1. AP Mobile 3.1
The Associated Press; www.ap.org
The venerable Associated Press news organization gives you lots of free news, photos, and videos in its official iPhone app. The app lets you personalize the content that you want to read from every AP content provider. And if you want to know the latest news right now, you can do so by enabling push notifications.
2. Chess With Friends Free 3.04
Newtoy Inc.; newtoyinc.com/wp/
Free, full games on the iPhone are extremely hard to come by. Chess With Friends, while not the most exciting app, lets you play the classic game against friends who also have iPhones or iPod touches. It features push notifications so you can see when the other player has moved. The game delivers ads between turns, but after a few moves you get used to it and move right along.
3. CNBC 1.1
NBC Universal Inc.; www.cnbc.com
CNBC's real-time app with push notifications keeps you up to speed with what's happening in the business world. The app lets you create a portfolio so you can keep track of your stocks in real time. It also allows you look at historical charts and pre- and post-market trading. So, the next time a dire financial crisis hits, at least you can follow it with pretty colors and graphics, right on your iPhone.
4. Cube Runner 1.2
Andy Qua; andyqua.co.uk/CubeRunner/Welcome.html
This diabolically simple and addictive game lets you control an arrow that is flying through rows of digital cubes. The point of the game is to not hit any cubes, flying through for as long as you can. In the background, throbbing techno music jams along as you pilot your arrow. Sure, the graphics look like a 1983-era arcade game, but that's what you get for zero dollars, and some older iPhone users might dig the resemblance to the Atari games of yesteryear.
5. eBay Mobile 1.4.1
eBay Inc.; www.ebay.com
Have you been losing eBay auctions because you were out of the house? Then pick up eBay Mobile, and you'll be able to snipe at the last second from anywhere. The app lets users search, bid on items, update their info, check bids on items being sold, and much more. Power sellers and frequent bidders should consider this an essential tool for keeping up with their auctions.
6. eBuddy 3.2.1
Instant messaging may not have the buzz of Twitter and Google Wave, but almost everyone does it. They don't all do it on the same network, though, so you need a multiplatform IM solution. eBuddy is the best free IM solution we found on the iPhone. It lets you log in to multiple services at once including AIM, Yahoo, Facebook, Google Talk, and MSN. Another app, IM+ Lite, provides very similar functions but has some ads and slightly less streamlined features.
7. Epicurious 1.1.0
Condé Nast; www.epicurious.com
Self-proclaimed foodies probably know Epicurious and its more than 100,000 recipes. The site's iPhone app takes all of those recipes out of the kitchen and off to the grocery store. The app lets you turn your favorite recipes into a shopping list. At the store, you can check off items as you get them. If you miss flipping through food-stained pages, you can turn any recipe into a paginated cookbook. There are a few ads here that can be annoying, but we're willing to put up with it to pay zero dollars for the app.
8. Evernote 3.1.1
Evernote Corporation; www.evernote.com
If you've got a memory that's more emu than elephant, then Evernote can help you out. The app gives you several ways to keep notes—including text, voice, and photos—and gives you a way to access them from any desktop. The simple interface makes it easy to write down important to-dos, locations, phone numbers, or just about anything you might need to reference at any time.
9. Facebook 3.03
With so many people now on Facebook, the service has become an indispensable tool for communicating with friends and family. Facebook's iPhone app is the best version of mobile Facebook to date. The app lets you assign often-visited personal profiles or pages to your home page screens for easy access, upload photos or videos in a snap, or call up any friend with his or her number posted. If you have an iPhone and Facebook account, there's no reason not to have this app.
10. Fandango 2.0
Remember when you used to look in the newspaper for movie times? Yeah, those days are long gone. Many people now simply look up times on their PCs. With Fandango for iPhone, you can find movie times, watch trailers, read fan reviews, and buy tickets while you're on the go. With hot films, it can be a good idea to get tickets early, and Fandango's app easily allows you to do that. Flixter, a similar app, lets you buy tickets from movietickets.com, watch trailers and clips, and gives you professional reviews to read from rottentomatoes.com.
