I didn't see it coming. I bought the iPhone because it is the Swiss Army knife of gadgets -- a video iPod, phone and Web browser and more. But then I discovered what would become the source of many bleary-eyed nights: the iPhone applications store.
The apps are software programs you download to the phone to give it new features. So now my phone is a pedometer, a voice recorder, a gym coach and a budget tracker. It promises to find my parked car, give me a shoulder massage and even repel mosquitoes, for free or 99 cents and up.
Apple says there are 25,000 apps for "just about anything." I set out to test that assertion, using only free apps, over the course of an entire day. (For help I used an app, naturally -- BargainBin, which tells you what apps are free and which ones are on sale.)
At 7:30 a.m., my alarm clock app, goodNite Lite, wakes me with a gentle chord. Too gentle, some might say, so it's best to turn up the volume.
As I trundle to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I tap the Public Radio app to listen to "Morning Edition" on National Public Radio through my local station.
For breakfast, I check the Betty Crocker Mobile Cookbook app, which can suggest recipes based on ingredients you have on hand. I told Betty I had eggs and vegetables, and her app spit out 175 recipes ranging from an easy cheese omelet to the tougher chiles rellenos egg souffle bake.
I choose something to wear to work with a flick of my finger, thanks to Stylish Girl. That app stores images of my clothes, and I can mix and match them to create outfits to save and share. But I have to take photos of each piece of clothing I want stored in the program, which can be a pain.
Should I wear a heavy coat? The Weather Channel app says it's 42 degrees, but expected to warm up in a few hours. This app is far more detailed than the iPhone's own weather app: It has hour-by-hour and 10-day forecasts, includes weather maps and even a video featuring a cheery female meteorologist to give you the local forecast personally.
Leaving the house, I turn on StepTrak Lite, a free pedometer app. It tells me that I take 1,453 steps to my office over a span of 10 minutes and 17 seconds. (For people who drive, there are apps that give traffic updates.)
I can chat with my boss while I walk, using my Fring app that combines several instant messaging programs, such as those from Yahoo, MSN and AOL.
Where's the nearest Starbucks? My Yelp app tells me there's one on the way to work. I make a mental note to later jot down on Ace Budget Lite what I spent. As I cross Rittenhouse Square, I check my Twitter feed through TwitterFon. Rainn Wilson, an actor on NBC's "The Office," posted a link to photos he took of the food he ate in Italy.
Then I glance at the AP Mobile News Network app and news offerings from Bloomberg, The New York Times and USA Today . For world news, I tap my apps for BBCReader, Channel NewsAsia and France 24 Live, which has newscasts in English and French.
At work, I transcribe my interview with a CEO I recorded with DictaNotes, a digital voice recorder app with an easy interface. The executive had been mildly surprised to see me thrust an iPhone in his face. But I was happy that I didn't have to carry a separate recorder in my purse.
During my coffee break, I turn on the Massager app and place it against my tense neck. The phone vibrates, but not strong enough to work well. So I tap Ambiance Classic and listen to the soothing sound of light rain instead, shutting out the ringing of office phones.
Lunch rolls around. I use the Lose It! app to record what I ate. It tracks my calorie intake and calories expended through exercise. It records my weight and plots a graph of how that is trending. As I munch, I do a quick review of my Mandarin with Flash Cards II. It tests your Chinese and includes audio.
After work, I head to the gym armed with iWorkout Lite, which shows me short videos of exercises. Nike Training Club puts me on a workout regimen for weeks using exercise videos. (It also lets you compete with friends who sign up.)
Back home, I kick off my shoes and tap What's On, a TV guide. Nothing good. Maybe Mr. T will have something to say about that in iPity, an app that spits out sayings from the former "A-Team" actor: "I'll get the dynamite!"
Netflix? I scan my queue through PhoneFlix. The DVD is in the mail.
I look at what's playing in the theaters nearby through Flixter. Eh -- I can wait for the DVD.
At least I can listen to sitcom sound effects through Canned Ham. There are three kinds of laughter, applause, boos, the "aww cute" sound and drum roll. After a hard day's work, I could use some applause.
For entertainment, I play free games I downloaded. "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Lite" is a sample of the full version, which you have to buy. It's cool to hear the "Star Wars" theme and see the trademark scroll moving in space.
"Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Lite" has Meredith Viera talking straight at you, while "Tap Tap Revenge 2" gets you going as your fingers take the place of legs in a game akin to "Dance Dance Revolution." The latter also has an app, but it's not free.
Racing games are a hoot with the iPhone's accelerometer. "Aqua Moto Racing Lite" races jet skis while "Burning Tires 3-D" takes vehicles through dirt roads and rocky terrain. "BMW Z4 -- An Expression of Joy -- Lite" lets you drive a Beemer on a canvas to create art.
Stanza is a better reading app; it lets you buy books directly from your iPhone. But I keep Kindle on my phone, thrilled I don't have to pay $359 for the separate device.
Before I hit the pillow, I listen to Custom Hypnosis Lite. A soothing male voice tells me to relax and surprisingly, I do. I'm glad it doesn't tell me to do anything strange.
After a day of wall-to-wall apps, I'm amazed at all the things the iPhone can do outside of phone calls. Now if only my iPhone can do my taxes. Wait. There's probably an app for that.