The 20 Best Apps of 2011


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There are literally hundreds of thousands of smartphone apps available across the marketplaces. 2011 saw a heap of new apps for iOS, Android and Blackberry. Because apps range from the Good to the Bad and Ugly, we have compiled a list of our 20 favorite apps out there for 2011… Take a look and see which “Best of” apps might take over as your next addiction.

Games

Angry Birds: By far the most addictive yet deceptively simple game I’ve ever played. The goal of Angry Birds is to launch an arsenal of cartoon bird-projectiles at their mortal enemies — egg-stealing green pigs. Revenge relies on vectors and basic principles of physics, but the gist is to use a slingshot to angle an ‘angry bird’ at the smug little pigs. The real challenge? Putting your phone down once you’ve started.

Plants vs. Zombies: The thought of a zombie attack is enough to keep any sensible person up at night. But you know what’s even scarier? Watching waves of zombies trample your prize-winning roses. This nightmare is realized in Plants vs. Zombies, a perennial best-seller. Game rules? The zombies advance, you bombard them with any number of flora, including ears of corn and frozen watermelons. That’s just common sense, right?

Fruit Ninja: Who knew that a Ninja’s worst enemy could be fruit? Apparently so according to, Halfbrick Studio, the developer of this popular game. Just swipe your finger to cleave flying fruit in two, ideally before they hit the ground. Oh, and keep a watch out for bombs; mistakenly slice one, and it’s game over. The app is integrated with OpenFeint (so you can compete with your friends), and it’s an ideal app for commuters or for those stuck in a slow-moving grocery store line.

Travel

Kayak: This, popular meta-search website, has created an app that makes it easy to search for hotels, flights and car rentals even while you’re away from your desk. Budding road warriors will appreciate the airport information section, price alerts and fee table; while bean counters will appreciate that the app comes in a free, regular version. High flyers wanting to book first- or business-class tickets will need the Pro version, however, priced at $1.99.

Yelp: Looking for a new place to eat? No worries. Just fire up your handy Yelp app, which locates all the nearby eateries, then browse by proximity, neighborhood, price, or what’s open now. You also get easy access to Yelp’s enormous collection of customer reviews, making it easy avoid the bad joints. Not hungry? The app lets you find a whole host of other on-the-road necessities, such as bars, banks, drugstores and gas stations.

Open Table: Particularly useful for last-minute dinner reservations or when traveling, Open Table’s app lets users place a reservation at any of their 15,000 participating restaurants in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. The user-friendly interface allows you to refine your search by cuisine, price, reservation time or points awarded from customer reviews. The app will also use your current location to alert you to, ahem, open tables at nearby restaurants.

Lifestyle

Epicurious: Making a stop at the grocery store on your way home? Pull up Epicurious, type in the ingredients you know you have at home, and then let the app do the rest. A virtual cookbook, Epicurious helps you plan small meals or family dinners on the go. One of the best features is the ability to see what percentage of people who made a recipe would do so again, so you can be sure that your chosen menu is worth the effort.

Amazon: The perfect shopping companion, Amazon’s iPhone app lets users connect to their Amazon account with the tap of a finger. Fill your shopping cart, track the status of recently placed orders or search the full selection of products available from Amazon.com. The app also lets you scan any barcode to search for comparison prices, or snap photos of a product (like those to-die-for shoes worn by the woman next to you) and quickly find it on the web.

ShopSavvy: A must-have for professional bargain hunters, the Shop Savvy app lets you compare prices and deals on the fly. Just scan the barcode of any item and in an instant you have a list that compares best prices online versus the local store — plus access to customer reviews, tips about coupon codes and more. You can even share shopping lists via email, Facebook or Twitter, in case you want to encourage someone to buy that perfect something for you.

WebMD: Sometimes a strange tingling sensation is just a momentary neurological misfire. But, then again, your symptoms could foretell something more serious. That’s where WebMD comes in. This popular online medical encyclopedia allows you to find answers using the app’s symptom checker. You can also use this great app to simply freak yourself out. As they say, an informed patient is often a better patient. So bone up on your way to the doctor’s office. Just don’t try to diagnose yourself in front of the doctor…they don’t like that.

