The 20 best iPhone apps of 2011 for productive geeks

Jason Hiner offers his top picks for iPhone apps that can help you work smarter and improve your productivity.

11. 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.

12. Photoshop Mobile

Photoshop is, of course, the best known photo editor in the world and its mobile app doesn't do anything to hurt that reputation. But while the desktop version is known for having a zillion features, the mobile app is distinguished by its simplicity. It's the best iPhone photo editing app for simple crops, brightness adjustments, and sharpens, for example. However, once editing is built into the native Camera app in iOS5, editors such as Photoshop Mobile may quickly become unnecessary.

13. 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.

14. Instagram

The camera and camera app on the iPhone are now good enough to replace a point-and-shoot. 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, while 90% of photos are better with no filter at all.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. RunKeeper

This is a great little app that can save you from buying a pedometer. It uses the iPhone's GPS to track the miles you've run or walked, and it compiles the data into some nice dashboards that you can view on your phone or on RunKeeper's website.

18. Nutrition Menu

Another app for all of you health-conscious geeks out there is Nutrition Menu. This thing is a mobile compendium of nutritional data. It has calorie information on common foods and most major restaurants, and it has calorie-burning information for many types of exercises. It also allows you to track your daily weigh-ins and makes notes on your progress.

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, 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 quite 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.

Your picks?

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