Bento for iPhone review

Bento is FileMaker’s database and organisation application for Mac OS X that has a seemingly infinite number of uses. At heart, Bento enables you to create lists and collections of things – like a database but in a much more friendly manner. And it integrates solidly with Mac applications such as Mail, Address Book, and iCal to bring all your information together in one place. This enables Bento to also act as a project or event manager, or create simple to-do lists.

Bento for iPhone integrates well with the desktop application, and enables you to access and manage all your data as well as create new entries. Once installed on the iPhone you can sync the application with a desktop version of Bento via the File menu.

Bento for iPhone has to be one of the nicest looking iPhone apps ever developed. It has a fantastic Cover Flow implementation of the libraries, and everything from text entry to data sorting is a joy to perform. It also makes good use of the iPhone’s technology. We use it to catalogue equipment, and you can use the iPhone’s camera to take quick snaps of kit to go with each entry.

There is clearly room for it to better utilise the iPhone’s special hardware, though. Although it integrates nicely with the Maps and Safari apps, it doesn’t make any real use of location services. And although we found access to the camera very useful, access to the built-in microphone wouldn’t have gone amiss. The ability to add audio notes to entries would have been a real bonus.

Bento for iPhone currently integrates only with Address Book, not iCal, data. Because of this Bento on the iPhone is better for managing contacts and data lists than it is for project or task management – unlike the desktop version which is invaluable on either front.

We also found the sorting of data limited compared to the desktop application, although this is somewhat forgivable considering the limitations of the iPhone platform. Although you can use Bento for iPhone as a standalone application, we would really recommend it as an accompaniment to the full desktop application.

OUR VERDICT

If you have Bento 2 for the Mac, then spending £2.99 on this app is a no-brainer. The ability to integrate photos taken on the iPhone camera with the data is worth the asking price alone. Integration with iCal and use of location services would be a boon, but we think Bento for iPhone will get better with subsequent releases.

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