A helpful tool to have when you’re out shopping, ShopSavvy tells you whether there’s a better deal to be had online or at another store nearby. It can look up products by bar code, or you can type in the product name. The only hard part? Remembering to use the app before you head to the register.
“Best ribs in Ann Arbor.” That’s what I just asked my iPhone — no, not Siri, but something else called Dragon Go!, a free natural language app made by Nuance Communications, the same company (it’s thought anyway) whose speech-crunching tech powers Apple’s belle of the voice recognition ball. Dragon Go! not only recognizes what I say as accurately as Siri, it knows right where to go, in this case popping open Yelp with a list of the top-rated nearby barbecue joints. “Say what you want and Dragon Go! will deliver your results within seconds,” goes the app-info sales pitch. And it’s been doing exactly that (since I reviewed it in July) reliably enough that I’ll keep using it in lieu of dropping a bundle on an iPhone 4S — until whatever’s next comes out.
Link: Dragon Go!
Yes, most weather apps can tell you the temperature in your city, but where in your city? Weather Underground lets you pick from more than 22,000 weather stations for a super localized forecast. The layout puts everything you want front and center: the day’s weather, a scrollable weekly forecast and the Wundermap, which lets you overlay temperatures, animated radar images and more on top of Google Maps.
Link: Weather Underground
One of the most useful travel websites on the Internet gets shrunken down to a more pocketable format. Kayak lets you quickly and easily search multiple airlines for the best price on plane tickets. You can track your flight status and book hotels and rental cars, too. The app also includes useful travel information like airline phone numbers, flight tracking and baggage fees.
I bought my first diesel car last year, when diesel prices were over $4. But when I discovered inner-city gas stations were pricing it as low as $3.50, I decided to get strategic about fill-ups. GasBuddy lets you drop in your city, state or zip to “find gas” nearby, using crowd-sourced updates to keep the pricing current (each price shows how recent the update is in minutes, hours or days). It lets you filter by gas type (regular, midgrade, premium, diesel) as well as distance/price. In all my time using it (and several 10-hour cross-country trips) I’ve yet to find a bad reading, and though I sometimes have to zip a few miles out of the way to fill up, it’s helped save hundreds of dollars to date.
Even if you’ve never played Angry Birds, you’ve been in close proximity to someone who’s been playing it—whether you realized it or not. The most popular mobile game in the history of the universe is pretty much a must-have just out of sheer principle.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the basic plot line of the game: Pigs have wronged birds in some form or another. You represent the birds! You get revenge on the pigs by pulling the birds back in a slingshot (these birds can’t fly without the help of a slingshot for some reason) and smashing them into structures built by the pigs. Kill all the pigs and you move on to the next level.
It’s simple and stupidly addictive. You’ve been warned.
Link: Angry Birds
MapQuest 4 Mobile
Year after year, Apple falls further behind Android on the navigation front. Although iPhone 4S users can ask Siri for directions, they still can’t get voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation like Android users can. Until native maps navigation arrives on the iPhone, MapQuest will have to suffice. Unlike competing apps from TomTom and Garmin, MapQuest is free, and it includes some helpful features such as traffic, walking directions and a low battery mode.
Link: MapQuest 4 Mobile
Fandango’s iPhone app lets you browse movies, watch trailers and read reviews, and then once you’ve decided what you want to see, it provides theater locations and directions. Tickets can be purchased right from within the app — you can even choose your own seats if the theater supports reserved seating.
Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner
My wife can juggle recipes and ingredients in her head the way Stephen Hawking does math. Me, not so much. So when I’m in charge of meal planning and grocery lists, I’ve found Allrecipes.com’s Dinner Spinner app invaluable. It lets me assemble a bunch of recipes online (or in the app, but a web browser’s easier), collate the total ingredients list, then pipe that to my iPhone, which fits in my pocket in lieu of a paper printout. As I find what I need, I just “tap” it off the app’s ingredient list. And when I’m in the kitchen, it lays out cooking instructions (all it’s missing is an option to override Apple’s default screen lock time — touching your iPhone when your hands are covered in pizza dough’s a definite no-no). Why “spinner”? Shake your iPhone and it’ll spit up a random recipe (based on selection criteria like “dish,” “ingredient” and “ready-in” time).
Missing the big game? Don’t worry, this app is a pretty handy way to keep track of just about any sport you can imagine. Customize the myTeams page for live score updates for all of your favorite teams. You can also look up stats, standings and ESPN.com articles while on the go. If you’re too busy to constantly check ScoreCenter, you can set up push alerts that will alert you every time your team puts points up on the scoreboard.
Link: ESPN ScoreCenter