Indispensable iPhone Apps

I enjoy showing off the different ways I use my iPhone. Here’s a quick rundown of my favorite discoveries, ones that I use on a frequent basis:

Task Manager: As a former Palm OS user, I searched for nearly six months (since first getting the iPhone) for a strong to-do manager, an indespensible tool for managing my busy life. I wanted one that would sync with the “cloud” in case I somehow lost my phone or experienced a loss of data. Also important to me was the ability to maintain an historical record. I played with another app that sync’d to an online task manager service, but was disappointed to find that there was a fee to maintain a record of completed tasks, and no way to export them outside of the service’s proprietary format. TouchTodo is the perfect answer! It syncs with Google Calendar, backs up my tasks to the cloud via Google Docs, and has a host of other great features. I especially like being able to create a checklist within a task, such as a grocery list. My wife emails a list in plain text format and I simply paste it into a task, press a button, and voil√†–I now have a list of grocery items to check off as I get them!

GPS Apps (GaiaGPS and RK Free): I enjoy many outdoor activities such as hiking, hunting, running, and cycling. Having a built-in GPS with the right applications can be very beneficial to me in each of those sports. If hiking or hunting on unfamiliar terrain, I can use Google Earth on a PC to define the perimeter of the property, export a .gpx file, and import it into GaiaGPS. The perimeter will be defined on a topo map for me to ensure I remain within the eatablished property boundaries. RK Free is another very helpful app to use when running or cycling to monitor my elapsed time and distance, esentially a GPS- based pedometer with great accuracy.

Lose-it: It’s painful to admit, but occasionally I struggle to maintain a comfortable weight, despite a daily work-out routine.¬† Counting calories and monitoring fat and fiber intake are hard-and-fast requirements for me. I use Lose-It every day to track my eating habits and am proud to report that it works very well to help me in this effort! It’s amazing how motivating it can be to monitor food intake and calories expensed during exercise. Lose-It contains an extensive nutrition database of foods and let’s me enter my own as needed.

Streaming Music: It’s nice to listen to music stored in my phone’s memory, but eventually I yearn to hear something new. Streaming music fits that objective quite well over either Wifi or 3G. My favorite streaming apps are Pandora and WunderRadio. The former let’s me search for a song or artist, then it streams high-quality music from different artists that it believes have a similar style or genre. WunderRadio, produced by, rebroadcasts tens of thousands of terrestrial (regular AM and FM) radio stations from all over the world. With this, I essentially have a built-in radio receiver that can receive much more than just my local stations, all provided for free over the ‘net.

Note-taking: Evernote is an excellent utility for capturing and organizing searchable text, clips from the web, storing reference photos, etc. I consider it my glorified notepad and use it extensively since the app synchronizes with the corresponding service on the company’s web site ( I can enter notes from the PC or iPhone and always have them available at my fingertips.

Electronic Books: Stanza is my favorite book reader, largely due to its links yo a vast collection of free books available for immediate download online direct to the iPhone. Most of the freebies are classics (older books whose copyrights have expired). Both Stanza and the Kindle app, which parallels the hardware device that bears the same name, are now owned by If you have the hardware- based Kindle reader, the Kindle app will connect to your online repository and allow you to read your collection on either device. Although a dedicated reader still captures my interest, the iPhone does a great job for now and has the advantage that it is always with me.

Bible: There are several apps for reading and searching The Holy Bible, but my favorite is BibleReader by Olive Tree. I first started using it on the Palm Tungsten T back in 2003, and even purchased the New International Version (NIV) for the Palm. To my pleasant surprise, Olive Tree allowed me to obtain the iPhone version for free simply by logging into my account. The reader is great and has solid searching, bookmarking, and footnote capabilities.

Voice Recognition: i believe the wave of the future (or quite possibly, the wave of now!) is voice recognition as a means to interact with a smartphone, desktop PC, or other computing device. Two apps, Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search, both work exceptionally well. I can dictate an email an make minimal changes to it with the former and save a lot of on-screen typing time. The latter, as well as the voice search capability included in the excellent Google App, sure makes it nice to enter a web search query quickly and accurately. Voice transcription, believe it or not, doesn’t actually happen on the iPhone itself; recordings are uploaded to the servers for conversion and are returned to the app as text in just a couple of seconds.

Password Storage: I suspect most people, like me, have many usernames and passwords for web sites, networks, email, etc. that need to be documented somewhere. Yes, I realize that one cardinal rule of computer security states that one should never write down their password, but with dozens of different ones that are mixed-character passwords of 10 digits or longer, few are able to memorize them all. mSecure is a password-protected vault that really comes in handy for me to keep the passwords accessible while still protecting them.

Replacement for text messaging: I refuse to pay extra for text messaging in addition to the already expensive cost for an unlimited data plan. Instead, I use a free Google Voice number (will post an article on that separately) that forwards SMS sent to it to my gmail account. The GPush app notifies me via user-selectable ringtone and pip-up measage of an incoming message on that email account (used only for that purpose). I can then read and repond to the message via email, and it is sent back to the originator as a text message.

Social Networking: Facebook is, of course, an immensely popular social networking site with over 350 million users worldwide at the time of this writing. I almost never visit Facebook on a desktop PC anymore and enjoy reading and posting updates from the phone. The Facebook app makes this very easy, and encourages snapping and posting photos whenever the moment hits me.

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