in Ramblings

Apps! What’s on my iPhone?
Get free updates of new posts here

A lot of my friends are getting iPhones now, and they often ask me for app recommendations. When the iPhone 4 came out in 2010, I wrote up a list of my favorite apps and emailed it over to my friends who were new adopters. I’ve updated it a few times since then, emailing the latest version to the latest adopters. After a few iterations, I realized it would be easier to just put it online so I can update it when I find new stuff and so anyone can get to it.

There are many sites that will review and recommend apps, so what’s unique about this particular list? It’s what’s on my phone right now. And since friends tend to cluster around common interests, it makes sense that friends want to know what other friends are using.

You should know that I have a thing about never rarely paying for an app. I don’t know why. It’s almost irrational and my friends always give me crap about it.  That being said, this is good news for you – I will recommend a bunch of excellent apps that will cost you nothing, and I try to identify apps as “(Free)” whenever possible.

I didn’t include everything (but most of the stuff on my phone right now is listed here). I’ll try to format this so it’s easy to read…

I organized my phone as follows (using folders):

  • Home screen is all the stuff I use most frequently
  • Second screen over is folders of stuff
  • Third screen over is a few more folders and other random stuff that I don’t know where to put

In my dock, I keep Messages, Phone, Mail, iPod.

Stuff from first screen that’s not Apple default stuff:

Dropbox – (Free) Awesome file sharing software that’s free. You have to sign up for an account, but then you get 2GB free storage. It’s awesome and convenient.

Pandora – (Free) I’m sure you know about Pandora. Pretty great, and it got moved to my home screen after iOS4 made it possible to stream music while doing other stuff.

NPR News – (Free) This app let’s you stream NPR shows (my favorites are Car Talk and Planet Money).

Facebook – (Free) I think it’s the top rated app. Useless if you’re not on FB. – (Free) Very handy for quick reference. I use it a lot when reading DFW. But it also comes in handy in general conversations (turns out, “contemplative” has several pronunciations – the app was the final nail in the coffin in a debate with a friend, who had never heard it pronounced “con-TEM-pluh-tiv”).

Skype – (Free) Obvious. Currently allows free 3G calls over Skype. So, basically free VOIP. Awesome. Also rumored to be adding video calling soon.

Twitter – (Free… see a trend here?) This is the official Twitter app and I like it best of the free ones. It used to be a $3 app called “Tweetie” (which is what I still use on my Mac).

Stuff in folders on my second screen:


IMDB – (Free) Want to know when a movie was released or whose cameo was on that episode of Scrubs? This app is great for finding movie and TV info quickly.

Wikipedia – (Free)

bing – (Free)

SoundHound – (Free) Another song-search app. I’ve never actually used it.

Yahoo! – (Free)

Wikipanion – (Free)

Shazam – (Free) This app is AWESOME – it listens to music and tells you what the song is.

Zillow – (Free) Good use of location services to tell you what houses are on the market, recently sold, etc. around you.


AP Mobile – (Free)

Pokernews – (Free)

Pulse News – (Free) Sort of an RSS reader and aggregator for iPhone. Aggregates news feeds visually and has a pretty slick interface that lets you move through several sites and recent articles quickly.

HuffPost – (Free)

NYTimes – (Free)

Economist – (Free)

Instapaper – (Free) Let’s you mark articles and web pages to read later. A pretty handy way to flag stuff that you want to read, but don’t have time right now. Also good for saving stuff to read for when you may not have an internet connection.


Yelp! – (Free) Great app for food reviews and finding stuff near you.

OpenTable – (Free) Lets you make reservations at local restaurants via iPhone.

Restaurants – (Free) Nutrition info for a lot of restaurants (occasionally talks me out of getting unhealthy stuff, but usually just reminds me how terrible I eat).

UrbanSpoon – (Free) Search for food near you using type, price and location variables.

epicurious – (Free) Helps with grocery shopping, recipes, etc.


eBay – (Free) – (Free)

Fandango – (Free)

Mobile Card – (Free) The Starbucks app that I use as my Starbucks card. Shows current balance, how many stars I’ve earned (for my Gold Card – 15 stars means I get a coupon for a free drink), and can be used to pay with my card in lieu of the actual card.


