My Favourite iPhone Apps (so far)

The iPhone rulez!

I love my iPhone

For a little end of the year fun (yeah, I said “fun.” So?), I thought I’d quickly summarize my favourite iPhone apps.


NoteMaster is my favourite writing app.  You can write notes with embedded images, organize everything in folders, and sync your notes with Google Docs.  It supports landscape mode for those who prefer it.  It’s clean and simple and does its job. It’s not as fancy as, say, EverNote, and not as clumsy to use either.


I’d love to give my car up forever. But so long as I must use one, I at least try to drive as greenly as possible. To do that I need to track my mileage. I don’t need fancy multicolour graphs or maintenance alerts. I just want to know how my mileage has changed over time. eFuel is what I use now. I used to use Mileage Tracker, but it’s got a rather clumsy interface, and it hasn’t been updated in quite a long time. eFuel can track multiple vehicles in either US or metric units. Data entry is fast and easy, and it has a nice summary page. You can even attach an image for each vehicle: useless but cute.

(Related item: GasBuddy has a nice app that uses location services to find nearby gas stations, dig out their prices, and display them in sorted order.)

Mind Maps

There’s a number of mind mapping apps for the iPhone. I’ve tried several of them. InstaViz is a more general diagramming app, and it’s pretty good, but it keeps wanting to rearrange the diagram, which annoys me a lot. iFreemind is an iPhone version of the very popular FOSS mindmapping software; but, again, its interface is clumsy. iBlueSky has a very clean and minimal interface… that I can’t remember how to use.  And Headspace is some sort of 3D app that’s just plain weird.

I use iThoughts. It’s simple and easy; it makes good use of the small screen; and it can include newlines in nodes (think of how long and skinny nodes will get otherwise).  Its user interface was utterly intuitive to me, so I don’t have to use it often to get “used to it.”

Personal Time Management

Pocket Informant is still my favourite time management app.  It’s not perfect, but it has the best combination of features, usability, and robustness for my purposes.

I’ve written a lot about PI elsewhere.


I use Shopper. While it has many features (indeed, maybe too many), they are either unobtrusive or can be turned off. What I like most about it is it’s reconfigurability. I’ve reorganized its categories to line up with the aisles in our supermarket so I can do all my shopping in a single pass through its cavernous spaces. It can handle multiple stores and will even provide access to certain advisories about foods, mark foods indicated as particularly healthy, add photos, calculate taxes, and all kinds of other things.  Best of all, it’s really easy to build the weekly shopping list, and really easy to check things off as I pick them up.

Alarm Clock

While the iPhone’s built-in clock app is quite useful for many situations, it was not meant to replace a bedside alarm clock because it doesn’t display the time like an alarm clock does. Of the several apps I’ve tried, the one I’ve stuck with is imaginatively called Alarm Clock. It supports multiple alarms, a few different styles of clock (nothing too weird) and even lets you set the alarm to a song from your playlists.


I hate using phones; I find them far too impersonal for most kinds of communication. So you’ll have to take this with a grain of salt. The only app I use that’s phone-related is OneTapDial, which let’s you create an icon right on your iPhone’s Home Screen that speed-dials a contact.  You can even set the icon to use an image from your photo library, which is useful.


The Weather Channel has a nice little app that is usually more accurate that the builtin weather app, at least in Toronto.


While the builtin mail app is pretty good, I love Google, so I tend to use AppGmail. I find it does a good job of using the limited screen space on an iPhone to pack in a lot of functionality. I just wish it supported the Gmail labs extensions, but I’m not going to quibble.  It’s a much more consistent experience with real Gmail than Apple’s built-in mail app.


GTA Traffic is a nice app for Torontonians. It shows you images from the traffic cameras mounted on the major highways in the city. It also shows colour-coded maps of the city traffic, parking locations, and other perks.


Not surprisingly, Urbanspoon is my app. It uses location services to suggest restaurants based on cost, location, and cuisine. Bloody brilliant.

Social networks

I’m not a social fellow, so take this part with a grain of salt too. Besides the obvious apps (facebook, linkedin), there’s Pingle, which let’s you use the web service on your iPhone. is a social network aggregator – it let’s you update multiple networks simultaneously. Convenient for people like me who need to make a concerted effort to remember to update those things.


Not that I watch TV on my iPhone, but I do use it to help me decide what to watch. i.TV is a cool app that uses your postal/zip code to fetch information about what’s on in your area. It also let’s you set up iPhone alerts for your favourite shows, which is great for a workaholic like me. It does a lot more, like connecting to NetFlix, letting rate shows, connect to websites about each show, and so on. It had some trouble at first, but developers seem to have worked it all out.

Geek Fun

Theodolite is a cute app that puts a surveyor’s heads-up display onto a camera app: compass, longitude and latitude, and angles of tilt and twist.  You can even embed this info into photos you take with the app. And you can overlay the information on a map too.

And what geek is truly outfitted without a slide rule for his iPhone. I know!  Cool, right?


I was never one for games – board, head, computer, or otherwise – so I’m not an authority on this. But there are two games I use on my iPhone to while the time when nothing more interesting presents itself: Moonlight Mahjong and Sudoku Unlimited.  I have other games (Space Deadbeef and Mobile Lines) but I hate games that I just can’t beat. I prefer the challenge of finding the right way to do something rather than finding whether something is even possible. …I don’t believe in the no-win scenario (ahem).

Wrapping Up

That’s just about it for my favourite apps. Not quite sure how to wrap this one up, so I’ll just ask this: what’s your single most favourite iPhone app?  Leave a comment and let me know.


5 thoughts on “My Favourite iPhone Apps (so far)

  1. Pingback: 12/26/2009 Update « iPhone News
  2. Pingback: 12/27/2009 Update « iPhone News
  3. Hey Fil,

    I like 2Do, it works pretty well with The Hit List, a GTD for use on my Mac.

    I recently picked up SleepCycle after a recommendation on twitter – this one establishes in what phase of sleep you are in and wakes you some time before the alarm time. I’ve yet to try it.

    I couldn’t find AppGmail, and you’ve linked to it so I’m supposing you don’t mean GmailApp?


    PS. Will I see you at or ?

    • 2do has some very good features, but I really need to sync to gcal and/or toodledo so that I (and my students, and my colleagues) can see some parts of my schedule easily. In fact, I plan to do a review/comparison of 20 or so task mgmt apps – just as soon as I can find the time….

      Yes, I do mean AppGmail; I just double-checked. You’re right: it doesn’t seem to be at the App Store at the moment. I found evidence of it, though, at I hope it hasn’t been pulled permanently.

      Re: wiki things: I’d love to come but my day job + family + house reno is really sapping my time. Still, I do hope to someday soon.

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