Recommended iPhone Apps
The following is our list of recommended apps for your iPhone or iPod Touch. Some of the apps listed below are 'web apps'. These are not apps that are not installed on your device but, are simply a desktop icon that acts as a bookmark to a web page. The apps have been split into the following categories:
- Home Entertainment
- News & Weather
- Social Networking
- Travel & Navigation
- TV & Film
- Apple Apps
I prefer the openess and the synchronisation features of the Kindle eBook app from Amazon over Apple's offering. It works seamlessly with a Kindle device if you have one.
Viber is an app that came out for the iPhone in late 2010 and has become hugely popular very quickly. It's a VOIP app that competes with the likes of Skype but, it doesn't require an account. Registration is acheived using your mobile phone number (validated by an SMS message) and people with your phone number in their contacts are informed automatically, via the Viber app. This last bit is very clever as it saves users having to manage friends.
Another clever feature of Viber is that it provides a user interface that is identical to the existing iPhone in-built contacts app (in purple), so that no real learning is required by the user base.
The app also runs seamlessly in the background once started and from our tests, appears to have no detrimental impact on battery life. It acheives this by using notifications in a very clever way. If you call someone and they don't have the Viber app running, it falls back to the mobile phone network to reach them and thus their voice mail if they don't answer.
The app gives you free calling to other Viber contacts over IP network connections and works over both Wi-Fi and 3G. An android version is due out in March 2011, along with messaging functionality and presumably video chat at some point in the future. Ringtones, wall papers and location based services are also planned. The latest version also added call quality indicators.
Although not officially supported yet, we have also managed to get this app working on the iPod Touch devices that our children have by using the phone number of their existing mobile phones (not Smartphones). This means that they can make and receive voice calls on their iPods with other Viber users. This same approach has also been shown to work on an iPad. The call quality is very good and has been improving as some intial bugs have been ironed out.
In summary, this is one very clever app. So clever in fact that I can see Apple removing it from the Apps Store in the future. With video added to it, it would effectively make FaceTime redundant. Watch this space!
We use Skype a lot, especially whilst abroad and connected to Wi-Fi. It provides the ability to do both voice and video chat over IP network connections and the call quality is very good. One of its key strengths is the ability to call any number in the UK using the Skype 'break out' service. This is chargeable and requires prepaid credit on your account but the call rates back to the UK are extremely cheap.
Sipgate is a SIP / VOIP provider in the UK and this app is a SIP client that allows you to make calls using your Sipgate credentials. We use this at home in parallel with our PSTN phone line and dual-mode PSTN/SIP DECT handsets.
The offical National Lottery app loosely falls into the finance category. It's not brilliant but it is a convenient way to track your numbers if you use the same ones each week.
We are not huge fans of the PayPal service but it is required if you use eBay. This app allows you to send payments and more importnatly check your account to make sure everything is OK. It provides a fast PIN-based access method, to protect your account should someone get hold of your phone.
Doodle God is a brilliant, family friendly puzzle game where you have to combine 'elements' to create new things. It's challenging and a good test of your memory and creativity.
I love this game. It's a 3D virtual world, 'shoot em up' game where you can play others on-line or other player local to you via Bluetooth. The graphics are awesome and it was updated in later 2010 to support the iPhone 4 'retina display'. They are two main modes of playing; capture the flag or death match. This is a brillaint example of the iPhone / iPod Touch as a gaming platform.
Plants Versus Zombies
This is a 'must have' game. It's my current favourite. Just get it.
I don't need to say anything about this game. It's just massive on many gaming platforms now.
A real test of skill and co-ordination. Very addictive. In this game you have to manage the landing of planes and helicopters onto several runways without causing collisions. Sounds eaasy but they travel at different speeds, space it tight and you have to juggle many planes. Very addictive.
Crush The Castle
A game of skills where you have to destroy castles with ancient weapons. Addictive.
Mathematical and engineering challenge to get gearing systems working. A real game of skill, very addictive and appeals to everyone.
It is very hard to describe this game but it is very good.
Very hard to describe this game. You will love it though. Basically, you have to drag similar (and moving) shapes together on a grid before any of the shapes collide. It starts easy but gets harder and harder.
Geo Defense Swarm
One of the best 'tower' games. Very addictive and recently updated for the iPhone 4 'retina display'. One of the earliest games I bought and still played often.
THE most addictive game on the iPhone and iPod.
