The 5 Most Useful Free iPhone Apps

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Readers love hearing about great apps that populate Apple's ( AAPL) App Store. I generally leave that content to other solid writers who contribute to TheStreet.

See, for example, Katie Roof's 10 iPhone Apps for Foodies and Top 5 Music Apps.

Since getting iPhone 5, I have tested a fair number of apps -- several hundred -- and narrowed it down to my five most useful.

No. 5: Remote

Apple just updated this app for iPhone 5 and the new iPad. Up until this past weekend, I never used it before. Now, I can't live without it.

You use Remote from your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch to control Apple TV or your iTunes library. I use it exclusively with iPhone 5 to control iTunes.

It's flawless. You can pretty much do anything from the app that you can do in iTunes. In the Remote app, your iTunes library appears on your mobile screen. You can play, pause, skip, move between libraries, edit and create playlists and even manipulate the excellent "Up Next" feature in iTunes 11.

No more putting active windows in the background to get to the iTunes platform on your desktop and laptop. If you're on the computer working all day, that's an indispensable time saver.

No. 4: Umano

This app aggregates stories from around the Web and groups them by "Interests," including Entertaining, Geeky, Entrepreneurial and Scientific.

Umano reads the stories you select aloud. It's Pandora ( P) meets Songza for the information Web.

Select an interest and let it roll. Umano starts from the top, reading the first article in the category. It announces the title, the subtitle, the source and then reads the article word-for-word. When finished it moves to the next article in the queue.

You can customize playlists in Umano and proceed handsfree.

Pandora and Songza help mold the future of radio; Umano does the same with what ends up a hipper, more relevant incarnation of newsradio.

Based on its Twitter feed of just 50 or so followers, Umano, surprisingly, has yet to really take off.

No. 3: Safeway

Safeway ( SWY) owns and operates several grocery store chains including Safeway stores, Vons and Tom Thumb. You can download the same app under any one of those brand's names.

I shop at Von's offshoot Pavilions.

If you patronize a Safeway store, a checkout clerk has likely asked you to sign up for the "Just 4 U" program. To opt in, you download the iPhone app and link to the rewards card account you already have or simultaneously create with the store.

The app looks at your purchases -- past and present -- to provide "Just 4 U" deals. It's personalization at the grocery store. It also lists deals available to all other club card and weekly ad shoppers. You can take any of the deals, add them to your "card," and then add them to a shopping "list" in the app.

Positive: The Just 4 U feature is legitimate. I get regular and meaningful savings on items I actually use.

Negative: Safeway hasn't figured out how to provide a road map so you can put your list in some logical order as you navigate the store.

No. 2: Starbucks

The Starbucks ( SBUX)mobile experience drives traffic and loyalty at its stores as well as a good chunk of my bullishness on the company and stock.

The more I use this app, the more it impresses.

Of course it lets you pay via your mobile phone and collect rewards to achieve green and then gold status. That gets you perks, such as periodic free drinks.

When you dig into this thing, you find you can do all sorts of cool things like filter the Starbucks' food menu by ingredient. So, if you're allergic to shellfish or soy or peanuts, you can eliminate items that contain those ingredients.

See Also: Another Katie Roof story that runs down the Top 5 Holiday Shopping Apps this season.

No. 1: Pocket

Pocket used to be known as Read It Later. It's that straightforward.

You're browsing the Web on your computer or mobile device, you come across a story that you want to read later. With Pocket pervading your ecosystem (in addition to the App, you can and really must download the extension for your browser of choice; you can also tie Pocket to Twitter), you hit a button and the story saves on all of your devices that contain the Pocket app.

For instance, if I hit the Pocket button at the top of my Safari browser right now, it will save this story on my iPhone, iPad and in the Pocket platform on my computer so I can read it later.

Pocket quickly became a solid replacement for Twitter's "Favorite" feature. It used to be that when I didn't have the time to read an article in the moment, I would favorite it. I probably have 5,000 articles favorited right now in Twitter.

I either forget or just don't want to deal with my favorite list in Twitter. It feels much more intuitive to go into Pocket at the end of the day or week and review what I saved.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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