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There are more than 500,000 apps available for the iPhone. So how can you find the right ones for you? Having all those options can be crippling if you're not careful.
As psychologist Barry Shwarz argues in his book, The Paradox of Choice, we often think that the more options we have, the better. The reality, however, is that the more choices we're offered, the more overwhelmed we feel. This applies to more than apps. In his book, Shwarz explains that in a supermarket study in which shoppers were offered a display with 24 jars of jam, only 3 percent of the shoppers were able to choose one jar to buy. But when shoppers were offered a display with just six jars, 10 times more of them were able to settle on a choice. More does not necessarily mean better.
But we're an app-crazy world: 1.2 billion apps were downloaded during the last week of 2011 alone, thanks to the sale of 7 million phones. So how do you narrow down the ones you want on your device? Recommendations are the best way to start, and I have some for you. The reality is that I can't live without these five apps. They make my life a bit easier and keep me more informed -- or let me have a little fun. Considering that a choice of five is a more reasonable than 500,000, perhaps you'll find that they deserve a spot on your device as well.
1. TWC Max
Yes, that's the Weather Channel's app. It's not as cheap as many of the free or 99-cent weather apps. The price is worth it, however. As a traveler, I line up the cities in my “Favorites” tab to plan out what I need to bring in my carry-on. The hourly weather breakdown lets me know if I'll need an extra layer for the day. And the video component gives me the latest local weather updates. I like to plan ahead when I leave the house. This is my daily go-to app for that reason.
More than anything, this app has helped me find nearby ATMs in various cities. I've also found it to be more than useful in locating espresso joints when I need a fix. Once the satellite locates you, a list of nearby restaurants, pubs, pharmacies, parking lots, movie theaters and a host of other essential (and not always so essential) places pop up. A convenient solution for the directionally challenged, such as myself.
It's difficult to imagine an app personal coach, yet it has arrived. A sort of diary/log, Unstuck asks you to list three emotions associated with how you're feeling, then indulge in free association and plot a course of action. Once the program tabulates the keywords you've offered, you receive advice on how to move past the roadblock right in front of you. Very motivational and therapeutic, even if you're only talking to a screen.
With more than 5,000 talk and music radio shows -- as well as podcasts -- available to stream through this one app, Stitcher might not help your paradox of choice, but it will give you an undeniably rich selection. The ease of navigation and pop-off-the-screen visuals help you navigate the convoluted terrain of podcasts. And the zero cost is nice, though you do have to deal with the occasional commercial.
Let me start off by saying I'm in no way a gamer. Zynga's Drop7, in fact, is the only game of any sort that I play. At the recommendation of a friend, I downloaded it. Two years later, I have not stopped playing. A Tetris-style numbers game, Drop7 is an addictive time-waster that always requires a bit of thoughtfulness. When I lived in New York City, it was a great subway time-kill. Most of all, it's a ton of fun. Pony up for the paid version, as the free version won't get you very far.