11 iPhone apps for activists
The iPhone continues to maintain strong support among Australian smart phone users, including first time owners. This is despite the growing popularity other smart phone platforms like Android. However, the iPad’s launch was maybe not as successful as expected by Apple but there is little doubt that its launch helped keep a spotlight on the iPhone series (3G, 3GS & 4), in particular the 4 series.
There are some excellent applications for the iPhone, and it seems that the number of applications continues to grow exponentially. There are some very good applications around to assist with task management, blog/picture publishing and social media. There are plethora of options to choose from when to comes to these kinds of applications. And the best thing is many of them are free.
But apart from the Facebook or Twitter applications (apps), what other iPhone apps should activists download?
The 11 iPhone applications I recommend are [not listed in any particular order]:
1. Audioboo: This application allows you to record sound and then publish it to your Audioboo account directly from your iPhone. The application is supported by Audioboo.com where you need register for a free account. It has its own categorised community of others’ boos you can listen to, follow and favourite. In addition the site provides you with embed codes for audio players for each boo so you can embed them anywhere the code is supported.
The application comes in handy when you want to conduct a vox pop or perhaps record what is being said at a rally or in a meeting with politicians.
However, it is limited by the fact that you cannot edit the audio before it is uploaded, so it is important to know what you want to ask or say before you begin. An additional limitation is that there is no way of saving the audio file without uploading it.
The Audioboo application and site registration is free.
2. Documents 2: This application lets you use your iPhone as a storage device so you can carry documents with you. Since first writing about this application they have updated it to allow users to create text documents and spreadsheets. This makes the application even more flexible for use by activists.
In addition to having a storage device and a functional text editor, you can download documents from your Google Documents account, through a WiFi connection or an FTP account. It’s handy when you can send emails with the necessary documents when you’re not at your desk or in front of your laptop. Not having the right documents at hand could cause a delay in distributing key information through email or even through blogs and social media.
You can download a free version but it comes with advertisements, which are not overly annoying.
3. Flickr (or Photobucket): Sharing your photos through Facebook and Twitter is great but it probably isn’t reaching your entire network; or even the widest possible audience. Using applications like the one from Flickr to upload photos to your account can help increase the visibility of your photo(s). The application gives you the option of adding a title, description, tags and assign pictures to albums; as well as the picture size. There is the option to upload multiple pictures. The interface is simple to use however, it can be confusing as to how you upload a picture the first time you try.
The application is free but requires a Flickr account, which is also free. If you’re using Yahoo!7 mail or have an account then you’re ready to go.
Photobucket is another photo sharing and networking site. It’s application is sophisticated and easy to use, with options to add a title, description, tags and assign pictures to albums. Like the Flickr application, you need to have a Photobucket account to use the application. It’s free to download and to register a Photobucket account.
4. Google: As the name of the application suggests, it gives you access to the suite of Google tools. It links directly with your Google account and enables you to have access to important tools like Google Docs and Google Reader. It is Google Gears for the iPhone and provides an easy to use interface. All you need to do is tap the tool you want to use and it directs you to a mobile web page for the tool. Having access to these kinds of tools means you can keep track of documents, integrated with Documents 2, as well as monitor your RSS feeds for information and details relevant to your message, event or campaign.
Unfortunately it does not take you back to the application when you close the web page. It also requires you to have a Google account. The application and Google accounts are free.
5. Skype: This is an excellent application to access your Skype account from your iPhone. It makes it possible to utilise your contact list on Skype, start conversations and even call people. The application also enables the user to make free Skype calls to other Skype users as well as call contacts in their address books. It is also possible to conduct a telephone conference (aka teleconference or phone hook-up) while on the go. Combined with Documents 2, you’re able to effectively deal with situations and matters as they arise, and share the relevant documentation, without being tied down to your desk or the laptop.
It is an excellent application however it does affect your iPhone’s ability to recognise incoming calls whether from people in the address book or from unrestricted/public numbers. This can be frustrating especially if you’re waiting for specific calls or want to screen out who is calling.
The application is free but requires a Skype account, which is also free.
6. WordPress (or Tumblr): Blogs are included as social media with their ability to provide direct and indirect interaction through the capacity to provide comments on published posts. I personally use WordPress, although there are many others that profess that Tumblr is equal to the task with WordPress. I am not entirely convinced as I use both and find WordPress to be a more powerful blogging platform.
The WordPress application is easy to use and allows you to administer multiple WordPress blog accounts you own. You are able to utilise pictures from your phone or in your gallery; code for including things like Youtube clips as well as include basic HTML code. The application also gives you access to your categories and lets you save the post either as a draft available through the web interface or as a draft available only through iPhone.
The Tumblr application is also easy-to-use with an easy-to-understand interface. You can upload pictures, videos, quotes, blogs and range of other media. Through the advanced settings, you can alter things like tags and general settings for your Tumblr feed.
