Must have iPhone apps?
December 12, 2009 6:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm joining the iPhone crowd. What are your must-have apps and games?

I just picked up my 16GB iPhone 3GS. Being in Canada our data plans suck, so I only have unlimited data for two months, so I'd like to get my apps sorted out in that time. 1GB/mo after that only.

So what apps should I get?

(p.s. If I configure my iPhone to use my WiFi, will it use that instead of the 3G when possible, thus preserving my 1GB of data?)
posted by WinnipegDragon to Computers & Internet (41 answers total) 112 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A big "yes" on your PS. It'll automatically switch to the wifi (or any previously-used wifi network) whenever it's in range. Mine spends 40% of its life on my home wifi, 40% on work network wifi, and only 20% in transit.

No special configuration needed. You can check the icon in top left when you're worried, and use the Settings > Info > Usage data counter to stay under your limit.

Bonus: wifi is much faster.
posted by rokusan at 6:41 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is utterly impractical, but if I got an iPhone, the first app I'd get would be the one that lets you sing and record with Autotune.
posted by hermitosis at 6:43 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have been through a billion apps, but keep my phone pretty light these days. I've reformatted and started fresh a couple times, and these are my keepers, that stick on the first couple of screens:
Apple's Remote
Kindle reader
VNC (client)
TouchTerm (terminal client)
Darkroom (camera replacement for shaky hands)
Wifi HD (for carrying data Mac to PC to Mac)
Dual Level (handy)
Air Mouse (for the TV)
TapDefense, FlightControl, iShoot (games)
Google, Facebook, eBay, Paypal apps
....and a couple of custom apps I made for myself. I'm learning.
posted by rokusan at 6:48 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: The google search app is nice. The built-in voice recognition works well enough that I am known to settle petty wagers by commanding "wikipedia somethingorother" into my phone with a deep, affected radio baritone. I've lost fewer friends this way than I had expected, actually...
posted by tss at 6:50 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's apps that I use: SportsTap, Hockey Night in Canada app, OpenTable, Shazam, Tweetie 2, AllRecipes, Facebook, Pandora, AlarmTunes, Urbanspoon, SparkPeople/SparkRecipes

Games: Peggle, Lightsaber, AuroraFeint, Cookie Bonus Solitaire, PocketTanks, Scrabble, Polyhedra, Vortex, Samurai!, WordAce.

Also, right now there's a promotion going on at where they're giving away a game or application that would normally be paid for free each day.
posted by BZArcher at 6:52 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the autotune ... a friend has it on his iphone and it's hilarious to play with. It's $2.99 though I believe (at least the t-pain one he has).
posted by kthxbi at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: Note Taker Lite
Alarm Clock
PS Mobile
Wolfgang's Vault
Dragon Dictation
Repair Pal
posted by fixedgear at 6:57 PM on December 12, 2009

Facebook, Twitterific, AT&T MyWireless, NPR News, NASA, Apple iTunes Remote and TED
posted by jmnugent at 6:59 PM on December 12, 2009

Apple's Remote
Chess With Friends
posted by pompomtom at 7:00 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: Well, what do you like? What do you do?

Joby just released an app called Gorillacam which makes a good replacement for the built-in Camera app.

Dropbox will let you easily access files (that you've placed in the designated dropbox folder) from your computer. Before that came out, I used ACTPrinter to "print" files to PDFs from my Mac.

TouchPad works great to control the Mac mini you've got set up in your media center. See also Apple's Remote app and Airfoil Speakers.
posted by thejoshu at 7:04 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you use Wifi, you should be able to download as many apps as you want at any time without affecting your monthly data usage.

Games: If you only get one game, get Words with Friends. It's Scrabble played with random opponents or friends (if they have user IDs). The great thing about it is that you can play whenever you feel like it - so you can come back to a game in an idle moment, over a lunch break, etc.

Chess with Friends is also a great app and it works on the same concept.

If you like Nethack, there is an excellent (and free!) port available for the iPhone. It plays pretty much exactly like vanilla Nethack and works amazingly well given the iPhone's lack of a physical keyboard.

Rolando, Eliss, and Edge are good games as well.

