Tuesday, 17 May 2011

My ten best free iPhone apps.

Having used an IPhone (3 and now 4) for the past two years or so, I have taken to the time to share my thoughts on the ten most useful apps I have on my iPhone today.

I use my iPhone for a mixture of work and leisure and have sought out the ten apps that I not only used most often, but value most highly and have paid the least (free) for!

So, in no particular order…

Hootsuite1. Hootsuite. As a fairly prolific tweeter and Facebook user, I have been suing social update apps for a while. Until recently my weapon of choice was Tweetdeck (ad in fact still is for my laptop) but after Tweetdeck getting itself in a real pickle when I was trying to manage multiple twitter accounts on my iPhone version, it was deleted and a new alternative was sought.

Having trialled a few others (namely Twitter and Seesmic) first I have settled on Hootsuite as the my social talking and listen app of choice.

It copes well with multiple twitter and Facebook accounts, and also integrates into Foursquare.

The ability to choose to post one status to multiple accounts (my Facebook and twitter feed for example) simultaneously was a feature that I grew reliant on in Tweetdeck and have found in Hootsuite to work very well (other apps don’t have this feature)

Most importantly Hootsuite has not repeated the horrid bug of auto posting updates destined for my personal twitter account to my work account by mistake! Cost: Free

Onavo2. Onavo. A data-compressing little gem this one. If you have a data contract on your iPhone with a limit (even “unlimited” deals d have a limit these days) and/or travel overseas and use your phone for email/web browsing, then this app could save you a small fortune.

It simply compresses the amount of data you download whilst using 3G – the makers reckon you can save up to 75% f your data costs each month. I’ve been using this for a month or so and have managed about 50% so far – in real terms for travelling abroad using my phone that is about a £48 saving already! Cost: Free

Facebook3. Facebook. Does what it says on the tin really. If you are like 600m or so other people and use Facebook then using their mobile app is the best way to make and receive updates from your friends.

Occasionally I find the app to be a bit “buggy” with notification updates – it isn’t always easy to see the latest updates, but this is probably more down to the web servers of Facebook than the app itself. Cost: Free

Spotify4. Spotify. I’ve had a Spotify account for a couple of years now and it has meant the end of me buying CDs. The app version of this music-streaming service means I can live stream any record I care to choose from their enormous database, or I have “saved” albums suing the desktop version, then these will be available for playback via the IPhone app, even without internet connectivity. This is a real plus – essentially turning the Spotify app into an IPod-style service.

This app is not strictly speaking free – paying Spotify customers only can use the app, but assuming you have justified the £9.99 per month price tag of the ad-free service, then the app is a must.

As this app (via Bluetooth and cable) will play via my home surround sound and in-car in my Audi, it really has meant the end of CD in my world. Cost: Free (but to paying Spotify customers only)

TheTrainline5. Thetrainline. The National Rail have a similar app for £4.99 but I have always fund this one to be more than adequate for my train travel. As well as being able to check train times, buy tickets and plan routes, the really useful neat feature is “nearest train home” – using your location it tells you the time of next nearest train to your home station (set in you preferences) – this has helped me catch countless trains I would have been late for when travelling home from London and alone make the app worthy of this list. Cost: Free

Shazam6. Shazam. I remember wowing my friends with the Shazam music service a few years ago via my mobile. Being able to dial “2580” and let the Shazam listen to and identify the song on the radio was genius. But having that as an iPhone app makes for an obvious and very welcome progression.

Nothing is more frustrating than hearing a song you like but can’t name, especially as most radio DJs have not the time or inclination to tell the audience the names of their play lists artists – you’re just supposed to know. Cost: free

Sky +7. Sky+. Even though there are many other ways of doing so, I still find this app the easiest way to view a TV guide. But that is but a bonus use, compared to main benefit of this app.

I have Sky + at home and the fact that I can use this app to remotely record my home sky box is quite brilliant. Although I don’t watch many show, when I’m reminded or recommended to watch a great TV show, then being able to tap a few buttons and record at home means I never need miss the likes of Lose Women ever again. This ap also reduces the risk of ink poisoning from the numerous notes I used to leave on the back of my hand! Cost: Free

Dropbox8. Dropbox. The lack of open storage on an iPhone is overcome brilliant with Dropbox. Essentially cloud-based storage system for files (be them music, data, photo, video etc) you can access your “box” from any web-enabled device.

In reality this means that I can work on a PowerPoint on my laptop and view it via Dropbox on my iPhone. This principle, although very straightforward, makes accessing files on-the-go very quick and also means that you are storing your precious files in a much safer environment on an easily dropped, broken or lost laptop/hard drive etc. Cost: free (for the basic service)

imapmyride9. iMapmyRide. I spent a small fortune a few years about for a watch that tracked my location and run/race/bike times when I was out and about. As well as having to wait a good 5-10 most days for it to “triangulate” with the GPS satellites, it had a poor battery life and was the size of a small calculator!

iMapmyRide is one of many IPhone apps that does essentially the same thing, but with the minimum amount of fuss and zero cost.

Once the app is started it picks up my location very quickly (seconds) and with one hit of the “start” button it is tracking my route/distance/time.

Once you have completed your route, it then will save tat data as a run/walk/cycle etc and you can either keep it for your own training purposes, to better next time! Or share publicly to other users of the app who may wish to follow your route. The app works very well with social sites, allowing you to post your times/route to Facebook/Twitter. Cost: Free

BA10. BA. It is fair to say that I am reluctant fan of this app. I travel quite a lot and use BA often – nothing to do with their service (I can find many places on the ground where I am treated like an inconvenience by a middle-aged woman called Sheree) but all to do with their air miles.

Travelling a lot means carrying unnecessary pieces of paper, planning ahead to access printers and being near my laptop to check in exactly 23 hrs and 58 seconds before takeoff, to get the best seat.

Thankfully the BA app des all of the above for me very neatly. The big plus for me being able to go from check-in to seat without anything more than this app.

It still feels kinda neat, but of course relies on having enough battery on your iPhone to wave your boarding pass at each stage! Cost: Free

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