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50 Great Apps for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry

Enhance your life with these digital helpers

Who would have thought our phones would one day bring us sports scores, restaurant reviews and addictive brain games? Applications transform our smartphones into the world's most versatile pocket tools. From a personal money manager to a public toilet finder, we suggest 50 apps that will enhance your life with little, or no cost at all.

Personal Organization & Finance

1. Evernote

A great free app to help you stay organized or simply jot down ideas wherever life takes you. Evernote lets you create, view, organize, search and share your ideas — sort of like a digital version of yellow sticky notes, if you will — but also with the option to include voice notes, photos and videos, too, if desired. An auto-sync feature means your notes are automatically saved and accessible on other Evernote platforms, such as the Web or your personal computer. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

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Smartphone with Apps popping out of the screen

The right app is just a tap away on your BlackBerry, iPhone, Android or Windows smartphone device. — C.J. Burton

2. Mint

Set budgets, track expenses and reach your financial goals with the free Mint.com Personal Finance app for Apple and Android. This handy download for smartphone and tablet users lets you see what you're spending (and saving) through color-coded lists and graphs. You can also track your bank account balances in real-time, follow investments and even break out your expenditures by category and receive alerts when you've exceeded your budget. (Android, iPhone)

3. Venmo

Venmo is a free app that lets users pay money back to friends, family or colleagues. Or it can be used to split a bill at a restaurant or gift someone cash from one device to another. Simply sign up online, and then link a credit card or bank account to your Venmo account for all transactions. Venmo says the account works with all the major banks in the United States. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

Shopping

4. RedLaser

The free RedLaser app uses your smartphone's camera to take pictures of product bar codes and then displays, within a second or two, the best prices at online or local retailers. Scanned UPC codes on food products can also yield nutritional facts and allergen information. RedLaser also supports QR codes, too, to help you get more information on products by capturing those little black and white squares in magazines, newspapers or on posters. (Android, iPhone, Windows phones)

5. Gift List

Gift List by Gennubi ($2) is a simple, intuitive and useful shopping app for iPhone that helps you track your purchases and stick to a budget. Quickly create a profile for each person on your shopping list, type in the gifts you want to buy them (and how much you want to spend) and the app will keep you organized and within budget. Check off gifts you've purchased with your fingertip, and if you like, jot down notes, too. (iPhone)

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6. Pushpins

This popular — and free — shopping app cleverly combines your shopping list, digital coupons and nutrition facts on thousands of products. Search for items you'd like to buy or scan bar codes and Pushpins will show you the digital coupons related to the items on your smartphone (such as $1.50 off dishwasher detergent). And the app can save you time, too, by grouping your lists by aisle to get in and out the supermarket quickly. (iPhone)

7. CNET reviews

Buying consumer electronics can be an overwhelming endeavor given how quickly technology evolves, how expensive it can get and how confusing the terminology can be (do you know your gigahertz from your terabyte?). CNET Reviews is a handy companion for shoppers who want to carry CNET's expert staff in their pocket. Read clear and concise reviews, watch videos and scan bar codes to pull up price comparisons for popular products. (Android, iPhone)

8. Groupon

The free Groupon app brings the popular money-saving service to your pocket or purse. Check for daily deals at local stores — and if you like, pass them along to family and friends — and then present the offer at the store on your phone to get your deal. In other words, you don't need to print off the deal like you do when it's received on your personal computer. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

Hobbies & Entertainment

9. ESPN ScoreCenter

Sports fans never have to miss the action with the free ESPN ScoreCenter apps. Regardless of your preferred sport — football, baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer or motor sports — you can get personalized scoreboards and live game updates including plays, stats and standings. True diehards can even get scores pushed to their device in real time. (Android, iPhone)

10. ClearPainting Free

Use your fingertip or stylus pen to create a unique drawing on your iPhone. This free app is easy to use thanks to a clean interface that offers many tools, including multiple brush styles, sizes, colors and opacity levels. Plus, unlike most other painting apps, you can import photos to use as a background image to your artwork. (iPhone)

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11. RedStamp

Fusing the old world with new technology, RedStamp lets you create and mail personalized cards, thank you notes and invitations right from your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Select a design, type a message and perhaps import a photo, and then RedStamp will print a high-end yet eco-friendly paper postcard and mail it directly to your list of recipients, postage included. The free app offers more than 400 templates to start with. (iPhone)

12. SoundHound

Ever heard a great song on the radio, in a store or during a movie and had no clue who sang it? With the free SoundHound app, simply hold the smartphone up to the speaker and within seconds you'll see the name of the song, including artist and album information. In many cases, you can buy the song immediately — and the app offers related YouTube videos, lyrics and tour dates for the artist. (Android, iPhone, Windows phones)

