Are you the proud owner of a shiny new smartphone? If it's an iPhone
or one of the many, many models that use Google's Android
operating system (the Droid X, Droid Incredible, HTC EVO 4G, etc.
), it's time to stock up on apps.
Apps, of course, are little programs that let you do all kinds of fun and productive things with your phone. You can download them directly to your phone using an app that's already on it: Android Market or App Store (for Android phones and iPhones, respectively
There are literally thousands to choose from; I've rounded up five I consider essential. They're available for both platforms, and they're all free!
Suffering from information overload? Hey, who isn't? Evernote
is an information manager par excellence, allowing you to create, organize, and sync all kinds of data: task lists, text notes, voice notes, photos, and so on. The app is free, and so are the Web and desktop versions it can syncs--meaning notes you capture on the go are just as easily viewed and managed on your PC.
This is one of those apps that you'll quickly come to find indispensable--and wonder how you ever got along without it.
Before you balk at the idea of reading a book on your phone, try it. Amazon's Kindle app
works much like the Amazon
Kindle eReader, allowing you to sample and read books from the Kindle store. You can also search inside books, look up words, add notes, and highlight passages. The app itself is free, and you can score tons of free and discounted e-books
at sites like eReaderIQ.
Take it from me, whether you're stuck in line at the post office or facing yet another flight delay, nothing beats having a good book in your pocket.
How many times have you heard a song playing on the radio, in a TV commercial, or wherever, and instantly fallen in love? Just one problem: You have no idea what the song is called or who sings it. No problem: Just whip out your phone, fire up Shazam
, and let the app "listen" for 30 seconds. A few seconds after that, it'll give you all the song details: name, artist, and even reviews. It's like magic!
Your smartphone doesn't have an FM tuner built in, but so what? With Slacker
, you enter the names of one or more artists you like, then the app builds a custom radio station for you--and plays it right on your phone! It also provides over 100 "genre" stations, so you can listen to pretty much anything you like--country, reggae, adult alternative--with just a few taps.
The free version of the app does play ads every so often, but far less than you hear on regular radio.
Words With Friends
Don't tell the folks at Hasbro this, but Words With Friends
is a better Scrabble game than Scrabble. For one thing, it's free (though it does have ads; if you want the ad-free version, it'll cost you a few bucks
). For another, it quickly and easily connects you with other live humans (Facebook friends, random strangers, etc.
) for turn-based word-building fun. You can keep multiple games going simultaneously and even send chat messages back and forth.
These are my five best free smartphone apps. Have I left out one of your favorites? Add to the list in the comments!
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for
over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently,
"How to Do Everything: Palm Pre." Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.