Computerworld's favorite smartphone apps

A roundup of our best-loved 31 apps for the iPhone, Android phones and other smartphones.

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Interesting information

Earthquake

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Earthquake

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Having once lived in earthquake-prone areas in the Pacific, I've had a perpetual curiosity about them. To help satisfy it, I installed Earthquake. This is a simple but very effective app that reports real-time U.S. Geological Survey data on earthquake activity worldwide. Earthquakes are listed as they happen, showing magnitude, location and time. The data is also mapped, there's a link to a USGS report on specific quakes and you can get a notification alert set at a specific magnitude (the default level is 5 or more). A recent update includes tsunami info, greater customization of push alerts (by magnitude and "quiet time") and reporting agency filtering. What's been eye-opening, for me, is the sheer frequency of earthquakes -- there is an earthquake somewhere in the world every few minutes. By globally tracking earthquakes, and seeing how frequently they occur, I get a new appreciation of the earth as a living, moving and constantly recreating force. -- Patrick Thibodeau

Earthquake

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: Android (Earthquake Lite only)

Price: $1.99; free Lite" version

My Tracks

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My Tracks

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I went for a run this morning. (Okay, so it was more of a slow jog.) How far did I go? How long did it take? Most important of all, am I improving over past runs? I know the answers to all these questions and more, because I have "My Tracks" running on my Droid Incredible. This open-source app from Google runs on most Android smart phones that have GPS. The app shows your route on a map as you go; you can display map or satellite photo modes. It also tracks statistics including distance, speed and elevation. You can save your results and even share them through Google Maps. Whether you walk, run or bike, it's a great way to track your trip. -- Alfred Poor

My Tracks

OS reviewed: Android

Other OSes it works with: None

Price: Free

OpenTable

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OpenTable

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No matter where I am, I use OpenTable to make restaurant reservations. I use it from home to find restaurants that have availability when I want dinner -- say, the next half-hour or so. I use it when traveling to find restaurants that are close by and have a decent rating from other users. For example, I was at New York's Museum of Modern Art recently and used the "current location" feature -- the lamb dinner I had at a small pub around the corner was delicious, and I never would have known the restaurant was there otherwise. The app provides menus, ratings and directions -- especially handy when you're in a new place. There's also a point system -- when you get enough points, you can trade them in for a gift check. I've had no bad meals and only one mediocre one at an OpenTable restaurant. -- Joyce Carpenter

OpenTable

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: Android, BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm WebOS, Windows Phone 7

Price: Free

Pulse News Mini

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Pulse News Mini

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Alphonso Labs' Pulse has become my default news reader, mainly because it seems so natural on a touch-based device like my Verizon iPhone 4. It allows you to thumb left and right through a given source's stories and up and down through sources, which you can add or subtract from a list or via RSS link. It's a nice user experience, even on the iPhone's 3.5 in. display. The stories can be read entirely within the app (although not all RSS sources provide the full stories). At the bottom of a story view window is a tab for the given source, which pulls up over the active story to allow you to select other stories from that source. Pulse recently added "Facebook Links," which pull in shared links from your Facebook account so that you can read them directly within Pulse. I've culled my news apps from 10 to five by using Pulse to access half of them. When the others offer the full story via RSS, I'll drop the other five. -- Mike Barton

Pulse News Mini

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: Android (as Pulse News Reader)

Price: Free

Routesy

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Routesy

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I have wasted hours -- perhaps days -- of my time standing on street corners waiting for San Francisco's notoriously erratic buses and streetcars. Routesy goes a long way toward minimizing those waits, providing real-time GPS-based prediction data for the Bay Area's myriad transit routes. Select the route and the location where you want to catch the train, streetcar or bus, and Routesy taps into the NextBus transit-tracking service to show you the next four arrival estimates. You can also let the app determine your current location and the nearest stop on the selected route; a live Google map shows you where the nearest stop is. Bookmark your frequently used stops for fast access. I use the free, ad-supported version, which covers the Muni and BART transit agencies, but there are also ad-free $1.99 versions specifically for AC Transit, BART, Caltrain and Muni, and a $4.99 Pro Bay Area version that includes them all. -- Valerie Potter

Routesy

OS reviewed: iOS

Other OSes it works with: None

Price: Free to $4.99

Yelp

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Yelp

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If you're looking for a restaurant while traveling -- or even when you're home -- Yelp's mobile app offers access to a wealth of reviews, so you can find out whether that little hole-in-the-wall is actually a neighborhood gem or a dump. You can browse by name or location and then filter by price and "open now," but the true attraction is the reviews. There are a couple of similar apps out there, such as OpenTable (designed for reservations, but has lots of reviews) and TripAdvisor, but Yelp is my favorite. -- Sharon Machlis

Yelp

OS reviewed: WebOS

Other OSes it works with: BlackBerry, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7

Price: Free

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