17 free iPhone apps you need right now

We take a fast look at new iPhone applications that let you drink beer virtually, interact with music in cool ways, and even do some useful things.

Urbanspoon

This innovative app puts a new spin — literally — on restaurant recommendations. You can elect to have the iPhone use your current location or you can input a city manually, and then the fun begins. Either physically shake the phone or tap the 'Shake' button on the touch screen, and the slot-machine-like interface spins wheels bearing the names of neighbourhoods, food types, and price ranges. When the wheels stop spinning, Urbanspoon's app recommends restaurants based on the variables that come up ('Mission / Seafood / $$', for example). If random results aren't your thing, you can "lock" neighborhoods, cuisine types, and price ranges to get recommendations based on your defined parameters.

Cool app ideas that need work

iFob

This could be the ultimate iPhone app for anyone who is shy and has trouble approaching strangers on the singles scene. After you enter your profile information — including a short greeting you'd want any interesting person to see — the iPhone's location-based services bring up people in the vicinity who also use the service. Those people can also see your profile and even rate how interesting it is. With this app's help, it might be easier to approach a stranger across the room, or at least prescreen them by looking at how interesting their profile is. The profile-creating portion of the app is buggy, however — a few times it didn't save results, and other times it flat-out crashed. If the bugs are eliminated, iFob could be a great social-networking tool for introverts. You do need a Wi-Fi connection to make it work as advertised.

Midomi

What if you could sing or whistle a song into your iPhone and have it name that tune? Such a program might be the tool you're looking for if you're the kind of person who knows how a certain song goes but doesn't know the name of it. This is what the free Midomi app claims to do, but it simply doesn't work well. You sing or whistle directly into your iPhone, hold the handset up to a speaker playing a song, or type in some lyrics to have the app find what you're listening to. In tests the text searches brought up only matching song titles (not lyrics matches), and singing, whistling, or holding the phone up to a speaker didn't bring up the song I was looking for after multiple tries — and that even includes whistling-intensive songs such as the Scorpions' "Winds of Change" and Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay." Midomi gets an A+ for ideas but an F for follow-through.

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Tim Moynihan

PC World (US online)
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