Evernote – (Free) This is a pretty powerful service that I haven’t gotten into yet. It’s on my list, and I’ve heard really good things about it. It’s cloud-based and lets you upload notes, photos, URLs, etc., for easy organization and accessibility.

Glyphboard – (Free) Web app that lets you copy/paste special characters.

Dragon Dictation – (Free) Voice recognition app that converts speech to text.

Boxcar – (Free) A notification aggregator (a single app that can handle notifications for various services like email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

Opera Mini – (Free) Web browser.

Atomic Lite – (Free) Web browser.

PixelPipe – (Free) File transfer assistant to help get media files posted to social media sites.

Flashlight – (Free) Pretty straightforward app that just turns your phone into a light so you can see in the dark.


ETrade – (Free)

Discover Card – (Free)

Fidelity – (Free)

Bank of America – (Free) – (Free) Cool financial planning, analysis, tracking tool. Aggregates all of your financial accounts into one place, shows total net worth, value of savings, cash on hand, etc.

Yahoo! Finance – (Free) For reading news and checking stocks.


LinkedIn – (Free)

fring – (Free) Video chat and IM client.


ScoreCenter – (Free) ESPN.

Sportacular – (Free) Yahoo! Sports. – (Free)

NBC Sports – (Free)

FOX Sports – (Free)

CBS Sports – (Free)

Local Info

Layar – (Free) Funky augmented reality app that uses the rear-facing camera to overlay local businesses, restaurants, etc. on screen.

AroundMe – (Free) Helps to find stuff that’s nearby.

MapQuest – (Free)

skobbler – (Free) Turn-by-turn navigation app.

Now Playing – (Free) Find movies, check Rotten Tomatoes scores

The Weather Channel – (Free)

WeatherBug – (Free)

The Scoop – (Free) New York Times app that tells you all of the NYT’s favorite stuff to do in NYC – restaurants, shows, etc.

LivingSocial – (Free) Daily deals and coupons.

Groupon – (Free) Daily deals and coupons.


Gorillacam – (Free) Camera app with timers, anti-shake, etc.

Chromacam – Developed by a friend of mine. ALlows some pretty cool photo tweaking like emphasizing a single color in a photo that’s otherwise B&W.

PS Express – (Free) Photoshop app for tweaking and editing photos.

Instagram – (Free) Social networking, photo sharing and editing.


Netflix – For managing my Netflix queue and searching for new stuff, also lets you stream stuff over 3G. Netflix account required

YouTube webapp – (Free)

NPR Music – (Free) NPR frequently has free previews of soon-to-be-released albums, and you can get a lot of cool, NPR-exclusive live shows by different bands.

Flixster – (Free) Lets you look for movie times and get Rotten Tomatoes scores for movies that are out.

RunPee – (Free) Tells you when good pee break opportunities are coming up in movies so you don’t miss the action.


Kindle – (Free)

Barnes & Noble eReader – (Free)

Bible – (Free)

Apple (actually, the Apple trademarked symbol, thanks to Glyphboard – see Utilities above)

All the standard apple stuff that comes on the phone that I pulled from my homescreen (this is just personal preference, obviously)

Remote – (Free) Awesome app that lets you control iTunes on your PC/Mac from your phone over WiFi – super duper awesome for DJing a party at your house or something b/c you can change playlists, volume, songs, etc. from your phone even if the stereo isn’t in the room with you.

Apple Store – (Free)

iBooks – (Free)

iMovie – good for editing the sweet 720p video the iPhone 4 can shoot – cost is $5

Games I don’t have many. I just kinda download random stuff that’s “on sale” as “free” temporarily. I’m a game troll. Well, my friend Jesse tricked me into buying some games and now I have tons of them (the iPhone is a really good gaming platform). Most of the games I’ve bought are $.99.

Angry Birds – Evil pigs have stolen the birds’ eggs. The birds try to defeat the pigs by being fired from a slingshot. It was game of the year for iPhone in 2010

Peggle – Puzzle game sort of like Snood, if you remember that.

