My favorite iPhone and iPod Touch apps

I’ve been playing around with these devices for most of the year and have come to some conclusions about my favorite applications. Because Apple’s App Store is a bit of a mess, I’ve picked up most of my recommendations from other blogs and forums. So, here’s the list of apps that I wish I hadn’t had to spend time discovering because my iPod is better with them than without them, in no particular order:

  • The New York Times – I previously posted about this application and how I would be willing to pay a fair amount for it. The only things I can fault this application for are that it’s not always clear when it’s finished downloading the day’s paper and it runs sluggishly on the iPhone 2g. Otherwise, the ability to save and email articles is great, and the interface makes browsing the paper easy. This is probably my favorite app, in part because it downloads the paper for offline reading and because I love the New York Times.
  • MLB At Bat 2009 – This app costs $9.99, but it’s awesome. You can watch two live games a day and listen to any broadcast of any game live. I remember when I was a kid, I could barely get reception on the AM radio at night to listen to Vin Scully call the LA Dodgers games. Now I can listen to the Dodgers and the Yankees and the Red Sox and the Giants whenever I want. This app also features in-game video highlights from almost all games, which are nice, but the key feature is being able to listen to live broadcasts.
  • Byline – This is another paid app, an RSS reader that syncs your folders from Google Reader. If you don’t read Google reader, Byline is a decent reason to do so, as it downloads complete items from Google Reader for offline reading. You can even star and share items from the app, and your selections sync with Reader when you’re online.
  • WordPress – It’s not perfect, but you can write posts offline and then post them when you have an Internet connection again. I’ve used it for multiple posts on this and other blogs.
  • Instapaper – Instapaper lets you save text from webpages for offline reading from your mobile or desktop web browser. I use it to read any articles of length from sources such as the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and the New York Review of Books. For me, this app ranks right up there with the New York Times and MLB apps and has saved me much paper, as I often use it in place of printing stories that I want to read later or on something more portable than my computer.
  • NPR Addict – This application lets you listen to stories from several NPR shows, including some that don’t have podcasts, such as All Things Considered and my personal favorite, Weekend Edition. Unfortunately, this app doesn’t always seem to work when I click the “Listen” button and it has some shortcomings. The most significant is that you can only select individual stories to play, and you can’t create a playlist or choose to listen to an entire show with all the stories playing consecutively. For some shows with long segments, such as Fresh Air, this is fine, but for others with short segments, it’s not acceptable and really limits the use of this application.
  • Stanza – This e-book app is not bad at all. With the help of its online store and the Stanza desktop app, I’ve loaded in several of my favorite books and a few that I’m waiting to read. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do the best job of handling PDF files.
  • eBay – If you can’t be at your computer when an auction is ending, this is the next best thing.
  • Google – These guys run some sort of internet search engine and offer many of their products optimized for the iPhone, including said search engine with voice search capabilities.
  • Bloomberg – This is another good news app that caches stories for offline reading. Another great feature of this app is that it lets you email the complete text of its stories, rather than just links to them.
  • TwitterFon – There are several Twitter clients available for the iPhone, and Tweetie seems to be the best, according to user opinions. However, I don’t yet feel the need to pay for a Twitter client, and so I’ve stuck with TwitterFon, which does pretty much everything I need. It searches for both text and location and shows my direct messages, @ replies, and friends’ timeline. I do recommend using an older version of this app because the more recent ones show ads, unfortunately.
  • Public Radio Tuner – This app allows you to stream live several public radio stations from all over the country.
  • Pandora – You’re probably familiar with Pandora’s custom streaming online radio service, so imagine it in a portable edition. That’s what this app is, and the quality isn’t bad, even over 2g.
  • WeatherBug – I’m not entirely sure why, but I prefer this app over The Weather Channel’s, which I also use.
  • FlickIt – Take pictures with your iPhone and upload them directly to Flickr.
  • WiFinder – Have you ever been somewhere and wanted to know if there was a WiFi network you could use? This app searches for local, open WiFi networks that you can connect to.
  • Easy Wi-Fi – I believe that OS 3.0 has made this app obsolete, but I haven’t confirmed that yet. If you access Wi-Fi networks with web-based authentication pages, Easy Wi-Fi will automatically log you into the networks. It’s a great time saver if your school or company uses these sorts of authentication pages.
  • Wattpad – This is another e-book app, but this one gives you access to Wattpad’s online library of user-uploaded content. My favorite feature of this app is one that more developers should implement: auto-scrolling. You set the speed and the text scrolls for you. It’s nearly impossible to get it entirely right, and you’ll probably have to adjust my manually scrolling every so often, but, for the most part, this feature rocks.
  • Skype – Skype’s iPhone app offers text and voice chat—only video conferencing is missing.
  • Shazam – Ever hear a song and wonder what it is? Open Shazam and it’ll identify it for you. Awesome.
  • WSJ – The Wall Street Journal’s iPhone app doesn’t have a huge amount of content, but it’s fairly responsive and contains some good editors’ choices.
  • Yelp – Yelp’s iPhone app works amazingly well with the phone’s location services, making searching near your location one of the most useful features in any app.
  • Files lite – Store and read .doc and .pdf files on your iPhone, and a pro version even allows you to attach them to emails.
  • StopWatch – This app is self-explanatory, but just looks too good to leave off this list.
  • Textfree lite – Cell phone carriers are artificially keeping SMS text message prices high, but here’s a solution. This app allows you to send up to 15 text messages a day for free. Unfortunately, it appends a bunch of junk to your texts, but otherwise has worked fine for me.
  • Amazon – Finally, we have Amazon’s app, which I, admittedly, don’t actually use to purchase anything from Amazon. What I do use it for. however, is looking up books when I’m in bookstores. If I can’t remember a title or an author, I often use the Amazon app before any search engine. I’ve had mixed results with the Amazon Remembers feature, which allows you to take a picture of a product and have Amazon automatically identify it in its catalog. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t work, it often gives you products that are completely wrong but match how its software might have identified the photo. For example, a blurry photo of a Patti Smith book produced a song called “Blurry” by a musician who is not Patti Smith.

Anyhow, there’s my list. I know that I’ve left off some apps that commonly make these sorts of lists, such as Evernote, and some apps that I want to like but just don’t use, such as IndieBound. If you want to dispute those omissions or suggest other apps, the comments section is the place for you.

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