Hidden gems: the top 25 iPhone apps you might never have heard of

Originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald

Apple started the mobile App revolution with the launch of the App Store in July 2008 with developers clamouring to the iPhone platform as a result. In just over 3 years, there are 725,000 apps, which have been downloaded close to 25 billion times. Such popularity with users is due to the ease and secure nature of Apple’s App Store, together with the reassurance that if an app is on the store, it will work on your device, unlike other platforms with fragmented device requirements.

The App Store itself has ways to find new apps, such as top sales charts and Apple’s store editors highlighting some of their favourites. Despite the vast depth of apps available on the App Store, it is be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff – Apple themselves have acknowledged this with the recent acquisition of app discovery startup, Chomp.

Due to Apple’s quality developer tools and the attraction of designers and programmers to a well thought out and popular and non-fragmented platform, there are many truck loads of apps to choose from. Below are 25 iPhone hidden gems that aren’t rocketing up the App Store charts, but are the best in their class, with attention paid to usability and design – just like the iPhone itself.

Price: Free
Developer: IZE – http://izeize.com/mapsplus/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/maps+/id416753449?mt=8
Maps+ adds innovative features to Google Maps, making the indispensable mapping service even more useful. Set geographical alarms to go off when you enter a predetermined area, import GPX files and overlay waypoints on a map, record and export GPS tracks and my favourite feature, create multi-destination routes, right on your iPhone or iPad.

Price: Free
Developer: Glympse – http://glympse.com/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Android, WinPhone 7 & Blackberry
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/glympse-location-sharing-made/id330316698? mt=8
Ever been told that someone is only a few minutes away, but they were actually really close or really far away? Glympse uses the GPS and 3G features of your device to broadcast where you are and plot it on a Google Map, all in real time. Glympse has succinct privacy and time-expiry controls so that only who you wish to share with knows where you are.

TomTom Australia
Price: $64.99
Developer: TomTom International BV – http://www.tomtom.com/en_gb/products/mobile- navigation/tomtom-app-for-iphone/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/tomtom-australia/id326072238?mt=8
TomTom is a familiar name to most drivers, with their range of in-car GPS units amongst the best on the market and their iOS app is no exception. If you’ve used a TomTom device, the app uses the same simple and clear layout to guide you to your destination. The latest version adds live traffic reports via in-app purchase and can calculate the best route, taking traffic conditions into account.

Price: $5.49
Developer: Galarina – http://www.galarina.eu/geologtag
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/geologtag/id294194869?mt=8
If you use a camera which hasn’t got a GPS chip embedded, GeoLogTag enables you to append geographical info to your photos, after you’ve taken them. GeoLogTag runs in the background, constantly tracking your location and on your camera, photos are given a time stamp. Simply use the Apple camera connection kit, upload your photos to your iPad or iPhone and GeoLogTag cross references where you were, at the time the photo was taken according to your camera and adds accurate co-ordinates to the EXIF data of the photo.

360 Panorama
Price: 99c!
Developer: Occipital – http://occipital.com/360/app
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch & Android
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/360-panorama/id377342622?mt=8
Showing off your view is simple with 360 Panorama – simply launch the app and take as many photos as you can, in a full circle around you. The app then stitches them together, adjusts any variation in lighting and even crops off jagged edges, all automatically, to construct glorious 360 degrees panoramas. Publish to them to social media accounts and viewers can immerse themselves in an interactive scene that you captured.

Australian National Public Toilet Map
Price: Free
Developer: Human Solutions – http://www.hs.com.au/resource/toiletmap.htm
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/national-public-toilet-map/id323279108?mt=8
As part of the Australian government’s National Continence Management Strategy, a database of Australia’s public toilets was made. This app makes that database available to you right on your iPhone, so that when you need to go, you know where to go. It uses the GPS feature in the iPhone to show public toilets near you and also gives directions to them.

Snap Send Solve
Price: Free
Developer: Outware Mobile – http://snapsendsolve.com/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/snap-send-solve/id377854149?mt=8
Reporting local community issues such as road damage, vandalism, unkempt amenities, abandoned vehicles and the like usually required a bothersome trip to the council or a length form. Using Snap Send Solve, just take a photo of the issue, and send it off to the appropriate council. The app reports to the relevant authority depending on your location and supports over most councils Australia-wide.

