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New iPhone? Try these must-have free apps

Mel Martin

If you have that new iPhone you received for the holidays, you're probably looking to load it up with some apps that will enhance your mobile experience. Let me suggest some of the best of the free apps. Of course, everyone will have their own list, but here are my 5 favorites that I think most new iPhone users will love to use and to show off their new iPhone.

If you're a news junkie, by all means get Zite, newly released for the iPhone. It sets you up with news categories of interest to you, then learns what you like by keeping track of stories you click on. Over time, it gets smarter and smarter, so in essence it creates a personalized magazine for you. Their are other news readers and aggregators, but the presentation of stories in Zite and its ability to learn make it my first choice.

Glypmse is one of my very favorite apps, the kind of app I would pay for if it wasn't free. While some of the location-tracking functionality it offers is covered by Apple's iOS 5-only Find my Friends app, Glympse is more flexible and cross-platform to boot.

With Glympse you send a message (email or SMS) to someone with information on your location; the link is set to expire when you want it to, so your friends can't track you indefinitely. Let's say you are meeting someone for lunch. When they get your message, they click on the included link, and Glympse loads a map showing a moving pin (that's you) along with your ETA. The person you are meeting doesn't need an iPhone, just any web-capable device, including laptops. It's a great service, and in practice I've found it to be super reliable.

Tango does what Apple's FaceTime won't do, which is to allow you to video conference with another cellphone using 3G (FaceTime requires WiFi). Tango has added clients for Android and Windows Phone, so it's a great way to visually keep in touch with friends. I even tried it with a friend touring China and it worked. An update last week allows you to leave video mail for your Tango buddies.

For more intellectual pursuits, try the recently released TED app. It's a collection of great talks from people in the arts, literature and the sciences. The app has been updated to work with Airplay, so you can stream the audio to another device like an Apple TV 2. I try to watch a TED talk at least once a week, and it's always a treat.

Finally, for pure fun, try Action Movie FX. From the creators of the new Mission: Impossible movie, you can add rather impressive special effects to your own movies. With the free version you can add a missile strike or a car crash to your own video. It looks great, and the price is exactly right. Reviews are glowing. There are some other modules you can buy, like a tornado or helicopter crash, but I was fine with the free effects. It's more fun than you should be allowed to have for free.

Enjoy that new iPhone. These free apps should help get you started. I'll add one bonus free app to the mix. Don't forget the free TUAW iPhone app to help you keep up with the latest and greatest Apple news. Happy Holidays!

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this post stated that Find my Friends did not allow you to set up an expiring location tracker; it does allow this, via the 'Temporary' group sharing option. It still requires all participants to be using an iOS 5 device, while Glympse is cross-platform (as is Google Latitude, which also offers an iOS app). We apologize for the error. –Ed.

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