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What are the best iPhone apps and iPad apps to download right now? Here is our list of the best free iOS applications (with one clear exception) to launch or receive significant updates in 2012. Whether you are a shutterbug, news junkie, or someone you just likes getting things down, you will want to download any of these favorites.
Camera Awesome (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
While Instagram’s sale to Facebook dominated the headlines earlier this year, the best new app of 2012 so far is another photo-sharing service that actually helps you take better pictures. Created by 10-year-old photo-sharing site SmugMug, Camera Awesome is a revelation in iPhoneography and yet another reason why many of us can ditch our digital cameras. Beyond Camera Awesome’s stunning interface, there are several ways this app can “awesomize” your pictures, including automatic levelization and color adjustment. All presets and filters can be purchased in-app for $9.99 (or a la carte at 99 cents a pop). The ability to capture videos up to five seconds before you press record is also a great option. Finally, Camera Awesome makes it dead simple to share photos across your favorite social networks (Instagram included).
Pocket (Formerly Read It Later) (Universal: free)
Independent “read later” apps may become an endangered species this fall when Apple incorporates its Offline Reading List into Safari as part of iOS 6. Until then (and perhaps thereafter), the best bookmarking app for your buck (actually free) is Pocket. Formerly known as Read It Later, the app’s April rebrand involved more than just a name-change and price reduction. Pocket’s new features, which include the ability to seamlessly view videos and images as well as grid-based article lists, do not undermine the app’s simple and elegant interface.
Khan Academy (iPad: free)
The best thing about this app is how it doesn’t clutter or distract from the expert video tutorials that are produced by next-generation educator Salman Khan. The more than 3,200 educational videos that touch on everything from “Getting a seed round from a VC”, to “Earth Formation” to “The Bay of Pigs Invasion” are categorized within a simple taxonomy. The YouTube-hosted videos that contain subtitles are extensively logged, allowing users to quickly and easily locate a phrase or passage that may have gone over their heads.
TouchTV (iPad: free)
From customized news provider SkyGrid comes TouchTV, which beautifully showcases video clips from broadcast and cable networks onto the iPad. TouchTV runs video clips (typically up to five minutes in length) from 16 official providers including ESPN, Bloomberg Television and Jimmy Kimmel Live. While downloading TouchTV alone is not enough to “cut the cord” from your satellite or cable provider, the app offers a glimpse of what an app-enabled television universe can look like. TouchTV joins video discovery services like Showyou and Squrl (which each received significant updates this year) as among the best iOS apps to currently watch on Apple TV.
Any.Do (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
Our favorite Android app of 2011 in June finally made its way to iOS devices. And it was worth the wait. Any.Do, which is backed by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, is an uber-productivity app that lets you easily create and complete tasks with the swipe of a finger.
The app’s voice-dictation technology reliably records tasks without a user needing to type anything. You can also share your to-do lists with friends in the hopes they might help out with whatever needs to get done.
Highlight (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
Coming out of the South By Southwest bracket of the 2012 mid-year app tournament is this social mobile local app. Highlight alerts you when a Facebook friend or individual with similar interests is nearby, and lets you learn more about other Highlight users when they are in your vicinity. Like similar services including Sonar, Banjo and Kismet, Highlight is only effective if there is a critical mass of other users in your area. While each service has its strong points, Highlight looks to have the greatest chance of any to crossover to the mainstream.
Viggle (iPhone, iPod touch: free)
Receiving discount cards from the likes of Amazon, Starbucks and the Gap just for watching TV for many could be considered the American dream. Viggle makes it a reality by letting users check-in and earn loyalty points for watching their favorite programs.
The app performs reliably, while offering additional features including trivia questions, polls and curated tweets as gravy.
LinkedIn Update (Universal iOS: free)
The best thing about LinkedIn’s April iOS update is that the app is now finally compatible and optimized for the iPad. Presumably inspired by Flipboard (where it has a key presence), LinkedIn functions best as a social magazine on the iPad.
Clear (iPhone, iPod Touch: $2.99)
Clear is the to-do list for those who just want to get their stuff done and move on. While it lacks many of the features of heavy-hitter task-managers like Omnifocus and newer contemporaries like Any.Do, Clear excels in letting users quickly create categories and list the things they need to do that fall under those categories. The app’s beautifully designed interface also lets users sort these listed items by priority and quickly swipe to erase them when they’ve been completed.
HomeSnap (iPhone, iPod Touch: free)
While HomeSnap can’t do much to bring the nation’s housing market back to pre-crash levels, the app – with an assist from augmented reality – can help users determine the value of a home merely by taking its picture. In addition to financials, you can also see school information, historical data and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a given home. HomeSnap is not 100 percent reliable, but neither is information provided by a seller or broker.