There are over 70,000 applications in the iPhone store, according to 148apps.com. Of course, that's just the count as of when I am typing this; odds are high that by the time this article is edited and published, the total will be much higher. Long story short: there are an absolute ton of applications available for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. This huge marketplace creates a problem for the consumer, though; which applications are actually worth the money? Which applications deserve a spot on your phone, and which should you just avoid?
With Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders, Josh Clark has done some homework and has compiled a list of the best apps. The list is broken down by category – and then again by use. So we've got the general listing for applications At Work, then the best app for To-Do Lists, Taking Notes, Voice Dialing, etc. Clark breaks the App Store down into seven different categories: At Work, On The Town, At Leisure, At Play, At Home, On the Road, and For Your Health. The grouping seems to work, though I felt there could be some overlap between At Leisure and At Play – or even At Leisure and On the Town. At least the categories are pretty self-explanatory, so there won't be much confusion about where to look to find just the right application for what you're trying to do.
For me, the really valuable part of this book is that it highlights applications that I never knew existed. Quicken Online Mobile is one app that I would use quite a bit (and it's free); I was curious about why the Mint.com app got the Best App award while Quicken merely got an honorable mention, since Quicken seems to have an extra feature or two that Mint doesn't have. The availability of travel guides at decent prices is something else that will attract the casual iPhone user. One drawback, for me at least, is that very few of the apps featured in the book are free apps; that says a lot about the quality of the pay apps more than the lack of quality among free apps, though. I would have loved to have had more attention paid to the free applications available, though, since that's one of the big advantages Apple has over Blackberry and Android.
The biggest drawback to Best iPhone Apps, though, is that it's static. Over 20,000 applications have been added to the App Store since it was published, and more are added every day. O'Reilly attempts to alleviate this problem by offering a free online version of the book for 45 days, and Clark has a companion website (http://iphoneapps.oreilly.com/) that continually offers reviews and comparisons of new applications. Of course, if you want something a bit more in-depth, check out Blogcritics' own feature, iWant, iNeed, iRecommend by Robert M. Barga, which is updated each month with the top iPhone and iPod Touch applications for that month.
I have a Touch, rather than an iPhone, so there are many of these applications that I'll never use. Add to that the fact that my Touch doesn't like my home wireless network very much (though it connects fine while I'm on the road, so it's not an issue with the Touch), and my applications use is pretty limited. I have, however, found plenty of apps that I am using and enjoying thanks to this book. If you've got an iPhone, you need Best iPhone Apps.