There are a lot of tools for both the desktop and smartphones to create panoramic photos. Almost all of them either helps you take a sequence of individual photos or post-processes a sequence of manually aimed photos. Occipital’s $1.99 app for the iPhone takes a different approach that I really like.
360 Panorama (iTunes App Store)
Occipital’s app is far faster, friendly and easier to use than my other favorite iPhone panoramic apps: Microsoft Photosynth and Cloudburst Research AutoStitch. 360 Panorama features a single button that you press twice: Once to start and once to end recording. In between, you simply move the iPhone around in a circle and up and down as if recording a video. The resulting photograph can be saved to the iPhone’s photo album or (preferred) uploaded to Occipital’s sharing and viewing site.
You can see an example of a 360 panorama I recorded yesterday by pointing your desktop web browser:
If you have an iPad 2 or iPhone 4, pick it up and point it at the URL above. Occipital does some awfully clever web programming to use the gyroscope and compass in those devices to let you see the world as I saw it in the directions I faced. In other words, when you face an iPhone 4 or iPad 2 south, you will see what I saw while facing south. You can also tip the devices slightly up and down to get tilted views.
Note that this trick does not work on Android’s web browser.