The world's biggest social network brings a tightly honed experience to the iPhone and iPod touch, but nonetheless still enables you to access your contacts, feeds and other important information. This sense of focus makes it in many ways superior to using Facebook in a desktop browser.
We did a bit of a double-take on seeing Microsoft's name attached to this, not least given the lack of a price-tag. But PhotoSynth is a really great panorama app; it's user-friendly and fun to use, especially when watching your panoramas take shape while you capture them. (The iOS Camera app also has a panorama mode, but PhotoSynth's more flexible and works with older devices.)
The prospect of Nike+ but better and for free might sound unlikely, but that's what RunKeeper provides. Previously split into 'pro' and 'free' versions, the developer now generously includes all the features in one free app.
That means you can spend no money, yet use your iPhone's GPS capabilities to track your jogging and cycling routes, and examine mapping and details of your pace and calories burned. Activities can be shared online, and treadmill runs and other exercise details can be entered manually.
RSS has a reputation for being a rather dry technology, feeding you dull lists of headlines. Pulse flips RSS on its head, providing streams of feeds that grab your eye with photographs. It's perhaps not for the hardcore RSS crowd, but if you follow a small number of feeds, it's a great choice.
Plenty of apps exist for transferring content between your computer and your device, but Dropbox is free and easier to use than most of its contemporaries. Dump files you want to sync in a folder on your computer and Dropbox for your device will enable you to access them, download them for offline viewing, and, in many cases, view them.
Love Dropbox? Then check out our article Essential tips for every Dropbox user.
National Rail Enquiries
For anyone commuting by train, National Rail Enquiries is a handy app to have installed. There's journey planning, timetables and a location-aware 'next train home' option, along with progress tracking, so you can see when a train's likely to show up. It's not as usable nor as pretty as UK Train Times, but it is broadly similar - and five quid cheaper.
FaceTime is a great alternative to standard voice calls, but it's no good if you're trying to contact someone without a Mac or compatible iOS device. Therefore, Skype remains an essential download. The interface is simple and usable, enabling anyone with a Skype account to make free calls to other Skype users and cheap calls to anywhere in the world. If you're on Pay and Go, this is particularly handy, but the app also enables iPod touch users to utilise their devices for calls.
Movies by Flixter
Movies by Flixter succeeds where it matters. Select a film and the app figures out where you're located, lists nearby cinemas/theaters, and displays times your chosen movie is showing. Efficiency can be further increased by pinning favourite cinemas to the top of the list.
The most beautiful and elegant of Twitter clients also happens to be free. Twitterrific gives you a unified timeline, custom tabs, and multiple themes. It's fully optimised for all Apple devices and can sync timelines across them using iCloud or Tweet Marker. In app purchases (IAP) enable you to remove ads or add push notifications.
There are many free news apps, but Reuters offers a breadth of coverage that makes it a winner. Preferences enable you to tailor the app's output to your country, and the toolbar provides swift access to news, pictures, videos and stock markets coverage.
The official Twitter app might lack some of the features found in the likes of Tweetbot, but it does provide a sleek and simple means of using the service. It also rapidly rolls in new features from the website, such as the Connect and Discover views, along with expandable tweets that contain photos and videos.
Clients to access the popular Evernote service for storing notes and ideas online are available for so many platforms that we half expect a ZX Spectrum app to be announced tomorrow. On the iPhone, Evernote is efficient and usable, enabling you to rapidly scan your notes and also create new ones.
With iBooks on the iPhone, you might wonder why you should bother with Amazon's Kindle. After all, the app's not as pretty as iBooks, nor is there an integrated store (you buy in Safari and sync purchases to the app). However, Kindle offers a massive selection of books compared to Apple's app and the reading experience is great.
Around Me figures out where you are and lists local stuff - banks, bars, petrol stations and, er, Apple Retail Stores. The app's reliance on Google Maps info means there are gaps, but it's nonetheless handy to have installed when in unfamiliar surroundings, and the 'augmented reality' landscape mode is amusing, if flaky.
Over two million definitions, synonyms and antonyms are available in the palm of your hand with this free, offline dictionary and thesaurus. The app is fast and efficient, includes phonetic and audio pronunciation of words, and its interface seems perfectly suited to the iPhone.
