Update! New List! New Post! See the new list of iOS 8 apps I use in 2014 on my iPhone and iPad.
Last updated April 11, 2009 I am surprised by how well this list held up. The updated NYTimes application is a great improvement over the first version, which I had stopped using, because it was slow and crashed so frequently. I have also added the Amazon Kindle for iPhone application. I still use these apps with some frequency: Google Mobile App, Twitterific, Facebook, Zenbe lists, Remote, Evernote, Amazon and Wikipanion. For restaurant, bar and services information, I still prefer the simpler IWant and Yelp to the flashy Urbanspoon roulette. The upcoming iPhone 3.0 software will eliminate my need for Writeroom, which allows e-mail messaging in landscape mode. As for games, my daughter swears by one new addition, JellyCar, and her favorites, Toybot and de Blob. My fascination with the time-wasting Bejeweled has ebbed, and nothing has really replaced it, unless you count Twitter.
The List Most of the third-party applications on my iPhone were free; none cost more than $9.99. I went a little crazy downloading apps when the store opened on iTunes. Some of them, like the Urbanspoon restaurant roulette app, proved more gimmicky than useful. And they started to drag down the performance. So I have been winnowing the list. Here are the third-party apps I actually open on a regular basis (some of them daily, all of them at least once every couple of weeks), roughly in the order they appear on the phone.
- Google Mobile App Search your phone, search the Web. This app moves to the top of the list with voice-activated search and other improvements. It not only searches the Web, but also your contacts and other data on your phone (the new iPhone operating system now does this as well). The word recognition is about 60 percent accurate, which can be frustrating, but I have hopes they'll keep tweaking it, because, hey, it's Google. That's what Google does. I also have the mind-blowing toy Google Earth app. Updated 8/17/09.
- MightyDocs A simple concept: Free offline access to your text Google docs. I downloaded this app a while ago but have been using it a lot more, because people at the office have started sharing a lot live memos through Google. The latest version has basic spreadsheet support, which was missing in the original. And it's still free.
- Twitterfon pro is my new choice for a Twitter client. The free version is fine, too. The interface is superior to the versions of Twitterific and Twinkle, which I had included in earlier versions of this list. Updated 8/17/09.
- Kindle for iPhone In many ways, the e-book reading experience is better than the actual Kindle. The application is free, but of course you need to own an Amazon Kindle and download some books. Kindle newspaper and magazine subscriptions don't work, nor can you read documents you have sent to yourself or ebooks from other sources than Amazon. The page turning is easier than the Kindle 1, and of course the phone has a backlight. The coolest feature is the Whisper Sync: It takes you to the most recent page you read, whether on the phone or the Kindle.New.
- iWant For when you just want to quickly find a nearby restaurant, bar or gas station, without gee-whiz graphics to impress your friends.
- NYTimes The 2.0 version of this application is much improved. The articles download faster, you can bookmark them and share them via e-mail. In general, it seems a lot less buggy and no longer hangs or crashes. I love to open this app and download the day's paper before heading into the subway. There is a menu that shows all the photos from the paper -- click one to pick a story. It can store up to five days' worth of news. And unlike the Amazon Kindle, which I also use to read the paper, it includes NYT blog posts. Updated review.
- Facebook Nicely put together, attractive, with intuitive navigation of the Facebook site. On a phone, in a line, it's a way to catch up with people. One bonus: It still resembles the old Facebook interface, which is a relief compared to the updated and overloaded Facebook Web site.Updated review.
- Writeroom A document creator that can be used to easily write emails with the keyboard in a horizontal position, not something that mail currently allows. (It will have that feature when the iPhone 3.0 firmware is released later this year).Updated review.
- Amazon So you go into the bookstore and you see a book you want and you type the name into this app's search box and probably find it cheaper, with free delivery if you have Amazon Prime. Maybe you just snap a picture for the "You asked us to remember" experimental function. Amazon will try to find a similar item in its store. It worked the first time for me with a fairly poor quality picture of an obscure book's cover; no bar code required. Do you feel guilty? Do you hide what you are doing from Barnes & Noble employees? That's your business. Great app. Just watch out for the one-click -- the journey from looking something up to an immediate impulse buy is nearly frictionless. New.
