As you already know, the iPhone is the most successful Apple device to date, along with the iPod and recently, the iPad. The latest iteration, the iPhone 4, has only reinforced Apple’s position as the number one smartphone manufacturer on the market. There are more iPhone 4’s in use than there are Android or Symbian phones – that is quite an achievement for a device that is less than a year old.
The strength of the iPhone 4 lies in its hardware, as well as the big 300,000+ collection of apps, all of which were checked before being admitted to the marketplace, which means they are not your lame cookie-cutter apps and are actually useful, every one of them. Millions of users worldwide use their iPhone to browse the Web, listen to music, watch video clips and do many other tasks, and the beautiful 960×640 pixel-packed screen is perfect for these tasks, showing the best picture quality possible on a smartphone (even the newest QHD AMOLED displays can’t compare to it!).
While consumers were the intended target of the first iPhone, today’s iOS can easily be used for mission critical business purposes, and a lot of professionals are doing just that. Whether you’re a freelancer, small business owner, gamer, or just a tech-savvy individual, the iPhone 4, coupled with the right apps, can become an invaluable tool. Having said that, in this article you’ll find a collection of the best apps in the most important categories that I believe everyone should have on their iDevice.
Let’s start with some productivity apps that any person, front any walks of life can find useful:
Things. Things is one of the best task managers for the iPhone and iPad, which strikes the perfect balance between simplicity of use and complexity of the features, while having a nice, clean interface that anyone can use without being distracted from their task. Thousands of people use it every day to manage their schedule and projects, and you can see by all the positive reviews that they really like it. There are no overcomplicated features in Things, the app lets you easily plan To-Do lists, store notes, set up reminders, manage projects, sync the data with your desktop and more without making you go through a dozen settings to set everything up. $9.99
Evernote. What Things is for task management, Evernote is for storing notes. While the above app has the feature as well, Evernote is much more than that – it is practically an extension of your memory on your iPhone, iPad, Mac and remote server – all synced perfectly. You can use Evernote to save text, audio and video notes with a few simple taps, bookmark websites, add descriptions and tags to all of them to understand what you wanted later, and much more! Free
1Password. If you are registered on more than a dozen websites, you know it can be quite a challenge to remember the passwords for each one of them. Most of the times, we succumb to the idea of having one password for all the sites, but that is as secure as letting random people on a subway know your home address. You need to have different and strong passwords for each site, and 1Password is the ideal tool to remember them, as your smartphone is always with you. The app can generate, store and encrypt your passwords, so it’s very easy to use whenever you need it. $9.99
eWallet. eWallet has been around for more than a decade, ever since its first version was released on Microsoft’s Pocket PC operating system for those old-timey PDAs. eWallet can not only store your passwords, like 1Password, but also other information like your bank account and credit card numbers, addresses, important documents, and other things inside an encrypted “wallet” that can only be opened on your iPhone, with a master password only you know. eWallet is the perfect choice if you need to store such data securely, and there are versions for the Mac, Windows Phone 7, Android and Windows operating systems, so you can easily sync the information between them. $9.99
PocketMoney. If you want to track your finances and do detailed accounting of your money, PocketMoney is the app you must have on your iPhone. It allows you to keep track of any income and expenses for any number of bank accounts and credit cards. It is very easy to enter a new transaction and edit old ones with the clean interface, and you can later import the data into Excel, Quicken or a number of other accounting software for a more in depth analysis and reporting. $4.99
These apps can definitely help you manage your everyday life and time better, but what if you’re a business professional? Well, then you’ll need to get some more specialized apps that can really improve the effectivity and quality of your work:
Paypal. Paypal is a vital service for everyone whose business has at least some kind of online presence, and being able to manage payments whenever you need to is an invaluable ability for any entrepreneur. The official Paypal app for the iPhone makes it as easy as possible to do just that, and you can send money, confirm invoices, get paid and much more. The app even has some useful features that you won’t normally find on the website, like the ability to send or receive money by just bumping two phones together (invaluable when you don’t have the cash and need to pay someone fast) and create and manage fundraising campaigns for any purpose. Free
Skype. Communication is the base of any business, and Skype is one of the most popular VoIP services in the world, with over 100 million users. They had no mobile apps for quite a while, but recently they introduced the Android, Windows Phone 7 and iPhone apps, and they’re a perfect port of the desktop version. You can make calls (including video calls), chat via IM, find contacts, edit your profile and do anything else that the service allows – it’s a must have app for any smartphone, really. Free
Documents to Go. Documents to Go is one of the best office packages for the iPhone, and it’s the only app you’ll ever need to install in order to be able to create, view and edit documents right on your iPhone. The app works with any document file formats, including Word, Excel, iWork, PowerPoint, PDF and more – you’ll definitely have no problems opening and editing those files. If you want to be able to work on the go or edit a document at the last minute, this is the app for you. $9.99
Dragon Dictation. Typing is not something most people can do well, and it only gets worse with mobile keyboards, especially virtual ones. Using your voice to dictate what you want to write has long been a dream, as voice recognition software was pretty bad at recognizing speech, but now, any smartphone can do it, and pretty well at that. Dragon Dictation is the best speech recognition engine/app for the iPhone, from the company that brought Dragon Naturally Speaking to PCs over 5 years ago. It works practically flawlessly in quiet environments, and it makes creating documents, emails or messages much easier. Free
Analytics Pro. If you’re in the online business, you’re most probably using Google Analytics to analyze the statistics of your website. Analytics Pro is the best client app for the iPhone, and it can show you any data pulled from GA in nice graphs and informational screens. A must have for any Internet marketer. $6.99
The iPhone is a perfect companion device for any professional or business owner who values their time and wants to make the most of it. With the amount of apps available on the marketplace, you should have no problems finding some that would fit your needs, but if you don’t know where to start, be sure to check out the above apps – you’ll be amazed at what your iPhone is capable of!
