At the moment, with piles of boxes in my garage, filled with things I once thought I needed, I am keenly aware of the perils of having too much stuff; and that anything that isn't necessary to fill some legitimate need or other is too much. There are, on the other hand, a couple of things that I am very pleased to have right now. The big black Subaru Forester I swan about in for instance. It is fast and handles well. It is comfortable enough that after 3 hours driving it I can get out and do a day's work. It goes pretty well on a gravel road, and I suspect (though I haven't tried it yet) that it will go equally well in snow. And it has a port for plugging in that other thing I am pleased to have: my iPhone.
The iPhone is, of course, a telephone, and it works pretty well in that department. It sends texts and it relays voice calls. It doesn't have a forward facing camera so it can't do video calls, but my last phone could and I never, but never used that feature, so who cares? It receives emails and although the funny little keyboard is not very fast to use, it sends them. It keeps my diary and syncs it with my computer and that of my PA. It plays music, shows videos, surfs the web and does a passable job as a GPS unit. Plug it into a laptop anywhere where there is Vodafone coverage and you instantly have a cheap, reasonably fast and stable Internet connection. It has a camera capable of taking pictures like the one above: surprisingly OK in a pinch. But the best thing about it is the little programs -apps - that can be downloaded from the apple store and which can turn the phone into thousands of other appliances. Like a compass, or an altimeter or a spirit level or a dictionary of a language translator or.... I have about 50 0r so apps loaded on mine. Some of them seemed like a good idea at the time, but sit like the boxes in my garage doing nothing. There are some very useful but unremarkable ones for accessing Skype and Facebook and Google and all that kind of thing, but there some others with a definite gee whizz factor to them. So, on my iPhone, these are the 10 I like the most:
1. mPass. Stores the details of my Air New Zealand flights. Tells me when the plane is leaving and how long the flight will take. Displays a bar code so that if I haven't got check in luggage, I don't need to check in; just place the phone on the machine at the boarding gate to get my seat number
2. Olive Tree. A Bible reader. I have the NIV, the NRSV, KJV, and The Message loaded into the phone along with a Greek New Testament and Hebrew Bible, each with a pretty good lexicon.
3. Take Me Back. Press a button. Wander off. Later press the button again and the phone shows a map and tells you how to get back to the place.
4. Zen Timer . A meditation timer which is the best of the 3 or 4 different ones I've tried. Plays little gongs to tell you how time is passing, and keeps a log and gives statistics for the week if that sort of thing interests you.
5. 2Do A to do list organiser
6. Weather New Zealand. Gives the current weather and the forecast for the next 3 days for as many cities as you want to set it up for.
7. My Measures. Take a photo of something you want to measure, eg the corner of a room where you think you want to put a couch, or the couch you have seen in a shop that you think may fit there. Quickly and easily enter the dimensions of the object onto the photo.
8. Scrabble. You know, that game. Little squares with letters on them. Triple word scores. All that. The iPhone knows some funny words and is pretty shrewd about placing them but I always beat it. I think it is trying to flatter me.
9. Peak Ar. Look at a mountain range using the iPhone's camera. Any mountain range, anywhere in the world, even little ones like the hills around Dunedin. The app checks the GPS, finds out what all the various mountains are and conveniently places the names and heights of them onto the image of them on the screen
10 Dictionary. Self explanatory really. Useful when trying to beat your iPhone at Scrabble.
Apps usually cost $1.29 (ie $US0.99) each though many of my most useful ones were free. Some of the expensive ones might cost $3 or $4. The only problem with the iPhone is having to use iTunes: a sometimes clumsy and inconvenient program expressly designed to ensure the maximum level of profit for the Apple Corp, but by and large even that works most of the time and it's annoyances are more than compensated for by the usefulness of this little bit of kit. If I come across any other good apps I'll tell you, if you will do the same for me.