Technology Doodad: Favorite iOS Apps

Since I got my iPod touch sometime in February, I’ve really been using it quite a bit. It’s great for listening to music and podcasts (which I can also download on the fly), for checking e-mail, for reading news, and for updating the social networks I’m a part of (including this here blog thanks to the WordPress app). While I use quite a few, here are my favorite apps, the ones I use most often (for the record, this will all be free apps):

Productivity Apps

Dropbox: For a while I wondered what the big deal was about Dropbox – it’s constantly lauded over on Lifehacker (which has a great new video podcast, in case you didn’t know), but it’s smaller in space compared to my original cloud storage service of choice, Windows Live SkyDrive.The big things about Dropbox, though, are twofold: first, you’re able to sync files between computers (which is great for when I have to print things on my netbookmy MacBook lacks the drivers for my printer, for whatever reason), and second, this app, which is absolutely fantastic for viewing files (including offline by placing them in favorites), and to a lesser degree works well for music streaming (I have Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in my Dropbox folder, largely so I can listen to it on my netbook).

Plaintext: For a while I wondered what the big deal was about Evernote – it’s constantly lauded over on Lifehacker, but I didn’t understand the appeal. And frankly, after using Plaintext, I still don’t. It’s a very simple text app – great for typing out notes like shopping lists or little ideas – but where it shines is in its syncing to Dropbox. Not only does this allow me to access what I type in this app on my computer, but it allows me to write .txt files and place them in the PlainText folder in Dropbox so it will appear on my iPod.

Reference Apps

Merriam-Webster: For some reason, iOS (unlike Mac OS) doesn’t come with a standard dictionary app, but this one is a perfect substitute. Not only is there a great offline dictionary, online there’s voice-enabled search, pronunciations, and a “Word of the Day” applet that corresponds with their daily podcast. The only real downside to this app is the inability to listen to audio when using the dictionary.

Google Mobile: This app was recently overhauled, and now it’s pretty great instead of just meh for iOS. The big reason for this is the addition of Google Goggles, which is a really great resource (why they didn’t have it in previous iterations, while having it on Android, is beyond me). In addition, much like the web Google, this app has specification for image, maps, and places searches, simply by a flick of the screen to the right.

Wikipedia: This app is clean, compact, and is Wikipedia. I think there’s a paid version that has access to some of the articles offline, but I don’t really know if that’s totally necessary.

News Apps

The Globe and Mail: I like keeping up on Canadian news, partly to remain literate on what’s going on with our friends up north, and partly because I want to make sure they won’t take over the world. (Hey, you never know.)

AP Mobile: This app provides quality news, updates very quickly, provides for offline reading, and additionally works as a pretty serviceable weather app (something I found out only recently). My only qualm: I can’t read it in landscape.

The Guardian: The Guardian has basically replaced my feverish use of the New York Times app since the paywall was put into effect (I still use the Times’ app, but not as much as I did when I had full access.) It’s quality reporting (including, yes, US news) for free, with offline access (takes a bit long to download, but that’s fine) and a fantastic multimedia section. Additionally, if you’re a fan of the EPL, you can use the app for goal alerts for your favorite teams.

New York City Apps

MetroCost: While this app can theoretically be used anywhere there is a transit system by changing the numbers it uses, it’s primarily made for those that ride the rails and buses in New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta. Swipe along the black strip to the right and it counts your rides, calculating if it would be better to purchase an unlimited card or just pay per ride. For a frugal commuter like me, this app comes quite in handy.

NextStop: This might be the best MTA-based app for iOS. It provides offline countdowns to the next trains at any station in the system – which is truly great if you’re not on the 7th Avenue or Lexington Avenue lines or on the L and you don’t have the countdown timers at your disposal. It’s hit or miss on the weekends due to service changes, but otherwise, it’s pretty accurate (I assume they just have the line timetables fed into the app).Also, there’s a map that seems to really optimize the Retina display of the 4th Generation iPod.

New York Transit Status (NYTS): This app gives information on service changes and delays on all of the components of the MTA. It’s fairly simple yet fairly thorough and (considering it assumingly uses the same API the MTA uses for updating their website) is always accurate.

New York SubView Pro: This is really just a collection of maps – subway, buses, and regional rail – but it’s all in one place and it’s free. Furthermore, the “NY Map” part of the app works great as an offline Google map of Manhattan and beyond.

Shack HQ: Yes, this is my only non-transit City-based app, and yes, it is an app for Shake Shack. But you’re able to access the menus (including the monthly custard calendar), and, more importantly, you can see how long the line at the Madison Square Park ‘Shack is with the Shack Cam feed from the website.

Games & Entertainment Apps

(I don’t really play a lot of games – and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to list them all here. That said, Angry Birds, even in its “Lite” form, is always fun, but fairly ubiquitous on this list.)

Twitter: This is more of a “social networking” app than an “entertainment” one, but I’ll throw it in here anyway. In any case, it’s really great for updating one’s Twitter status on the fly, and also very very good for following food trucks in real time (just sayin’). I’m not sure which of the Twitter clients (the native app, TweetDeck, &c.) is better (you can’t really schedule posts in this app, I think you can on TweetDeck), but I’ll stick with this one for now.

Tumblr: While you can’t post photosets using this app (for whatever reason), you can check out other folks’ Tumblelogs and update your own with text, links, individual photos, video, and audio.

ESPN ScoreCenter: A truly necessary app for sports fans, ScoreCenter allows you to set alerts for scoring for favorite teams, has scores for all the major sports leagues (yes, including the EPL and I believe La Liga and the Serie A), and has its own BottomLine.

Pandora: It’s Pandora. ‘Nuff said. Seriously, that’s all I have to say – all of the wonders of the ridiculously incredible Internet radio service on your iOS device, which works with multitasking and everything.

PBS: This is an app I don’t use as much as I should – honestly, it’s really great for watching both clips and full episodes of shows like Antiques Roadshow and Nova, which I really should be watching more often.

Vimeo: Finally they released an app for the fantastic Vimeo videos; you need to either have or open an account to use it, but it’s the only way to watch these high-quality videos in iOS. You can also upload and even edit videos to Vimeo via this app.

Comixology: This is a great way to read comics (including free ones, which I mainly stick with), as instead of going from page to page, it goes from panel to panel – not only that, it has access to both the Marvel and DC stores, along with several other publishers.

BlueFire Reader: More than anything, this is a better PDF reader than an eBook reader, but it fills the latter well, additionally – I use this one way more than I use iBooks and the Kindle app.

Boggle: Y’all know I love word games, including Boggle, and this full-fledged free app is great for playing on the train. A nice little feature is the ability to rotate the game board to try and find new words.

Score Keeper!: I found this app fairly recently, but now I use it all the time when I’m watching Jeopardy! I’m able to keep track of my Coryat score throughout the game, which is great for a person who constantly tries to be on the show like me.

Do you have any apps you always use? Any Android users want to contribute app recommendations? Leave ’em in the comments.


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