Nobody wants to pay for iPhone apps, and some people simply don’t. The good news is, you don’t really need to: For almost every paid app, there’s a free app that’s nearly as good. Here are the best of the best.
A lot of these apps will be familiar to anyone who’s checked out our Essential iPhone Apps directory before, and yeah, there is a lot of overlap. What we’ve done, basically, is strip out the paid apps from the list, then fill in the gaps with more free. With the new list, you can turn a fresh, untouched iPhone or iPod Touch into an apped-out powerhouse without spending a dime.
Product searches, comparisons and account management are a given, but what really pushes this one over the edge is a new feature called “Remembers”. Just snap a picture of a mysterious product or thing, and Amazon will get back to you with a surprisingly accurate, impressively quick suggestion as to what it is. Then it will sell said thing to you. Magic.[imgclear]
Anything you need to jot down fast, be it in text, a photo or a voice note, Evernote will keep it, index it and sync it to Evernote’s online subscription service. Where Evernote trumps all others, aside from its fantastic syncing abilities, is with search: You can sort your notes by all kind of parameters, and it never take more than a few seconds to find one.[imgclear]
The new, panel-based interface takes a little getting used to, but once you’re acclimated to it it’s the most effective way to throw yourself, fingers first, into the black hole timesuck that is Facebook.[imgclear]
Obviously Skype is still your safest bet for making Skype calls, but Fring can do it passably well, too. Most people were excited for push notifications precisely because of how they could used for instant messaging, and Fring more or less fulfils this vision for free.[imgclear]
It’s a natural thing for a mobile phone – tap a button, say what you want, and there it is. You can search the web, local results – everything the Google app could previously do.[imgclear]
Layar layers, which let you install user-generated overlays of all different kinds of information, like this one, which tracks government bailout spending. The expansion possibilities here are huge.[imgclear]
Given that you can’t make VoIP calls unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi, Skype is surprisingly useful: even if you’re tethered to your router’s range, having a phone-shaped tool to make Skype calls is really nice, and its messaging service is a solid, not to mention fairly ubiquitous, way to keep in touch with people. Note: This one ceases to be free if you use SkypeOut, but that’s pretty hard to do by accident, since you’ve got to buy credit for it to even work.[imgclear]
Early reviews were a bit harsh, since the app works better with the 3GS (autofocus, y’know?) and the scanning libraries needed some work. At any rate, it’s free, works well for most people and the data-even if it can be sparse on some local searches-is invaluable.[imgclear]
A mercifully non-literal mobile translation of Wikpedia’s interface, Wikipanion gets you to whatever ‘pedia article you’re looking for a few seconds faster than the regular browser would, and with much kinder navigation once you get there.[imgclear]
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, say so in the comments. We’ll be updating this thing pretty frequently, and a million Gizmodo readers can do a better job at sorting through the app mess than a single Gizmodo editor. Enjoy!