Ten Must-Have iPhone Apps... and More...

10/25/2009 - As someone who stood in line for the first iPhone... and the 2nd iPhone... and I now have a 3GS, I certainly consider myself one of Apple’s biggest fans. My company runs all Macs; we have over 30 servers running 24/7 today, in addition to development machines, a couple of laptops, and a half-dozen MacMinis that aren’t being used right now. I got my first Mac Plus in 1986, and it sits behind my desk today, still works, with a System 7 floppy in the drive slot [an interesting side-note: System 7 on the Mac, which was released May 13, 1991, did a lot of the things that Windows 7, released a few days ago, is finally able to do!].

Today I counted the apps on my iPhone; I have 105 apps installed. Of these, there are some I never use but keep around (map (I have GPS built into my Prius), compass, the original weather app, notes, and a few others). However, there are some that I consider brilliant in their simplicity or usefulness, and it is these that I want to list here.

1. Tripit - This is one of the newest apps on my iPhone, and my current favorite. Tripit is free, as is the companion web service; here’s how it works: whenever you book a flight, rent a car, or reserve a hotel room, you forward a copy of the confirmation email to Tripit at a special email address. They have the ability to parse dozens of different emails, from all sorts of companies, and automatically add the information from your email, right into your account.

Then, when you open Tripit, all of your information is there, grouped by trip; if you book a flight, rent a car, and reserve a hotel room, you’ll have separate entries for each of these, with a record for the departing and arriving flights, connecting flights, car rental and return dates, and hotel arriving and departing dates. It’s simplicity at its finest, and I love this service; even the stodgiest of iPhone owners, who rarely add anything to their devices (Ron, are you listening?) will appreciate this great app.

2. GroceryIQ - I go to the grocery store a lot, and quickly grew to love GroceryIQ’s simple interface. I entered in the names of each of the aisles in my favorite store, so that when I add items to my list, and then go to the store, I can follow my list logically from left to right, as I traverse the store and fill my cart. Great little app, and my favorite of the grocery-list apps, several of which I tried.

3. Tweetie - I’m a constant Twitter user, and in my opinion Tweetie is the best Twitter client for the iPhone; I have licenses to several others, but this is my favorite, and the new version is even more fun to use.

4. NetNewsWire - This is another free app, although there is a paid version as well. In one app, I can read the latest news from all my favorite sites; the screen swivels, allows you to read the news directly in their app or pop over to the actual news site (AppleInsider, for example); very nice, simple to set up and use. Highly recommended; I use this one almost daily.

5. Encamp - This is the best of the BaseCamp apps for the iPhone; it shows all of your projects and to-dos just as they are in BaseCamp, and simple to use. I tried a couple of others, which were very disappointing, but Encamp will please any BaseCamp user, I promise.

6. Things - The companion to the elegant Mac GTD app, Things is a great little app; it updates itself from your Mac app automatically whenever they’re both open, using your wireless. Very slick, elegant, a great app.

7. DirecTV - OK, you have to have a DirecTV dish to enjoy this, but with this great app, you can find shows and schedule them to be recorded, from anywhere. Sometimes when I’m stuck in line somewhere, or waiting to pick my son up from school, I browse upcoming movies on this app, and schedule them to record on one or all of my receivers at home. Free and a great little app.

8. Fluent News - This is another news aggregator that is slightly different from NetNewsWire; I use it to keep up with national and international news from sites like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Free, elegant, stable.

9. AroundMe - I love this free app; when you run it, it will show you restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, banks, stores, and so on, near you, and even show you a map to your selected destination. I’ve used it many times in other cities, and it’s a great app to have when you travel.

10. iStockManager - If you have any stocks and use Ameritrade, this is a great way to keep an eye on them; at a glance I can see my balances, positions, and get quotes; it’s very slick, password-protected, and a great app.


RingCentral - I use RingCentral VOIP (voice over IP), which I really love; I have the RingCentral iPhone app, which allows me to check and hear voice-mail on my iPhone, without having to call in. It’s very similar to iPhone’s visual voicemail, in that you can choose the voice-mail to hear. You can also call out from your iPhone using this app, and the callee will see not your iPhone number but your RingCentral number. Very slick.

Banking - This is a little app that lets me see my RegionsBank account information at a glance; I could never get Mint to work with my bank, so this is a great solution.

Amazon - I’m a huge Amazon customer; I buy books, software, and other things from them, and love their service. This free app allows me to make one-click purchases from Amazon, without typing in much at all. Since I’m an Amazon Prime customer too, I get 2-day shipping for free for almost all that I buy from Amazon too. If you’re an Amazon customer and don’t have Amazon Prime, you should; it’s a great deal.

Mifi - As a Mifi user, I like to know how much power I have left before a recharge; this free app lets me do that.

ZoomLens - What a great app! This gives you as much as 8x digital zoom with your iPhone camera, and works great. Sorry original iPhone and 3G owners, this only works with the 3GS.

AutoStitch - Another great camera app; this one allows you to do simple and wonderful panorama shots with your iPhone. For two dollars, this is a must-have.


No iPhone is complete without these three games, all of which I love:

Trism - one of the first and best iPhone games, Trism never gets boring. Elegant and well-designed, a great game.

Scrabble - Just like the original, a must for any wordsmith like me. I love this game.

FlightControl - This is such an addictive game; I’ve landed 106 planes so far, which is chickenfeed to dedicated FlightControl fans. I love this game; it’s my favorite.

That’s all for now; I’m sure I’ll update this list after a while, but if you’re looking to freshen up your iPhone, I think you’ll enjoy some of these.