Top five free iPhone productivity apps

Our favorite iPhone apps let you aggregate various online accounts, back up notes and photos, create to-do lists, look up local businesses, and surf the Web offline--all without spending a dime.

I experienced a few lag-time issues when testing the app, but no real deal-breakers. For instance, the text-to-voice feature was accurate in my testing, but conversion from text to voice took about 10 minutes over EDGE. Also, there's inexplicably no way to edit a to-do or shopping entry from your iPhone once you've saved it, even to add the day and time the task is due. You can, however, edit and manage your saved entries on ReQall's nicely designed Web site. The current iteration of ReQall is free, but according to its Web site, the company will start charging for it soon.

4. YPMobile

Website | App Store link (requires iTunes)

YPMobile puts searchable Yellow Pages listings right on your iPhone free of charge, saving you from having to lug the Yellow Pages around with you. In addition to searching for specific business names, YPMobile can also search by category: restaurant types, dry cleaners, barber shops, and the like.

Provided you allow YPMobile to use your current location data, your search results display in order of the businesses nearest to your current location, which is a great touch. Each listing offers the business's address and phone number (you tap the number to call them), as well as a user rating based on a five-star scale. You can add listings to your "Plan" for the day by hitting a plus button at the bottom of the screen, and you can bookmark and share business listings by adding them as a favorite. YPMobile's usefulness doesn't stop there, thanks to an events tab that lists upcoming concerts and happenings. Of the batch reviewed here, it's the most bug-free.

5. Instapaper

Website | App Store link (requires iTunes)

Instapaper is a way to create offline versions of your favorite Web articles, allowing you to read them on your iPhone while you're on an airplane, in the subway tunnel, or otherwise out of signal range. However, in order to save a list of pages to read, you'll need to plan ahead and visit beforehand using mobile Safari, choose your content, and then launch the Instapaper app to read it offline. I only wish it had integrated functionality with the iPhone's mobile Safari browser; namely, the ability to save offline versions of articles by simply tapping a button within Safari.

After performing that rather irritating ritual (it's much less frustrating to use your laptop or desktop to save your content with the Instapaper site), the Instapaper app displays a list of all the pages you've saved. However, clicking on my entries brought up another buggy usability issue: an error message that read, "Sorry, this page is not available offline." That's not entirely accurate, because tapping the "Text" button at the top of the screen brought up an offline version of each saved page. Once you get around the bugginess and the hoop-jumping, Instapaper is a nice way to read long articles offline, but the development team has a few kinks and usability issues to work out.

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Tim Moynihan

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