So you purchased a new iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad. Now what? Apps of course. Which ones? Well, the answer can be found on any one of a million posts about the top apps to get. Most of them were written by people who’ve used an app twice, took a bunch of screenshots, wrote a post about their experience, and then deleted the app from their device. That’s not very helpful. You’re right, it isn’t. That’s why my list is different. I actually use the apps I’m promoting.
Over the years I’ve downloaded a poopload of apps. Currently I have 325 apps installed on my iPhone. Do I use them all? No, not regularly. But there are plenty that I use enough to consider essential. Enjoy…
Twitter (free | universal | iTunes link). There are a ton of Twitter apps out there, but this is the one I use because it’s also the one that Twitter bought out and stamped as their own. If you want another app just search “Twitter” in the app store and try to work through the mess of results. Or, you can take my advice and use the official app. It can handle multiple accounts, you can tweet, and you can read tweets. What more do you want?
Facebook (free | iTunes link). Let me be very clear, the Facebook iPhone app sucks. I’m promoting it because it provides the “easiest” way to interact with Facebook. The web app is an alternative, but it tends to omit posts that I can see online or in the FB app. I used to use TweetDeck (free) for managing FB, but that app has gone from awesome to suck.
Skype (free | iTunes link). Facetime is great, but it requires an iPhone 4/iPad, WiFi and other Facetime users (i.e. people on Apple devices). Skype works on cellular and WiFi networks and allows you to communicate via text or video chat with other Skype users regardless of platform and with an camera-equipped iPhone. It even works on the iPad you just can’t broadcast your mug. If you travel, live away from your family, or just like to video chat then you need to install Skype.
BeejiveIM ($4.99 | iPhone link | iPad link). Of the host of chat aggregates out there I like Beejive IM the most. I’ve tried Trillian ($4.99) and IM+ Pro ($9.99)but I always come back to Beejive. It’s great. Easy to use. And has yet to crash on me (unlike the aforementioned apps).
HeyTell (free | iTunes link). HeyTell is the app equivalent of Nextel’s push to talk feature (or a walkie talkie). Instead of text messaging you voice message with others and have the ability to archive each conversation. I find that I use HeyTell way more than SMS. The only downside is the clunky set up. However, once it’s up and running it’s friggin’ awesome.
textPlus Silver ($.99 | universal| iTunes link) When I actually text people I favor textPlus over the iPhone’s native SMS app. It’s free. I can send photos, create groups and communities, and it works across iDevices. Better still, if you set up an account you can sync your messages across your devices. This app will see less use now that iMessage out, but when I need to send a text to someone who doesn’t have an iDevice it sure is gonna come in handy.
Google Voice (free | iTunes link) I give out my Google Voice number to anyone outside of my social/familial circle. Primarily because I hate being targeted by spammers and can just turn the tables on folks by dumping them into a long boring voicemail with the hopes they’ll go away. Anywho, the Google Voice app lets me manage my account (and send text messages) right from my iPhone without the hassle of a desktop browser. I have tried GV Mobile+ ($2.99) as well (and their latest update is pretty awesome) but I’ve grown to love the official gVoice app. Besides, it’s free and GV+ is not.
DocsToGo Premium ($16.99 | universal | iTunes link). Back when I had a Palm T|X I had DataViz’s Documents To Go. It’s basically MS Office on your phone. With it I can edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files with the added bonus of accessing and syncing files with gDocs and Dropbox (and some other services I don’t use like MobileMe’s iDisk). I’ve tried QuickOffice ($9.99) but after it corrupted several files I gave up on it and went back to DocsToGo. And, iWork (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) is OK especially with iCloud syncing, but I always go back to DocsToGo.
LogMeIn Ignition ($29.99 | universal | universal | iTunes link). I’ve been using LogMeIn on my desktop computers for years. When the iPhone app came out I pounced on it. If you have an iPad you needn’t think twice. LogMeIn Ignition gives you access to all of your linked computers and it gives you the added ability to manage files across all of those devices. Hands down it is my favorite app. If you don’t already have it you need to buy it NOW!
1Password Pro ($14.99 | universal | iTunes link). I used to store all my passwords in my browser via Xmarks. This was OK until I came across 1Password. Now I can access all of my password, software, and secure notes right from my iPhone or iPad, and sync it with whatever computers I have the desktop client installed on. This app is a huge time saver and has helped to solidify best password-creation practices.
Todo ($4.99 | iTunes link) I’m a guy who need lists. It’s how I get things done. I’ve tried several apps and finally decided to go with Todo. Apart from the iOS apps they’ve got a sweet Mac desktop app (iTunes link), and provide the ability to keep everything in sync with either their own cloud syncing service (so you can sync with other devices) or with ToodleDo (which is my approach). Some people like more stuff and for those folks I would recommend Awesome Note, Evernote (iOS | Mac), or Things (iOS | Mac) For me, Todo will do just fine.
Dropbox (free | universal | iTunes link). Sweet mother if you don’t use this application you are missing out. I’ve been using Windows Live Mesh for a while on my PC/Mac, but they have yet to come out with an iPhone version (the web app blows). Once I started using Dropbox to sync files across devices I haven’t looked back. You get 2GB free and 250MB for each referral (I’m up to 11GB thanks to their scavenger hunt). Download it for your computers and your smart devices and get to syncing. NOW!
Google (free | universal | iTunes link). It’s Google in your pocket.
