Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders


I had a blast browsing through this full-color, 228-page book about the very best iPhone applications. I only knew about 25% of the titles recommended by author Josh Clark, who tested thousand of apps to pick his 200 favorite work and leisure related titles. Some of the apps are free (like TED, which lets you watch those amazing TED talks on your iPhone, and Mint, a personal finance snapshot application that pulls your data from your account). Others cost money (like SoundCurtain, an ambient noise generator for $3.99, and Print&Share, which costs $6.99 and lets you print things on your iPhone to a printer).

Excerpt: 200909011313

Best App for When You Can't Hold It


Version: 3.0


When nature calls, it's SitOrSquat to the rescue. The database of public restrooms steers you to the closest porcelain oasis, including photos and ratings from a network of concerned citizens. That includes you: Update listings with photos, store hours, and ratings, or add new toilets as you explore your town's powder rooms. A blog of toilet humor provides bathroom reading, too. It's a full-service porta-potty for your mobile phone.

RESTROOM RADAR: SitOrSquat's map shows you the closest points of relief. Green and red icons indicate open and closed businesses (yellow means the database doesn't have that info). Select a business to see complete details, including photos, comments, and whether the facilities are clean ("sit") or dirty ("squat").

PILGRIM'S PROGRESS: The Search screen shows results in list view, including photos, ratings and distance from your current location. Type a new location in the search box to find restrooms for another place, or filter results for cleanliness, business type, or a remarkable number of "features" (changing tables, handicap access, seat covers).

Best iPhone Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders


  1. Isn’t a book of “best iPhone apps” rather like those books from the mid-1990s, full of lists of URLs that were mostly out-of-date before the book even hit the bookstores?

    I’m sure this is a lovingly-crafted and beautifully-researched example of its kind, but I’m also sure that it’ll be on the “unsaleably obsolete computer books” shelf of your local second-hand bookstore within the next twelve months.

  2. “It’ll be on the ‘unsaleably obsolete computer books’ shelf of your local second-hand bookstore within the next twelve months.”

    Of course it will be! But that’s the author and publisher’s problem. This book, right now, is the best way I know of to browse for the best iPhone apps.

  3. As with any print media trying to cover an ongoing technical subject, won’t this be hopelessly out of date by Christmas, if it is not already?

    There are an average of 5000 iPhone apps released per quarter (, though that number is slowing.

    With publishing lead up times and print runs taking months to go from final draft to in stores, the likelyhood that this book is worth your money is small at best…

    1. won’t this be hopelessly out of date by Christmas

      Perhaps the publishers feel that the iPhone app demographic and the Christmas shopping demographic don’t have much overlap.

  4. #angusm
    I loved those books and magazines that guided us toward the 50 most interesting websites (out of the literally thousands!)
    I think that you are correct though, that they share the same curve of popularity: Fascinating for the first month after publication, but then not fascinating again until a hundred years has passed.

  5. I think I’d pay about $1-2 a month to hear about 10-20 very thoroughly reviewed, relevant apps (not games). But getting this info in book form just does not really seem appropriate. I’d pay probably $5-10/mo for a site that “reviews everything” and has, say, 3-5 reviewers (different perspectives) with a database of at least 20% of what’s offered via the appstore.

    I know there’s really good stuff out there and more good stuff every day but it is exceedingly difficult to pick it out of the appstore.

    Oh and it would be awesome if it was not US-specific. There are tons of great apps for Europeans but the blogs I read (TUAW, the iPhone Blog, etc) are all hideously US-centric.

  6. Many thanks for taking note of my book, Mark — great to hear you enjoyed it! And thanks to all for your thoughts about the shelf life of the book. It comes up often, and I welcome all comments about the book and its format.

    It’s true that no print book (or even online blog for that matter) can possibly keep up with the very latest from the firehose torrent of apps getting added to the App Store every day. But this book doesn’t pretend to be the guide to all the apps of the moment. Instead, it aims to help the thousands and thousands and thousands of folks who are paralyzed by the 70,000+ options in the App Store and just want a tidy collection of apps to get them started at job X or task Y. Turns out this kind of advice in an easily browsable format is in high demand; I was floored and flattered to learn that the book is currently the #2 bestselling tech book in the US according to Bookscan.

    The goal is very much NOT to review everything but instead to showcase 200+ solid apps that get the job done in a wide range of categories. Every app I selected for the book is a solid, practical, and generally lovely piece of software. New apps certainly arrive every day, and many of those new arrivals will no doubt rival or outdo my picks for the relevant category. But because of the quality of the selected apps and the developers behind them, I have little doubt that these apps will likewise evolve and continue to be in the top ranks of apps in the App Store. Just like the must-have desktop apps remain fairly stable over time, I think we’ll find that the selected apps hold up fairly well over the next several months, possibly years for some. Time will tell.

    But yes, this market moves fast, and there’s tons of innovation and fresh ideas arriving daily in the App Store. So we do plan to do updates of the book, both in print and online. Check out the companion website at (it’s really going to start smokin’ after Labor Day). There’s no doubt that keeping up with the App Store is a challenge, and I recently blogged about how this book is essentially a fresh experiment for the publisher, O’Reilly Media, in both format and speed to print: Best iPhone Apps: Reinventing (and Designing) Books in the Web Era.

    Thanks again!

  7. It’s all good until a -chan mob tags your house as a five-star open toilet with safe injecting facilities…

  8. I went to Amazon and “requested this book be published for Kindle.” That way, I can read it with my Amazon Kindle app…

  9. This is nice and all, but how about an appbook version of it for $5, like Pogue’s Missing Manual to the (v2.0) iPhone? (Since O’Reilly doesn’t DRM its books, that means we could extract the epub file from the wrapper and read it on the desktop, too.)

  10. The book is very graphical, with lots of full-color screenshots, and so, alas, it would be a miserable experience on the Kindle. But yes indeed, there is an iPhone app version (of course) in the works. Stay tuned!

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