12 must-have iPhone 4 apps

Xavier Verhoeven
20 August, 2010
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If you’ve managed to get your hands on an iPhone 4, I’m sure you’ve checked out a few new apps since setting it up. You’ll probably have noticed that a lot of your old apps are looking particularly schmick, having had their graphics updated for the new iPhone’s Retina display. Your photos are probably looking a lot nicer too, and you may have experienced a few extra features that you now have access to.

Here are twelve of our favourite brand-new or updated apps that take advantage of some of the iPhone 4’s features – the Retina display improved camera, front-facing camera, gyroscope, multitasking and more. (Click on any app title to go to the app store, or click an image to see a larger screenshot.)

iMovie ($5.99)

We have a full review of iMovie here, but suffice to say that if you’re hoping to use your iPhone 4 for video recording, this app will help you publish your masterpieces on the go. You can import video, photos, or audio from your iPhone, and even take photos or video directly in the app. Editing a video is just a matter of tapping and dragging things around the screen. After spending as little as a few minutes with iMovie for iPhone, you could be editing very watchable movies that you can then email, MMS or upload to YouTube – all without the need for a computer.

TuneIn Radio ($2.49)

One of the biggest benefits of iOS 4’s multitasking is being able to listen to music – other than that from the iPod app – in the background while you use other apps. TuneInRadio offers easy access to web streams of hundreds of radio stations from around the world. All the major Australian stations are available, as are many from abroad that you might never have heard of. TuneIn Radio even includes a web browser so you can add streams that you can’t find through the radiotime network (which the app uses to find its stations). Just be warned, you’ll run through a fair bit of battery, and quite possibly a good chunk of your data allowance, if you’re listening to the radio for a prolonged period of time.

Hipstamatic ($2.49)

Hipstamatic is a simple app, but it’s perfectly executed. It has developed quite a following for its ability to add analogue effects of plastic toy cameras from yesteryear to digital photos on the iPhone. But Hipstamatic is no toy. It works on older iPhones, but when you open it on iPhone 4, you’ll be blown away by the detail of graphics on the Retina display. Combined with the much-improved camera, Hipstamatic on any other iPhone just can’t compete. There are a range of lenses, flashes and films that combine to offer a vast range of effects. But when you tire of those, there are more to add to the collection via in-app purchases.

You Gotta See This! ($2.49)

The name says it all. Another camera app that benefits from the iPhone 4’s improved hardware, this one also relies on the iPhone 4’s gyroscope to record the camera’s position in space. Why? Because You Gotta See This takes multiple photos as you move the iPhone, and when you’re done, places them together into a collage of the scene. It’s not quite a panorama, but it’s a novel way to capture a moment or experience that a standard photo won’t do justice.There are six themes for the resultant image ranging from a light table collage to separate tiles on vintage fabric.

Kindle (Free)

I would love to be recommending iBooks for your brand new iPhone right now. I really would. But Apple hasn’t done the deals needed to sell books within our shores, so unless you have a US iTunes account, you’re stuck with the freebies from Project Gutenberg. If you want to buy e-books, your best option is Amazon’s Kindle, and thankfully, it is fully Retina display-ready. Whether you prefer black text on white, white on black, or brown on sepia, the Kindle app has you sorted. The resolution of the iPhone means you can comfortably read text on the smaller screen, whereas it was quite the challenge on previous models.

Air Video ($3.99)

Fancy watching some movies from your Mac on your iPhone without syncing them through iTunes? Air Video is the app for that, and even re-encoding on-the-fly to the correct format for iOS. All it takes is a small piece of software on your Mac or PC (available for free from the Air Video website), and your iPhone has access to all the movies you have on your hard drive. It works best over Wi-Fi, but can also be used over 3G – just don’t expect superb quality. Air Video also works on previous iPhones, but with the Retina display, your movies will show up sharper and crisper than ever. A free version is also available that limits the number of displayed movies.

LogMeIn Ignition ($36.99)

I’ve used LogMeIn with my iPad for a while now; it’s brilliant for accessing your Mac or PC while out and about. I haven’t thought it was particularly useable on the iPhone though. The screen was just too tiny to do anything much with it. Now that the Retina display has quadrupled the number of pixels, its much easier to see what you’re doing. Plus, if you have the iPad version, the iPhone app is free. The app has just seen an update that lets you navigate as if your remote computer was touch-sensitive – tapping to click, rather than moving the screen around the cursor as in previous versions.

