When Apple’s FileMaker division told me that it had iPhone-related news, my first guess was that it was announcing a version of its flagship cross-platform database application for its parent company’s phone. Not quite. It released a database for the iPhone yesterday, but that database is Bento, a $4.99 mobile version of the company’s consumer and small-business database application, which until now has run only on Macs with OS X 10.5 Leopard.
Bento for the iPhone (and iPod Touch) isn’t the first database for the iPhone, but it may be the most thoroughly Apple-esque one to date. (Which makes sense.) A cover-flow like browser lets you choose from dozens of templates, like the ones you get in Bento for the Mac–everything from an equipment log to a digital media collection to expenses to notes to a record of your diet. There’s also a blank template. Once you choose a template and create a database–which Bento calls a Library–you can customize the fields and their order, then populate them with information.
On the Mac, Bento’s biggest distinguishing characteristic is its pretty, flexible layouts. On the iPhone, sensibly enough, everything’s organized into the typical iPhone list-like format. It’s less flashy but makes good use of the available real estate, and it’s easy to browse records, update old ones, and add new information.