The Google app is a gateway to all of Google's services and is an essential app on the iPhone. It provides text and voice searching, calendar, docs, news, etc.
Cam Viewer is the best app we've come across that lets you access your netcams whilst away from home. It interfaces to a wide range of cams and provides a nice thumbnail view too.
Also check out the Apple apps.
AirView (iTunes link) uses Apple's AirPlay technology and turns your iPhone or iPod into a target device for music and video. We can't see a whole load of uses for this free app but, if you want to play iTunes content on a portable device without synching it or want to play from your library onto someone elses device, then this app can do it for you.
Plug Player is a DLNA Media Controller and allows you to access content libraries on DLNA Servers (e.g. a NAS) and then play it on a DLNA Media Renderer (e.g. WD TV Live). Although not currently AirPlay enabled, it can use connections left open by other apps to play content on Apple TV.
Travel & Navigation
Star Walk is just an amazing app. It uses the compass and gyro to provide a view of the night sky in front of you, with all the stars and objects from our solar system displayed on screen as you move you view. You can also search for objeccts in the night sky and zoom in and out. It is even possible to change the view in time.
Off Maps is an application that allows you to pre-cache maps on your iPhone, for access when not connected to the network. I have used it whilst abroad and within the UK. It has got us out of some tricky situations when on holiday abroad.
Speed is a really simple, useful and cheap (at 59p) app, to display your current speed. It is optimised for the iPhone 4 display and was developed by Steve Troughton-Smith. It uses the in-built GPS capability of the iPhone 4 to provide an accurate display which updates about once a second. Personally, this app would work better for me if it just displayed the current speed as an integer and did away with any decimal places.
Trails is a GPS location logging application, to record journeys with mapping data. We use this whilst skiing, mountain biking and general cycling.
The Google Earth app allows you to navigate the globe on your iPhone. It uses GPS to position you and a lot of network bandwidth, so best used over Wi-Fi. It is invaluable for checking out holiday destinations before you book.
This app provides access to thousands of Internet radio stations around the world. It's a great way to catch up with sports events that occur whilst you are at work :-)
Shazam is an app that listens to your environment and uses clever technology to identify tracks playing and then provides you with information about the track. It's quite amazing and works in pubs, clubs the car, etc.
Spotify is a music streaming service that provides access to pretty much any track. Spotify provide three grades of service, from free to premium subscription. The Spotify app only works if you have a premium subscription account.
As well as access to an enormous catalogue of music at any time, the app allows you to cache songs on you iOS device, so that you can play them when you are not connected to a network. It's simply a fantastic way to discover new music and you can also buy tracks through Spotify.
News & Weather
We really like this app! It provides a much more comprehensive view of the weather than others we have used. It is miles better than the native weather app. It detailled daily and hourly forecasts and also provides radar and satellite maps. It was recently updated to support the iPhone 4 'retina display'. It is definately worth the price and the data subscription costs (an in-app purchase).
This is a pretty good app from a content perspective and better than the mobile website. It is a bit slow to load and does not appear to be particularly efficient or reliable though.
This app provides a view of your photos and those of your friends on the Flickr service. You need a subscription to use it. It will be a lot better if it gets AirPlay enabled.
Whilst the iPhone native camera app introduced HDR capability, it doesn't even get close to this apps ability to capture stunning images.
This app uses the iPhone camera to scan barcodes on products and then looks up information on the Internet about the item and prices from various suppliers. It doesn't always work for all products but it's pretty good. This app has saved me a fortune, so can easily justify its purchase price. If you scan products whilst in shops, you can quickly see if the prices are reasonable.
This app is similar to the RightMove website and allows you to look for properties and land for sale.
The Amazon App is a much easier way to shop on-line than trying to use their mobile website.
The eBay App lets you buy and track items you are selling via this app. You can also manage your account and read and respond to messages.
We like this app but, we are also not sure why. It basically allows you to 'check-in' to films and TV programmes and links to both Facebook and Twitter. You can add comments and make ratings and recommendations. Useful features are that it provides a stream of what your friends are up to and also provides recommendations of other stuff you might like to see.
We initially used this app a lot and spent a good 6 months evaluating it. We then concluded that there wasn't much point in checking into all the places you visit and trying to become mayor of places. We have yet to find a special offer in the UK that justifies doing this either. With the arrival of the Facebook Places service it became even less relevant.
