Holiday Gift Guide 2010: Best iOS apps

My favorite iOS apps of the year and this year I sprinkle a few iPad apps in for good measure.

It’s that time of the year again -- hard to believe, I know. The rapidly approaching holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving mean that it's time to start thinking about gifts for your loved ones. And what could be better than apps? In this post I'll review some of my favorite iOS apps, both paid and free.

In my 2008 installment of the iOS Gift Guide there were a meager 5,000 apps to choose from in the App Store. That grew to 85,000 apps in 2009 and this year, there are over 300,000 apps on the Store, making choosing even more difficult.

New since last year is the iPad, a brand-new iOS devices that shipped in April. The iPad adds an entirely new, large screen form-factor to the iOS mix. This year I sprinkle a few iPad apps in for good measure, but I have a feeling that iPad apps might need their own list by next year.

In the interest of keeping it fresh and relevant I decided to omit apps that I've previously listed my favorite apps post (from August 2010) and my 2009 Gift Guide. This wasn't an easy decision as both posts include some of my all-time favorite apps, including:

This list doesn't include some business-oriented apps that I've previously covered, including LogMeIn Ignition [$29.99, App Store], AirMouse Pro [$1.99, App Store] and Documents To Go Premium [$16.99, App Store].

This year I wrap up the iOS Gift Guide with a list of my favorite iOS games and free apps, so don't forget to click though to the end. That being said, here are some of my favorite apps for iOS...

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Family Doctor

I'm pretty sure that this is one of the few apps that lives up to its claim that it makes you feel better -- literally.

Developed together with famous publisher Dorling Kindersley, Family Doctor ($4.99) reproduces the popular symptoms checker book ''Home Adviser'' with interactive features that make it easy and fun to use.

By answering a series of “yes & no” questions about your symptoms the "doctor" will advise you about what to do. The app is organized into sections for children, adults, men and women. There's even a section for general (whole-body) symptoms like fever, fatigue and back pain.

The app will be especially useful and interesting for first time parents to recognize that strange baby cry that you have never heard before. It includes 150 easy-to-follow symptom charts that can help diagnose everything from minor scrapes to more serious injuries requiring a doctor’s immediate attention.

[Vendor site] [App Store] [Video]

Runner up: Pocket First Aid

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Foodspotting

Some people overshare, this much we know. People these days love to share their mood, personal background, photos and even their exact location. In fact, most apps these days have some sort of social component that allows users to share information with social networks.

Sometimes it's too much information, but then there are times when sharing actually makes a lot of sense -- like when it comes to food, for example.

Ever have a delicious meal only to devour it and not be able to adequately sum it up in words? Well, a picture is worth a thousand words, and comes in incredibly handy for remembering and reliving some of your favorite meals.

If you've even taken iPhone photos of a particularly well-presented plate, then Foodspotting is for you.

The app has three primary functions, discovering food around you, finding a food your craving and seeing what's good at a particular restaurant. Perhaps the most fun aspect is sharing your own food discoveries. With the app you can quickly snap a photo of a plate and upload it to the service to share with others and earn badges and credibility in the process.

Good eatin' Clark!

[Vendor site] [App Store]

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Waze

Another fun, social app with redeeming social qualities is Waze (free).

Waze is a social driving and navigation app that connects you to other drivers to get real-time information about the roads you travel. It includes free voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation that learns as you drive. Did I mention that it was free?

The twist is that Waze also offers real-time traffic, construction, hazards and police information from other Wazers and Twitter. You can even find your Facebook friends on the road.

If you like social games like Foursquare that award badges for various accomplishments, Waze awards points for paving new roads as you explore your city.

Try it instead of the iOS Maps app some time, it has a lot more features than a simple map overlaid with traffic. While it isn't perfect, Waze gets better with scale (it just hit 1.5M drivers) and has the potential to be a truly killer app.

[Vendor site] [App Store]

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PayPal (free)

The PayPal app is great because it allows you to view your account history, check your balance, send money as a gift, pay someone back, and even pay bills. It turns the iPhone in the closest thing yet to an e-wallet.

It has a simple and concise interface, and works, as you'd expect, almost exactly like PayPal.com.

PayPal just added a killer new feature to the app that allows you to take a picture of a check and deposit it into your account. It's called Mobile Check Capture and allows you to transfer a check into your PayPal balance by simply taking its picture with the iPhone’s Camera app.

If you use PayPal a lot you'll definitely benefit from the convenience of the PayPal app.

[Vendor site] [App Store]

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FileMaker Go

If you use FileMaker as your database of choice you'll find its new mobile apps incredibly useful. It allows you to work with your FileMaker databases on your iPhone or iPad just like you do on the desktop.

Released in July, FileMaker Go ($19.99 iPhone, $39.99 iPad) brings power of FileMaker to iOS devices. You can work with databases by sideloading them onto an iPhone or iPad from iTunes via USB, opening them from email attachments or by accessing remotely hosted databases.

FileMaker Go then allows you to add, modify, or delete data. You can also find, sort, and navigate through records as you'd expect. But it doesn't stop there, 'Go gives you the classic FileMaker Form, Table, and List views as well as portals, Tab Controls, Quick Find and Web Viewers.

Version 1.1.1, released last month, allows you to produce PDFs and either save them locally or email them — especially useful for distributing reports directly from the iPad or iPhone. It also gives you the ability to save a copy of a database and email it directly from the app. You can even take photos with an iPhone and add them to record in the database.

[Vendor site] [App Store: iPhoneiPad]

Next, lets move onto some games...

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Games

Is there life after Angry Birds? Sure there is. Here's a list of some of iPhone apps I'll be playing while waiting in line at the grocery store or bank this holiday season.

  • Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus [$6.99, App Store] - Best FPS out for the iPhone right now.
  • Real Golf 2011 [$6.99, App Store] - Great 3D golf simulator.
  • Real Soccer 2011 [$4.99, App Store] - Most realistic soccer sim on the App Store.
  • Words with Friends [$2.99, App Store] - Scrabble-like game you play against friends online.
  • Skate It by EA [$4.99, App Store] - Realistic skateboarding simulator.
  • The Sims 3 Ambitions [$4.99, App Store] - Latest installment of the Sims franchise.
  • PBA Bowling 2 [$2.99, App Store] - Bowl against PBA stars in 3D.
  • Need for Speed Shift for iPad [$12.99, App Store] - Drive the world's fastest cars on the iPad.
  • Madden 2011 for iPad [$12.99, App Store] - Are you ready for some football?
  • Trainyard [$0.99, App Store] - Fun train-based puzzler.
  • Cut the Rope [$0.99, App Store] - Feed candy to a cute monster in this addictive puzzler.
  • Fruit Ninja [$0.99, App Store] - Swipe to cut the fruit like a ninja.
  • Sally's Salon Luxury Edition [$2.99, App Store] - Time-management game series gets an iPhone makeover.

Finally, I'm going to wrap-up with some of may favorite free apps...

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FREE Apps

The best things in life are free, as they say. Here's a list of some of the free apps that are always on my iPhone.

Well that's it for this year's list. New apps are being released every day and the complexion of the App Store is changing rapidly, but it's fun to take a snapshot in time and compare it to this time last year.
What are some of your favorite iOS apps? Post them in the TalkBack below.

Go back to the beginning »

ZDNet's 2010 Holiday Tech Gift Guide »

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