5 Amazingly Useful Free Apps

Apps that rate the cleanliness of public restrooms, double as carpenter's tools and even help you track down a missing phone if it gets misplaced in the house.

By Reader's Digest Editors

1. Sit or Squat (Free)
When you gotta go, you gotta go. But where? Frequent travelers and parents with young kids alike will give thanks for this app that uses your current location to find the closest public restrooms. Each listing includes rankings (clean=sit, less sanitary=squat) and even photos posted by registered users who have previously been there and, er, done that. You can even search for special features such as changing tables, seat covers, and attendants.

Available for iPhone, Blackberry and Text/SMS.

2. Find My iPhone (Free)
This app can be a lifesaver (or at least feel like one), but requires some forethought to actually work. Can’t find your iPhone? Relax. Find My iPhone enables you to locate it simply by installing the app on any other device running iOS 4.2 or later. Once you’ve located your phone, you can send it a message, play an alert sound, remotely lock it or even wipe it clean. Of course, none of these impressive features will actually work if you haven’t already set up Find My iPhone on your missing phone. Now would be a good time for that.

Available for iPhone 4, and other iOS products (iOS 4.2 or later).

3. FastCustomer (Free)
Few things are worse than waiting on hold for customer service with the Muzak version of your favorite ‘70s punk song wailing in your ear. Enter FastCustomer, an app that enables you to connect directly with customer service reps without the wait. FastCustomer’s extensive list of companies is over 2,000 strong, and includes utilities and insurance agencies among many others. Just think: You may never have to listen to “Rock the Casbah” on violin again.

Available for iPhone and Android.

4. Dragon Go (Free)
The latest in voice recognition technology puts your favorite content, commerce, and service sites at your beck and call. Simply tap the app and say, “Best sushi in Cincinnati,” “Batman movie times in Baltimore,” or “The latest album from Adele,” and you’ll be instantly connected to sites including Yelp, Fandango, Pandora, and 150 others. Released just a month ago, reviewers have been raving about Dragon Go’s remarkable accuracy, and say that even when the app fumbles, you’ll usually be no more than a tap away from your desired destination.

Available for iPhone and other iOS products.

5. iHandy Carpenter (Free)
Picture this: You’re finally hanging that framed portrait of your beloved pooch, but you just can’t tell if it’s perfectly straight. You know you have a bubble level stashed in a drawer somewhere, but which one? Instead of searching, grab your iPhone and download iHandy Carpenter, a virtual toolbox that includes a bubble level, surface level, ruler, protractor, and plumb bob. As long as you can locate your phone, you’ll never go digging through the drawers again. (Can’t find your phone? See item #2).

Available for iPhone and other iOS products.

Sources: Mom Blog Magazine, Very Short List, Techland—Time.com, iPhoneAppCafe

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