Best iPhone & Android Apps, a Quick Peek

confused woman holding smartphone

What do you do with this thing?

This article was updated 10/15/2013.

So you got a Smartphone… Now what?

With technology changing so quickly it seems impossible to keep up, one group has somehow been able to maintain their balance at the top of the technology pyramid – App Designers.  Although there are varying opinions on the utility of some apps or “The App” in general, there are several apps that I have personally found very useful and pretty fun, too!

“There’s an app for that”

We’ve all heard it, but I’ve done a little research (and downloaded a few apps) and these are my personal faves.

Must-have Apps for iPhone & Android:

  • Google Goggles – Ready to have your mind blown?  This app allows you to search the web for anything just by taking a picture of it!  It’s not sci-fi, it’s real.  It has begun.  Download it free from the Android Market.
  • FaceTime – No, we are not on Star Trek or the Jetsons.  Video-calling is now aFaceTime video-calling for iPhone 4 reality!  This skype-esque system from Apple allows you to use your iPhone 4 (or newer) to video call with anyone else who has an MacBook, iPad 2 (or newer) or iPhone 4 (or newer).  You actually don’t need to download any app to your iPhone 4 (or newer) to use it.  But someone Macbooks need to download some software for $0.99.  It doesn’t incur any other charges to your bill.  Not available for iPhone 3GS or 1st Gen iPad, because alas the front facing camera is necessary.  For Android, the Skype app is a good alternative.  But then whoever you want to talk to has to set up a Skype account.  Note to user: even with a fast connection, Skype works much better on a computer than on an Android phone.
  • Find My Phone – Ever lose your phone and wish you had a homing beacon on it?  Well, now you can.  Here’s how it works.  You can only “find” an iPhone 4 (or newer), and there is actually no app you need to download to your iPhone 4 (or newer) to do this.  You just need to activate it, and here are the instructions.  Find my iPhone also comes standard on newer-Gen iPads, and just requires activation.  But you do have to download this app to another iOs device like your iPod Touch (earlier Gens) or your friend’s iPhone 3G or 3GS (iOS 4.2 or later) to locate it.  It’s an amazingly handy and helpful feature, but a good hacker can get through it, so get to it fast, wherever it is!  You can, however, use this app to turn on a passcode lock remotely and to make it make a very annoying sound when it’s lost so that no one can get into the phone to turn it off.  I recommend that.
  • Hootsuite – This mobile app allows you to update all your social media sites at
    View stats on your social media posts via Hootsuite

    View stats on your social media posts via Hootsuite

    once, or pick and choose.  You can also schedule updates for a later date, down to the minute you’d like it released.  Hootsuite currently supports tons of social platforms including facebook, twitter, ping, wordpress, myspace, foursquare, linkedin, mixi, and many more.  I use Hootsuite to track the success and popularity of my postings.  This is just a short list of it’s capabilities.  For more info, click here.  Hootsuite is available for Android and iPhone.

