Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are amazingly versatile tools with a lot of power built into them. And no doubt you're eager to get as much out of your investment as you can. The Internet can help, of course, by assisting you in finding the best apps and accessories, keeping you updated on the latest developments, showing you how to do things with your device, and providing opportunities to get your questions answered.
You can find a directory of some of these Internet resources on our website (iphonelife.com/bestsites and iphonelife.com/bestsites/ipad). In this buyer's guide, I want to highlight some of the better resources.
Best sites for finding apps
With hundreds of thousands of apps available and minimal search and browse functions in the App Store, you'll want to take advantage of websites that help you find the apps you need.
Apptism (apptism.com) lists all titles in the App Store and aggregates the latest news, reviews, and media reports related to them from YouTube and other news and content sources. You can sort apps by Recent Activity, Most Active, Popular Apps, Newest Apps, and Updated Apps. You can also filter apps by Free/Paid, Category, Price, and Activity Type. Additional useful features include Comparisons, Related Apps, e-mail & SMS alerts, Watch List, Version History, and more.
MacWorld AppGuide (macworld.com/appguide) is a database of most of the apps in the App Store. The site has reviewed a large number of apps and lists its top rated apps for each of Apple's 20 categories. In addition, the site breaks each of the original categories into 20 subcategories that mirror the main categories. For example, the Business category has a Games subcategory that lists Millionaire Tycoon and other games that relate to business. The site lets you list apps by category and subcategory and sort apps in a wider variety of ways than just about any other site. The App Essentials section (macworld.com/appguide/collections.html) may be the site's best feature. It lists the top apps for over 50 specific topics (e.g., puzzle games, Facebook add-ons, get a job, racing games, multimedia apps, etc.).
AppShopper (appshopper.com) gives you a variety of views of what's available in your favorite categories (e.g., all, popular, paid, free, etc.). A big advantage over the App Store is that if you do a search, you can sort the results by price or rating. If you register on the site, you can receive notifications when there are price drops for apps on your wish list.
AppSpace(appspace.com) uses a recommendation engine to help you find apps. Create a free account and then specify App Store categories, your interests, and rate your favorite apps. The site not only makes recommendations, it tracks your interests on the fly and continues to refine your preferences.
Appolicious (appolicious.com/curated -apps/featured) promotes itself as the first website to combine social networking, ratings and reviews, articles, advanced content aggregation, and search. The social networking component lets you get app recommendations from friends and others who have used the app. The most remarkable aspect of this site is the hundreds of lists that people have made on just about every topic you can imagine, from fishing to best apps for iPhone photography.
Best sites for top apps
If you're interested in apps for a particular task, instead of trying them all to see which you like, you may want to take advantage of the work done by those who've gone before you and have collected relevant lists.
148Apps (148apps.com) has six very helpful top 148 lists: All time Top Apps, Free iPhone Apps, Free iPhone Games, Top Paid Apps, and Top Paid Games, and Accessories. The site also provides app reviews and tracks price drops.
Best App Ever Awards (bestappever.com) is an awards site hosted by 148Apps.com. It lists the "Best App Ever" in 56 categories, including 25 categories of game apps. The utility of this resource is not just in listing the winners and the lists of the top 10 nominees. In addition, the more finely-tuned categorization of apps is extremely useful in helping you find what you need. For example, one category is Best Augmented Reality App. Another interesting category is Best Use of Bluetooth. Other categories include Best Use of Location Services, best apps for a variety of age groups, Best Feel Like a Local App, and Best Multiplayer Game.
O'Reilly Best iPhone Apps (iphoneapps.oreilly.com) is a site maintained by Josh Clark, author of the Best iPhone Apps book, and the editors at O'Reilly, the company that published his book. Billed as "the site for discriminating downloaders," the site lists "must-have" downloads—5-star apps only. You can view these apps in eight categories (At Home and At Play, On The Road, Tips & Tricks, etc.).
App Classics (appclassics.com) rates apps using a formula that analyzes iTunes rating information to identify the "all-time most popular high-quality apps" (i.e., the "classics"). On the front page of the site you'll see the top apps across all categories. Or you can use a drop-down menu to view apps by category. Each classic app is awarded a gold, silver, or bronze medal depending on how established of a classic it is calculated to be.
Mashable's Lists of Apps (mashable.com/category/labels/lists/iphone-lists) posts favorite app (and accessory) lists by its contributors. Some that I found interesting are: 3 iPhone Apps to Help Make a Difference, 10 Fun iPhone Apps for Beer Lovers, and 5 Fantastic iPhone Chargers to Keep You Juiced.
