IPhone social networking apps number in the thousands, so wading through them can be a challenge. Don't worry -- we waded through the App Store for you. These seven social networking apps put their competitors to shame and offer features or value that set them apart from other iPhone apps.
2. Facebook App
The folks at Facebook know a good deal about social networking, and they used that knowledge to create one of the best iPhone apps on iTunes. This free app closely resembles the Facebook website, and you can do pretty much everything you would there: update your status, comment on posts, approve friend requests, and upload pictures. The photo albums can be slow to load, but any Facebook user would benefit from downloading this app. Overall rating: 5 stars out of 5.
Meebo consolidates dozens of chat services (Facebook, MySpace, AOL Instant Messanger, Yahoo! Messenger, and more) into one easy-to-use app. Not only is the app free, but the interface is much more streamlined than its competitors, which tend to look cluttered. Setting up your Meebo account is quick and easy, and the app supports push notifications to alert you of new chats and replies. Skype users may be disappointed, however, since that service is not supported. Overall rating: 5 stars out of 5.
The imo Instant Messenger app (Free) is a great way to keep in touch with friends on multiple social networks. It supports MSN, AOL Instant Messenger, Facebook, MySpace, and more. Imo is also one of the few chat apps that supports Skype -- even Meebo lacks this feature. I like that you can sort buddies into different lists to keep things organized, and the imo app includes a buddy favorites list and searchable chat history. The app supports push notifications, but that feature only works for 72 hours after your last login. Overall rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
Got more than one social networking account, but want to manage them all from a single app? Seesmic may well be the best choice available. It supports Twitter, Facebook, and Ping.fm (which supports LinkedIn, Blogger, WordPress, and many other services) and allows you to post to all of them from a single interface. To make it even more appealing, it's free! While it lacks some of the nice lower-level features that official or dedicated apps do, the trade-off of being able to manage multiple accounts in one app more than makes up for it. Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
TweetDeck may not have all the reporting features of paid Twitter apps, but this free app is an unmistakeable value. TweetDeck makes it easy to manage multiple Twitter accounts with a streamlined, column interface where you can easily swipe to move between your friend list, mentions, and direct messages. It's also simple to fire off new tweets or upload photos using twitpic or yfrog. The app doesn't support Twitter lists yet, but for a free Twitter app, TweetDeck is hard to beat. Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
There are a number of iPhone apps that can help you make avatars for social-networking sites, but few can match Uface ($1.99). The app has an excellent interface and the avatars look like they were drawn by professionals. Uface has more than 300 facial characteristics, so it's easy to create a realistic avatar, although we would like to see more hairstyles added to the collection. The app is a little on the pricey side, but if you want a unique avatar for Twitter or Facebook, you'll want to check this one out. Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Location-based social networking apps are all the rage, but our tests show that some are more hype than substance. We were largely impressed with Gowalla, a free app that uses the iPhone's built-in GPS to determine your location and suggest things to do nearby. The trip feature, where users create a list of must-visit locations in a certain area, is very interesting, especially if you're in a new city. Like most location-based apps, Gowalla works best in large cities where it has more users. Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
9. Apps That Didn't Make the Cut
We were less impressed with some social-networking apps. Foursquare has received a lot of buzz for its location-based social networking, but we found that there were few users outside of big cities. We also liked the trips feature on Gowalla better than Foursquare's tips, where users leave helpful hints about the locations they visit. TigerText is another social-networking app that failed to make our top five. This text-messaging app lets you control how long your texts are stored on the recipient's phone. It sounds good in theory, but all of your recipients must have iPhones and have the app installed to receive your texts.