Google Maps and 5 other web apps you should add to your iOS home screen

Apple's Maps downturn has reminded us all about the power of web apps. Here are 5 quite handy and free web tools for small screens.

Apple’s own Maps app, replacing a Google-backed Maps in the latest iPhone and iPad operating systems, has so many notable problems that it became a popular meme. Many called on Google to release its own Maps app through Apple’s App Store, but in the meantime, Google has done what it does best: do it on the web. So now you can, for example, see Street View images in the mobile web version of Google Maps. It’s a great time to click that “Share” button in your iPhone or iPad and choose “Add to Home Screen.”

Creating a Google Maps shortcut on iOS

While you’re doing that, you should check out a few more apps that exist in that old-time app store called the web. Some of them are quite, quite handy.

  • CopyPasteCharacter:

    Only word nerds and fans of emotive characters need apply. But when you’re looking for a proper em-dash (—), the peace sign (✌), or … tape reels (✇), then you’re in luck. CopyPasteCharacter has its own iPhone app, but the web version works great as it is: press, hold, and copy whatever character you need.

  • It’s a box into which you can type, on the web, available any time. It saves what you’re typing as you type it. If you want to bookmark that text, share it to someone else, or invite them to edit, you can give them the link to your particular text. But that’s all that does, and it works on any device with a screen and keyboard.

  • Gmail: I wrote about the many things Gmail’s mobile webapp does well at TechRepublic, and I think they hold true, even now that Google has released its own Gmail app. The Gmail app can get weighed down over time with user data and syncing times, and the web version has a different look and feel that some might prefer.

  • DuckDuckGo:
    DuckDuckGo on mobile browser
    There are lots of people who don’t see any reason to use anything other than Google for search. That’s fine. But sometimes you want to search very specific things: Amazon for products, Wolfram Alpha for science and data answers, or the docs for your programming language of choice. From DuckDuckGo’s search bar, that means just two extra characters to customize your search: “!a flashlight” for that Amazon search, “!wa population of Cleveland OH” for Wolfram Alpha, and “!jquery arrays” for certain programmers.
  • Twitter and Facebook: Both Twitter and Facebook put a notable amount of effort into recreating their app experience on their mobile sites. They are good, if not perfect, interfaces. But you have an app for those services, right? On both iPhone and Android, in fact. But if you’ve ever sent a tweet from the wrong account, or waited for what seemed like an entire coffee break for Facebook’s app to catch up with itself, having the mobile bookmark handy is quite useful. I stay logged into Twitter from some of my side projects, so that Twitter’s app and its notifications don’t leave me tweeting about the wrong thing in the wrong channel.

Which mobile web apps do you find worth bookmarking in the age of the “store?”

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