Facebook (Free): To call Facebook simply a “social network” is like calling Lang Lang just a “piano player”. Facebook is an entire country…on the Internet…and if you need to talk to your friends in that country on the go, look no further than the official Facebook app for the iPhone. You have access to almost everything you would on the desktop, except for the games. If you want Farmville on your phone, download it from the app store (don’t bother looking for it in the top 10 games section – it didn’t even rank). However, you are able to get to your profile, wall, pages, friends and even Places. Surely that has to be enough for you, right!?
Twitter (Free): Originally called Tweetie, Twitter bought the critically acclaimed app and rebranded it as the official Twitter client for the iPhone. Luckily, however, it didn’t change much and kept the fantastic interface users had loved upon first launch. Twitter for iPhone gives you all the functionality you’ll find on the Web client, just smaller. In fact, you may end up preferring to catch up on tweets with your iPhone thanks to the little things not available on the Web, such as retaining timeline position when refreshing tweets, both old AND new retweet functionalities and Instapaper mobilizer support for links. Good luck finding a free Twitter client that’s 1/3 as good as this one.
LinkedIn (Free): So you can tweet and you can poke on your iPhone, but what if you want to network with colleagues? Check out the official iPhone LinkedIn app and view all your business connections from the palm of your hand. The interface is clean and easy to navigate and you have access to most of the features from the Web version. Along with your connections, you’ll be able to view your inbox, recent updates and even connect with nearby LinkedIn users via Bluetooth. Wireless networking – hey, that works on two levels!
Foursquare (Free): the next big thing in social is location-based networking. That means telling all your friends you’re buying bagels at the local bagel place around the corner. Why this is necessary? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that a lot of people are using Foursquare to earn badges and “mayorships” each time they check-in at a Starbucks or McDonald’s. It sounds silly at first, but once you start racking up mayorships at your local haunts, addiction will kick in and soon you’ll be checking in at “your mom’s house”.
Skype (Free): Skype has become very popular on the desktop and when it made its way to the iPhone, everyone thought they could ditch their minute plans and just Skype each other. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet, but you can still make Skype-to-Skype calls from one iPhone to another, or an iPhone to a PC without incurring any charges. And with the recent upgrade to iOS 4, Skype now includes multitasking support, which means you can accept calls without having the app actively running, as well as Skype with someone and surf the Web at the same time. While it won’t replace your phone plan just yet, it can take some of the burden off your minutes.
AIM ($2.99): The reason the paid version of the AIM app is on this list as opposed to the free one is because the features in the paid version make the purchase well worth the price. In paying for AIM on the iPhone, you get the ability to update your statuses in Facebook, Twitter and MySpace from one location, send free text messages to any phone number, chat with friends over a variety of services and even access a landscape keyboard for easier typing. Three bucks is a bargain for what’s packed into AIM on the iPhone.
Loopt (Free): Foursquare is location-based networking for yourself. Loopt is location-based networking for your friends. Using Loopt, you’ll be able to see which of your friends are nearby, what they’re doing and if they want to meet up with you for a cup of coffee. Loopt also provides users with comprehensive listings for restaurants and other venues in the immediate area with reviews, tips and things to look out for. If Foursquare is what you use when you first get to a place, Loopt is what you use once you’re there.
WhatsApp Messenger ($.99): Chat with your friends for free, regardless of whether they have a Nokia, Android, BlackBerry or iPhone – this app is available for all of them. There are no hidden costs, so you can send each other messages all day, every day without paying a penny (other than the buck you spent to get the app in the first place). Push notifications keep you informed of new messages and your “favorites” list is automatically created based on the people in your Address Book who have WhatsApp installed.
Yahoo! Messenger (Free): The AIM app doesn’t include the ability to add a Yahoo! Messenger account, nor does it include video chat over 3G. The Yahoo! Messenger app, however, does. It also makes free voice calls to other Yahoo! Messenger contacts and works in the background while you access other apps. Among the additional great features, the Yahoo! Messenger app can import a Windows Live account, making this application the perfect compliment to the AIM app.
textPlus 4 Free (Free): Sending and receiving text messages can get expensive, so why not use an app that makes the whole thing free? TextPlus 4 allows you to send and receive text and SMS messages for free to other users with the application. Those without will incur charges and miss out on all the other cool features, like 3-way texting and community chat rooms, so you should encourage them to download and use the app. Users can be identified via their custom profile images and single-tapping one initiates a 1-on-1 conversation. This makes the built-in iPhone SMS app look like a child’s plaything.