iPhone Life magazine

iView: My Favorite Products for Leisure Time

Here are the apps plus one accessory that I use most often during my down time. I can't guarantee they are best in their class, but I can strongly recommend each one.

Reading

I resisted the idea of reading content on my iPad and iPhone. As a consumer I like the physicality of books and magazines and do not like reading on my desktop computer. Furthermore, as the publisher of this print magazine, I have a vested aversion to digitizing print media. However, using Kindle, iBooks, Zinio, GoodReader, and PressReader on my iPad and iPhone 4 changed my mind. I enjoy the iPad's magazine-page size, adjustable font size, and portability. I also enjoy reading on the small, lightweight iPhone 4, much more than previous iPhones, thanks to its high-resolution display.

I have read a number of iBooks (free, app2.me/2403) and Kindle (free, app2.me/2482) eBooks and found the experience compelling. It's great to have the immense Amazon and Apple bookstores available, with books ready to download and read at a whim. Similarly, Zinio (free, app2.me/2402) makes available a sizable selection of magazine at its digital newsstands. I find myself reading more and more magazines with Zinio (including, of course, this one).

PressReader (free, app2.me/2989) lets me read favorite newspapers from around world. I can read sports pages from my original hometown (Chicago) and tech news from a San Jose paper. I no longer am limited to US-centric news, with overseas publications from the UK, Australia, and Israel, and international ones like the Herald Tribune. My wife is from South America and can choose from a variety of Spanish languages dailies.

GoodReader ($0.99, iPhone version: app2.me/2925, iPad version: app2.me/2924) allows me to easily find, load, and read PDFs on my device. Thanks to this app and the iPad, I read many more PDFs than before.

Finally, I have downloaded a number of news, sports, and digital news apps including our own. I end up coming back again and again to The Huffington Post (free, iPhone version: app2.me/2832, iPad version: app2.me/2998). New stories appear each time I check. Something always grabs me, thanks in part to the engaging layout.

Listening

Having my music, audiobook, and video library instantly accessible in iTunes is wonderful. In addition, I find myself listening to streaming audio.

As a radio buff, I love Pocket Tunes ($6.99, app2.me/2999). It has cataloged 1000's of online stations worldwide. In my favorites list, I include several NPR broadcasts, and stations from Chicago, New York, local Fairfield, Iowa, and my wife's native Uruguay. I also include themed Internet stations such as comedy, classical music, and Bob Dylan. Pocket Tunes has many additional features, including the ability to tape and playback programs. In addition to Pocket Tunes, I have NPR's iPad app (free, app2.me/3000), which lets you listen to specific stories or live streams.

I was annoyed to have to pay $15 twice for MLB's At Bat 2010 app: once for the iPad version (app2.me/3001) and again for the iPhone version (app2.me/2397). However, I definitely like the convenience of being able to listen to Chicago games and check up-to-the-minute standings and scores on either machine.

WOWeeOneFinally, my new favorite device is the WOWee One ($80, amazon.com). It is a small portable speaker that can be recharged via USB. Its patented loudspeaker technology enhances bass, volume, and quality when it's placed on flat surfaces. I use it in the car. I connect with the iPhone, turn up the volume, and can hear my iTunes library or radio no matter the ambient noise.

Playing

I love logic games and am addicted to a small number of titles. Most often, I play Backgammon NJ ($4.99. app2.me/3002), which lets me play a quick game in 5 minutes with each move its own puzzle. Its AI is excellent—it beats me consistently even though it gives me the opportunity to learn from hints. Play is fast and intuitive on a nice looking board. If I have 15-30 minutes, I'll spend it with the Risk clone, Conquest ($1.99, app2.me/2754). It has many options and even a number of non-standard maps.

I play Freecell and several other solitaire favorites using Solitaire City ($5.99, app2.me/413). I also play Apple's Texas Hold'em quite a bit ($4.99, app2.me/409). For Sudoku I settled on Sudoku 2 (free, app2.me/3003). Finally, I am becoming intrigued with Blokus ($4.99, iPhone version: app2.me/3004; iPad version: app2.me/3005), a board game using "polyominoes."

Seeing

Flixter (free, app2.me/2697)) is a great tool to make sure your movie viewing time is well-spent. I take my iPhone or iPad into the video store and use Flixter to check out ratings and reviews of the latest releases and older DVDs. Flixter also helps me decide which movie at the theatre I should watch at what time. When traveling, it even tells me where the nearest cinemas are and what's playing.

If you enjoy Western art, I strongly recommend Art Authority ($7.99, app2.me/3006; iPad version: $8.99, app2.me/3007). It's like having a searchable, well-organized, super thick coffee table book of all the great masterpieces, instantly accessible on the iPad or iPhone.

Finally, the iPhone 4's LED flash can be turned into a powerful flashlight with the right app. I use LED (free, app2.me/3009), although a number of alternatives have appeared since LED first launched. Having a strong flashlight always available has proven invaluable.