iPhone

The 20 best and most useful iPhone apps

Take advantage of the top benefits that mobile computing has to offer with this list of 20 highly useful iPhone apps.

Mobile apps have become an embarrassment of riches for iPhone and Android. In a world with over 500,000 iPhone apps and over 250,000 Android apps, the toughest part is finding the most useful stuff.

I'm going to throw you an assist by sharing my top 20 (this is an update of my my 2010 iPhone list and my iPhone apps list from earlier this year. I've also recently updated my top picks for Android smartphone apps. My iPhone picks are all third-party apps that can help you be more productive, streamline regular activities, reduce the number of gadgets in your life, and take advantage of the top benefits that mobile computing has to offer.

Slideshow

The best way to view my picks is the slideshow of screenshots, but if you don't like slideshows you can view entire list below.

1. Camera+

The iPhone has developed into a strong platform for photography. The iPhone camera sensors keep getting better and better and the software is solid. But, one of the things that really makes the iPhone great as a camera is the wealth of excellent photography apps. There are a slew of great apps to replace the native Apple camera app and there are also a ton of excellent photo editing apps so that you can do all of your editing right on the iPhone. Camera+ combines both into an app that combines pro-level powers with excellent ease of use. I've written about why I prefer iPhone to Android for photography and the reasons I use Camera+ to replace the native iPhone app.

2. Things

I've tried a lot of different to-do lists and task organizers on the iPhone, but the one I grudgingly prefer is Things. I say grudgingly because it's the most expensive ($9.99) and it doesn't sync well with the web or other machines. Still, it's the best app I've found for managing and tracking tasks and I eventually came to the conclusion that I didn't need to sync my tasks to every device since my phone is the one device that's always with me. If you want to sync, then I'd recommend 2Do.

3. BeejiveIM

This is another app that I grudgingly put on the list even though it is the most expensive app in its category, but it can get away with it because it's the best. BeejiveIM is an instant messaging client that can sign you into all of the leading IM clients, including AOL, Yahoo, Facebook, MSN, Jabber, and GoogleTalk. The UI is good and the app works well, but the killer feature is integration with iOS push notifications, so that you get pinged on your phone when someone is sending you an IM. This works well and surprisingly it isn't a battery life killer.

4. Analytics App

Inexplicably, Google doesn't have an official app (for either iPhone or Android) for Google Analytics. The best one I've found to go deep into all of the data is Analytics App.

5. Ego

Even better than Analytics App for a quick-glance dashboard is Ego. It shows basic data from Google Analytics as well as a bunch of other sources, including Squarespace, Twitter, and Feedburner.

6. Instagram

As mentioned above, the camera and photo apps on the iPhone are now good enough to replace a point-and-shoot camera. You can even take pictures that are worthy of saving in your family albums. For those, I upload them to Flickr using the iPhone app. For the everyday photos that I just want to quickly post on social media, I use Instagram. It is very quick, dead simple to use, and very social media friendly. But, do me a favor and go easy on the filters. They are badly overused by most Instagram users. Plenty of good photos need no filter at all.

7. Dropbox

Dropbox is a great cloud service that automatically syncs a folder of files between multiple computers (Windows, Mac, or Linux). This app extends Dropbox to the iPhone and includes a built-in reader within the app for PDFs, image files, and Microsoft Office files.

8. Evernote

Once you get used to typing on a virtual keyboard (and it honestly took me over a year to do it), then these devices are great for note taking, and Evernote is a great note taking app. It is similar to Dropbox in that it saves data locally but syncs it across all your machines and devices.

9. Tripit

I love Tripit. It is by far the best app I've found for keeping track of all my travel itineraries. It is powered by some excellent backend systems. You simply forward your confirmation emails (or use the Gmail plugin to do it automatically) for your flights, hotels, rental cars, and more to Tripit and it automatically organizes them into trips with all your details and confirmation numbers.

10. Reeder

Twitter has largely replaced RSS for me for finding and filtering the latest news. However, I still track some RSS feeds and the best tool I've found to do it with is Reeder. It syncs with Google Reader so it's easy to flip between the mobile app and the desktop, plus the app lets you share to Twitter (and Facebook) and save to Instapaper and ReadItLater.

