My Favorite iPhone Apps


Buying a new iPhone?  Here’s my favorite apps that I use regularly:

Travel Apps

Ambiance – $.99 – in my bedroom at home, I use a white noise generator to mask outside noise like trains, neighbors, Erika watching TV, and so on.  On the road, I fire up this iPhone app, which does the same thing.  My favorite is Brown Noise (insert poop joke here), which sounds a lot like smooth static, followed closely by Powerful Waterfall, Rain on Leaves, and Rain on a Tent.  You can download tons of sounds inside the app.

Layar – free – an augmented reality browser.  Wait, it’s cooler than it sounds.  Fire it up, hold up the phone, and the screen shows a camera view as if you were about to take a photo.  Layar adds additional layers (thus the name) with things like Wikipedia articles, subway stations, restaurants, and more, so you can see what you’re looking at.  Insanely useful for tourists.

TripIt – free – syncs all of my travel plans from so I always have my complete itinerary in the palm of my hand.  Includes directions from the airport to the hotel to the venue in El Arm-Pitto to the hotel to the airport.

Yelp – free – restaurant reviews by real people.  (That has its own pros and cons.)


Air Hockey – $.99 – this is the first app I show people who’ve never played with an iPhone before.  Hold the iPhone between two people, and each person puts a finger on their mallet.  You move your puck around with your finger, and the iPhone is the air hockey surface.  The puck bounces around and makes cool sounds.  Does what it says on the box.  Seems so simple, but the iPhone’s speed and screen really work well for this app, and people “get it” right away.

Labyrinth Lite – free – this is the second app.  It’s the game we all played as a kid: wooden maze, steel ball bearing, and it’s your mission to navigate the ball through the maze by tilting the board.  Only here, you’re literally tilting the phone, and the ball moves through the maze.  Extremely compelling, but it’s a one-trick pony – you don’t want to play this for hours.

Flight Control – $.99 – pretending to be an air traffic controller on an iPhone screen sounded like the dumbest game premise ever to me, but turns out it’s a blast.  When planes enter the screen, you have to draw them a flight path using your finger and get them to land on the runway.  Different planes have different speeds and different preferred landing spots, making things tricky on a small screen.  Fun multiplayer mode where you can pass off planes to different controllers over WiFi or Bluetooth.

I Love Katamari – $2.99 – based on the bizarre Japanese-style game Katamari Damacy.  This game also really takes advantage of the iPhone’s tilt functionality and graphics – you just tilt the phone to move your Katamari.  Very intuitive, very funny, and can be played for hours.

Must Eat Birds – $.99 – “The world’s first ever picnic defense simulator.”  Extremely catchy game with extremely catchy music, and very Japanese-y.  The best way to explain it is to watch the videos at their site.

Word Ace – free – if you like Scrabble and Texas Hold ‘Em poker, you’ll love Word Ace.  Has an online multiplayer feature, but I never use that – I just play against the robots.

Other Apps

1Password – $7.99 – companion app for the Mac-only password vault 1Password.  Syncs your passwords between your Mac and your iPhone, which is really handy for paranoid guys like me that use strong random passwords for every different web site.  There’s two apps – you want the Pro version if you plan on copy/pasting passwords into the browser on the iPhone.  ($3 extra for copy/paste?  Really?  Seriously?)

RememberTheMilk – free – companion app for Pro accounts ($25/year).  RTM is a killer web-based task management system, and the iPhone app integrates really well.  It sounds odd to have an iPhone app for a web site service, but it pays off in areas where you don’t get a good iPhone signal.  Like, uh, New York City.

TweetDeck – free – if you like this Twitter client on your desktop, you’ll love it on the iPhone.  Syncs your columns with your desktop, too.

If you liked these, you might also like Jonathan Gardner’s must-have iPhone apps.  Any other apps we’ve left out that you’d recommend to other readers?  Leave ’em in the comments.

Note: I’m on a cruise ship this week and won’t be responding to comments until Monday, January 11th.  If you post a comment that requires moderation, don’t fret – I’ll approve it when I get back.

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7 Comments. Leave new

  • blaine kendall
    January 6, 2010 8:18 am

    I didn’t realize Katamari was on the iPhone…getting that for sure. Sadly, it’s 4.99 instead of 2.99…still worth it for sure.

  • I can’t believe I left TripIt off my list. I guess I have been lucky and have not had to travel much at the time of my post so it just slipped my mind.

    As a blogger who uses WordPress I don’t know how I left that app off my list either.

    Have a great time on your cruise!

  • I don’t know if price is a concern, but Peggle on the iPhone is just as awesome as it is on the PC! I snuck in during a promo and got it for $.99, but I’d get it again for full price. I’m slowly playing through it again and the game itself will allow you to quit midlevel and come back in where you left off.

  • Ambiance is showing as $1.99 for me. I guess this shows how quickly prices change in the app store.

  • Thank you for including 1Password on your list! There are some more current and future differences between the standard and pro versions of the mobile application:

    Hope that helps. We appreciate the kind words about our software and are very happy that you find it useful.

    Gita Lal
    AWS Customer Care

  • Steve Nicholls
    August 18, 2010 5:12 am

    I can recommend the apps My Stuff, Memento and Awesome Note, all three are great!

    My Stuff allows me to keep track of, well my stuff! It allows me to keep a log of my DVD and Video Game collections, along with anything else you’d care to mention as well.

    Memento is a neat Diary, which also allows you to add photos as well.

    Awesome note allows you to create folders and group notes in to those folders with further personalisation with folder colours and icons, you can also create todo lists. You can also customise your note stationery too.

    Hope this helps!!



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