Location 180 Guide to iPhone Apps

Ever since purchasing an iPod touch a couple of months back, I have been obsessed.

While I still think that iTunes sucks, and is even worse than I thought it would be, the device itself is the best purchase I have made in years.  Most of this is due to the sheer amount of quality applications that are out there for it.

Since I have become a proud iPod owner, I have been constantly seeking out the best, most useful applications I could find.  Whether they are time killing games, or productivity enhancers, I have now downloaded over 100 apps, some good, some bad. With that being said, I wanted to tell you about some of my favorites, as well as provide a few links to other really useful app compilations.

Travel Apps

I initially set out to write a post about the best iphone apps for the digital nomad.  However, very quickly in my research I stumbled upon National Geographic’s Top 20 Travel iPhone Apps.  If you are doing travel of any sort, at least one of these apps will make your life much easier!

While National Geographic provides a great list, here are my personal top 5: urban-spoon

5)  Wi-Fi Finder (Free).  Consider I don’t personally use an iPhone, finding decent wifi is imperative for getting the most out of my iPod.  If I know that I will be traveling to a different part of the city, this app does a great job of pointing me in the right direction of a good coffee shop with WiFi.  For those of you traveling abroad, this app could save you hundreds of dollars in global data charges.

4)  Urban Spoon (Free).  In a new place and not sure where to eat?  Urban Spoon has you covered!  By using GPS (with enabled iPhones) it can automatically find something close in your desired food type, and then will even sort by the most highly regarded restaurants on Urban Spoon.  There are some better location specific apps, but if you are looking for a world wide dining guide, Urban Spoon can’t be beat!

3) Flight Track Pro ($9.99).  While this one is a little bit on the spendy side, it can be well worth it for both piece of mind and time savings.  You can automatically forward trip confirms to Trip It, and track all of your upcoming flights and connections.  It can be even more useful if you are the one picking up a fellow globe trotter at the airport.  It will tell you the ETA of the flight, where it is in the sky, and even what the altitude is.  A must for any frequent flier.

I don't know what this means, but I am sure someone on the streets of Tokyo would!

I don't know what this means, but I am sure someone on the streets of Tokyo would!

2) Babelingo ($1.99).  Gone are the days of not being able to find a bathroom in a foreign country.  With over 300 phrases, and dozens of languages, all you have to do is find the phrase in question, select it, and it is automatically translated into the language of your choice.  To take it a step farther, it then puts all of the answers to the question in the new language question, so your new friend on the street can easily answer and concern you might have.

1) Skype.  This one kind of goes with out saying.  To be able to talk to anyone, anywhere in the world, FOR FREE??  What can be better than that.  You need a decent wifi connection, but the conversations I have had on Skype via my iPod more than do the trick.  If you want to get really creative you can combine your iPhone, Skype and Google Voice, to make you a global communications ninja.

Productivity Apps

There are thousands of apps for productivity out there some good, and others not so much.  I have found that I am using my iPod for productivity related reasons much more often that I initially thought that I would.  Here are a list of some that I have found the most useful.

5) WordPress (free) – With this app, you don’t even need to be at your computer to be able to write posts, edit pages and edit comments, the WordPress app does it all for you!  More than one of my posts for this site has been primarily written on my iPod, and I was able to easily upload and post it as soon as I found a wifi connection (not necessary if you have an iPhone).  Overall has proved to be a very useful app for me and my blog.

4)To Do’s (free) – My favorite to-do list app is probably one of the most basic there is.  It allows me to write an item that needs to get done, set the priority of low, normal, or high, and then add notes.  That’s about it.  Simple, to the point, and doesn’t give me a bunch of extra features that I don’t need.

3) Stanza (free) – This is my version of the Kindle app.  If you have a Kindle, and have already paid for books, then that might be the way to go, but what attracts me about the Stanza app is the amount of free content that is offered.  Whether they are shorter articles or publicly available books, I have found at least a few that I have enjoyed.  It is also a tool that is very easy on the eyes.  I am currently reading a free copy of The Count of Monte Cristo.

