The Best iPhone Apps

There's an ocean of apps out there. Whether you just got your iPhone and are feeling adrift or you're a salty old dog seeing what you might've missed, here are the absolutely essential apps.



Twitter: Twitter thankfully didn't make too many changes when they gobbled up the already-great Tweetie 2 from Atebits — same clean interface, same tweet swiping, and the same it-feels-so-good pull to refresh mechanism. Free.

Facebook: The new, panel-based interface takes a little getting used to, but once you're acclimated it's the most effective way to throw yourself, fingers first, into the black hole timesuck that is Facebook. Free.

Google+: It's Google's big soiree into social "sharing". The app has it all: a stream that shows what your friends are talking about (like Facebook), Huddle which is an easy to set up group chats (like GroupMe) and will even automatically upload the pictures you take on your phone to the cloud (like iCloud). Once you get a Google+ invite, one of those features will pull you in.

Fring: Not only a decent multinetwork chat client, Fring also allows for free (or in some certain cases dirt cheap) VoIP calls and, for those with a front-facing camera, video calls over Wi-Fi and 3G. Free.

Meebo: Meebo is the king of iPhone messenger apps right now, with support for AIM, Google Talk, Facebook and the like (as well as an impressive list of smaller networks) all packed into a pretty, polished package. Free.

Instagram: Take a photo and dress it up with one of the supplied Hipstamatic-esque filters, Then you share it over the usual suspects - Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc - or, and here's the interesting part, over Instagram's built-in social networking service. It's new and ambitious and that's why we like it. Free.

GroupMe: A godsend of a group messaging app, GroupMe killed for us at CES. The idea is simple: your friends are grouped together via a phone number and when you text that number it sends the message to everyone (with your name in front). Like a SMS chat room. Free.

Facebook Messenger: Think of it as a cross-platform messaging service that enables you to easily talk to people on any platform — Android, iPhone, Facebook, SMS and everything in between. It's not dissimilar to Kik or WhatsApp in this aspect. If your friends are on Facebook, they'll get your message in the Messages (or on their Android or iPhone). If they're not on Facebook, it'll be re-directed as an SMS.

Black SMS: This clandestine app keeps your juiciest texts hidden from prying eyes. Simply open the app, assign a password to your text conversation, and your messages will be kept between you and the person you're chatting with. Secrets! $0.99.

Go: GO is an easy-to-use and beautiful app that lets users post photos, videos and messages onto their network (no cheating with backdated photos!). What's great about GO is that it offers an anonymous option so you can feel free to post whatever you want without attaching your handle to it.

Highlight: Highlight uses information from your Facebook account to determine if other Highlight users in the vicinity should know about each other. It also tells you when one of your actual friends is nearby — roughly within one-and-a-half blocks. The app will send a push notification once someone journeys into that radius.

The New Essential Apps May 2012

Facebook Camera: Facebook gave us a clue as to why it made that billion dollar Instagram purchase when it dropped this photo app. With it you can upload multiple images at a time, view images and add filters. Free.

Flock: There's always that one friend you constantly have to beg to email or upload pics. But if you have this app you'll never have that problem again. It figures out who you're Facebook friends with, finds the ones that have the same camera metadata as you (time and location), and adds all those images to the same album like magic. Free.


Loopcam: GIFs are fun, but they're meant to be shared. This app lets you animate them, then spread them all over your social networks. Free.

Spotify: Spotify is as close to a great streaming service we can get. The iPhone app lets you listen to all of Spotify's 13 million track library, and there's even an offline mode that lets you do it without a data connection, because you can wirelessly sync your local files to your phone, create and sync playlists and more. Free.

MiniMash: It takes your songs, analyses them, and lets you mash them together. The layout is way stripped down; it looks like a DJ game on Super Nintendo. Which, over here, is great! All the heavy lifting is done in the background-tempo and pitch matching-so that you can create smooth transitions and mixes for most of what you throw at it. $1.99.

Remote: Apple's official app for controlling iTunes from wherever your butt might find itself planted is pretty much perfect. Browse your entire library by artist, song, playlist, whatever, pick a tune, and there it is, playing in your iTunes. Free.

Shazam: You know that song you keep hearing everywhere but can't quite place? Shazam can place it. Like, almost every time. Shazam Encore, $7, gets you unlimited tags and a host of other features like charts, recommendations, lyrics, etc.