Other apps: I'm into finance so I make heavy use of the Bloomberg and FT Mobile apps which are pretty good (and free). I use the Weather Channel app instead of the default Weather app as it gives you more info.

I have this "Sleep Cycle" app which supposedly uses the accelerometer to measure your movements in sleep and wake you at the appropriate moment in your sleep cycle, although I'm not sure how well it works - though the provided alarm noises are nicer than Apple's default ones.

Zipcar,, Pandora, and Skype might be useful for you too.
posted by pravit at 7:09 PM on December 12, 2009

Twitterific (free Twitter app) is the one app I've used pretty consistently. The others seem to wax and wane.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:16 PM on December 12, 2009

Most of my "must have" apps are jailbreak-only interface enhancements like SBSettings (being able to turn off auto-rotation of Safari so I can read pages in bed is essential). As far as AppStore apps go:

VLC Remote
Photoshop Mobile
Pandora Radio
Tower Madness
posted by maniactown at 7:17 PM on December 12, 2009

Scanner 911... I have spent many sleepless nights listening to all of the crime going on RIGHT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW... for the ham-radio enthusiast / voyeur in all of us!
posted by Pleadthefifth at 7:18 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: iPod Touch user here. Google, Wikipanion, Stanza (access to some, not all, of Gutenberg's texts), BlogPress (I wouldn't blog from my iPod but it's been useful for making the odd correction), Solebon solitaire, Instapaper, Google Earth. FStream lets you seek and play online radio stations. CBC/Radio-Canada has an app specific to them, free. Tweetie (although I preferred the old version). NFB has an app for viewing lots of free movies online. Colloquy for IRCing.
posted by zadcat at 7:21 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Misc:
Google Search App
Evernote's App
iPhlix (if you use netflix)
Kindle (Ebooks)
Zippo Lighter

Shutterfly (if you use their service online)
PS Mobile


Beejive IM


Around the house type of stuff:
Mark On Call
iHandy Level
Grocery IQ

Defender Chronicles, StoneLoops, Peggle, Ranch Rush, Bejeweled, Scrabble, Monopoly, iDracula, Toki Tori, Labyrinth, any of the Aurora Feint or Virtual Villager games.
posted by pghjezebel at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If I keep it to essential apps:

Tweetie 2 (twitter if you use it)

Facebook (again, if you use it)

BeejiveIM (for chatting in multiple applications. I only use aim, but the aim application sucks)


CNN (not that big a fan of CNN, but their mobile app is nice)

SimpleNote (replaces iPhone not app, syncs to web)

NetNewsWire (for rss feeds, some prefer other apps)

Things (task manager, though most useful if you also have the desktop version)

1PassWord (passwords and sensitive information, syncs with desktop version)

RedLaser (checks prices by barcode, note sure if it works in canada)
posted by Dennis Murphy at 7:27 PM on December 12, 2009

I am addicted to Paper Toss at the moment. I frequently use allrecipes for meal ideas.
posted by Jazz Hands at 7:29 PM on December 12, 2009

iPod Touch here, too, and the only game I can offer is Flight Control. It's simple, and it's really good.
posted by mhz at 7:30 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: I'm not sure what kind of games you like, but...
In general I think it's best to avoid any games that use complex controls (some kind of on screen joystick) or anything that uses the tilt control. Puzzle and strategy games, or action games with a simple control scheme.

If you like strategy games, UniWar is a great if rough around the edges turn based strategy game with a nice multiplayer mode. There's of course all the tower defense games as well, in my opinion Geodefense Swarm and Defender Chronicles are the best two in that genre. Although those two games are very different from each other.

If you like puzzle games, the pop cap games are always a good bet, Bejewelled, Peggle, etc. Also check out Drop7, which is a great original tetris-meet-sodoku puzzle game.

One exception to the on screen joystick rule is Soosiz, but I'd only get that if you know you like 2d platformers.

Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor is pretty much a must have in my book, it's a wonderfully well produced casual exploration game about, uh, being a spider.

