Monday, October 19, 2009

Stimey's Fave iPhone Apps: Top 10 Utilities

It's still iPhone Apps Week here at Things. And Stuff. Today I'll be reviewing my favorite utilities and not-just-for-fun apps. I love my iPhone because it lets me do pretty much anything I want to do from wherever I am. Here are some of the apps that help me do that.

mBoxMail ($9.99)

I am one of the last sixteen people on the planet to use Hotmail as my main email account. I mean, I have a gajillion other email accounts, most of them through Gmail, but they all forward into my Hotmail account. So I was pretty sad to discover that the email app that comes with the iPhone doesn't sync up Hotmail. mBoxMail was the first app that I actually paid money for it. It's been worth it.

textPlus (Free)

A free app that lets you send free text messages? Great! I don't text very much—I could probably count my lifetime number of texts sent on my two hands—but every once in a while, it is the best and most efficient way to get in touch with someone. This app takes a little jimmying with to get it the right way, and if the person you're texting doesn't also have textPlus, your message arrives with a little bit of extra baggage. Still. Free texts.

Skype (Free)

I've used Skype from my computer for a while now because my mom lives overseas. You can't beat a free Skype-to-Skype call to Australia. I'm not sure if Skype still requires a WiFi connection to make calls (instead of just using a 3G network), but either way, it still beats landline-to-landline.

Yelp (Free)

Of all the "find a business and give me directions on how to get there" apps, Yelp is my favorite. You can search by category, location, or store name and then get quick and easy directions through the iPhone's map application. I will say that had I written this prior to having Yelp send me to two nonexistent Sears stores the other day, I would have been a little happier with it.

Lose It! (Free)

Studies show that if you write down what you eat, you are more likely to lose weight. This is a great little food tracker that lets you set a calorie goal and helps you search for and list all the foods you eat. It has a lot of options and ways to customize and save your settings. Great app! The only problem actually have to use it to lose your weight.

iXpenseIt ($4.99)

This is an app that you can use in many ways to track your budget. I use it to keep track of the money that I spend day to day. It can generate reports and lets you customize different categories and settings. There is a free version (iXpenseit Lite) that only holds a certain number of records. So you can try it out and, if you like it, transfer your information over to the full version.

Kindle (Free)

My mother was an early adopter of the Kindle, and it nearly threw her over the edge when she saw that I could download a Kindle app for free on my phone. As far as I can tell, it does pretty much the same thing as the stand-alone Kindle. And it's free. I don't use it very much, but I always keep a book on there in case I'm stuck somewhere and need something to read.

iReward ($2.99)

The other day I was in a hardware store and my oldest child was being a pill. So I searched the App Store for a sticker chart app that would let me track his behavior on the go. iReward lets me mark his bad behavior. When he gets a certain number of stars, he loses a privilege. I use it for another son in a different way: every time he finishes a page of homework, he gets to award himself a star. At the end, he gets to play. This is a cool, easy way to track good and bad behavior even when you're out of the house and away from the stickers.

Recorder Pro ($0.99)

Use the iPhone's built-in microphone to record literally hours of audio. You can use this to record lectures, events, or notes. I particularly like this app because you can record in different formats, depending on what you're going to use it for. I recently recorded more than an hour on this app with no problem at all. Here's a tip though: put your phone on Airplane Mode so your recording doesn't get interrupted by a phone call.

NPR News (Free)

I get a lot of my news from NPR, and as far as I can tell, this just might be the best NPR app out there. You can use it to get live streaming of NPR, to create a playlist of stories to listen to when you want to, and find NPR stations by your GPS location or zip code, plus so much more. Never miss Car Talk again!

That's it for now. Tomorrow I'll be back with my favorite social media and social apps!

I'd like to have my last day of reviews be reader-suggested apps. Let me know in the comments or via email what your favorite apps are and why. Also let me know what apps you tried that were not worth the time.

Earlier on App Week: Scholastic Game Apps

Honesty Clause: All of these apps were downloaded by me and paid for (if there was a charge) by me.