Steve Jobs’ Apple has felt more like a soap opera recently than a technology giant. In June, the company rolled out its feature-packed iPhone 4 and then found itself besieged over the gadget’s balky antenna. A free case was offered, recalls were whispered about and, this past weekend, a top Apple executive was apparently shoved out in response. Google, meanwhile, is fighting back with its Android cellphone platform—which reportedly bested the iPhone in sales for the first half of the year.
Yet despite all this, the iPhone 4 has sold upwards of 5 million units of its new phone this summer. That accomplishment is due largely to the success of the app model, which lets users expand their phone’s capabilities. It didn’t take long for “There’s an app for that” to become a familiar refrain.
So where exactly is the cutting edge in apps these days? To find out, The Daily Beast set out in search of the most innovative—and useful—iPhone apps. We found a bumper crop, thanks to The Daily Beast’s unofficial panel of more than a dozen Apple and technology experts (and with some help from our own in-house geek squad). Our panel spans the gamut from such respected app developers as Marco Arment, the creator of Instapaper, to long-time Apple-watchers like Guy Kawasaki and Tim Bajarin. (For more app insights from our panel, see “ The 20 Best iPad Apps” and “ The 10 Worst iPhone Apps.”
What makes for a brilliant app? One factor cited repeatedly by our panelists was the ability to take advantage of the iPhone’s role as an always-with-you device. “The iPhone is designed to be used while in motion, while walking, riding in an elevator, etc.,” says Daniel Jalkut, the founder of Red Sweater Software. “The applications that consider the user’s likely location will be the most successful.” Another attribute that our panelists focused on for both innovation and utility: How well an app taps the potential of iPhone capabilities like motion sensors and the built-in camera.
The next app frontier? Live video, says Bajarin, the president of tech consultancy Creative Strategies. Apple’s FaceTime video-call system is a “good start,” Bajarin says, but “apps that integrate live video have the greatest potential for innovation.”
Click Here to See 15 Innovative Apps for the iPhone
All this may soon be relevant to a huge new pool of people. Reports this weekend strongly suggest that iPhones may soon work on the Verizon network, which would be another game-changer. What’s in store for all these newbies? Click here to see 15 most innovative apps for the iPhone.
Thomas E. Weber covers technology for The Daily Beast. He is a former bureau chief and columnist at The Wall Street Journal and was editor of the award-winning SmartMoney.com. Follow him on Twitter.