Gizmodo's Essential iPhone Apps: Spring 2009

More than a year after launch, there are 74,031 apps in the iPhone App store. Most of them are crap. A few of them aren't. Here are the only 35 iPhone apps you actually need, all in one place.

Since the last time we corralled all the best of the best (barring our weekly roundups, of course), the iPhone, the App Store and, well, apps have changed immeasurably. In the last nine months we saw the release of the 3GS and iPhone OS 3.0, Apple loosening its grip on what kinds of apps people are allowed to create, and hundreds of fresh developers making genuinely new, genuinely impressive stuff. It was time for an update, and a big one.

We've got the best games, messaging apps, eBook readers, dictionaries and productivity software. We've got apps to keep you up on current events, to keep your daily music intake interesting, to keep you entertained on the train, or to guide to where your going. These are the essential iPhone apps—a list that'll transform that shiny, boring brick you just bought into the device that everyone's always raving about.

What counts as an essential iPhone app changes all the time, and so should our guide: If we've missed anything huge, or you've got a much better suggestion for a particular type of app, let us know. We'll be updating this thing pretty frequently, and a million Gizmodo readers can probably do a better job at sorting through the app mess than a single Gizmodo editor. Enjoy!

AirSharing: Our favourite file storage app-shoots files to the iPhone's flash memory via Wi-Fi for storage, transport, and easy retrieval.

Amazon: Amazon's usually the first place I look during a fit of impulse buying, which their iPhone app now makes stupidly easy.

BeejiveIM: Expensive? Sure. Totally essential for messaging hounds? Yup.

Bloom: Generative, ambient music by Brian Eno. If I need to say more, it's also a mini-sequencer: Drop your finger on the liquidy pastel screen, play a note, make simple loops. Music For Airports that you can make yourself. In an airport, even.

Brain Exercise with Dr. Kawashima: A lot of people buy Nintendo DSes for the sole purpose of having those Dr. Kawashima-approved brain-training games at hand. With this app, you get the exact same mind-juicing benefits for a few bucks, on hardware you already carry.

Brushes: If you've ever seen on of those spectacularly detailed "paintings" done on the iPhone, chances are it was created with this. This is fingerpainting in 2009.

CameraBag: Image processing apps tend to be gimmicky, but CameraBag's got enough artistic effects and editing flexibility to make the crappiest iPhone camera photos look interesting at worst, and spectacular at best.

ConvertBot: Plenty of apps can technically deal with unit conversions as well as ConvertBot can, but none of them have its fantastic, super-fast interface.

Epicurious: The only cooking app you really need. With its thousands of recipes, shopping list feature and meal suggestions, Epicurious will make you at least look like a passable cook.

Evernote: Obsessive documenters, take note(s): This is the only scribbling app you need.

Facebook: This was an essential app from the get-go, and it's been steadily evolving-like the site-for the last year. Version 3.0 was a total refresh, and supports nearly every one of Facebook's sprawling features, sometimes better than the site itself.

Fring: Every major instant message protocol, comfortably crowded under one (free!) roof. The addition of push notifications notched this one up from great to, uh, greaterer.

Frotz: Laugh all you want, jocks—us geeks know where it's at: text gaming. Bringing virtually every text-based game you've ever heard of to the iPhone gives the genre a whole new lease on life, and you the most prodigious time-waster imaginable.

Google Mobile: Google Mobile was a solid app (but not particularly essential)—and then came voice search.

Google Earth: The same amazing Earth touring app found on the desktop, now spinnable via multitouch. Honestly if someone told me two years ago I would have a functional Google Earth app on my phone, I wouldn't have believed them. This is now.

I Love Katamari: Mad genius designer Keita Takahashi left the series years ago, but Katamari is still among my favourite game franchises of all time (and I'm not alone), and it's a natural fit for the iPhone's tilt-controls.

Motion X Poker Quest: Realistic dice physics meets ancient Egyptian gods in one of the more addicting iPhone games you'll see.

Mujik: Mujik is like Bloom in that it lets anyone make amazing music in the space of a few minutes. That's where the similarities end.

NPR News: Comes with text news, offline reading and an endless (seriously!) supply of calming, androgynous voices, either live or on demand.

Newsstand: One of the only RSS readers that isn't slow, overcomplicated or missing something vital.

PanoLab: Who knew multitouch is the perfect interface for stitching photos together into panoramas? It is. Plus if the photo you just took doesn't work, toss it out and take another one immediately. A paid version adds even more features.

Prowl: Easily the most useful push app Apple's let through the gates, Prowl lets you forward any Growl notifications from your Mac or PC-everything from Mail to IM to Torrent downloads to Tweets-directly to your phone.

QuickOffice: Gaping void in default iPhone functionality #123: Real document editing. Solution #123: QuickOffice

Remote: One of the first apps we saw, and still among the best in terms of usefulness. If you use iTunes frequently at home and especially if you listen away from your desk via a stereo hookup or Airport Express, you need the Remote.

RjDj: A totally unique music application that processes sound from your environment and replays it according to a set program, creating a trippy, always-evolving soundscape.

Run Pee: An app to tell you when the boring parts of movies are so you can go pee-or if you're feeling daring, more-without missing much. It's a brilliant concept, with unexpectedly good execution.

Shazam: This just doesn't get old: hold your phone to the air to grab the song playing at the supermarket (or being hummed by your friend), and have it identified in a few seconds. We live in a privileged age.

Simplify Media: Stream your home machine's iTunes library and those of up to 30 friends to your phone. This app lives up to its name. Forget worries of filling up 8GB, or even 16.

Skype: On 3G, it's perfect for Skype messaging and long distance texts; on Wi-Fi, it near-magically turns your iPhone into a VoIP handset.

Star Defense: Tower Defense games are one of the few genres that the iPhone excels at, and Star Defense, with an entirely fresh 3D take on the concept, multitouch, varied levels and multiplayer, is about as good as they get.

Tweetie: If you spend enough of your day on Twitter to consider paying for an app, Tweetie's multiple account support, uncluttered interface and impressively broad feature set is about as close to a desktop Tweeting experience as you'll get on the iPhone.

TwitterFon: And if you're not willing to pay for a Twitter app (understandable!) TwitterFon isn't too shabby. It's super-fast and stupid-simple, so it'll do well by all but the most obnoxiously obsessed Twitterers.

VLC Remote: One of the first apps we loved was the iTunes Remote-now, the Swiss army knife of media players VLC has one of its very own.

VNC Lite: View and fully control my computer from anywhere, as long as I am on the same network. So I can basically be at my computer without actually being at my computer.

Wikipanion: Why even carry an iPhone if you can't use it to settle petty arguments about things that don't matter?

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