The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

Summary: This list of 20 iPhone apps helps you sort through the chaff and find apps to help you work smarter and improve your productivity.

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Mobile apps have become an embarrassment of riches for iPhone and Android. In a world with over 500,000 iPhone apps and over 250,000 Android apps, the toughest part is finding the most useful stuff.

For iPhone users, I'm going to throw you an assist by sharing my top 20 (this is an update of my 2010 iPhone list, and I will update my top Android picks next week). My iPhone picks are all third-party apps that can help you be more productive, streamline regular activities, reduce the number of gadgets in your life, and take advantage of the top benefits that mobile computing has to offer.

1. Dropbox

Dropbox is a great cloud service that automatically syncs a folder of files between multiple computers (Windows, Mac, or Linux). This app extends Dropbox to the iPhone and includes a built-in reader within the app for PDFs, image files, and Microsoft Office files.

2. Evernote

Once you get used to typing on a virtual keyboard (and it honestly took me over a year to do it), then these devices are great for note taking, and Evernote is a great note taking app. It is similar to Dropbox in that it saves data locally but syncs it across all your machines and devices.

3. Due

There are a ton of to-do apps on iPhone but I prefer Due for its simplicity and its audio alerts. However, this is an iPhone-only task list. If you want something that can sync with your PC, Mac, or the Web, then try 2Door Things.

4. Tripit

I love Tripit. It is by far the best app I've found for keeping track of all my travel itineraries. It is powered by some excellent backend systems. You simply forward your confirmation emails (or use the Gmail plugin to do it automatically) for your flights, hotels, rental cars, and more to Tripit and it automatically organizes them into trips with all your details and confirmation numbers.

5. Analytics App

For some reason Google doesn't have an official app (for either iPhone or Android) for Google Analytics. The best one I've found to go deep into all of the data is Analytics App.

6. Ego

Even better than Analytics App for a quick-glance dashboard is Ego. It shows basic data from Google Analytics as well as a bunch of other sources, including Squarespace, Twitter, and Feedburner.

7. Twitter

The official Twitter app (formerly known as Tweetie) is still the best Twitter client on iPhone (although Osfoora is catching up). Twitter itself is an amazing instant-intelligence engine. Two other great social media apps for iPhone are Google+ and Foursquare.

8. Reeder

Twitter has largely replaced RSS for me for finding and filtering the latest news. However, I still track some RSS feeds and the best tool I've found to do it with is Reeder. It syncs with Google Reader so it's easy to flip between the mobile app and the desktop, plus the app lets you share to Twitter (and Facebook) and save to Instapaper and ReadItLater.

9. Amazon Kindle

I've never fully warmed up to the Amazon Kindle e-reader, but I'm a big fan of the Kindle iPhone app. Since it was released I've read a lot more books simply because my phone is always with me and I can pull it out and read a few pages anytime I've got a couple minutes free. Alternatives: NookiBooks, and Kobo.

10. Audible

As much as I like the Kindle ebooks, I actually consume more books as audiobooks via Audible. In the past you could download these and sync them via iTunes. But Audible now has its own app, which lets you connect to your Audible library and download over the air, and even gives you a self-contained player optimized for audiobooks.

(Continued on page 2; Read the rest of the top 20)

11. Podcaster

Sure, you can use iTunes and the built-in iPod app to listen to podcasts, but if you're an avid podcast listener (I regularly follow This Week in Tech, Buzz Out Loud, and Tech News Today) then the app Podcaster offers a better experience. You can download over the air (so that you don't have to constantly sync to a computer to get the latest episodes), you can skip forward and backward 30 seconds, you can increase playback speed to 1.5 times normal speed, and the app is even compatible with AirPlay.

12. Photoshop Mobile

Photoshop is, of course, the best known photo editor in the world and its mobile app doesn't do anything to hurt that reputation. But while the desktop version is known for having a zillion features, the mobile app is distinguished by its simplicity. It's the best iPhone photo editing app for simple crops, brightness adjustments, and sharpens, for example. However, once editing is built into the native Camera app in iOS5, editors such as Photoshop Mobile may quickly become unnecessary.

13. Pano

Pano makes it easy to take excellent panoramas with the iPhone. It helps you line up your shots and it automatically corrects many of the imperfections. My wife is a photographer with a big, expensive Nikon camera and she's regularly jealous of some of the shots I can get with the iPhone and Pano.

14. Instagram

The camera and camera app on the iPhone are now good enough to replace a point-and-shoot. You can even take pictures that are worthy of saving in your family albums. For those, I upload them to Flickr using the iPhone app. For the everyday photos that I just want to quickly post on social media, I use Instagram. It is very quick, dead simple to use, and very social media friendly. But, do me a favor and go easy on the filters. They are badly overused by most Instagram users, while 90% of photos are better with no filter at all.

15. Navigon Mobile Navigator

I used to carry a separate Garmin GPS unit for turn-by-turn directions but I eventually got rid of it and decided to just use the iPhone instead. In researching the various apps, I eventually decided on NAVIGON, which is a company that makes a lot of the built-in navigation systems for many cars. Tip: Make sure your iPhone is plugged in to power when you run a GPS navigation program like this because otherwise it will quickly drain your battery.

16. Where To?

A great companion to a GPS system is the app "Where To?" which lets you quickly look up various types of shops and services, from Cuban restaurants to medical specialists to animal hospitals to local museums and much more.

17. RunKeeper

This is a great little app that can save you from buying a pedometer. It uses the iPhone's GPS to track the miles you've run or walked, and it compiles the data into some nice dashboards that you can view on your phone or on RunKeeper's website.

