More than 18 billion apps have been downloaded over the years -- iPhone users know their way around Apple's App Store. But with 500,000 apps to choose from, which 16 are the must-haves that deserve prime placement on your homescreen? Read on to find out.
Here's our updated selection of the most spiffing downloads currently available. Before you ask, we've not included Facebook or Twitter due to their sheer ubiquity: chances are you already have both if you're on those social networks. And yes, we're already working on similar collections for Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and iPad.
Best Game: Whale Trail
The fact that Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys provides the theme tune is reason enough to buy Whale Trail, but thankfully the game has just as much woozy charm as its soundtrack. You play flying whale Willow, collecting bubbles while avoiding clouds. Beautifully-simple Tiny Wings-style controls meet a well-tuned scoring system to produce a genuinely addictive game.
Okay, so if you don't do your banking with FirstDirect, the Banking on the Go app may not appeal -- although we think it's good enough to make a few people switch their accounts from rivals. The app is a fast and efficient way to check your balances, transfer money and make payments. Dual-stage password protection matches that of the FirstDirect online banking site.
Spotify remains top dog for streaming music on your iPhone but you can't beat Songkick when it comes to discovering live music. The app starts by scanning your music collection on the iPhone. It then serves up a list of gigs by those artists in your area in the coming months. What's more, it pings you a push notification when new gigs are announced, ensuring that you can get in early for tickets. Social features help you share details with gig-going friends.
Against strong competition, Runkeeper remains the premier iPhone app for keeping track of your outdoor exercises. It uses GPS to track where and how far you've run, providing regular audio prompts in your earphones along the way. It also lets you enter data manually if you're exercising in a gym and ties into the Runkeeper website for social features and stats. Whether you run a half-marathon before breakfast, or you're just trying to shift a few pounds, Runkeeper will help you keep up your programme.
Instagram might be known to some as 'that photo app with the novelty filters', but people are increasingly appreciating it as a serious social photography app. You get a bunch of retro and stylistic effects, as well as linear and radial tilt-shift blur, and it's a cinch to share shots to Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. Instagram also supports Tumblr, Foursquare and Posterous. Recent big improvements include the ability to store full-size versions of your Instagrammed pics on the phone and improved speed.
You can shoot and share videos from within Twitter and Facebook on iPhone but the feature hasn't been given much love. We're very impressed by Socialcam though -- an Instagram for video. You can use it to shoot videos and quickly upload them to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Socialcam. Social features are built in; friends who also have the app can comment on and like your videos. Recently Socialcam got visual filters to give your vids a 1970s, film noir or sepia look, among others.
Not Apple's iBooks? We've plumped for Kindle for its ability to use Amazon's ebooks app across a range of devices, including non-Apple gadgets. What's more, you can often find ebooks cheaper on Amazon's service. The downside? Due to Apple's rules on in-app purchases, Amazon no longer has a direct link to its store from within the Kindle app. You'll need to visit the website to buy ebooks, which will then sync with the Kindle app. It matches iBooks for free sample chapters and page-turn animations.
There are plenty of apps looking to kill off the text message, including Facebook Messenger, Kik Messenger and Apple's own iMessage. WhatsApp Messenger is top dog due to its sheer popularity: a lot more of your friends are likely to be using it already. It works across multiple devices so you won't be restricted from messaging mates with Android, BlackBerry or Nokia phones. WhatsApp is slick to use; allows group chats and photo/video posting; and makes nifty use of push notifications to build your contacts list.
There are some excellent news apps out there for individual publications and sites -- notably The Guardian and BBC News -- but we're big fans of aggregating news from a range of sources. Pulse started life as an iPad app but has made the transition to the smaller screen with aplomb. You can browse by publisher or by specific keywords, viewing summaries of articles and visiting their websites, while saving stories to read offline. It also works nicely with Google Reader if you already have RSS feeds set up.
While the buzz around cloud services can often be a load of hot air, Dropbox is one of the apps that proves there is substance behind the hype. It's a simple way to share photos, documents, videos and other files across your devices; the synchronising happens automatically rather than requiring you to manually upload things. The iPhone version works really well, and while competition may come from other apps integrating Apple's iCloud service in the months ahead, for now, Dropbox is the clear leader.
MyCarCheck is a quick way to look up any UK-registered vehicle using its registration number. It digs into the databases to provide make and model, colour, engine size and other stats for free. However, you can pay via in-app purchase to get more infromation: its history, recorded mileage and a valuation for its make, model and mileage. We used the app heavily recently when buying a second-hand car and it really was invaluable.
We weren't big fans of LinkedIn's original iPhone app. It was a bit... businessy. However, one major design revamp later and LinkedIn is one of the slickest social networking apps on iPhone. It lets you quickly see what your work contacts are up to while approving new requests, updating your status and messaging people. If you're one of the organised people that keeps personal life to Facebook and work life to LinkedIn, this app should be sitting on your homescreen.
The more people use their iPhones abroad, the more they start to bump up against mobile data limits and large roaming bills. Onavo is a great way to rein in your data usage. It uses quirkily-titled 'magical shrinking machine' technology on Onavo's servers to compress the data being sent to and from your iPhone. Between 60-90 per cent can be saved on data using apps like Mail, Maps, Safari, Facebook and Twitter. Easy-to-read graphs show your data usage over the month -- a useful feature in itself.
Watching a football match on an iPhone is only ever going to be a 'good-enough' substitute -- when stuck on a train, for example. Even so, Sky Go does a great job with making the experience bearable. You have to be a Sky subscriber to use it. You can stream all five of Sky Sports' channels to your device, as well as other Sky Movies and entertainment channels if you subscribe to those at home. You can register two devices with the service, and it works over 3G or Wi-Fi -- the latter is obviously preferable.
Weather is built-in to your iPhone courtesy of Apple's own Yahoo-powered app. However, if you want more depth, The Weather Channel's app is a good place to start. It shows proper maps along with hourly and 10-day forecasts. There's more granular detail on likely wind, humidity and sunrise/sunset times. We've never felt moved to use the feature to post the local weather to our Facebook walls, but in all other respects, this is a really useful app to have.
Novelty apps have a long and popular history on iPhone, from iPint in the early days through to FatBooth and Talking Tom Cat. Sleep Talk Recorder is a fascinating way to see if you talk in your sleep, and if so, to hear what you've been babbling about. The app runs in the background and springs into action when it hears a voice, recording and saving the results for you to hear in the morning. If they're particularly amusing, you can post them to Facebook and Twitter.