SoundHound: Like Shazam, SoundHound dabbles in tune recognition (smaller library of songs, snappier tagging), but it also serves as a full replacement for your iPhone's comparatively barren iPod app. Think lyrics, artist info, YouTube links, etc. $6.

Flixster: While it blows my mind that I can watch movies on my phone, one thing I need it to do, and need it to do well, is find movie times for theatres nearby. Flixter does that and much more, packing box office charts, Rotten Tomatoes reviews, DVD releases and what seems like a thousand other movie-related features in one extremely handy app. Free.

StreamToMe: A lightweight client on your computer catalogues the videos of your choosing, as well as all your iTunes playlists, and then lets you easily stream the files in them easily to the app on your iPhone. The best part: all the transcoding is done on the fly, and pretty much any video format plays back superbly. $4.

Kindle: Just because you don't own a Kindle doesn't mean you shouldn't be buying Kindle ebooks — especially when Amazon's iOS app is this good. While it looked for a while like iBooks might come along and disrupt Amazon's ebooks hegemony, well, that didn't happen. Free.

Hipstamatic: Why do everyone's iPhone photos look so damn hip while yours look so, you know, not. Probably cause they're using Hipstamatic, the pre-eminent "make my photos look cool" app which lets you mix and match films and lenses (available for in app purchase) to make your iPhone photos look more analogue than ever. $1.99.

Brushes: Even for the artistically disinclined, having a 3.5-inch palette and canvas in your pocket can be fun. Brushes is the only one you'll ever need, easy enough for the uninitiated to jump into and advanced enough to keep real artists happy. Hell, they paint New Yorker covers with this thing. $5.49.

Luminance: What makes Luminance stand out in the increasingly crowded space of photo editing apps is that it's great at handling layers. Each effect — vignetting, tweaking exposure and white balance, etc — is a layer that you can re-arrange to see how the picture changes and delete to see how it looks without the effect. Editing like a pro. $0.99.

NPR News: You've gotta have a news app on your iPhone, because, you know, news is important. NPR's happens to be great - you can read NPR's reliably-interesting stories, download them for offline reading, and, and, listen to NPR radio stations while you're doing it. Free.

Rdio: It's our favourite subscription music service and can easily replace your iPod app altogether. The baked-in social elements make it super easy to find new music your friends are digging, and the whole app just got an attractive makeover. $20.99/month.

TuneIn Radio: A truly great radio app, TuneIn has a dizzying amount of stations, and it gives you the ability to pause, rewind or record live radio on the fly. $0.99.

Camera+: After a brief beef with Apple over a (much-missed) volume button shutter easter egg, Camera+ is back in the App Store and updating at a steady clip. It has a bevy of filters and effects that make Hipstamatic and Instagram look downright cheap by comparison. $0.99.

Filmic Pro: Like what Camera+ did for pictures, Filmic Pro does for video. The app gives you a suite of features typically reserved for the pros. There's controls for screen resolution, frame rates and framing, along with focus and exposure locks so you can get the exact shot you want. $4.49.

Vimeo: The video selection on Vimeo is always stellar but the real cherry on top? Free HD video editing for all your movies, right from your iPhone. Free.

Super 8: A super fun, full-featured and free vintage video camera app. Not only does it let you shoot video (with either camera), you can change effects and filters by swiping across the camera case in mock fashion and play the video by pulling down a projector screen. You can even add flickering and scratching film. So cool and so free. Free.

Photosynth: It's a free-wheeling panorama photography app by Microsoft. With Photosynth, you just just spin around, fire away and let Photosynth stitch the picture together. Free.

Flare: It's a video recorder app that records in High Dynamic Range. Which means it allows for a greater range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of an image to bring a more detailed look at the world. HDR videos take the stunning unreality of HDR photos to a whole 'nother level. $1.99.

Capture: The quickest video camera you'll find on iOS. Once you launch the app from the home screen, it starts recording instantly, like seriously instantly — so there's no valuable seconds missed. So technically it's just a home screen button that automatically records (through an invisible app). $0.99.

AirCassette for iPhone: It's a music player for your iPhone that transforms CoverFlow and iTunes and MP3s into a faux cassette player. You can relive the '80s, but without the bad hair and day-glo clothing. If you're so inclined you can make a mix tape for that special someone. $0.99.

