Favorite iPhone Apps

Okay, Mike Schinkel has been assimilated. Good work, all!

I sent him a list of “must-have” iPhone applications, he tweeted about it, and now people are asking what’s on my list.

I don’t claim any special insight or wisdom here, but having spent more than the purchase price of my iPhone in the iTunes Apps Store over the last five months, this is what works for me.


First off, my first Home screen. (Which, in case you didn’t know it, is now easily accessible from any of the nine possible Home screens… press the “Home” button once to get to the grid of applications, then press it again to go to the first screen on the grid. So this is where you should put the stuff you use most often.)

Apple standard

Seven of my “first Home” applications, plus two on the menu bar at the bottom of the screen, are Apple standard: Text, Photos, Maps, Camera, Phone, Clock, Settings, Email, and Safari. Enough said about those.

Ten more of the standard apps didn’t make the cut, and they’re relegated to another screen: iPod, iTunes, App Store, Stocks, Contacts, YouTube, Notes, Weather, Calendar, and Calculator.

The first four of those I use only rarely; your mileage may vary. Contacts usually gets launched from the Phone application, and YouTube usually gets launched from within Safari, so they don’t get top billing. The last four have been replaced by more capable third-party apps (see below).

Free Apps

  • Google Mobile App — if you haven’t tried it yet, you don’t know what you’re missing. Ought to be burned into every iPhone’s ROM.
  • GTLogin — only relevant if you’re on the Georgia Tech campus. If you’re on campus, and haven’t downloaded GTlogin, make that your next step.
  • WeatherBug — way more detail than Apple’s (admittedly pretty) app. Now uses the GPS to know your current location!
  • Zenbe — One of a zillion to-do list managers. This one is simple, free, and syncs nicely with the Web client.
  • Evernote — I can’t understand how this app can be free. A vastly more powerful replacement for the Notes app, but this can include photos, voice recordings, etc. Automatic OCR of photographs is incredibly cool; I suspect some low-wage English-speakers in India or China are chained to their workstations to type whatever they read in your photos, but I honestly don’t know. Synchronizes with an equally powerful client on your Mac or PC (or on the Web). A recent release permits local storage, so that you can access favorite notes offline. I don’t think I scratch the surface of Evernote, but it’s wonderful.
  • Quotations — Alright, I’m biased, because I wrote this one. It’s a Web app, not a standalone App Store app, but I like it. It’s free! Try it at http://tr.im/ipquote!

Commercial Apps

  • Twittelator Pro — There are at least half a dozen Twitter clients for the iPhone; I’ve paid for at least four of them. I like the feature set of Twittelator Pro, it’s fast, it’s stable, and the developer added two features because I asked nicely. Instant brand loyalty! Well worth five bucks.
  • PCalc — Sorry, but my brain only works in RPN. Comes from being a Georgia Tech student in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’ve downloaded at least five RPN calculators for the iPhone, have paid for a couple, and I keep coming back to PCalc. (I’ve used PCalc on my Mac for years. I was so confident in James Thomson’s abilities that I actually paid $10 for PCalc on July 10th, even though I didn’t get my iPhone 3G until the next day! Yes, I paid for software that I couldn’t install or run. It’s that good.)
  • SplashID — I use a new randomly-generated password for every Website that I visit. So I need a secure place to keep them. I have paid for both 1Password and SplashID. Both have their good points. At the moment, the $10 SplashID retains its slot on my first Home page, while 1Password is on the second page. Take that for what it’s worth.
  • Favorites — A simple $2 application that lets you store 4, 9, or 16 photographs, then associate phone, SMS, and email addresses with each. A single tap connects you; a double-tap lets you choose your connection. This should have been built into the iPhone OS.
  • SaiSuke — I have my entire life loaded into multiple Google Calendars. Before SaiSuke was released, I had a complicated sync path (Google Calendar to Spanning Sync to iCal to Mobile Me to iPhone); any failures along the way would cause my iPhone to have out-of-date information. Since those “failures” included simple things like my Mac being turned off or asleep, this wasn’t reliable. Now, SaiSuke is a native iPhone app that is a Google Calendar client! One wireless connection, one button press, and items created on my laptop and items created on my iPhone are in sync. I expect Apple to eventually duplicate this functionality, but for now, SaiSuke is well worth $10.

eBook Readers

I have found myself reading a lot of eBooks on my iPhone. I have four readers installed:

  • Stanza
  • eReader
  • BookZ
  • BookshelfLT

All four have advantages and disadvantages. Stanza has the most responsive developer. eReader is the only choice for encrypted books from eReader.com and Fictionwise.com. I could probably survive with just those two. BookZ has some nicer control options, and BookshelfLT integrates best with the Baen online library.

