The low down: Best Software, Service, App 2009

Day 5 of our Vodafone Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2009 nominees round-up and it's time for the growth area of tech that is software, services and apps.

This category has been blown wide open of late with some enormous releases in 2009 as well as the explosion of the mobile phone app. It's going to be a close one. So, before you head over to the voting page to mark your choices, here's a little run down of our pick of the crop for the year.

 

Spotify

Type
Music streaming service

Price
Free

PL review rating
9/10

Aside the minor blip of accidentally exposing the user database to hackers, Spotify has done no wrong. The free streaming music player has rocketed to stardom in 2009 making just about every other service take a look at itself and rethink they way they're doing things. The catalogue is growing and growing, the social side is as fun, informative and strong as ever and there's even all sorts of blogs and sites out there full of playlists for us all to try.

Spotify's arrival on mobile phones is still just finding its feet but the main service has been so popular that the company has actually had to put it back into an invitation only beta state once again. If you're not using it by now, you should be - or you must be American.

 

Windows 7 Ultimate

Type
Computer OS

Release date
22/10/09

Price
£166

PL review rating
9/10

With knives firmly plunged into Vista from all sides, it was everything Microsoft could do to bring out Windows 7 as fast as possible. Even though perhaps it's a lot more similar to its predecessor than many would think, it's seen one of the fastest uptakes of any OS so far in its short life. XP's increasing propensity for attack has meant even more users making the switch and already Windows 7 itself has a larger share than all of Apple's OS X platforms put together.

Somehow the second attempt at the Windows Aero design is much better placed. The taskbar has come to life with Jump Lists and Aero Peek and getting more flexibility out of windows by dragging them to different parts of the screen is an excellent addition. As a system, it's very secure, there's better support for laptops and SSDs and it's so much more intuitive than any other Windows OS so far. A worthy nominee.

 

Tweetie 2 for iPhone

Type
iPhone app

Release date
12/10/09

Price
£1.79

PL review rating
9/10

Much ado about Twitter has meant the need for Twitter clients everywhere. There are plenty of good ones out there for desktop solutions but the one that shone out from all the rest was Tweetie 2 for the iPhone.

Once we got past the gripe that previous users will have to pay again if they wish to upgrade from the first version, we were really impressed. There's a whole pile of new features but the biggest is that it now has persistence (it remembers where you were when you switch it off), new message indicators, the ability to save draft tweets, speed boosts, cached tweets for offline reading and the ability to drag up to refresh - rather than hitting a refresh button. The result is an app that once again wins a place in our hearts.

 

Dropbox

Type
Web/desktop service

Price
Free

PL review rating
9/10

A cult favourite in the software, service, app realm of 2009 has been online storage and file transfer solution known as Dropbox. It offers a standard 2GB of cloud space but its main functions are really that of syncing and sharing. The idea is that you have a Dropbox folder on the desktop of all your computers and any file you put into it on one machine can then be accessed from all the others. If you happen to be editing one of these files, it will also update those changes in all the other places automatically.

On the sharing side, it acts as a far simpler solution than the heavy geekery of FTP servers and rather demystifies the concept for the everyone else. You can make certain folders within your main Dropbox folder open to the public, which means that friends and colleagues with Dropbox can then access and download these files too. It's one thing to sit and explain it but go and try it for yourselves and you'll begin to discover its real genius.

 

Sky Player for Xbox

Type
IPTV & VoD service

Release date
29/10/09

Price
Sky & Xbox Live Gold subs

PL review rating
9/10

It had a stutter and a start on its way out but the Sky Player has been a roaring success for those who can afford it. You get an excellent choice of both live Sky channels as well as a vault of on-demand content from the watchable to the ridiculous and more Ross Kemp programming than you could shake a stick at. The menus are designed into the style of Xbox Live and the integration is seamless offering intuitive control to get whatever it is you're after.

The major downside is that you need to fork out for both a Sky subscription and an Xbox Live Gold, neither of which comes particularly cheap, and it does limit the service to a minority of people. Perhaps not worth upgrading for but if you have the money you certainly get what you pay for.