It’s been another blockbuster year for the seminal iPhone. Even after enduring a longer than normal product cycle, demand for the device is still at an all time high. According to Reuters, Apple was on pace to sell around 28 million iPhones during 2011′s final quarter alone – a 70 percent jump from a year ago. Whether you’re filling up a brand new device or looking to bolster the collection on the one you already have, these 11 (mostly free) apps are sure to offer endless hours of entertainment heading into the new year.
Sure Pandora is nice at home or work, but it’s even better on the go. The free music is great for music discovery and gives users the ability to listen to thousands of artists during their commute, at the gym, or anywhere else they get the urge to hear a good tune. What’s more, users with a Pandora account will see their favorite stations synced from the web, and vice versa. At the price of free, you can’t go wrong with what Pandora has to offer.
With all new, custom optics and a larger f/2.4 aperture, one of the iPhone 4S‘ best features is its 8 megapixel camera. (The iPhone 4 camera is no slouch, either.) Still, it lacks some functions that come standard on the average point and shoot. That’s where Camera+ steps in. Co-developed by a professional photographer, the app gives users full control over the iPhone’s built-in camera through options like stabilization, timer and burst modes. The best part? You can edit photos with a number of different effects and pre-set light adjustments, making dull pictures look vibrant and lively. For users who take a lot of photos while out and about, this is the go-to.
Originally a web-based personal finance management service, the Mint.com app has helped define mobile banking through its detailed and robust feature set. In addition to allowing users to track their income, spending and investments, the app also gives users the option to set budgets in categories like gas, food and entertainment. It’ll even send users alerts for bills, over budget spending and financial summaries. Of course, because Mint acts as a financial advisor of sorts, the app is free, as is the web-based service.
Simple, elegant and incredibly essential, Instapaper lets users save web pages for later offline reading, even optimizing the experience to fit on the iPhone’s 3.5-inch screen. In addition, it syncs to Instapaper’s web app so you’ll have all your saved links everywhere you go. Don’t have the time to read a TechnoBuffalo article? Save it to Instapaper and read it during your commute, office wait or before you go to bed. There are no shortage of customization options, either: adjustable fonts, text sizes, dictionary and Wikipedia lookups and folders make Instapaper one of those apps you wish you invented. Even better, the app is supported by over 150 other iPhone and iPad apps, including Flipboard, ensuring you’ll never run out of content to save and absorb later. Once you start hitting “Read Later,” you’ll wonder how you ever got along without Instapaper.
This one needs no introduction. If you’re part of the outrageously popular social network, chances are this is one of the first apps you downloaded. Users can always stay connected by updating their status, responding to messages and seeing where their friends have check in. Add these features to a recently revamped interface and the implementation of the new Timeline profile feature, and Facebook for the iPhone is a solid experience from top to bottom.
For die-hard sports fans, ESPN Scorecenter is the pinnacle of what a sport app should be – of what any app should be, really. Users have nearly limitless options, including alerts (getting a notification when a quarter ends, or when a player hits a home run, etc.) for almost any team in a number of different sports: Basketball, Football, Tennis and Soccer, among others. Of course, the app also has match recaps, news, stat breakdowns and game highlights. Like that scrolling news ticker at the bottom of TV broadcasts? That’s there, too. Just tap on a story and see it pull up almost instantly inside the app.
This app took the streaming content world by storm. Cited by Reed Hastings as Netflix’s number one competitor, HBO GO lets users access over 1,400 of the channel’s top content, including original programming, hit movies, sports, comedy and much more. Whether you’re at home or traveling the U.S., HBO GO is a great way to catch up on HBO‘s lineup, like True Blood, Game of Thrones and Bored to Death (my personal favorite). The best part? The app is free with an HBO subscription through participating television providers. If only HBO would add a standalone monthly service option for those who aren’t subscribed through cable.
Once upon a time the iPhone was a great productivity tool. Then time wasting fart apps started showing up, and away went our sanity. But all is not lost, thanks to Evernote. From the iTunes description: “Evernote turns the iPhone into an extension of your brain, helping you remember anything and everything that happens in your life.” Jot down notes, take snapshots and create audio recordings, all in one beautifully presented app. Evernote’s killer feature is its ability to synch across multiple platforms, meaning your notes will be with you wherever you are. With Evernote, you’ll never forget the small and large details again.
Originally released on the iPad, Flipboard is a gorgeous app that curates content from a wide range of sources, including a user’s social networks, certain Web-based publications and Google Reader subscriptions. The possibilities are almost endless. What makes the app shine is how it transforms content into a beautifully immersive magazine-like experience. It’s easy to turn five minutes of browsing into an hour or more – that’s how engrossing the app can be. Although it’s not as brilliant as its iPad counterpart, Flipboard for iPhone is still an excellent way to consume and discover content.
You either love it or you hate it. Whichever camp you fall under, there’s no denying Instagram’s mass appeal. Through a healthy dose of vintage filters and eye-pleasing blur effects, Instagram transforms ordinary user photographs into beautiful works of art. Not only that, but the app offers a social network angle that allows people to follow other Instagram users a la Twitter. You can even post to other social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Tumblr instantly. With over 15 million users, it’s no wonder Instagram was named 2011′s iPhone app of the year.
With computers, tablets and smartphones, it can be hard to keep track of one’s important files. Luckily there’s Dropbox. The free (for 2GB) cloud service lets users upload photos, docs and videos, making their files available almost anywhere. In addition, Dropbox will sync a user’s files across all their devices and allow “Favorites” for fast, offline viewing. There’s even an option to share files with family and friends. Have an important email? Save it straight to Dropbox, and never be without an important file again.
What were your top iPhone apps of 2011?
These are just a few great choices from Apple’s ever-expanding iOS App Store. The 11 highlighted here are ones I use almost daily, particularly Camera+, but by no means a thorough examination of what Apple has to offer. There are literally thousands and thousands of other apps out there that deserve your attention, so start perusing through the store and let us know if you find anything that might be worthy to make next year’s list.