This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2008-08-08 at 1:06 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is:
Include images: Off

iPhone Apps That Go Beyond Entertainment

by Adam C. Engst

Not being someone with bits of extra time before meetings or while commuting or standing in line, I haven't come wholeheartedly to the iPhone revolution, and in fact, I've had to make a conscious effort to find time to use my iPod touch. Until the release of the 2.0 software, that was nearly impossible, since there was nothing the iPod touch could do that one of my Macs couldn't do better. But now that I can download software from the App Store, the iPod touch has become more useful.

However, I noticed something interesting recently, while browsing the lists of top paid and free applications: they're nearly all games or in some way related to entertainment. Scanning through the list of the top 100 paid apps, I currently see about 36 that increase the functionality of the iPhone or in some way promise to make your life easier. But even that number may be deceptive, since that list includes at least four voice recorders, three conversion utilities, three programs that use the accelerometer to measure angles of incline, two password managers, a couple of calorie counters, and several location-aware apps that help you find nearby restaurants or other services. A few that would seem to provide unique capabilities include:

On the free side, only 28 of the top 100 apps would seem to be useful in some form or fashion, and once again, they tend to clump, with a few apps providing ad-supported views onto Web-based news, a couple of flashlight apps that turn the screen a single bright color, and a few more location-based service finders. Still, some that stand out from the crowd include:

Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against playing games on the iPhone, or doing puzzles, or whatever, and I do all those things, on occasion. But for many of us, free time is sufficiently scarce (and the iPhone is sufficiently expensive) that iPhone apps need to help create leisure time rather consuming it.