Must-Have iPhone Apps

By Chuck Gray

As promised in my list of must-have Android apps, here is a list of must-have iPhone apps!  The Apple App Store has a larger selection of quality apps than the Google Play store does, though that gap is quickly shrinking. Unfortunately, it has fewer free apps, so you’ll see more price tags attached to this article.  You may also notice several repeats from the Android list, as many of these apps are cross-platform and a joy to use on any device.  Your iPhone is a computing powerhouse, and there is so much more than you can do with it than you realize. Take a look at my list below to get some ideas! 

Content Creation

Garage Band - $4.99
There isn’t, to my knowledge, an equivalent to Garage Band for mobile devices anywhere.  Compose and record music from several different virtual instruments or plug your real instrument into your iPhone.  This is the kind of app that shows off what a mobile device can really do!

Instagram – FREE
Well, free for you and me. Mark Zuckerberg paid $1,000,000,000 to acquire this app. That’s one billion. One Buh-illion. This is perhaps the most popular means for sharing photos online. At the moment. It lets you take pictures, apply fancy filters and effects to them, and upload them to wherever. 

iMovie - $4.99
Create and share professional quality videos right from your iPhone. 


Pages(Word Processor) - $9.99
Numbers(Spreadsheets) - $9.99
Keynote (Slideshows) - $9.99

As I wrote in my article on Android apps, mobile office suites are a mixed bag. Usually, they’re just good enough. The same can definitely be said for Apple’s in-house office suite. At $9.99 each they’re not frightfully expensive, but make certain you actually need them. 

Photoshop Express - FREE
Get access to simple tools like cropping, touching-up, and special effects. It's not fancy but good enough for a smartphone.  


Atomic Web Browser - $0.99
Get tabbed browsing on your iPhone and password protection. 

Dolphin Browser – FREE
Dolphin is one of the best alternate browsers for iPhone.  It supports gestures, extensions, and multiple user agents.

imo - FREE
Use all your favorite chat protocols in one app, including Facebook Chat, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Google Talk, MySpace, AOL, and more. 

Skype – FREE
Chat using voice and video for free with other Skype users, and place calls to phones anywhere in the world at dirt-cheap prices. 


Google Earth – FREE
You thought Google Earth was neat on your computer, it’s even cooler being able to flick the planet around with your fingers.  Zoom in to street level with Street View, take tours, fly through 3D landscapes, and more. 

As a librarian, I hate to admit that I watch a ton of TV and movies.  And I am absolutely addicted to the Internet Movie Database.  The IMDB app lives on my phone’s home screen, and I use it anytime I recognize that guy from the movie that I don’t entirely remember.  It’s great!

iTunes U – FREE
You’ve got to give Apple credit for iTunes U.  When I think about the Internet’s idealistic possibilities given form, I think of the staggering number of top-notch, free course videos and podcasts offered through iTunes U.  Some of the world’s best colleges and universities contribute courses in all fields of study.  You may not get a degree, but you will learn!

Mango Languages – FREE
Surely you’ve heard of our fabulous language learning database, Mango Languages (go here to sign-up).  It’s the best solution for learning a new language that you can find, and now you can have it on the go. 

TED Talks – FREE
A frequently updated archive of some of the best talks from the TED conferences -- Technology, Entertainment, Design.  A great way to stretch your brain in bite-sized segments of brilliance.

Wikipedia Mobile – FREE
The official Wikipedia app.  Great for when you need to look up some quick information.  Just don’t use it for your school papers, okay? 


AV Player– $2.99
Forget about converting your videos to an Apple-approved format!  AV Player will play them all without the need to convert.   

Crackle – FREE
Enjoy free, legal, and popular movies and TV shows on the go.  The selection is always being updated, so there is frequently something new to watch. 

Pandora Internet Radio – FREE
Tell Pandora your favorite artist, genre, or song, and it will stream your music that it believes closest matches your preferences. Save your “channels,” and tell Pandora as each song plays whether you like it or not to help it better learn your favorite tunes!

SoundHound – FREE
You wouldn’t believe how insanely useful this app is.  Ever been in a restaurant, bar, shop, or other public location where a song is playing that you really love but you don’t know the name of it?  Launch SoundHound, hold your phone to the music source, and within seconds SoundHound will tell you what you’re listening to. 


Find My iPhone – FREE
Locate and protect your missing iPhone.  It’s a little Big Brother for my tastes, but if you’re prone to losing things, it might be a good idea to use this free app from Apple.  

Flashlight – FREE
Turn your iPhone’s camera flash into a flashlight. 

Pedometer – FREE
Yet another app that shows some of the true potential of mobile technology.  Monitor your steps, distance, workout time, calories burned, speed, and pace set against GPS tracking. 

