I love my iPhone, but like any device, it's far from perfect and there are several missing pieces. Fortunately, the App Store gives third party developers the opportunity to fill in these holes. Today, I'm going to review five tools that provide functionality missing on the standard iPhone.

Flash for the Camera

Last weekend I was trying to take a picture with my iPhone in the dwindling twilight of late autumn in New England. I found myself surprised at how grainy the photo was until I remembered there wasn't a flash. No flash, no problem with the Night Camera app available for .99 in the App Store. You have to hold the camera steady, but the software cleverly uses the accelerometer in the camera to determine when there is no movement and snaps the picture.

FM Radio

Surprisingly, the iPhone doesn't have an FM radio, but you can access hundreds of radio stations, including local and specialty stations with the AOL Radio application available for free in the App Store. There are stations as specialized as all Clash and 90s pop or Jazz mix, Big Band, you name it. There is literally something for everyone's taste here. (Also check out Pandora Radio, which lets you discover new music based on your taste.)

Voice Recorder

The iPhone makes it really easy to use your fingers to make things happen, but it's not so great at using your voice for commands, but the App Store has many different recording applications to overcome this deficiency including Griffin iTalk. You can record in three recording modes--good, better and best-- and you can download an application to your Mac or PC to sync the recordings with your desktop machine if desired. It's dead simple to use and it expands the capability of the iPhone.

Voice Dialing

There are a number of tools including Say Who and Dialer, that enable you to say a name to make a phone call. It searches your address book and comes back with the best match or matches, but there are limitations. In my experience these tools are more voice search, then voice dialing, but having never used a voice dialer, it may be that these limitations are simply the nature of the beast and the voice recognition has trouble locating many names.

eBook Reader

There are a number of amazing eBook reader applications at the App Store including Classics, which offers classic books for free. You can browse a virtual book shelf, then choose a book. Although the iPhone is not the optimal size for book reading, the screen is remarkably clear and you can even leave a virtual bookmark when you're done.

I searched high and low for an App that would turn the iPhone into a video recorder, one of the chief iPhone deficiencies in my view, and there are choices out there, notably DreamCatcher's iPhone Video Recorder, but unfortunately, this and other similar applications are not sanctioned by Apple and do not appear in the App Store.

They instead require that you "jailbreak" your iPhone, and that's not something I necessarily recommend doing, especially for the less technical of you, but I'm hoping that either Apple will offer video recording in a future firmware upgrade or that some clever developer will put one in the App Store.

Nice review. Why can't apple take the hint and include these things?

Thanks. Maybe they feel they don't have to because the App Store takes care of it for them, which is the idea behind the Developer Network, but you're right in that these features are part of the standard offering in some phones and eventually Apple will need to add this functionality to compete in the future.

Ron - thanks for the pointers to a few of the highlighted apps. Would've never thought to search for the Night Camera app! The huge surge of iPhone applications is quite incredible, and certainly make finding the best or even appropriate apps a difficulty.

Speaking of find, or search, well, you know me and search - I'm with you on the voice search/dial front. All that I've tried so far have their problems, among them, shouldn't they be constraining the initial universe of names to people IN the address book? I've tried the Google app, and you'd think with the voice "fingerprinting" they've been doing with Google 411, that the results returned would be better than they are. Ah, relevancy ranking - a tricky beast, eh?

I wish the eBook reader was better - the iPhone is a great interface, but at the speed with which I read, and the tiny screen, I can't say that it's all that enjoyable on my "sardine can" T rides into work each day.

If only the Kindle were a touch cheaper...

Cheers,
Dan

Thanks, for the comment Dan. I agree, the universe of apps is so huge, it's overwhelming. Just another case of info overload and we are left to devices such as this, social networking, to help us sort through it and find the best ones (although these are just examples, not necessarily the best ones in the genre by any means).