PocketWeather AU
Price: $1.99 (cut-down free version available)
Developer: Shifty Jelly – http://www.shiftyjelly.com/apps/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch & Android
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/pocket-weather-au/id290610939?mt=8
The default weather app that comes on most smartphones are not optimised for local conditions. Most grab data from a single global source that usually is not as accurate as our venerable Bureau of Meteorology. PocketWeather AU works with the BoM to provide current conditions, forecasts, live radars and more, direct to your device.

Price: $2.99
Developer: Bjango – http://bjango.com/ios/consume/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/consume/id337064413?mt=8
Keeping track of how much data your Internet connection has used, how many loyalty program points you have, the amount of funds on your public transport passes or where your parcels are normally requires you to log in to individual sites. Consume brings them all together in a single app with a beautiful user interface, supporting over 250 providers worldwide.

Plane Finder AR
Price: $2.99 (cut-down free version available)
Developer: Pinkfroot – http://my.pinkfroot.com/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/plane-finder-ar/id390039844?mt=8
Plane Finder is one of those apps that impresses any nerd. Using public available live flight tracking information (ADS-B, which is mandatory in Australia, so it works really well here), you can see registration numbers, model types, airlines, departure & arrival locations, flight paths and even altitude information, right on your phone or tablet. The Augmented Reality version of Plane Finder lets you point the phone at any plane in the sky, to get all sorts of info about it.

Ask The Butcher
Price: $1.99
Developer: Blind Mice Studios – http://www.blindmicestudios.com/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/ask-the-butcher/id342125693?mt=8
Developed in conjunction with butchers, this app leaves buying the wrong cut of meat. This app lists all the cuts of meat available with lamb, beef, veal and pork, together with recipes and cooking timers. Also available is Ask the Cheesemonger, which has information of cheese varieties and assists in selecting an accompanying wine.

Kinetic GPS
Price: $4.49 (cut-down free version available)
Developer: Mothership Software – http://kineticgps.com/
Platforms: iPhone
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/kinetic-gps/id369324269?mt=8
Kinetic is designed to log and aid your exercise, be it cycling, running or walking. Not only does Kinetic track exercise, giving distance, speed and time statistics, but it also enables you to import and create training plans, so you get the workout you want. A nice feature is the app’s ability to auto-pause the timer when you’ve stopped moving, as well as audible alerts through your headphones as to when you’ve hit milestones. Export your workouts to a beautiful webpage and share with friends.

Calorie King Australia Calorie Counter Price: Free
Developer: Calorie King – http://www.calorieking.com.au/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/calorieking-australia-calorie/id460918620?mt=8 Most calorie counting apps cater only for the USA, excluding many Australian foods. Calorie King is an Australian constructed database, bringing nutrition information direct to your iPhone or iPad. Foods are sorted by category and everything is fully searchable, even fast food chains are listed. Full nutritional information, such as calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates, protein and more are detailed clearly, and portions are customisable for any serving size.

Price: $1.99
Developer: Hutchinson Software – http://www.gardenate.com/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch & Android
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/gardenate/id362009731?mt=8
Gardenate assists you in growing a successful kitchen garden. Information such as when to plant, when to harvest, how to water, what type of soil & climate suits and what vegetables to plant together are all contained in this handy app.

Gift Plan
Price: $2.99
Developer: Glasshouse Apps – http://www.glasshouseapps.com/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/gift-plan/id395091924?mt=8
You’ll never forget to buy a gift, or buy the same gift twice ever again with Gift Plan. Keep track of gift ideas (things people have dropped hints about, sizing info and photos), manage gift lists for certain occasions (Valentines Day, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, etc) and create shopping lists to help you effectively shop in store. Gift Plan can also connect to Facebook and your contacts to find birthdays and even has a passcode feature, so prying eyes don’t ruin the surprise.