The New Essential Apps February 2012

Cinemagram: Cinemagram uses your iPhone camera to capture a short video clip, and then convert it into an cinemagraph, which is a highly stylised animated GIF where only one part of the image moves. You record a clip and cut it down to a length Cinemagram deems acceptable (generally a couple of seconds). Then you mask the area you want to move. Free.

The New Essential Apps April 2012

VFX: Liven up your photos with movie-style special effects with this app. Pick from lightning bolts, animals, makeup, swords or more than 200 other goods to add to your pics. Free.

The New Essential Apps April 2012

Jittergram: This app turns your photos into 3D stereograms. It takes two consecutive photos and instantly turns them into GIFs, without hassle. And you can share all of your creations on Twitter with just a couple of taps. Free.

The New Essential Apps May 2012

Squrl: We all know the pain of staring at the TV with nothing to watch. This app will aid you in your time of need, putting video content from around the web together with your social networks to make suggestions of shows and clips it thinks you will like. Free.

Beamr: The problem with uploading your iPhone pics to Facebook? It scales down the quality by a lot. But Beamr lets your snaps hold onto all their precious pixels, and shares them to your social networks in a lovely magazine-style format. Free.


Mega Mall Story: It's like Tiny Tower which was like SimTower but instead of building a skyscraper you're outfitting a mall. And just like those games, it's as crack-addicting as ever with the added benefit of pretending to re-live your mall hanging out days. $4.49.

Angry Birds: Probably the world's most popular iPhone game and for good reason. There's something about launching these different sorts of aviary ammunition into the precarious pig pens that just never gets old. There are always new birds and new stages coming out the pipeline to keep things fresh too. $0.99.

The Incident: With excellent pixel art and an admirably morbid sense of humour, twisting your iPhone around to avoid falling objects is way more fun than it sounds. And you have to appreciate anything that makes the apocalypse this enjoyable. $1.99.

Cut the Rope: Some have called it the heir apparent to Angry Birds for quick, clever, doesn't-really-ever-get-boring iPhone gameplay — lofty praise, but in many ways deserved! Cutting a rope to swing a candy into a little monsters mouth, avoiding electrical currents and spiders along the way, is quite fun. $0.99.

Real Racing: It's just the best racing game out, walking the tightrope between looking highly realistic and being incredibly fun to play. There's a good selection of cars and tracks and the graphics look wonderful. $2.99.

Archetype: An exceptionally shiny first person shooter optimised for the iPhone 4, with slick, functional controls. Best of all is the 5v5 team deathmatch mode, which is just like the multiplayer action you're used to on the consoles — including multiple guns, grenades, maps and medals — except this one you play while you're sitting on the toilet. $0.99 (map updates cost extra).

Doodle Jump: You know those people you see standing on the train or waiting in line at the supermarket clutching their iPhone to their face and tilting their entire body to the side like they're the leaning tower of Pisa? This is the game they're playing. $0.99.

Words With Friends: Why did we, as an iPhone-wielding society, suddenly decide that push-notified Scrabble (or, more specifically, this knockoff) was the most fun to be had with words since Alphabet Soup? That I don't know. But it is a hell of a lot of fun trying to slot that Triple Word Score against friends, family and coworkers. Free with ads, $2.99 without ads.

Tiny Wings: Slide an adorable bird up and down hills to collect coins. The trick is to gain momentum and beat the night. Surprisingly addictive with extremely cute animations. $0.99.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP: A game that's an epic experience. One part 8-bit graphics, one part beautiful original music, one part adventure, and one part RPG combine for a game that's essentially about exploring and brings your childlike wonder back. $5.49.

Tiny Tower: A free 8-bit style game that lets you channel your inner landlord. You build floors on a tower to attract "bitizens" to live in it and then control their lives (manage, hire, give a job, evict). It's like SimCity but actually fun. Free.

Shadowgun: Like if Gears of War was on the iPhone. Yes, the graphics are console-quality, the game is a cover-based shooter and the main characters are outrageously huge. The game is as stellar a shooter you'll find on the iPhone. $5.49.

Jetpack Joyride: A side-scrolling game where you play a character on a jetpack. You avoid obstacles, collect coins and is so terribly addictive that you won't be able to put it down. There's different weapons and vehicles so you'll never get bored. Free.

