Hot Mobile Apps at CES Showdown

Dissecting the nine finalists from the Consumer Electronics Show Mobile Apps Showdown.


Nine great apps. Which one will triumph?

The Consumer Electronics Show, held every year in Las Vegas, has a well-earned reputation for delivering exciting new hardware products, from 3D televisions to innovative new notebooks to the hottest new smartphones. But that doesn't mean that software is excluded entirely, as this year CES hosted its first-ever Mobile Apps Showdown this weekend that let nine app developers show off their best mobile apps before letting the audience vote on their work. In this slideshow we'll break down the nine top apps in this year's showdown, looking not only at their key functions but also their prices and the platforms they're available for.

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Core function: Music identifier

Developer: Shazam Entertainment

Operating systems: iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Nokia

Price: Free for limited version, but more advanced versions will cost you money.

The lowdown: The Shazam app mixes crowdsourcing technology with music identification software to help users find information on songs using their mobile phones. It works like this: a user will "tag" a particular song's artist and title and forward it to Shazam's online database. From there, the tagged song can be referenced by other users. Thus, when a user hears the song, they can use their mobile phone to listen to it and send it to Shazam's database. From there, the database cross-references it with all the tagged songs it has on file and sends information on the song back to the user.



Core function: Romantic background checker

Developer: Intelius

Operating systems: iPhone, Android. BlackBerry coming soon.

Price: Free initially, but running background check services can cost you up to $40.

The lowdown: This is an old Network World favorite that made a big splash at last fall's DEMO show. Basically, the app lets you check up on potential dates any place where they have a presence on the Web. So for instance, if you have their e-mail address or phone number and if either is linked to their Facebook and Twitter accounts you can check up on them to see if they are who they say they are or to find out if they have any sleazy interests. The slogan that the company is using for the app is (we're not making this up): "Look up before you hook up."


Telenav GPS Navigator

Core function: All-purpose GPS tool

Developer: Telenav, Inc.

Operating systems: iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Palm, Windows Mobile

Price: $9.99 per month

The lowdown: What makes this app cooler than many other navigation apps is that it anticipates you'll screw up. In other words, if you miss your turn, the app will realize this and adjust its directions accordingly to get you back on the right path. The app can even sense when you're about to approach upcoming turns and will announce them just before you reach them. And finally, the app features both 2D and 3D maps to help you get a better sense of your bearings.


SPB Mobile Shell

Core function: Mobile interface

Developer: SPB Software

Operating systems: Windows Mobile

Price: $29.95

The lowdown: Do you like your Windows Mobile Device but are unhappy with the interface? Well SPB is here to help with its so-called "Windows Mobile makeover" that adds several key functions to the Windows Mobile user interface, including "a flexible engine for 3D animation, Facebook integration, kinetic scrolling, widgets and multiple usability innovations." The application also has an editing feature that helps users customize their phone screens.



Core function: P2P navigation

Developer: Aha Mobile, Inc.

Operating systems: iPhone

Price: Free

The lowdown: No, this app has nothing to do with the band that song "Take On Me." Rather, it's a navigation app that allows users to send real-time traffic updates to one another. The key here is that users won't need to enter text into your phone or even look at maps. Instead, you make a voice recording of what's going on in real time and send it along to the Aha traffic channel. This is a vast improvement over several car-centric applications, which seem to be begging their users to get into serious accidents.


Gwabbit WINNER of the Mobile Apps Showdown Online Poll!

Core function: Contact manager

Developer: gwabbit LLC

Operating systems: BlackBerry

Price: $9.99 per year, with a free 14-day trial.

The lowdown: This is a pretty cool app for BlackBerry fans that takes any and all incoming mail on your BlackBerry phone and automatically creates a contact profile from it that is stored in your Outlook account. In other words, no more cutting and pasting e-mail addresses, mailing addresses or phone numbers into your contact list. This app won't exactly change your world, but it will save you some time.


Truphone RUNNER UP of the Mobile Apps Showdown audience vote

Core function: VoIP application

Developer: Software Cellular Network, Ltd.

Operating systems: iPhone, iTouch

Price: $7.49

The lowdown: Truphone is a popular VoIP application that lets you make calls using your iTouch's Wi-Fi capabilities. You will need to at least have a headphone set with a microphone connected to your iTouch if you want to actually be able to speak into the device, however.


Geodelic RUNNER UP of the Mobile Apps Showdown audience vote

Core function: Location-based commerce

Developer: Geodelic Systems, Inc.

Operating systems: iPhone, Android

Price: Free

The lowdown: Geodelic is a GPS-based application that lets users search for particular business types in their area. Thus if a user is simply looking for the nearest bank or coffee shop in an unfamiliar area, they can simply search for it on Geodelic and get a series of results tailored specifically for that area. Like most of these sorts of apps, Geodelic is questionable from a privacy standpoint, since it has a "relevance engine" that "tracks user behavior, allowing marketers to reach consumers directly and efficiently, at the point of sale." In other words, it's not for people who don't like the idea of marketers following their every move.


Clixtr WINNER of the Mobile Apps Showdown audience vote

Core function: Location-based photo sharing

Developer: Clixtr, Inc.

Operating systems: iPhone

Price: Free

The lowdown: Oh, look! Another location-based application! This one integrates your phone's camera with GPS to create a sort of location-based Flickr. Once you upload your photos, they are placed into Clixtr's database based on where they are taken and they are integrated with other pictures taken in nearby locations. So if you're looking for live photos of, say, a baseball game you can search for them on Clixtr and get real-time pictures taken by different users at the stadium.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.