iPhone apps that foretell the future

More than just useful or fun, these iPhone apps point the way toward the future -- of the iPhone and smartphones in general.

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For podcast lovers, Apple has included the ability to browse and even play back audio and video without having to download it, and if you like the show, to download podcasts directly from the phone. The ability to view without downloading has opened up the entire world of podcasting for me, allowing me to spend time watching content I normally wouldn't bother downloading. This is the bright spot to having access to an array of on-demand video, but the vast library of studio titles still remain hidden away. Where is NBC-backed Hulu, for instance?

While video for the iPod has been available in the iTunes store for years, the iPhone's 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity open a whole new door for on-demand content streamed to the device. There's still a lot of work to be done as most networks figure out a way of making lots of cash while providing an always-accessible venue for their content, but there will be a time soon when we decide our own programming.

iPhone + gaming

Apps: Real Soccer 2009, Hero of Sparta, Brothers in Arms

Gaming is another category where indications of the iPhone's future abound. Apparently, Apple thinks so, too, because its latest iPod Touch ads feature games found at the App Store. Gaming will become better on the iPhone as the hardware progresses.

With processors and GPUs becoming increasingly smaller and faster, the iPhone of the future may pack the power of today's laptops. Here and now, the iPhone has already tested traditional phone-based gaming and has even managed to give portable videogame units a run for their money. (It's the software, stupid!)

The convenience of the App Store in concert with the iPhone's hardware features allow for some pretty entertaining games -- games whose sophistication levels are beginning to grow. While there are now classic examples of mobile game fun in Super Monkey Ball and wide array of Tetris variants, the iPhone really shows off its graphical prowess in games like Real Soccer 2009 ($5.99), Hero of Sparta ($5.99) and for first-person shooter fans, Brothers in Arms ($5.99).

Brothers in Arms was good enough to capture the attention of The Escapist magazine, which ran a story with game play footage -- for fans of such action titles, a video well worth watching.

Brothers in Arms

First-person shooter in your pocket? Why not?

Click to view larger image

Personally, I'm a big fan of the Call of Duty series, so having similarly functional and fun first-person shooter on my person and in my pocket at all times really tickles me. That Brothers in Arms is graphically impressive, with quality audio and game play to match, really shows what the iPhone and iPod Touch platforms are capable of.

Clearly, as the iPhone advances in hardware capability, the games will become much more involved. Better graphics, faster CPUs, more data storage and the ability to download games on the fly sound more like features found on next-generation consoles -- only this console is also your phone.

App future looks bright

The iPhone started out as the best way to interact with common functions associated with mobile telephony, but has quickly evolved to become much more than that. As the iPod has shown, focused evolution of a product can be the difference between a toy and a must-have lifestyle device, and the iPhone has the potential to grow way beyond its humble telephony beginnings.

This level of sophistication in a mobile device was undreamed of just a few short years ago in anything less than a laptop, but it's all available now, in a size small enough for our pockets. You don't need a crystal ball app to see that the future of the iPhone is looking bright.

So who'll be the first with Sunglasses.app?

Michael deAgonia is a Neal Award-winning writer, computer consultant and technologist who has been working on Macs professionally since 1993 and has held tech-support roles at colleges, media companies, the biopharmaceutical industry, the graphics industry and Apple.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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