It surprises people that, as a well-assimilated Apple fanboy, I didn’t buy the first generation iPhone. I was in the store on launch day, I had one in my hand, my credit card was burning a hole in my pocket… and I left without one. I used my Treo for nearly another year until the 2nd generation iPhone (confusingly named 3G) was released. I wasn’t waiting for the faster network connection or for the GPS chip, or cut-and-paste, although those were all nice. No, although I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, I was waiting for the App Store.
Remember, I was coming from years in the Palm ecosystem, where third-party apps were a key part of the experience. I was utterly reliant on a couple of them (in particular, an RPN calculator… having been converted to the RPN Way by HP calculators in my youth, I simply cannot use “normal” calculators without an Enter key!). So the first-gen iPhone had lots of promise, but it wasn’t ready for me yet. Web apps looked interesting, but until developers got hold of a native SDK, I kept my money in my pocket.
Once the App Store was announced, I knew I was hooked. In fact, I bought my first iPhone app on July 10, 2008, the night before the iPhone 3G was released… yes, I had that much faith in Apple (and James Thomson, author of PCalc) that I spent ten bucks on an app without hardware that I could run it on!
And, although I didn’t know it, I was participating in an interesting experiment in app pricing. In the early days, I bought several apps for $9.99 or even more. Soon, those apps found their prices cut to $6.99, $4.99… or they were abandoned entirely. A few apps hovered about the magic ten-buck point, but most were driven down by the competition from free and 99¢ apps.
Lots of people have blogged about the race to the bottom, and I have nothing useful to add there… except that I never hesitate to buy a paid app if it looks like it does something I need, or even want. I’ve spent more than the price of that first iPhone in the App Store at this point, and I don’t mind. Software developers gotta eat, and I don’t mine supporting them with a couple of bucks here and there.
Of course, sometimes the app turns out to be less polished than I hoped, or buggy, or just doesn’t get updated when needed. So I wind up buying a lot of apps, experimenting with them, and letting them languish in a rear page, or delete them from my devices entirely.
People are always asking me “So, what apps should I get for my iPhone/iPad?” That’s hard to answer, since I don’t know your needs or your budget. All I can do is give you a list of the apps that I use, many of them daily, and frequently after downloading and trying a lot of competitors. (I think I’ve bought six calendar applications, and I shudder to think how many Twitter apps. I’ve settled on what I think are the best.)
So, in honor of Black Friday, here’s my list of my favorite iOS (iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) applications. Click on any icon for a link to the official App Store description.
- Apple iWork Suite
- News / Information
- Fun and Games
Apple iWork Suite
|Kindle||I’m one of those weird people who bought a Kindle after buying an iPad. Different screen technologies, different use cases. I love them both. We’ve bought a lot of books on Kindle, and it’s great to have them with me wherever I go… including the surprisingly-capable screen on the iPhone 4. Synchronization is painless, and the feature set is more than adequate.|
|Stanza||Oddly, the best e-book reader on the iPhone or iPad is made by Amazon, but it’s not Kindle. It’s Stanza. Formerly a standalone company (Lexcycle), Amazon bought the developer in early 2009, and I was terrified that it meant the death of this superb application. But they released an iPad update more or less on schedule, and have clearly not abandoned the product.It’s a better reading experience than Kindle, with a more mature set of interface options (it’s been around longer!), and it integrates into a wide variety of paid and free e-book sources. I tend to want to buy everything that Toni Weisskopf at Baen Books publishes, and Stanza makes that painless. Maybe too painless. Hook it up to Calibre on your desktop, and you can easily see how I have over 200 books on my iPad.|
Fun and Games
This turned into an absurdly long blog post (over 9,000 words), but I hope it’s useful to someone. Avoid “tl;dr” and try it in Instapaper!