Price: Free
Developer: Jared Sinclair – http://pillboxie.tumblr.com/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/pillboxie/id417367089?mt=8
Pillboxie is developed by a registered nurse and help keep track of when to take medications. Each medication is visually represented to look like the physical medicine (tablets, powders, inhalers, liquid, etc) residing inside a pillbox. Create alarms and reminders with custom tones, so as long as your iPhone is around, you won’t forget to take or administer medication.

Price: $1.99
Developer: codedifferent – http://www.codedifferent.com/compareme/iphone/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/compareme-shopping-utility/id300814524?mt=8 Working out if the large size item at the high price is better value than buying multiple smaller items can be complicated, but with CompareMe, just enter in the two items and with a single tap, it will tell you which one is the better buy. It supports mass, volume, surface and length, or even just numbers, making no comparison impossible.

Price: $13.99
Developer: Renkara Media Group – http://iphrasebook.renkara.com/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/iphrasebook-expandable-audio/id416714300? mt=8
Travelling to a foreign country where English isn’t the native language can be a bit daunting, but with iPhraseBook on your iPhone, you’ll be able to communicate if necessary. A large collection of common phrases are listed and well sorted and searchable – all you need to do is tap the phrase in your native language, to have it perfectly pronounced in the language of your choice. English, Spanish, Italian, Germain and French are included in the initial purchase, with Turkish, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese available as separate in app purchases.

Price: $1.99
Developer: Wake Apps – http://dringapp.com/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/dring-beautiful-ringtone-creation/id403508491? mt=8
Making custom ring tones from your own music library is easy with Dring. Select a song on your device, choose the area you’d like to make into a tone, add a fade in or out if you like, press save, then sync with iTunes to add the tone to your collection. Dring also supports recording audio with the built in microphone on your device and making that into a tone.

Price: 99c
Developer: Realmac Software – http://www.realmacsoftware.com/clear/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/clear/id493136154?mt=8
One of the issues people face with task managers is the difficulty of entering data into the app so you can remember to do it. Clear has an ultra simple UI which relies on gestures and colours to make the process of managing your tasks as simple as possible. The app gets out of the way to put your task list front and centre.

Quizarium Pro
Price: 99c (cut-down free version available)
Developer: On5 – http://quizarium.com/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/quizarium-pro/id363167145?mt=8
If you love pub trivia, you’ll enjoy Quizarium, which is a 24/7 quiz with people around the world via the Internet. Different rooms are dedicated to various topics, where questions are automatically generated and asked to the room. Points are awarded for correct answers and trophies and other special items are earned for long term success.

The Incident
Price: $1.99
Developer: Big Bucket Software – http://bigbucketsoftware.com/theincident/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-incident/id385533456?mt=8
Avoid getting hit by random things falling from the sky, that’s the fundamental tactic of The Incident. Poor Frank Solway has to climb, jump and dodge in order to save his life. If you have an iPad, plug it in to the TV, and use your iPhone as a controller whilst you play The Incident on your big screen. Infectious music and adorable 8-bit graphics make this fun to play over and over.

Price: $2.99 (cut-down free version available)
Developer: Matt Rix – http://www.trainyard.ca/
Platforms: iPhone, iPad & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/trainyard/id348719156?mt=8
Not just for train nerds, this puzzle game has you figuring out how to get trains from one end of the screen to the other, avoiding obstacles and adhering to train conducting rules. The difficulty ramps up nicely, so you don’t get all frustrated early and abandon the game, but rather learn and hone your skills over time. There’s even a puzzle creator to make your own challenges and share them with friends.

Puzzle Love
Price: Free
Developer: Naked Apps – http://getpuzzlelove.com/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/puzzle-love/id448081123?mt=8
Favourites like sudoku, 5×5, target and wordbuilder are placed into a single, well designed and regularly updated app. Included are free puzzle packs, but if you’re really up for a challenge, premium puzzle packs can be purchased, with new ones each week.

Price: $2.99
Developer: Steph Thirion – http://www.toucheliss.com/
Platforms: iPhone & iPod touch
App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/eliss/id306950009?mt=8
At first glance, Eliss looks weird, but behind its abstract concepts, there is a fun and challenging game. The aim is to combine and separate planets in order to put them into squeezars of the same size and colour. Using all the possible multi-touch combinations, Eliss is also a great way to familiarise yourself with the multi-touch gestures on the iPhone.