Some Favorite Apps: iOS Edition

There are tons of apps available in the App Store for iOS. Some are great, and some aren’t. Here are a few of my favorites. (Please note that all app links in this post are iTunes store links.)


I have to admit that I didn’t think of the iPod touch as a productivity device when I purchased it, but these apps have helped me stay on top of my projects while on the go – even with such a small screen.

  • Keynote ($9.99) is a wonderful compliment to Apple’s desktop presentation application. I keep backups of all my presentations on my iPod as I need them, and Keynote’s editing is far more usable on the small screen than most other productivity apps. It’s the most expensive app I have, but it’s worth every cent.
  • Byword ($2.99) is my favorite app for distraction-free writing. I have to admit that I do little writing on the iPod, but I’ve used this app to take some quick notes or compose some thoughts frequently enough. It syncs with Dropbox or iCloud and also features a custom keyboard that makes editing a bit easier.
  • Sparrow ($2.99) is my email client of choice for both iOS and Mac OS X. The interface is beautiful. Everything works smoothly, and the app integrates some GMail functionality not supported by Apple’s default mail app.
  • Clear ($2.99) has become my list keeper of choice. Grocery lists, to do lists, book lists – everything goes into this app. The interface is highly gesture driven, and it feels very natural on a touch screen. It’s also fun to try and figure out how to unlock the various themes.
  • Agenda Calendar ($0.99) has replaced Apple’s default calendar app on my device. Sleek and minimal, Agenda gives you a quick way to look at what’s going on in your life. That it also automatically syncs with iCal, Google Calendar, Facebook events, and more is an added bonus.
  • Evernote (free) is my organize-everything app. I start a note on my iPod, and I can finish it on my MacBook later. Then, when I have my Android tablet with me at a meeting, that note is already there, ready for more editing or for perusal. To-do lists, voice memos, image capture – there’s little Evernote doesn’t do. It’s the most useful app I have on my devices right now.

Handy Tools

Sometimes, I just want to do a quick conversion or see find a new recipe. These apps help me out in a pinch.

  • Calcbot ($1.99) is a fun and useful calculator. Yes, Apple’s default calculator is just fine, but Calcbot records your history, does calculations while you type, and doesn’t hide it’s scientific functions in landscape mode.
  • Convertbot ($1.99) is a great way to get quick unit conversions. As long as you have a WiFi connection, it can even do currency conversions. This app is very handy when you need to figure some conversions on the fly.
  • Snapguide (free) is a very nice way to discover and share how-to guides. The community around this app has grown quickly, and I can waste an entire afternoon discovering new recipes and projects in this app.

Reading & Media

The iPod touch comes with nice reading and media capabilities out of the box. Here are a few to make things even better.

  • Kindle (free) is loads faster than iBooks on less modern devices (like the iPod touch). I use it for most of my ebooks and for all of my PDF files. iBooks is prettier, but Kindle’s better performance makes it much more appealing.
  • Reeder ($2.99) is hands-down my favorite app for keeping up with RSS feeds. It syncs nicely with Google Reader, which means my articles are synced across devices, and it looks nice while doing it. I already use Reeder on my Mac, so grabbing it for iOS was a no-brainer.
  • Pocket (free) is the newest version of Read It Later. It allows for offline viewing of content and presents articles and blog posts in a very friendly, non-cluttered layout.
  • Flipboard (free) is another app that takes online articles and puts them in a more readable format. Flipboard treats content like a magazine, and it also reads from popular social networks. In fact, I use Flipboard primarily for distraction free feeds from Facebook and Twitter.
  • eBible (free) is a very clean, simple Bible that syncs with an account. I’ve also used and liked Olive Tree, but eBible’s online features and cleaner interface nudge to the top of my Bible readers.
  • Rhema (free) is a simple collection of Dr. Wendell Smith’s Rhema cards. It’s a good Bible study tool, and Rhema has helped me prepare devotionals in a pinch on more than one occasion.
  • Rdio (free) is a great music streaming app. I subjectively prefer Rdio to Spotify, but either will cost to use on a mobile device. The app is free, but you need a $9.99/month subscription to use it.

Social Networking

Stay connected to the world around you with style using these great apps. You might notice I don’t have a Facebook app recommendation; that’s because I have none. I’ve been using Flipboard to read friends’ posts, and I use the official app to track notifications, friend requests, etc.

  • Goodreads (free) is a social network built around sharing and reviewing books. I’m just getting started there, but I’ve enjoyed the community so far. The app is simple and makes book discovery fairly easy.
  • LinkedIn (free) is a great looking app. The whole look centers around being at a conference. While I have to admit that I’ve let my LinkedIn account languish, the app makes me want to jump back into using the network more.
  • Google+ (free) is an amazing looking app. I’ve grown to really enjoy Google+ as a network, and their official app outshines the official apps from a number of other services.
  • Tweetbot ($2.99) is my favorite Twitter client on any platform. It takes advantage of the touch screen in ways many other app don’t. It looks great. It remembers where you left off when browsing the timeline. You might notice Tapbots has three apps in my list so far. They really get iOS app development, and I’ve been more than happy with all of their apps.
  • Google Voice (free) is going to win no design awards. Still, it gives me visual voice mail from my non-smartphone, which makes the app pretty useful.


