Apple announced last week that more than 600,000 pre-orders had been made for the iPhone 4 and a large portion of those pre-orders will be fulfilled tomorrow as the new device is officially released in the U.S. and a handful of other countries. If you’re one of the lucky ones getting a new iPhone tomorrow and are wondering what apps to start out with out of the 200,000 and counting already available, we’ve got some recommendations for you.
Going beyond the iPhone’s built-in calling and text messaging features, there are other options to make calls cheaply and send messages without using up the minutes or messages of whatever call and data plan you’re on. Skype is a company that offers voice-over-IP calls (VOIP) and the company’s free app allows you to use the service over a 3G or Wi-Fi connection, as well as send instant and text messages.
Instant messaging is a hugely popular form of communication and while there are plenty of apps in the App Store that can keep you connected, we’ve found Beejive to be one of the best of the bunch. It offers push notifications so that you’ll know when you receive a new message even when the app is closed and is reliable and easy to use.
Search and Navigation
If you want to find reviews and information on local businesses around you to see if they’re worthy of your hard-earned cash, Yelp, an online user-driven review service, has a fantastic app that will give you just that. Yelp can use the iPhone’s GPS chip to deliver local results, making searching even easier. It also has a nifty “monocle” view that uses the iPhone’s camera and digital compass to show a real-time overlay to point out the businesses around you.
While you can definitely do a Google search in the Safari web browser app, Google makes it a little easier for you by providing a search app that eliminates one step from the web-searching process. Plus, you don’t even need to type anything in to search since the app has a voice recognition feature that allows you to simply speak the search terms.
UrbanSpoon is another user-driven service that focuses on restaurants, with ratings, menus, and other information provided by members. You can instantly find restaurants by cuisine, rating, or even gamble a little and use the app’s fun slot machine feature to let it choose a restaurant for you.
Finally, there are a ton of navigation apps available in the App Store and while we’re thrilled to have so many choices, it can be a little overwhelming to, um, navigate through all of the available options and choose the best one. We’ve tried a lot of these apps and the one we keep coming back to and rely on regularly is Navigon’s MobileNavigator. While not perfect (we have seen a few strange routes planned out for us), it has always gotten us to our destination and the optional traffic information and automatic re-routing has literally saved us hours when getting around Boston during rush hour. Navigon has posted a video of an update in the works that will add background navigation guidance and we’re looking forward to its release.
Twitter is one of the hottest social networking services around these days and the company has its own official Twitter app for the iPhone now. This app is free and is a great to use to get up and running with Twitter on your new iPhone.
While the official Twitter app is quite capable and has an excellent price of $0 (and it just got updated to version 3.0.1 that adds multi-tasking under iOS 4), we have also been drawn to a relative Twitter app newcomer, Osfoora. It offers an eye-pleasing dark theme and slick interface, blazing fast downloads of new tweets, easy access to the public timeline, and more.
Facebook is another major social networking service that millions of people use every day and it, too, has its own official iPhone app. Unlike with Twitter, there aren’t as many other alternative apps that provide access to everything Facebook offers, so the official Facebook app will be your best bet for the long haul.
If professional networking is more your game, LinkedIn has also joined in on the iPhone fun with its own official app as well. LinkedIn claims more than 70 million users worldwide and its app will let you do just about everything you can do on the service’s website, all from that shiny iPhone in your hot little hands.
The iPhone is a fantastic portable media device and while it’s iPod app is more than adequate to organize your music, podcasts, and audio books, it doesn’t quite do everything you might want it to. If you’ve ever heard a song and want to know who the artist is and what the title is, the iPod app can’t help you but Shazam can. Shazam is a free music identification app that uses the iPhone’s microphone to “listen” to a song, identify it, and then show you all of that information along with handy links to go buy it right away.
If you want to go beyond the music you already have, Pandora is a music service that creates personalized radio “stations” for you based on music you already like. The Pandora Music app is a must-have to help you find new music and spice up your music-listening routine a bit.
If listening to local radio stations or even ones halfway across the world is more your thing, Wunder Radio is a great app. It lets you access more than 50,000 radio stations around the world, all from your iPhone any time you want. It’s not a free app but it’s well worth the price in our view.
We do a lot of shopping and we’re always tempted to compare prices of items we find in brick and mortar stores to see if we can do better buying from an online store. Red Laser has remained a staple on our iPhones in helping us do just that. Able to read barcodes remarkably well on every iPhone model to date, it displays price results from line stores plus other local brick and mortar stores. Red Laser has saved us money time and again and we’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get the best deals on just about anything.
It can be quite a task to generate a variety of complex and secure passwords and store all of your log-in information and other private data securely but there are a number of apps that can help you do this easily. We recently reviewed Ascendo DataVault on the iPad and since it’s a universal application, it works on the iPhone as well. It can sync your data with a desktop companion app (available for the Mac and PC) and works alone as well. Using the same encryption standard that the U.S. government employs, we feel comfortable storing our passwords in DataVault.
If you’re a fan of movies and television shows, or even if you just need to look up movie times occasionally, the official IMDB app will fit the bill for you. Taking advantage of its massive database, you can find information on just about any movie or show in the entire history of filmmaking plus current information to find theaters and showtimes near you.
If you get your cable television service from Comcast or AT&T U-verse in the U.S., you’ll be happy to know that each company has an app that lets you browse your channel guide and manage your DVR remotely just in case you forgot to set it to record a show and you’re away from home. It’s apps like these that make us appreciate the wonders of modern technology.
If you like to stay on top of sports news as it’s happening, ESPN offers its ESPN Radio app that provides access to live radio broadcasts plus ESPN podcasts while Sports Illustrated has a free app that gives live scoreboard information for various sports from college to professional levels.
Major league baseball fans will be thrilled with the MLB.com At Bat 2010 app that will let you listen live to every single regular and post-season game, and watch live games as well. It’s a little more expensive than the other sports apps we’ve mentioned, but the app’s high ratings show that it’s proved its worth to iPhone users.
Games have been such a huge hit on the iPhone that it’s hard to select a couple to highlight for new iPhone users, but TouchArcade has created an exhaustive list of recommended games.
Must-have apps from Apple
Ebooks are gaining popularity, particularly since the release of Amazon’s Kindle ebook reading device a few years ago, and Apple has joined in the fray with its own ebook store and app. iBooks is available as a free download and offers access to thousands of books, including New York Times best sellers and free classics under public domain.
If you want to buy some accessories for your iPhone or shop for a new computer, there’s no need to go to an Apple store or even point your browser to Apple’s website – you can use the recently-released Apple Store app to check out everything Apple sells and even place an order right within the app. If you want to check out the shiny Apple goodness on your shopping list in person first, the app will also help you locate the closest store.
Losing your iPhone would be a heart-breaking event in our book, but what if you could use your iPhone’s own GPS chip to help you locate it? If you’re a subscriber to Apple’s MobileMe push email and over-the-air contact and calendar synchronization service, you can take advantage of its Find My iPhone feature which has an accompanying app. This app won’t do you any good on your lost iPhone, but you can install it on another iPhone (or iPad or iPod touch) to which you have access to track down your own iPhone.
The iPhone 4 is capable of recording 720p HD video at up to 30 frames per second and the videos you capture with it have the potential to become keepsakes in your home movie collection. To help you polish these videos up, Apple has just released the iMovie app that will let you edit these movies right on the iPhone. With iMovie, you can add themes, music and even pictures to your videos to turn them into movie masterpieces on the go.