Apptitude: Apps for Independence Day

U.S. Pocket Reference lets you read about the struggle to secure civil rights as you celebrate the nation's birthday.
U.S. Pocket Reference lets you read about the struggle to secure civil rights as you celebrate the nation's birthday.
Posted: June 28, 2012

A dose of history can't hurt around Independence Day, and application makers have stepped up with mildly successful attempts to remind Americans why they'll be celebrating the Fourth of July.

U.S. Pocket Reference, $1.99 from Double Dog Studios, is a package of historical documents and narratives on the branches of the federal government and their various agencies.

Once it is open on iPhone, tap the screen to show navigation tools.

Document texts include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, excerpts from the Federalist Papers, and key Supreme Court decisions such as Marbury v. Madison, which in 1803 helped establish the high court's authority, and the landmark 1954 civil-rights case, Brown v. Board of Education.

A lengthy "Test Yourself" section helps you remember the original colonies, the many wars, and why we revere the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony.

United States History, by MTC Apps for Android devices, is free (it has advertising support) and has a home page that organizes topics under headings that include the Constitution, important dates, documents, and speeches. A U.S. timeline is searchable, with hundreds of entries starting with Aug. 3, 1492, when Columbus set sail and headed west.

The Federalist Papers section has the full text of the famous public-relations arguments by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison on behalf of the Constitution.

A "Did You know?" space at the bottom of the home screen displays random history entries, such as one-paragraph descriptions of Ulysses S. Grant, Barack Obama, and the Zamboni machine (invented in California).

An app called iUSA, from USAInteractive, is 99 cents for iPhone. It attempts to organize thousands of Wikipedia entries and government Web pages into a U.S. history guide. Nice try, but choppy to explore. Navigation help is a row of icons at the bottom of the screen for history, the White House, Congress, and government.

In the history area, you choose a list either of the states or of the presidents. That's all, though once you get to a Wikipedia page, you can search more widely.

AP U.S. History, from Simple Tree L.L.C., is free for iPhone. The advertising-supported app is billed as a study aid, but it has no official connection to the advanced-placement tests by the College Entrance Examination Board.

The app makes for a sketchy review of America from its founding, with no narrative history. A search for the inconclusive War of 1812 produced three short entries: on the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Hartford Convention, and the Treaty of Ghent.

Simple Tree also has U.S. and World history "flash card" apps, costing several dollars each, for Android as well as Apple devices.

Contact Reid Kanaley at 215-854-5114, rkanaley@phillynews.com or @ReidKan on Twitter.

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