13. Spotify

For the uninitiated, Spotify is a music streaming service that lets you listen to millions of high-quality tracks on your PC — including the option to share what you're listening to with your Facebook friends. To use it on your mobile device, you'll need to upgrade to the premium version ($9.99/month), which includes many additional features, removes advertisements and offers an offline mode when you don't have an Internet connection. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

14. Flixster

Love movies? The free Flixster app can help you figure out what to watch — and where. The app offers high-quality trailers and video clips for the hottest box office and DVD releases, plus critic and consumer reviews, and more. You can even see local show times and purchase tickets on the spot from theaters that sell tickets online. Flixster can also link you to your Netflix account or help you rent or buy movies via iTunes. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

Dining

15. OpenTable

A must-have for foodies who like to eat out, OpenTable is an app for restaurant reservations. Free to use, simply search for restaurants based on parameters you choose — location, cuisine, date/time and price range — and then book your reservation with a tap or two. You'll receive a confirmation email and can earn OpenTable rewards points, which can be redeemed for discounts at select restaurants. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows phone)

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16. Foodspotting

What differentiates this free restaurant reference guide from others — such as Urbanspoon — is that it's picture-based. Diners photograph their order, and then upload the shots, along with a review. You can also access guides from experts, such as the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone) (Penny Musco)

17. Epicurious

This free app boasts more than 25,000 recipes drawn from publisher Condé Nast's collection, which includes Gourmet and Bon Appétit magazines. Browse by meal or category, but the heart of the app is its sophisticated search capability. Recipes include user rankings, photos and reviews. When you find a recipe you like, tag it as a favorite, add the ingredients to a shopping list or email it to yourself or others. (Android, iPhone) (Steve Morgenstern)

18. BigOven

This free app is a more democratic foodie resource, boasting a user-generated 200,000-recipe database. Anyone can upload a recipe, so you're going to find a lot more prefab ingredients such as canned tomato soup and Bisquick here than at other apps. This one may lack graphic polish, but you can be pretty sure you'll find a recipe for just about any dish you can think of, and the user-rating system does a good job separating the winners from the losers. A premium version costs $16 annually and offers more features. (Android, iPhone) (SM)

Health & Fitness

19. Lose It!

The free Lose It! app is a handy tool to help you achieve your weight-loss goals. Set a goal — such as lose five pounds in one month — and then the program will calculate your targeted daily caloric intake to reach it. Tap in what you've been eating (by food, such as "one medium apple," or even by brand, like one bowl of "Kraft Macaroni and Cheese") and it will calculate the calories for you (and even fat, sodium and so on, if you like). Exercise is also factored into your daily routine. Your info can be also synched to the LoseIt.com website. (Android, iPhone)

20. MyFitnessPal

Log your food intake and exercise — wherever life takes you — so you can keep track of your fitness goals. This is the idea behind the free MyFitnessPal app. More than 1.5 million foods and restaurant dishes are in the database, so you can expect an accurate look at your caloric intake for each meal. Because you log into the app with your account details, all your information is automatically synchronized with the myfitnesspal.com website, too. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Windows phone)

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21. Endomondo Sports Tracker

This free personal trainer tracks your outdoor fitness routines via the smartphone's GPS technology. While walking, jogging, running or cycling, all your times, distances, speeds and calories are recorded and tracked. Plus, your friends can follow your exercise in real-time and send words of encouragement while you're exercising. (Android, Blackberry, iPhone)

22. Instant Heart Rate

Place your finger over the LED camera, and in 10 seconds you'll know how fast your heart is beating — no external hardware needed, as the camera actually watches your blood pulsing. The basic app is free, but an upgraded version (99 cents for Apple, $2.99 for Android) allows you to customize an exercise routine and track your progress, and includes a target heart-rate zone calculator. (Android, iPhone) (PM)

23. Eye Chart Pro

You don't need great eyesight to see why the free Eye Chart Pro was the top downloaded medical iPad app in 2011. Eye Chart Pro is a visual acuity exam that's completely randomizable, therefore you can't memorize the chart like at your eye doctor's office. Tap the screen to randomly generate the eye chart or an individual line, and toggle between Snellen and Tumbling E charts. Directions are included on how far back one should sit before reading the letters on the tablet display. (iPhone)

24. WebMD

As with its website, the WebMD app for delivers trusted health information to your fingertips. Look up symptoms and side effects, access an extensive database of drug information, and search or browse through a comprehensive guide to medical emergencies — even without an Internet connection. If needed, you can also look up nearby physicians, hospitals and pharmacies based on your location. (Android, iPhone)

25. White Noise Lite

If you're having trouble falling asleep, the free White Noise Lite app might be just what the doctor ordered. Simply select from 10 soothing sounds — such as a rainstorm, chirping crickets, wind chimes or waves crashing on a beach — and you might be sound asleep before you can say, "Wow, this app is really relaxing." The free download also features a timer that automatically turns it off after you drift off. A premium version offers additional sounds. (Android, iPhone)

