Courtney Rubin

As the list of smartphone applications just keeps getting longer, Apple's slogan -- "There's an app for that" -- is gaining the ring of truth. Below, U.S. News staffers share picks that make their own lives easier or more fun. (Unless noted, they're free.)

Angry Birds ($0.99, iPhone/iPad; free, Android phones)

As players advance through the almost 200 levels in this game, they launch furious birds of different colors (the white ones drop bombs, the green ones fly like boomerangs) at the hideouts of enemy pigs who stole their eggs.

Beat the Traffic (multiplatform)

You get a real-time pocket-size travel report, complete with color-coded maps that reveal where the gridlock is, how fast traffic is moving around it, and how to avoid the jam.

Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List (iPhone/iPad; Android phones)

With this free cookbook app from, discover new recipes, find instructions on how to prepare your favorites, create a shopping list of ingredients, view images of most of the dishes, and read reviews.

EpicWin ($2.99; iPhone/iPad)

Your to-do list becomes a fantasy role-playing game. Tasks become "quests" to be completed by your character (a dwarf, skeleton, or priestess). Succeed, and your avatar earns gold.

ESPN ScoreCenter (iPhone/iPad; Android phones)

Monitor scores and stats live, or program the app to track vital information about your favorite teams.

Flight Control ($0.99; multiplatform)

In this game, you earn points by successfully landing helicopters and airplanes on runways, aircraft carriers, and other tough spots.

Free Flash (iPhone 4)

It's a no-frills app that turns your camera flash into a flashlight.

Google Goggles (iPhone/iPad; Android phones)

This feature of the Google Mobile App (which gives you localized and voice-activated search results) lets you snap pictures of your surroundings and, effectively, "Google" them. Find out whom a statue depicts, say, or scan a book's cover to learn its latest eBay asking price.

G-Park ($0.99, iPhone; free, iPad)

Press a button to drop a GPS point wherever you park your car and a map will lead you back there if you lose your way.

Groupon (multiplatform)

The mobile app version of the popular local deal-disher website uses GPS to locate you and pass along daily coupons for food, clothing, and activities. Cashiers can input a code or scan the coupon from your phone.

Gym Buddy ($2.99; iPhone/iPad)

Use it to track your reps, weight used, and cardio activity. You also get feedback on your strength gains and can record your own body weight over time.

Instagram (iPhone/iPad)

Snap a picture, transform it with a variety of retro and artsy filters, and share it almost instantly via Facebook, Twitter, or Flickr.

Magic Piano ($0.99; iPad)

Everyone from beginners to piano virtuosos can perform by following blinking rays of light. Play solo or in a virtual duet with a random partner from across the globe. Personal Finance (iPhone/iPad; Android phones)

Money-managing website has adapted its simple interface and easy-on-the-eyes budget software for mobile use. Sync Mint with your bank accounts to monitor your money in real time, set and track your budget, and check your investments.

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox ($0.99; iPhone/iPad; Android phones)

A virtual monkey helps children ages 2 to 5 play six games that develop their knowledge of matching, shapes, and counting, among other skills.

Netflix (iPhone/iPad)

People with a Netflix account can watch movies and TV shows on the go. BlackBerry and Android versions are expected in late 2010.

NextBus DC ($2.99; multiplatform)

This GPS-based app tells commuters and tourists when the next bus on a given route in Washington, D.C., will arrive (never mind what the schedule says). Similar apps are available for Seattle, Houston, and other major cities.

Pandora Radio (multiplatform)

Plug in the name of an artist or song and Pandora will find similar songs and performers and create a personalized "radio station" for you.

RunKeeper Free (iPhone/iPad; Android phones)

RunKeeper logs how far you run and calories burned, and plots a map of your route. The data are also sent to, where you can chronicle your running history. RunKeeper Pro ($9.99) adds personalized training.

Shazam (multiplatform)

Place your mobile device near the source of music you don't recognize and Shazam will record a 30-second bit and search for the title and artist on the spot. Use it free five times a month, or upgrade to Shazam Encore ($4.99) and use without limit.

Siri Assistant (iPhone/iPad)

Your voice-controlled "personal assistant" finds restaurants and makes reservations, pulls up local events and movies, and even books cabs. A voice recognition system allows the app to adapt to your interests over time and suggest restaurants and movies that fit your tastes.

Urbanspoon (multiplatform)

Read reviews of local fare to pick a restaurant, or shake your device to let the "slot machine" pick one for you. If you want, you can specify location, cuisine, and price.

The Weather Channel (multiplatform)

View interactive maps and radar activity, or tune in for live Weather Channel broadcasts.

Words With Friends Free (iPhone/iPad)

Face off remotely against your friends or the game itself in this digital take on Scrabble. Users can participate in several matches at a time and save games for days, so no more twiddling your thumbs while your opponent mulls a move. For $2.99 you can bypass the ads.

XLR8R Scion City Guide (iPhone/iPad; Android phones)

This travel guide points you to hip spots and events in cities it covers (more than a dozen so far), based on reviews and picks from the folks at XLR8R magazine. Map out your destinations and create a digital itinerary to share with friends.


Available at

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300

Planon DocuPen Xreme X05

NeatDesk Desktop Scanner and Digital Filing System

TiVo TCD746320 Premiere DVR (Black)

TiVo TCD748000 Premiere XL DVR (Black)

Moxi 3-Tuner 500GB HD Digital Recorder

Moxi Mate MP-1000 Digital Video Recorder (Black)

Sling Media Slingbox

Dish Network VIP 922 Sling Loaded Hd DVR