That said, we still use it to check-in to odd places. The main reasons being that you can link it to Facebook and Twitter and it seems to support a much wider range of venues than Facebook Places does. Essentially, we are using it to augment Facebook Places and to bridge into Twitter when we want to expose a check-in more publically.
We have used various Twitter iPhone apps, both free and paid for. This is the best of them all in our opinion and has lots of features and is easiest to use. It is particularly good at handling multiple Twitter accounts.
This is the offical Facebook iPhone app and provides a good set of features. There are still some things that you need to do via the Facebook website but, more and more features are being added all the time.
Qype is a service for finding recommended pubs, restaurants, shops, etc. Our use of this service has tailed off in recent months but it is a useful app, when you are away from home.
This is a location sharing application that spans the Android / iOS divide. Up until quite recently it was a web app only on iOS devices but in late 2010 it became a proper iPhone app. It's great for sharing your location on an accurate and regular basis with friends and family. Because it works on a wide range of devices, it's more likely to be used by your friends. It's really handy for meeting up in pubs, etc. You can control who you share your location with, when and with what accuracy. You can switch off backgrounf location sharing and just do manual location updates if you want.
Do be aware of the privacy implications of applications like this! If you leave it running, those people you have trusted will be able to track your location very accurately.
We only really use this for work. It's pretty much removed the need to visit the LinkedIn website.
Premier League Sportacular
There are a lot of sports apps servicing football fans but this is the best of the free ones we have found so far. It covers the Premier League only but, they do separate apps for other leagues. It provides fixtures, tables, news and information on clubs. You can also tag your favourite club(s) and set up alerts.
DropBox is a cloud storage service with a fantastic PC experience and a really good iPhone app. The basic service is free but limited to 2Gb of cloud storage. You have to pay a monthly subscription for more storage but the whole user experience and quality of the service is very good.
The 3G Test app allows you to test both your 3G and Wi-Fi network connections in terms of speed and other capabilities.
The iNet app is an incredibly useful tool for analysing your local network. It allows you to see what devices are connected and reachable, what services they expose, etc.
TV & Film
This app only makes sense if you have a LOVEFiLM account. It then allows you to manage your rental lists, search for films and view trailers. Because you iPhone is always likely to be handy, we find this the best way to do list management.
This web app allows you to catch up on BBC TV content (UK only for now).
TV Catchup is a web app that allows you to watch live TV (there is a few seconds delay) on your iPhone or iPod. It streams over both Wi-Fi and 3G networks (the latter will use up you 3G allowance very quickly). It provides access to all of the terrestrial Freeview channels.
TV guide is an app that provides an EPG for your chosen TV provider or service. You can customise the channel set used and view up to seven days in advance.
IMDb is an app that provides access to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). This is great reference tools for finding films, searching for actors, etc. It also lets you view film trailers and reviews.
This is the well known video player app and PC application. It was recently pulled from the Apple Store due to licensing issues. It basically allows you to load video files in many formats not supported by Apple and play them on your iPhone. In this respect it is amazingly useful as you can just load TV series, films, etc. from many sources onto your iPhone to watch. On the iPhone 4 it can render content up to 720p (depending on encoding) and play it back smoothly.
If this app comes back into the Apps Store then get it! It's free and really useful. With AirPlay support it will be brilliant.
The iPhone 4 app can render YouTube 1080p video clips. Quality of the picture is deeply impressive and over our FTTP connection, streams perfectly. The native app has been superceded by a web app that more closely mirrors the new website. This support personalisation and other features associated with a Youtube account.
There isn't an iPhone app for Vimeo yet but its worth a mention because you can upload and share HD videos on this service. From an iPhone you get given an email address to email videos to, to upload them. This is much like the service Facebook provides and I use it a lot because emails can be sent in the background.
This is another application that benefits from the higher resolution screen. Web sites like the main BBC News site can now be read without resulting to the mobile version, especially so when displayed in landscape mode.
It's a shame it doesn't support web apps running in the background. I'd like to leave web apps like Google Latitude running in the background.
Interestingly, when you search for the iMovie app on an iPhone 3GS, it doesn't come back in the search results. The reason for this became apparent when I followed a web link to install it. The app is not compatible with the iPhone 3GS and only works on the iPhone 4. It costs £2.99. I also tried to search on my iPhone 4 and couldn't see it in the search results :-(
This is the default app I use for video editing, so I was pleased to see it out for the iPhone 4.
Nice guide by Mashable on how to use iMovie.