Although Apple has not made the iPhone an open platform for developers, the company has strongly encouraged development of Web-based applications for the iPhone.
Apple’s interface guidelines and iPhone Developer Tech Talks have led developers to create an abundance of online iPhone applications.
From instant messengers, to to-do lists, to application organizers, this article lists the 10 applications that every iPhone owner should have bookmarked.
JiWire Wi-Fi Finder
Although you can access all the iPhone’s Internet features by using AT&T’s EDGE data service, being limited to 2.5G speeds means that even checking your email can be slow (to say nothing of surfing the Web or watching videos on YouTube).
Connecting to the Internet using Wi-Fi almost always delivers dramatically better performance. On-the-go JiWire helps you locate wireless hotspots around the world. Simply type in a location or zip code, and you’ll get a list of free and/or paid networks nearby.
JiWire’s service has been around for a while, but now offers a specialized interface for iPhone users to make finding hotspots easy (it even integrates with the iPhone’s Map application to help you locate hotspots).
Glide Mobile isn’t an iPhone-specific application (the service works with many mobile platforms), but one of its features does fill a big gap for iPhone users: word processing.
Glide is an online office and collaboration suite that allows users to create, edit, and share all kinds of documents including word processing documents, websites, photos, contact lists, calendars and more.
Some of the features in the suite aren’t available in Glide Mobile yet, but word processing is—and it offers users the ability to create and edit documents from an iPhone. Those documents can later be converted to Word, RTF, or PDF on your computer.
Glide also offers a sync application to sync the contents of your online workspace to your Mac. While not the perfect word processing solution, it is the most viable option currently available for the iPhone.
If you’re looking to save money when you fill up your car’s gas tank, Gas.app is your new best friend. This easy-to-use application, designed to mimic the look and feel of the iPhone’s built-in applications, lets you find the gas stations with the lowest price anywhere in the US.
Just enter your location or zip code and browse the results for the lowest nearby price. Like JiWire, Gas.app also integrates with Maps to help you find gas stations if you’re not sure of their location.
For anyone who travels for work, a great companion to Gas.app is iPhone Miles, which is an easy-to-use mileage tracker.
Another great application that is designed to fit in with the look and feel of the iPhone’s built-in applications is Movies.app. Movies.app lets you browse all movies showing in all theatres in your area on a specific date. You can browse by theatre or simply by a list of movies.
Movies.app integrates with Maps for location information and also links to trailers and IMDb information for each movie.
It even lets you buy tickets online via MovieTickets.com.
Although not iPhone-specific, Google’s mobile suite (to which iPhone users are directed by default when visiting Google.com) is a great set of tools for iPhone users. It provides easy access to almost all Google’s Web-based tools including Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Notebook, Picassa, and more. If you use any of Google’s tools, Google Mobile is a great tool.
Not all Google features are supported in Google Mobile. Google Docs are currently read only and other Google office tools aren’t available at this time. Likewise, access to Picassa is read-only; you can’t modify your albums or upload pictures. Another example is that Google Calendar doesn’t offer monthly and other advanced views.
One very useful feature, however, is Google Notebook, which allows access to any notebooks you create through the full-featured Google Notebook and also allows you to create Mobile Notes, which you can later access from any computer using your Google account. Given the lack of ability to sync notes from the iPhone’s Notes application with a computer, this is a great feature.
Google Reader is also a great tool. Although the iPhone, through Apple’s .Mac servers, provides an RSS reader (if you bookmark an RSS feed on your computer and then sync those bookmarks, opening that bookmark on the iPhone will automatically trigger the reader), it isn’t as fully featured as Google Reader, and it doesn’t provide a method for syncing read or flagged status with a computer. Google Reader offers it and provides a single reader for use on your iPhone or any Internet-connected Mac or PC.
iPhlickr brings a simple and streamlined interface to browsing Flickr on the iPhone. The interface is extremely similar to iPhone’s YouTube application.
iPhlicker supports browsing your photo collection (which is great if you don’t want to sync your entire photo collection to your iPhone), recently uploaded photos and interesting/featured photos, as well as search capabilities (including search based on tags and username).
For features such as commenting and favorites, iPhlickr allows easy access to the actual Flickr site from any image. If you’re a Flickr fan or user, you have to check out iPhlickr.
A built-in instant messenger is probably one of the most surprising omissions of the iPhone. Many developers have taken up the charge of providing iPhone users with IM applications. Of the available options, Mundu beats out the competition.
Mundu allows users to chat using AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Google’s GTalk through a clean and intuitive tabbed interface (one tab for login/logout of each service, one for contacts, and one for chats).
Chats display as speech bubbles, much like Mac OS X’s iChat or iPhone’s Text application. If you want to IM from your iPhone, Mundu is your best option because of its interface, stability, and the fact that it will let you chat with users on all four services at once. (Most iPhone IM applications support connection to only one IM service at a time.)
Listingly is a great online list manager that now offers an iPhone web application. Listingly can be used to create to-do lists, grocery lists, wish lists, and freestyle lists.
Listingly can also group items into categories (in fact, Grocery lists are smart lists that group similar items together automatically).
Although you need to create lists from a traditional web interface, once a list is created, it can be fully managed from the iPhone.
With its support for various types of lists and its ability to share lists with other users, Listingly offers a great list-management package for the iPhone that goes beyond simply providing basic to-do or shopping lists.
The two biggest challenges to taking advantage of the various iPhone applications are finding them and organizing them. uPhoneHome helps you do both.
Using an interface similar to the iPhone’s home screen, it provides icons/links to a large selection of iPhone applications. You can sort the list by date and category to help you find specific types of applications or to find new applications that have recently been released.
You can mark the applications that you use regularly as favorites by tapping the star next to each icon. Favorite applications are displayed on a separate screen so that you can easily view and access them without hunting through the entire list.
When you launch an application from uPhoneHome, your favorites are displayed, along with a home icon to return to uPhoneHome in a frame at the top edge of Safari’s display for easy access.
If you use applications that aren’t in uPhoneHome’s list (Apple’s web apps directory can be a great way to discover new iPhone applications), you can add them to uPhoneHome for easy access (albeit in a separate list that is indicated by a folder icon).
This information, as well as favorites information, is actually stored on your iPhone, so there is no need to create an account to use uPhoneHome.
All in all, uPhoneHome is a great combination of application launcher and directory.
Several iPhone applications are devoted to social networking sites. These collective applications are great for keeping in touch with friends, family members, and colleagues.
Because different people prefer different features in social networking tools, I don’t advocate any application or site over the others.
Instead, I’ll collectively identify the following social networking applications as part of the top 10 iPhone applications and let you decide which one(s) of the following best meet your needs.
There are also new social networking sites designed specifically for iPhone users, including iRovr, iPling, and iPhone Colony. Check out Apple’s web apps directory for additional social networking sites/apps for iPhone users.