If you've marveled at the aesthetic quality of a friend's photo album lately, you can likely credit Instagram. The free photo-sharing app has been downloaded by four million people who use it to add stylistic filters, frames, and effects to photos, which can—by tapping one of 16 options—turn a straightforward snapshot into what looks like a weathered Polaroid time-capsuled from 1977. Read more.
The app version of the start-up travel search website Hipmunk is just as clean and easy to use as its online iteration. Enter your departure city, destination, and dates, and it ranks available flights by agony they inflict on passengers. "Agony" is a rubric that balances cost against flight and stopover length—like most casual travelers would do anyway. The iPhone app doesn't yet include hotel search, but, hey, it's free. Read more.
Craving some inspiration for dinner? This free app lets users search for photos of interesting foods nearby, contributed by other users. It functions as a recommendation engine for great dishes, rather than great establishments. Users of Foodspotting are all over the globe, so it might just serve as inspiration for a tour of Vietnamese street food—whether you're in Da Nang or Los Angeles. Read more.
Seth Priebatsch's company's first app, Scvngr, is billed as "a game about going places, doing challenges, and earning points." Like Foursquare, it points out via Google Places nearby locations to check in, with rewards like badges, or discounts at merchants for doing special challenges. This year the company also launched LevelUp, a daily deals app with incentives for repeat purchases at a local merchant. Both are free to download. Read more.
Need to have access to all your computer files on the go? Meet Dropbox, a file-synching service that allows users to upload documents, videos, and photos from virtually any mobile device or computer. The company’s app gives users secure, online access to all their files saved on work or personal desktops while on the move, and also allows file-sharing. Available for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, and Android. Read more.
Texting one friend at time is annoying, not to mention rough on your thumbs. This mobile app allows users to communicate with a select group of friends via group messaging and conference calling. GroupMe is free and works on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry—or it can be used with plain ol' SMS as well. Read more.