An acquaintance recently got her first iPhone, and knowing that I write for iPhone Life magazine, called me and asked, "How can I find the sort of apps useful to a soccer mom?" The Internet, of course. I want to highlight here some of the most useful websites for finding the apps you need — searchable databases, curated lists of best apps, reviews, videos, podcasts, and more. I'll also note sites for finding accessories and getting the latest news. You can also find a more comprehensive directory of online iOS resources for iPhone and iPad on our website (iphonelife.com/bestsites and iphonelife.com/bestsites/ipad).
Websites for finding apps
There are a number of websites that index most or all of the apps available in the App Store. But unlike the App Store, they offer greater flexibility for filtering search results, as well as giving other modes of discovery, such as specialized lists. For example, let's say you need a tip calculator app. Search that term in the App Store, and you get a page of results, but no way to see just the free apps. A site like the ones below will typically let you filter by price, rating, and more.
MacWorld AppGuide (macworld.com/appguide) is a top choice for finding apps. You can filter search results in a variety of ways, including by price, age restriction, and which particular iOS devices the apps are compatible with. You can sort them by Macworld's rating, user rating, whether the apps are on sale, and more.
You can also limit your search to a particular category. For example, I can choose to view only the tip calculator apps that are in the finance category. Sorting by category can be a little confusing, though. For example, if you search for archaeology apps that are in the educational category and then want to look for travel related archaeology apps, you have to first deselect the educational category and then select the travel category
The browse feature of the AppGuide is especially useful because it lets you cross-filter by category. For example, let's say you want to browse the reference category looking for apps that relate to music. All you do is select reference in the browse menu and then click on music in the same menu. As before, if you then want to browse a different top-level category, such as photography, you'll first need to deselect the first category.
The App Essentials section (macworld.com/appguide/collections.html) may be the site's best feature. It lists the top apps for a few hundred specific topics (e.g., puzzle games, Facebook add-ons, get a job, racing games, multimedia apps, etc.).
The site also lets you view just the iPad-compatible apps.
Appolicious (appolicious.com) gives you an amazing variety of ways to find apps, including search, a directory, recommendations by Appolicious staff members, recommendations by your friends, lists of best apps, lists of specialized apps, an App Library Builder, and more. Whew.
Appolicious lets you filter a search to include only iPhone or iPad apps, and you can filter so that you only see the free apps. Their directory is similar to the App Store, with familiar categories such as books, business & finance, education, etc. But, unlike the App Store, it also includes extensive subcategories. The recommendations area of the site recommends apps in each of the categories, as well as giving the latest user-contributed lists in each category (for example, "5 Essential Small Business Productivity Apps").
The Lists area may be the most impressive part of the site. Again it presents you with an App Store-like directory, and in each category you'll find curated lists of apps put together by users. For example, click on the travel category and it returns 120 lists that people have made, such as "My Top Five Travel Apps," "Favorite Business Travel Apps," and "Southeast Asia Travel apps." In each category, an Appolicious editor has selected the most useful lists, and those are presented at the top.
Appolicious also has a very helpful selection of Best Apps lists, such as "Best free iPad apps of all time." A social networking component lets you get app recommendations from friends and others who have used the app.
iPhone Application List (iphoneapplicationlist.com) shows you video reviews, twitter mentions, blog posts and text reviews for the app you're looking for. iPhone Application List has an interesting approach to search for apps. If I search for "tip calculator," the site not only returns a list of apps, but also returns lists of video reviews, text reviews, and Twitter mentions, as well as lists of reviews, blog posts, and forum posts from their own website.
The site also lets you view the App Store categories of apps and sort them in a variety of ways, including Top Apps, Hot Apps, Most Popular, Most Discussed, and Price. You can also view just the iPad or iPhone apps. The area of their site labeled On Sale shows you all of the apps that have just come down in price.
AppShopper (appshopper.com) is a useful site for finding apps, though it took me a while to become familiar with how it works. You can search on a key word and filter the results in a number of useful ways. If I want a tip calculator for my iPad, I can click the iPad button and it will only show me iPad-specific or universal apps. I can also limit the search results to a specific category — in this case Utilities. That brings up 430 search results. I can then sort those by Price, which then puts the free ones at the top. (If I click on Price again, it puts the most expensive ones at the top.)
However, there doesn't seem to be any way to search for an exact match, so if you sort by price, for example, the top results include many apps that are simply calculators. However, you can sort by relevance, so that the top results are tip-related. You can also sort by Update, which returns a list of the apps most recently updated, or by name, which simply puts the search results in alphabetical order.
Best apps sites
In addition to searching and browsing, a good way to find apps is to browse lists of apps that people have identified as being the best. A couple of the websites mentioned above have lists of best apps. Here are some additional sites.
AppCraver (www.appcraver.com) has a list of best apps for each of the App Store categories. In order to qualify for the list of best apps, each app has to score at least 8 on a scale of 10 in the site's review process. They also have some ad hoc lists, such as "Spookiest Apps" and "5 Apps To Earn Easy Money." And they have a listing of top free apps.
