New iPhone for Christmas? Download these apps first

Dec 20, 2010

So you unwrapped a gift this holiday season and revealed a shiny new iPhone, huh? But you’re not an iPhone fanatic, so all this talk about ‘apps’ and ‘multitasking’ and ‘augmented reality’ has you a little befuddled. Never fear — we’re here to help. All iOS devices sync with your computer using iTunes, Apple’s free […]

So you unwrapped a gift this holiday season and revealed a shiny new iPhone, huh? But you’re not an iPhone fanatic, so all this talk about ‘apps’ and ‘multitasking’ and ‘augmented reality’ has you a little befuddled. Never fear — we’re here to help.

All iOS devices sync with your computer using iTunes, Apple’s free music playing software. Included with iTunes is access to its App Store and music store, through which you can download music tracks and programs that run specifically on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Those programs are called apps, and they span from calendars to photo manipulators, video streaming applications and even games.

Apps range in price from free to about $25 or more, but the average price of an app is somewhere between $0.99 and $2.99. Apple’s iOS devices are capable of a lot of cool things, but you’ll need apps to bring out your iPhone’s truly awesome functions and abilities. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of apps you should grab first — apps for music, photography, social networking and lots of other functions.


Find my iPhone (Free)

Before you do anything else, download Apple’s Find My Phone app and set up an account. Find My Phone runs in the background so that if your phone is ever lost or stolen, you can log into the Internet and use its GPS to quickly locate it. You can also remotely lock or wipe your phone if its irretrievable.

AT&T myWireless (Free)

This super-convenient app from AT&T lets you keep track of your text messaging, data and minutes usage each month in order to avoid going over your plan and getting charged more. You can also use the app to pay your monthly bill over the Internet and change your plan on the fly.


Pandora Radio (Free)

You’ll recognize this app if you use Pandora’s free customizable Internet radio on your computer — log-in to a Pandora account and you can stream songs based on your likes and dislikes over a Wi-Fi or 3G connection. Awesome if you have an iPhone-compatible FM transceiver for your car, or as an alternative to your iPhone’s iPod mode.

Streamedy ($0.99)

With a download on your PC or Mac, you can upload music from your iTunes library onto an online server, then stream it to your iPhone using a Wi-Fi or 3G Internet connection. Great for keeping your device’s internal hard drive clean while still maintaining access to all your music.


Yelp (Free)

Search for businesses around your location using your iPhone’s GPS, read reviews and find what you’re looking for with Yelp. You can also specify the area of your business search, look up addresses and phone numbers, and even use augmented reality to overlay business information on things you shoot with your iPhone’s camera.

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Word Lens (Free, in-app purchases of $4.99 each)

Using augmented reality, Word Lens can translate words from English to Spanish, or vice versa, simply by pointing your iPhone’s camera at them. You’ll have to pay five bucks per language pack, but if you plan to travel, Word Lens can help you read signs and avoid getting lost. This is one of those apps you use to show off your iPhone to friends and family.

Google Earth (Free)

Another app for showing off is Google Earth, which puts the amazing web service in your hand. You can search your location using your iPhone’s GPS and get satellite photography images of wherever you are, or scan just about any place on the globe using the aerial photography included with the service.

Social Networking:

Facebook (Free)

If you use the uber-popular social networking service, you’ll want to grab this mobile version of the app that keeps you apprised of status updates, messages and friends’ activities. You can use Facebook to upload photos, and the app also lets you “check in” to various locations using its Places feature, updating your friends with your location using your iPhone’s GPS system.

Twitter (Free)

With the official Twitter app, you can keep up with your Twitter account and timeline, see who’s tweeting at you, and follow links posted on the social networking site using this mobile version of the service. You can also post links to photos and videos on the fly to tweet directly from the app.


Amazon Mobile (Free)

If you’re a big shopper, you can search for products on using the company’s mobile app and buy them from wherever you are. You can also use your iPhone’s camera to scan barcodes to instantly look up products and compare prices in-store with what’s available online.


Remote (Free)

You can turn your iPhone into a remote control for AppleTV or for the iTunes program on your computer with this handy app, which works over your home’s Wi-Fi connection. It’s extremely handy for when you’re hooking up your computer to exterior speakers and using it to play music during parties, especially around the holiday season.

Netflix (Free)

This app requires you to have a Netflix account with its ‘Watch Instantly’ streaming video service, but if you’ve got one, you can watch videos on your iOS devices using a Wi-Fi or 3G Internet connection. The app lets you search for movies or TV shows, watch them instantly if they’re available, or add them to your Instant or DVD queues for later.


Hipstamatic ($1.99)

Take some interesting old-style photos with this app, voted the best iPhone app of 2010 by Apple in its iTunes Rewind. Adjust filters, lenses and flashes in the app’s menu to create different effects that make your photos look like they’re from a different era. You can also purchase more effects in-app for 99 cents each.

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Read It Later Pro ($4.99)

Along with an account you set up in your web browser, you can use Read It Later Pro to save articles you find on the Internet to read when it’s more convenient. The app syncs with your Read It Later account to make articles available to you, in a stripped-down text-only format, to read on your phone. It’s extremely convenient and very useful — plus you can share interesting articles using Facebook and Twitter.

FLUD mobile (Free)

Add RSS streams from your favorite news websites and blogs into this reader app, and browse them in a modular, photo-heavy format that makes it easy to see what articles are about before you read them. You can also share articles with friends over social networking outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

NPR News (Free)

Stream National Public Radio shows, and read articles and transcripts, straight from your iPhone with this free app. You can also add your favorite local NPR stations and stream them straight to your phone over a Wi-Fi or 3G Internet connection, so you always have a radio with you to keep up on current events.


Google Mobile (Free)

There’s no better way to search the web from your iPhone than using Google Mobile. The free app lets you type in search terms to send through the search engine, but even better, you can use the app’s voice feature and your iPhone’s microphone to speak what you’re looking for, and Google will find it with a pretty high degree of accuracy. The app also includes Google Goggles, which let you snap pictures of objects to search automatically, as well.


Evernote (Free)

With Evernote downloaded to your desktop computer, you can use this app to take and save all manner of notes, while integrating photos and audio — so you’ll never lose track of an idea again. You can add geo-location tags to notes if you need to save where you came up with them, as well as “favorite” notes so they’re easy to locate later.

Dropbox (Free)

Another app that requires a download on your computer, Dropbox allows you to access documents you place in a streaming file on your iPhone. Using your Dropbox app, you can save files and photos from your iPhone onto an online space that’s free for up to 2GB. When you sync your computer and your phone with the box, you can use it to view presentations, read PDF files and look at photos.

Also see:

New iPhone for Christmas? Download these games first

New iPad for Christmas? Download these games first

New iPad for Christmas? Download these apps first

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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