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Cool iPhone apps

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2008

So, what are the cool must-have iPhone Apps? The iTunes Store lists the most popular ones but that’s often not a good indicator. Obvious choices thus far: Twitterific (read and post to Twitter), Remote (control iTunes or Apple TV with your iPhone), and AppEngines’ individual ebooks (like Pride and Prejudice). Let me know what your favorites are in the comments and I’ll compile a list. Bonus points if you actually explain what the app does and why it’s worth the effort.

Reader comments

Thomas EdwardsJul 10, 2008 at 1:14PM

Shazam has to be the best for those with a poor memory for the name of songs and artists. Hold your iPhone up to the speaker and it will identify the music! Normally this costs £1 ($2) via text, but it’s free for now! Get it while you can.

Michael CondourisJul 10, 2008 at 1:28PM

Try World 9 by Nao Tokui - you turn it on and walk around, and you make mario noises with every bounce. Free.

Ryan BriggsJul 10, 2008 at 1:29PM

NewsNetWire for RSS reading that syncs to NNW on your mac.
Mobile News Network for AP news articles.
Bloomberg for well presented financial info and news.

All free.

MattJul 10, 2008 at 1:31PM

I find myself using my iPhone as a temporary flashlight at times (like, coming home at night when I forgot to leave the porch light on and I can’t see the doorknob), so the Light application will be very useful.

I haven’t used it yet, but Urbanspoon looks like a great idea for deciding on a restaurant (especially for the indecisive types like me).

ktbJul 10, 2008 at 1:34PM

loopt looks really cool. from their description on itunes:

“loopt uses location technology to connect u to the world around u like never before. pinch, tap and drag an interactive map to find where ur friends are and what they r doing.”

i can see this being cool here in nyc where lots of people walk around. just click this app and see if any of ur friends are browsing around soho, union square, or wherever u happen to be.


Tim CroweJul 10, 2008 at 1:36PM

PhoneSaber. It turns your phone into a light saber. So much fun.

ryanJul 10, 2008 at 1:41PM

Where is the SSH client?

PJ DolandJul 10, 2008 at 1:56PM

I second the call for an ssh client. That’s the one thing I really need.

jhnJul 10, 2008 at 1:56PM

Evernote,
evernote,
evernote
, evernote.

JoshJul 10, 2008 at 2:13PM

If you live in NYC you should grab CityTransit ! It’s a subway guide which has the real MTA maps and a station finder that uses the GPS to tell you where the nearest stops are. Plus it’s just 3 bucks!

jkottkeJul 10, 2008 at 2:15PM

Thirding the SSH client. I wonder if Apple won’t allow such a thing for some reason? (Seems unlikely…I hope someone steps up with an app soon.)

Tops on my wish list is a very simple notes app that syncs with the web or an app on my machine. The gentleman above obviously likes Evernote but that looks like overkill.

wileyJul 10, 2008 at 2:21PM

I’m waiting for an ssh client, a midi controller (preferably with accelerometer as well as configurable onscreen buttons) and a last.fm app.

Derek K. MillerJul 10, 2008 at 2:22PM

Here’s my list of a dozen or so programs that caught my eye, purely from the screenshots and descriptions.

jhnJul 10, 2008 at 2:30PM

Ok, Evernote. Evernote is a service which syncs a local library of notes and whatnot to a web service. So you can access them online anywhere, but also through a variety of well-designed clients.

There have been a lot of note-taking apps before (Yojimbo etc), but none of them really nailed syncing.

I had been just syncing an idisk of text files— not ideal.

This is perfect for people who want to “live in text files”— it does a lot more for plain text but it’s the best way ever to just carry around a bunch of lists and reference docs.

It’s basically just really well executed.

Now, has anyone played around with an ebook reader? I want a general front end that can locally store and nicely display Project Gutenberg and other public domain etexts, and that 99 cent an ebook thing is a freaking scam if I’ve ever seen one.

JacobJul 10, 2008 at 2:32PM

Battle At Sea looks really well made and quite fun (if you are a fan of Battleship). It’s $3.99 but looks worth it. Multiplayer, of course!

Here’s the AppStore link.

Greg SchuelerJul 10, 2008 at 2:34PM

I blogged a list of what seem like good free apps.

jhnJul 10, 2008 at 2:58PM

Also, jason, I wouldn’t say that Evernote is really overkill UNLESS all you want is a non-sucky, basic replacement for Notes. It’s not like Devonthink or anything. The search features and the handwriting recognition (which happens on a server when you sync, not locally) are all pretty basic to the idea of just taking and syncing notes.

In addition to the ebook reader of my dreams, I would like vim. Thank you.

judson Jul 10, 2008 at 3:39PM

Light and Alarm free. I have a Touch.

MatthewJul 10, 2008 at 3:47PM

FileMagnet is a killer app for me. I can’t believe how useful the phone is now. There are other apps as well at the Magnet Apps site.

CeRoJul 10, 2008 at 3:50PM

Urbanspoon for sure. The slot machine like restaurant suggester (not official name) is awesome.

ColinJul 10, 2008 at 3:50PM

geezus, you want vim? I guess you could tap your way through that, but it’s not very ambitious-

C’mon man, it supports multi-touch! Why not ask for emacs!

I wish someone would port Delicious Monster to the iphone- can you imagine how convenient that would be?? You could go through the aisles of Blockbuster, scan everything that looks interesting, and keep a running list of “things I mean to see eventually”. Then maybe it checks cable listings and see when those movies are airing, and make a calendar entry? I’m a genius. Now quick, somebody go code that.

DanielJul 10, 2008 at 3:50PM

I’m waiting for the Last.fm MobileScrobbler to be available which, reportedly, should be soon. The neatest thing about it is that it “scrobbles” everything you hear to Last.fm, keeping track of your tops and favs with some neat charts thrown in. I’m stoked for possible upgrades coming from Last.fm beta.