Contre Jour: Describing Contre Jour as just a game is missing the point. It's so beautiful it looks like movable art. The soundtrack is uniquely crafted, created by David Ari Leon, and the controls are organic, you can transform the environment to get that eyeball thingy to your goal. There's puzzles that you have to figure out, various obstacles to overcome and more. $0.99.

Minecraft: Pocket Edition: The iPhone version is simply a Minecraft Eden, a place to build and dig. And it works fairly well. The game comes with 36 different blocks to work with, the ability to save your work on the iPhone or iPad and support for multiplayer worlds over a local Wi-Fi connection. $7.49.

The New Essential Apps February 2012

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective: A lovely adventure game with a lovely story and a lovely score. You play as a character who starts out dead and you need to figure out who you are, who killed you and why. An interesting take with 10 levels of gameplay. Free.

The New Essential Apps March 2012

Draw Something: If you're not an artist and no longer a child, I have a question for you: How often do you draw? With Draw Something, you and a friend can hone your drawing skills in a silly fun game. Think Words with Friends crossed with Pictionary plus oodles of fun. Free.

The New Essential Apps March 2012

Angry Birds Space: Even if you're totally over the Angry Birds phenomenon, whatever, get over your overness cause it ain't dying. The latest Angry Birds is the same idea as the classic ones but also the biggest departure from all that came before. You're in space! Free.

PyroTouch: This cute game will appeal to your inner pyromaniac. Fly to new cities, set off fireworks and collect happiness in this beautifully designed arcade game. Free.


The New Essential Apps June 2012

Chrome: At long last, Google has finally launched Chrome for iOS. The browser includes many of the same features you enjoy on the desktop, such as password sync, tab sharing and incognito mode. Free.

GoodPlayer: As awesome as VLC was before it got pulled from the app store, GoodPlayer is pretty much the same thing. It can play pretty much any video file you throw at it without the silly need to convert them. There's even Airplay support and it has the option to stream movies from the web. $2.99.

Instapaper: Perhaps the most universally loved of all iPhone apps, Instapaper, in conjunction with a bookmarklet on your PC, strips websites of all that crap and leaves just the text, synced to your iPhone and pristinely awaiting your eyeballs. Free with ads, $5.49 without ads.

Reeder: The best all-around RSS reader, Reeder syncs flawlessly with Google Reader (not as common as you'd think!), includes intuitive, swipe-friendly controls and has a spartan interface that gets out of the way of the stuff you care about: your feeds. $2.99.

Simplenote: It takes notes, simply. That's a good thing! Without any whiz-bang features for tagging or appending images, SimpleNote just lets you jot things down and, crucially, keeps them flawlessly in sync with the app's website, a client (like Notational Velocity, for Mac), and its iPad app. Total note nirvana. Free.

Evernote: Everybody's favourite do-it-all note taker got a big update for iOS: a new home screen with an information-dense snippet view; a new split-view note screen which allows for multiple attachments to a single note; and easy browsing by notebook or tag. Free.

Dropbox: Dropbox is like the SimpleNote of files — seamless, effortless syncing across as many machines as you want. And with the slick native Dropbox app, you can count your iPhone among those machines. Check out documents and photos, attach them to emails, export them to other apps, all with the cloud as your safety net. Free.

BoxCar: Most apps, if they send you push notifications at all, do so on their own terms. Boxcar lets you pipe in notifications for all aspects of Facebook, Twitter and email for the unbeatable price of free.

Kayak: Sometimes it seems like the internet can make travelling more of a hassle, what with all the different rates to sort through and confirmation numbers to manage. Kayak actually makes the process easier — from booking your flights and hotels to organising your itinerary. Free.

PasteBot: You'd never think you'd use the word "ultra-powerful" to describe a "clipboard manager", but that's basically what PasteBot is, an app for organising and managing copy clippings — text, photos, links, whatever — not only on your iPhone but, and here's where the magic happens — between your iPhone and your Mac too. $4.49.

2Do: A to-do app on some serious steroids, 2Do can organise parts of your life you didn't even know needed organising. It has a slick interface and enough features and syncing options to keep even the most fastidious productivity nuts busy. $10.49.

WolframAlpha: WolframAlpha is smart. Like, scary smart. It's part calculator, part search engine, but for any situation in which you need facts — population of Waco, TX; observable stars in the universe; unemployment rate in Boise — it's indispensable. $4.49.

