Remember, an iPhone app that combines 27 handy tools into a single 99 cent app? What a rip-off!
I'm kidding, of course--I still like App Genie and consider it a great value. It's just that the new AppTools raises the bar to a whopping 100 tools, all for that same 99 cents. Let me say that again: 100 apps, 99 cents. I think that sets a new record for the "toolbox app" category.
Ah, but are the apps any good? And are they organized into a simple, efficient interface?
Let's start with the apps. Here's a small, random sampling of what you'll find inside AppTools: a bubble level, a mosquito repellent, a talking compass, a talking mortgage calculator, a non-talking car-loan calculator, a magic 8-ball, and a unit converter.
There's value in some of these tools, like the various calculators, the pedometer, the "Where Am I?" location app, and the flashlight. I particularly like the Search DVD Preview app that scans DVD-case bar codes and then finds matching clips in YouTube. Try it out the next time you're trying to decide on a movie at the local video store.
But as you might expect from an app collection that numbers in the three digits, AppTools serves up some stinkers. For example, know what you'll find inside iRecipes? Exactly five recipes, one each for brownies, cheesecake, cookies (variety undisclosed), pear cake, and turkey.
That doesn't bother me. My real problem is with the interface. AppTools offers three ways to access its apps: Group, Flow, and a scrolling A-Z list. Group presents all the apps as small icons, 16 to a page, which is useless because the icons have no text labels, and deciphering most of them is difficult at best.
Flow is like Cover Flow, which I've never liked for browsing music and I find it to be similarly pointless here. It's just a slow and awkward way to navigate the collection.
Only the A-Z list is useful, and it lacks an alphabetical side-index for quickly jumping to specific letters. AppTools also needs a dynamic-search field for quickly narrowing the choices. And while we're at it, why not transform Group into an actual set of groups, one each for the calculators, the camera tools, and so on?
These interface problems are compounded by the weird, unintuitive names applied to many apps. For example, do you want to flip a virtual coin? You'd think the tool would be called Coin Flipper, right? Nope: It's Fast Coin Flipper. How would you ever remember that? Same goes for Cool Pedometer--how 'bout just calling it Pedometer, guys? And what's with the dozen-plus apps that have an "i" prefix, like iRecipes, iRandom Number, and, no joke, iInvoice Maker Deluxe?
Finally, some of the tools are just plain confusing, and too many lack instructions. Most are easy enough to figure out, but a few--such as Baby Monitor and iFTP--really need a built-in help guide.
You may think I'm complaining too much about an app that delivers 100 tools for only 99 cents. Maybe so, but until the interface gets an overhaul, I have a hard time recommending AppTools.