QR Reader – FREE
Scan all those pesky QR codes you see everywhere!


CamScanner Phone PDF Creator – FREE
Use your phone’s camera to quickly “scan” items and turn them into PDFs.  This is a handy one to have in the event you need to exchange insurance information after a car accident. 

Dropbox – FREE
Dropbox is the premier service for quickly sharing files between multiple computers and users.  You can also use it on your phone.  Have quick and easy access to all your personal files no matter where you go. 

Evernote – FREE
I haven’t used Evernote (I’m just not organized enough) but it gets a whole lot of love on the Web, so I’ll let it speak for itself from the App Store description: “Evernote is an easy-to-use, free app that helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. Stay organized, save your ideas and improve productivity. Evernote lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders--and makes these notes completely searchable, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go.”

Jump Desktop – $14.99
Use Jump Desktop to access your computer no matter where you are.  You will have complete control over your computer’s desktop with an easy-to-use, touch-based mouse system and virtual keyboard. 

PassDrop - $0.99
I love this app so, so much, and I implore its developers or any other skilled programmers to release an equivalent for Android!  If you use the free Keepass program on your computer to store usernames and passwords, you can store its database file in your equally free Dropbox account so that your password list is automatically updated on every computer you have synced with Dropbox.  PassDrop will sync with your Dropbox account and locate the database file for KeePass so that you will also have instant access to your updated passwords list on your iPhone without having to constantly re-download the database.  Seriously, guys, give me an Android version!

Toodledo - $2.99
From the App Store description: “Toodledo is a powerful task and note manager, for the iPhone and iPad. It will organize your to-do list and notes, and make you more productive. You can use Toodledo as a standalone application, or you can synchronize with, one of the most popular online task managers. Toodledo is flexible enough to work with many different productivity styles. You can use the popular GTD methodology, or you can use your own system. You can keep things simple, or you can add as much complexity as you need. Keeping track of your to do list has never been easier.”

Week Calendar - $1.99
The stock iPhone calendar app does not provide a weekly view of side-by-side appointments. Week Calendar does, as well as providing a much more user-friendly interface for creating, copying & pasting, relocating and deleting events. Several CRRL librarians swear by it!


Bluefire Reader – FREE
This is the best iPhone app for reading Adobe DRM-protected eBooks, such as those from our EBSCOhost eBook service

Goodreads – FREE
Keep track of your books, write reviews, and discover new books based on user recommendations. 

Instapaper - $3.99
Save Web pages for offline reading.  Saved pages are formatted for easy reading on the iPhone screen, stripping out unnecessary images and annoying advertisements. 

OverDrive Media Console - FREE
This is the best app for reading free eBooks from the OverDrive service CRRL provides.  I’ve noted that many patrons who use the Amazon Kindle app will also try to use it for OverDrive books.  Though workable, this isn’t the best solution.  Because of publisher squeamishness (see my previous article lamenting the current eBook ecosystem), many library Kindle eBooks from OverDrive must be downloaded first to a computer, then transferred manually via USB.  This is vaguely doable with a plain Kindle, but on a phone or tablet?  Pain. In. The. Rear.  Use the OverDrive Media Console instead and when checking out books, choose the ePub format directly from your iPhone’s browser rather than the Kindle format and don’t mess with any wires!

Pulse – FREE
An extremely powerful and attractively-designed news reader.  Choose and share your favorite news sources and download articles for offline reading. 

Stanza - FREE
This is the best free eBook reader for iPhone.  With built-in access to Project Gutenberg and Feedbooks, you'll never be without something to read.


Expensify– FREE
Sync with your bank accounts, and scan receipts to help you generate and track your budget. 

Fooducate – FREE
Scan food product barcodes to get detailed information.  Find out if what you’re eating is really what you think it is and if it’s as healthy as it claims to be. 

Google Shopper – FREE
Search by keyword, barcode, label and more for pretty much anything on sale in stores today.  Google will tell you where to get the cheapest prices--either online or locally--and supply you with user reviews. 

Key Ring Rewards Card – FREE
This app will store most retail rewards cards for you. 


Google Translate– FREE
Type or speak a word or phrase in one language and have it translated into 60 other languages!

TripIt Travel Organizer – FREE
Organize all your travel details inside one app.

Waze – FREE
FREE voice-guided, turn-by-turn GPS navigation.  Community-driven traffic updates, alerts on the cheapest gas, location sharing, and much more.  Need I go on?

Wifi Finder – FREE
Quickly locate nearby free or paid Wi-Fi hotspots from a database of over 650,000 locations in 144 countries. 

XE Currency – FREE
Get up-to-date currency exchange rates for almost all money around the world. 

Yelp! – FREE
Locate and read/write reviews of restaurants, stores, and places to have fun.