But if the default capabilities of your iPhone (or the iPad or iPod Touch, for that matter) are not enough for you, you should know about a process called jailbreaking. A jailbroken iPhone gives you full control over your operating system, allowing you to gain a lot of new useful features (via unofficial apps) along the way. Here are just some of them:
EZDecline. The default “slide to answer” on the lock screen mechanism of the iPhone has been around since the first version of the operating system, and while it’s pretty easy to use, with sliding to answer (duh) and double clicking the power button or pushing the slider up to decline a call, a lot of people still want a simpler system. EZDecline gives you just that – two buttons on the lock screen, a red one to Decline and a green one to Answer a call. Why Apple didn’t make it an option or even the default is beyond me.
Facebreak. The new iPhone 4 has the cool and hyped Facetime video calling feature, but unfortunately, it is limited to being used on Wifi networks only. Facebreak, which you can install from Cydia on a jailbroken iPhone 4, lets you make video calls using your 3G data connection, which works just as well as a Wifi one and doesn’t cost nearly as much as a dedicated plan with video calling enabled.
SnapTap. While it’s pretty cool that the camera shutter button has been virtualized and is now on screen, most people still can’t get used to the fact, and a lot of times, the pictures are pretty bad since you have to move your finger quite a lot to take a shot. SnapTap turns the hardware volume button into the camera shutter release button when you open the app, giving you a much better way of taking pictures without shaking the phone and blurring everything.
Locktopus. Locktopus is a pretty useful app, which allows you to lock any apps you want with a password that you need to provide in order to launch them. A simple concept, indeed, and a lot of people who want to keep their privacy or have little children playing with their iPhone love it. Too bad you need to go through such lengths to run this app, as it only works on jailbroken iPhones.
Wifi Sync. With all the wireless freedom hype around the iPad and iPhone 4, users of these Apple devices are still wire bound when they need to do anything meaningful with them. Yes, I’m talking about the iTunes sync being through USB only, even when apps like Wifi Sync clearly demonstrate that it’s possible to make it wireless without any problems. If you’re tired of having to connect a cable anytime you need to sync or download/upload something, a jailbreak and this app are definitely the solution for you.
There are tons of other great apps for a jailbroken iPhone, though it can be a bit hard to find them. However, most of the time, you can easily find an app you might need on the Internet using Google or by visiting a specialized apps marketplace for jailbroken iDevices, like for example Cydia (the most popular marketplace at the moment).