Both applications are free to download but require an account, which in both cases, registration is also free.
7. Qik Video: Qik Video lets you record video using the iPhone’s camera. It’s also possible to stream the video live to the Internet. There are a range of video modes to select from before shooting your video. For example you shoot video in sepia, black and white or with frost, among others. The application also includes zoom and light-balance functionalities.
It’s an easy-to-understand and easy-to-use application.
You can connect the application with your Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter accounts to help tell all your followers about the video.
This application is great for activists while they’re out attending a rally or demonstration. It can also be a great tool to interview different people involved with the campaign to add to your blog or share with friends on Facebook and Twitter; including in real time, as it’s happening.
And it’s even better since it comes free. However, it is necessary to get a Qik account, which is also free.
8. Cover it Live: Cover it Live is an online technology that enables someone to cover events, activities, meetings, conferences etc, live; and allowing people to contribute with comments. It does it in a nifty player that can be embedded onto a web page or in a blog post. After asking for this application for a little while, the good folk at Demand Media (owners of Cover it Live) have delivered.
The application mimics the web-based interface with much of the functionality available on the application. It enables you to create new events as well as launch existing lined-up events. It’s possible to moderate comments and include things like pictures and polls.
While it’s a cut-down version of the web-based interface it is still extremely powerful. To take the most advantage of the application it’s vital that the user prepares for events well-in-advance.
9. PhotoShop Express: This application is a god-send. Having looked at a large range of photo-editing applications, this is by far the best one. There will be those that argue that Instagram is the better application, I find the fact that membership to a site not be necessary to be a major advantage.
PhotoShop Express is from those wonderful folk at PhotoShop. The application is a very simple, cut-down version of the PhotoShop. It gives you a limited range of functionality but it does deliver is powerful and effective.
The application also allows you share your edited pictures with your online social networks. There are no limitations on the number of pictures you can edit and it is free to download.
10. Dragon Dictation: The application allows you dictate texts, emails and social network updates instead of having to type them. But what would expect from the good folk at Dragon Software who’ve been in the game speech-to-text for ages. It is easy to use but it does take time to train, and places with too much noise can be problematic (unless you use your hands-free headphones).
However, once it has been trained, it is more right than wrong and I’ve found little need for my direct intervention. The interface is simple and easy to navigate. And the application can be easily turned on and off to suit your needs.
This application is an absolute time saver. And this could become one of your favourite apps too. It does require you to have the latest iPhone operating system. It works best for 3GS and 4.
It is a remarkable application that’s also free.
11. Remote Desktop Connection (RDC): There are a few different applications that allow you to access your desktop remotely through your iPhone. This is incredibly useful while you’re on-the-go. It saves the worry of needing to remember large files; or eases the frustration of having forgotten that important document.
These applications mostly only access Windows machines and each has their own limitations; in general the most common limitation is that they cannot access Vista and XP home editions or the Windows 7 starter or home editions. Although, for most business systems this won’t be as much of a problem.
I recommend JumiMouse Desktop for PC which is free. It has a clean interface that is easy to use and it doesn’t require a computer science degree to perform remote connections. It allows you to access most of your desktop applications but importantly you can search through your files, create and edit existing documents and spreadsheets, as well as transfer files from your iPhone to your desktop and vice-versa.
However, it does draw heavily on your battery. In terms of the stability of remote connections, this is entirely dependent on your telco’s data service and coverage.
In combination with tools like Document 2, RDC applications make your iPhone a computer in the palm of your hand, ready for the activist on-the-go.
[If you're a Mac user then you might want to try Remote Desktop Plus from Black Box Development, which is free to download. I cannot vouch for this application's ease-of-use for connecting to your Mac.]
Using the combination for activism
It may seem like a strange combination of applications to suggest for your iPhone. And it may even be a little difficult to see how these applications will assist you in organising and growing your network; and spreading action items – while taking action yourself.
The kinds of applications that I’ve recommended incorporates ways of engaging and being able to deliver necessary materials and documentation to networks without having to be at a desktop or on a laptop. This can be extremely convenient when you’re attending a rally or a meeting and can provide on-the-spot information and detail to your networks; in different kinds of forms of media. Pictures and audio can provide an immense sense of disclosure and can help support your message and campaign.
Delivering your message and what is happening at a rally or a fundraiser; and even down at the polling booth, are supported through the combination of these tools.
Have other apps for activism?
There may be some other applications that you use or have been told about that you think are equal to the task or more suited to activist work; please share them and leave a comment.
Disclaimer: I am not employed or associated with Apple, iPhone or any other Apple product, merchandise or associated entity; nor the companies (or associated entities) producing the applications mentioned in this post. These are my express opinions based on my use of these, and many other similar, applications for the iPhone.