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Do you have an iPhone or an iTouch? When I got my iTouch, I experienced the mad rush to download all the cool little apps, like everyone. But after I got it working as a Kindle, I pretty much lost interest in everything but the book reading and music-listening functions. Which is good because the battery life is terrible. But I've recently experienced a Renaissance of downloading and trying useful apps for fun and profit (?). I usually only buy apps if they're $2 or less, and then very rarely, so check out my recommendation of mostly free and very fun iPhone apps.

Music/Entertainment:

App: Pandora Cost: Free
Yeah, I know, it's really gone downhill in the last couple years, but it remains a free, cool way to discover new bands you might like. You give it an artist, it gives you similar stuff. If you don't like it, thumbs down and it adjusts accordingly. The website is just find, but I think the iPhone/iTouch interface is a lot nicer, especially since the site is so bogged down with ads.

App: Y! Music Cost: Free
Sick of your own music? Y! Music lets you listen to popular radio stations from all over the country (world?), or their own stations which are organized by genre, year, and sometimes band. The other free radio app I've tried, iHeart Radio or something? I didn't like it as well, even though it has a cuter home icon.

App: What's On? Cost: Free
Tells me what's on the telly. You can save your favorite channels, shows, etc. It's all very simple and commonplace, easy to do on the internet or on your TV's channel guide, but I think it's really convenient to have it on my iTouch so I don't have to go to the TV Guide website and put in my cable information every time just so I can see if anything's on.

App: Planets Cost: Free
I just downloaded this one and it's fantastic. It'll be even better when I get out of the city and away from the light pollution. Basically, you turn it on and it synchs to your location, then it shows you where all the major constellations and planets are in the night sky where you are. It's really great. There's also a globe feature, so you can play with and rotate all the planets and look at their features. On the Earth globe, it even shows the line between night and day, and I love seeing how close the sun is to rising in the morning.

Reading:

App: Stanza Cost: Free
This app is THE best thing about my iTouch. It basically turns the device into a kindle. Although most of the ebooks cost money, you can synch books from your computer. Meaning any books you might happen to just have lying around *cough* can go with you everywhere. I'm a voracious reader and this app has made me read at maybe seven times the rate I was before. I read everywhere, on the subway, at work, on the toilet, it's great. There are tons of settings for font, font size, brightness, background color, etc, so if you're worried about reading on a tiny screen, there's sure to be a setting at which you can handle it. It's wonderful to have hundreds of books to choose from, and if I want anything else, I can just download it and synch it to my iTouch.

App: Classics Cost: $.99
All the books on Classics are already available for free on Stanza, so why would I want to pay a dollar for these? Because of the interface. Classics is a beautiful program and it's as close to reading a real book as you could get. The app opens and it's a bookshelf, and you can browse the titles' covers and titles. Click one and when it loads, the "pages" are a lovely parchment color and actually do a great turning animation. When you leave the app, it drops a real bookmark for you. On the homescreen, you can see the books you've read by their actual bookmarks and how far into them you are. The version of Alice and Wonderland comes with the beautiful illustrations of my favorite edition. I also love this app because they update fairly frequently with new books.

Utilities:

App: eBay Cost: Free
This is my secret weapon if I'm bidding on eBay items. It works a lot faster and more streamlined than the eBay website, so in the last seconds of the auction, it's super easy to steal and keep refreshing with a single button press. Sneaky.

App: iPeriod Cost: $1.99
For the ladies, yeah? Eh? Eh? Okay, so this one is a period calendar and calculator, and I've only used it for a few days so far, but I kind of love it. You tell it when you started your period. You can record how many days you've had it, the severity of the flow, how you felt, and you can make little notes. When you've done this for a couple months, it average your cycle and will predict your next one. I've been having irregularities lately, so I downloaded this to keep track of it and stop being scared that I'm pregnant every month. It can also track when you're ovulating, but that feature can be turned off (which I like). It's pretty cute and colorful, well color-coded, and the reviews say that the developers really respond to the customers' feedback and update often. Sure enough, the second day I had it, they rolled out an update adding some features. I compared this to similar apps and I think this one might be the best one.

App: Lose It! Cost: Free
So, I'm trying to lose weight, and I downloaded this. It's pretty cute. I told it my weight and my goal, and it told me I'd be able to hit my goal in six months, which is nice. It gives you a calorie meter and you tell it what you eat and how much you've exercised everyday. The searchable database of food is great. It works by brand name, or if you type in "eggs" it lets you choose how you made them. It also has a growing database of restaurant foods. I'm hoping it'll help! Also, I was excited when I was looking through the exercises that housework and SEX are included as exercise. SWEET.

App: Kotoba Cost: Free
I'm astonished this app is free. It's a WONDERFUL, fully-featured Japanese dictionary and it's totally replaced the $300 electronic dictionary I bought when I was in Japan. You can look up words from English to Japanese or from Japanese to English with the Japanese keyboard installed. If you install the Chinese "keyboard" in your device settings, you can even do kanji lookup by drawing the characters which is TOTALLY cool and useful. This app doesn't need internet access like some of the translation apps, and that gives it top marks in my book.

Games:

App: Trace Cost: Free
Another I can't believe is free. It's SO FUN. You control a little stick figure guy and you have to get him to the sun by drawing (with your finger) paths for him to make his way over gaps and around obstacles. It's just charming and fun. Unlike most free games, there are tons of levels to play, 120 in all, and each are part of one of six themes. In the plant world, you'll have to navigate around flowers and thorns, in the water world there are deadly fish, etc. It's really great and it's a perfect game for the iPhone/iTouch.

App: Distant Shore Cost: $1.99
This game is very enchanting. You're walking along a beach. You collect seashells and when you collect five, you get a bottle so you can send a message out onto the ocean. The more messages you write, the more likely it is you'll stumble upon a bottle someone else has written. If you find something intriguing, you can reply, and it's totally possible to have conversations with strangers from around the world, no strings attached. I think this app is really underrated and special.

App: Unblock Me Free Cost: Free
A fun puzzle game with blocks. Good when you need a mindless time killer and there are lots of levels.

App: Sudoku Lite Cost: Free
Pretty simple. Sudoku, for free. Lots of puzzles at four difficulty levels, designed pretty artfully with a few different color schemes. Good time killer.



That's all I'm into right now, but I'll keep adding more as I go, and of course you're free to tell me of any awesome finds.

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July 2009

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