11. Amazon Kindle

I've never fully warmed up to the Amazon Kindle e-reader, but I'm a big fan of the Kindle iPhone app. Since it was released I've read a lot more books simply because my phone is always with me and I can pull it out and read a few pages anytime I've got a couple minutes free. Alternatives: NookiBooks, and Kobo.

12. Audible

As much as I like the Kindle ebooks, I actually consume more books as audiobooks via Audible. In the past you could download these and sync them via iTunes. But Audible now has its own app, which lets you connect to your Audible library and download over the air, and even gives you a self-contained player optimized for audiobooks.

13. Podcaster

Sure, you can use iTunes and the built-in iPod app to listen to podcasts, but if you're an avid podcast listener (I regularly follow This Week in Tech, Buzz Out Loud, and Tech News Today) then the app Podcaster offers a better experience. You can download over the air (so that you don't have to constantly sync to a computer to get the latest episodes), you can skip forward and backward 30 seconds, you can increase playback speed to 1.5 times normal speed, and the app is even compatible with AirPlay.

14. TED

The TED conferences feature a meeting of the minds of some of society’s most influential thinkers. You’ll disagree with some of them since there’s a large diversity of viewpoints, but many talks are worth listening to in order to catch the latest creative thinking on society’s biggest challenges. The cool thing is that they’ve taken the videos from the conference and made them freely available on the Web. The TED app provides a great way to access the videos on a mobile device, and they release new TED talks as videos every work. They are short (usually 5-20 minutes) and almost always inspirational.

15. Pano

Pano makes it easy to take excellent panoramas with the iPhone. It helps you line up your shots and it automatically corrects many of the imperfections. My wife is a photographer with a big, expensive Nikon camera and she's regularly jealous of some of the shots I can get with the iPhone and Pano. (By the way, Android is looking to take panoramas to the next level with the new continuous panorama mode in Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich.")

16. Twitter

The official Twitter app is still the best Twitter client on iPhone (although Osfoora is catching up). Twitter itself is an amazing instant-intelligence engine. Two other great social media apps for iPhone are Google+ and Foursquare.

17. Navigon Mobile Navigator

I used to carry a separate Garmin GPS unit for turn-by-turn directions but I eventually got rid of it and decided to just use the iPhone instead. In researching the various apps, I eventually decided on NAVIGON, which is a company that makes a lot of the built-in navigation systems for many cars. Tip: Make sure your iPhone is plugged in to power when you run a GPS navigation program like this because otherwise it will quickly drain your battery.

18. Where To?

A great companion to a GPS system is the app "Where To?" which lets you quickly look up various types of shops and services, from Cuban restaurants to medical specialists to animal hospitals to local museums and much more. Two other great resources are Google's Places app and iExit, which shows you the restaurants, gas stations, and stores at upcoming exits when you're driving on an interstate highway (in the U.S.).

19. GroceryGadget

This is an app plus a website and you can quickly sync between the two. The way it usually works for me is that my wife makes a grocery list, enters it into grocerygadgets.com, and then it syncs to my iPhone so that I can swing by the grocery store and pick up the stuff.

20. RedLaser

This is a great app for shoppers. It turns the iPhone camera into a barcode scanner and it's pretty accurate. You simply scan a product's UPC code and let the app go to work to find it in Google Product Search and TheFind. For food it will even look up allergen information and for books it will scan to see if you can get it in a local library. You'll be amazed at how fast it works. A similar product is SnapTell, which not only scans barcordes but you can also take a picture of the cover of a book or DVD and it can look them up that way. These apps are great when you're shopping at a retail store and want to check the prices of products online before buying. It also reads QR codes.

Also read

Your picks?

What are your picks for the most useful, valuable, and productive iPhone apps? Post them in the discussion below.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

19 comments
erikorona
erikorona


The World Wide Web has proliferated in our daily lives through emails and social platforms. Competition abodes on every threshold. And, the new youth has gone famished for the information. So, we just cannot afford to lose the track of what’s new!


srijan01
srijan01

i love to use instaglass app to edit my photos...it works wonderfully.