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Brain Games

26. Unblock Me Free

You've probably seen similar "parking lot" puzzles before, where the object is to strategically move cars of different sizes, vertically or horizontally, to allow your vehicle to leave the lot. Unblock Me Free offers the same concept but with wooden blocks. There are four difficulty levels (from beginner to expert), two modes (Relax and Challenge), a hint system and a total of 4,200 free puzzles, in all. (Android, iPhone)

27. Shanghai Mahjong Free

Relax with this new spin on an old favorite. Shanghai Mahjong Free challenges you to remove a board of tiles by selecting pairs, but only the tiles on the top and sides of the pile are accessible. This free version adds intuitive touch controls, a variety of game modes and the ability to customize the tile and background artwork by downloading new images or importing pictures from your smartphone's photo album. (iPhone)

28. Words With Friends Free

The game that's so addictive Alec Baldwin was kicked off a flight for refusing to stop playing (lucky for him, the plane hadn't taken off yet). Zynga's Scrabble-like game challenges you to create words using tiles on board. Take turns against your opponents at your own pace. Words With Friends Free supports up to 20 simultaneous matches — and you'll be notified when it's your turn for each game. Chat with friends while playing via the in-game text messaging. (Android, iPhone)

29. Magic Piano

Music lovers, listen up. This free music-playing app is part game, part piano lesson. As you hear familiar songs — be it pop hits or traditional melodies — you must tap beams of light at the right time, either single notes or chords, to play along with the ditty. While you'll start with a number of free songs, you can purchase additional song packs or play enough that you earn in-game currency to pay for new music. Part of the fun is listening in on other players' performances from around the world. (iPhone)

30. Angry Birds

If you haven't heard of this free app, it's time to come out of your nest. The endearing, addictive physics-based strategy game gives you a giant slingshot to launch an assortment of birds with various destructive powers toward reinforced forts built by scheming green pigs. With more than 500 million downloads across all platforms, it's the most popular mobile game ever. (Android, iPhone)

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Lifelong Learning

31. Vocabology

Quadrennial? Macaronic? Arable? Vocabology is a free app that teaches you a "word of the day," pooled from several sources on the Internet. This includes traditional dictionaries (such as Merriam-Webster), current slang dictionaries, SAT Word of the Day and words from other languages, too. The app offers a word and definition, synonyms and examples of the word being used in a sentence. There's a quiz, and an optional in-app purchase that lets you hear pronunciation of each word. (iPhone)

32. Google Sky Map

The sky's the limit for armchair astronomers: the free Google Sky Map app lets you discover and browse the night sky by simply pointing your phone to space. Learn the name and location of planets, stars and constellations by taking advantage of the phone's GPS, accelerometer and digital compass. More than a thousand stars and all of the planets in our solar system are searchable and visible in the app, but you can also view and search for constellations and individual stars. Out of this world, huh? (Android)

33. TED

Available free to iPhone users, the official TED app includes hundreds of talks from some of the world's most fascinating people — including business mavens, spirituality gurus, tech leaders and music legends. Content includes nearly 1,000 TEDTalk conference videos (with new talks added every week) and on-demand streaming audio from TEDRadio. The entire library is available for searching or browsing, in both online and offline modes, plus you can share favorite talks and playlists with your friends. (Android, iPhone)

34. Fotopedia Heritage

Recently named one of Apple's top 50 "Hall of Fame" apps, Fotopedia Heritage houses more than 30,000 beautiful, handpicked photos. Created with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, the app also lets you virtually visit culturally significant sites around the world with interactive maps. View photos as a slideshow or wallpaper, shake your device to load new imagery and share your favorites via email, Facebook and Twitter. (iPhone)

35. Kindle

Kindle is a free e-book reading app that lets you flip through millions of digital books, magazines, newspapers and other content. Features include adjustable font sizes and brightness, instant dictionary word lookup and the ability to share quotes and passages with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. If you have an Amazon Kindle reader, the app syncs with it to remember where you left off in any of your books. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

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Travel

36. Kayak

This nifty app offers comprehensive travel information such as flight and hotel search and travel planning and management (packing lists, tip calculator, currency converter). The simple user interface will find you some of the best available travel deals with just a few swipes. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone) (Judy Mandell)

37. Yelp

Craving some sushi? Need to find a gift for a grandson? Car almost out of gas? Yelp helps you find nearby businesses via your smartphone's GPS, and lets you read reviews from others before you go. Narrow your searches by neighborhood, distance and price; make restaurant reservations on OpenTable from within the app; find great deals offered by local establishments; and "check in" to let Facebook friends or Twitter followers know where you are. An "augmented reality" feature lets you hold up your smartphone's camera to see business information overlaid on top of the world around you. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

