Looking to power up your iPhone with the best free and cheap apps out there? Our second edition of the Lifehacker Pack for iPhone rounds up our favourite must-have iPhone applications.The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favourite, must-have applications for each of our favourite platforms. If you’re curious to see how things have changed this year, here’s last year’s Lifehacker Pack for iPhone.
Looking for an app in a specific category? Use the links below to jump around.
- Art and Photography
Simplenote is a key component in the holy grail of ubiquitous text capture, and rightfully so. Simplenote allows for speedy note entry on your iPhone, plus it syncs with the likewise free Simplenote service so your notes are always available wherever you want them.
If you haven’t used TripIt to manage your travel itineraries, you’ve been missing out. We’ve already discussed its merits, but the free iPhone app makes it even easier to manage your trip. It’s a natural extensions of the service, since if you’re travelling it’s more than likely that you’re not at your computer.
Instapaper and Read It Later
When it comes to browsing your news feeds, Reeder is the way to go. In addition to a really pleasant, easy-to-use interface it comes with plenty of features to make feed reading better. In addition to Google Reader sync, it provides Readability support so the full text of an article is a lot easier to read. You can also easily share articles and save them to read later in services like Instapaper. Reeder covers all its bases and does its job well.
Apple’s voice recognition handles a few tasks but misses some key features that Dragon Dictation helps to fill in. If typing is not an option, or you’re just feeling lazy, Dragon Dictation will type it up for you. You can send a text message or an email directly from the app, and it also integrates with Facebook and Twitter. Although not perfect, Dragon Dictation is surprisingly accurate and will let you correct any mistakes it makes.
If you’ve found Mobile Safari to be a bit lacking, you’re not alone. Atomic Browser can help, providing true tabbed browsing, private browsing mode, user-agent spoofing, and a ton of features you’ve come to expect as part of your web-browsing experience.
Skype has come a long way since it first hit the iPhone. Initially it was only good for calls over Wi-Fi, but in the past year it has added calling over 3G and video chat. The quality is pretty good for video and audio. While there are plenty of calling alternatives, Skype has become the most solid and versatile option.
Imo Instant Messanger
Instant messaging on your phone can get a little bit overwhelming, as a touchscreen phone isn’t made for rapid text-based communication with many people. Nonetheless, Imo does a really good job at helping you keep up with an influx of text messages. It has a really simple interface that’s easy to navigate, support for practically every IM service you could want, keeps a searchable chat history, and a lot more.
The official Facebook app on the iPhone is great for general updates and messages, but it becomes especially useful when all your contacts flood in. If your address book is missing a number, just find your friend in the Facebook app and click the call button. You can also keep track of events, check your news feed, and edit your profile.
Tweetbot is an excellent Twitter client. It provides many of the features you’d expect and can get for free with the official Twitter app but with a smarter interface and some added functionality. Tweetbot has its own handy gestures for better navigation, customisation options, push notifications with Boxcar (also part of this pack), and a lot more. It might be a little pricey for some at $2.99, but if you’re a Twitter addict you probably won’t mind.
When Google launched its social network, the team knew it would be unwise to do so without great mobile apps for Google’s own Android platform and Apple’s. In some ways, thanks to the app’s simplified interface, it’s easier to use than the Google+ site itself. Getting around is really simple and it provides notifications to keep you up-to-date on all your activity. If you’re currently using Google+, it’s pretty much a must-have.
You have quite a few fitness apps to choose from on the iPhone. One of those happens to be RunKeeper, and lucky us, it has a great free version. RunKeeper uses your iPhone’s GPS to track your run and provide you with statistics, giving you the statistical benefits of a treadmill when you’re outside the gym. It integrates with your music library and lets you share your activities. While the built-in Nike+ app is also pretty nice, RunKeeper doesn’t require the purchase of any additional hardware and lets you choose your brand of shoes.
Find My iPhone
Even if you’re not a MobileMe subscriber, you’ve probably heard a bit about Find My iPhone in the news. It’s already tracked down a few iPhone thieves, but is probably more commonly used when you’ve just misplaced your phone. While you have to shell out $119 a year for a MobileMe account to get any use out of the app, it’s a must if you’re already a MobileMe subscriber.
