    I’ve bought lots of apps and installed in iphone4. But now i want to restore it. Now i want to know what would happen to the apps after restoring before i really do it. Would them still stay in iphone or they would be gone?
    If they would be gone, what should i do to get them back, should i buy them again in itunes? That would be a huge loss for me.

  • Hannah says:

    I have a fairly slow computer but whenever I connect my iPhone 4, iTunes slows to a crawl and it usually fails to sync. This is very annoying and I don’t know what the problem is. I have over 17 gb of music and far more gb of apps. Could that be the problem? Also this same problem occurs with other iPhones but seems to be a bit worse with my iPhone 4.

  • soccermaster1 says:

    It’s just unfreaking believable how the designers of Windows 8 did NOT put any X or Close button on apps/programs that open up! I have to sit there and hit ALT – Tab just to get back to windows. There must be something up , maybe it’s a world wide conspiracy to make people go crazy or something because something that basic and logical could not just have been left out on accident. Someone please help me with the logic of this!

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