Navigating an app store can be tricky, with vague descriptions, dubious user reviews, and sometimes buggy apps. We searched for the best apps available. Prices are all $US.
Keep Track of Everything
Locale, $1: Locale lets you create location-based tasks. For example, you can have your phone turn on Wi-Fi when you get home, or have the phone silence itself when you get to work. It’s a great way to automate minor tasks, saving you a few extra minutes—and the embarrassment of having an overly noisy ringtone go off in the middle of a meeting. Head to Locale.
Springpad, Free: Create notes and reminders about movies you’d like to see, books you’d like to buy, or just events you’d like to remember. Springpad is also great for putting together shopping lists: You can quickly create checklists and scan barcodes to keep track of items you’ll need in the future. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to Springpad.
Wunderlist, Free: Wunderlist syncs your to-do lists across all your devices, so you always have your tasks with you. Wunderlist will also email you when you are close to a deadline, in case you don’t check the app every day. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to Wunderlist.
Minecraft Pocket Edition, $7: When you need to kill time on the go, you’ll find no better game to play than Minecraft Pocket Edition. Although the app lacks the Survival Mode found in the desktop version, its Create Mode lets you mine and build to your heart’s content. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to Minecraft Pocket Edition.
Reckless Racing, $3: Reckless Racing is one of the best-looking racing games available for mobile devices, and it has dozens of courses to choose from, some with hidden shortcuts (a huge advantage if you know them). Then, once you’ve sharpened your skills, you can challenge friends and strangers to online multiplayer contests to find out who really is the most reckless racer. Head to Reckless Racing.
StumbleUpon, Free: StumbleUpon lets you “channel surf” the Web to find things that are relevant to your tastes. You list the topics that you’re interested in, and the app will recommend websites to match. On Android devices, it will even recommend other apps based on what you have already installed. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to StumbleUpon.
Toddler Lock, Free: Warning: Eventually your toddler is going to get hold of your phone and wreak havoc upon it. Solution: Toddler Lock can keep the little one entertained but out of your phone’s precious contents. It lets your kids scribble and draw on your screen and produces soothing sounds, while locking them out of the main device—settings, data, phone numbers, and the like. Head to Toddler Lock.
Blog, Tweet, and Tumbl
IMO Chat Instant Messenger, Free: If you have friends that use a variety of different IM services and you don’t want to have to switch between individual apps, IMO Chat will feel like a godsend. It connects to AIM, Facebook Chat, GTalk, and Yahoo (and a few others); it also permits you to be signed in to multiple accounts at once. IMO Chat is great for chatting with coworkers on GTalk, while saying hello to friends on Facebook. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to IMO Chat Instant Messenger.
Tumblr, Free: A must-have for avid users of Tumblr, the posting and sharing site, this app lets you blog no matter where you are. You can upload pictures, videos, and audio, or compose a post just as if you were on the website. Head to Tumblr.
Tweetcaster For Twitter, Free: Tweetcaster is a colorful and cartoony app that lets you update and view your Twitter and Facebook accounts. If one of your friends likes to blast several hundred tweets at once, you can temporarily hide those tweets until you see fit. The app can also show you tweets for local happenings. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to Tweetcaster for Twitter.
Wordpress, Free: This app lets you manage multiple blogs from your mobile device. You can view blog comments, create new posts or pages, and even get stats on visitor numbers. The app is especially handy if you run several websites and need to check on them. Head to Wordpress.
Protect Your Phone
Loky, $5: If you have confidential data on your phone, Loky could keep that info safe. The app is password-protected, and you can use it to store vital documents, revealing text messages, or incriminating photos. Loky will even keep a log of logins—this record would help you know if someone was trying to get at your private data. Head to Loky.
Lookout Premium, $3/month or $30/year: A useful app for any Android or iOS smartphone, Lookout Pro protects your phone from malware and phishing scams, tracks the device if it ever goes missing, and enables you to back up your information remotely in the event that you can’t get your phone back. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to Lookout Pro. Head to Lookout Premium. (A free version is also available.)
MyBackUp, Pro$5: We are always told to back up our PCs, but what about our phones? MyBackUp Pro will back up your entire device—app data, pictures, contacts, and more—onto an SD Card or to a remote server. If your handset breaks or if the internal storage is corrupted, you can perform a restore from the card backup and be ready to go. If your phone is stolen or something happens to your SD card, you can also restore your data using the server backup. Head to MyBackUp Pro.
Save While Shopping
Amazon Mobile, Free: With its barcode scanner and other price-comparison tools, this app is a must-have for smart shoppers. Head to Amazon Mobile.
ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner, Free: ShopSavvy turns your phone into the ultimate barcode scanner. You can scan UPC, EAN, and QR formats on a product, find out its price at that store, and compare that with the prices at other stores and sites. If you see a better deal online than in-store, you can buy directly from the ShopSavvy app. Head to ShopSavvy Barcode Scanner.
Take Better Photos
Camera360, Free: This heavy-duty camera app takes some time to learn, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to take some seriously stellar snapshots. You can add frames or scenery to your photos, as well as apply filters (such as Lomo, Retro, and HDR styles). Head to Camera360.
