Best iPhone apps for reference and learning

The iPhone is a hugely powerful reference tool. Like having a portable library stuck in your pocket, you can find an answer to pretty much any question instantly. Sure it might not always be correct, but there is an armada of info buried at your fingertips. 

Be it a bit of extra gossip on a museum exhibit, or a chance to get one up in the knowledge stakes with your friends, these applications will provide plenty of info as quick as your handset can boot up the app. 

Banky-Locations

Well known for his satirical street art, enigmatic graffiti artist Banksy has created works of art all over the world and each one is laced with social and political commentary. Whether you think that Banksy is an artistic genius or a mindless vandal, it's hard to deny that the man has talent and this app will enable you to find all of the secretive character's paintings and installations.

You'll be able to search for Banksy locations using your current location, the image gallery or the name of the piece you want to see. The app will even map out the quickest route to get you there, while the gallery includes notes to tell you all you need to know about each piece. You can also view the images in full-screen mode, which means they can be used as wallpaper on your iPhone. The app will keep you up to date with all the latest Banksy news and there's also a video section that includes footage created by and about the elusive street artist. A bargain at just 69p. Read More

iTunes: Link

Price: 69p

Rating: 4/5

 

Nazi Germany In An Hour

Nazi Germany In An Hour pretty much does what it says on the tin. If your knowledge of Hitler doesn't extend beyond Basil Fawlty's impression in THAT episode of Fawlty Towers, then you should probably set aside an hour of your time for this informative app. As well as a timelime of significant events, you'll get profiles of key people complete with pictures.

Of course, the History In An Hour apps aren't all about Hitler - there are plenty of other titles to choose from including everything from the American Civil War and Henry VIII's wives to ancient Egypt and The Cold War, with new titles being added all the time. This series is perfect for those of us that want to read up on our history but don't have a lot of time to spare and seem to spend most of it staring at the screen of one gadget or another. Read More

iTunes: Link

Price: £1.99

Rating: 5/5

 

National Portrait Gallery

This app is designed to accompany you on your visit to the gallery, and provides videos and audio commentaries from the curators so that you can find out all about the faces in the paintings. Just make sure you use your headphones rather than blaring out the commentaries on your built-in speaker, otherwise you're likely to get  thrown out  - or at the very least, earn yourself a stern ticking off from the nearest security guard.

You can also zero in on the highlights of the gallery's collection by selecting one of several themes including Kings and Queens, Science and Discovery, Fame and Celebrity, and Writers. You can view any of the portraits as images on your iPhone screen and even zoom in for a closer look. You'll also find gallery maps that will tell you where the portraits are located and how to find them. Read More

iTunes: Link

Price: £1.49

Rating: 3/5

 

British Museum: Treasures

British Library: Treasures is the first smartphone app from the world's largest library (in terms of books and articles, not area), a guide-based app that provides the opportunity for interaction with the Library’s collections at home, on the move or within the Gallery itself. The app is a multimedia hot-bed of information and entertainment (we refuse to use the word infotainment, except to condemn it) with more than 100 of the Library’s greatest collection items featured in its 250 high-definition images, and 40 videos.

There's loads of goodies in there to look at, including the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Charles Dickens’s handwritten draft of Nicholas Nickleby, Jane Austen’s teenage writings, the world’s oldest Bible Codex Sinaiticus, Nelson’s Battle Plan, written before his victory at Trafalgar, Galileo’s letters and Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. Read More

iTunes: Link

Price: £2.49

Rating: 4/5

 

Street Museum

Originally released by the Museum of London to celebrate the launch of its Galleries of Modern London exhibition, this app isn't a boring history lesson, but a spooky look at the past using augmented reality. The app features over 200 sites in and around our nation's capital with brilliant photographs and information available. But the fun part starts when you begin to mess around with the app's augmented reality features. Street Museum has a built in Google Map with pinpoints highlighting selected locations. Using your iPhone's GPS you can find a spot close to you and then go into the 3D view for a ghostly look at the past on the present day using your device's camera lens.

