As we welcome another year, many of our readers are making resolutions to improve themselves. We've rounded up five iPhone apps (plus bonus apps, many of them free) to help you keep your New Year's Resolutions. Read on, if you dare....
1. Get In Shape
So you're a couch potato. 2008 was full of so much awesome TV and other passive entertainment that you packed on the pounds and really let your muscle tone go. Abs? What are those? You just have fabs, the squishy, huggable ab substitute. You need to get fit!
Well, iFitness ($1.99) is here to rescue you. The most popular fitness app on the iPhone, iFitness boasts over a hundred illustrated exercises, with visual aids as well as text descriptions; a log for keeping track of reps and weight; and the ability to create workouts that combine exercises. It's actually kind of a neat way to do exercise, reminiscent of Wii Fit -- by adding a layer of nerdily obsessive goal-tracking, you just might make exercise fun!
Other best bets: Lose It! (free), an app for tracking calories; iWorkout Lite (free), a video-based workout app that includes a basic pedometer function; Yoga STRETCH ($1.99), a beautifully designed yoga instruction app, and iMapMyRun (free), a tool to map your run route using GPS.
2. Reduce Your Spending
Credits cards have just one flaw: that pesky bill that comes at the end of the month. When the Global Economic Downturn hit, many of us tightened our belts just a bit. But it can be hard to track whether you're succeeding in cutting spending. Why not nerd out with an awesome free iPhone app that'll track your budget and automatically import your spending habits via online banking features?
Mint (free) is a pretty remarkable app for tracking your spending...until the next bill comes. Unlike other apps (like Quicken, the app I've tried five times to start using, and failed each time because it seemed like too much work), Mint does not require you to input your transactions. Instead, it pulls them from your online banking sites and then displays them in an iPhone-friendly view. You can view budgets, spending at individual merchants (I'm looking at you, Amazon), investments, and even retirement savings. It's really worth a look.
Other personal finance apps: Bloomberg Mobile (free) for tracking stocks; Trip Cubby - Mileage Log ($9.99) for tracking mileage for tax deductions; and Bank of America Mobile Banking (free) for BoA customers (...except those in Washington and Idaho, for some reason).
3. Educate Yourself With Awesome Lectures
If you read the mental_floss blog, you've seen me linking to lots of TED Talks over the years. TED stands for Technology, Education, and Design; it's a slightly fancy-pants conference in which smart people give smart talks to a smart audience. But maybe you haven't spent enough time with TED to really enrich your life. Wouldn't it be nice to have TED in your pocket at all times? (Note: statement does not apply to Ted, the pocket-sized hamster who eats your keys.)
TED Talks are available online and as podcasts. But there's another way to get them when you're on the go: the TED App (free). You can watch video or just listen to the audio, search for topics, and even save favorites. There are tons of great TED Talks out there: I recommend searching for Nicholas Negroponte (the visionary behind One Laptop Per Child), a talk about the Bonobo (see an ape build a fire, write, and understand spoken English), and Will Wright (for a great demo of Spore).
Other best bets in the educational arena: GRE Word Lite (free), an app with a small set of GRE study words (there's also a paid version with lots more); NPR Mobile (free), an app for tuning into virtually any NPR program segment (!!!); Stars (free), an app that displays constellations; and iSign Lite (free), an app that shows you some basic ASL (American Sign Language).
4. Read a Great Book
Admit it: you haven't been reading as much as you'd like to. You might also cop to never having read the classics...or actually, you just haven't read any books at all. In fact, you're probably not reading this blog right now. So let's get reading!
There are many great book-reading apps for the iPhone. While the iPhone's reading experience isn't as good as either a real book or an Amazon Kindle, it's still surprisingly decent, especially if you're crammed into an airplane, bus, or other unpleasant public transit experience. By combining a book reading application with the built-in iPod playing in the background, you can easily get lost in a book.
The best Book-reading app for the iPhone is Stanza (free). It offers a wide variety of free content, including "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" -- which is also a paid app elsewhere in the iTunes Store, but is in Stanza for free. Many classic works by Poe, Shakespeare, Wilde, Carroll, Wodehouse, and more are available -- so you can get started with free, high-quality books. There are also paid books available, should you desire to read Twilight or Blink on your phone.
More best bets in Books: Classics ($4.99), a beautifully rendered book-reader for a limited set of classic books; The King James Bible (free), just what it says it is; and iPhone: The Missing Manual ($4.99), a surprisingly good reference to the iPhone's functions written by New York Times columnist David Pogue.
5. Eat Better
I'm blessed with an abundance of awesome restaurants in my neighborhood. I've even got a late-night food cart area right around the block -- and we're talking fancy gourmet carts, not crappy ones. But when I'm traveling, I like to find good food, rather than resorting to chains. Here's where Zagat To Go '09 ($9.99) comes in.
The Zagat app offers, of course, restaurant reviews. But it adds restaurant photos, GPS support (to find nearby restaurants), an easy way to make reservations, and "best of" lists in many cities. You can even search and sort by type of food, average cost, or quality of service. While there are several user interface problems (for example, scrolling is slow, and the "email a restaurant" function crashed for me), the core content is useful, and probably worth the ten bucks if you're a foodie.
What Did We Miss?
This roundup only covered a few of the New Year's Resolutions you might have made this year...what did we miss? Suggest more apps (or resolutions) in the comments. We're also curious what apps you use on the Blackberry or Android to achieve similar goals!