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Essential iPhone Apps: First Edition

March 19, 2011

I had lunch with my friend Tom Sapp last week…in part, because he promised to turn me on to some apps for my new Verizon iPhone that would save me time and money…and he did not disappoint. I’ve only picked up a handful of the apps so far, but am already VERY glad that I made the switch from the Droid to the iPhone (despite the iOS bug re: inexplicably unpairing Bluetooth devices). I expect there to be more apps that make this worth my while…but here is my initial list:

1. iTunes: Yes, I know people love to whine about iTunes…”it’s bloatware, the App Store sucks, etc”. Fine…whatever. And I admit I’m a bit of a freak in my listening needs for both educational and recreational purposes. Because of how I make my living, podcasts are unbelievably important to me. The Droid is worthless for podcast management. I tried virtually every app out there (free and paid) just to be able to easily subscribe to and manage the podcasts that I find so helpful in building my online business. iTunes does this in its SLEEP. It’s a beautiful thing. Yes, the App Store could be better. So could the Android Market. They are both supposedly undergoing majority renovations. One can only hope. But…iTunes was the biggest factor in my decision to move back to an “i” as my primary portable listening platform (the secondary reason being the immediate availability of a built-in HD camera for movies). Apple’s tech support department went to the wall to keep me as a customer…and I am glad they did. Verdict? A big win for the iPhone.

2. Skobbler: This was brought to my attention by Tom, and saved me $5-10 a month. One of the great features of the Droid is its built-in turn-by-turn navigation from Google. The iPhone doesn’t have that feature…which means you have to subscribe to Verizon’s nav service if you use it (which, in my case, might be once a month on average). But, when you need it…it’s not a good thing if you don’t have it. They had an introductory special going on when I bought my iPhone, which had shaved the $10 monthly fee to $4.99. But, Skobbler does everything I need in this regard…for FREE. Verdict? It’s a tie between the two platforms.

3. GasBuddy: The lovely and talented Heather Dugan brought this one to my attention a couple weeks ago. This is available for the Android (which is the version she uses), but while I had heard of it before…I didn’t download it til I was on the iPhone. It is a two-click wonder. The first click launches the application. The second click (on “Find Gas Near Me”) uses your phone’s GPS to locate you, and then displays the prices of all gas stations nearby. The other day, I noticed that gas was available at the Speedway at Morse and Hamilton for $3.31 a gallon, so I went and filled up the tank. 20 minutes later, I had to put a couple gallons in another car about 5 miles away…at $3.48 a gallon. That single purchase at Speedway saved me almost $2 on a 10-gallon purchase. So if you are considering making the move to an internet-connected phone, but having a hard time justifying the $30/mo additional charge…I suspect you can recoup somewhere between 5 and 10 bucks of that 30 with this little free app alone. Verdict? A tie between the platforms…but a must-have nonetheless (and there is a website you can access for free if you can’t make the leap to a smartphone yet…it’s just not as convenient when you’re out on the road).

4. Dragon Dictation: This one also comes courtesy of my friend Tom. One of the things I loved about the Droid was the speech-to-text function…which allowed me to say a few words (even while I was driving) and allow me to jot down a thought or two, or reply to a text message…without tieing up hands, fingers or attention. The iPhone has no such native function. But…enter Dragon:

“This application is from the folks that make Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the PC which I occasionally use as a timesaver. It just so happens that Dragon for the iPhone is even better in terms of speech interpretation and even occasionally inserting punctuation and capitalization this paragraph was dictated directly into Dragon on the iPhone and pasted into this blog post”

Pretty impressive, eh? I thought you’d like that one. ;-)

Verdict? iPhone again.

5. SimpleNote: I had become a premium user of Evernote a couple months back…which is a fantastic way of storing information and keeping it with you all the time. But it was $60/yr…and the app itself was overkill for my needs and the note-editing capability was poorly implemented on the Droid. I found SimpleNote instead…which is $20/yr and does everything I need with a much cleaner implementation for the iPhone. I leave the web app open on my PC at home at all times for quick access…but I can get to all that info anywhere from the iPhone with just 2 clicks…including the ability to edit the data (which will be updated and waiting for me when I get back home). There is an Android client for this…but I never saw it, and sometimes the app quality varies between the two platforms…so I only know of this through the iPhone. Verdict?: Another big win for the iPhone.

There are others…and others I am moving to test out in the next couple weeks. More to come!

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