Although iOS includes iCloud Keychain, 1Password is a better system. It's fully cross-platform and enables you to store multiple identities (such as a full one for payments and a simplified one for forums), secure notes and software licence details. As of iOS 8, 1Password integrates with Touch ID, meaning you can use it with Safari, although the app also retains its own built-in browser.
Adobe Photoshop Express
If you're looking for Photoshop-style power, Photoshop Express won't impress. However, if you're after a quick, free, highly usable tool for making edits to your iPhone photos, Adobe's app is ideal. Use it for cropping, straightening, exposure adjustments, colour effects, sharpening and more.
For more cool iPhone image editors, check out 10 best iPhone and iPad photo editing apps.
XE Currency is a fine example of an app that does what it needs to, without fuss. You configure a list of currencies, and it shows current conversion rates. Double-tap a currency to set its base rate or to define values for custom conversions.
One of the tools from the excellent iHandy Carpenter toolkit app, iHandy Level Free turns your iPhone into a spirit level. By default, it'll show just how wonky your device's accelerometer is, but tap the calibrate button and you get an accurate and great-looking level.
The service formerly known as Read It Later enables you to save pages from websites, to read them later, bereft of the advertising and other junk on the original page. The service is free, as is the Pocket app, which downloads your articles, so that you can digest them without a web connection.
"But I've already got a calculator on my device," you might argue. True, but we'd recommend stashing the default Apple app in a folder and replacing it with PCalc Lite. The reason: this is without doubt the finest free calculator for iOS, with a great interface and plenty of options. You can also bolt-on features from the paid version via in-app purchases.
Effectively iTunes for books, the app combines a reader and store, in Apple's typically usable and integrated fashion. Usefully, iBooks includes PDF support and bookmarks automatically sync across devices.
Tumblr has managed to carve itself a niche, sitting somewhere between blogs and Twitter. The iPhone app is very nice indeed, providing a sleek browsing experience, and also a straightforward means of uploading text, photos and videos to your Tumblr account.
On using the eBay app, there's a good chance you won't go near the eBay website again. The app is fast, has great saved searches (which flag new finds), and enables you to create listings. The last of those things is also improved by the built-in bar-code scanning.
Tube Map London
At its most basic, Tube Map London is a London Tube map on your device, for free. In landscape, even the ads get out of your way, which is rather nice. And if you've a web connection, the app also provides live board info, a station finder and a route calculator.
"Hold the world in the palm of your hand," says Google about Google Earth, which enables you to fly across the planet by swiping your finger. More integration with content and features from Maps would be good, but Google Earth's Wikipedia articles and a Panoramio layer at least ensure it's a great app for seeing the world from your living room.
Shazam is an app that feels like magic when you first use it. It's deceptively simple—hold your iPhone near to a music source, and wait while the app listens and tells you what track is playing. But the sheer technology behind this simplicity is mind-boggling, and while Shazam doesn't always guess right, it's worth a download.
The revamped iOS 8 keyboard is far better than its predecessor, not least because of the predictive word bar, but SwiftKey takes things a step further. Rather than laboriously tapping out individual keys, you just glide your finger across them. This can make for some comical typos initially, but SwiftKey soon speeds up iPhone text entry.
As you might expect, Yell Search enables you to find local stuff. Select from a bunch of built-in categories or type in your own term for a list of local amenities, and use the map to navigate. Avoid the clunky augmented reality view, though.
BBC News has a mobile website that works very nicely in Safari. However, the BBC News app is designed to give you quick access to breaking stories, complete with playable videos and zoomable text. The navigation's a tad on the quirky side though.
Find my iPhone
For the paranoid souls out there (or the unlucky ones who've had their devices pilfered), Find My iPhone is a must-have download. Assuming you've a 2010 or later iOS device, you can set up a free account and locate your devices within seconds. (Note that older devices can also be added to Find My iPhone - you just need a recent one to get things going.)
Fed up of typing on the tiny iPhone keyboard? Use Dragon Dictation instead, which happily converts your speech into text (with slightly spooky levels of accuracy for a freebie app). You can even punctuate ("Comma! Full-stop!"), and when you're done the app enables you to fire your thoughts at Facebook, Twitter, Mail or the iOS clipboard.
Of course, Siri's available for more recent iOS devices; even so, Dragon Dictation has a longer buffer time and might be more suitable for people used to defining punctuation while dictating.