38. Google Translate

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? With Google Translate, use your smartphone to instantly translate one language into another. More than 50 languages are supported, allowing you to type or speak a phrase into the Google Translate app and have it translated on the spot. Along with text-to-speech and speech-to-text, other features include dictionary definitions and support for history/favorites that can be saved for future reference. (Android, iPhone) (JM)

39. TripIt

A handy app for keeping track of all your travel itineraries, TripIt lets you forward all your confirmation emails for flights, hotels, rental cars and such, and TripIt will automatically organize them into detailed summaries with confirmation codes and other information. You can get instant access to all the trip info you need — including links, phone numbers and maps/directions to airlines, hotels, rental places and restaurants — directly from your itinerary. It'll also dial phone numbers right from within the TripIt itinerary. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

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40. Trailhead

Feeling like an adventure? The North Face Trailhead apphelps you find trails, hikes and bike routes based on your location. Alternatively, you can search by activity or length. Using the smartphone's GPS, Trailhead will then track your route, speed, distance and elevation — in real time — and when you're done you can post your experience to Facebook, Twitter or EveryTrail.com. More than 300,000 trails, hikes and bike routes are included in the app. (iPhone, Windows phone)

41. SitOrSquat

The user-generated content of this free restroom finder is the ultimate resource for when you gotta go when you're on the go. An independent group began compiling the data several years ago, but the app was recently acquired by Charmin, which accounts for the prominent toilet paper branding. Contributors often include information on operating hours and sometimes post photos of the facilities. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone) (PM)

Social Networking

42. Skype

This free app lets users video-chat with friends and family anywhere in the world — as long as they're also using a Skype-enabled device, such as a tablet, smartphone, computer or television. Using a Wi-Fi or cellular connection, you can see who you're talking to and they can see you; you also can tap to change to the rear-facing camera for them to see what you're looking at — such as a home renovation as you walk around your house. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

43. Bump

Bump is a free app that lets smartphone users easily exchange information between devices. Simply bump two smartphones together and as long as you're online — via Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity — the paired phones will exchange contact information. Beats swapping business cards — and more fun, too! (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone)

44. HeyTell

Stiff fingers? Not a problem. This voice-based tool lets you send, receive and record texts and calls with the touch of a single button. It not only instantly connects you to friends and family vocally, but also shows everyone's location, in case you need to find each other (different privacy levels can block the information if you prefer). And messages also can be saved and exported to Facebook and email. (Android, iPhone) (PM)

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Utilities

45. Google Goggles

Search the Web simply by taking a picture — the free app uses image recognition technology to recognize objects and return relevant search results. Identifies products, famous landmarks, storefronts, artwork and popular images found online. The app can also translate words in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian. (Android, iPhone) (JM)

46. The Weather Channel

As strangely addictive as the TV network it's based on, The Weather Channel's free app delivers real-time weather updates, large and customizable maps, and high-quality videos that cover local, regional and national forecasts. Get notified of breaking news, such as severe storm watches and alerts, watch in-motion radar (with past and future views) and read Twitter feeds from popular TWC on-air personalities. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone) (JM)

47. BuddyGuard

Formerly called Plerts, this personal protection device has monitoring, detection and warning capabilities. The accelerometer senses increased G-forces generated during a car accident and will automatically call for help. You can even enter a distress PIN to send an emergency alert. And every three seconds, the app records audio, snaps photos and notes your GPS coordinates, all of which make it handy to have along if you're traveling or in an unfamiliar area. (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone) (PM)

48. FastCustomer

Do you hate waiting on hold for customer service? Of course you do. With a simple tap of your screen, the free FastCustomer app will navigate the automated phone "tree" to whichever department you need — such as billing, reservations or tech support — and then will ring your smartphone once an agent is on the line. More than 3,000 companies in the United States and Canada are supported, including all major banks, credit card companies, telecoms and airlines. (Android, iPhone)

49. Tiny Flashlight

Whether you're walking to your car in the dark, reading on a dimly lit plane or stumbling to the bathroom in the middle of the night, your phone can make for a handy flashlight — with the right app, that is. As the name suggests, Tiny Flashlight uses your camera's LED flash (iPhone 4/4S) as a bright flashlight. You can also select from various screen lights with customizable colors and variable brightness settings. (Android, iPhone)

50. Over 40 Magnifier and Flashlight

This clever two-in-one app is both a flashlight and magnifier. For example, you're in a dark restaurant and the waiter brings the check to the table. Simply pull out your phone and you can not only shine a light on the situation but magnify the text from 1x to 10x. Note: An iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S is required for the flashlight functionality, but any iOS device with a camera can serve as a magnifier. (iPhone)

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