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Macworld 2010: Frog Design shows off their iPhone apps


Frog Design is here on the show floor at Macworld 2010, and we stopped by their booth earlier in the week to check out what they've been up to on the iPhone. They're a storied design firm (they worked on the Apple II series back in the day) that is diving headfirst into the App Store, with two apps out already and one more on the way.

We've talked about Postcard Express on the site before, but they ran us through the latest version of the app, which has fixed a lot of the problems that users originally had -- the picture size has been tweaked a bit, and the geotagging has been updated and smoothed out to work much better. The most intriguing part of the iPhone app is of course the design -- everything, including emailing out the actual postcard, works completely within the app and is as intuitive as possible. While the actual act of sending a virtual postcard might not appeal to everyone (the charm of postcards is that they actually come through the mail), the app itself makes the process easy and fun.

We also saw two more apps from Frog Design: tvChatter, which is a TV-centered Twitter app, and the upcoming Temptd, a "health-based social networking app." Read on for more about both.

tvChatter is an interesting twist on Twitter apps: it's centered around television-related tweets. The first thing you see when you log in is a grid of various shows and discussion topics, which you can slide around and browse to see what's hot in television lately. After clicking on your favorite show, you'll get a slowly scrolling list of tweets about those shows, which is generated from a constantly-updated search by Frog Design themselves. In other words, click on "Lost," and you'll get a list of tweets about the show, the latest episode, and any other news about that show. You don't actually need a Twitter account to use the app, as they just pull in tweets with the API, but if you have a Twitter account, you can reply and send messages straight from the app while you're browsing the TV zeitgeist.

What's most interesting about tvChatter is actually behind-the-scenes: Frog Design actually has real-life people working on the ever-changing content for each show, so every time you log in, you'll be able to see updated news and information about the shows you're viewing. And while the app is free, they pay for that content choice with paid placement -- the top level of shows on the app is actually placed according to ad payments from television networks. There is a separate section where you can browse an unfiltered list of television shows, but the main app page, with the cool graphics and the hip interface, is all paid placement.

Unfortunately, tvChatter isn't much more than you'd get just browsing Twitter yourself -- while Frog Design told us that their searches for tweets to include are done professionally, they didn't look much more different than browsing for "Lost" and "24" on the regular Twitter site. And the paid placement might rub a few users the wrong way -- in our short hands-on time with the app, we didn't see that area marked as advertising at all. While it's an intriguing way to support a content-driven app, consumers might not vibe with it, especially with so many other sources for TV news and views out there.

Finally, we were shown an app called Temptd, which is still in beta and scheduled to come out later this year. The idea behind it is a "health-based social networking app" -- basically, when you feel tempted by something unhealthy, be it food or smoking or anything else, you can send out a message that you've been Temptd, and those messages then hook into your Facebook account (so your page will say something like "Mike's been tempted by pizza"). Being tempted starts a timer, and if you can make it through that time without succumbing to temptation, you get a certain amount of points that go into your stats, called Willpower, Karma, and Overall. It's a very social app, so you can also support and congratulate others on fighting or overcoming their temptations, and your own actions are rewarded and affect both yours and others' stats.

Frog Design told us that their work in the medical field suggested that social networking would be a good outlet for support on this issue, so they put together this game-style social networking app to help connected users overcome their main temptations. Will it work? We're not sure -- the app (and the concept) was still in beta, and some details (like what rewards you'll eventually get if you do overcome your temptations) haven't been decided yet. But like all of Frog Design's other work, it is an interesting idea. Stay tuned -- Temptd should be out on the App Store soon, and we'll see if it makes the splash they hope for.

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