Wallet-Opening Apps

Some of the best things on smartphones aren't free

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What smartphone apps are worth spending money on? Asked on Twitter by @MadonnaPatricia

The short answer: lots of them. For all the embarrassment of free riches on mobile-software bazaars such as Apple‘s App Store and Google‘s Play, I’m never chagrined when I plunk down a few bucks for something that makes me more productive. Instead I feel smart. And I know that investing in good stuff boosts its long-term viability. (Without the economic cushion provided by paying customers, freebies have a nasty habit of going away; just ask fans of Google Reader, the beloved but unprofitable feed-reading service that Google is axing in July.)

Herewith, a half-dozen phone apps I’m pleased to pay for:

Photoshop Touch ($4.99, iPhone, Android). The phone-size edition from the most famous name in image-editing software retains a startling percentage of the desktop version’s power. You can crop, resize and retouch photos and apply fancy filters to make your pictures look like watercolor paintings or pencil sketches.

Fantastical ($4.99, iPhone). An elegant replacement for the iPhone’s stock calendar app, Fantastical lets you type or speak items in plain English, like “Dinner with Marie at 7 p.m. on Friday.” Then it unerringly figures out what you meant and pencils in an appointment at the appropriate day and time.

Evernote Premium ($5 per month or $45 per year, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry). The basic, free version of this tool for collecting notes, images, audio recordings and other bits and pieces of information is a gem. It’s also a gateway drug for the paid upgrade, which caters to serious note takers, with features like the ability to upload massive quantities of high-resolution photos.

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Instapaper ($3.99 for iPhone, $2.99 for Android). When you come across something interesting to read on the Web but don’t have time to read it, use Instapaper to save it for later perusal. The app strips out ads and other detritus and renders everything in crisp typography that makes even epic-length articles easy on the eyeballs.

TripIt Pro ($49 per year, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry). As with Evernote, this travel-info organizer has a free version. But frequent flyers will go gaga for the Pro edition’s instant alerts about flight delays and gate changes—and the feature notifying you when you’re entitled to a postpurchase fare reduction might actually save you money.

Scanner Pro ($6.99, iPhone). This program lets you snap pictures of printed documents with your phone’s camera, then upload crisp, cleaned-up digital versions to cloud services like Dropbox. I use it for every receipt I submit as part of an expense report, and it’s the least onerous part of that dreaded process.

Tweetbot ($2.99, iPhone). My go-to Twitter app, Tweetbot is a better-looking, more potent alternative to Twitter’s official client. Still a cinch to use, it’s got industrial-strength options like the ability to temporarily mute a person’s tweets—handy if someone you follow for sports commentary suddenly starts blathering about politics or vice versa.

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