AppAdvice (appadvice.com), like AppCraver and Appolicious, has quite a number of excellent listings of apps in specialized areas. Their AppGuides section helps you identify the best apps in the area of books, education, entertainment, finance, healthcare & fitness, and lifestyle. Each of these areas has a number of specific guides.
For example, there's a list for Best iPad Comic Books Apps. This guide, like the others, breaks the topic down into Essential Apps, Notable Apps, Decent Apps, and Other Apps, with Comics (Free, app2.me/2577) winning the nod as the essential comic books app. Other guides cover Body Language, Reading Apps, Mirror Apps, Best Alarm Clock Apps for the iPad, Best iPad Stock Market Apps, and many more. The website also has an AppLists section with an amazing array of lists of apps in specific areas, from iPad Apps for Moms and Romantic Apps, to Apps for TV Lovers. Other areas of the site include the top 100 apps for the iPhone and iPad, reviews, a searchable database, and Appisodes — a daily app-related video, as well as occasional news and tips-related videos.
Best App Ever Awards (bestappever.com) is an awards site hosted by 148Apps.com. It lists the "Best App Ever" in 30 categories and gives both an iPhone and iPad winner in each category. The categories differ somewhat from the App Store. For example, they offer Best Parenting App, Best use of iOS Hardware, Best Publication App, and Best Visual Design. It's very helpful that, in addition to the winners, they list the top 10 nominees in each category.
Finding free apps
Once you're ready to move beyond the installed apps on you iOS device, a great place to start is free apps. For most needs and interests, you can find a great freebie. Here are some great sites that alert you to free offers:
Free App Alert (freeappalert.com) alerts you to paid iPhone and iPad apps that have just become free. You can also receive e-mail alerts with a list of newly free apps.
OpenFeint (openfeint.com) is a great website for the gaming community. As a special feature, it offers a free game app each day. OpenFeint works out deals with developers to make apps free for a limited time.
FreeAppADay (freeappaday.com) highlights a free app each day. In some cases the app is a paid app that's free only for that day.
Podcasts + Vidcasts
You can access podcasts and video podcasts via iTunes or by going directly to a podcast website. The following are some of the best:
The Daily App Show (dailyappshow.com) is one of the most popular iPhone-related video podcast sites, offering vidcasts for featured apps by category. The focus is on app demos, introducing you to new apps and helping you to decide if you should buy a paid app. The video demos are a great way to give you a quick feel for an app, but note that developers pay to have their apps demoed.
AppVee (appvee.com), which is now part of Appolicous (which is itself now associated with Yahoo), has a large number of high-quality video reviews of iPhone and iPad apps.
Today in iOS (tii.libsyn.com) is a rich podcast site covering lots of topics. You can download these from iTunes or access them directly from the website. The website version also includes live links for the topics mentioned in each episode.
iPad Today (twit.tv/ipt) is a weekly vidcast that can also be accessed in an audio-only version. Part of the TWiT network, the weekly show highlights the best apps, most helpful tools, coolest tricks, and essential news related to the iPad.
A number of the sites already mentioned include news and reviews about accessories. Here are some additional, excellent sites for accessories:
iLounge (ilounge.com/index.php/accessories) has a huge collection of reviews and information on iPhone, iPod, and iPad accessories. It rates all of the accessories it reviews, and divides them into over 75 categories that make it easier to find the type of accessory you're interested in. See also their iLounge iPad Accessory Gallery (ilounge.com/index.php/accessories/ipad), a helpful collection of iPad accessories.
TiPb (tipb.com) is one of the better sites around if you're looking for an accessory. It's well organized, making it easy to find the most popular accessories in a variety of categories. It also includes an online accessory store as well as app reviews, how-tos, forums, and podcasts.
Cablewholesale (cablewholesale.com/buy/iphoneipad-accessories.htm) is an online reseller that offers a wide range of inexpensive cables, chargers, and other accessories for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
AppCraver Store (store.appcraver.com) has a large database of accessories. You can shop by category, such as cases or keyboards, or you can shop by accessories for a particular device.
iPhone + iPad news
A good way to learn about useful apps and accessories is simply to follow the latest iOS news. These are some of the best news sites:
TiPb (tipb.com and tipb.com/ipad) is a leading hub for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch news. It also has active forums, a how-to section, podcasts on a variety of topics, and reviews of apps and accessories.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog (tuaw.com/category/iphone, tuaw.com/category/ipad) is one of the more active blogs for all things Apple. It's a great resource for all the latest iPhone and iPad-related news, apps, accessories, and general topics. The site also has app reviews, tips, and how-to's.
iPad Insight (ipadinsight.com) is a fairly active blog that posts short reviews of iPad apps. It also includes an iPad Tips & Tricks section with some very helpful information.
Free eBook Buyer's Guides from iLounge
ILounge is one of the major iOS device portals and has already been mentioned in this article twice. It addition to news, reviews, forums, free music downloads, and help, iLounge offers downloadable Buyer's Guides and eBooks showing you how to use your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (ilounge.com/index.php/library). Each of these PDF documents are available in two versions: one suitable for printing and the other suited for viewing on your computer screen. The Buyer's Guides have extensive information on the best apps and accessories.