If you don’t care about any of the above complicated features and just want to have some fun with your iPhone, there’s nothing better than installing and running a few games on it. And there are a lot of simply amazing games for this smartphone (it is the best mobile gaming platform, after all):
Chaos Rings. Chaos Rings is one of the most popular iPhone games, and for good reason – it was one of the first true RPGs for the platform, and still features a very nice gameplay and story. The latest version added support for iPhone 4’s Retina display, as well as making a lot of improvements in the graphics, sound and control departments. The epic tale and 3D graphics will impress anyone, and the long story can keep you entertained for hours at end (it’s also very replayable). $12.99
Need for Speed Shift. Need for Speed Shift is one of the best looking racing simulators for the iPhone 4, and it also features all the things that make a racing sim great: cool cars, nice tracks and good in-game physics. If you like racing and particularly prefer the NFS series of simulators, this game will surely catch you attention (especially if you played and liked the desktop version). $4.99
Asphalt 6: Adrenaline. If you don’t really care for or like Need for Speed, but would still want a great racing simulator on your iPhone 4, you can try out the all new Asphalt 6 Adrenaline – the successor to the acclaimed Asphalt 4 and 5. You can race any of the 42 cars on a lot of nice streets around the world, participate in online and local multiplayer matches with your friends, and tune your cars for the best performance and racing characteristics – what else do you need? $4.99
NOVA 2. NOVA 2, along with its predecessor, NOVA, which is still a great game, is one of the best 3D First Person Shooter games for the iPhone 4 and iPad. It has a lot of innovations, including better enemy and friendlies AI, support for the gyroscope in the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 for better control and handling, an impressive range of weapons and gameplay options (you can ride a bike, pilot a mech unit, shoot a big laser and more!), and a new immersive story that will leave you wanting more. $6.99
Assassin’s Creed: Altair’s Chronicles. You are probably already acquainted with the Assassin’s Creed series of games for the Xbox and PC platforms – they’ve won multiple awards and are among the most sold games in the world. Well, now you have the chance to experience this game anywhere you want on your iPhone 4 (or Windows Phone 7 device)! The mobile version is surprisingly much like the desktop one, complete with a great gameplay and story and nice 3D graphics, sound effects and controls. $0.99
The iPhone 4 is practically a perfect mobile gaming console: it’s small, light, it has a pretty good battery life for the size, it supports most of the newest graphics technologies and more importantly, there are hundreds of great games for the platform on the marketplace, with the list growing considerably every month.
With the release of the iPhone 3GS, sales of dedicated gaming consoles like the Sony PSP and Nintendo DSI have started to drop at a noticeable rate, and the iPhone 4 definitely drove the last nail through their coffin. Sony has even shifted to Android and is releasing a new PlayStation Phone, which proves that one mobile device that can do it all is better than more dedicated machines.
But let’s say you’re not really into the whole “mobile gaming” thing, and would prefer some good old TV shows or movies, or celebrity news. Well, you’ll be happy to know there are enough apps for those purposes as well. Here are just some of the best:
IMDB Movies and TV. IMDB is the largest online database of information about movies, TV shows and actors and it’s probably the only site you’ll ever need to stay up to date in the industry. Sure enough, they have their own mobile apps for the most popular operating systems, and it’s a great piece of software to have on your smartphone. The iPhone version gives you access to all the information, reviews, recommendations and forums on the site in a easily accessible and navigable form. Free
Movies by Flixster. Movies by Flixster is the perfect companion app for IMDB, as it complements its features perfectly. This iPhone app gives you the ability to watch movie trailers for the newest and upcoming movies and TV shows, find showing and theater release dates, and read professional critic reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. You can also share movie ratings with other people and find the pictures that you would really love to watch. Free
iPhlix. If you’re in the US or Canada and you’re using the Netflix service to stream movies and order DVDs, you’ll probably love this app. It not only allows you to manage your Netflix Instant and Disc queues, but also lets you view high resolution cover art, manage multiple profiles and accounts, search for recommended or similar movies, share your recommendations, search for various TV shows and movies by actors, directors, and other factors, and much more! $2.99
Lovefilm. Whereas Netflix is the most popular DVD rental and streaming service in North America, Lovefilm (stylistically spelled as LOVEFiLM) is the European equivalent, currently operating in the UK and Germany (and soon expanding to other countries). It allows you to connect to your rental list if you are a subscriber, and add, remove or edit the priorities of your orders. With over 65,000 titles, there’s certainly a lot to choose from, and you can search the movies by title, actors, genre and other criterias. In short – a must have for any Lovefilm users. Free
iMovie. iMovie is an app for those who not only like to watch movies, but also create them. It allows you to film and edit relatively short HD movies (under 10 minutes, for Youtube, though you can edit longer projects, as well) right on the iPhone 4! It’s pretty cool seeing it in action, and you can cut and paste scenes, add effects, record and replace audio, adjust various settings, and more! $4.99
The iPhone 4 is a perfect example of a great multi-tool, and besides being useful for applications like entertainment, Internet access and business management, it can easily be used to help and aid you in your everyday life and for any other purposes. There are thousands of apps available on the marketplace, which can do anything from storing notes for you and reminding you that you need to buy groceries when you’re near a store to giving you the ability to participate in online death matches in your favorite games whenever you want, and the apps and games listed above are just the beginning.
Obsessed with tech since the early arrival of A/UX on Apple, Sudz (SK) is responsible for the editorial direction of AppleToolBox. He is based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Sudz specializes in covering all things macOS, having reviewed dozens of OS X and macOS developments over the years.
In a former life, Sudz worked helping Fortune 100 companies with their technology and business transformation aspirations.