18. Nutrition Menu

Another app for all of you health-conscious geeks out there is Nutrition Menu. This thing is a mobile compendium of nutritional data. It has calorie information on common foods and most major restaurants, and it has calorie-burning information for many types of exercises. It also allows you to track your daily weigh-ins and makes notes on your progress.

19. GroceryGadget

This is an app plus a website and you can quickly sync between the two. The way it usually works for me is that my wife makes a grocery list, enters it into grocerygadgets.com, and then it syncs to my iPhone so that I can swing by the grocery store and pick up the stuff.

20. RedLaser

This is a great app for shoppers. It turns the iPhone camera into a barcode scanner and it's quite accurate. You simply scan a product's UPC code and let the app go to work to find it in Google Product Search and TheFind. For food it will even look up allergen information and for books it will scan to see if you can get it in a local library. You'll be amazed at how fast it works. A similar product is SnapTell, which not only scans barcordes but you can also take a picture of the cover of a book or DVD and it can look them up that way. These apps are great when you're shopping at a retail store and want to check the prices of products online before buying. It also reads QR codes.

Your picks?

What are your picks for the most useful, valuable, and productive iPhone apps? Post them in the discussion below.

This was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: iPhone, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, Social Enterprise

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44 comments
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  • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

    I've noticed two really useful apps missing from this list. Just imagine you need to knock down a wall and kill some globe shaped pigs but only have a catapult and some birds with attitude? Angry Birds to the rescue, oh how this has saved my life!<br><br>How often have you needed to collect your Gems from a room filled with spikes and water? This happens on a daily basis for me and without Puddles I would not know which way to tip the room!<br><br>On a serious note for UK users the best GPS app I have found on the iPhone is NavFree UK & ROI, it's community built meaning the more users participating the better the maps get! Also a complete life saver has been iTorch4, many times it has found keys/wallets under sofa's or helped me reset my fuse boxes in the dark. Oh and for the space cadets out there it has a rather useless strobe effect?<br><br>Great Article!
    Parassassin
    • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

      @Parassassin Dropbox is definitely a must have for all devices. it sure does come in handy to have PDF files on the go. <a title="Google Places" href="http://extremesocialmedia.org/">Google Places</a>
      esm2012
    • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

      @Parassassin for me the best apps are instrgram, love taking shots with that, gowalla for my checkins, camera+ for editing photos, water app for tracking my intake, dropbox app is a good one too, also really getting in to the google plus app as well now. <strong><a href="http://learnviolinonlinehq.com/">learn violin online</a></strong>
      timmyuk
  • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

    Does that mean these aren't as useful on Android?
    slickjim
    • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

      @Peter Perry He means that this is a subjective list of what he considers the most useful apps for an iPhone - I have a feeling that most of the apps will make their way to the 20 most useful apps for Android.
      athynz
      • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

        @Pete "athynz" Athens they already have, My notes App syncs to Evernote and Dropbox is good cloud Storage.
        slickjim
    • No, this means if you own an iPhone, these are some apps

      you might be interested in, since the iPhone won't run Android apps, it's pretty stupid to talk about the top 20 android apps. Especially since a task manager would be one of them.
      baggins_z
    • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

      @Peter Perry, NO! Sometimes it just means what it says! It's NOT always a competition. If I said thew sun was bright, does that mean that the night is bad?
      mmfoo@...
  • Thank You

    Bought grocerygadget, fantastic app
    MuccaUgo
  • Great Job!

    Just when I though I knew all the best apps.
    tomogden
  • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

    My most useful apps (in addition to most of the ones on the above list) are:

    Mapquest
    Weather Radio
    Starbucks Mobile
    Urbanspoon
    Glucose Buddy
    Around Me
    Solebon
    Mark The Spot (AT&T's service is great in most places just not at my house so I'm hoping enough complains via that app from myself, wife, and daughter will get them to hook me up with a free microcell tower...)
    athynz
    • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

      @Pete "athynz" Athens
      Good list.
      Ram U
    • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

      @Pete "athynz" Athens Glucose Buddy? Are you a diabetic? I have a son who is a Type 1 and has been for 10 years.
      slickjim
  • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

    Still like Echofon as my Twitter app. Why does the the default Twitter App not have a new tweet count indicator?
    Nuzzi
  • My choices

    Great list.

    For me its
    - HeyTell (love that I can voice message iPhone and Android friends)
    - FamilyTracker
    - Shazam
    - Cardstar (all those reward cards take up so much space in the wallet, this fixes that with an app!!)
    - Starwalk : if you spend a lot of time out doors and like the stars this is a cool app!
    - IMDB : a must have for movie info
    - Cam Scan : a nice choice to take pictures of documents
    battlewear@...
    • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

      @battlewear@...
      Good list.
      Ram U
  • My APP is the LogMeIn

    Adds functions to the iPhone and iPad as large storage (2.5TB) and all the windows programs I want to run.
    Donald.Nagy@...
  • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

    DropBox
    Pandora
    Facebook
    2X Client (for remoting into my servers at work)
    PogoPlug (to access my 4TB of cloud storage at home)
    AroundMe
    5-0 Radio (to listen to my dad and my son on the police radio)
    ClearTune (guitar tuner)
    HP E-print
    Starbucks Mobile Card
    RunKeeper (for cycling)
    rlawley
  • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

    Sziget 2011 saved me on the festival - couldn't live without it for the week :)
    ryo101
  • RE: The 20 most useful iPhone apps of 2011

    I actually prefer Kayak Trips (part of the Kayak app) to TripIt. Functions the same way (you forward your travel confirmations to trips@kayak.com), but I notice a lot more confirmation types are recognized by the Kayak engine. I used to get a lot of "your receipt was not recognized" on TripIt. Moreover, Kayak saves the original email as an attachment to the itinerary, so you can always view it immediately and quickly if you need to.
    spycygrl