best and worst free iPhone apps for 2008

I’d been meaning to write this for a few days now, so here goes. All of these apps are, or were, free when I downloaded them. I have yet to pay for a single application on my iPhone—I’m cheap, and not every app I’ve downloaded has been free of major bugs, so at least if a buggy app is free, there’s no loss in deleting it from my iPhone.

In no particular order (although I’d probably give Twitterfon #1 since it’s just so well-done):


  • Twitterfon This is, simply put, the finest Twitter app on the iPhone, period. I’ve tried everything else, from Twitterific (too much fluff) to Twittellator (hard to read). Twitterfon is simple, yet does everything 99.9% of folks need to with regard to Twitter. The developer is responsive, keeps everyone informed via Twitter, and does everything possible to make this a great iPhone app. And it’s free. Amazing.
  • NetNewsWire This is my RSS reader for both my iPhone and MacBook Pro, and it keeps getting better and better on the iPhone. If it just implemented a way to mark selected posts unread, it would be perfect.
  • AirSharing I also use this quite a bit to dump files from my laptop onto my iPhone. If I’m traveling, which happens pretty often these days, it’s nice to have all my itineraries on my iPhone. Same with business documents and journal articles. It reads almost all common document formats, so PDFs, .xls, .doc, etc. are all fine.
  • BlocksClassic A very nice implementation of the classic Breakout game, and it’s frequently updated with new levels
  • Easy WiFi for AT&T This does one thing, and does it well. When I’m in an airport or coffee shop that uses AT&T Wireless, instead of having to go through the whole mess of entering my iPhone number into a Web page and waiting for a text message giving me access, Easy WiFi provides access with one press of a button. Very convenient.
  • Facebook While I’d love to be able to view a friend’s contact list from my iPhone (hopefully this will be part of the forthcoming update I keep reading about), and it crashes on occasion, this is very useful if you use FB. I really like the fact that it syncs with the online database, so you only get notifications once.
  • Google Mobile App The voice recognition is cool. And I think this has a lot of promise. I’d like it better, however, if it contained its own browser functionality. It’s a pain to click on a search result, go to Safari, then have to switch back to GMA to look at another result.
  • LinkedIn Not as full-featured as it could, or should be, but it’s helpful enough if you use LinkedIn as much as I do
  • Truphone Best attributes: it lets me make calls internationally for pennies over a WiFi network, plus they give you $4.00 free credit when you start. Worst: If you’ve used your iPhone for any length of time without a restart, it won’t work without restarting due to a memory leak issue. Truphone now supposedly senses if you make an international call from the iPhone and automatically routes it to the Truphone app, but I have yet to see that happen. Given how few people I know would be using this when I am, I’m skeptical of the value in free Truphone-to-Truphone calls, but it’s nice that it is theoretically possible.
  • Wikiamo A nice Wikipedia application
  • WordPress Kinda less useful without the ability to embed links (isn’t that a major point of blogging?), but for a quick post on the road, it’s better than nothing.


  • NYTimes The worst. Absolutely the worst. Why? Because it is impossible to read a single NYT article without it crashing. This is something a lot of folks have been reporting since it first came out, and every time I redownload it and hope for the best, my hopes are dashed. This isn’t some lame app being developed by a 9-year-old in his basement; it’s from the New York Times. It could be great if only it weren’t so buggy. The Grey Lady needs to buy itself a decent debugging module. Shameful, even if it is free.
  • iSushi Aims to provide the nearest sushi restaurants based on your current location. It doesn’t.
  • Free Hangman This would have remained on my iPhone if only it gave a hint for the word you’re trying to solve. Otherwise, you’re just picking common vowels and letters and hoping for the best, which isn’t engaging after a few minutes.
  • My Gas Wars This was supposed to provide local gas prices. It never found anything—totally useless.
  • LabCal Crashed and crashed and crashed. Not the way to provide lab calculations.
  • Blanks Nice idea: an app to quiz you and teach you new verbiage. But seeing the same words over and over again, and easy words at that, didn’t increase my vocabulary.