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25 Best iPhone Apps Under $1

Cheap Apps
The holidays are expensive enough. Why spend extra cash on tricking out your iPhone with sweet new apps? Besides, there are zillions of selections on the market; how can you even figure out which ones you really need -- or better yet, which ones won't chew through your battery and destroy your phone? Wouldn't it be great if there were a list of iPhone apps that were not only cheap, but essential, too? It certainly would, dear reader, but we'll do you one better: fast'n'easy gifts. Yes, buy one of these bad boys, and send it to your co-worker or not-so-close friend as a last-minute "Hope-this-makes-your-New-Year-productive" gesture. Not only are they useful, but they also say you care. (But not more than a dollar's worth of care... so don't mention that part.)

Games

'Angry Birds'

Angry BirdsIf you somehow haven't downloaded 'Angry Birds' yet, the game will breathe new life into your iPhone. If you're like us, it'll probably take over your life, too. Here's the skinny: a bunch of pigs stole some eggs from these birds, who are, to say the least, very angry. It's up to you and your slingshot to exact revenge on their behalf.

Verdict:
The birds will still be angry, but you won't be.
Angry Birds, $0.99

'Cut the Rope'

Cut the Rope This game, much like 'Angry Birds,' is all about physics. Instead of measuring the trajectory of catapulted birds, though, 'Cut the Rope' asks players to manipulate a system of ropes, in the hopes of delivering a piece of candy to a frog-like monster named Om Nom. The concept certainly sounds simple, but don't be fooled -- 'Cut the Rope' is all business. As the game progresses, the obstacle courses become more challenging and the mechanisms more complex.

Verdict:
You'll never reach the end of your rope.
Cut the Rope, $0.99

'Words With Friends'

Words With Friends'Words With Friends' soundly refutes the long-held belief that all iPhone games are mindless. Legally, it's not 'Scrabble.' Realistically, it is 'Scrabble.' With this app, you can challenge your friends to a game, or, if you don't have any friends, the app can always find a random opponent for you to slaughter. The only drawback is the fact that players are allowed unlimited attempts to lay down a word, making it annoyingly easy to throw letters together until they stumble upon an acceptable combination. As always, though, an expansive vocabulary will still win the day.

Verdict:
Just don't call it 'Scrabble.'
Words With Friends, Free


'Fruit Ninja'

Fruit Ninja'Fruit Ninja,' on the other hand, soundly confirms the long-held suspicion that some of the most addictive games are also the most mindless. The objective is almost painfully simple: use your fingers to swipe every piece of fruit that pops onto the screen, and avoid all the bombs. After a few hours, you may ask yourself whether it's normal or not to spend your entire afternoon slicing fake fruit. But you'll probably forget about it as soon as you fire up the next game.

Verdict:
Think of it as pilates for your thumbs.
Fruit Ninja, $0.99


Communication

'Skype'

SkypeStaying in touch with your friends and family living abroad used to involve shoddy connections and prohibitively expensive phone rates. Then, Skype changed everything. All Skype-to-Skype calls made on this app are completely free, but you can also use it to make low-cost calls to other phones, as well. Plus, the app works on both wireless and 3G networks, meaning you'll never have an excuse for not calling your mom on her birthday.

Verdict:
The app that keeps on giving.
Skype, Free

'Kik Messenger'

Kik BlackBerry users love to gush about how totally awesome it is to send free texts to all their friends, via BlackBerry Messenger. Your response? Kik. This app allows iPhone users to send free texts to any other smartphone -- except, of course, BlackBerry. (RIM and Kik aren't the best of friends.) Kik also lets you know whenever a text is received, and whenever your friend is typing. It's more of a chat client than anything else, and it's definitely worth the download.

Verdict:
Like having BlackBerry Messenger, without having to work in finance.
Kik Messenger, Free

Music/Movies

'Netflix'

NetflixNo human being should be without a Netflix membership. And no iPhone user should be without this Netflix app. Manage your queue, watch movies and TV on your phone, or resume watching whatever you had been watching on your PC or TV before you left the house. Basically, it's an extension of your Netflix membership -- a much-needed one.

Verdict:
The Red Envelope... in your pocket.
Netflix, Free

'Movies by Flixster'

Flixster Look up showtimes, buy tickets, and find the closest theater to you -- all with a few taps of your iPhone. You can also consult reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, and watch trailers or video clips for over 10,000 films. If you get bored in the middle of a flick, kill time by browsing through your Netflix queue, or by looking up nearby restaurant reviews on Yelp -- both of which are synced with Flixster.