Calvetica ($3.99)

Your new iPhone already has a calendar, right? Why do you need Calvetica? Well, you might not, but it looks damn good. Calvetica uses a feature of iOS 4 that lets third-party apps share data with the OS calendar. So anything you add to Calvetica is accessible in Calendar, and vice-versa. But the benefit is that Calvetica features a slick minimalist design (with nothing but text, really – Helvetica, of course), and is really fast. If you want to add an appointment, it takes only two taps (plus entering the details of the appointment). And on the retina display, it all looks flawlessly crisp. There are a couple of shortcomings, but the developers are very upfront about what to expect in future releases.

Flight Control ($1.19)

If you haven’t heard of Flight Control, what exactly have you been doing on your iPhone? The hugely successful retro-themed airport control game is a great way to waste some time. Just ‘draw’ the flight path of each plane as it comes in to land, and don’t let two planes get too close. Simple, right? Well, I’m terrible at it, but on the iPhone 4, the graphics come alive, with Firemint having fully converted the game to utilise the high resolution display.

Notekeeper ($2.49)

I’m always on the lookout for a good notes app, as yellow paper and Marker Felt aren’t really my idea of a nice interface. I’ve been a big fan of Synotes for a while now (which offers cloud syncing between devices), but Notekeeper might soon takeover. As well as basic text notes, Notekeeper integrates location and photos. Say you’re in a restaurant and have a great wine – just take a photo, note down the details, and at the same time automatically mark on a map just where the restaurant is. Plus, it supports fast app switching in iOS 4, so you can quickly copy in information from other apps.

Eliminate: GunRange (Free or $1.19)

If you’re looking for a game to test out the iPhone 4′s gyroscope, this is a great example. It’s a simple shooting range, that you pan around and aim at targets by moving your iPhone around you in space. Just touch the screen to shoot. It’s a simple but very responsive app, and gives you a great feel of just how good the gyroscope will be in future games. It’s worth mentioning that the paid version doesn’t appear to offer anything over the freebie, except for removing ads that pop up between levels. Frankly, at the wonderful price of nothing, it’s worth seeing just what the gyroscope can do.

LED Light for iPhone 4 (Free)

What list of iPhone 4 apps could possibly be complete without a torch app? There are a few paid options, but I don’t know why anyone would bother. This is meticulously designed for the Retina display with a stylish brushed metal appearance. There are three modes: on, off or flashing; the latter of which can range from slow pulses to a fast strobe. If you ever think you might need to light up the night, it’s worth keeping this one handy. The LED on the iPhone 4 is incredibly bright. Just be warned that prolonged use will kill your battery so you probably can’t dance the night away to the strobe effect.

Honourable mentions

Of course, any other apps that are heavily text based will look brilliant on the iPhone 4’s Retina display. Instapaper, Twitter for iPhone, Osfoora (another great Twitter app), and plenty more are beautiful with crisp print-like text.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention Camera+, the camera app that tried to skirt around Apple, and was booted from the app store for doing so. If it makes a comeback, it really is a great app that takes advantage of both the new camera and Retina display of the iPhone 4.

IncrediBooth (from the developers behind Hipstamatic) is also worth a look for the fact that it uses the front-facing camera to re-imagine shopping mall photo booths – check out our recent review.

Finally, there are also plenty that I’ve missed, so check out Apple’s page on the App Store that highlights some of its favourites. Also, add your favourites in the comments below.


5 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Dave says:

    Angry Birds.
    Simply a fantastic game.

  2. AMW staff says:

    Angry Birds is brilliant… It didn’t make the cut because it hasn’t been updated for the Retina display yet. I’ve just noticed Doodle Jump has had a retina update though. It’s another cheap but excellent game.


  3. Dan says:

    I’ve just purchased Calvetica based on your recommendation and it really is incredible.

    Smooth flowing integration between screens and functions, an immaculate interface and complete transparency of information between developers and end users.

    Functions such as “Week View” and “Alarm at Event” are key. They’re not in this version but I can clearly see they’re in the pipeline so I’ve purchased it without hesitation.

    Thanks for the reviews! :-)

  4. Karen says:

    Thanks for the reviews. I just bought OzTV, it’s a nifty little TV guide.

  5. Kenny says:

    Would recommend ZumoCast over Airplay cos it’s free.

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