(Shameless plug ahead: if you have a small kid in the 2 to 5ish range, you could check out my app, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox).
posted by malphigian at 8:33 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: How I get here from iPhone I am not good with computers
posted by WinnipegDragon at 8:34 PM on December 12, 2009

Games: Geodefense, Defender Chronicles, Scrabble (for facebook Scrabble with my mom), and Peggle.

Other good stuff: Twitterriffic, Wikipanion, Instapaper, Stanza (there is an optional desktop client that puts most any ebook format, HTML, and plain-text into Stanza), Evernote, and Pandora.
posted by JDHarper at 8:51 PM on December 12, 2009

Best answer: Open the Safari app and navigate here like you would in a desktop browser.

As far as the apps/games I swear by:

-Convert, for unit conversion. There are a couple other nice conversion apps out there--ConvertBot is also good, and has a clever interface to boot--but Convert's simplicity nails it for me. Can also double as a replacement for the built-in calculator

-Gas Cubby for keeping track of my gas mileage and car maintenance. A little on the expensive side, but worth whatever they're asking for it now (it was $5 when I got it).

-IMDb just released their official app a couple days ago, and it's great. Also doubles as a handy way to see what movies are playing nearby.

-Instapaper Pro is probably my favorite app in the store. (You could probably get by with the free version, but that's up to you.) Whenever I come across a longer article I really want to read but don't have time to, I fire up my bookmarklet here and then load the app when I have time. It's easily formatted for the iPhone's screen, and I can read at my leisure.

-Simplenote has replaced the built-in Notes application for me. It syncs seamlessly with the accompanying web interface; any changes I make in the app are reflected there, and vice-versa. Doubles as a computer-to-iPhone clipboard of sorts.

-Shazam solves the "man, what is this song?" problem. They've released a paid version and crippled the free version in the last couple months, so grain of salt.

-Wikipanion beats going to Wikipedia in Safari. I've used some other Wikipedia apps in the past, and this one is the best.

Some other apps that I use a lot but you might not have as much use for include Facebook, Tweetie 2, ESPN ScoreCenter (now with push notifications!), Remember the Milk, the paid Weather Channel app, and the Amazon app.

Games I enjoy include Cube Runner (free), Drop 7 (paid), Fieldrunners (paid), Frenzic (paid), Galcon (+/- Labs; both paid), Orbital (paid, I think?) and Word Warp (free and paid versions).

posted by andrewcilento at 8:59 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I just have to echo Simplenote for jotting down notes and keeping lists. So elegant and seemless.
posted by veggieboy at 9:18 PM on December 12, 2009

Evernote and Best Camera.
posted by Silvertree at 9:29 PM on December 12, 2009

Good casual games that work well with the iPhone's controls:
* Canabalt
* Eliss
* Peggle
* Flight Control and offshoots, in particular Harbor Master and 33rd Division
* Mobigame: Edge (Edgy?) and Cross Fingers
* Tap Tap Revenge, if you're into rhythm games
* Skullpogo
* Labyrinth 2
posted by archagon at 9:51 PM on December 12, 2009

The Fandango app has saved my butt a few times on a Friday night... get to the theater late, ticket line is out the door and moving at a snails pace, whip out the iphone, buy the tickets, skip the line, night saved.

Doodlejump and Implode! are two great games for when you're on the toilet...

I'll nth Tweetie 2 if you use twitter at all, fantastic UI.
posted by hummercash at 10:31 PM on December 12, 2009

- Tweetie 2 is king of all Twitter apps in the known universe
- BeejiveIM is the best IM client on iPhone but suffers from "settings overload"
- Things is a stellar, free-form task list app
- Flickr's app is decent if you do light Flickr-ing
- The Yelp app is nicer than their website by a mile
- ConvertBot is a hell of a lot of fun to use, which is weird because it's just a unit converter . . .


