Once a year iPhone developers peel their bloodshot eyes away from their computer screens and pry their fingers from keyboards to enjoy their moment in the spotlight. SXSW’s Web Awards and BizSpark Accelerator give techies a time to shine, and this year iPhone apps are taking positions in multiple categories beyond just mobile. As iPhones increasingly become not just a mobile device, but a gaming, life planning and social tool, apps are gaining ground at SXSW. Here are some of the apps nominated for awards during this year’s SXSW, they’re names you’ll be hearing all week so start getting familiar.
Flook the Location Browser
If Flook was categorized in the same way animals are, it would be in genus “Appia”, class “social networkopod” and order “location basia”. And right now that’s a crowded order to be in, my friends. Flook mashes YFrog’s geo-located tweeted pictures with Foursquare’s area-tips to create the idea of shareable cards featuring tips on special locations. Basically, you can open Flook and detect user-created cards all around you tipping you to local landmarks, restaurants etc. With any new technology, the early adoption issue is a big one here and thus far I’ve not had a lot of luck finding cards in my local areas so it’s hard to get fully engaged. Flook is quite similar to successful Australia-based app, Deck of Secrets, which actually began its life as a literal paper deck of bar pictures and recommendations and spun off into an app which has now spread to include cities around the globe. While the idea of collecting cards from your friends for later to remind yourself of places to go and things to do is appealing, this app may have trouble finding its place in competition with Goliaths like Twitter and Foursquare.
There are a lot of ways to skin a cat when it comes to project management, and a lot of companies out there who think they know the best skinning method. BaseCamp has held strong for a quite a while now as a leader for tech project management, but Action Method, nominated for a web award in the mobile category, offers a flexible and creative way to manage projects both from the desktop and from the mobile phone. While it has all the standard features of tracking project due dates and ways to view tasks on different scales, it also has some neat personable features like the ability to nag or compliment someone’s work. Kind words can go a long way in the demanding startup space, but sometimes a “good work” or “thanks” isn’t always worth cluttering an inbox with. Much like BaseCamp, Action method offers a free small trial to get the gist of this comprehensive program. Action Method competes against BaseCamp, which has multiple unofficial apps.
Applications like Friendfeed changed the lives of a lot of social media fanatics out there, condensing their vast collection of information streams into one wide river that was easier to wrangle. Pond is the next incarnation of this, with an online and iPhone organizational system that allows you to feed Twitter, Flickr, Blogs and more all into one feed. It’s not totally disimilar from the offerings of Google Buzz, but comes with the added incentives of not needing a Google account and not having a nagging unread number sitting up therenin your inboxes. Pond is nominated for a web award under “technical achievment” and rightly so as they are ever expanding to include more feed options.
There’s a lot of competition for your ears when it comes to time in the car. FM radio had been fractured even further with the introduction of personalization from iPods and variety from satellite radio, but Aha radio allows you both personalization and variety in a pretty amazing product that may turn your commute into the best part of your day. While it originally started as primarily a traffic alert application, Aha Radio has grown to become a full radio station with the goal of not only entertaining you, but getting your hands off of the phone and back onto the wheel where they belong. Get your Twitter and Facebook read aloud to you as you drive, news from FOX or NPR and live traffic updates. Users can even contribute to the station by reporting quick audio of traffic updates around them or uploading audio of themselves singing to the car radio for the careoke channel. The best part is this comprehensive app, which made a big splash this year at CES, is still free so enjoy it before they start introducing ads after 2010.
It’s been a big year for music apps, heck it brought us “I’m on a Phone” courtesy of the I Am T-Payne app. This is another app for amateur pop and rap stars and works similarly to Microsoft’s Songsmith, allowing you to sing into your phone and pick a tempo and style to back your vocals with, then it makes a song out of your freshly laid track. Perhaps this similarity playes into its pick as a finalist in the entertainment category of the Accelerator competition. This app no longer has a free version, but at $2.99 isn’t too pricey for a lark.
So by now we should all have finally given up on that futuristic fantasy of the flying car, but the good news is that all hope may not be lost for that robot butler. Meet Siri, a teeny tiny personal assistant that lives inside your iPhone who is a finalist for Accelerator. This website and app hope to make the web less clunky and mundane through the use of artificial intelligence, and have raised a heap of capital to achieve that goal. Much like LaDiDa, Siri taps on the knowledge and APIs of other sites out on the web to answer, in a friendly and personal tone, almost any question you can bark at it using the Nuance speech translation technology. The app has been receiving rave reviews from online tech pundits, and the best part is that with this personal assistant you can pull a full Naomi Campbell on it and toss is across the room and it can’t press charges.
NBA League Pass Mobile
This is not a cheap app, but it’s cheaper than court side seats and about as awesome. For those who already throw down $100 a month for cable television, another $40 may be a steep price but for the people who live an increasingly mobile lifestyle it’s a reasonable cost to have all the games live streamed to your phone complete with playbacks and stats. The app is up for a Web Award in the mobile category, and unfortunately with contenders like Foursquare and Gowalla the elegant app may not stand a chance, but bravo nonetheless for pushing the iPhone capability.
GPS Sports Tracker by Skimble
Some people are allergic to bee stings or peanuts, me, I’m allergic to exercise, so it’s a bit hard for me to fairly judge this app which is squarely aimed at those exercise cultists. Skimble, nominated for the Biz Spark awards, is effectively a social networking site for exercise which allows you to track your own exercises while comparing your activity and progress against that of others. I like to think of it as the anti-foursquare…because no one that is out topping the local leaderboard on Foursquare and scoring the “School Night” badge is going to be topping the list here at Skimble. People already accustomed to tracking their activities on programs like Runtracker will naturally take to Skimble and the app allows you to track more than twenty different sports (although it lacks a little bit of international diversity without the inclusion of sports like Cricket.)