The best iPhone communication and social apps

So you own an iPhone, and you want to know what the best apps for Apple’s smartphone are, naturally enough. After all, the reason that many folks choose Apple is for its famous app ecosystem.

Recently, we looked at the best Android apps across a number of articles, splitting them up into different categories such as utilities, reference, games and so forth (see the final article in that series here, which has links to all the others in the introduction).

And we’re now doing the same thing with the iPhone. We’ve already looked at the best reference apps, productivity apps, and utility apps, and now we’re turning our attention to the top apps for keeping in touch with folks.

Note that if you don’t want to follow such an in-depth examination of iPhone apps, and would rather see just a short summary of the most important software, you can simply check out our 10 essential iPhone apps article.

Furthermore, some of these apps cost money. If you’re not keen on spending, and would rather look at a list of the best free apps, then see our Top 30 must-have free iPhone apps.

Finally, if you know of a great app that we haven’t covered, please tell us about it in the comments section below. If you have time, give us the full name of the app, price, and a short description so other readers can learn about your favourites, too.

Right, let’s get on with looking at the best in communication and social apps, which includes the likes of Brewster, Skype and WhatsApp. By the way, if you want to download an app, simply click on the title, which links to the app in iTunes.

The Brewster iPhone app may be one of the most visually appealing contact managers you'll find, tapping into multiple social networks for images of people you know. It insists on having access to your iPhone Contacts and either Twitter or Facebook to work, though, which may be a showstopper for anyone who is anti-social networks. Brewster puts faces to names in an interface you can explore, and that design choice may lead you to waste time (I got sucked into looking for pictures of people I didn't recognise), or it may aid your memory if you're someone who remembers people by their faces rather than company affiliation, location, or name. For more details on this app, see our full Brewster review.

Speed, better search functions, and colour-coded threading make the standalone Gmail iPhone app preferable to the built-in Mail app (where you can access Gmail). The Gmail app for iOS 5 and later, made by Google, gives users another choice for managing email. It allows iPhone users to decide what they value in an email app. Do you value search capability over text displayed at readable sizes? Is it more important for your various email accounts to be managed in one app, as Mail arranges them, or would you rather have a dedicated app just for Gmail that looks more like Gmail on the web, with colour-coded threading? The Gmail app searches your entire email so much easier and faster than the pre-installed Mail app.

HootSuite is a social media aggregation app, meaning it lets you manage up to five profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare, all from one central interface. If you use the app in conjunction with HootSuite's desktop version, you may want to upgrade to the premium version of the tool (£6.30 per month), which gives you an unlimited number of profiles to manage, as well as more data about the effects of your social networking outreach.

Skype is one of the best free communication tools for the iPhone, and it lets you make video calls. You can call or chat with other Skype users at no charge, or buy credit to call any other phone number, landline or mobile.

For a long time, Twitter Inc, the company that owns the 140-character social network, didn't make its own app. Dozens of third parties did, however, but not all the resulting apps were worth using. So when Twitter released its official Twitter app – and it worked well and loaded quickly – users folded the new tool into their iPhones happily. If you tweet, it's a no-brainer to have this app. If you don't tweet and have been on the fence about joining the masses, the iPhone app makes it easy and convenient to get on board.

Since the release of iOS 5, Apple has done a remarkable job of making iPhone-to-iPhone texts cheaper, automatically bypassing SMS and using Wi-Fi anytime it's available. However, because some of your smartphone-toting friends and family almost certainly use other mobile operating systems, like Android and BlackBerry, the WhatsApp Messenger should be on your list of apps to download. It's a cross-platform smartphone messenger that uses 3G or Wi-Fi (when available) to deliver messages, and it uses push notifications to alert you to incoming messages.

Who among us hasn't felt the sting of a failed delivery of an email due to the size of an attachment? YouSendIt specialises in remedying that problem by allowing users to upload large files to its servers and then share them easily with a generated link. The company's revamped iPhone app lets you not only email large files, but also digitally sign documents and store files in the cloud as well.