Must Have iPhone Apps, Part 1

Rating: 3 votes, 4.00 average.
* You must have GameCenter. If it's not already installed on your phone, make sure you update your iO.S..

* eBuddy lets you instant message folks on Windows Live Messenger (MSN), Yahoo, GTalk (Google), AOL IM, ICQ, and Facebook. It puts friends across all networks on one buddy list and keeps a separate chat log for each friend. The app also supports push notifications. The only way they could improve this app is by adding XFire. Fring also lets you IM, and it supports four-way group video chat over 3G with other Fring users.

* Facebook is the official app for... Facebook! Personally, I hate Facebook but it has a decent following among the Geezers.

* The best Twitter app is the official one, Twitter. I've tried several Twitter apps and none are the perfect all-in-one solution. The official app supports save-to-draft and push notifications, the two most important features. And it's free. Lately, Twitter has been the most convenient way for us to schedule DIRT 3 multiplayer.

* My hands-down favorite app is Kindle. I love having a book in my pocket wherever I go. It might seem weird to read a book on a 3.5 inch screen, but it's not. The convenience makes up for the constant page turning (which I don't even notice, honestly). I've read all four A Song of Ice and Fire books, The Hunger Games trilogy, and others on my iPhone. Whenever I have a spare minute, I whip out my phone and get some reading done. I love it. Stanza lets you download free eBooks from libraries like Project Gutenberg.

* During the week I listen to my favorite radio programs with the iHeartRadio app. This streams radio station feeds owned by Clear Channel. The best thing about this app is that it can run in the background while I use the phone for other tasks. The worst thing about this app is that if you forget to turn it off, it will consume your data plan.

* Other streaming entertainment goodness: 5-O Radio Pro (police and fire scanner), HBO Go (nearly the entire library of HBO original programming), Hulu Plus (if you're a Hulu subscriber--I'm not), and Pandora (free music), and Netflix (a must have).

* Raptr displays the status of your friends on XBox Live, Playstation Network and Steam. You can also send/receive text messages through XBox Live. (But not Playstation, because Sony hasn't enabled messaging through their website.) I wish they'd add XFire--then it would be the perfect all-in-one.

* I use 360 Live when I want to check the achievements and gamerscores of either myself or a friend. I prefer Raptr for everything else, because 360 Live is often really slow to load. iTrophies is the Playstation equivalent of 360 Live. Displays your trophies, and those of your friends.

* Related apps: Reach Stats is in mobile form. Pinata Vision for Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise makes it real easy to scan pinatas into your garden, or change your garden's weather, time of day, or terrain. You must have the XBox Vision Camera, obviously.

* I think it's nifty that I can program my DVR from my phone with the DirecTV app. I think it's less nifty that I've had this app for a year and it hasn't been updated in any meaningful way. For example, I can set it to record a live event, but I can't add an extension. I can record a series, but can't specify how many episodes I want recorded, New or Reruns or Both. I can't see what has already been set to record and rearrange priorities. The Dish Network app lets you stream content from your DVR to your phone, but DirecTV doesn't. Would I switch satellite providers for a better app? I might.

* Foursquare uses your phone's geo locator goodness to find places near you. Then you "check in" and it announces your location to friends on Facebook/Twitter. Check in enough times, and you become the Mayor! What does being the mayor on Foursquare get you? Almost certainly nothing, but on the rare occasion a special discount or free refill. Depends on the business and how savvy they are about social networking-marketing. You can also read tips about business in Foursquare, but I prefer the user reviews on Yelp.

* The iPhone's bundled Maps app is excellent, but if you ever want voiced navigation use MapQuest. It's pretty accurate, and it's free unlike TomTom, which critics recommend but costs $35. Either way, don't pay your phone provider a monthly fee for a GPS add-on.

* Ever heard a song and wondered What song is that? Use Shazam. It takes a brief listen to whatever is playing (your environment can't be too noisy) and matches to its database somewhere. It tells you the title, artist, lyrics... You can share the info on Facebook/Twitter. There's tour info, YouTube videos, recommendations, find it on iTunes, Pandora or And you can go back and see what you've "tagged" and listen to sample clips. Amazing stuff. I used it just a few days ago to learn what song was playing in the DIRT 3 menus. (It was "New Cities" by Starkey Feat. Kiki Hitomi. I call it the "Bjork song.")

* AroundMe lists places near your location. Categories include Banks/ATMs, Bars, Coffee, Gas Stations, Hospitals, Hotels, Movie Theaters, Parking, Pharmacies, Pubs, Restaurants, Supermarkets, Taxis, and Theaters. It lists the distance from your location and the address, and it syncs with Apple's Maps for directions.

* The Bizarro app has daily full color comics. Always good for a chuckle, but sometimes (like right now as I write this article) it crashes upon start up.

