The 10 Best Smartphone Apps of 2011

Our Favorite Smartphone Apps of the Year

With several hundred thousand smartphone apps already on the market, you might think that all the good ideas have been taken – but this year proved just the opposite to be the case. Dozens of incredibly useful smartphone apps were released throughout 2011 that have the potential to revolutionize the way we do everyday tasks, but since we know most sane people aren’t going to download that many apps onto their phone, MainStreet decided to narrow down the list of new apps to the 10 absolute essentials for consumers. These apps can help you do everything from comparison shopping to eliminating hold times when calling customer service. Best of all, nine of these apps are completely free. So whether you just got your first smartphone for the holidays or have had one for years, these are the new apps that you’ll want to make sure to download. Photo Credit: Bart Claeys


Hipmunk

Hipmunk was certainly not the first travel app, but from the moment it launched in February it quickly proved itself to be miles ahead of any others on the market. The app, like Hipmunk’s website, differentiates itself from competitors by using a simple interface to highlight flights that are convenient for each individual user rather than listing every single flight that’s available. Travelers can sort through flights by any of three factors including the total cost, departure times and the length of the flight, or by weighing all of these together in what Hipmunk has aptly dubbed the Agony metric. This way you won’t just find a flight, you’ll find the right flight. Hipmunk is available for free on the iPhone and Android phones. Photo Credit: Apple.com


Slice

Slice really only does one thing, but the app does it really, really well, and that one thing also just happens to be extremely useful. Slice organizes the shipping details for all of your current orders by automatically searching through receipts in your email. The app includes a map that shows the location of every one of your orders (both sent and received) and it notifies you with shipping updates as they come. This way you don’t have to waste so much time searching for tracking codes and receipts for each purchase. Slice launched an app in November that’s available for free on the iPhone. Photo Credit: Apple.com


Manilla

What Slice does for shipments, Manilla does for paying bills. Manilla launched an app in November that lets users manage their billing accounts for more than 1,200 businesses ranging from banks to magazines to make sure that you never miss a payment. It even works with rewards cards and daily deal sites to remind you to redeem rewards points or a deal voucher if a deadline is coming up. Manilla is available for free on the iPhone and Android phones. Photo Credit: Apple.com


FastCustomer

FastCustomer solves a problem consumers have had for years: getting a living, breathing customer service representative on the phone. All you have to do is select the business you’d like to contact from a list of more than 1,000 companies that partner with the app, and FastCustomer will make sure that a company representative calls you when they’re ready rather than making you wait on hold indefinitely. This is the way customer service should be. FastCustomer is available or free on the iPhone and Android phones. Photo Credit: Apple.com


Stamped

There are more review sites for businesses, restaurants and products than anyone could possibly know what to do with, which is precisely why we need an app like Stamped. Stamped lets each user post a limited number of reviews (or stamps) for restaurants, books, apps and more in an effort to cut down much of the noise that you typically find on review sites. As we wrote in our initial review of the app, Stamped is intended to be a more intimate social network where users can find recommendations for activities and purchases from friends and, yes, occasionally celebrities. Our favorite feature of the app by far is that you can view the stamps from people you follow on a map and even pin places you’d like to visit later, so anytime you’re in the area you’ll know where to visit. The app was launched by a few former Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) employees in November and is currently available for free on the iPhone. Photo Credit: Apple.com


Orchestra

Orchestra took the concept of a to-do list app to the next level when it launched in September with two great innovations. First, the app adds a collaborative component to the to-do list and lets users share their tasks with friends and co-workers and even chat in the app to update each other about any changes. If that weren’t enough, you can also forward emails with reminders about assignments to Orchestra, which it will then automatically add to your to-do list so you don’t lose track. Orchestra launched in September and is available for free on the iPhone. Photo Credit: Apple.com


Savvy

Savvy is one of those apps that meets a need many consumers probably don’t even know they have: price protection. The app tracks the price adjustment policies for each product you purchase and notifies you if the price drops and you’re eligible for money back. Moreover, Savvy will notify you when a product you want to buy drops down closer to their desired price. All the user has to do is take a picture of the item or scan their receipt, and create an account with Savvy.com. The main drawback of the app is that it only launched in November and it has only managed to partner with a few dozen retailers – including some big names like Best Buy and Williams-Sonoma. Still, we’re putting this on our list in part based on the hope that the app continues to expand and improve in 2012. The Savvy app is available for free on the iPhone and Android phones. Photo Credit: Apple.com


Spotify

Spotify is the only app on our list that you actually have to pay for to use, but it’s well worth the money. Spotify’s music service launched in the U.S. this July after months of speculation and hype. On the surface, it seemed very similar to previous music streaming companies like Grooveshark and Rdio with one notable difference: Spotify had successfully managed to partner with each of the four major record labels, giving it access to more than 15 million songs at launch. Technically you can access the service for free, but that comes with plenty of ads, a limited number of listens each month and it doesn’t work on mobile products. To access Spotify on your phone, you’ll need to sign up for a $10-a-month membership, but again, if you’re someone who spends a lot of time listening to music, this quickly pays off. Like the desktop service, Spotify’s app makes it easy to search for music, create playlists and find out what friends are listening to. The really great feature, though, is that users can set up a select number of playlists to be accessible offline, meaning that you can listen to tracks on-the-go even if you don’t have service. The app is available on the iPhone and Android phones. Photo Credit: Apple.com


Flow by Amazon

In November, one of Amazon’s (Stock Quote: AMZN) subsidiaries released this excellent price check app that not only scans the barcodes of products (like RedLaser and other apps already do), but actually can scan any part of the product to pull up its details. At the time it launched, we tested it against Google’s Shopper app with a wide range of items including books, CDs, peanut butter and oatmeal. Overall, Flow was quicker and more successful in pulling up the right details for each product. Keep in mind that this is an Amazon app, which means that every time you scan a product you will be shown a listing to buy it from Amazon. That said, more often than not Amazon really does have the lowest or one of the lowest prices, so if your goal is to get a quick price comparison, this is a great way to do it. Flow is available for free on the iPhone.


Lemon

Lemon is more than just a receipt organizer. With this app you can quickly scan and catalogue your receipts and even use the data on those receipts to chart your spending at specific retailers in a given period of time. But be warned: Once you download this app, you’ll never have an excuse not to stick to a budget again. Lemon’s app is available for free on the iPhone and Android phones. Photo Credit: Apple.com


Tweet alongside us

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail at seth.fiegerman@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter at @sfiegerman. And if you haven't already, now is a great time to follow MainStreet itself on Twitter. You'll get all of our most important stories, right as they publish. Follow us @mainstr! Photo Credit: clevercupcakes


Show Comments

Back to Top