Editing, enhancing or having fun with photos in your iPhone is not a dream anymore as the latest 3Gs iPhone is now furnished with an auto-focus mechanism taking 3 megapixel images. A look around the internet will show you rather decent photos taken by iPhone as people quit printing photos – who will when with a few taps, they can share theirs instantly.
The following list showcases our pick of the 20 best free iPhone apps, and includes iPhone applications for social networking, travel, news, photography, productivity and more.
“Hold the world in the palm of your hand,” says Google about Google Earth, which enables you to fly across the planet by swiping your finger. More integration with content and features from Maps would be good, but Google Earth’s Wikipedia articles and a Panoramio layer at least ensure it’s a great app for seeing the world from your living room.
Another contender for the ‘surely, that’s witchcraft?’ award, Bump enables you to select up to four contacts, then ‘bump’ your device into another iOS device running Bump to transfer details, or to compare contacts. And, yeah, we know there’s an email-based ‘share contact’ option in Contacts, but where’s the fun in that?
Shazam is an app that feels like magic when you first use it. It’s deceptively simple hold your iPhone near to a music source, and wait while the app listens and tells you what track is playing. But the sheer technology behind this simplicity is mind-boggling, and while Shazam doesn’t always guess right (and only allows five ‘tags’ per month for new users, unless you upgrade to the paid version), it’s worth a download.
Unsurprisingly, eBay also has the buying side of its operation covered with eBay Mobile. The app supports iOS 4 multitasking, and, like eBay Selling, it’s fast and efficient, to the point that it’s preferable to using eBay’s website on a PC
Now free, due to being snapped up by eBay, the Red Laser bar-code scanner is pretty accurate, even if you’re still saddled with an iPhone 3G. It’s great for checking prices while shopping, and also enables you to get your media collections into Delicious Library if you make use of Apple Script.
Set up an Instapaper account, create a bookmark in Safari on your device, and you can then send articles to Instapaper Free, for a superior and focussed offline reading experience. The app also acts as a superb taster for the paid version, which adds alternate themes and iPad support.
If you’re looking for Photoshop-style power, Photoshop.com Mobile won’t impress. However, if you’re after a quick, free, highly usable tool for making edits to your iPhone photos, Adobe’s app is ideal. Use it for cropping, straightening, exposure adjustments, color effects, sharpening and more.
Around Me figures out where you are and lists local stuff banks, bars, petrol stations and, er, Apple Retail Stores. The app’s reliance on Google Maps info means there are gaps, but it’s nonetheless handy to have installed when in unfamiliar surroundings, and the ‘augmented reality’ landscape mode is amusing, if flaky.
Now iBooks has arrived on the iPhone, you might wonder why you should bother with Amazon’s Kindle. After all, the app’s not as pretty as iBooks, nor is there an integrated store (you buy in Safari and sync purchases to the app). However, Kindle offers a massive selection of books compared to Apple’s app and the reading experience is great.
Clients to access the popular Ever note service for storing notes and ideas online are available for so many platforms that we half expect a ZX Spectrum app to be announced tomorrow. On the iPhone, Evernote is efficient and usable, enabling you to rapidly scan your notes and also create new ones.
The Wikipedia website works fine on iPhones, but a dedicated app is a better bet. Wikipanion is a freebie which gives you quick access to article sections, in-article search, viewing options, bookmarking, and the ability to tweet about whatever odd fact you’ve just unearthed. Also, wonderfully, there are no ads.
Tweetie was the iPhone Twitter client that other iPhone Twitter clients wanted to be. Its combination of polished interface, plentiful options and multi-account support meant everyone loved it – apart from cheapskates, because Tweetie wasn’t free. Now, however, it is, because Twitter bought it, rebranded it as Twitter, and set fire to the price tag.
There are many free news apps, but Reuters News Pro offers a breadth of coverage that makes it a winner. Preferences enable you to tailor the app’s output to the UK, and the toolbar provides swift access to news, pictures, videos and stock markets coverage.
Virtual pianos and guitars are all very well, but purely digital musical toys are more suited to Apple handhelds. TonePad is the best of them, using a grid-based interface that enables you to turn notes on and off and compose pleasing and harmonious loops; your creations can be edited, saved and uploaded to share with other users.
Although some aspects of cinema listings app Movies are disappointingly US-centric (notably regarding details on upcoming movies and DVDs), it succeeds where it matters. Select a film and the app figures out where you’re located, lists nearby cinemas, and displays times your chosen film is showing. Efficiency can be further increased by pinning favorite cinemas to the top of the list.
It’s imperfect and annoyingly lacks push notifications, but Skype is still an essential download. The interface is pleasingly simple and usable, enabling anyone with a Skype account to make free calls to other Skype users and cheap calls to anywhere in the world. If you’re on Pay and Go, this is particularly handy, but the app also enables iPod touch users to utilise their devices for calls.
Kindle’s grabbed many ‘electronic book’ headlines, but an iPhone or iPod touch is a perfectly competent alternative – at least if you have the right app to hand. Stanza enables you to download books from various sources (many of which offer free titles), and you can transfer your own ePub, PDF or eReader titles from the free Stanza Desktop.
Pretty much from nowhere, Gorillacam arrived in December 2009 from the creators of the Gorillapod tripods. It mashes together a slew of features to hugely improve an iPhone’s camera (timer, multi-shot, spirit-level, on-screen grid, ‘press anywhere’ capture), meaning you can bin a half-dozen standalone apps that offer similar things.
Once an ugly duckling, but now as of version 3, a social network aware swan, Facebook is a triumph. The revised grid-based ‘home screens’ provide speedy access to regularly visited sections (news feed, notifications, and so on) and pages, and the experience is such that it in many ways beats the browser version.
The prospect of Nike+ but better and for free might sound unlikely, but that’s what RunKeeper Free provides. The app uses an iPhone’s GPS capabilities to track your jogging route, and provides mapping and details of pace and calories burned. Activities can be shared online, and treadmill runs can be entered manually.