Dial 9 for IPhone

There are quite a few dialing helper apps available for the iPhone. Up until now, none really interested me because the built-in iPhone Favorites list did an OK enough job for my tastes. However, I've become increasingly annoyed with the inability to categorize contacts into groups, like friends, family, clients, and so on. That's what got me looking for an alternative and ultimately sold me on Dial 9 by Flicck.

On sale for $1 as of this writing, Dial 9 provides three advantages over the built-in iPhone favorites list. First off, the app displays photos of your contacts instead of just their names. For contacts without a photo, the app will use a generic icon. And you can easily assign a photo from within the app if you want, using either stored photos or ones you shoot with the built-in camera.

Second, you can group your contacts among multiple pages--up to nine per page (hence the app's name). I've created pages for my friends, my wife's friends (for the times when she uses my phone), family members, co-workers, clients, and so forth. You can flick among the pages in the same way you navigate across the pages in the iPhone's home screen.

Third, when you tap on a contact in Dial 9, it brings up all the contact methods available for that contact (phone, e-mail, SMS). And the app is smart about this; it keeps track of the methods you use most frequently for each contact and presents them in that order.

As far as organizing your contacts, things couldn't be much easier. Tap the plus button to browse your Contacts list and add a contact. To move or delete a contact, just tap and hold on an icon--they do the familiar "jiggle dance" that home page icons do when you re-order them. You can then move the contact icons in any order you want, drag them among screens or delete them by tapping on the "X". Another feature I like is Dial 9's ability to assign a different color or pattern to each screen.

I have only a couple of small beefs: First, in order to rearrange the pages, you have to move the icons one at a time. It would be nice if there were a way to drag the pages into a new order, like you can with the built-in Weather app, for example. Second, you're limited to a maximum of 10 screens. While that works fine for me, it might not be enough for everyone. Otherwise, I really like Dial 9--it's exactly what the iPhone's Favorites screen should be.

Dial 9 is compatible with any iPhone running the iPhone 2.2 software update.

[Brian Beam is a musician, Drupal web developer and partner with BOLD Internet Solutions, living somewhere near Kansas City.]

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