Taxi Magic

Getting a cab seems easy enough, but sometimes it can test my patience. I could call a cab company and hope that it arrives eventually, or I could stand outside on a lonely side street hoping to grab a cab driver's attention. But why do that when I can use TaxiMagic? TaxiMagic is an app that lets you book a taxi, track where it is (it lets you know how long the cab will take, how far away the cab is in relation to you, along with the cabbie's name and the number of the cab), and if you've entered your credit card information into a RideCharge account, you can pay for the cab right from the app itself. I've used TaxiMagic successfully in both San Francisco and Austin, Texas, and I can't praise it enough for saving me from getting stranded in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

The TaxiMagic system isn't available for all cab companies in all cities, but you can check the TaxiMagic Web site to see if your city offers it.

Price: Free
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Camera+

There are many camera and photography apps for the iPhone, but I dare say that Camera+ is the best I've ever used. It has more features than you can shake a stick at, from cropping photos to adding fantastic special effects, which range from the simple addition of color hues, to amazing retro effects that replicate the look of old-school pocket cameras. You also get superspecialized effects like HDR and Cross-processing that really bring life to an ordinary photo.

You can take photos directly from the app, or you can use an existing image in your iPhone's camera album. Perhaps my favorite thing about the app is the way it takes on the look of a dSLR's viewfinder when you're in camera shooting mode.

Price: $1.99
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Birdhouse

An app just for drafting Twitter posts? That seems silly, you might say. And if you're like most people who post tweets without thinking too much about them, you might not need it. However, if you care about what you tweet (and, seeing as tweets aren't really retractable, that might be a good idea), then Birdhouse is probably the best Twitter draft app you can buy. You can give a rating to each draft just as a personal reminder as to which one is best, and you can even schedule a tweet to publish in the future.

Price: $1.99
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Simplenote

The built-in note-taking app on the iPhone may be good enough for most people, but for me, it is simply too basic. I needed a note-taking app that was simple and easy to use, but also had an online component so I could sync my notes to the cloud. I didn't need a complicated app like EverNote because I wasn't interested in audio or image storage.

Simplenote was my answer. The user interface is delightfully minimalist, and I love that you can see the first few sentences in a note on the list page. And as I mentioned, there's an online component that syncs and stores your notes so that they are easily accessible anywhere you have Internet access. The app itself is free, but I happily paid the extra for premium service that disables ads and offers automatic backup of your notes.

Price: Free
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Catan

If you're not a fan of the Settlers of Catan board game, then you might not understand the intense love I have for the iPhone version, simply called Catan. Or you might, as I've managed to convert a few of my non-Catan-loving fans into believers in game as well.

Your goal in this game is to become the Lord of Catan by slowly taking over the island by building roads, settlements, and cities. You can do so with four building materials (wood, brick, wheat, and ore) which you can either get by rolling the dice or by trading. There's an element of luck, but, like any decent strategy game, you also need plenty of skill.

The iPhone version is not quite as enjoyable as the real-life board game, but it makes for a suitable substitute during those long train commutes.

Price: $4.99
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Yelp

Yelp is a well-known user reviews site for a variety of businesses, which I've always found handy when researching new restaurants or stores. Its iPhone app is well-designed to help me in this venture. It uses GPS to track down businesses near me, and there's also an augmented reality portion that uses the iPhone's internal compass to let you know where businesses are in relation to you. I've also found it useful when I want a specific kind of cuisine; just search for "Sushi" for example, and it'll let you know the closest sushi restaurant to you. Yum.

Price: Free
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Air Video

Air Video lets you stream and convert any video you have on your computer over a local Wi-Fi network directly to your iPhone. Yes, any video, in any video format, even .avi and .mkv. In short, they don't have to be MPEG4-formatted to work with your iPhone. You do have to install an Air Video server on your computer, but it's easy to do, and it's completely free. You can either let Air Video convert the video to an iPhone-compatible format, or you can simply stream it and the app will do a live conversion of the video for you.

Price: Free
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TomTom U.S.A.

Though there are many GPS turn-by-turn direction apps for the iPhone, my personal favorite has always been TomTom. Perhaps it's because I'm already so familiar with the TomTom interface, but I think it's intuitive and easy to use.

I also really like how I can add favorite addresses to TomTom, that it stores recently entered addresses, and that it has a healthy list of points-of-interest locations as well. I'm also a fan of how the maps are laid out. Yes, it's an expensive purchase, but it's become my primary GPS when driving around, and for that, I think it's well worth it.

Price: $49.99
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How To Cook Everything

Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything app is done the way every cooking app should be; it combines a great recipe database with an easy-to-use interface that separates out the ingredients from the step-by-step methods. If you want, it even compiles all the ingredients from your selected recipes into a handy shopping list.

The recipes themselves are really easy to find, as they are sorted by ingredients, the type of meal, and the amount of time it takes to prepare. My favorite feature is that each recipe has a link to related recipes and variation ideas.

Price: $4.99
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Still Tasty

StillTasty is a Web site that lets you know the shelf life of your food, and the app is a great extension of that site. Not only does it let you know the shelf life of your produce and grocery items, it also has a handy reminder feature that will let you know when it's time to use or toss those old vegetables out.

Price: $1.99
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