This is the September 2009 column as published in the Jewish Community Voice.
Ten years ago, everyone thought they needed a website. So much so, that a popular way to get a laugh from someone was to take the sentence they just said and add “dot com” to it.
Now, it seems everyone thinks they need an Apple iPhone application. Some of them are very clever, but some seem like strange ways to get us to use a very expensive cell phone to avoid making an ordinary phone call.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of the iPhone. Yes, it’s cool looking and all, but I’ve looked closely at the fees, and frankly, there are many more cost-effective cell phone and cell data plans from carriers with better coverage maps and phones nearly as functional as iPhones.
So I decided not to get an iPhone, at least not yet. Maybe when Apple’s exclusive and expensive contract with AT&T expires in 2012, the options will be better. Therefore, iPhone devotees, please take these observations with appropriate grains of salt.
For those of you using iPhones, there is a good variety of Jewish apps so that you can keep in touch spiritually, even if you prefer not to phone it in.
Rusty Brick makes a wide array of Jewish apps, including a weekday Siddur that offers “Ashkenaz, Sefard, Sefarad Mizrachi and Nusach Ari (Chabad) versions of davening, including weekday Shacharis, Mincha, Maariv, standard Brachos and more,” according to the company’s website (http://is.gd/-2L1hE). The app uses the iPhone’s GPS to calculate prayer times at your location, and if you need to find a minyan, a built-in database provides a list of nearby shuls. (Note to local synagogue membership directors: do you have someone assigned to making sure you show up in apps like this?) The only caveat, this app is not available in English yet, just Hebrew, so it may not be suitable if you’re not fluent in Hebrew.
Rusty Brick’s Tehillim for iPhone (http://is.gd/2L1z6) provides Psalms in Hebrew and English, organized by chapter or by day of the week or month. They also offer a free and simple Shabbat app that will check candlelighting and Havdalah times and parsha for the week around the world (http://is.gd/2L1H4).
We also must not forget Brad Kleinman of Cleveland, who has created iGavolt, “the iPhone app for Jewish Grandkids” that puts a Jewish grandmother on your iPhone (http://is.gd/2L2lp). A portion of the proceeds from sales of this app goes to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
AAA (www.aaa.com/mobile) just announced a travel application for the iPhone that allows you to request roadside assistance without placing a call, and it will pinpoint your location. (Most modern GPS-enabled cell phones can pinpoint location without a special application, by the way.)
We described the PNC Bank Virtual Wallet Product (video podcast at http://is.gd/2KXv2) in the Oct. 8, 2008 CompuSchmooze column (http://is.gd/2KY6X). It’s an effort by the bank to make savings and bill paying more like a video game in hopes that younger people will become customers.
The bank has extended the Virtual Wallet product to the mobile phone with a downloadable “app” for the popular Apple iPhone. The iPhone app also works on the iPod Touch and provides calendar views of your finances, as well as the popular interactive “Money Bar,” a visual slider that makes transferring money between savings and checking as easy as dragging a bar on the graphic from one side to the other. You can also put money into a visual “piggy bank” by shaking the iPhone and watching a visual graphic of coins tumbling from a wallet into a piggy bank. (I thought we wanted them to grow up!)
The bank has set up a YouTube channel with video demos (http://is.gd/2KXTE), and you can open a Virtual Wallet account in person or online (http://is.gd/2KXX8). Oh, yes, you can also follow @pncvwallet on Twitter for updates and announcements about the Virtual Wallet service.