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With more than 100,000 programs that can run on the iPhone, there is an almost overwhelming range of different things you can do with your iPhone.

But how to find the truly useful apps when there are so many to choose from?

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Adding Applications to your iPhone

Finding and Buying Applications

Logically grouping your applications together can make it easier to find the app you want in the future.

Part of a series on the Apple iPhone - please also visit the other articles listed on the right.

This article is a continuation of the preceding article, How to Choose Extra Apps for your iPhone.



The good news about the iPhone is also the bad news - with so many applications that can be added to enhance its basic functionality, it becomes difficult to find really good applications and to choose between them all.

In addition, it is possible to add so many applications to your phone that you may forget what they are all for, or where to find them on your iPhone.

But with it being very easy to add and/or subsequently delete applications (unlike your Windows based computer!), maybe this isn't a worry at all.

Buying and Installing Applications

If you're used to buying and installing programs for Windows, you know both that programs can be expensive and also can be difficult to install.  Generally, neither is the case with the iPhone.

Its simple (but sophisticated) operating system makes installing new programs almost automatic, and if you wish to subsequently uninstall a program, that too is completely simple, and there are no orphan registry entries or other hassles and messes left behind to interfere with the ongoing performance of the phone.

This is an amazing and wonderful contrast to the hassle factors involved in adding and removing programs from a Windows computer, and definitely makes it easier for us to consider experimenting with new applications.

iPhone apps are inexpensive but usually nonrefundable

Apple iPhone applications tend to be very low priced - indeed, many are free.  Others range in price from 99 up to sometimes more than $100, but most are less than $10 and many are only a couple of dollars or less.

The low cost of applications, and the ease of installing and possibly uninstalling them encourage you to experiment and try new applications.

Some applications come in both a free and a not free version.  You can download the free version and try it out, and if you like it, you can then more confidently proceed to purchase the pay version.  Needless to say, the version you buy generally has more features in it than the free version, although sometimes they are close to identical, with the difference being that the free version has advertising in it, while the version you pay for does not.

With the small size of the iPhone's screen, wasting some of it on advertising is regrettable, so avoiding the ads - something that doesn't really matter much on a full size computer screen - might be worth paying a couple of dollars for.

One slightly negative factor, though.  Generally, if you buy an application and don't like it, you won't be able to get a refund.  So be sure to read the reviews and comments before buying anything too expensive, and perhaps research the developer's website too.

Note also that generally there is more information and it is easier to read through when browsing through applications through the iTunes store on your computer, rather than when browsing through the App Store on your phone.

Interpreting User Reviews

The user reviews about an app are interesting, but need to be treated with the same grain of salt you'd use when considering TripAdvisor reviews.  One suspects that some reviews are from the developer and his friends, unrealistically praising the product; while other reviews may be from competing product developers, unfairly panning the product.

In addition, some people give bad reviews just because they misunderstood what a program is or because they can't understand it, even though the problem is not with the app but with the user/reviewer.

Something I sometimes do (this is easily done through the iTunes store) is to click on a reviewer's ID to see other reviews they've written.  This can help to identify people who might be shills, reviewing a product unfairly, either positively or negatively (ie people who have only ever written one review, in extreme terms).

So read the reviews, but try and read between the lines too.

How and Where to Find Applications

The good news is also the bad news.  There are over 105,000 different official applications (often called just 'apps' - this is short for application, not for Apple!) available for the iPhone, and the number is increasing by a thousand or more every week (averaging almost 2,000 a week for nearly a year now).

In November 2008 there were just 10,000 apps available.  Probably no-one ever expected the number of apps to skyrocket up to 100,000; and now some commentators are speculating that there might be as many as 250,000 apps by November 2010.

The problem is that Apple's own process for listing and showcasing the available apps for the iPhone was never designed to handle such a profusion of apps.  Even with 'only' 10,000 apps, it was struggling to give each app a fair exposure, and now there are 100,000 and more every day, it is becoming increasingly unwieldy for both users such as ourselves and program developers.

Trying to sort through all those applications to find good ones is close to impossible, and the design of Apple's iTunes program is surprisingly unintuitive and only presents you with the most popular programs in any of only a very few broadly defined categories.  This tends to make for self-fulfilling prophecies - the most popular programs are presented first, so people are more likely to buy them, and so they remain most popular (even if undeservedly so).

There are some independent websites that offer  various degrees of assistance, and even applications that can run on your iPhone too, that attempt to make this easier for you.


One application to add to your phone to help you find other applications (that sounds like a rather circular piece of logic, doesn't it) is PandoraBox (not to be confused with the 'must have' app Pandora).

This program is free, and not only provides a new view into all the apps out there, but also highlights apps which are currently on promotional specials.  As a way to try and get a product move up the popularity index and into the first few pages of product listings, developers will sometimes discount a product (perhaps all the way to free) for a short term to boost their popularity index.  So this is a good way of seeing what bargains might be out there.


A different approach is offered by another free program, Fluke.  This program randomly offers you apps - you can make it slightly less random by selecting only certain categories of apps and either free or paid apps.  This can be a very compelling application that you keep paging through, marveling at the creativity of some of the app developers, and continuing to look for that elusive something that you absolutely 'must have' yourself.

User Reviews

Another source of information is user reviews, which are available for all the apps that are in the iTunes store.  If you've found an interesting app, before you rush to download and/or purchase it, you should try and see if there are other similar apps that do the same thing, and which might be better than the app you've come across.

There are several ways to ascertain this.  You could search through the entire product category, of course, but that is probably too laborious.  You could read the reviews, because sometimes you'll find a review in which the reviewer compares the app to another named app, which you can then go and research.

And in the iTunes store, you can see some information on other products that users have downloaded - maybe these are competing products.

Master Listings

There are of course websites with lists of apps, and sometimes with slightly more professional reviews than can be found on the actual app listings.  Here are three : - A seemingly definitive list of apps ( at beginning of Dec 09 showing 117530 apps) but doesn't have reviews.  Has various ways of sorting and accessing the app listings. - Another massive listing, with 101639 apps listed in early December 2009. - Messy layout, but interesting video reviews and user comments

Managing All the Programs on Your iPhone

If you're like me, before too long you may end up with 50 or even more apps on your phone.  Each page on your phone's screen can show up to 16 programs, so you can potentially have a lot of paging through the pages to get to any particular application.  In addition, trying to find any particular application can be difficult too.

So what I've done is I've grouped similar applications together.  For example, I have all my news programs together, all my eBook reader programs together, all my weather programs together, and so on.

The programs I use the most are on the first 'home' screen, and the programs I use the least are on the furtherest away screen.

I don't necessarily fill all 16 spaces on each page, either, so as to keep the logical groupings of programs sensibly together.

How to Move or Delete Applications

Simply press and hold any of the application icons.  After a few seconds, all the icons will start to wobble, and a circled X will appear on the top left of each icon.

To delete an icon, simply tap the circled X.

To move an icon, touch the icon and drag it to where you'd prefer it to be.  If you want to move it to another page, move it hard up to the edge of the page it is currently on, and it will then jump to the next page, and so on and so on through multiple pages until you get where you wish to be.

When you move an icon to somewhere else, other icons will flow to 'make space' for it and to fill in the empty space left by the icon's departure.

It can be a hassle moving the app icons between screens, so Apple have added a feature to the iTunes software that allows you to manage the screen layouts within iTunes.

Part of a series on the Apple iPhone - please also visit the other articles listed at the top on the right

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Originally published 4 Dec 2009, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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