Best apps for your phone

Published 2:37 pm Saturday, May 14, 2011

Of all the gadgets and appliances in the American home, who would have guessed the telephone — and not the coffee maker — would come to be the king of them all?

The telephone became the cell phone and has morphed into what’s called the smartphone. Whether it is an iPhone or even some others, there are many apps out there, but users never quite know which ones are the best unless a friend or two tells them.

We thought we would chime in on some of the best apps out there:

Tim Engstrom:

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Pulse, free: Ever since I was a kid, I read a lot of newspapes and magazines. This app lets me peruse headlines from several news outlets at once. It comes with some in the app, such as Salon, Core77 and Engadget, but I have added ESPN, Star Tribune, Associated Press, USA Today, Hollywood Reporter and others by going to the settings function. It makes going from news on the new Margaret Thatcher movie to the latest on al-Qaida to the reaction on proposed Minnesota Vikings stadium really fast.

Scanner Radio, free: This app allows me to listen to the scanner for Albert Lea Police, Fire and EMS on my Droid. That’s just downright amazing to me. It works by streaming the audio through (where users can listen to the scanner over the Internet). It’s about 15 seconds or so behind real time. The downside is that sometimes ham radio guys come on and somehow block out the actual scanner calls.

Foursquare, free: Ever wanted to tell people you’re somewhere cool, like the Space Needle or Shedd Aquarium? Or just dining out in Albert Lea? If you are a geographic type, you will enjoy Foursquare. You check in, then it pushes that to the social networking sites you like, such as your wall on Facebook, and it includes a little map of your location. I don’t check in everywhere I go, but I do at the more exciting places I go, like Target Field.

GasBuddy, free: It’s not easy to get around with gas prices so high. This app works much like the website in that users can search for gas prices in the city or region you are in or report prices not already listed. All prices are never more than 24 hours old. If you have to fill your tank and want to know which station in Albert Lea has the lowest prices, use this app. In fact, the more people use it, the more stations will be listed.

Andrew Drydal:

Fruit Ninja, $.99: “Fruit Ninja” is the most addictive of many addictive games I’ve played on the iPhone. The object of the game is to swipe your finger across the screen to slash and splatter apples, oranges and bananas, among others. Bombs occasionally pop up along with fruit and if you slash one of those it’s game over. “Fruit Ninja” is challenging, simple and a whole lot of fun.

Microsoft Photosynth, free: As an iPhone user, I make sure to take advantage of its 5-megapixel camera with Microsoft Photosynth. This app allows you to take a bunch of photos of the same scene and automatically stitch them together into one big panoramic photo. Photosynth typically works great as long as there aren’t a lot of moving objects and I’ve only used it in Albert Lea. Imagine what it could do, say, at the Grand Canyon.

Netflix, free with Netflix subscription (iPhone and some Droid models): I rarely watch my favorite movies and TV shows on a TV set anymore. With Netflix, a video rental company that provides on-demand Internet streaming video as well as DVD-by-mail, I now only sit down with my computer to watch an episode of “The Office.” Now I can watch it on my iPhone, too. The Netflix app, which became available for the iPhone after its success with the iPad, allows users to stream high definition movies and television on their phone. Anything that can be watched on a computer can be watched on an iPhone and the picture quality is even better. This is a great app for commuters or parents who want to keep their kids busy in the car.

Lose It!, free (iPhone only): Lose It! makes counting calories fun. Just plug in your age, weight, height and gender, and the amount of weight you want to lose and Lose It! provides you with a calorie budget. Throughout the day, users enter the type and amount of food they’ve eaten and the types of exercise they’ve done. This app does the math and if you stay within your calorie budget each day you might just Lose It!

Kelli Lageson

IMDb, free: This handy app has trailers, reviews and just about anything you need to know about any movie or TV show. Want to know who was in the one movie with the one guy? You know, that one with the, well, just look it up with this app.

Movies by Flixter, free: This app quickly tells you what’s playing at theaters within 50 miles of your location. It also gives you the movie’s rating from the Rotten Tomatoes website, which is nice to have when picking a flick to see.

Shazam, free: This app listens to a song and identifies the track title, artist and lyrics, among other tasks. It’s helpful when you’re listening to the radio or hear a song and would like to know what it’s called to buy it in the future.

Kindle, free: You can buy new books through or read old classics for free using this book-reader app. It also tracks what percentage of the book you’ve read and brings up the last page you were reading so you don’t have to worry about bookmarks.

Danielle Boss

RunKeeper, free: I like to use this app when I go for runs or bike rides. It can also do many other activities like swimming, skating, cross-country skiing and more. I like the fact that it keeps track of your distance, average pace and speed, calories burned and elevations climbed. It is all synced to your account on their website so you can go back and check the progress you have made.

Pandora Radio, free: Pandora Radio has all sorts of music stations designed by the user from rock to children’s music. I use this app when I go running, around the house or in the car. My kids even love using it to listen to Disney music. It has less commercials than regular radio stations, and you have more control over what you are listening to.

ColorNote, free: ColorNote is a note-taking application. You can either make text notes or checklists. I love to use this for my grocery list. It also comes in handy when I need to remember something but don’t have anything to write it down with.

Adobe Photoshop Express, free: We all know that cameras on our phones don’t always take the best pictures so this application is great for correcting them. You can do stuff such as color correction, light exposure and effects. If you took a picture you really like and want it to look even better this is a fast and easy way to do that.