Reeder ($2.99 | iTunes link). For over a year I’ve been using NewsRack (formerly NewsStand) for all my RSS needs. In that time I kept hearing about Reeder, but because I had already purchased NewsRack I didn’t see the need. Then I up and got the app. Man, was I missing out. Reeder is clean and it is blazing fast. If you’re someone who thinks RSS still has a future then Reeder is for you. If not, then go to B&N and read the newspaper ya douche.
Instapaper ($4.99 | universal| Tunes link). With so much to read and not enough time in the day to read it I decided to go with Instapaper so I could archive the articles I couldn’t finish and read them offline at a later time. My old system was similar to Lifehacker’s free suggestion, but it just wasn’t working for me. I like the iOS5 reading list feature, but it’s still not Instapaper. Besides, Instapaper is integrated into many apps like Twitter and Reeder making it quite useful.
Pandora (free | universal | iTunes link) Create a radio station online for free and listen to it on your iDevice. That’s it. AND IT’S AWESOME!
Remote (free | universal | iTunes link) If you hate walking over to your computer every time you need to skip a song in iTunes then the Remote app is for you. Turn on home sharing, pair the app with your library, and control your iTunes right from your iDevice. Great for parties!
Pocket Tunes ($6.99 | universal | iTunes link). When I travel I often come across radio stations that I really like. Pocket Tunes gives me complete access to these stations. And when MLB and NFL seasons are in full swing I can dial up my favorite team’s station and listen to the broadcast. Screw you capitalism!
iMovie ($4.99 | universal* | iTunes link) The second best video editing app on the iPhone (because it renders faster than ReelDirector). It’s “universal” app is iPad 2 only <–
PhotoSync ($1.99 | universal | iTunes link) Getting photos from one iDevice to another, from an iDevice to a computer, from my computer to my iDevice, or up to Facebook and Dropbox is all possible thanks to PhotoSync. Download the app. Download the desktop program. Get to syncing. It’s that easy.
PS Express (free | universal | iTunes link). All the photo editing features you actually need without any of the ridiculousness that other photo editing apps provide.
Boxcar (free | universal | iTunes link). I nearly forgot this one because it runs in the background and I never have to deal with it. The app handles push notifications way better than the services it works with. With Boxcar I’m notified whenever I receive a message from Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, Google Voice, and Google Buzz. While there’s a cost ($.99) for each service beyond the first two it’s way worth it.
Mobile Mouse ($1.99 | universal| iTunes link). OK, so sometimes I’m lazy. Like when my computer is 10 feet away and I don’t feel like getting up to click OK on an install. That’s where Mobile Mouse comes in. Download the app. Download the desktop program. Then start controlling your PC/Mac from your iDevice over your local network.
App Miner (free | universal | iTunes link). Most of my 325 apps have been downloaded as a result of App Miner. The app scours the App Store for the latest deals and puts them all in one spot for your to peruse. It’s free and has saved me a boatload of cash. BTW, the iPad version will look for iPad apps and the iPhone version will not.
MapQuest GPS (free | iTunes link). I’ve tried many GPS apps for the iPhone. I really like Motion X ($.99) and Copilot Live USA ($4.99), but neither is as easy to use as MapQuest for Mobile. I know, I know. I pushed CoPilot pretty hard in my review because it would download the maps I need in case of a bad connection, but I find myself using MapQuest the majority of the time since most of my travel is around town or within reach of a cellular network.
iBooks (free | universal | iTunes link). While my favorite e-reader app is really Stanza (free) I keep gravitating back to iBooks for reading PDFs and eBooks for w/e reason. Doesn’t matter really. They’re both free. Of course if you really want to splurge go with Good Reader ($4.99) it’s an amazing PDF reader. If you don’t want to spend the cash, just go with free.
Torch LED (free | iTunes link). On a recent trip to Argentina a heat wave knocked out the power to the apartment building I was staying at. With no flashlight handy I fired up Torch LED and was able to navigate the apartment and down seven flights of stairs with ease. FYI, this app eats batteries for breakfast.
KeyRing (free | iTunes link). I’m not a huge fan of carrying around rewards cards in my wallet or on my key chain. So when I came across KeyRing I’ve since removed all of the rewards cards from my both. It’s super easy. Just scan the bar code, identify it, and then show it to the merchant when you shop.
Hey, I only counted 30. What about the other 295 apps you have installed? Many are games, some are really specific, and others are apps that I use on occasion. For instance if I see a wreck I fire up 5-0 Radio to find out the details so I can plan an alternate route home. If my Bears are playing I turn to Yahoo! Sportacular to follow their progress. If I come across a sign written in Spanish and I want a quick translation I use Word Lens. To spy on my dogs I use iCam. And when I’m on the road I use WiFiFoFum (removed from App Store) to find WiFi hotspots and open up PlayOn Mobile to watch a bit o’ tele. Beyond these there are a bunch of other apps that I use on occasion. The ones listed above are the ones I use regularly.
Look, if you get an iPhone don’t sit around downloading a bunch of games and surfing the Internet. Use the App Store widget on the right to find the perfect app. Seriously, make the most of your $500 mini-computer and its $1000/year annual pricetag, and spend the $100 to download my essential 30. When you do, you’ll thank me. And if you don’t thank me I really don’t care.
What are your essential iPhone apps? Which favorite app of yours didn’t make the cut? Got recommendation questions? Share ‘em below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. BTW, if you still feel the need to look for a more comprehensive list click the following link for more search results.