How do I: choosing my first apps


You have to hand it to them, Apple do a great job with packaging. OK, a great job with design, full stop. You open the clean, white box and there is is, your (and millions of other peoples’) object of desire.

You’ve heard about apps. A wonderfully simple way of rebranding the inaccessible and technical sounding applications. It’s accessible, almost cool.

Your first app

So, you plug it in, switch it on, then what. Which apps should you download? Stick to free or go premium with paid? Hold on there are 300k+ to choose from, where on earth do you start?

Stop. Take a breath. Bar far the best thing is to explore the apps your phone already comes with. This will familiarise you with the standard ways you navigate through apps and allow you to get a sense of what your iPhone can already do before you even download a single third-party app.

When the iPhone was first unveiled perhaps the most impressive feature was the internet browser. Here finally was the internet on a small screen that you could actually use (well, assuming it didn’t have Adobe’s Flash). Start here.

Web development has moved on a long way since the iPhone was launched, so it’s rare that a major site is not optimised for the screen with custom layout, compatible media formats and pared down navigation. Visit your favourite site and see how it looks on the screen.

Even if it isn’t optimised for mobile, doubleclick the columns of text to expand it to full screen width and away you go.

Your second app(s)

Maps. Video. Google and Apple may not be as cosy as they once were, but two pre-installed apps from Google are incredibly useful – Maps and YouTube.

YouTube is again a pared down version of the full video archive, but the majority of videos you’ll be looking for are there, with some notable rights-restricted music videos missing. Better still it works on mobile despite the lack of Flash compatibility and has multiple bittrate streaming, e.g. the better your signal, the better the quality, but at least it will load quickly without wifi.

Then there is maps. In the days of Sat Navs costing several hundred pounds (and decreasing rapidly), you get a free sat nav. OK, it’s not quite as comprehensive as a sat nav, but it is immensely useful. You now have GPS to work out where you are and directions to get you where you need to be. You can search for places, businesses and even see the traffic flow on the roads (green good, red bad…).

You’ve got email

Here you get to see one of the iPhone’s limitations – its keyboard. The small keyboard is not designed for sausage fingers and takes some getting used to without a physical keyboard responding to your taps.

Blackberry wins hands down in this respect, although that is arguably their primary function. And if you’re looking to access your secure office email, you’ll be struggling. However, for the casual user it does the job.

You can import multiple email accouts, view and queue emails offline and there’s even a ‘sent fom my iphone’ footer to show off to your friends and excuse your poor grammar.

You’ve got rain

The weather app may not be the most sophisticated and seems about as reliable, as, well, a weatherman, but it is simple to use and does the job for an instant check of the weather today and over the next five days. You can add multiple places to gaze wistfully at the glorious sunshine being enjoyed by your ex-pat friends.

You’ve (not) got money

For those investors, there’s an equally simple stockprice checker with financial news feeds, charts and basic statistics so you can watch your portfolio plummet while on the move. More sophisticated apps are available in line with your investment needs but for a quick ‘weather check’ it does the job.

You’ve got no clothes on

Well, I hope you have, as there’s a useful camera and now video recorder, plus basic editing tool, to document the stunning views, great times with friends and ‘you have to see’ this moments to share with your friends.

Getting started with your first apps
Getting started

What’s next?

These pre-installed apps transform your iPhone into something immensely useful all by themselves. And this is only listing the most immediately useful bundles apps…

Now the beauty of the apps on this list, is that they are simple and quick to use. The real magic though is in the rich community of bedroom and professional app developers that await you in the apps store. For every app built by Apple, there are richer and even more useful services to delve into.

You may have a mapping app, but there’s a fully functional sat nav app from TomTom if you’re willing to pay the eye-watering price (but still considerably cheaper than a sat nav). You may be happy with covering Planet Earth, but you can now do your own SkyView space walk, pointing your phone at the sky and seeing which planets and constellations are where.

You may have a weather app, but you can enjoy the wonderful eye candy of ‘Outside’ or get all the grim details from ‘Weather Pro’.

And the list goes on. And on. But that’s for another set of posts, time for you to get playing…

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