Google Translate: Google Translate's been kicking around for a while, but the new native iPhone app really makes translations enjoyable. It supports tons of languages — many of which it'll speak back to you — and has handy features like full-screen text translations for when you're waving your phone at some bewildered cab driver. Free.

PhotoSync: Don't ever tie your iPhone to your computer for pictures again. It wirelessly transfers photos and videos to and from your computer through Wi-Fi and can even dance with the iPad. So easy. $1.99.

Wi-Fi Photo Transfer: Wi-Fi Photo Transfer brings photos from your iPhone to your computer (not the other way around) and is super easy to use. Just fire up the app, plug in an address in your computer's browser, and pick and choose which iPhone pictures you want to bring over. Easy. Free.

Tumblr 2.0: Tumblr's iPhone app, which used to suck, has been graced with a brand new interface that makes it brainless to use. Everything about 2.0 is smoother, simpler and all-around better. Writing an entry is easy — be it a photo post or just a reblog — and switching between multiple blogs is handled gracefully. Free.

iWork: Pages, Numbers, Keynote. It's iWork on your iPhone. You can tweak documents you've created on your Mac or iPad, or make new ones with a buffet of characteristically nice-looking templates. It's great: a full list of transitions for slides in Keynote; a variety of charts for data in Numbers; fonts for every occasion in Pages. $10.49 each.

Astrid To-Do for iPhone: It's a full-featured task manager that doesn't make you want to rip your eyeballs out. Set up individual or group projects from the app quickly and easily. Email integration includes the ability to complete tasks by email. Oh, and it's free.

Launch Center: It works by providing a number of built-in, configurable shortcuts — such as launching a website, turning on the LED light on your phone, and Googling the contents of your clipboard — and scheduling them as alerts. When the alerts pop up, you can just tap them to initiate the shortcut immediately or grab them anytime in your notifications drawer. $1.99

Commit: Commit is a simple app that keeps you committed to a daily task. If there's something you want to do every day to form good habits or get the practice you need to be great, this app can help you get there with a nicely designed, simple interface and helpful reminders. $2.99.

Agenda Calendar: We're always trying to get our readers to organise their lives. We figure if you're more organised, you'll visit the site more often and leave sane comments. So you see, telling you to check out Agenda Calendar helps everyone. $0.99.

Todo.txt Touch: To-do lists don't need to be extravagant affairs. They certainly don't need to be tied into weird proprietary formats. Todo.txt stores a .txt file in your Dropbox account users can open it with any text editor on the market and edit. $1.99.

Measured: You have two choices. You could climb a ladder and measure that section of gutter that's broken. Or, you could take two photos with the Measured app and let it do the measuring for you. The app will also tell you the distance of objects. So you can see how far you threw the tape measure when you fell off the ladder. $2.99.

The New Essential Apps February 2012

Buzz Contacts: Buzz Contacts puts the traditional iOS contacts system on its head, making it infinitely more useful and faster. Its focus is getting you to contacting your contacts as fast and elegantly as possible, through whichever medium you decide to use: phone, SMS, email or FaceTime. $1.99.

The New Essential Apps February 2012

Clear: The new Clear to-do list app takes a different and fresh approach from others in that it's not loaded with auxiliary features. Clear is the quickest, simplest and most intuitive to-do list for busy people who need a straightforward list to juggle a million tasks a day. $2.99.

Sparrow: Finally, email that doesn't suck. The biggest beneficiaries of Sparrow will be iPhone owners who use Gmail. Like Google's own "app", Sparrow brings support for priority inboxes, the ability to star and label messages, and offers up a threaded view far better than what you get in Apple's mail app. $2.99.

The New Essential Apps May 2012

Clueful: You want to know exactly what your apps are up to — and Clueful will tell you. It's kind of like a bouncer for your iPhone, letting you know which ones are sneaking into your contacts, tracking your location, following your ad targeting and doing other things without permission. $4.49.

The New Essential Apps May 2012

iTranslate Voice: This app will speak Spanish and 30 other languages for you, even if you don't even know the word for "hello". Simply speak a phrase you want to translate, and it will say it back. So the next time you're travelling in Germany and you think you're lost, this iTranslate Voice can help you ask a local for directions. $0.99.