- Blackjack 21 (all other 21 games look like shit compared to this)
- Deep Green (the slickest chess game I've found)
- Five Dice (Yahtzee clone that feels great and is good to kill a few minutes)
- Wurdle
- Frenzic (sooo good, Iconfactory rules)
- MetaSquares
- Strategery (simple, slick Risk clone on a hex grid)
- geoDefense
- Galcon
- Flight Control
- Zen Bound
- Ramp Champ
- Edge (known as Edgy these days thanks to that shithead Tim Langdell)
- Canabalt (aka "pres butan: the game")
- Word Ace (because you're more literate than random people on the Internet, right?)
posted by secret about box at 3:44 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Canabalt, you can try out a Flash version of that game here.
posted by wolfr at 4:41 AM on December 13, 2009

TimmyMe. (We have a timbit addict in the house.)
posted by saucysault at 7:00 AM on December 13, 2009

Rimshot - A soundboard that always gets a laugh.

Dragon Dictation - Simple and amazingly accurate voice recognition app. Better than texting while driving!

Dictionary - Random House Dictionary/Thesaurus. When you are at a loss for words or their spelling.

Flashlight - Turns your iPhone into a flash light. More handy than you might imagine.

Convertbot - A nice conversion app.

All for free!!!
posted by MiggySawdust at 7:09 AM on December 13, 2009

Wooden Labyrinth 3D is a fun tilt-to-move marble game. I find myself playing that a lot.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:16 AM on December 13, 2009

If you're worried about bandwidth, OffMaps is great. It caches OpenStreetmap maps locally so you don't have to go over the network to get stuff. Just load it up when you're on WiFi and then have network-free maps anywhere. 1gb/mo is pretty good bandwidth, but Google Maps online chews up a lot of bandwidth.
posted by Nelson at 8:16 AM on December 13, 2009

Games: Scrabble, F.A.S.T (think of the game "lock on" from the 80s)

Toys: i-808 drum machine, Guitar Chords, Shotgun Free ('cos sometimes you gotta shoot something)

Apps: Jaadu RDP, LogMeIn, iDisk (for Mobile Me), Taxi, Flight Tracker, Yelp

I've heard a lot of good things about Digidrummer - might be fun to play with.
posted by Thistledown at 8:51 AM on December 13, 2009

Awesome games:

Electric Box (make little Rube Goldberg devices to solve a puzzle)

Glyder (fly around like a hang glider, pick up crystals and stuff--amazing physics and very soothing)

I Love Katamari
posted by exceptinsects at 10:25 AM on December 13, 2009

Oh, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Bebot, which is one of the best ways to spend $3 in the App Store.
posted by andrewcilento at 11:32 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Its harder to access these days but visit and get and then visit They essentially let you "test" (ok ok, pirate) iPhone apps, but I find that I really do use it to test them and buy the ones I like. There is so much shit out there on the app store where you'll feel completely ripped off after downloading it so I consider this a must. People try to fluff up reviews all the time in the app store and you just need a way to demo things outside of lite versions which this enables you to do.
posted by Elminster24 at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

White Noise. For when you have an annoying living situation, or on a plane or whatever.
posted by mezamashii at 12:46 PM on December 13, 2009

For what it's worth I get 6gb of data month, and I think the most I've ever actually used in a month is about 70mb. I don't download music or movies, obviously. I'm also connected via wifi a lot of the time. I still think 1gb/month would be plenty.

Here's my top used apps: Twitterific (probably switch to Tweetie 2 eventually)
Playsafe (to play music in the car somewhat more safely than with the built in music player) - Canadian Tire has a decent fm transmitter that usually goes on sale for 8.99 - 11.99
Wikipanion (Wikipedia)
iXpensite (to track my expenses)
Todo - in truth I use this mostly just for lists of what I need to buy. Overkill, but it was on sale when I bought it.
Discover (Wifi usb key essentially)
iRdesktop (remote desktop app to connect to my PC)

Others that i sometimes use - Shazam, Flixter, What's On, Flashlight, GymGoal, Nimbuzz (MSN Messenger), Skype, Yelp, Convertbot, PS Mobile, Sol Free, Sudoku, Flickr
posted by backwards guitar at 1:53 PM on December 13, 2009

Seconding some and recommending:

Unblock Me
Word Warp
Sol Free

Moron Test
posted by morganannie at 3:48 PM on December 14, 2009

White Noise, if you like going to bed to the sound of rain outside your window.
posted by amrangaye at 2:02 PM on December 17, 2009

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