Murtini Nguyen
Murtini Nguyen

Iphone very useful with me. Beside 20 best and most useful Iphone app. I have more to keep business card forever You can visit Cardfila.com to know more

IT Support23
IT Support23

Great list indeed. I actually preferred much cheaper apps than the ones that are expensive. I personally liked the camera, GPS and grocery gadget list, evidently useful for my daily routines. :)

notso
notso

It is all well and good to say such n such ap is great for photos but until IPhone camera hardware catches up with other phones it really does not mean much

mrsmurawski
mrsmurawski

Balance - works just like your paper checkbook, only easier.

Mike E CPT
Mike E CPT

WhatsApp allows instant messaging between multiple phone types, like iPhone, BB, Nokia, Android. Everyone needs to load the app though (which is free) An essential in my book!

0waste
0waste

Waze is a free GPS Navigation app with whole bunch of features. its amazing. save your time by auto rerouting you away from traffic.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

Photo Synth. WAY easier to create pano-type photos.

watsonea4
watsonea4

I'm curious as to why BeejiveIM is better than Trillian because Trillian has all the features you pointed out and it's free. Even better, when at my desk, I can use my desktop Trillian and if I'm going to leave I just open it on my phone and continue what I'm doing. I get push alerts when I'm not paying attention or when the app is closed but logged in and I haven't noticed any significant battery drain when it's logged in.

nwallette
nwallette

- NetPortal for CIFS/SMB access - iSSH for SSH (and more) - Briefcase for SFTP If you have a compatible VPN or remote SFTP access to your data, these are great for grabbing music you haven't transferred via iTunes, or last minute (or forgotten) documents you need to access, etc..

padapa
padapa

With over a quarter million apps out there, how did you come down to this list ... it's most likely based on what you do with your iPhone ... I can only agree with about 3 of them. The top 20 is a very personal list for each user, based on what they do with their phone. Lazy journalism to say the least.

muto
muto

DropBox on line storage totally rocks! It is a seemless way to transfer data between your iPhone, PC, Mac, Linux, or whatever. And instead of the usual 2gb of free storage you can get 2.25gb of free storage by signing up using this referal link: http://db.tt/xecIguL

databall
databall

...Omnifocus costs $19.99

Animal13
Animal13

I have come to love the Map app that is already on your phone. Not only will it provide directions, its a great local whatever finder. Just type "Starbucks" and it puts pins in for all the local Starbucks. It even understands things like coffee, etc. and finds the local coffee shops. I know its not an app you download but it really is worth including in best apps...

wmikema
wmikema

look at the comments and rating in App store, how come you come this kind of list?! are you kidding?! I can not help to post my 1st ever post! Just a sample about Navigon Mobile Navigator app for $60: Customer Reviews Worst update on the app store by Emily Williams Well, with this app being bought out by one of the 'big guns" of navigation, it should have been expected, but nonetheless, when I paid for this app it was with the understanding that the map updates were free for life. Now guess what? They're not...and the new company has the STONES to tout this as a FEATURE on the update description. I've had this app since it came out and was very loyal to it, but once the update came out, I IMMEDIATELY went to the Tom Tom app and so far am much happier. Like the others here I thought my favorites and recents had been wiped out. I stumbled across something that MAY fix it. Put your home address in before restoring or starting over from scratch. That seemed to work for me. I have all my favorites and recents back after that. However, once I get more used to the Tom Tom app, I, like the reviewers before me, will be writing this one off. If you're going to purchase a company, know and honor the best practices agreements they'd had in place with their customers; let ye be run out of business. I work with over 4,000 people that utilize cars to find destinations for their job assignments every day. I will be warning them of the nature of this app as it now stands. ...More I was just robbed by Douglas Otto I bought Navigon when it first came out for $89. It promised free map upgrades; something it always provided until Garmin bought them. Now, I have to pay $15 per year to get back something I already had. I guess it's time to put CoPilot back on my device. Charging for something that used to be included is sleazy. This, Garmin, is why your original app failed. Now you've set out to ruin Navigon as well. Thanks for nothing. ...More What did you do???? by Strayyycat This is the first review I have ever written for an app. I have always used Navigon as my nav app of choice and have raved about it to everyone who has ever asked. I am my local geek so people listen.

Jensen G
Jensen G

Good list, I love Things as well for my to-do (and their cloud sync is in beta, hopefully will finish up soon to fix that last Achilles Heel). And remember, don't be grudging just because an app has a higher price tag???for the high-quality apps, there's a good reason???quality costs money!