Programming for the iPhone; what app do YOU want?

iPhone with question mark as an applicationOK, here is a little tidbit a few people might not know about me. Back in my first year of college, I was a computer science major. Then, journalism stepped in the way.

I was taking photos for the campus newspaper part-time, which seemed like a whole lot more fun than programming classes. So, one afternoon I switched my major from computer science to journalism. Newspapers seemed a lot easier to do than programming, and the male-to-female ratio was a little bit better in that department. I never thought I would have to touch a lick of code again.

Fast forward a few years, then lo and behold journalism is all about multimedia and suddenly coding skills are in high demand. I guess those 10 months of intro to programming classes really paid off. But now I’m finding, maybe I should have stuck with the programming gig after all.

I had this very thought a few weeks ago when Apple announced the Software Development Kit (SDK) for the iPhone. As soon as heard the news, my first inclination was “I gotta do that.” It turns out, Apple software is based on a programming language called Objective-C. I took a peak and was utterly delighted to learn that ObjC is quite similar to another programming language called C++ that I had to make friends with once upon a time.

I actually went out and bought a book on ObjC and it has very quickly brought me back to common phrases I once cringed to hear, like polymorphism, inheritance, pointers and methods. (I can hear echos of liberal arts majors running away screaming)

OK, so all of that aside, here is the million dollar question: What should I program? So far, I’m successfully mastered the “Hello World” program (a program that displays those respective words). Apple has a ton of really great documentation and coding samples of how to do things like take advantage of location aware functionality, etc. They just released a program tool called Interface Builder, which is essentially a drag-and-drop program builder. It makes the coding part much easier for a novice such as myself. I’m ready to go, but where should I start?

Here are a couple of ideas I was throwing around:

  • Location aware app that will tell you nearby services like shopping, theaters, gas stations, etc. Maybe I can connect it to http://www.everyblock.com/ ?
  • A journalist toolbox, that will offer you Computer Assisted Reporting tools at your finger tips. Everything from where to get a person’s home tax records to how to file a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA). Maybe I can store it in the phone’s mysql lite database.
  • RSS aggregation program that will give you headlines from a variety of sources (I’m sure this someone else already has done this. It’s pretty easy to do.

Any more ideas? What do people want out of their iPhones?

2 Responses to Programming for the iPhone; what app do YOU want?

  1. Video and audio recording would be nice. I don’t have an iPhone, but if I did I would ask for that.

    I was at the Apple Store the other day and asked the same question and most of the staff there replied; if there’s something you want that isn’t already out there, it probably will be when we open their “apps” store in June or so. I assume the secret killer apps have already been written and are prepping for release soon.

    One other idea I had was saving/caching youtube videos so I could watch them offline. Or some kind of caching layer so I can save videos from the web. The killer app for me is giving my mom a device where she can look at videos of her grandkids without worrying about her network connection. Sure I could re-encode my sources for the iPhone, BUT that’s not ideal for consumers. Once I post to some video service I should be done, it should be published and cacheable by smart clients or video players.

    So I guess the app I’m thinking about these days is a video player that can stream video and keep a library of your videos cached for offline viewing.

  2. Very interested to hear where you take this. I’m a little slow to mobile devices (must come from living in Alaska) but I’m sold on the journalist-as-programmer movement. How about an iPhone+breaking news game — keying off something ongoing (like the twitter coverage of the Olympic torch in San Fran for example)?