If you're an instant messaging fiend, IM+ gives you access to a bewilderingly large range of services, from giants like AIM and Facebook through to more niche fare. It's the perfect app for anyone who does a lot of instant messaging and wants everything within a single app, rather than having dozens of apps on their home screens.
Kayak aims to be an all-in-one smart travel app, providing the means to search for flights, hotels, and car rentals, and then manage your trip and track your flights. Alerts can be defined to inform you about price changes, and the interface is clean and simple, ensuring that you don't miss any important details.
Virtuoso Piano Free 3 won't turn you into a virtuoso, but it's a perfectly serviceable mini piano. You can amend the number of keys shown on screen, and buttons enable you to rapidly navigate the full keyboard. You get two built-in voices for playback, to which you can add variable levels of sustain.
Don't bother buying a DAB radio - just install TuneIn Radio instead and plug your device into a set of speakers. TuneIn Radio has a great interface for accessing over 50,000 digital stations; it also has AirPlay support, and you can use it as an alarm clock.
More a gateway drug for the tasty treats of Jamie Oliver, this IAP-infused app nonetheless flings ten freebie recipes your way and a few videos. The interface in Jamie's Recipes is lickable, and there's a handy shopping-list feature, for those of you who don't fancy arriving back home after fighting the crowds in the supermarket, only to find you accidentally picked up 500 lemons and forgot the chicken.
Take a photo, smash a filter into it, and upload it. Instagram's service is now used by millions of people to share nuggets of visual loveliness, and the app itself is a pleasure to use, and also to browse during moments when you're not feeling quite so inspired.
Assuming you're online, Google Translate is a great app for translating text between dozens of different languages; handily, the most popular of them enable you to speak into your device and listen to translations. It's also considerably cheaper and more portable than dozens of translation staff.
We say a big PFFT! at CGI. Real animators use stop-motion, until they inevitably go crazy at only being able to craft about three seconds of footage per week. iMotion HD enables you to create such painstaking animations with your device.
The sting in the tail: a £1.49 IAP for export, but if you don't care about that, you can play your creations on your device to your heart's content. There's also the free iMotion Remote to use as a remote controller over Wi-Fi for iMotion HD, to avoid you accidentally moving your 'camera'.
TED is brain food. The app provides access to talks by insanely clever people, opening your mind to new and radical ideas. You can also save your favourite talks locally, for even easier access, or ask the app to inspire you, based on your mood and available time.
The remote for Apple TV is a bit of a joke when you need to do anything more than play or pause. Remote is a free app which provides much better control and the ability to stop yourself going mad when typing things into search fields. It'll also happily use Home Sharing to pull content from computers on your network to your device, or fire said content at your Apple TV using AirPlay.
Skyscanner's a great website, which enables you to punch in airports and find out the cheapest way of getting from A to B. The Skyscanner app is the same, but it's on your device and with a spiffy AI. Well worth a download, even if only to check flights for an upcoming holiday.
Apple fans with a lack of self-control should steer clear of the Apple Store app, which enables you to buy shiny Apple products directly from your device, to locate your nearest shrine of tech loveliness (aka Apple Store), and even to pay in-store, without having to bother hassling one of the blue-shirted staff.
BBC iPlayer is by far our favourite of the TV catch-up apps, largely because it tries to do what's right for the viewer, rather than the suits. You can watch live TV or check out shows that have been broadcast over the past 30 days. Archived shows can be downloaded to watch later, and there's also AirPlay support for firing footage at your Apple TV.
Brits might rightly grumble that the Netflix selection leaves a little to be desired, but it's still a very affordable way to get a ton of TV in front of your eyes. The app works much like you'd expect: browse, watch, realise it's three in the morning - again.
A great app for anyone regularly suckered by ads but also afflicted with impatience, Amazon Mobile enables you to browse and buy from the mammoth online store with ease. You can also sneakily scan bar-codes in brick-and-mortar stores to see how much cheaper the attached goods would be online.
SoundCloud is becoming one of those indispensable online services, storing a huge range of songs and audio clips. Although this app is suitable for browsing and playing, you can also use it to record and upload your own sounds.
It would be a hard ask to expect the Flipboard experience on the iPhone and iPod touch to match that of the iPad version, but it nonetheless has a good go, transforming your favourite feeds and news sources into a tiny, beautiful digital magazine.