2) Remote.  This one is cool.  Do you have iTunes? Do you have wifi at your house?  Well now you can turn your iPod into a remote for your music library or Apple TV.  I usually have my computer set up at my desk, which is then connected to my home speakers.  With the remote app, I am able to access my library from anywhere in the house and use it as a remote to change songs, volume, start/stop etc. Best of all, its free! evernote

1) Evernote.  About a year ago, Evernote became my favorite web bookmarking tool.  I have a link at the top of my Chrome tool bar that says clip to Evernote, and anytime there is an article that I don’t have time to read, I clip it and go back and read it later via evernote.  The iPhone app makes my life even easier, as now I don’t even need to be at my computer to catch up on my missed reading.  Whenever I open it, it syncs up with my online account, and downloads any new items, so I can do my reading on the go.  Highly recommended if you are looking for a better way to leave notes for yourself or bookmark websites.

Finance Apps

I was originally going to do my Top 5 Finance apps, but then I realized, I only use three! Between these three finance apps, I can track investments, get up to the minute news, and stick to my budget.  With this combination, all of your finance needs should be met.  Well, unless you want to pay your bills on your phone, but I’m not quite there yet!

3) Bloomberg.  While the stocks app that comes with the iPhone is great for basic stuff, the Bloomberg app takes financial news and stock tracking a step further.  It allows me to not only enter in what companies I own, but also allows me to enter in number of shares and cost basis.  This makes for a fantastic tool for checking my investments while on the go!

2) NY Times.  While the Wall Street Journal app used to get my nod as the best app for financial news, its new subscription service has left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  Now when I need the latest news I use the NY Times app.  This app is fantastic for the iPod in particular, as I can download the latest articles and then go back and read them whenever I have free time or am internet-less.  Also check out USA Today. mint-iphoneapp-1

1) Mint.  The grand daddy of all personal finance apps, I have been singing the praises of Mint ever since I signed up.  With the touch of a button, I get updated balances to all of my accounts.  Whether it be checking, savings, investments or student loans.  Not only that, but I can also instantly see how I am doing on my monthly budget, and identify where I have been and should be saving.  I can’t recommend this app, and the service in general highly enough.


Alright, this list just wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t include at least a few of my favorite games on here.  While I fully understand that these can be a complete waste of time, they can also be a lot of fun.  Especially when waiting for a meeting or taking a quick break from writing blog posts. flight-control

5) Flight Control ($.99).  Ok this one is obscure.  If you haven’t played it you will probably look at me in confusion asking “how can that be fun?”  I don’t know the answer to that question, but some how it is!  Essentially the premise is to play an air traffic controller and guide an ever increasing number of aircraft on to their respective runways.  By the time you get ten planes on the screen at once, it can get pretty intense!

4) Scramble (free).  This was one of the games that got me to buy an iPod in the first place (stupid reason I know).  The conept is simple, you have a 4×4 or 5×5 square of letters and you have to make as many words as possible.  It is surprisingly addicting, and this is made even more so by online play that is very well integrated.

3) Yahtzee Adventures ($2.99). I have always liked Yahtzee, don’t know why.  Maybe it is the fact that it only takes a couple minutes to play a game, and can be a great way to kill a couple of minutes.  This is a recent addition to my app library (before I settled for iDice Free), but this was well worth the two bucks for some extra game modes and increased production value.

2) Bloons ($.99).  This is another one of those games that seems stupid, but can be very addicting.  Basically you are a monkey bowman and you have to pop a required number of balloons on each level.  The levels get increasingly difficult, and with 150 of them, plus the ability to create your own, you finish this game for quite some time. bloons

1) Scrabble ($4.99).  I think this is the only time I have ever spent $5 on an app, and frankly, it was one of the best 5 dollars I have ever spent.  The Scrabble app is wonderfully done, and the online interface via Facebook works great.  If you like Scrabble, this app is a must have, and last time I checked it was even on sale for $3.

Misc. Apps

One of the great things about the iPhone is that there are so many random apps that do cool things, but don’t necessarily fit into any particular category.  So here are some of my favorite apps that just don’t fit into any of the above categories:

10) Guitar Tuner (Free) .  While this particular app doesn’t actually serve as a tuner, it still works fairly well.  You select your desired tuning, and it will play the corresponding notes allowing you to pretty easily get your guitar to match up.  For free, you can’t really go wrong.  To find it, just search guitar tuner in the app store, and it is the first one that comes up.

9) Alarm Clock (Free for basic version).  I don’t use an alarm clock.  For years, I have relied on my cell phone to get me up in the morning.  Now that I will be ditching my cell phone for my move to Thailand, the alarm clock app is what I am going to rely on to get me up and keep me productive!  So far it has worked flawlessly, and really does look just like your typical alarm clock. If you want to shell out $.99 for the pro version, you are able to use any song from your library as an alarm.

