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The ten best iPhone 4S apps to get you started

The iPhone 4S is out. You braved the queues and fought valiantly to get your hands on one. Now you’re wondering what to actually *do* with this thing.

Turns out that apps are all the rage these days, and Apple has you more than covered in that department with over half a million at your disposal. Diving into the App Store for the first time can be a bit overwhelming, and you can find yourself rummaging around for hours just browsing at the various wares.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Here are ten of our picks to get you started.

IMDB

So you’re having drinks with friends, and trying to remember the name of the movie with that one guy who was in that other one too. Or maybe you’re watching a movie, notice one of the extras, and can’t quite place where you’ve seen them before. IMDB to the rescue.

Their exhaustive catalogue of movie and actor listings gives you access to information, trivia, and quotes, as well as the famous IMDB ratings and coveted Top 250 films. The search function within the app is also instant and realtime, updating as you type. Even if you’re not looking for something specific, there’s the latest movie news/gossip, and trailers for your consideration.

Flixster

You spied a film on IMDB that you really want to see, now you just need to find somewhere to see it. Enter Flixster.

The Box Office tab gives you a quick overview of what’s currently out in cinemas, the Rotten Tomatoes rating, and current earnings, as well as what’s being released in the next week or so. Click through on any of the movies and you can look up showtimes, either letting the app track down the closest cinemas using your location, or just browsing through your favourite cinema list. You also get a brief rundown on the movie (plot, actors, etc), as well as critic and user reviews.

The Upcoming tab lets you keep an eye out for when movies are hitting the UK, and there’s the DVD tab for new releases if watching flicks up on the big screen isn’t your thing.

Onavo

Those data caps sure are harsh, aren’t they? Having to manually keep an eye on your usage and worry about getting through the month without hitting your limit is a bummer. Onavo has worked up a little magic with its app that’s sure to help you out.

It’s not just a simple data tracker, no sirree (although it does give you some nice information on how much apps are using). Here comes the science: any data that you request is routed to Onavo’s servers first, where it’s compressed to a more manageable size, then sent your way as normal. You phone sucks down less data as a result, saving you MBs and money. Simple!

It supports all the UK networks, and best of all, it’s free.

Tube Map

Getting around London on the Tube can be a bit of a drag. Trains can be delayed, stations closed, and when you’re not fully awake sometimes you forget exactly where you need to change (or possibly even where to go). Tube Map crams all the information you need into one app.

Fire up the app and if you have an internet connection you’ll be greeted with the current Tube status, including delays or any work being carried out. There’s also a complete Tube map that allows pinch to zoom, and you can scroll around to your hearts content. Eyes deceiving you and can’t find the exact station you’re looking for? Scroll across to the Find Station button and start typing, select the station, and you’ll get an indicator pointing out where on the map it is. There’s also a handy GPS button for finding the closest station to you.

If you don’t want to work out a route in your head, then you can plan the route using the app too. Select your point of departure and destination, tell the app to select either the fastest route or the one with fewest changes, and watch as your journey plan is revealed.

Wikipanion

You’re a curious guy (or gal), so makes sense that you would want Wikipedia at your fingertips when you’re just dying to know something. There’s a plethora of Wikipedia apps on the store, but we’re pretty fond of Wikipanion.

While you can search on Wikipedia out of the box, there’s also support for adding other Wikis and searching those. You can bookmark specific pages, and search in articles. Everything is formatted to fit the phone’s layout nicely too. If you want to jump to a specific section, hit the Contents button and you’ll be able to do just that rather than endlessly scrolling.

Simple, effective, and free. Just how we like our apps.

WhatsApp

While iOS 5 brought us iMessage, it’s restricted to Cupertino’s walled garden. There might be a gazillion iPhones out there, but not everyone we know has one. So how do you get your free cross platform messaging on? WhatsApp, of course.

For a small entry fee of 69p (although it has been offered free on occasion), you can message anyone else with WhatsApp anywhere in the world as much as you want, gratis. And it covers just about every platform too: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone.

You can fire off pictures, videos, voice notes, and even contacts and your current location. There’s also an indicator of whether or not the person you’re messaging is online and typing anything, plus message sent/received indicators, not unlike BBM. It plays nice with your contacts list too, figuring out who else has the app installed, so there’s no need for PINs or user IDs.

We’ve used and abused WhatsApp for so long now that we can’t imagine living without it. Highly recommended.

Viber

Phone calls sound nasty. The Skype iPhone app is a little bit buggy and a battery hog too, so if you want high quality audio calls on your iPhone we recommend Viber.

It works in a similar way to WhatsApp, scanning your contacts list for anyone else who has Viber installed, negating the need for Yet Another Username. It also doesn’t require the app to be running in the background: you’ll receive a push notification when someone is calling you, which is great for battery life.

When you do want to make a call, it’s as simple as making a normal one. Select your buddy from your Viber contact list, and blammo! You’ll be connected over 3G or WiFi with excellent audio quality.

Best of all it’s not restricted to the iPhone: Android users can get in on the action too, and the developers have promised more platforms are on the way. There is a messaging function too, but we prefer WhatsApp to cover that area.

Tweetbot

iOS 5 also brought Twitter integration, allowing you to tweet photos and webpages without the need for a separate app. But if you do need a standalone client to keep track of the Twittersphere, which one do you choose?

We’re quite fond of Tweetbot. Aesthetically it’s the nicest of the iOS Twitter apps, and seems to be the most intuitive to boot. Tap on a tweet and you’ll be presented with a small menu allowing you to reply, retweet, and favourite. Long press and you’ll get options about the user, allowing you to direct message or follow/unfollow. Swipe left and you’ll get a conversation view, while swiping right will give you individual replies.

Along the bottom of the app you’ll find the usual twitter functions, showing your timeline, replies or mentions, and direct messages. The final two tabs though are customizable, great if you use some functions more than others. Push notifications are supported so you can be alerted when you get a message or are mentioning. There’s also the usual laundry list of configurable services for posting photos or videos.

Tweetbot is £1.99, maybe a little pricey considering the official Twitter client is free, but the functionality and ease of use makes it a good choice.

Instagram

You don’t just want to share your photos, you want to discover them as well. Instagram makes that more than easy.

Once you create an account and open up the app and you’ll be presented with a wall of the most popular photos that other users have been taking. Click through to one and you’ll have the option of “liking” the photo and leaving a comment, as well as being able to read what other people have been saying.

When you do want to let the world see your own creation, take a picture from within the app, and you’ll be able to apply various filters, add a caption, and then post it up on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and other services. After that it gets added to your feed.

It’s a fun and interesting way to discover great photos, as well as keep track of users who are consistently delivering the goods.

Reeder

The Google Reader webapp gets the job done, but it’s also basic. If you want to keep track of your RSS feeds in style, give Reeder a try.

You get access to all your feeds and folders like you normally do, and you can customize how you want to view your news. Ascending, descending, all in one timeline, or separated into individual categories, the choice is yours.

You can also store news offline for later viewing (including images), send items to Readability, as well as share stories across more services than we care to list. It’s all wrapped up in a very elegant UI, too.

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