There are almost as many "top 10" or "top 100+" apps lists as there are actual apps available for your iPhone or Android smartphone, many of these lists overlapping the others and possibly missing the hidden gems. And with hundreds of thousands of mobile apps available today, browsing for a new app from your mobile phone is really not efficient -- especially since the app markets still need more robust sorting and filtering so you don't have to wade through, for example, hundreds of flashlight apps to get to that one app that may change the way you use your mobile device.
So how do you find the best smartphone apps (easily and without spending hours searching)? Get custom recommendations, based on the kinds of apps you already like or have downloaded or just from people you know and trust.
1. Check your social circle for recommended apps.
The most fitting app recommendations would most likely come from the people who know you best. Ask your friends, family and/or co-workers for what kinds of apps they use (if they use the same platform as you, that is, whether it's iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Maemo, or WebOS). You'll surely get back unique lists of apps that reflect the personality of the person doing the recommendation, and, if birds of a feather truly do flock together, many of those apps would also likely appeal to you (the recommender will probably tailor the list to your personality, which is pretty much the point). Amount of effort needed: very little on your part.
2. Sign up for a free service that uses the apps you installed to recommend more apps to install.
If you're an Android person with an iPhone circle of friends, or you just don't feel like asking people around you for recommendations, there are also a few sites that can give you customized apps recommendations:
- Appolicious is a social app site for iPhone/iPad, Android, and Yahoo! users. After creating an account, you can build your library of apps by scanning your app folder on your computer/device, scanning your Android phone, or manually listing the apps you use. Rate those apps and then you'll get recommendations based on your collection and your activity on the site -- you can view handpicked apps from other Appolicious users and follow other users. When I tried it, the apps that were recommended to me at first were the most obvious popular ones (Skype, Evernote, Facebook, TweetDeck), but the categories for the other lists and apps recommended were more fitting for what I actually have on my test iPod touch: productivity apps and toddler games (guess who uses it most?).
- AppBrain is a similar site just for Android apps. With less of a social-networking bent, AppBrain helps you sort through Android apps more easily than you can on the phone, and if you install the AppBrain app directly on your Android you can use it to manage your apps, install apps from the Web, and share your apps with others. It too provides broad recommendations for apps you might like.
- There are other app discovery, sharing, and tracking services available, like Fresh Apps, a Digg-like iPhone app rating site, and AppSpace, which also takes the lists of apps you have (for iPhone/iPod, iPad, Android, or BlackBerry) and, it seems, some demographic and psychographic information you provide to help you find new apps. Amount of effort needed: a little more, since you have to upload or input your apps and possibly rate them. But getting apps automatically and regularly recommended is a great way to keep up with new apps that can enhance your life or work.
3. Browse apps handpicked by writers you know and like.
Finally, if there are blogs or sites you follow regularly, check out their recommended apps that they either post on social networking sites like Twitter or as one of those "top 10" articles/blog posts on their sites. For the sake of time and sanity, I don't recommend going through too many "top X" app lists, but if a site or blogger has made several recommendations in the past that match up well to what you would select or like, then that's a good indication you'll enjoy their selections in the future. Amount of effort needed: more, because you have to either subscribe to the sites to keep up with them or remember to check the sites out, and most sites don't always post just apps reviews 24/7.
I have a few smartphone apps lists right now for you (see below) and also welcome your recommendations for the best apps for mobile professionals and remote workers if you have a second (also below).