List 23: My killer iPhone apps

I love my iPhone, which Doug got me about a year ago as an unexpected early Christmas present. (Didn’t I say he was capable of “stunning acts of generosity“?) I’m not a big app junkie; I mostly want utility, not games. If an app doesn’t earn its keep use-wise, I junk it. Since iOS 4 lets you create folders for apps (genius!), I’m getting a little less stingy about space. Plus I rarely pay for an app. It’s gotta be really, really amazingly beyond fabulous for me to cough up money for it.

So the apps I do have tend to get a lot of use or they’re toast. Here are my go-to apps and why I love them.

  • Facebook. Of course. Along with e-mail, this was the great blessing of receiving an iPhone. At the time, we didn’t have any Internet access at home. Suddenly, I could feed my Facebook addiction outside of office hours! My productivity at NBIA surged (which probably isn’t saying much, considering I left about 9 months later).
  • The Weather Channel. Much better than the built-in Weather app, TWC’s app gives you long-range forecasts including chances of precipitation. A vital part of my morning routine.
  • Book Crawler. My new favorite — and I paid $2 for it! I had been using Facebook’s Visual Library (a Living Social app) to keep track of books I’d read and ones I wanted to read. That was a problem when I went to the library, because you’re not supposed to use the catalog computers to browse the Internet. I was forced — forced, I say! — to break that rule when I couldn’t remember what books I wanted to find. Which was most of the time, since my brain apparently was removed at the same time they pulled Max out of my uterus through my stomach.

    ANYway …

    Now the library catalog computers are safe from my predations. I exported my Visual Bookshelf list and, after a little cleaning up in Excel to make it app-compatible, uploaded it into Book Crawler. I can add new books manually or by using a barcode scanner app. AND I can search for additional books by author to find undiscovered gems by my favorite writers. Awesome! Now all I need is a similar app for movies I’ve seen. Which brings me to…

  • IMDb. Yes, I have Flixter and the iPhone’s built-in Movies app, and they’re nice for looking up showtimes (although the listings are sometimes spotty and none of our local theaters support mobile ticketing). But my favorite movie app is IMDb, which allows me to indulge my inner movie nerd or answer those nagging “where have I seen that actor before?” questions that otherwise would interrupt my vital beauty sleep. (Do you think I stay so young-looking with Botox? If I could afford Botox, I could pay for apps just for fun.)
  • I Can Has Cheezburger. LOLz to go!
  • Shazam. I drive a 2003 Honda Odyssey. It is not iPod ready, nor does it have that neat little function that tells you what song is on the radio. So when I like a song and don’t want to wait for the DJ to tell me what it is (or, on a robostation, wait in vain for any sign of humanity in the studio at all), I just pull up Shazam and let it tag the song. Then I can put it on my iTunes wishlist for later purchase.
    BTW, Christmas is only two months away. iTunes gift cards are available at Kroger and Walmart checkouts in various denominations. Just sayin’.
  • Grocery IQ. Props to Beth Ferrier for turning me onto this one. (Whenever we get together for lunch, we compare apps to see if either of us has added something new and cool.) Put your grocery list on your phone! Never forget eggs or milk again because you left your list at home! AND it works with the barcode scanner app to populate your list automatically. So when you see me at Kroger tapping at my iPhone, I’m not texting. I’m just shopping. And driving a grocery cart. Still, much less dangerous than texting while driving a car.

    Two related apps I like are the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen app, which lets you know what produce you should buy organic and when conventional is OK, and Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to choose sustainable fish.

  • Beautypedia. I’ve come a long way from the days when my dad would tell me that boys would like me a lot more if I quit playing football and wore a little makeup. I’m no Carmindy, but I do enjoy dolling up. More important, I take good care of my skin. Doing that on a budget is a lot easier with Paula Begoun’s Beautypedia. A former consumer reporter, Paula evaluates and rates all kinds of cosmetics so you know what’s real and what’s hype. I can pull up this app in the aisle of Walmart or CVS and pick the most effective drugstore lotions and potions so I can enjoy being a girl without breaking the bank.
  • Lose It! My Facebook friends will know this app from its automatic posting of updates on my exercising (infrequent) and weight loss (even more infrequent). You tell Lose It! how much you weigh, how old you are, what you’d like to weigh and how hard you’re willing to work to get there. It then gives you a calorie ceiling per day. You log what you eat and what activities you engage in (including sex, which you all will be glad to know is NOT automatically posted). So if you aren’t losing weight, you can see why. It’s not your glands or your big bones. It’s because you eat too much and move too little. What you do with that information is up to you.
  • Words With Friends. Another great recommendation from Beth (and another rare paid app at $3). Basically Scrabble on the go. You can play with a friend (hence the name) or with a random opponent who happens to be online at the time, or choose pass-and-play to play with someone in person. I usually lose because I still don’t have the knack of taking advantage of double- and triple-letter or -word scores. Now that I’ve revealed my weakness, look for CorkeyC.
  • Maps. One of the few built-in apps (other than Mail and Calendar) that are worthwhile, this app has saved my bacon on many occasions. The first came just a few weeks after I got my phone. While on our way to Walt Disney World, we stopped in Charlotte NC for gas and took a wrong turn trying to get back to the interstate. Pulled up Maps, which then pinged our location using the built-in GPS. From there, I was able to navigate us back to I-77. Vacation crisis averted!
  • Hotel Pal. Another lifesaver on the road to Florida. We’d look at the map (see above) and estimate how far we wanted to drive that day, then I’d plug in the destination city and the number in the party. Hotel Pal searches the area you choose and lists the hotel options with rates, descriptions and photos. Choose a hotel and book immediately through Travelocity. Easy peasy.
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