News Column

10 Free, Worthwhile iPhone Apps

Feb 21, 2013

Shea Conner

iheart

Thousands of people are walking around this planet with iPhones in their purses and pockets because, well, they're iPhones. Having one is basically a status symbol, like owning the BMW of smart phones. But these same people are often the ones who simply use the Apple product to make calls, send texts, check e-mails and occasionally surf the Web.

That's balderdash! If you had a BMW, you'd want to take it out to a deserted road and see what the car could do. The same goes for the iPhone. The remarkable little device is largely under-utilized by most of its owners. It's time to see what this smart phone is capable of.

There's no better way of testing your iPhone than downloading some new apps -- some free, handy new apps. Let's start with 10 that will make your life a little more convenient, if not far more interesting.

RedLaser

Andrea Woroch, a money-saving expert who has been featured on "Good Morning America," NBC's "Today" and "The Dr. OZ Show," highly recommends this app for any bargain shopper out there.

"The barcode scanning app provides instant price comparisons on your smart phone so you know where to find the same goods for less," Ms. Woroch says.

The app turns your iPhone's camera into a multi-functional scanner that works on both bar codes and QR codes. Before you even think about buying that pair of shoes or a new TV in person, scan (or manually enter) the product's bar code. RedLaser spits out the best prices available both online and in brick-and-mortar shops nearby. You can click "BUY NOW" to go directly to the website with the bargain price or you can get directions to the local store with the deal.

Dashlane

Emmanuel Schalit, CEO of the upstart app Dashlane, says the Internet is full of friction that really shouldn't be there.

"Registering for new accounts, logging in on your favorite websites, even worse, checking out on an e-commerce website -- all of these actions require you to enter the same information over and over again, to remember things you should never have to remember. This is already a major pain on PCs and Macs, but it's simply unbearable on mobile devices that do not have a keyboard," he says. "Dashlane removes that friction."

Dashlane is a well-designed, secure app that acts as a digital wallet backup, password manager and more. It automatically saves information from when you make purchases online, so you don't have to keep track of them via the usual e-mail confirmations. The data that Dashlane stores remains encrypted until you unlock the app, and it can sync all of your important information across multiple devices, including your iPhone.

iHeartRadio

With this app, you can choose any one of 1,500 live radio stations to stream, even if you're not within the radio signal's reach (iHeartRadio pulls from a digital feed, not a standard radio signal). That can come in handy in severe weather.

"Charge your iPhone before a storm, and if the power goes out, you can use the iHeartRadio app to get updates from your local radio station," says Jill Duffy, software analyst for PC Mag.

However, the best reason to download iHeartRadio is a feature that lets you create customized "all-music" stations based on a music act you like and songs similar to theirs. If you like The Band Perry, for example, iHeartRadio will play songs by artists with a similar feel like Lady Antebellum, Sugarland and Rascal Flatts.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Digital photo editing has mostly been a chore best suited for desktop and laptop computers, but Adobe proved that it could be done on a mobile phone with Photoshop Express. This photo-editing application for the iPhone (and other iOS devices) is quite powerful. In just a few touches of the screen, you can crop, rotate, adjust color and add artistic effects. It can even handle noise reduction, getting rid of those annoying pixel spots that show up on iPhone photos.

Ness Dining Guide

If you're tired of reading unreliable recommendations from other dining apps like Yelp or Foursquare, try the Ness Dining Guide. This app recommends restaurants, cafes and bars it thinks you'll like, based on your prior experiences and data from a number of social networks. Then, Ness shows you a percentage-based score for how much it thinks you'll like the place. It even scours the social networks, looking for chatter on Twitter and Facebook check-ins to determine when a restaurant or bar is reaching peak popularity. The next time you spend an evening in Kansas City, you might want to check Ness first.

"Food-focused people should download Ness and explore its recommendations, especially when dining out in a large city that has a plethora of neighborhoods and eating options," Ms. Duffy says.

Draw Something Free

"Angry Birds" may have received more attention, but Draw Something Free is the hottest gaming app around today. Draw Something Free pits both iOS and Android users in simple gesture-based drawing competitions. Pick a word from a list of three, draw it on your screen with your finger using a variety of colors and brushes, and then send it to your friend to guess what you've drawn. You win coins if your friend guesses correctly.

"It's very simple, and like Words With Friends, the addiction lies in the robust social aspect," Ms. Duffy says.

IMDb

"What was the name of that movie?" "What other movies was he in?" "What else happened in that episode?" Take it from the local entertainment reporter -- the IMDb app leaves you wondering about movies and TV a lot less. IMDb never fails when it comes to looking up anything that has to do with TV, film or Hollywood in general. If you want to know what movies Harrison Ford was in, look it up. If you need to know who wrote "Looper," look it up.

The IMDb app also lets you know when a show or movie is airing on TV next. It even lets you look up movies that are playing at your local theater and purchase tickets. With an IMDb account (which is also free), the app provides even more features, like the ability to create a watchlist of movies you want to see.

Shazam

Much like IMDb with movies, Shazam leaves you wondering about music a lot less. If you hear a song and don't know what it is (or you just can't remember who sings that one-hit wonder), simply launch Shazam and hold it as close as you can to the speakers. Within a few seconds, the app will tell you the title, artist and sometimes even find the album art as well. Shazam will find most radio-play songs (no matter how old or new they are), but it occasionally gets stumped by obscure b-sides.

Mint.com

The website Mint.com helps you keep detailed account of your finances through your bank and credit card accounts by tracking all the money you earn and spend. Ms. Woroch also recommends downloading the Mint.com iPhone app, which merely extends the experience so you can keep an eye on your spending while on the go. Just enter a few data points in the iPhone as you're shopping, and you'll be able to see your spending patterns as an easy-to-read chart.

RunKeeper

With the RunKeeper app, one of the most popular apps among outdoor runners, you can tap into the phone's GPS technology to map where you've run, jogged or walked. RunKeeper figures out more statistics for you, like your pace, total distance covered, and so on. All of that data is synced to RunKeeper.com, where you can view a history of all your activities. The app also has a coaching feature if you need some encouragement while you're working out.

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Distributed by MCT Information Services



Source: (c) 2013 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)


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