  • Foursquare – It’s kind of like playing tag, but more fun.  This geo-tagging game/network let’s you “check-in” to almost any place you go.  From work to happy hour to taking in the sunset at the harbor, with the touch of a button you can see whose been there before, read tips about the place, take & upload a picture to share, and more.  You earn points and gain badges as you go, so you can compete with friends.  You can even become the major of a venue, (which will sometimes get you a discount there)!  Oftentimes establishments offer deals and special treats just for checking into their venue on Foursquare.  So always make sure to check for “Specials” when you check-in.  For more info, click here.  Foursquare is available for Android & iPhone.  But beware, it’s really addictive!
  • Genius Scan – It basically turns your iPhone into a pocket scanner.  You take a picture of the document or photo you want “scanned” and it converts it into a PDF image that you can attach to an email and send wherever you need it to go.  You can trim the image down and scew the angles to make it a flat image.  You can even edit the document once it’s a PDF.  This app is only for iPhone, but DocScanner is a great alternative for Android.
  • Red Laser – Since we’re talking about scanners, we can’t leave out this app.  Take a picture of any barcode and instantly compare prices for a product or do a google searchQR code on it.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this app.  And we’ve all seen those weird looking squares that are supposed to mean something, but we’re not sure what.  It’s called a QR Code and this app can read those too.  That little box contains a huge wealth of information like calendar events, contact information, email addresses, Geo location, phone numbers, SMS text messages, plain text, and even entire webpages.  But you need a QR Reader like this to decode it.  Scan one with this app and see what happens.  It’s pretty awesome!  This app is for iPhone.  Barcode Scanner is a great alternative for Android.
  • LogMeIn Ignition – This app, when combined with LogMeIn software on your computer (that is free to download), will allow you to control and access your home or work desktop computer remotely from your phone.  Whether you need access to a file or document or need to do system adminstration chores, you can now do it all from you iPhone hundreds of miles away.  This is invaluable for those that use multiple computers and devices.  It works with Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, and Android.  For more info, click here.
  • Instagram– Turn your iPhone photos into Vintage pics.  Make What you can do with Hipstamaticany picture taken from your iPhone look like a cool, retro photo you took with a film camera circa 1976.  You don’t need to cruise the swap meets or second hand stores to find a device capable of bringing back this much nostalgia.  Just download the App from iTunes for FREE.  It is now available on Android as well.  It is also a social media site where you can share your photos with your friends and see their feeds; you can even like and comment on eachother’s photos and can easily share them to facebook and twitter.  Instagram origniated as a copy-cat of sorts to Hipstamatic, which won “App of the Year” from Apple but now has become a powerhouse that dwarfs Hipstamatic’s popularity.  Pretty snazzy, eh?
  • LED Light – Yes, this app makes your smartphone’s camera’s flash or screen into a Flashlight.  Seems simple, but it’s a really great & useful app.  Most people use their phone for a flashlight at one time or another anyway, but this makes it actually work well for that purpose.  In addition to the flashlight feature, you can also choose a different color light (shine a red, blue or green light onto anything).  This is great for telling ghost stories!  🙂  One newly added feature is the ability to use your phone as a strobe light (for those last minute dance parties) or a distress signal (you can never be too safe).  Check out this site for more info.  With the new iOS 7 for iPhone and with some Android models, the basic features of a flashlight are now built in.
  • Words With Friends – Does your favorite Scrabble partner live 3,000 miles away?  Never fear, now you can attack your ablest adversary from anywhere, across the room or across the country.  I play this game with my boyfriend phone-to-phone at home, at work with co-workers (don’t tell) and with family members hundreds of miles away… and every time I get whooped…  Oh well, it’s still fun.  Download it for free, or buy the version without advertising for $1.99.  Available on iPhone and Android.Words With Friends app Example
  • Sleep Cycle – This app is GREAT for those of us that always wake up tired in the morning.  It analyzes your sleep patterns at night, and wakes you up with a gentle alarm when it’s algorithm deems it perfect to do so.  Just place your phone face-down under your sheet where you rest your head and it will do it’s work all night long, waking you gently during the lightest sleep phase so that you wake up feeling rested.  You can also look back at your sleep patterns and see how you’re sleeping.  I like to compare this to dreams I remember having.  Available for iPhone
  • Classic Books – I just downloaded this app to my iPhone last week, and for some reason it seems to have changed names on the AppStore since then.  Hopefully this is the same app I downloaded, because this is definitely a must-have.  By downloading this one free app, I now have 80 entire books on my iPhone to read anytime at my leisure.  They’re great novels too like George Orwell’s 1984, A Tale of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment, Dracula, Jane Austen’s Emma, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Little Women, Les Miserables, and many many more! 
  • Color Splash app for iPhoneColor Splash – Love this app!  It turns any photo black and white.  Then you can pick and choose which parts of the photo to expose the color on.  You can undo multiple brush strokes, save your work and finish it later, then post it to facebook.  It creates dramatic, beautiful pictures that are totally you!  And it’s only $0.99 for iPhone.
  • Daylight – When you live in the land of the midnight sun, it’s always amazing to see how quickly it can turn into the land of mid-afternoon dusk.  This app helps you track hours of daylight and plan for future hikes, drives or any outdoor activity.  It uses your current location to tell you sunrise and sunset times.  Great for fishing. Available for iPhone at the AppStore.
  • Dictionary.com – No internet connection required to run this app that has over 2 million dictionary terms.  You also have access to Thesaurus.com synonyms through this app, which I LOVE!  Word of the Day.  Voice to Text search.  Word origin and history… everything you love about Dictionary.com without needing an internet connection or computer.  Get it!  Enough said.  Available for iPhone and
    Android.
  • Emoji – Get tons of free emoticons to add to your text messages.  Make your texts more fun or send someone a fun puzzle to decode.  Download the free version for iPhone from the Appstore and upgrade for more choices and no ads.
  • Tides – Crucial for life in Cordova.  Know exactly when the tide will be in and out.  Follow detailed charts and save your favorite ports.  It gives sun and moon schedules and you can look into the future up to the year 2029.  Available for iPhone and Android
  • Pandora – Never had an iPod before?  Then you might not have your iTunes library filled up yet.  But never fear, just download this free app from Pandora.com, sign up for a free account (if you haven’t already) and start picking out some free music to stream.  Did you catch that all this is FREE?  You do need a strong internet or 3G connection to stream this, but it’s worth it.  Not only will this play your favorite songs and artists, but it’s “Music Genome Project” backbone suggests some really great related tunes for your to explore.  Thumbs up, thumbs down, skip… you control what plays.  Available for iPhone and Android.  Update:  iTunes now has its own version called iTunes Radio and it comes standard in your Music app with iOS 7.
  • Face Melter app for iPhoneFace Melter – Fun and simple.  Take a picture and make it funnier.  Upload it to facebook or save it to your gallery.  If you want to freak out your mom, you can make it her desktop background 🙂

Also, check out these fun apps:

What are people doing on their Smartphones all the time?  Well, now you know.  For info on how to get an iPhone or Android Smartphone in Cordova, click here.

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