The iPhone 3G Dictionaries Review

We celebrate writing on this WordPunk blog — and we do love our new iPhone 3G — even though the White Apple of Death drives us nuts daily. 
One of the invaluable assets for the iPhone 3G is the Apps Store.  I spent $100.00USD to buy several dictionaries for use on my iPhone 3G.  In this review, I will look up one of my favorite words — “semiotic” — and one of my favorite people — “Clinton” — to see what results are returned.  You do not need an internet connection to use any of these dictionaries.  All definitions are installed on your iPhone 3G.


The best dictionary, by far, is “The American Heritage Dictionary” and don’t get the cheap-o “desk” version of that App.  Spend the money to get the full version.

American Heritage Dictionary — Fourth Edition
300,000 terms
309 MB
$29.99

The reason the American Heritage Dictionary is so divine is evidenced below. 

Not only are you given a full rendering for “semiotic” — I prefer the word with an “s” on the end — but you also get the pronunciation spoken to you as well just by touching the speaker icon. 

Touching green-linked words takes you to a different, or extended, definition.

When I search for “Clinton” I am happily presented with many options.

When I see my “Bill” — I just touch his name with my finger without giving him the finger — even though I’m touching him with that finger.

Here’s the entry for Bill Clinton and you can see the description is detailed and incredibly in-depth for an iPhone 3G App.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition
225,000 terms
8.8 MB
$24.99

I actually pay to subscribe to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary online, so I was thrilled to find the iPhone 3G version of that dictionary available last week.  I am disappointed to report this Apps version is expensive and barren.

Here is the “semiotic” definition.  I don’t know how many “Merriam-Webster” buttons and headers I need on a single screen, but I am certain two is two too many.

The “Clinton” definition came up without a definition.

This $25 dollar dictionary was the only one in the bunch that did not recognize “Clinton” on a word search.  Totally unacceptable.  I want my money back!

Webster’s New World Dictionary
163,000 terms
5.8 MB
$14.99

This Webster’s Dictionary has an airy and sophisticated feel to it and the default large font is appealing to older eyes. 

Here’s the definition for “semiotic” and I like the definition includes the “s” on the end, and I like that because that’s the way I best know the word.

Doing my “Clinton” search brought up two entries and, as you can see, the second definition brought home the Bill.

Ultralingua English Dictionary and Thesaurus
Unknown number of terms
14.6 MB
$9.99

The Ultralingua Dictionary is an odd beast.  It advertises itself as a “collegiate level” dictionary — but it doesn’t tell you how many terms it covers. 

This dictionary was first listed at $30 in the Apps Store when I bought it — and it is now selling for a measly ten dollars.  How do I get my $20 back?

The definition of “semiotic” — no “s” and “s” included — is sparse, and clicking on the red-hotlinked term doesn’t lead anywhere remotely interesting in an extended search.

My “Clinton” search came up with a wellspring of links, and touching the definition I want brings forth a submenu that will provide another definition or take me to the web via Google for more information.

I spent a hundred dollars purchasing all these dictionaries for my iPhone 3G.  I will keep them all because one definition isn’t enough for a lonesome man and one dictionary cannot serve a single mind.

If you can only afford to purchase one of these dictionaries — then you need to buy the American Heritage Dictionary — because it is hands-down, and minds-out — the best of breed.

I can’t wait to see if Oxford will provide a dictionary for the Apps Store, and if they do, I’ll be the first one to plunk down my cash to have another eager tool ready for the sharpening of learning.

8 comments

  • I like words too, David. These sure are tempting. I’m glad you spent your money to save us the effort. Sounds like you found a winner.

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  • Words are so much fun and a great pastime I have invented, Anne, is to look up strange words in all my iPhone dictionaries to find the most creative and thorough definition. Sometimes the results are surprising!

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  • Kathakali Chatterjee

    I miss iPhones!!!
    I got an oxford concise dictionary in my birthday when I was in first or second grade – my mother gave it to me.
    I just hated it because I expected a Tintin at least!
    But today I have all sorts of dictionaries and thesaurus at my house – at least four different versions of Oxford, one Chamber’s, one Webster’s and finally I love Roget’s thesaurus.
    Those are the reasons for which I could communicate with you today!

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  • I love it, Katha! You must get an iPhone 3G soon! The Oxford dictionary is included with all new Macs now and I really like the definitions because they are precise, historic and worldly in a really unique way. There’s a fine Roget’s Thesaurus for the iPhone 3G that costs $13 and is 7.2MB in size. It has the same content as the paper version. It’s a good value!
    I’m so glad you have so many fine English resources. We need even more of you!

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  • Kathakali Chatterjee

    Thanks David!
    I guess I have to cross the Atlantic for iPhone only!

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  • Please come to us, Katha! We need you. Apple needs you. You need an iPhone 3G!

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  • is any of these dictionaries providing updates over the time?

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  • I think they’ve all been updated in some way since I purchased them.

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