11. Flashlight. 1.5.1
John Haney Software; www.johnhaney.com/software/
One of the simplest apps the iPhone offers may also be one of its most useful. The Flashlight app turns the iPhone's screen a solid, bright color. To tune the brightness, just swipe up or down with your finger. It sounds stupid, but it's useful in plenty of real-world situations, such as reading in bed, finding something in a dark room, and annoying the cat. It can even turn into a strobe light if you feel like giving yourself a headache.
12. Flickr 1.0.3
Yahoo Inc.; www.flickr.com
The popular social photography site gets even livelier with this iPhone app. The iPhone Flickr application lets you shoot, upload, and geotag your iPhone photos. The app also lets you browse your own photos, cycle through recent activity by your friends and family, and search for photos from around the world.
13. foursquare 1.4.2
Foursquare is an addictive combination of social networking, stalking, and a real-life video game. With Foursquare, you can find out if your Facebook and Twitter friends are at places you're hanging out at in real life. You can "check-in" to a place to find new friends who frequent the same places, such as bars or coffee shops. And then you can to earn badges, based on social achievements, so the app can be sort of a game too. While Foursquare certainly isn't for everyone, the game aspects especially seem to be attracting plenty of fans.
14. Free Spanish Tutor 3.0.9
24/7 Tutor; www.247tutor.com
Are you looking to learn a little Spanish? Or perhaps you just want to brush up on the language? Free Spanish Tutor is a good app for you. It gives you flashcards and quizzes on basic words and phrases. Free French Tutor, from the same company, does the same thing, but, you know, Frenchier.
15. Free Wi-Fi Finder 1.3.1
JiWire Inc.; www.jiwire.com/iphone
JiWire's Free Wi-Fi Finder offers the largest available single database of free Wi-Fi spots all over the U.S. The iPhone uses its GPS to tell you the closest Wi-Fi spots to you. The app worked admirably in New York City, although we can't testify to its accuracy in other places.
16. Google Earth 2.0.0
Google Inc.; earth.google.com
The iPhone comes with Google Maps, but Google Earth really ups the ante. With it, you can browse geo-tagged photos all over the word, check out city info with Google Local Search, and search in many languages. The latest version of Google Earth for iPhone, 2.0, adds a custom map feature that allows you to sync saved entries from My Maps to the app.
17. Google Mobile App 0.3.4000
Google Inc.; google.com
While Google's search app is pretty basic and doesn't break much new ground, it does include voice search, a hot feature that people seem to like. Just say what you're looking for—"Orson Welles singing Christmas songs while dogs chase their tails," for example—and you'll find it with Google speed.
18. Kindle for iPhone 1.2
Amazon.com, Inc.; www.amazon.com
Amazon's Kindle iPhone app is a lot cheaper than buying an actual Kindle—100% cheaper, in fact. With Kindle for iPhone, users can buy and read all of their purchased Amazon books just about anywhere. The app allows users to read the beginning of any e-book, making it a goodshopping tool. Since Amazon's digital library exceeds 300,000 titles, users probably won't have a problem finding a book they'll enjoy. We think the app itself could still use work, but it's the current commercial standard for reading books on your phone.
19. Layar Reality Browser 2.1.0
The promise of augmented reality, which lets a user see live data about destinations over a live camera view, hasn't yet been fully realized. But the Layar Reality Browser on the iPhone is the best representation of the tech yet. To use it, all you do is hold your iPhone in any direction and tell it to search for pizza, bars, or anything else. Then you'll see the location of businessesupdate based the direction you're looking in.
20. Lightsaber Unleashed 2.1
While it might not be a very useful app, Lightsaber Unlimited is a perennial iPhone favorite that can keep children (and adults) entertained. Just choose one of the characters, activate the lightsaber, and swing your iPhone like you are actually using the Jedi/Sith weapon to make lightsaber noises. Just be warned that it doesn't actually give you Force powers.