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New to the iPhone? Or maybe you're a veteran user trying to clean up your apps. Whatever the case, we all need a little guidance when it comes to figuring out which apps to install. The ten iPhone apps on this list are ones we recommend every iPhone owner download, install, and actually use.
Picking the ten most essential iPhone apps that everyone should have wasn't easy, especially considering there are dozens of excellent apps, and hundreds of very good ones. And beyond the most highly acclaimed apps are ones that fit different personality types or special interest groups. I for one am a huge fan of to-do list apps and language-learning apps, although I recognize that's not everyone's cup of tea. Also not included here are apps that come preinstalled on an iPhone—and many of those are indispensible—such as Maps, YouTube, Calendar, iTunes, and Reminders.
Each of the apps that made this list represents some slice of mobile computing or mobile entertainment that we feel should be utilized: productivity, organization, social networking and communication, reference, photography, reading, and so on.
Eight out of ten apps that made this list are totally, 100 percent free. One costs less than $5. And one is free to download but requires a small subscription fee. Throughout the article, you'll find links to our full reviews of the apps when available, where you can often find tips on how to use the apps best, as well as any tiny snags we found in testing them.
Everyone will tell you to download Evernote, but few are able to put into words why it is such an amazing service. The problem with convincing someone of Evernote's worth is it is a uniquely personal tool. Everyone uses it differently. To summarize, the free iPhone app synchronizes notes of all kinds, like text notes, audio recorded notes or voice memos, and pictures, and then makes them all highly searchable. It doesn't sound exciting, but the moment you figure out your own use case for Evernote, I swear you will never look for a replacement (the company highlights different use cases on the Evernote blog; do skim it). The app excels as a pared-down word processing program, and Evernote integrates with dozens of other iPhone apps. When it comes to staying organized, keeping track of ideas, and writing things down, Evernote for iPhone does the heavy lifting for you.
Eight hundred million. That's the number of Facebook accounts worldwide. Chances are, you have at least one of them (perhaps even two). Social networking enthusiasts don't need to be convinced of Facebook's worth, nor the value of having quick access to the site from your phone. If you're not enthralled by Facebook, the fact of the matter is that many of your friends and family probably are, and they use it to share important information that you might need to know. Sometimes, my Facebook feed reads more like a press release wire service on which people announce publicly that they are engaged, or ill, or just released their first book, or are looking for a new job. Whether you're an avid Facebooker or just an occasional user, the app helps you stay on top of the people and events all around you, which is reason enough to download it and log on.
Find My iPhone
Part and parcel of iOS 5 and Apple's iCloud , Find My iPhone needs to be installed and properly activated on your Apple device. It's crucial. Why? If your device is lost or stolen, Find My iPhone can locate it physically, on a map, to show you precisely where it is. If you misplace your phone and think it might be in the hands of someone you trust, you can log into the iCloud website from any computer or Internet connected device and send a message that will flash on the screen. If you think you misplaced it somewhere nearby, you can log in and force the phone to play a loud tone, even if it's set to silent. If you don't have Find My iPhone, you are not taking advantage of one of the best free features of iOS 5. Be sure to read the few bits of information regarding set up and usage, as you have to enable geolocation services and a few other settings for it to operate properly.
Gorgeous, compelling to touch, and with a great selection of content, Flipboard assimilates all kinds of things you want to read—from online magazine articles to news to social updates from your network—and puts them into a winning format. You can sign up to receive articles from a good range of diverse sources, such National Geographic, Brain Pickings, The Economist, Lifehacker, Food 52, The New Yorker, and many others. Originally developed for the iPad (side note: Flipboard for iPad is an utter dream) and only later ported to the iPhone's smaller screen, the app schools most others in design. The iPad version still holds court, but Flipboard for iPhone is a prince.
LastPass for Premium Customers
Free for app, requires $1 per month subscription
The password manager LastPass stores and keeps safe all your passwords and logins for the multitude of sites and services that requires them. In other words, you don't have to remember dozens and dozens of username and password combinations that you need to access websites, apps, password-protected services, and such. You just need to remember the one password that unlocks Lastpass. It works not only on your iPhone, but across devices, so you can install it on your Windows or Mac PC and get the same security and ease of use on your laptop and desktop computers, too. As an overall service, LastPass 1.72 Premium scored a rare five out of five stars in PCMag's review and easily earned our Editors' Choice.
Personal finance website Mint.com has a free iPhone app that helps you stick to your budget on the go. Mint's app gives you the fastest and most convenient way of checking the balance of any account you have—from a checking account to your investments to your credit cards—on the fly. It automatically itemizes all your transactions and geo-tags where you spend your money. It's wise to download whatever free apps your primary banks have, too, as Mint can't initiate money transfers, but bank apps typically can.
Onavo reduces data usage on your iPhone, which means if you're traveling abroad or looking to pare down your data plan, it's an essential app. Easy to use and highly customizable, Onavo can significantly decrease data consumption with almost no work on your behalf. It works automatically, and it works well. If you're interested in data collection in general, Onavo will treat you to all kinds of statistics about how you're using your phone with comprehensive data reports. It has two shortcomings: 1) it doesn't support iPhone 4 on Verizon and 2) it doesn't compress streaming video.
Snapseed was our Editors' Choice among iPhone camera apps for its non-destructive editing capabilities, powerful photo correction, localized adjustments, and many image-enhancing effects. Snapseed also works very well when it comes time to share photos, integrating with all the major social networks, and it sports a clear and innovative interface. Moreover, Snapseed is the only iPhone app that even approaches the power of desktop digital image editing software. At nearly $5, it's a bit more expensive than some other iPhone camera apps, but its power and features outshine the competition handily. For more camera app recommendations, see "9 Great iPhone Camera Apps."
The free reference app WebMD is one you hope you won't ever need to consult, but the moment you do need it, you'll be glad you downloaded it. WebMD works as a diagnosis app, contains listings for healthcare professionals and pharmacies in your area, and also contains first-aid guides, or simple instructions for dealing with all kinds of emergencies. Shouldn't everyone have something like this on them at all times? Parents in particular should have this app, but, really, everyone ought to download a copy for those just-in-case moments.
I have a love-hate relationship with Yelp. There are aspects of Yelp, as a website and service that will always make me shake my head, but, as an app, it's still one of the most valuable tools available. While its utility varies from city to city—with even more unpredictable results beyond the urban landscape—Yelp pinpoints businesses by location, tells you if they're open right now, and gives you a rough estimation of whether they're places you need to go. Yelp's highly subjective user-written reviews should be read with more than a few grains of salt, but don't let that keep you from reaping the value of an excellent mobile service. When you need anything and you're in unfamiliar territory, Yelp can help.