Once you get the hang of it you'll be able to line up specific images from the past exactly over real-time happenings. It's cool, and it's a little bit freaky too. It's quite good fun trying to line up the images in locations that are totally different as well. Some streets have changed completely and it's amazing what used to exist before the modern buildings went up. 

iTunes: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

Tate Trumps

Anybody who has ever been to Tate Modern will have no doubt come away thinking: "Yeah, it's pretty impressive, but it was still pretty boring at times." If you didn't think that then you're either fibbing, or a lot more sophisticated than we are. Tate Trumps uses the Tate Modern's Wi-Fi connection to activate the game, whereby you have to virtually collect pieces of art from within the gallery. Unfortunately you do this by typing in a code associated with the piece rather than by using augmented reality or anything like that. But it's pretty interactive never-the-less.

 

Up to three players can play and the aim is to collect art that you think would out-Trump your opponents in one of three different game categories - battle, mood or collect. You collect seven pieces of art and no two players can select the same piece, so get your running shoes on and your map at the ready if your targeting a particular piece. When you meet up with your opponents later on, you simply pit your selected works against them in the time-honoured Trumps tradition. If you don't agree that your piece should have been outdone by another's then you can even make a complaint via the app to the Tate Trumps team.

iTunes: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3/5

 

Dynamic English Lessons

Super-simple to use, this app brings a little bit of fun to the whole process of learning. Rather than delving too deeply into the intricacies of the English language, it aims to bring a rundown of some common phrasal verbs. This focus on phrasal verbs should allow for their practical application in a variety of scenarios; something that is addressed in this app.

As you complete more phrases from the various categories, other phrases will be added to the dictionary section; so there's a real incentive to keep going. Complete them all, and you'll be rewarded with an X-Rated category - just how saucy it is remains to be seen. All in all, a decent app that should allow for those starting the daunting task of learning English some real-world early success. Read More

iTunes: Link

Price: 69p

Rating: 4/5

 

Wolfram Alpha

When Wolfram Alpha launched back in May 2009, it promised to deliver accurate answers to users' questions; an approach different from that of Google's search engine, as results from queries in this form can often be a little on the random side. And Wolfram Alpha, for the most part, has delivered on this promise and an excellent resource for all sorts of tricky questions.

There's a getting started page and various categories available to help with how to ask specific questions. Categories include physics, maths, astronomy, engineering, life sciences and pretty much any discipline you can think of. Read More

iTunes: Link

Price: £1.99

Rating: 4/5

 

Chambers Thesaurus

This seriously wordy app gets 40,000 distinct words and about 400,000 synonyms and antonyms. The smart word entry suggests possible correct spellings as you type, as well as listing words that sound the same or are often confused.

There's a host of search features which include spelling suggestions, for when you're uncertain of how the word is, eh, spelt (they come up while typing), a "sounds like" and "often confused" feature and alphabetical listing. A clear layout and nippy response make this a a very handy little app. Read More

iTunes: Link

Price: £2.99

Rating: 4/5

 

Differential Diagnosis

This app might go some way to empowering you, readjusting that all important balance between the patient and practitioner. Where once we stood in front of the medical profession naked in our ignorance of biological matters and blinded by technical terms, all this knowledge is just a click away thanks to the Differential Diagnosis app from the BMJ Group. On the other hand, it is quite possible that this could make you paranoid, unstable and obsessed with bodily function as the app is primarily aimed at helping "healthcare professionals" make a quick and, hopefully, accurate diagnosis from a range of signs and symptoms - so perhaps best left to those who know what they're doing.

So for anyone in the healthcare sector, key features of the app include a symptom browser, which should help with initial diagnosis; a predictive search, which can be done through either symptom or disease; and the ability to browse various diseases alphabetically or by category. So regardless of where you are, this could make a real difference to making an accurate diagnosis and therefore make a real difference to the patient. Read More

Market: iTunes

Price: £5.49

Rating: 4/5

 

Wikipedia Mobile

It wouldn't be right not to have the Wiki mobile app thrown in here. Sure you can browse the site using the conventional Safari app, but the special Wikipedia Mobile setup speeds things up. It also helps to circumvent any nasty Wikipedia shut downs, such as we saw recently

Very easy to use, the Wikipedia Mobile app is all about finding answers as quick as you can. You can browse everything in depth or just skim the top of articles. Things can also be bookmarked and the history browsed. Google Maps integration will also help Wiki pages pop up as locations. Easy to use and loads to read, one of the most useful reference apps out there. 

Market: iTunes

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

Any other reference apps you enjoy using? Let us know in the comments below ...



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