Over the years, I’ve owned more smartphones than I care to count. From BlackBerry to webOS to Android, I’ve had just about every platform in my pockets – often two or more at a time. However, there was one smartphone and platform that has remained with me regardless of the other devices I’ve carried – the iPhone. And really, the biggest reason for my devotion to the platform is its wealth of high-quality apps.
When friends and family jump on the iPhone bandwagon, the first question they usually ask me is, “What apps should I get?” It really all depends on what you plan on using your phone for. Are you a photo junkie? Do you find yourself on social networking services more than you actually network in person with friends and acquaintances? Or do you just want some games and news apps to pass the time while you’re on your commute?
The answer will differ for everyone, but for those of you who are curious about which apps a mobile junkie just can’t live without, read on!
I read a ton of articles online, and sometimes I just don’t have time to finish them or even get started when I’m rushing off to meet with friends or for other activities. However, since I spend a great deal of time in the NYC subways, Instapaper helps me plow through all of those articles. You simply save the article you find on your phone or desktop web browser, and sync your app with the service and it will be ready for your offline reading pleasure.
Although, I will admit that I can get a bit overzealous with the articles that I bookmark for offline reading, but I find that it’s great to have a variety of things to choose from when I’m looking to distract myself or nourish my brain with more info.
At $4.99, it might be a bit pricey, but for the cost of a medium-sized latte, it’s totally worth the dough.
Who isn’t on Twitter these days? What was once considered an odd fad for the mundane minutiae of our lives, Twitter has become a pretty reliable tool for getting news and friend updates in real time. I can follow my favorite blogs and news sites, as well as important public figures to stay aware of what’s going on in the world.
The Twitter for iPhone app is arguably the best one you can find on the platform, and it’s totally free. You can update your feed with your current status, upload photos and share your location or share interesting links that you’ve found online. You’ll also be able to search, follow, check trending topics, mark favorites, retweet and just about everything you could possibly want to do on Twitter within the app. I use the app so much, in fact, that it’s the first one on my iOS dock.
Like Twitter, I’m almost a Facebook junkie. I check my feed four or five times a day to see what my friends and family are up to, the photos they’re sharing and the interesting news stories they’re finding online. Sometimes I’ll check into locations whenever I feel like sharing that with my Facebook friends, or I’ll upload photos if I see something really cool, interesting or funny. The app is free and it’s probably the best mobile Facebook app out there right now.
If you start and end your days with Facebook, definitely check it out on the iPhone if you haven’t already.
Photography is probably my favorite hobby right now, and anyone who has been reading my articles here lately will know that. For taking photos, editing them and sharing them online, nothing really beats Camera+. In fact, it has replaced the native camera app on my phone as my go-to application for shooting photos. It includes a grid for those who roughly follow the rule of thirds for photo composition, it has a number of shooting features like image stabilization and focus lock and metering and you can edit photos and add filters to make them look a little cooler. When you’re done shooting and editing, you can share your photos on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or even via e-mail.
Camera+ is $1.99 in the iTunes app store and is worth every penny.
Boxcar is really a savior when it comes to my notifications and messages. Between Facebook, Twitter, SMS, games, Kik Messenger and everything in between, iOS push notifications can really drive me insane. However, Boxcar handles a good chunk of them for me so I can get through my day without going nuts over a constantly buzzing phone.
Instead of having Facebook, Twitter and e-mail bother me with notifications all day, I have them all go to Boxcar where messages are streamlined in a single feed, or separate feeds depending on your preference. Although you can have push notifications ping you whenever messages come in, I like to set it to show badges only. This way, I can get through my day and check my phone only when I want to without the constant harassment, and I never miss any messages or notifications. Best of all, it’s a free app.
If you’re an incredibly busy person, forgetful or you just like to keep your tasks and ideas organized, Wunderlist is definitely the app for you. It allows you to create lists, add tasks, set due dates and notifications and reminders for the things you need to get done. The interface is very intuitive and attractive, and getting things listed and checked off is very easy.
The best things about Wunderlist are that it’s free, items are stored in the cloud and you can access your content via the web or a desktop app (for Mac OSX and Windows). If you add an item on your iPhone or on the desktop app, it will sync with the cloud and you’ll be able to access it anywhere you are. For such a great utility, it’s really amazing that Wunderlist is totally free.
7. Pulse News
As a news junkie, I understand that there are several ways to get your news and feeds into one, easy-to-find place. But perhaps no one does it as nicely as Pulse News. You can configure several news feeds and pages to your taste, but instead of seeing plain, boring text, you get image thumbnails with headlines. Instead of scrolling through endless fields of black and white, you scroll across images and icons that give a little more context to the headline.
Aside from the beautiful UI and the customizable feeds, you can also share news items via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. If you find an article that you like and want to share with others, Pulse News makes it very easy to do so with share buttons at the bottom of every article. And unlike other feed readers and news apps that offer tons of features and content, Pulse News is free.
8. Words with Friends
iPhone games help me kill a lot of time when I’m waiting for a subway train, waiting for friends at a bar or for food orders. Words with Friends is probably my favorite game, where I usually have about 10 games or more going at once. If you haven’t played it yet, it’s a lot like Scrabble: you’re given tiles of letters where you have to create words on a board for points. It’s really fun and pretty addicting, and I sometimes find that I learn new words when my opponents use some pretty strange ones (I’ll maintain that some of them are anagram-solver-using cheaters!).
The app comes in an ad-supported free version, but if you get sick of ads popping up after every single move, you’ll want to fork over the $1.99 to get rid of them.
9. Slacker Radio
When I’m not using my iPod for my tunes, I turn to Slacker Radio. The app is free, though the number of times you can skip a song is limited to six unless you pay for a monthly subscription, which I do, and the music selection is great. Depending on your subscription level, you can skip songs as often as you like, create custom playlists, listen to ad-free stations and even listen to entire albums and have stations dedicated to one artist only.
Slacker Radio has a great interface, and it’s pretty reliable and works in the background. That means you can jump into your Words with Friends games or check your Twitter feed and listen to your tunes at the same time.
10. Kik Messenger
Until iMessage gets here, Kik Messenger takes care of all my messaging needs. Well, mostly. It’s like BBM for the iPhone, and it lets me chat with Kik users on Android and other platforms, too. Messages don’t count against your text messaging plan, so if you’re not on an unlimited SMS package, and a good chunk of your friends use iPhone or Android devices, Kik is the way to go.
Like BBM, Kik gives you sent, delivered and read notifications so you always know the status of your messages. You’ll also be able to send picture or video messages, and you can start group chats with multiple users, too. And since it’s free, you don’t ever have to worry about the additional messaging charges, especially when you’re chatting with friends overseas.
Another nice alternative is WhatsApp, but for most folks Kik will have to do since it’s totally free. I just wish that it had customizable messaging tones, but for the price of zero dollars and all the features you get, I’ll take it.