Checkmark: It's so easy to forget those mundane things you have to do every day — pick up the laundry, wash the car, drop off a prescription. Checkmark, however, is a location-based reminders app that will send you a notification based on where you are, so you never have an excuse to space on your errands. $2.99.

Chameleon Clock: Careful. If you don't look closely enough you might miss it — a clock that uses its camera to blend in with its surroundings. While there are heaps of timekeeper apps around, this one does it in a very unique way, displaying its background as its face. $0.99.

Expedia: Travel can be totally stressful, so the easier it is to book everything the better. Now Expedia will let you book both hotels and flights in the same app. (The old version was just hotels). On to your next vacation! Free.

RoadTrippers: Long ago, when we hit the road, we'd — gasp — print out directions. Screw that. Instead, plan a route with RoadTrippers. It tips you off to points of interest and even gives turn-by-turn directions so you never have to stop at some sketchy petrol station and ask where you are. Free.


The New Essential Apps June 2012

App in the Air: Although the airport is a bleak place, this makes it better by giving you vital info, like where to get the best food, or how to go about getting a Wi-Fi connection. You'll can also track your flight, monitor your airline miles, and keep tabs on anything else you need when you're travelling. Free.

The New Essential Apps June 2012

Cloth: You like that dress, but does it work for a rainy day? Cloth will help you figure it out, saving and categorising your outfits and automatically tagging them with the current weather. Free.

Photo Academy App: Learn how to be a better photographer. The app covers the basics like how to hold your camera and what tweaking ISO and exposure do to more complex instructions like professional photographer tips and editing ideas. There's literally hundreds of different tips. If you're an amateur photographer, you're bound to learn something. $2.99.

Google Earth: It's, like, the entire world... on your iPhone. Google Earth is cooler than ever when you're using your fingers to manipulate it, seamlessly zooming around the globe and diving into various places to take a closer look. Free.

Google Mobile: Yeah, there's no two ways about it: you have to have Google's Swiss Army Knife app on your iPhone. Search the internet by voice, location, or now, with the recent addition of Google Goggles, by picture. Free.

Yelp: Everyone's a critic when it comes to bars and restaurants; Yelp puts that impulse to work for you. Search for food, drink or whatever else by location, price and style, and then read up on what people have to say about it. Free.

Wikipanion: If you aren't using your iPhone to settle petty disputes, what's the point? Wikipanion gives you iPhone-optimised access to all of Wikipedia, that great argument-ending resource, with added features like bookmarking, quick wikitionary lookup, intelligent search and more. Free, $5.49 for Wikipanion Plus.

Nike+ GPS: Nike, it turns out, knows a lot about fitness. And with its latest iteration, their Nike+ GPS app can track you on your runs, no sensor required, and keeps you going with features like Cheer Me On (a Facebook-integrated social encouragement tool) and One More PowerSong (adding one last song to your pump-up playlist). $1.99.

AppShopper: Aside from the shiny fa├žade of the "featured apps" front page, Apple's App Store is not easy to navigate. AppShopper delivers some sanity to the process, allowing you to easily check out new apps, create wishlists of ones you want, and get alerted when those apps go on sale. Free.

Amazon Mobile: Amazon Mobile does an admirable job of shrinking the shopping behemoth that is down into iPhone-friendly form. It recently picked up the ability to scan barcodes, which means that whenever you're out there shopping in the real world (gross) you can easily check back to see if you can get a better deal on Amazon. You probably can. Free.

Layar: Augmented reality is often cooler in theory than it is in practice. Layar's one of the few places where you can peer into the future and see how this whole AR thing might actually amount to something. Free.

Weatherbug: It may not be as cute as some of the competitors, but who ever said weather should be. Weatherbug gets down to business with forecasts, maps and video, doing so reliably and straightforwardly. Free with ads, $1.99 for Weatherbug Elite.

How To Cook Everything: OK, the name of the app is sorta an exaggeration, but not by as much as you'd think. For those of us who aren't concerned with preparing gourmet meals and are just happy with making something, How To Cook Everything, adapted from the excellent cookbook of the same name, is like the Holy Grail. $5.49.

Epicurious: A food app with a bit more context than How To Cook Everything — it lets you find recipes based on what's in season, create interactive shopping lists, etc — it is well designed and packed with utility. Free.

