Wikipedia is the great argument settler. I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I have had heated debates over some piece of meaningless trivia, only to end it with, “We’ll see who Wikipedia thinks is right.”
There is a whole class of applications in the App Store that put Wikipedia in your pocket and on your iPhone or iPod touch. In this Wiki apps roundup—the first of two I’ll be writing for iPhone Central—I’ll take a look at three paid Wikipedia clients for the iPhone: WikiPDA, Wikipanion Plus, and Look Up: Encyclopedia for Your Pocket.
You get what you pay for
No doubt you’ve found yourself in a situation similar to this: you think to yourself, “I wonder what the average rain fall in Lima, Peru is.” A quick Wikipedia search tells you that Lima gets about 1 to 6 cm of rainfall a year. Several hours later your innocent meteorological query has cost you a few hours and you’ve somehow ended up on Kevin Kline’s Wikipedia page (did you know his middle name is Delaney?). All of this idle wandering on Wikipedia isn’t exactly friendly when you have limited bandwidth (say you’re on your iPhone but not within the range of a Wi-Fi network), and that’s where Wikipanion Plus’ Queue mode shines.
Another feature that sets Wikipanion Plus apart is the ability to search within a page, which has long been a browser standard. Tap the gear icon and a menu slides open with a few buttons on it, the top most being Search in Page. Tap it, enter your search terms, and after a little crunching your search terms are highlighted in yellow.
Cheap doesn’t mean bad
At $1, NextAroundYou’s WikiPDA is the cheapest of the lot, so it makes sense that it doesn’t have as many features as either of its pricier competitors. It doesn’t do much more than allow you to search Wikipedia from your iPhone, but in a slightly different way than the previous two apps.
Which Wiki-ware wins?
Wikipanion Plus is the most feature-rich and best-designed Wiki search app of the bunch; it is also the most expensive by a large margin. If you find yourself constantly using Wikipedia on your iPhone, then Wikipanion Plus is the app for you. If, however, you only turn Wikipedia occasionally, want the answer quickly (perhaps to settle bar bets), and don’t care about frills in the least, I would suggest WikiPDA. If you fall somewhere in the middle, as I suspect most people do, Look Up: Encyclopedia for Your Pocket is a great compromise between feature set and design.
All three apps are compatible with any iPhone or iPod touch running the iPhone 2.x software update.
[Scott McNulty is a senior contributor for MacUser and blogs at blankbaby.]