11 cool new apps for the iPhone

It's the third-party software that makes it rock

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Remote (free)

This slick little app from Apple allows you to remotely control an iTunes library with the iPhone or iPod Touch -- as long as there's a Wi-Fi connection. It goes beyond simple remote control and allows you to browse play lists, scroll through lists of artists and albums and even see album art for music or videos that are currently playing.

When you first launch Remote, you're greeted with a screen prompting you to search for an iTunes library. Remote found my iTunes library instantly. Once I selected my library, my iPhone became available on the iTunes sidebar on the Mac. Clicking on the iPhone icon brought up a simple prompt asking me for a four-digit set of numbers displayed on the iPhone. Once I typed in the numbers, the phone paired with my iTunes library on my computer and I had instant access to remotely control my media.

The app itself is easy to use, borrowing liberally from the design of the music-playing software that comes with every iPhone and Touch. It's that interface familiarity and seamless integration that makes this remote-control software brilliant, though there are a few caveats. For one thing, you can only remotely control your iTunes library when you're in range of Wi-Fi. And Remote is limited to one basic function: the remote control of your iTunes library. There's no streaming of music or movies, so you can't listen or watch your media on the device. There also doesn't seem to be lyric support in music, and there's no cover flow support either. Both would be nice, although they're not necessary.

This is highly recommended to anyone who listens to music on a Mac or PC.

Loopt (free)

This is one of the best implementations of social networking on the go. This application uses Location Services to keep you and your friends up to date on each other's activities, including pinpointing their locations on a map. To quote the CEO of Loopt Inc., Sam Altman: "We show you where people are, what they're doing, and what cool places are around you." Loopt also supports Facebook and Twitter integration, allowing content and location to be kept up to date between each of those services.

After a brief account-creation and log-in process, you're presented with Loopt's main screen: a map of your location, a couple of icons at the top of the screen for finding places and friends, a small status section, and four buttons at the bottom for interface navigation.

The default view, the Map, begins by finding your location and uses Microsoft's Virtual Earth for its mapping software. Tapping the upper left button reveals a search (featuring restaurant reviews from Yelp), though Loopt takes the initiative once the search field is opened and starts finding local restaurants automatically. Clicking on any of the search results once they populate the map brings up an info screen that can display reviews, comments from friends about the place, plus the usual phone number and address.

Besides Map, there is an on-screen navigation button called What's Up. This button brings up a screen that allows you to update your status, location and picture. Once sent out, your Loopt buddies are kept in the loop. You can also see what your friends have been up to, which brings me to the best part of Loopt: the ability to track your friends from the Map screen. Every time Loopt is launched, your Location is auto-updated, as is the location of your friends. Not only can you see where they are in respect to your location, Loopt taps into the iPhone's services by allowing you to call or text them, and get directions to them. For those friends that haven't logged into Loopt recently, the software allows you to ping them. A ping is a prompt seeking their location that is sent instantly as an SMS message. When the ping is returned, you get your friend's location -- if he's granted the system permission to give you his location, of course. While it sounds a bit Big Brother-ish -- and it can be -- the most paranoid amongst us can rest assured that the auto-location services can be turned off.

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