Adobe Photoshop Express: It's not the powerhouse that the desktop version is, but for basic edits like crop, straighten, rotate and simple tweaks like changing exposure, saturation and tint, this stripped-down Photoshop does the trick. Free.

Mixologist: The gold medal winner of our best drinking apps battle, Mixologist is an encyclopaedic database of drinks searchable in a variety of ways. At some point, you will impress someone by following this app's instructions. $0.99.

Word Lens: WordLens is a taste of the future. Point it at a sign in Spanish and it'll overlay an English translation on the fly while approximating the size and typeface of the original text. It's not perfect but it works well enough to blow your mind into a thousand little pieces. $10.49 per language.

GIF Shop: It's a camera app that stitches together pictures to create the GIFs that populate the internet. You know GIFs! At Giz we call GIFs the internet's greatest treasure. Personally, I think it's the only form of online communication that can truly translate emotion (albeit bite-sized) over the internet. $0.99.

Hound: Hound is a voice recognition app that's essentially a really, really good music-specific search engine. You speak an artist's name or song title into the app and it'll pop out all the stuff you want to know. The voice recognition part of Hound is great — it's the future! — but the detailed results of Hound is what will keep it on your phone. Free.

Is it Ready Yet?: Undercooked meat is not only gross, it's potentially dangerous. And overcooked meat? That's just wrong. Is It Ready? has 23 beef, pork and poultry variations to help determine the proper amount of time you should keep your meat in the oven. $0.99.

LightBomber: LightBomber takes long exposure photos specifically for light painting. Settings are minimal, but include tips on how to take the best photograph. In fact, the app is full of tips to help you capture the best light panting photographs. The app also includes "lights" that can be used to create paintings when your friend is attempting to become an "artist". $0.99.

GymPact: The service works like this. You set days for the next week that you want to go to the gym. This is your "Pact". Now if you decide to bot go to the gym, you're penalised and the app takes your money. You get to decide how much money you lose ($5 min per session) if you don't get off your keister. If you do make your weekly Pact, you're rewarded with cash paid out of a pool funded by lazy people. Free.

Mattebox: The app's wonderfully minimalist controls are based on the Konica Hexar, an iconic 35mm point-and-shoot that's easy to use, but does't skimp on image quality. The app has a two-step focus-then-shoot feature. Hold the button down to lock focus and exposure, slide it to take a photo. Now you can create those depth-of-field images you've been faking with Instagram. $4.49.

Expedition White Shark: It's like Shark Week in your pants all the time. Track Great White sharks as the swim in the oceans searching for delicious sea lions and surfers the have rubbed themselves in bacon. The app also has a game, but you should steer clear of that wreck and stick to tracking sharks. $4.49.

The New Essential Apps February 2012

Fitness Buddy: 1700 different workout exercises. 1000 workout videos. 4000 exercise photos. And sweat searing instructions for all of them. Fitness Buddy is an absolutely amazing tool to track your workouts, learn new workouts, build a workout routine and see your body's progress. $0.99.

The New Essential Apps March 2012

Fitocracy: A fun way to work out! Sort of. The app tracks your workouts and activity, letting you manually enter your crunches, squats, runs and trots to score points. It turns those activities into a game where you can earn badges and advance through levels, and also compete against others on a level field. So, for example, even though you may be hitting the heavy bag, you can still compete with somebody doing kettle bells and have equivalent scores. Free. [imglear]

The New Essential Apps March 2012

Frameographer: Frames automates the laborious part of stitching together still-frame iPhone images into a video — whether it's a time lapse or a stop motion video is up to you. Open Frames up, start a new project, and hit the familiar-looking camera button to start recording. $2.99.

The New Essential Apps April 2012

Pick: Instagram is fun, but eventually you might tire of it. Japan's take on the photo filter app, though, is an endless fount of joy. It starts with filters, then gives you the option to add all kinds of stamps, borders, messages and silly icons to your snapshots. Free.

The New Essential Apps May 2012

The Weather Channel: The app we're probably already all using was just updated in a big way. It's been completely redesigned with a beautiful new interface that displays the radar map and temperature more prominently, and includes social integration. Free.

Solar: The iPhone's native weather app does its job well enough, and the Weather Channel app gives you every piece of data you could ever imagine. But they're not much to look at. Solar, by contrast, is exquisitely designed. It has colour schemes that reflect the weather, and it responds to intuitive touch-based controls. $0.99.

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