Lightbox, Free: Lightbox is Android’s answer to the Instagram app for the iPhone: Take a picture, and the software automatically uploads the image to your Lightbox online account. You can add filters to your photos, such as Lomo, black and white, or other retro styles, though the available filters are a bit limited. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to Lightbox.
MagicHour, $2: With MagicHour, you can transform your photos into art by choosing from its 40 available photo filters (everything from Emo to Postcard). You can also download even more filters (for free) or create your own. Head to MagicHour.
Picplz, Free: An alternative to Instagram, Picplz also gives you the ability to apply filters to the photos you take, and upload those photos onto Facebook or Twitter. You can follow other Picplz users and add your favorite photos to a collection. Picplz will appeal to social shutterbugs who love to share their photos online. Head to Picplz.
Know It All
Dictionary.com, Free: Perfect for anyone who can’t stand spelling errors, this app can help you make sure that you never misspell another word. It can also read words back to you aloud (in case you don’t know how to pronounce them), and it has a thesaurus mode, as well. Head to Dictionary.com.
Wolfram Alpha, $2: Wolfram Alpha gives you vastly more information than a simple Google search ever could. The app can help with balancing chemical reactions as well as solving advanced trigonometry problems. And if that’s not your thing, you can use it find out how much wood a woodchuck would chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood. Head to Wolfram Alpha.
Manage Your Money
MileBug, $2: A must-have app for business travelers and jetsetters, MileBug helps you track your business and personal driving expenses. Turn on GPS tracking, and the app will note exactly how long your trip was and translate that mileage into a dollar amount. Head to MileBug.
PageOnce Money and Bills, Free: PageOnce lets you pay your bills, keep track of your accounts, and instantly see your most recent purchases and deposits. You can also schedule real-time alerts when bills are due so you’ll never miss an important payment. Head to PageOnce Money and Bills.
Plan Your Vacation
Google Translate, Free: Despite taking four years of German in high school and listening to nothing but your Rosetta Stone tapes on the plane, when you finally arrive in Munich, you completely blank on the word for restroom. Google Translate to the rescue: Type or speak a word in English, and get an immediate translation in over 30 languages. Head to Google Translate.
Hipmunk, Free: Finding the perfect (and most affordable) flight for your vacation can be tedious, but Hipmunk alleviates some of the pain. The app presents flights on a timeline and cleverly sorts them by agony level, taking into account how long you’ll be traveling and how many stops you’ll make. (Also optimized for tablets.) Head to Hipmunk.
Kayak, Free: Kayak is your one-stop app for vacation planning: Book a flight, rent a car, find a hotel, and track your flight. Kayak compares hundreds of travel sites at once so you know you’ll get the very best deal on your well-deserved trip. Head to Kayak.
Localicious, Free: Powered by the White Pages, Localicious gives you the scoop on the best nearby restaurants, bars, stores, salons, and more. It automatically detects the neighborhood you’re in and displays the places currently most popular via its Foursquare integration. Head to Localicious.
Postcard on the Run, Free: Sending your friends and family digital photos from your tropical vacation is nice, but sending a customized postcard is so much cooler. With Postcard on the Run, you can instantly send trip photos taken with your iPhone or Android phone as real, physical postcards with personalized messages to any address in the world. Although the app is a free download, you will have to pay the service an additional amount for postage, which will range from $0.99 to $1.69 per postcard. Head to Postcard on the Run.
TeleNav, $10/year for premium version: Google Maps may be one of the best navigation apps, but iPhone and BlackBerry owners miss out on its turn-by-turn directions. Enter TeleNav, which offers those directions; it also helps you find cheap gas prices nearby, discover local restaurants, and view 3D maps. Head to TeleNav.
Get Into Shape
Calorie Counter, Free: Calorie Counter keeps track of what you are eating and even suggests healthy recipes to keep you away from fatty fast food. The app first asks you a series of questions to determine what kind of diet is right for you. Head to Calorie Counter.
Drinking Water, Free: The amount of water you drink plays a major role in weight loss. But it can be hard to remember to drink your eight glasses per day. This app makes meeting that requirement easy by showing how many glasses you’ve had and how many you have left to go; it even shows a graph of how often you’ve met your water consumption goals. Head to Drinking Water.
Endomondo Sports, Free: Whether you’re into baseball, dancing, or orienteering, Endomondo Sports can help you track your physical activities. It will show you how long you’ve done your activity, how far you’ve gone (distance-wise), and how many calories you’ve burned. Head to Endomondo Sports.
iMapMyFitness, Free: iMapMyFitness uses GPS to track your fitness activities, such as running or cycling. You can record distance, pace, duration, speed, elevation, and calories burned for each workout. You can also upload your fitness data to MapMyFitness.com, and challenge friends to virtual races. Head to iMapMyFitness.
Workout Trainer, Free: A few weeks with Workout Trainer should leave you feeling fit. The app invites you to choose among workouts of different intensities and lengths. While you’re exercising, Workout Trainer will give you motivational advice. You can track your progress through Skimble.com (the source of the app) and race friends and other Skimble users. Head to Workout Trainer.
AllRecipes.com Dinner Spinner, Free: This app lets you search for meal options by dish type, ingredient, and desired “ready” time. The highlight, however, is the Shake for Ideas feature: Shake your phone, and get a random selection of dishes and ingredients. Head to AllRecipes.com DinnerSpinner.