Other Goodies

Other apps that are too good to ignore, but who didn’t fit into my first Home screen—in alphabetical order:

  • AcidSolitaire
  • Bloomberg
  • CastCatcher
  • CubicMan
  • Dynolicious
  • FiveDice
  • Flixster
  • Google Earth
  • GoSky Watch
  • i.TV
  • Infopedia
  • Instapaper
  • Loopt
  • MotionX Poker
  • Pandora
  • Q Contacts
  • ShoZu
  • SmugShot
  • SonicLighter
  • SplashShopper
  • Thereminator
  • YPmobile (although, honestly, Google Mobile probably replaces this now)

Most of these are cheap or free.

So, that’s my list. What’s yours?

July 2009 Update

Six months later, I’ve made a few changes.

Georgia Tech has improved its GTwireless login (letting you have the option of logging in a device only once every fifteen days), and the students responsible for GTLogin have apparently moved on to other things.

Stanza can now read encrypted eReader files, so I don’t need the standalone eReader app anymore.

I am now using Tweetie instead of Twittelator Pro (although both apps are very good, as is BirdFeed… you really can’t go wrong with any of them).

As suggested by Richard Evans in comments, I’m now using The Weather Channel app instead of WeatherBug.

Although I remain a huge fan of PCalc, the folks at Infinity Softworks have pushed it off of my home screen with FastFigures.

And, of course, the big change is that Google Calendars can now sync with the native iPhone Calendar using ActiveSync; this makes SaiSuke unnecessary.

I wonder what will happen in the next six months?


  1. Michael Mealling says

    I’m somewhat of a neophyte so I don’t have many of the ones you do. But @tessa turned me on to “Lose It!”. Its a weight loss tool that logs food intake (nice database of restaurants and food types), exercise, and actual weigh ins.

    I used Pandora to create my own radio station that got me from Lakeland, FL to Atlanta without a single hickup. Radio is dead. So are XM and Sirius. Which is sad. Glad Lon got out when he did.

  2. Richard Evans says

    Great list of apps. I used to be a WeatherBug fan. Have you tried the new Weather Channel app. More info. Better app. IMO.

  3. Andrew Stone says

    Thanks for the Twittelator Pro thumbs up! Next version will have extra special XMAS feature I think you’ll love too Twittelator Home

  4. Stephen Fleming says

    Updating my own post…

    I’ve switched from WeatherBug to the Weather Channel app (thanks, Richard Evans!).

    And Stanza now supports encrypted eReader content, so it’s really the only eBook app that you need. Over a million downloads so far!

  5. redboots2971 says

    Well I am an iPhone newbie. A friend of mine installed several items on my phone but I haven’t used really any of them yet. The question is “to keep or not to keep?”

    Home Screen=
    Calendar, Photos, Calculator, Stocks, Maps, Weather, Clock, App Store, Safari, dTunes, Settings

    Second Screen
    Boss Prefs, Cycorder, Winterboard, MxTube, MIM, Cydia, SpoofApp, Notes (I suspect that alot of these are unnecessary)

    Third Sreen
    Ipod, Genesis4iphone, NES, Bootneuter, quake4iphone, tunewiki, youtube, iTunes

    Contacts, Phone, Mail, Text

    I don’t know what half of these things do, feedback please…


  6. Stephen Fleming says

    Ieasha — someone has obviously jailbroken that iPhone! Mine is still factory-issue, so I’m afraid I have no clue what most of those apps do. Sorry!

  7. I also use Evernote, especially for organizing and making searchable handwritten notes of my research ideas. Some other apps I use are Springpad for keeping a library of my books, Dropbox for accessing my files, TED for being inspired on the go, and Wunderlist for managing my task. All these apps are FREE, and you can read about them on my latest blog post here: http://joachimscholz.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/5-free-iphone-apps-for-academics/


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