Classic iPhone Android Apps
Joe Fedewa / How-To Geek

Millions of apps have been released for the iPhone and Android devices over the years. In the early days of smartphones, there were some apps and games that were particularly popular and important. Let’s check in on some of them.

When the Apple App Store and Android Market (now the Google Play Store) were fresh, not as many apps and games were being released. People weren’t just downloading the latest trendy social media app. They’d find apps that enabled features not yet built-in to the phones, and it was far, far more common for games to become incredibly popular.

It’s fun to remember the first iPhone apps and first Android apps you downloaded. Let’s take a look back at some old favorites and see where they are today.

Barcode Scanner (ZXing)

Released for Android in March 2008, the Barcode Scanner app by ZXing was one of the very first apps for scanning QR codes. It wasn’t possible to do this with the built-in camera yet, which made this one of the original indispensable apps. Nowadays, it still works just fine, but there are better ways to scan QR codes. It has over 100 million downloads.

Download: Android

Boxcar for iPhone

iPhone notifications have never been great. Back in the day, slow or nonexistent push notifications were a common annoyance. “Boxcar” enabled super-fast notifications for email services, Facebook, Twitter, and more. It was a must-have app for power users. The app was released to the App Store in 2009 and removed due to iOS incompatibilities in 2019.

Download: NA

Dolphin Browser

Android’s early preinstalled browser left a lot to be desired. Dolphin Browser was one of the first third-party browsers on the scene. Released in 2009, it brought pinch-to-zoom support, which was a very big deal for the small screens of the time. Big-name mobile browsers like Chrome and Edge are very good nowadays, but Dolphin is still a nice option. It has over 50 million downloads.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad


Foursquare was one of the first apps to take advantage of people carrying GPS-enabled devices everywhere. Released in 2009, it pioneered the concept of “checking in” to locations and sharing it with your friends. The company spun the social check-in feature out into a separate app called “Swarm” in 2014; Foursquare remained as a Yelp-like service. Both are still available and active today, but not nearly as popular since bigger social networks adopted their features.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad

Google Goggles

Google GogglesNot to be confused with the failed augmented reality headset, Google Goggles was the precursor to what is now known as Google Lens. Launched in 2010, it was our first look at what image recognition software could do with a smartphone camera. Many of the ideas from Goggles are still present today in Google Lens.

Download: NA

K-9 Mail

K-9 MailK-9 Mail was born when Jesse Vincent wanted to patch the stock email app included in Android 1.0. He released the patched version of the app as a standalone email app. K-9 has long been a fan favorite in the open-source community, and it has continued to receive consistent updates. In 2022, it was acquired by Mozilla, and will be relaunched as “Thunderbird for Android.”

Download: Android


If you’re a long-time Android user, the name “LauncherPro” may bring back some nostalgic thoughts. When it launched in 2010 it was the Android launcher. There weren’t a ton of great third-party launchers yet, and LauncherPro nailed what a lot of people were looking for. Sadly, it was abandoned in 2011.

Download: NA


It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when smartphone cameras didn’t have panorama modes built-in. After being available on the web since 2008, Microsoft Live Labs released “Photosynth” in 2011 for mobile devices. The app made it easy to create full 360-degree panoramas with your camera. It’s currently available in the Microsoft Pix app for iPhone.

Download: NA

Shazam & Soundhound

Shazam and SoundcloudShazam and Soundhound both actually predate the iPhone and Android, but they became household names when everyone started getting smartphones. Shazam launched on the iPhone and Android in 2008, while SoundHound launched in 2009. Shazam is now built-in to iOS, while SoundHound remains popular—though there are more convenient methods.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad
Download: Android, iPhone, iPad

Sky Map

Being an early adopter of smartphones meant showing off what they could do. Sky Map—released in 2009—was the perfect Android app for the job. Simply open it up, point your camera at the sky, and you could see all the constellations and planets in an augmented reality overview. It was super impressive, and still fun to use to this day.

Download: Android


The best part of getting your first smartphone was customizing it to your liking. Zedge was one of a few early apps that made it easy to download ringtones, wallpapers, and icons for iPhones and Android devices. The company opened shop in 2003 and was available on smartphones in 2009. Zedge is still alive and kicking today.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad


Simple mobile games were a huge deal in the early years of smartphones. Many people were experiencing touchscreens for the first time, and games were primed to take advantage of the functionality. There are a handful of iconic games that were released between 2009 and 2011.

Angry Birds

The first Angry Birds was released in 2009 and was a smash hit. It has launched an incredibly successful franchise that has spawned books, movies, toys, a TV series, and over 25 games. As of February 2023, the latest game is Angry Birds Journey.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad

Cut the Rope

Cut the Rope was released in 2010. The swipe-to-cut mechanics were perfectly suited to smartphones, and everyone loved the adorable green monster named “Om Nom.” There have been nine sequels since the original, and the series has been downloaded over a billion times.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad

Doodle Jump

Doodle Jump is another mega hit that was released in 2009. This simple game took advantage of smartphones having accelerometers. By tilting the phone, you control a a cute creature as he jumps from platform to platform.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad

Fruit Ninja

Fruit Ninja is a perfect example of a game taking advantage of touchscreens. All you had to do was swipe the screen to slice through fruit as they were flung on the screen. It was extremely addictive, and that addictive gameplay has been reborn for virtual reality headsets.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad

Sky Burger

Sky Burger was released in 2009 and it was one of the first big hits for NimbleBit, who would go on to release Tiny Tower. This addictive game tasked you with stacking the correct burger ingredients by tilting your device from side to side. It is sadly no longer available to download.

Download: NA

Temple Run

The Temple Run explorers first started running in 2011. The game was an immediate success, quickly becoming the most popular free game on iOS before launching on Android. In 2012, a spinoff was released for the Pixar movie “Brave.” As of February 2023, there have been six games in the series, with the most recent launched in 2017.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad

Words with Friends

In 2009, Zynga released Words With Friends, a cross-platform online version of Scrabble. Zynga had already found success with games on Facebook, but Words With Friends took it to smartphones, and it was a smash hit. It’s still a very popular game on iPhone, Android, and Facebook.

Download: Android, iPhone, iPad

I love looking back at old mobile apps. For those of us who were lucky enough to experience the early smartphone era, I imagine it was similar to before there were a million TV channels to choose from. People talked a lot more about apps they found, and there were more “viral” apps going around. Nowadays, we have a lot of options, and that’s cool too.

Profile Photo for Joe Fedewa Joe Fedewa
Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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