Osmos – Puzzle game where you’re some kind of blob and you try to absorb other blobs before evil blob(s) absorb you.

Cut The Rope – Puzzler where you try to get the frog the candy he wants. You cut ropes strategically to help the candy get to him.

Poker 1-on-1 – A friend of mine developed this with another friend of mine. The game’s intelligence has been designed and improved with Vanessa Rousso’s help. It’s a fun app that teaches heads-up poker and helps kill time.

Tiki – Puzzle game where you’re trying to destroy blocks on the screen without allowing certain blocks to fall over.

Cat Physics – Puzzle game where you have to figure out how to get the ball of yarn from one cat to another.

Plants vs Zombies – Technically a “tower defense game”. Really, really fun and pretty addicting – one of the more popular iPhone games.

The Creeps! – Also a tower defense game. You gotta’ keep the baddies from getting to the sleeping kid. Really fun and addicting, also pretty challenging and well worth $.99 just for the time I’ve gotten out of this one.

Trainyard EX – Another puzzle game that will strain your brain. You’re trying to lay track so that the colored trains can find the appropriate color-coded station.

Paper Glider – (free) Good for killing time. Keep the paper glider in the air as long as possible.

Cover Orange – (free) Physics-based puzzler. Strategically drop the boxes, barrels and wheels to protect the oranges from the nasty raincloud.

Fruit Ninja – Sort of like skeet shooting, only you’re destroying fruit with a sword.

Tiny Wings – My current addiction. It’s like Paper Glider meets Angry Birds.


FCC Broadband Test – (Free) FCC app for testing the speed of your data connection.

Speed Test – (Free) Another one to test your upload/download speeds.

myWireless – (Free) Monitor data usage, billing, etc. on AT&T.

Mark the Spot – (Free) Allows you to report trouble spots in coverage where you drop calls on AT&T.


TripIt – (Free) Travel organizer. Helps keep track of itineraries, etc.

RunKeeper Pro – (Free) Fitness and run tracker.


GateGuru – (Free) Tells you what stuff is near you in the airport so you can find good food, etc. with reviews.

TripTik – (Free) AAA app for finding good local tuff while traveling.

WordLens – (Free) Augmented reality app.  You hold your phone up so it sees text on a sign or something, and it translates the text in real time.  The app is free, and you pay $5 for a language pack (ie, Spanish to English).  It actually works and I expect it to get a lot better pretty quickly as people use it.


Google Mobile – (Free) Sort of a catch-all for Google. This app contains several Google apps like Gmail, Calendar, Buzz, etc.

GoogleVoice – (Free) If you have GoogleVoice, you should get this app so you can use it on your iPhone. It’s basically free call forwarding to wherever you are.

Translate – (Free) Translate words into other languages.

Shopper – (Free) Uses the rear-facing camera to identify products to make price comparisons and locating substitutes easy.

My phone is Jailbroken, so I also have a few Jailbreak apps that I’ve downloaded from the Cydia Store.


MyWi 4.0 – Lets me use my iPhone as a mobile hotspot using my 3G connection.

My3G – Some apps are specifically designed so they’ll only access data if the phone is on a WiFi network. Specifically, anything over 10MB will trigger the WiFi-only restriction. This app removes this limitation.

SBSettings – (Free) Gives me a quick way to access common settings with one or two taps/swipes (as opposed to several). Some settings I change a lot are BlueTooth On/Off, WiFi On/Off and Airplane Mode On/Off.

MobileNotifier – (Free) Far and away the best notification app I’ve seen for iPhone. It usurps the native iPhone notifications with a sleek, easy-to-use notification system that makes a lot more sense than the native solution. Hopefully Apple will work something like this into iOS5.

Stuff on third screen (random stuff):

Mirror – (Free) Uses the front-facing camera as a mirror – you never know when you might find something in your teeth.

Constitution – (Free) For quick reference when I’m wondering “is that constitutional?”

FindiPhone – (Free) Apple made this free with version 4.2 of the iPhone software.  You can set it up online at – you can find your iPhone if it’s lost or stolen.

HeyTell – (Free) Like text messaging meets voicemail. You can push a button and send a quick voice message to other HeyTell users.

Write a Comment