Mobile Applications Journalists (and You) Should Have on Your Phone

Updated: I added several resources as well as text to show device support. I also clarified the introduction a bit.

A great discussion began on Quora asking “What apps should every journalist have on their iPhone?” Both professional journalists and recreational reporters jumped in on the discussion with enough suggestions to cover most bases when you need to capture news and publish it quickly from a mobile device. While not all are as useful to non-professional journalists, having some of the same apps available can serve the you well in the pursuit to be an active media participant.

For this post, I’ve pulled from the best suggestions there and have added some of my own. I’ve also added Android alternatives to iPhone-only apps. I’ll be updating the Resources section with more mobile apps and welcome your suggestions in the comments.

Apps that improve phone calls and SMS
Actual phone calls and SMS (text messages) are already the killer apps of mobile. However, they can be enhanced by some useful applications.

  • Skype offers flexibility as an IM and live-voice client, giving options beyond using just your mobile carrier for communication. (iPhone, Android, Blackberry)
  • bnter_examplebnter – Bnter allows you to tell stories by recreating your SMS conversations and publish them to the web. It’s an interesting way to visualize a text conversation. (Any device with a  web browser)
  • Apple’s own FaceTime video chat client adds the nonverbal communication that comes with face-to-face conversation. (iPhone)
  • Fring is a video call and chat client that works as a good Android alternative to FaceTime (iPhone, Android)
  • GroupMe helps you organize and send SMS messages to groups of people. (iPhone, Android)

Apps that improve consumption

Reeder exampleWhile individual news organizations are creating great applications of their own, RSS and Twitter clients are still a great way to customize your news consumption experience.

  • Reeder is an iPhone RSS app that connects with a user’s Google Reader Account.
  • Google’s own Reader app for Android.
  • NetNewsWire is an RSS reader with a solid version for the iPhone. It also syncs with Google Reader.
  • Twitter lists are an efficient route for consuming news via mobile device. Make or borrow lists of both individual journalists and publications where you get news.

Apps that improve note taking

While many note applications exist, here are a couple good places to start. Much will depend with personal preference over time, but features to look for are organization, tagging, search capability and the ability to sync to the cloud and other devices.

  • Evernote allows the user to take notes, tag them and then sync them across multiple devices as the notes are backed up on the cloud. (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm, Win Mobile)
  • SimpleNote is a popular note-taking application that replaces the iPhone’s standard Notes app. If you’re a Mac user, an open-source application called Notational Velocity adds syncing to Simplenote and the pair are quickly becoming a popular combo. (iPhone/Mac)

Apps for recording

The photo, video and audio capturing bases can be covered with just a few good apps. Here are several to start with.

  • Instagram is a crowd favorite for taking photos and publishing them quickly. (iPhone)
  • Picplz offers some of the same functionality as Instagram, but is available on Android. (iPhone, Android)
  • For audio, both CinchCast and AudioBoo are worth checking out. Each allow for quickly capturing and then publishing audio, integrating with many social sites. (Both on iPhone and Android)
  • Soundcloud commentFor live streaming video, Bambuser, JustinTV, Qik and Ustream are all good options. (All support both iPhone and Android)
  • Soundcloud allows other users to comment on the timeline of published audio files. This is a great feature for discussing long files of breaking news that haven’t yet been edited as users can quickly see the places creating the most discussion and jump right to that point. (iPhone, Android)

Apps for publishing
Many of the recording apps have their own publishing features built-in. However, the apps listed below help you interact with other publishing tools through your mobile device.

  • For blogging, WordPress, Posterous and Tumblr all have mobile applications that allow you to publish to your blog from your phone. (All on iPhone and Android)
  • Disqus offers an application that allows you to curate and respond to comments on your blog as well as comment elsewhere. It integrates with WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger and other publishing platforms. (iPhone, Android)

Apps that do other useful things

  • Dropbox is a file-storage application that simplifies sharing files across devices and sharing them with others. As it syncs to the cloud, it also serves as a backup application and offers a lot of use to those recording in volatile situations where there’s a risk of a phone being confiscated. (iPhone, Android)
  • Glympse screenPhotoshop Express is a nice tool for editing photos and images on your mobile phone. (iPhone, Android)
  • 5-0 Radio is a police scanner application that can be useful for keeping up with local crime and safety on the iPhone. Scanner Radio is a well-rated Android alternative.
  • Glympse allows you to publish your location in real time. It varies from other location check-in apps in that it allows you to specify times at a location and map a path of travel. It has interesting implications for covering a story that changes locations over time.

Many, many more apps are out there with promising journalistic applications. Jump in on the comments and tell us what you’ve found to help you consume and create media.

8 thoughts on “Mobile Applications Journalists (and You) Should Have on Your Phone”

  1. Dan,

    With all of the information coming out about lack of privacy/security in the mobile world (a lot of good stuff published on in The Wall Street Journal’s ongoing What they Know) series, I think it’s critical that we evaluate mobile journalism apps with privacy in mind. Of course there’s likely to be a trade off between privacy/security and ease of use, so the reporter needs to make those evaluations when transferring data, which is only possible if we can easily illustrate those trade offs.

    I have to do more research before offering suggestions, but my gut feeling tells me there might be a better VOIP alternative than Skype that allows you to make anonymous calls/chats so you can connect to people who lives may be put in danger if that connection were to be discovered.

    If someone, say in Egypt, were setting up an anonymous blog that was delivering crucial information to people on the ground, he or she might not be aware that using Disqus to moderate comments could reveal his or her identity without taking appropriate measures.

    This idea warrants several blog posts of their own, but I just wanted to bring it up. Thanks for your good work!

    1. Jacob, very good points. This is worth a lot of attention in the future.

      By the way, please note that my colleague Josh Sprague wrote the post, not me.

    2. Thanks for the suggestions, Jacob. I’ll start working on some posts about this very point. Mission critical privacy is worth figuring out, especially with the newness of a lot of these tools. When I was putting the list together, I was struck by how many of the best apps out there right now showed up on the iPhone in the last 12 months. Many of the Android versions have shown up in the last six.

      I’ve also been extremely concerned with how many mainstream Android applications have requested access to data that they don’t need to function correctly. It’s worth following up with a best practices post.

  2. I appreciate your list. Here, I would like to share another note-taking app “NotionNote”. It is an amazing app featured with awesome features like Airdrop, voice recording, video, drawing and many more. A journalist can be more beneficial with this app. He or she can track the location with GPS system, record interviews and also do excellent jobs by this app. Cheers!

  3. I would add Wunderlist to this list. I found it very useful in my daily tasks as a journalist. Not only I monitored my own tasks, but I also shared them with colegues.

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