Music

Pandora: Pandora is a great service on your computer, but it’s even better on your phone. Having the free app means that you can discover new music on your morning commute, at the gym or wherever you happen to be. If you already have an account, you can sign in and easily access any of the channels you created on the web. And don’t worry if you created an awesome channel on your phone — it will all transfer back to your account so you can access it once you are back at your desk.

Spotify: With a free app and a $9.99/month subscription, Spotify gives you access to a massive music library that exists in the cloud. Connect via WiFi or 3G to stream on the fly or download tracks in advance to save for those days when you’re off the grid. iPhone 4 users also get the benefit of background streaming, which keeps the tunes going while you fiddle around in other apps.

SoundHound: Can’t name that song? There are myriad apps to help, but we think SoundHound is the best. Boot SoundHound up and let it listen to the track for a few seconds and it’ll spit back the track name. The app’s good at picking up the beat even over ambient noise like a bar crowd or a casual conversation. Even better, you don’t have to be listening to the song to tag it. Whistle, hum or sing the tune and it will pick it up! Best part? It’s totally free.

Photography

Instagram: Some apps apply a vintage filter on your snapshots, and others let you share your snapshots with friends. Instagram does both, taking mobile photography social. Instagram’s defining feature is its feed. You can “follow” your friends and various media outlets, and if they follow you back your shared shots appear on the feed for everyone’s viewing and commenting pleasure.

Photoshop Express: There’s an awfully fine line between having too many complicated photo editing features on a device that fits in the palm of your hand and not having enough tools to get any real work done. Photoshop Express straddles that line quite nicely, thank you, by offering basic editing features, color adjustment, filters, a handful of essential effects and several borders. Best of all, it’s free.

ColorSplash: Go from amateur to professional photographer in a snap with ColorSplash. This iPhone app will convert any photo to black and white even while allowing you to keep specifically chosen details in color. Pinch-to-zoom lets you work with pixel accuracy, and when you’re done with your tinkering you can share the results on Facebook, Flickr or Twitter. Your friends won’t believe the photos didn’t cost you a pretty penny.

Entertainment

PulseNews: If you’re looking to upgrade your Google Reader experience, this app lets you import feeds from Google and view them in a nifty interactive mosaic. Once you’ve added your web and news sources, you can swipe stories from left to right or up and down. Three stories are visible at any given time, and after you’ve read a story it grays it out lest it become a distraction. All in all, it’s a refreshing way to consume your daily content.

Netflix: The Netflix app for iPhone comes on the heels of its iPad app, which was a monster hit. While we weren’t in love with the changes Netflix made to their subscriber packages, subscribing to any of the monthly Netflix packages, which start at $7.99, gives iPhone users access to Netflix’s instant streaming queue anywhere, even on a 3G connection (though a Wi-Fi connection provides a better experience). It’s an ideal app for commuters or parents who want to keep their kids entertained on the go.

IMDB: The app takes the already-popular website and puts it in usable, fast-moving mobile form. Every film tidbit you’d ever want to know is on IMDb, including cast lists, plot summaries and critical reviews. It’s a one-stop shop for film buffs and trivia hounds who can also search for show times nearby and even shop for DVDs through Amazon. You can even watch trailers for upcoming or just-released films, should you tire of reading.

ESPN Scorecenter: With an almost inexhaustible selection of sports scores and leagues to follow in real time, ESPN’s free ScoreCenter app sweetens the deal by throwing in breaking news updates and letting you customize the app to feature your favorite teams and sports. ESPN’s venerable news ticker scrolls across the bottom of the screen just for good measure, too.

Did we forget to mention your favorite? Share your favorite app with us in the comments below… we love exploring new apps!



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OtterBox

OtterBox

We design and manufacture protective cases for smartphones, tablets and mobile technology. Dedicated to klutzy tech users everywhere!

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