Verdict:
Flixster will find the movie. It's up to you to find the date.
Flixster, Free

'Pandora Radio'

PandoraPandora Radio has been on the market for a while, but it's still the cream of the music-app crop. All you have to do is type in some of your favorite artists or songs, and Pandora will automatically generate a playlist catered to your tastes. If you already have an account online, this app will sync all of your existing playlists -- meaning you'll never have to leave home without your favorite streaming tunes.

Verdict: Your taste is more predictable than you think.
Pandora, Free

'Shazam'

It's late, the bar's closing, and an amazing song is serenading the crowd of exiting revelers. Maybe you've heard it, maybe you haven't. But you wanna know what it is, so you can download it when you stumble home. Just open Shazam, let it "listen," and you'll discover exactly what anthem is playing overhead. It's always been a favorite of iPhone users, and for good reason.

Verdict: Like having your own personal music geek, without the condescending attitude.
Shazam, Free



Eat/Drink

'Epicurious'

Epicurious Our kitchens used to be stocked with take-out menus and ramen noodles. Then, we downloaded Epicurious and discovered our inner Dave Chang. With the app as your sous chef, you can whip up homemade delicacies, using a seemingly endless collection of recipes. Offerings are searchable by most popular, foods in season, and, best of all, whatever happens to be in your fridge. Plus, many of its recipes come from both Bon Appetit, and a website published by Gourmet, so you can rest assured that they'll be pretty delicious.

Verdict:
Your college student diet ends here.
Epicurious, Free

'Yelp'

Yelp Scouring a new neighborhood for a late night bite or an early morning croissant doesn't have to be that difficult. With Yelp, in fact, it doesn't have to involve much scouring, at all. This app will give you access to all of Yelp's user-submitted reviews of restaurants, bars and shops, meaning you can figure out what's worth eating, drinking or buying in your immediate vicinity. Filter results by neighborhood, distance and price, or just simply search for all restaurants that are open at a given time.

Verdict:
It's really the least you could do for your stomach.
Yelp, Free


'Mixology'

Mixology Your office holiday party is coming up, and it's all but guaranteed that you'll make a complete fool of yourself. You did last year, and the year before that. Why should this year be any different? Because you'll have Mixology, that's why. With it, you'll have over 7,900 drink recipes at your disposal, along with a 'Liquor Cabinet' feature that can automatically generate drinks based on whatever ingredients are on hand. Granted, you'll probably act like a drunken idiot anyway, but at least you'll be a drunken idiot that can mix a mean cocktail.

Verdict:
Nothing says 'Happy Holidays' like stage 1 cirrhosis.
Mixology, Free


'The Scoop'

The Scoop The writers at the New York Times know a lot of things. And, as this app proves, they really know New York. The Scoop takes all their city savvy and compiles it in one, easy-to-use iPhone portfolio. All of the Times' recommended restaurants, stores, bars, coffee shops and virtually whatever else are packed into an area the size of your Metrocard. A must-have for tourists, and a reliable cultural compass for locals.

Verdict:
It'd be hard to find a better Big Apple tour guide.
The Scoop, Free

Organization/Productivity

'Dropbox'

dropbox There are plenty of apps that can sync files across multiple platforms, but few run as smoothly as Dropbox. With this app, Dropbox users can open and view their cloud-stored files, or upload photos and videos shot with their iPhone cameras. Of course, you'll have to open a Dropbox account in order to use the service, but you'll thank yourself for doing so. The layout is clean, it's remarkably user-friendly, and, quite simply, it makes your life easier.

Verdict:
The cloud is man's new best friend.
Dropbox, Free


'Evernote'

Evernote You're pretty sure you came up with a solution to world hunger last night, but you just can't remember what it was. Too bad you didn't have Evernote because, if you did, you could've jotted down a quick text, audio or photo note, and then saved all of mankind. You could've even synced your note with the rest of your brilliant ideas saved on your Mac or PC, and geo-tagged them to remember exactly where you were when inspiration struck. Instead, civilization remains doomed.

