For those who like having reference books at their fingertips, carrying a fully loaded dictionary with you wherever you go is now possible for any iPhone user, thanks to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary for iPhone from SlovoEd.
There's a saying about cameras, that the best camera is always the one you carry with you. This highights the fact that the best-quality and typically bulkiest camera is no good to you, if you leave it at home every time a priceless photo opportunity comes your way.
By the same token, a dictionary that slips in your iPhone means you'll probably carry it with you everywhere, making it by far the most useful in day-to-day life.
SlovoEd has been making dictionaries for PDAs and mobile phones for many years, and has now ported its Concise Oxford English Dictionary to Apple's ubiquitous smartphone, based on the 11th Edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary of English.
More than 64,000 word definitions are said be included (we didn't check them all), with a total of 240,000 words onboard. To look up a word in SlovoEd Concise Oxford English Dictionary for iPhone, you start to type in a word using the iPhone touchscreen keyboard. As you type, you'll start to see words listed with the same initial letters. If you're lucky, you need only type in a few letters, and the word you're looking for will already be visible from a list. Touch on this word, and you go to its own entry page with the full definition.
As with a traditional dictionary, sometimes the word you seek won't be listed at a top level, but as a variation on a root word. An example is ‘advisor', for which you need to find ‘advise', and then its noun derivative.
SlovoEd's Concise Oxford English Dictionary for iPhone let us simply and efficiently find most words we sought. Look-up speed is relatively quick, although this could be tightened further to make it more ‘snappy'. The san serif type font is about the right size for easy reading, which is just as well as there's no facility to use the iPhone's familiar pinch gesture on screen to expand or shrink text. Nor can you tilt the iPhone to view the app horizontally.
There's a History listing available from an icon at screen bottom, said to list the last 15 translated words; in practice, we found it listed every single word that had been looked-up. And very usefully, most words within a definition can be lightly tapped, to take you straight to that word's own entry.
An added bonus, albeit a limited one for most English users, is the audio pronunciation feature, available on 20,000 of the dictionary's words. Where a word has a loudspeaker icon against its entry, you press the symbol to hear the word spoken aloud, by either a male or female voice in English received pronunciation.
Some - but not all - words also include a pronunciation guide using what appears to be the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). Sadly, there apears to be no glossary included in the SlovoEd Concise English Dictionary for iPhone app to explain the system.
Some words that suffer common misuse also carry a Usage guide, adding a footnote to describe how a word should be used, after its modern - and often more common - interpretation.
And further room for improvement? A built-in thesaurus would be the logical extension, especially if it could be incorporated into the same app for easy synonymic inspiration.
NEXT PAGE: Our verdict on the SlovoEd Concise Oxford English Dictionary for iPhone >>
This SlovoEd Concise Oxford English Dictionary may be weighed down at over 34MB by audio samples that most people won’t need. But it aptly demonstrates the multimedia possibilities available when you step beyond the paradigm of the dead tree reference guide - and doesn't get in the way of a great iPhone app that is worth the investment as a modern electronic dictionary.