Evernote will be sick for syncing notes. I’m sick of emailing stuff to myself :)

nickJul 10, 2008 at 4:07PM

G-Park looks like what I need nearly daily being the directional moron that I am. But I don’t see it on the App store, only on Posimotion’s website: http://www.posimotion.com/index.php?argv=gpark

NoraJul 10, 2008 at 4:12PM

@ Colin - try out Pocketpedia for setting up media collections on your iPhone. It’s a 1.0 release but we’re working on the scanning for the future.

Paul M. WatsonJul 10, 2008 at 4:37PM

Friend Book looks great, wirelessly share contacts between iPhones.

Mike SteinbaughJul 10, 2008 at 5:00PM

I’m looking forward to Things. It’s a GTD to do list manager.

Josh MishellJul 10, 2008 at 5:13PM

A bunch of apps look cool, but I can’t really decide if it’s worth losing my jailbroken apps to install these new guys…

The apps I like on the jailbroken phone are Twinkle, uSirius (a Sirius internet streaming radio), Snapture, and VideoRecorder.

Are there similar apps like this on the AppStore? I’m on the fence about this whole upgrading thing right now.

Any thoughts?

BrettJul 10, 2008 at 5:33PM

Re: Shazam.

I just tried it out and I am absolutely in love. It identifies songs from ~10 seconds of audio input on the mic. Then it saves the results in an easy to navigate list.

Hear a song on the radio you want to buy later? Shazam it!

MichaelJul 10, 2008 at 6:08PM

Shazam is great.

And so is the Jott app. Record voice messages, and a minute later they are turned into text. Really cool stuff.

I wish there was an app like the MLB one, but that covered all sports.

Josh MishellJul 10, 2008 at 6:27PM

like an ESPN application? they should hop on that.

i could see tons of easy access to player stats, highlights, and a bunch of other things.

josh

Jeff CroftJul 10, 2008 at 6:36PM

Michael and Josh:

Check out SportsTap. It’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, and it does cover all sports. Totally agree that ESPN needs to make an app.

Alex MahanJul 10, 2008 at 7:37PM

The demo of the upcoming last.fm app looks really impressive: Preview on Vimeo

Stephen GlauserJul 10, 2008 at 9:29PM

I think Loopt is pretty much a must have for those who actually have other friends with iPhones, Blackberrys and the like. 3G tomorrow!

JosiahJul 10, 2008 at 11:19PM

To all the evernote fans it is already in the app store:
http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=281796108&mt=8

I went to check it out and their site has a giant iPhone app button:
http://evernote.com/about/download/iphone/

RufusJul 11, 2008 at 1:03PM

Here’s my Day 1 list of free downloads I liked:
Cube Runner (I also paid for Monkey Ball which is cool too)
Google Reader
ShoZu
Epocrates Rx
Morocco
NY Times
Shazam
Remote
Evernote
CheckWord
Lifecast
Scratch
Exposure

jhnJul 11, 2008 at 4:39PM

I paid for Nullsoft Tuner, Crosswords, Monkey Ball, Bomberman, Enigmo.

Free stuff is great, but you can play with it on your own time.

Lots still being added— like I’d check back, and there is new stuff.

jonJul 11, 2008 at 5:40PM

definitely look up splashID, really useful app. Basically a secure database for all your login information.
Also highly recommended are splashdata’s other apps, SplashMoney and SplashShopper, personal finance and list managers, respectively.

RubenJul 11, 2008 at 7:23PM

AOL Radio! Comes with a ton of internet and terrestrial stations (the latter via CBS Radio). Quality is good and it works on 3G/EDGE/WiFi.

HilaryeJul 11, 2008 at 9:47PM

I’m totally excited about the travel Apps- as you can see from my newest blog post- the one I am going to try out this weekend is the Urbanspoon App. I love the idea of it being able to locate where you are via GPS and help identify restaurants close to you- but the part that’s really cool is it’s like a slot machine and you shake your phone to change options and pandora that will be cool to have

Michael SJul 12, 2008 at 3:04PM

Motion X Poker. Its a Poke dice game that uses the accelerometer to shake the dice. Great physics model and lots of incentives like new dice and higher wager tables. Beautiful design, simple to learn, and highly addictive.

Super Monkey Ball is pretty, but very hard to control.

Mindy McAdamsJul 13, 2008 at 1:26AM

Tops on my wish list is a very simple notes app that syncs with the web or an app on my machine. The gentleman above obviously likes Evernote but that looks like overkill.

The Zenbe List app looks like this — really simple and straight-up. Stored on the Web at http://www.zenbe.com/

I tried it out and liked it.

jhnJul 13, 2008 at 1:49PM

Yikes, I apologize for recommending Evernote. IT STINKS.

No editing of notes from phone.

No offline access to notes, and no intention to ever add that feature. (You know, the whole point of having a native app in the first place.)

No ability to even READ notes on your phone in a legible way— the text is tiny and doesn’t reflow.

What a stinker. I am currently migrating all of my data from Evernote into Mail.app (for little lists and such, you can view these easily through iPhone mail), and I intend to use Jott for mobile capture.

scottJul 13, 2008 at 11:56PM

urban spoon was totally innacurate in my area, made me not trust the app for travel so i removed it. It told me restraunts were close (less than 1 mile) that where a lot further than that, actually in another city all together sometimes.

I am in vancouver bc, maybe its better in the US.

Kris KJul 14, 2008 at 2:51PM

http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/1342

Here is an ebook version that is FREE

justinJul 14, 2008 at 4:14PM

pandora is awesome, i almost dont need my own Mp3s with that application

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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