- Airsharing Drag and drop Word, Excel, PDF and many other files via WiFi to the phone, where you can read them pretty well and transfer them to other computers. (Need to download software for the computer.) I don't use it that much, but it is handy. MightyDocs has supplanted it; most of the documents I need I keep in Google Docs.Updated review.
- Zenbe Lists Of the hundreds of to-do lists, this one is pretty good. You don't have to bother to sign up for Zenbe's Web services and tools to use the free iPhone app.
- Last.fm, Pandora, AOL Radio In that order. All great versions music solutions using Internet radio. Customize music to your tastes. I have removed Simplify, an iTunes library syncing application, because I couldn't get it to work reliably. Maybe I need a 3G phone. Updated review.
- Remote Turn the phone into a full-featured iTunes remote for your computer/stereo or Apple TV. Browse your media library in the palm of your hand. Still one of the greatest applications if you have an Apple TV.
- Ocarina Turn your iPhone into a musical instrument and connect with phone-musicians around the globe. A fun app to show friends, though the novelty wears off. Updated review.
- Yelp The user-rating restaurant/bar/etc site powers many other location-based restaurant apps, so you might as well use Yelp's app, which works well and is attractive.
- AIM Why pay for SMS when you can send an instant message at no charge? Granted, texting is an Apple standard app, and thus better integrated than IM. You can't use AIM with other apps running, so you have to disconnect this if you want to take a phone call, open up Safari or e-mail. But sometimes you need to locate an IM contact online and chat, and this app is handy for that. It may work better with the iPhone 3.0 firmware, which may allow apps to run in the background.Updated review.
- 1Password The day you lose your phone, you'll be happy the person who found it doesn't have access to all your sites, accounts and passwords. This secures and encrypts them, and it syncs with the passwords on your computer. (This app was free, but you do have to pay for 1Password software for your Mac itself).
- Evernote Save sites, Web clips and docs on the Web, look at them on your phone and computer; sync them. I may start using this more often, now that it has been integrated with Twitter. Updated.
- Wikipanion Look it up on Wikipedia with one touch. But please don't cite it in your term papers if you are one of my wife's students. I tried a few Wikipedia apps and settled on this one for its easy lookup functions.
- SayWho A simple voice dialer. Press the screen while saying the name of the person you want to call, and a list comes up in contacts. Works pretty well, even for a mumbler like me. Free. I seem to have stopped using it lately; I don't make enough phone calls to make it worth my while.
- Bejeweled, Hero of Sparta, Toy Bot Diaries, de Blob, Stone, Scrabble, Metasquares, Enigmo, Tetris, Super Monkey Ball, DizzyBeeFree, BattleAtSea, Bubblewrap, Morocco, Cannon Game, FootballLite, The Stone of Destiny, Jelly Car, Labyrinth These are among the better iPhone games, all of them taking advantage of the touchscreen and/or accelerometer in clever ways. Good for distracting 8-year-olds and yourself on long car, train or plane rides.
- Shazam and Midomi Amuse your friends. Hold Shazam up to a playing music source, and it identifies the song. Midomi is similar, but you can also say lyrics or hum to get a list of possible song titles. The link shows a Shazam-Midomi face-off; Shazam won for reliability and usefulness. Both are free and worth having, although the novelty of these party tricks wears off eventually.
- doyoufeed.com A Web site, not a downloaded app. It will iPhonify any blog or site (or several feeds) and give you a tinyurl address for it. (Here is Palafo.) Then you can bookmark a Webclip on your iPhone iphone home screen. Maybe one day the owners will fix the spelling of "Thursday" in the timestamp code. New URL, fixed.
- Note: I no longer have a jailbroken iPhone, which allows you to run software not available through iTunes. I do miss some of those pirate apps, but I just can't be bothered with it anymore. I'd rather not risk downloading some wonky or malicious app that hasn't been blessed by Apple.