While it’s not for everyone, jailbreaking your iPhone opens up a world of new possibilities. Cydia is the hub where they reside. Often labelled the jailbreak app store, it allows you to download many more great apps that you can’t get through Apple. If you want full control over your phone, you’ll want to jailbreak it.
Would it truly be a Lifehacker Pack without file-syncing app extraordinaire Dropbox? While the iPhone version of Dropbox isn’t quite as useful as Dropbox on your computer, it makes for a nice companion. If you’re using Dropbox for all sorts of clever things, it’s always nice having access to your sync’d files from your phone. While the Dropbox app can download anything the iPhone (or a third-party app) can display, you can also save key files on your phone as well.
If you like frequent push notifications, you’ll probably like Boxcar. Boxcar integrates with Twitter, Facebook, email, RSS and Growl to grab updates of nearly anything you want and push them to your phone. If you want to be alerted the moment something changes, Boxcar will get the job done.
Panamp is an alternative music player for your iPhone that uses a tree-based structure for your content. This makes it really easy to quickly navigate through all your songs and queue them up on the fly. If you like creating playlists on the go, Panamp is the music player you’ve always wanted. If you like a more traditional structure, however, the built-in iPod app will still do the trick.
If you listen to a lot of podcasts, you should be listening with Downcast. It does just about everything that’s missing from Apple’s iPod app. For starters, it downloads everything directly from within the app. It’ll work over 3G and Wi-Fi, plus you can set rules for when it uses the 3G connection to download and when it doesn’t. You don’t even have to download the files — you can stream them instead. There are plenty more features and you can read about them here.
Apple’s Remote went a long while without an update, but this last year brought some great new navigation features, controls and more. When it comes to remotely accessing your iTunes library and streaming music via AirPlay, the Remote app is the best there is.
StreamToMe and Air Video
StreamToMe and Air Video are both apps that help you stream video from your computer to your iPhone, no matter where you are. They’re especially compelling when you want to watch something at, say, the gym and you didn’t have time to transcode and sync it to your device first. Whether you’re connected to Wi-Fi or 3G, you can stream video directly to your phone from anywhere you are (the quality of your connection permitting, of course). Both apps have some subtle differences, such as StreamToMe’s ability to stream more than just video and Air Video’s option to pre-encode content for easier streaming, and either are worth the price of admission: $2.99.
If you’d like to keep your videos in their native format rather than use Air Video or StreamToMe to stream iOS-friendly versions, GoodPlayer can handle the task — if your hardware’s up to it. While GoodPlayer supports pretty much every video format you could need to play, it’s limited by your iPhone’s hardware. It tends to do better using the iPad’s A5 chip, claiming playback of even 720p MKV files. It’s a very capable player, but it’ll be significantly more useful once the hardware catches up.
iBooks, Kindle and Stanza
IMDb is a great resources for movie information, and the app does a good job of focusing a lot of information onto your iPhone’s small screen. What’s also great about the IMDb app is that it also serves as an excellent free option for finding movie showtimes.
TV Forecast performs the simple function of keeping track of when the next episode of any show is going to air. Enter in just about any show that’s currently running and TV Forecast will provide you with an attractive schedule tailored just for you. While you can grab the free version of TV Listings instead and save yourself $1.99, TV Forecast is a better option.
Art and Photography
Instagram is a wonderful little social camera app that lets you take pictures, apply neat vintage-style filters, and share your images across the web on various social sites and photo sharing services. It’s fast, it’s free, and it’s pretty addictive.
Camera+ pretty much turns your phone into a feature-rich point-and-shoot camera. Not only is it really fast at snapping photos, but it can enhance them, remove red eye, add special effects, and a whole lot more. It also comes with great features for taking the pictures themselves like stabilisation and digital zoom that doesn’t completely suck. It’ll cost you $1.99 but it’s worth it if you’re really into taking pictures with your phone.
While SketchBook is the sort of app that excels on a big screen, like the iPad’s, it’s nonetheless a great drawing app on the iPhone. With several brushes and pencils, you’ll be surprised what you can actually draw with this app. When you’re done, you can even export to a PSD (Photoshop Document) or a flattened image. It’ll cost you $2.99, but if you’re really into drawing you’ll likely consider it worth the price.
If you’re looking for more options, or just to see what’s changed for 2011, check out last year’s Lifehacker Pack for iPhone. Got any other free iPhone apps you find indispensable? Share your picks in the comments.