First and 20

My favorite iPhone apps. I should be an Apple pundit, dammit.

Mobile Photo Jan 1, 2010 6 41 09 PM.jpgThere’s a very slick-looking website called First & 20 with this premise: ask a bunch of “talented designers, developers, and tech writers” to send in a screenshot of their iPhone home screens, to see what apps they use most.

They may be having problem with their ISP, because the site’s been around for a while, and i haven’t gotten an e-mail from them yet. I can only assume they’re having technical difficulties. Either that, or they define Apple notables as “people who have contributed to the Apple/Mac community in some way.” So apparently I’m going to have to do this myself.

My home screen’s pretty boring, though, and I don’t use the apps there a whole lot more than on the other pages. I’d rather list everything I like a lot, ordered by how frequently I use them (built-in apps not included):

1. Tweetie 2
The best Twitter client on any platform. I wish he’d hurry up and put the same features into the desktop version, already.

2. 1Password
I was skeptical at first, especially since Firefox (and Mobile Safari) has gotten better at remembering passwords and auto-filling them, but this has been surprisingly useful. You need the desktop version to get the most benefit, which means you need a Mac, but having all your passwords on your phone is really useful, too.

3. Drop7
This is a dangerous recommendation, since it will take up all your free time if you install it. The whole “seconds to learn, lifetime to master” thing is overused, but it genuinely applies here: once you start thinking about chains and combos, the game gets more complex and interesting.

4. Instapaper
Save web pages for off-line reading. It’s free, it’s fast, it’s dead-simple to use. Perfect.

5. Things
I tried OmniFocus and was convinced I liked it, but I was wrong: Things is simpler, so I end up using it more. There are definitely cheaper and simpler To-Do lists, but this one hits the sweet spot between complexity and usefulness. Again, you probably get the most use out of it when in conjunction with the desktop version, but it’s useful just on the phone.

6. Now Playing
Movie listings, reviews, showtimes, online tickets, and now it has access to your Netflix queue. It’s free, but I like it enough to pay for the author’s “PocketFlicks” app.

7. Dropbox
I’ve already gotten all the extra free space I can get by recommending other people to Dropbox, so now you know I’m 100% sincere when I say that Dropbox is awesome and everybody should get it. Perfectly seamless cloud storage for Macs, PCs, and now the iPhone.

8. Byline
Considering how much time I spend online reading RSS feeds, I’d have figured an RSS reader on the phone would get constant use. Turns out I don’t really use it all that often, but this is still the best one: syncs with Google Reader, gives you a webkit view, all the bells and whistles (except Google contacts). Second-best candidate is NetNewsWire.

9. Words with Friends
Competitive Scrabble. I’m taking a brief hiatus because I keep getting beaten so bad by everybody I know, and it’s a little humiliating. I’m SolGrundy on there if you want to join in the pile-on.

10. Harbor Master
I kind of feel bad recommending this instead of Flight Control, since Flight Control has a much better sense of humor, and it was as far as I’m aware the first game of its type. But I just think Harbor Master is more fun.

11. Comics
Online comics from Comixology. The reader works surprisingly well, and the catalog keeps improving (they just added much of the Marvel catalog). I bought the entire Action Philosophers! series, which turns out to be a great fit for the phone.

12. Kindle
Not a replacement for a full-sized reader, probably, but great for traveling. So far I’ve only read The Book of Vice by Peter Sagal and a couple of travel guides by Rick Steeves, so I don’t know how tolerable it’d be to read a whole novel.

13. Civilization Revolution
It’s every bit as complex and feature-complete as Civ Rev for the Xbox (but not Civ 4, obviously), crammed onto the phone. The only down-side, assuming you like the Civ Rev games, is that it’s not perfectly suited to quick sessions. I keep forgetting what it was I was supposed to be doing.

14. Peggle
This will no doubt get replaced by Plants vs. Zombies as soon as that’s released for the iPhone. PopCap are masters at this stuff for a reason, and Peggle is a pixel-perfect port of the desktop version.

15. Kotoba!
It’s a complete Japanese dictionary for the iPhone. Turn on the international keyboard to make it easier to use.

16. Remote
Apple’s remote for iTunes, does everything you could want — for iTunes.

17. Air Mouse
Remote control for everything else, over your wireless network. The “air mouse” they advertise as the main feature on the website doesn’t work all that well, frankly. But as a remote trackpad/keyboard, it’s the best I’ve used.

18. Rogue Planet
An Advance Wars-alike for the iPhone. The attempt at a story and characters are pretty insipid, and nowhere near as interesting as Advance Wars’ wackiness or charm, but the gameplay is there.

19. Bebot
An animated synthesizer that seems like a toy at first, but then seems really full-featured and powerful, and then goes back to seeming like a toy. But it’s a really, really charming toy.

20. Pantscast
Complex audio enhancement for your audio podcasts. From my experience: guys think it’s absolutely hilarious and women think it’s stupid. Whatever. They can replace this with an app about shoes or something.