The 30 Best iPhone Apps So Far This Year

Editor’s note: This guest post is written by Alex Ahlund, the former CEO and founder of AppVee and AndroidApps, which were acquired by mobile application directory Appolicious. About this time last year, he gave us his picks of the best iPhone apps of 2009 up until then, so we thought we’d make it an annual tradition.

I’ve been involved in the iPhone app industry since it first began in 2008 and I have to say that it has come a long way. I’ve seen it grow from a meager launch of 500 applications in the App Store to currently over 225,000. In only two years, the industry has matured at hyperspeed. It spawned an entire ecosystem to support it from a multitude of news and editorial resources to developer engines, promotional services and ancillary niches. With over five billion app downloads and a billion dollars at stake, it’s no surprise that the app economy expanded so quickly.

However, the novelty land grab is definitely over. When you run a search on the App Store, most of the gimmicks have already been created—at least twice. Clones still litter the store and it’s becoming even more difficult for quality apps to get noticed. But, if you have a bit of patience and are willing to sift through less exciting apps, there are some fantastic gems just waiting to be discovered.

So without further ado, here are my top 30 picks for applications released this year thus far. Try one or try them all.


1. Angry Birds (review, iTunes)

Launch birds from a slingshot to topple buildings and crush piggies. There’s a reason this game has been No. 1 on the Paid List for so long. Addictive only starts to explain it.

2. Plants Vs Zombies (review, iTunes)

A defense game by casual game creators PopCap. Protect your home from an invasion of zombies by placing plants that shoot, freeze, blow-up, crush, or generally obliterate your foes.

3. Fruit Ninja (review, iTunes)

So simple, but strangely satisfying. Swipe to slice 3D fruit as it enters your screen. Great visuals and gratifying delivery.

4. Archetype (review, iTunes)

One of the best 3D arena shooters for the iPhone. Smooth multiplayer and easy handling. If you’re going to play a first-person shooter on the go, this is the one.

5. Rhythm Spirit (review, iTunes)

A rhythm-fighting game based on Japanese folklore. Very unique with top-notch production values. Can’t go wrong with ninjas, fighting, and music.

6. Ragdoll Blaster 2 (review, iTunes)

Sequel to the fun and creative physics game. Blast ragdolls out of your canon to hit various targets. Tons of levels and really interesting puzzles.

7. Canabalt (review, iTunes)

The iPhone version of the popular flash game. Original escape game where you run away from impending doom, dodging obstacles and crashing through windows.

8. Chaos Rings (review, iTunes)

One of the few games priced above $10 that sold really well. A deep RPG with fantastic graphics from Square Enix.

9. The Horrible Vikings (review, iTunes)

A trajectory game steeped in style. Launch your vikings to hit enemies and items alike. A full upgrade system and use of power-ups adds nice depth.

10. Trenches (review, iTunes)

Fun side-scrolling strategy game where you employ the use of soldiers, machine guns, rifles and bombs to destroy your enemy.

11. God Finger (review, iTunes)

Keep your followers healthy and working. Create buildings, farms, and taverns for your peasants to enjoy. Control the weather and become the dictator of your own little world.

12. Parachute Ninja (review, iTunes)

Fling your ninja ball through the air in this interesting platformer. Reach higher and higher platforms, while avoiding obstacles and enemies.

13. Pocket Legends (review, iTunes)

This MMORPG deserves attention for an ambitious endeavor. Choose a class and work on leveling up, meeting strangers, and battling enemies.

14. Monkey Island 2 (review, iTunes)

Sequel to one of the best adventure games ever released. More humor, puzzles, and story that we’ve come to expect from this classic series.

15. Zenonia 2 (review, iTunes)

Followup to the hit action RPG Zenonia. With more playable classes, abilities, items, story and artwork, this is a must-have for RPG fans.


16. Foursquare (review, iTunes)

The quintessential geo-social app, Foursquare allows users to ‘Check in’ to locations to earn points and broadcast their location. Get more Check-Ins than anyone and you become the mayor.

17. Groupon (review, iTunes)

Groupon is a service that offers an extremely marked down deal every day. From restaurants to spas, users have been excited about Groupon since it came out. All the same convenience on your iPhone.

18. iMovie (review, iTunes)

It made sense for Apple to bring their casual video editing software over to the iPhone when the 4 launched with hi-def recording. Very solid tool for on-the-go editing.

19. Siri Assistant (review, iTunes)

Your own personal assistant. Ask it for directions. Reminders. General information. Nearly anything. Fun and useful for anyone on the go. (Bought by Apple).

20. Twitter (review, iTunes)

While nothing new, with the acquisition of Tweetie, the official Twitter has become the best out of them all. Contains all the features you need.

21. Wolfram (review, iTunes)

After dropping dramatically from the $50 price tag, Wolfram has become a fantastic knowledge searching tool based on Wolfram Alpha.

22. iBooks (review, iTunes)

I know, I know. This is a given. Provided with iOS 4.0, iBooks is the defacto book reader. Even so, it’s worth a mention for how elegant and easy it is to use compared to other readers.

23. Hulu Plus (review, iTunes)

This is something we have been waiting for a while. The downside is that it only offers content for the paid service—not for free as it is on the web. But, if you can pony up the monthly fee, this is a great app.

24. Gowalla (review, iTunes)

Similar to Foursquare, Gowalla allows users to ‘check in’ to a location to earn stamps. Based on GPS, it’s very addictive earning stamps and a great companion while you are out and about.

25. Dragon Dictation (review, iTunes)

Finally, an accurate way to dictate voice to text on the iPhone. Speak naturally to send a text message, email, or anything else that can receive inputted text.

26. Free App A Day (review, iTunes)

FAAD is an interesting service that works with developers to offer up their paid apps for free for a short time period. If you follow the iPhone app, you can snatch up some big name apps, gratis.

27. JotNot Scanner Pro (review, iTunes)

Make your iPhone into a multi-page scanner. Has a great image enhancing ability and makes saving and sending scans pretty effortless.

28. Text’nDrive (review, iTunes)

For those of us with a habit of checking (or even worse, responding to) email while we drive, this app provides a hands-free solution where new messages are read to you and you can respond by voice.

29. Geodelic (review, iTunes)

An elegant “Around Me” style app showing everything that is near your location. Fun way to discover things you didn’t know existed.

30. Digg (review, iTunes)

Digg finally made an official app and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Users can look forward to all the same functionality as the native site, as well as easy saving and sharing.

Which apps would make your top 30 list?

Photo credit: Flickr/Amit Khanna