8 ) Battery Magic (Free).  My iPod isn’t great at letting me know what kind of battery life I have left, so I have found this to be a pretty useful app to have.  It will tell you approximately how much juice you have left for a variety of activities.  For instance I currently have 90 % battery life, or otherwise put, 8 hours and 6 minutes of Wi-Fi internet left, but only an hour and a half of 3D game play.

7) Photoshop Mobile (Free) .  While this is nowhere near the level that Photoshop is at (and should probably be renamed) it actually can be a really useful app.  Sure you can do some minor photo tweaking, but the real draw here is the 2gb of storage space that you are given on Adobe’s servers to hold and view pictures.  This is great if you want access to your photos but don’t want them to take up valuable storage space on your device.

6) Bump (Free).  This one is just weird, but can be really useful.  With two devices that are enabled, you can transfer documents, photos etc. from one phone to another just by bumping them together!  While it doesn’t work all that well for large transfers, it works great for grabbing that photo your friend just took.

5) ESPN ScoreCenter (Free) – When I am out and about and can’t don’t have the time to sit and watch my favorite team, ESPN ScoreCenter is there for me.  Get all kinds of info and statistics on the latest games, and even customize your home page to show your favorite teams.  As useful as it is, I won’t need it for the Civil War this afternoon as this is basically the biggest game in Oregon history. Go Beavs!! (Don’t tell anyone in Eugene I said that…) espn

4) Mixology (Free) – How many times have you wanted to make a drink, but just didn’t know how to make it?  Or maybe you had some ingredients, but now clever way to combine them? Fear not, Mixology is your personal bartender!  With thousands of drinks, and multiple ways to search, I found more than a few interesting concoctions.  What makes this even better, is you don’t need to have internet to access the database.

3) Pandora (Free) – If you haven’t heard of Pandora, well you have probably been living under a rock for the last few years.  But essentially it is internet radio that plays only stuff you want to hear.  Pick an artist, or even a song, and it will create a personalized station of music that sounds similar to your selection.  Who needs mp3s when you’ve got this?

2) Shazam (Free for basic, $4.99 for full). Ever been in a bar and hear a song being played that you absolutely love, but have no way of figuring out what it is?  Never fear, Shazam is to the rescue!  Hear a song you like, hit the tag button in the app, and in about 20 seconds it will come back giving you all of the information you could ever want.  If you are feeling generous, download Shazam “Red” and 20% of the proceeds will go to AIDS research.

1) Nike + iPod (Free with new iPhone/iPod Touch). Any app that makes me excited to run, has to be a good one.  Any new iPhone or iPod comes built in with this app, even if you can’t see it right away.  You have to buy a sensor that goes in your shoe for 20 bucks, but once you do, you will be a work out machine.  Nike+ basically gives you your own personal trainer on your phone.  During your workout, with the touch of a button, your trainer will tell you how far you have run (or walked), how long you have been running, and what your current pace is.  At the end of the work out, you can save and download the information to a Nike+ account.  Once you have a few work outs under your belt, this can be incredibly useful in tracking progress.  I have found it coming in really handy as I prepare to complete #__ on my list.

BONUS: Geocaching App ($9.99).  I kind of forgot about this one, since I can’t use it on my iPod very well, but it works GREAT for those of you with iPhones.  If you don’t know what geocaching is, check out this website, but essentially it is a global treasure hunt with GPS.  I have definitely found some interesting places because of this that I never would have found otherwise.  The app does a fantastic job of helping you locate “caches”, and turns your iPhone into a GPS that works surprisingly well, all for $9.99.  If you like to do any kind of hiking or enjoy being outdoors, this is well worth the price of admission.geocaching

Well there you have it, my favorite apps for the iPod/iPhone.  With over 75,000 out now, I am sure I have missed a lot of great ones, so I would love to hear what your favorites are!

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Nick Gates December 3, 2009 at 10:21 am

You forgot Paper Toss Sean!!!!!!!! Also you can get free apps for your bank and credit cards to make payments, transfer funds, or do anything. I love the IPhone.


Alan December 3, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Great list Sean. Hoping to pick up an iTouch in the next few weeks (still stuck with BlackBerry for work). This is a great reference post!