* Backgrounds is the best app I've found for setting your phone's Wallpaper. You can set separate Wallpaper for your Lock Screen and Home Screen, and don't forget you can set any image in your photo library as a Wallpaper.

* The iPhone has no built-in caller ID feature than I can find. Unless I have the number already in my Contacts, the phone only tells me the phone number. SOMETIMES I can get more information using Caller-Caller but the app is limited by the phone companies who don't share their data.

* Dictation, full name Dragon Dictation, is kind of a marvel WHEN IT WORKS. Speak into the phone and Dictation translates your speech to text. (I believe it requires a data connection.) Then, you can copy the text, send it in an email, or post it to Facebook/Twitter. Voice-to-Text is always kind of hit-and-miss, but it's worth experimenting.

* A lot of people have used their phones as flashlights, but Flashlight makes it really easy to use your iPhone 4's LED camera light as a flashlight. You can set it to steady, strobe, or to blink out an S.O.S. The app can also display a solid color on the touch screen (white is best) which makes for nice illumination. The only thing the app can't do (and it's a pity) is readjust your phone's overall level of brightness. If I want a really bright light, I have to go into my phone's settings first and up the brightness. (I keep it at slightly above half to save on battery.)

* GoodReader is my favorite PDF reader. It can transfer PDF documents to your phone over WIFI. I carry the iPhone 4 owner's manual in GoodReader in the event I ever need it.

* It's easy enough to open Safari and go to the mobile version of Google when you want to find something on the net, but the Google app lets you search by voice (speak and it finds!) or your phone's camera. Yes, if you take a picture of something it somehow analyzes the image and finds information about it online. This, I suspect, is witchcraft.

* A stupid app is iBeer that simulates drinking a tall frosty one out of your phone. Completely ridiculous, but good for a laugh. Ditto the Zippo Lighter app.

* If you have a webcam connected to your computer, iCam streams the video to your phone. Some people use this app in tandem with their security system. I use it to spy on my dog. (I'd like to get a webcam that works over WIFI so I don't have to have a camera tethered to my computer. I'm not ready to spend $80-100 on a new webcam yet, though.)

* iMovie lets you edit the HD video you've recorded with your phone. I used this app once to merge several short videos I took while on vacation before I uploaded it straight to YouTube. The one thing I hate about this app is that you can't just enter the time of when you want to start (and stop) cropping a video. Rather, you have to drag these little handlebar things--eh, it's time consuming. There are tons of camera apps out there. I'm sure there's something better than iMovie.

* If you're a musician, you might be interested in Metronome!. It's just as it sounds. (No pun intended.) Enter the dpm and if it's 1/4, 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4 and listen to the tick-tick-tick.

* The latest thing is tags on printed materials. They're little squares of color or b&w shapes--sort of like bar codes. Microsoft's TagReader and ExecTag (you will want both) read those tags and pull up the related information. For example, the tags in my summer issue of Entertainment Weekly linked to movie trailers.

* TWC (The Weather Channel) offers more detail than Apple's bundled weather app, including ten day forecasts and severe weather warnings.

* One guess what Dictionary does.

* Google Earth brings the satellite wizardry of Google to your phone.

* If you need to convert Fahrenheit and Celsius, or, well, convert ANYTHING than Measures is an indispensible app. The paid app does currency too.


  1. PinataVision's Avatar
    Thanks for recommending the Pinata Vision app!

    Have you checked out the companion PV Creator app? It lets you create custom Pinata Vision cards, including new solid-color pinata wildcards, and ill-looking "zombies."

    Thanks again for the mention!
  2. JRSBill's Avatar
    360 Live is a bad recommendation as the developer has repeatedly screwed over people and is even on Apple's bad list according to customer support when I called and demanded a refund or free upgrade to the pro version.

    For a free app, I'd recommend xbox Dash
  3. Sheriff_Bullock's Avatar
    HOW has the developer screwed over people? I've been using the app since I got my iPhone last year and the only problem I run into is that sometimes it takes awhile to boot up (although notsomuch lately). XBox Dash and Friendz are both good alternatives, but I see no real issues with 360 Live.
  4. JRSBill's Avatar
    Easy, he made the app free after thousands of people bought it. He then made it ad supported so people that did pay, have to see the ads and he won't upgrade the people that originally purchased the app to the pro version. So he essentially stole our money for the original paid version and makes us pay again for the same features we already paid for.

    If that is not the definition of screwing people over I don't know what is.
  5. Sheriff_Bullock's Avatar
    * Microsoft has created their own XBox Live app for iOS called My Xbox LIVE. It's very clean, very sleek and it loads pretty quickly. Friends list, messages (read/send them), set beacons, lists your achievements and compare to friends. You can also set your avatar, although you can only change what you've already unlocked--you can't purchase any new items off the marketplace. I love the animated, 3D representations of the avatars. If you're an XBox Live user, you must download this free app.