I've been a freelance journalist for 20 years now, and can honestly say that the iPhone has changed the way I work more than anything since wireless Internet access came along all those years ago. But what are the essential iPhone apps that a jobbing journalist, or blogger for that matter, cannot live without? I've not included the built-in apps that come with my iPhone 3GS such as mail, calendar, camera/video and the voice memo recorder, but rather have concentrated on my top 10 third party apps:
1. Twittelator Pro
Twitter is not just for stalking celebrities, it's also where the news breaks first these days. Which means a journalist out on the road needs a decent client to access it wherever they may be. For me, that decent client has to be Twittelator Pro as it is simply the most powerful Twitter client bar none. From the great reading interface, to the ease by which you can follow and create lists, the search and trending functionality it is perfect. Writing posts is quick and easy, with a neat ability to automatically shrink URLS so you can post links to your online news stories with ease. Yep, Twittelator Pro helps you read and write the news, and it acts as a great SEO and syndication tool for good measure. Indeed, it is the single app I use more than any other during a working day and that includes mail and calendar apps! If further proof were needed of how highly I rate this app, I even use it when sitting in the office with my desktop computer - it beats the pants off the 'official' Twitter web interface and then some.
If I am going to be away from the office for more than a day, then I'll drag my netbook along with me. However, I don't carry it around everywhere I go like some bodily appendage. The same is not true about the iPhone, I do carry that literally everywhere I go. So I need to be able to exploit that when it comes to writing impromptu news stories. Which is where Evernote comes in, with a neat interface that lets me quickly write up some notes (or even a finished piece if needs must) attach some images and maybe a voice recording - all within the same app, which then stores this stuff for me online so I can access it from anywhere using any device on any platform. Neat, and essential.
I might be a professional journalist, even an award winning one for that matter, but I still make spelling mistakes and occasionally find myself struggling to find the right word for the occasion. So number three on my list has to be WordWeb which is a dictionary and thesaurus without too many bells and whistles. Not that it isn't powerful, just don't expect a jazzed up graphical interface. Text is what is important here, and delivery that text is what WordWeb concentrates on. You can set it to the version of English you need (American, Australasian, British or Canadian) and let is show antonyms, synonyms, similar words and derived forms. Brilliant, or if you prefer, intelligent, impressive, magnificent.
Yes I know, the iPhone does do phone calls as well as apps. However, as any freelance journalist or blogger will tell you, international calls are expensive. Very expensive. For those times when email isn't an option or you need a real time chat across the waters, I turn to Skype. Be it for Skype to Skype voice calling or the great Skype IM chat functionality, it is something that the jobbing journalist cannot do without in this increasingly global working age.
I could use Safari to search Google, and do on occasion. Sometimes I use the SearchIt app which quickly presents Google results in a nicely formatted way, with links to news and Wikipedia and images that I like. But most of the time I find myself fingering that Google icon. As well as the search function which every hack will be using many times a day, this app lets me quickly access my other Google services such as Gmail, Docs, Reader, Translate, YouTube and so on.
6. Google Maps
The one Google service that I keep on the first screen of my iPhone is Google Maps. If I need to know where that chap I am talking to is located I'll look here. If I need to know how to get to his offices which are around the corner somewhere, I'll look here. If I need to get a fix on a town in the middle of nowhere that I've never heard of, I'll look here. As long as I have a 3G or WiFi connection it comes up trumps every time.
7. XE Currency
Writing for different publications around the world I find myself forever having to convert from one currency to another in print. Fine if I am at home with my handy currency conversion tool widget on the desktop PC, but what if I am in a hotel? That's where the iPhone comes to the rescue with XE which quickly gets me the latest exchange rates off the Internet and does the conversions in a flash.
Google Mail has been something of a revelation for the average journalist, meaning that they can keep an online archive of pretty much everything they have ever sent or received and access it pretty much anywhere they are for reference. But what if you need to search for something and there is no Internet connection? What if your mobile phone signal is down? That's when you need reMail which keeps an offline archive of your online GMail messages. Sure, it takes an age (well overnight at least) to go and grab it all to start with, but you end up with an offline archive which is full text searchable and incredibly speedy to return the results you need.
9. iTrans Tube and thetrainline
Two apps find themselves at number nine, both related to train travel. I'm based in the UK and like to travel by train when I can, often at short notice and to somewhere I'm not overly familiar with. Thetrainline app quickly tells me when the next train is leaving and what times the trains are to get back again. iTrans Tube takes care of me when I visit the big smoke, London, and need to go underground. An interactive London Tube map, a tap tells me when trains are leaving and even lets me get directions.
10. Wolfram Alpha LLC
It's not cheap, and it might be argued that it is difficult to use, but if you need quick answers to complex questions it's a life saver. This computational knowledge engine draws on some 50,000 built-in algorithms and an amazing 10 trillion pieces of updated and curated data to provide expert answers to free-form questions. Whether I need to find out what the weather was like in Honolulu when Obama was born or discover the fourth largest female population centre on the planet, Wolfram Alpha will tell me. It's worth the investment in your time to understand how to input questions because the answers it outputs are so useful. I've certainly changed my opinion of it.