Verdict:
Please don't deprive us of your forgotten brilliance.
Evernote, Free

Reading/News

'Stanza'

Stanza You could toss a pile of books and magazines into your bag before trotting off on your morning commute, or you could just download Stanza, and bring your bookshelf to your iPhone. The app's partner stores offer over 50,000 books for purchase, along with an extra 50,000 free classics from Project Gutenberg and other sources. And, if you already have a library of e-books stored on your PC, you can transfer them to Stanza by simply dragging and dropping them into iTunes.

Verdict:
A lot easier than carrying a bookcase around with you.
Stanza, Free

'NYTimes'

New York Times It's perhaps no surprise that America's premier newspaper would also offer one of the best news apps on the market. The actual content, of course, is always a notch or two above anything else you'll find. But it's really NYT's streamlined presentation that separates this app from the rest of the herd. On the home screen, you can sort all of the Times' articles by latest or most e-mailed, or customize the toolbar according to the sections you read most often. Once opened, articles are displayed in crystal clear type, and can be bookmarked for later, offline viewing.

Verdict:
The name sort of says it all.
NYTimes, Free

Travel

'TripAdvisor'

Travel Advisor Most travel apps do one of two things: help you find great deals on flights and hotels, or offer guidance on what to do when you arrive at your destination. TripAdvisor does both. After tracking down the cheapest flight known to man, you can use this app to plan the rest of your vacation. TripAdvisor has over 40 million reviews of restaurants, hotels and tourist sites, along with GPS functionality that can help you navigate any city's public transit or highway system.

Verdict:
More comprehensive than a TSA pat-down.
TripAdvisor, Free


'Kayak'

Kayak Kayak has already established itself as one of the best online sources for cheap flights and travel accommodations, and its iPhone app offers the same essential reliability. With it, you can find the best deals on plane tickets, hotels and car rentals -- and book them directly from your phone. Once your bags are packed, you can check the status of your flight before heading off to the airport, making sure you've remembered everything by reviewing Kayak's checklist.

Verdict: The perfect antidote for pre-flight anxiety.
Kayak, Free

Photo

'TiltShift Generator'

TiltShift Generator We're well aware that all the cool kids are using (the pricey) Hipstamatic app to doctor their photos nowadays, but you want to be different, right? TiltShift Generator won't make your pics look like old Polaroids, but it does allow you to play around with focus and saturation in really fascinating ways. You can use the app to bring only specific objects or people into clear focus, making it the perfect app for modifying photos of large crowds or panoramic views. And it's even better with the iPhone 4's high-resolution camera.

Verdict:
A cheap alternative to more mainstream options.
TiltShift Generator, $0.99


'Photoshop Express'

Photoshop Mobile The iPhone's camera may not be the most sophisticated device on the planet, but, with Photoshop Express, the most amateur of photographers can make their pics look a lot better than they should. Crop, rotate, adjust exposure or add a splash of 'Warm Vintage' effect to your photos with this app. And you can do it with your fingers, too. Don't worry if you mess up, as an original copy of the pic will automatically be saved before you do any permanent damage.

Verdict:
Your friends will definitely thank you for making them look cooler than they are.
Photoshop Express, Free

Social

'Facebook'

Facebook An obvious must-have for anyone who's on Facebook -- which, at this point, is just the entire human population. And, as the social network has evolved in recent years, so too has the app. Uploading photos and posting new statuses from your iPhone is now a breeze, and, if you activate push notifications, you'll receive an SMS whenever anyone sends you a message, adds you as a friend, or writes on your Wall. Besides, the social network's new Places feature functions exclusively through the mobile app. You don't wanna miss out on that, do you?

Verdict:
Because stalking is a 24-hour job.
Facebook, Free

'Twitter'

Twitter There are plenty of top-notch Twitter apps on the market, but there's only one that's received Twitter's official stamp of approval. The app formerly known as Tweetie was acquired by the microblogging site in April, and, when it comes to purely Twitter-based functionality, it's pretty hard to beat. You can retweet directly from the timeline, manage several accounts, and easily upload photos -- all while pretending to listen to the conversation swirling around the holiday dinnertable.

Verdict: Our Twitter pages never looked so clean.
Twitter, Free


'Google Mobile'

Google Mobile Truth be told, Google's suite of apps falls under almost any of our categories. The Google Goggles feature allows travelers to learn about their surroundings with a simple photograph. Google's Tasks and Calendar services help users arrange their schedules on the go. Buzz and Talk, meanwhile, help you keep abreast of what your friends are doing. Then there's Gmail, Google Maps, Reader... we're stopping now.

Verdict:
You probably need it more than you think you do.
Google, Free


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