There are some wonderful games available for the iPod touch – some of which are every bit an artistic experience as they are entertaining. Here are just a few of them. Please note that many of these games have free versions, but I’m quoting the prices for the full versions.

  • Anodia ($1.99) is a very nice take on the Breakout formula. Its touch responsiveness is perfect, a factor that weighs against so many similar games. The visual design is great, and the physics behave exactly as expected.
  • Anticlon ($0.99) is a puzzle game that is both incredibly simple and devilishly challenging. The simple visuals complement the nature of the game, and the simple mechanics make Anticlon very addictive.
  • Astronut (freemium) is a wonderful game from the Iconfactory. It’s easy to pick up and play, has fun physics and even better art. It costs $1.99 to unlock the full game. Fortunately, it’s such a quality production, the price is very palatable.
  • Canabalt ($2.99) is the quintessential endless runner. The sound and visuals are sublime. It’s incredibly simple to play but manages to stay atmospheric and exciting despite (or because of) the simplicity.
  • Cut the Rope ($0.99) was the first game I downloaded, and it’s still my favorite. Full of personality and charm, the puzzles are great, and the visual style is beyond adorable. Fun, addictive, charming – what’s not to love?
  • Fruit Ninja ($0.99) is a game where you slice through flying fruit. It’s practically perfect in every way.
  • Hunger Games: Girl on Fire (free) is a surprisingly fun movie tie-in. Similar to Canabalt, the game is a 2D runner with a shooting mechanic smoothly integrated into the experience. The bit art and chip tunes add to the fun atmosphere of this game.
  • InstaGamer (free) tuns Instagram’s popular photos into a game of memory. The app is very well designed, and a $0.99 in-app purchase allows you to tie your own Instagram account to the game.
  • Jetpack Joyride (free) is a fun endless runner from the makers of Fruit Ninja. Running, jetpacks, and tons of upgrades keep this game exciting and fun. The fact that the developer keeps updating the game with new additions adds frosting to the cake.
  • Osmos ($2.99) is a gorgeous game of cellular endocytosis. It’s a very atmospheric game, and it’s also quite relaxing to play – until you have to escape larger cells in a panic.
  • Ramp Champ (free) takes the game of skee ball to a very enjoyable place. Themed lanes and objectives add to the fun and challenge, and, since it originated as an Iconfactory project, the art direction is fantastic. Additional lanes are available for $0.99 each.
  • Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP ($4.99) is what you might get if King’s Quest came to iOS with perfect touch controls and an incredible soundscape. It’s almost an interactive album combining engrossing music with simple yet compelling adventure gaming.
  • Temple Run (free) is a game I simply cannot stop playing. I tried to resist, but I can’t. The force is strong with this one.
  • Tiny Wings ($0.99) is one of the most heartwarming games I’ve played. The simple gameplay is tricky to master. The art is charming, and the soundtrack is perfect. This is another game I have a tough time putting down once I launch it.
  • World of Goo HD ($4.99) is another wonderfully executed physics-puzzler. Like many other games on this list, it is almost literally oozing with personality. (See what I did there?) The difficulty scales well, and it never seems frustrating, even at its most difficult.
  • Zen Bound 2 ($2.99) is simply sublime. The developer describes it as a meditative puzzler, and I can’t think of better words. It’s easy to lose yourself for hours in the atmospheric visuals and audio, and it’s another challenging game that sidesteps becoming frustrating.
I have a few more games I’d like to download in the near future – Bumpy Road, The Incident, and Charadium II to name a few – so I expect I’ll be posting follow ups as I find more recommendations.

Other Stuff

I can’t think of a way to categorize these last few apps, but I really enjoy having them around.

  • Garageband ($4.99) is Apple’s incredible portable recording studio. You won’t find a better collection of touch instruments in any other app. My only complaint is that it’s a tad slow to launch on the iPod touch’s hardware.
  • Ness Dining Guide (free) has quickly become my favorite app for finding new places to eat. It learns from your likes and dislikes, integrates with Instagram, and is wonderful to look at.
  • Five Guys Burgers & Fries (free) makes ordering food from Five Guys dangerously easy. It’s a contender for the best app ever.

One of the things that amazes me is the number of developers really concentrating on the quality of iOS apps. The attention to detail is amazing in most of these, with even simple elements like turning a page reacting to your finger in exacting ways. And the apps keep coming. Not all of them are great, but there are a great number of developers who are bringing a very high level of quality and innovation to Apple’s iOS devices. I’m sure I’ll post more apps in the future. For now, head over to the gallery where you can see pictures of these apps in action.


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