Best sites for finding free apps
A number of the sites mentioned above, such as AppShopper and 148 Apps, track price drops and will alert you if an app you've been thinking about purchasing is temporarily being offered for free as a promotion. In addition, there are sites that specialize in alerting you to free apps.
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.
Best sites for 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 (dailyapp show.com) is one of the most popular iPhone-related video podcast sites around, offering vidcasts for featured apps or iPhone/iPod touch and iPad apps by category. The focus is on app demos, introducing you to new apps, and helping you to decide if you want to buy it if it's 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) claims that it is the largest resource for high-quality video reviews of iPhone applications. According to the site, they review apps that they think are most useful. In addition to the video walkthroughs, every app they cover includes a written review with screenshots. You can also add your own reviews.
Today in iOS (tii.libsyn.com) is a rich podcast site covering lots of topics. You can download these from iTunes or access them from the website. The website version also includes live links for the topics mentioned in each episode.
Best sites for finding and buying accessories
A number of the sites already mentioned have news and reviews about accessories. These are worth highlighting:
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.
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.
Best sites for getting app and iOS news
Again, most sites in this article have news sections. Some of the best are:
TiPb (tipb.com and tipb.com/ipad) is a leading hub for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch news and reviews of apps and accessories. It also has active forums, a how-to section, and podcasts on a variety of topics.
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 source 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.
Mashable (mashable.com/mobile/iphone) is a massive blog with a large number of contributors. Posts tend to cover a variety of topics, including apps and accessories, tips and tricks, and the latest news.
Best iPad-specific sites
Most iPhone sites cover the iPad. Here are some of the best ones devoted solely to the iPad:
Just Another iPad Blog (justanotheripadblog.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.
iPad.net (ipad.net) is a particularly rich site with accessory and app reviews, FAQs, hacks, news, tips & tricks, wallpaper downloads, and a wide range of forums where you can ask questions and get them answered. There's also a special iPad games review section.
iPad Case Finder (ipadcasefinder.com) helps you find the right case for your iPad. You can view the cases by brand, color, features, material, and type. The site is a directory of cases from a variety of vendors. It doesn't sell cases itself but does provide links to vendors' websites.
iLounge iPad Accessory Gallery (ilounge.com/index.php/accessories/ipad) is a helpful collection of iPad accessories. It's also a good source for general iPhone/iPod/iPad news and has a very active iPad forum.
iPadWallpaper.org offers free iPad wallpapers organized in 20 categories. Not all categories had content when I wrote this article in early June, but the scenery category is definitely worth checking out.
Best support sites
Apple-iPhone Yahoo Group (tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/apple -iphone) was voted one of the "Best of Yahoo! Groups." It's the friendliest and most helpful discussion group that I've ever encountered. You can post questions about apps, accessories, and other topics and get answers and opinions from moderators and group members. You'll also see posts about new and/or useful apps, hot deal alerts, helpful online resources, and more. Much of the content is also relevant to the iPod touch and iPad.
Apple Forums (discussions.apple.com) has sections covering the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, iTunes, and other Apple products and services. The iPhone section has the most sub-categories and posts, but the others are very active and the iPad section is growing rapidly. The iPad section has sub-categories for apps and accessories. The iPhone and iPod touch sections each have a sub-category labeled "Installing and Using iPhone Applications" that focuses on using apps and solving problems, but has some recommendations. Posts relating to apps and accessories can also be found in other sub-categories. The iTunes section has separate sections for Windows and Mac users, covering a variety of topics.
EverythingiCafe Forums (every thingicafe.com/forum) has a wide range of Web-based forums to help you find the best apps and accessories, deal with connectivity problems, get the most out of the iTunes and the App Store, and a whole lot more. Over 100,000 members contribute posts to over 30 iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch-related discussion categories. Most posts receive multiple replies.
Planet iPhones Forums (planet -iphones.com/forums) has over 65,000 members and seems to be where the technically savvy users hang out. It has sections covering apps and accessories, as well as forums for downloading iPhone themes, wallpapers, and ringtones. It also covers more advanced topics like iPhone firmware, Apple iPhone SDK, iPhone modification tutorials, and jailbreaking. However, there are many forums that are suitable for less experienced users.
MacRumors Forums (forums.macrumors.com) has iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch forums covering accessories, apps, tips, troubleshooting, and more.
Free eBook buyer's guides from iLounge
iLounge is one of the major iOS device portals and has already been mention twice in this article. 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.