10 of the Best iPhone Apps

Written by David Pogue

From left, SoundHound, FakeCalls and Dragon Dictation.

From left, SoundHound, FakeCalls and Dragon Dictation.

I noticed that the No. 1 most e-mailed New York Times article for all of last week was Bob Tedeschi’s list of great iPhone apps. It’s still on the most-e-mailed list. Wow—hot topic, eh? O.K., fine—two can play that game. Here are my top 10 iPhone apps.

1.  Dragon Dictation (free)

Speak to type. In general, excellent accuracy. After the transcription appears, one tap slaps the text into an outgoing e-mail message, text message, Twitter or Facebook update. Or just copies it to the clipboard. Not as good as dictating directly into any box where you can type, as on Android phones. But much faster than typing with your finger. My review is here.

2. Ocarina ($1)

People complain about their kids becoming addicted to their gadgets. But on long rides, I’m delighted that my son and daughter spent hours practicing this bona fide wind instrument. Blow into the microphone, learn the fingerings of the four “holes” on the glass screen…beautiful music. It was one of the first apps I reviewed.

3. Google Mobile (free)

Speak to search Google’s maps. Now with Google Goggles built in: Point the phone’s camera at a book, DVD, wine bottle, logo, painting, landmark or bit of text, and the hyper-intelligent app recognizes it and displays information about it from the Web.

Bonus suggestion: Google Voice. Hot off the presses! This app finally surfaced on the app store after a year and a half in limbo, as Apple mysteriously refused to approve it. But it’s here, it’s sweet, it offers free text messages, cheap international calls, free transcripts of your voicemails, and a raft of other useful features. I reviewed it just this week after its release.

4. LED Light (free)

The LED “flash” on the iPhone 4 is incredibly powerful; you could practically light up a runway with it. It’s fantastic for reading menus and show programs in dim light, for inspecting plumbing and car parts in narrow spaces, and for removing splinters. Unfortunately, turning it on involves opening the Camera app, switching to video and turning on the video light. Right? Not anymore. Just open this app to activate the LED instantly—bright and easy.

5. FlightTrack Pro ($10)

Incredible. Shows every detail of every flight: gate, time delayed, airline phone number, where the flight is on the map, and more. Knows more—and knows it sooner—than the actual airlines do. Better yet: the Pro version auto-syncs with Tripit.com. You book a flight online; you forward the receipt to [email protected]; and Tripit puts the flight details into FlightTrack Pro wirelessly and automatically. You never do any data entry at all. I reviewed it last year.

6. FakeCalls

When you tap this icon on your Home screen (it’s disguised and labeled only FC), in about ten seconds, your phone rings. It’s a fake call from—anyone you’ve selected in advance. (I have mine set to Barack Obama, but that’s just me.)

The simulation of the iPhone’s traditional incoming-call screen is perfect—ringtone, contact info, Mute and Hold buttons, the works. Ideal for extricating yourself from difficult situations, like meetings or bad dates.

7. Line2 (free)

Gives your iPhone a second phone line with its own number—one that makes or receives calls over WiFi when you’re in a hot spot (no AT&T minutes!), or over AT&T when you’re not. Unlimited texting, unlimited calling, $10 a month. I’ve reviewed it several times, most recently in September.

8. Twitter (free)

Most free Twitter apps are a bit on the baffling side. This one is the official app from Twitter, Inc., and it’s simple and clean.

9. SoundHound (free)

Beats Shazam at its own game. Hold this app up to a song that’s playing on the radio, or even hum or sing the song, and the app miraculously identifies the song and offers you lyrics. It’s faster than Shazam too.

10. Bump (free)

If you and another iPhone owner both have this app, you just bump your phones together to exchange business cards. Sadly, it’s gotten a lot more complex as it’s matured, to the extent that a buddy and I could barely figure out how to store the received “card.” But although there are many similar apps, this is the one most people are most likely to have already, making bumping extra convenient.

What else is on my iPhone? Red Laser. Glee. Kayak. FlightBoard. OnTime. The New York Times, of course. Skype. Kindle reader, B&N eReader. Dictionary. Facebook. WeDoodle. TEDPlayer. Mint.com. FingerFoos. Scrabble. Remote (for Keynote). SpawnHD. FourSquare. Pandora. MobileMe apps (FindiPhone, iDisk, Gallery). Yelp. Flickr. And about 65,000 little games and fun apps deposited by my kids on car trips.

Happy apping!

Bonus:This Video Will Blow Your Mind (Probably)