My iPhone emergency apps kit

Published: May 13, 2009

When my internet connection went down last week, I learned which of my dozens of apps were frill and which were truly indispensable. Aside from the built-in ones, like Safari, Mail, YouTube and iTunes, I mostly relied on the tried-and-true classics to get me through the week.

Here's my list, in no particular order:

  1. Facebook: When you?re feeling isolated, there's nothing like knowing that your third-grade recess buddy had a hot date last night.

  2. Twitter app: Right now, I?m using Twitterific. How could I live without PhoneDog_Noah's stream-of-consciousness tweets? Hours of entertainment right there.

  3. Banking app: Bank of America, PNC, Chase and Citibank all have iPhone apps, not to mention gateway apps that connect to multiple institutions. Online bill payments are a must for preventing late fees.

  4. Subway/bus app: Here in NYC, I've discovered that City Transit is a must-have app. When going somewhere unknown, I usually plot a course using Google Maps. But offline, I've found CT to be essential.

  5. AIM/Skype: Oh instant messenger, how I love thee. Now if friends aren't on Facebook, don't have an SMS package, or aren't often reachable via phone/email, I have another means to reach them ? probably to say that I?m dumping them because it's too much work contacting them. 

  6. Ocarina: This musical, flute program was one of the first apps Apple touted on its platform. My playing stinks, but there's something soothing about sitting back and hearing someone playing their Ocarina flute in real time somewhere else in the world. Plus my cat loves the flute sounds, so I get a kick out of watching her purr at it, which is great for de-stressing.

  7. NYTimes app: Because man cannot live on CNN alone.

  8. Amazon Mobile: When I?m depressed (because of, say, not having internet connection), nothing lifts the spirits like spending money on a rechargeable USB battery.

  9. Notetaking app: I use a combination of Jott, Reqall and Evernote. Jott and Reqall are awesome for short voice notes transcribed and synced; Evernote has incredible image recognition technology for photo notes. I already use these, so keeping notes anywhere else (to be merged later) only results in lost notes, confusion and the need to soothe the nerves with more retail therapy (see #8).

  10. myLite Flashight app: I already turn on my iPhone screen when I need a little light for unlocking a car or front door. Having a brighter flashlight app is a no-brainer.This one even has a strobe light and colors, for roadside emergencies (or an on-the-fly party).

  11. Slacker: Not a big fan of broadcast radio, so when I get bored with the thousands of songs in my iTunes library, I can find some great new stuff on Slacker. Way better than Pandora.

  12. Stitcher: Once I've exhausted my supply of downloaded podcasts, I look for more on Stitcher, which streams them one after another. (FYI: NPR on Stitcher is sublime.)


So that's my not-so-short list of critical iPhone apps. I have a much bigger list of apps that I love, but these were what I found crucial for my productivity and mental well-being during my outage last week. With more than 20,000 entries in the App Store, your list of must-haves might differ. If so, please chime in on what they are. What can't you live without?