Rich DeMatteo December 3, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Sean – good work. I’m going to be checking these out ASAP when I pick up my iPhone on December 9th

Josh Sager December 3, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Great post, Sean. I’ll be checking some of these out for sure. If you need iPod Touch recommendations for Thailand preparation, let me know. iPood is a good start.

J. D. Bentley December 3, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I don’t play many games, but I found out Ramp Champ (http://iconfactory.com/home/permalink/2184) is free for a limited time and I’ve been addicted to it since I found it.

Going along with Nike+iPod, I use Lose It! (http://www.freshapps.com/lose-it/) and WeightBot (http://tapbots.com/weightbot/). They are both really great (I love WeightBot’s interface).

Also, I use the Newser.com web app (added to the homescreen) for reading the news. It only gives you the essentials in 2 paragraphs. Really cuts down on reading. It’s nice.

I’m looking forward to trying the To-Do app. I have some productivity apps, but they aren’t simple enough. Packed with useless features and I hate typing on the iPhone when I don’t have to. It would be nice if i could find something I can stick with.

And I’ve been trying to figure out how people show battery percentages for a while. I assumed it was a default setting, but never found it. Awesome!

Thanks for the great post!

John R. Haigh December 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Thanks Sean for your categorized picks! 🙂

Check out my apps: Mark On Call (home designer app) and App Popular (iPhone app discovery tool). App Popular 1.1 will be out later this month with two new app discovery features).

Lauren December 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm

You need to add a “Tweet this” button to your social bookmarking area!

Earl December 3, 2009 at 8:52 pm

Thanks for this info Sean. It’s very helpful as I’ve been thinking about buying an ipod touch lately for use as a reliable ‘travel companion’. Definitely let us know if you come across any other useful travel apps!

Paul L'Acosta December 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Great list Sean. Made a list of some I might need to check out soon. For me, I use these on a daily basis: Newsie (amazing RSS reader), AP Mobile (to stay in the know), Best Camera (for really cool pic effects), Tweetie, and PicPosterous. How about you? Did I read this wrong or I don’t see any social apps on your list? Later! –Paul

Kevin M December 4, 2009 at 6:55 am

I just bought an Ipod Touch last night, looking forward to picking it up and trying some of these out. Thanks.

I was hoping to try geocaching with the Ipod, but your last comment worries me – what doesn’t work well about it? Do you have to have wi-fi to use the GPS?

Sean December 4, 2009 at 9:17 am

@Paul I was thinking about the fact that I forgot to include any social media apps on here! I generally stick with Facebook and Tweetdeck as my go to apps for social media. I have been looking for a good RSS app, so I will definitely check out Newsie. Thanks for the suggestions!

@Kevin The geocaching app really only works if you can have a constant signal to triangulate with the cell phone towers. I think the new iPhone 3Gs has built in GPS, so it works even better there, but the problem with the iPod, is that as soon as you get out of range of the wifi, the “gps” will stop working. However, this app can still be useful if you want a good way to look for new caches and log them, it just won’t help with the actual locating part of it. Hope that helps!

@Earl So far I have found it to be one of the most useful things I have bought in a long, long time. I will keep you posted if I come across anything else noteworthy.

@Lauren I think you are right! I will get on that in the next few days!

@John Thanks for the tips, I will go check them out!

@JD Thanks for the suggestions. Let me know what you think about To-Dos, I have found the fact it is so stripped down to be the feature that really makes this one worthwhile.

@Josh I will definitely let you know! I also owe you an email…

@Alan/Rich Either would be excellent purchases, hope this list will provide a good starting point once you get your devices!

Jonny | thelifething.com December 4, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Wicked post man. I am going to come back to this one and check it out properly.

Diggy - Upgraderealitty.com December 5, 2009 at 3:11 am

Very cool and detailed post Sean!
I wanted to get an iPhone, but now I’ve been pretty much swayed to the side of the new Motorola Droid. Apparently it’s faster and better than the iPhone.

Hope things are going well with you and your own journey!
Have a great weekend!

Ken Kurosawa December 5, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Pandora is great!

A FYI to people with the first generation iPod Touch:
The new 3.1 firmware won’t work with the first generation iPod Touch.
Unfortunately, I have the first generation iPod Touch, so I’m not able to use a lot of the new apps 🙁

Jon December 7, 2009 at 7:18 am

Pandora isn’t going to be much good to you outside of the US sadly

Jacob December 16, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Awesome work, Sean. I’m buying an iPhone next week so I’ve got this page bookmarked.

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