Non-Fiction Apps for the iPhone: The Top Five

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Sometimes you don’t want to just play a game to amuse yourself – you want to learn, as well as being entertained. You don’t necessarily want to try reading a book on your iPhone though (the Kindle is still better for that, really, or an old-fashioned paper book). We take a look at five apps for anyone interested in world history, current affairs, and other entertaining reference material, apps that take advantage of the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities rather than traditional books.

1. The World Factbook 2012 (£0.69; iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad; requires iOS 3.0 or later)

With full info on over 250 countries, including languages spoken, populations, ethnic groups, religions, GDP, geography (including full Google Maps integration), politics, etc., the World Factbook is indispensable to the frequent traveller, or to anyone with a thirst for knowledge. You can compare different countries in the various categories at a glance, too, so if you want to know which nations have the best life expectancy or highest income, it’s a snap. The World Factbook is regularly updated, but doesn’t need a net connection in use (just for updates), which can be very handy if you’re in the middle of nowhere. Updates are free, and the app is currently on sale at 75% off.

2. The Human Body (£2.99; iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad; requires iOS 3.2 or later)

Whether you’re a gym buff, dancer, yoga fan, amateur masseur, biologist, doctor, or just fascinated by the human body, this app gives you 300 different, detailed entries covering everything from bones to tendons, blood to skin. Each entry has a zoomable, fully annotated diagram. Perfect for figuring out which muscle you pulled.

3. Wikipanion Plus (£2.99; iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad; requires iOS 3.0 or later)

Wikipanion is an impressive port of Wikipedia to iOS. Sure, you can look at the Wikipedia website on your iPhone already, but this app gives you two massive advantages if you’re a regular Wikipedia user: blisteringly fast access, and the ability to queue pages in the background, so that the page you want to look at next is downloading while you’re reading another page. Between these two features, Wikipanion Plus will soon pay for itself just in saved time. It also lets you bookmark both individual entries, and sub-sections within an entry. Try out the free version first.

4. Today In History (£1/49; iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad; requires iOS 4.0 or later)

Today In History gives you daily updates on famous events from history. It allows you to view the major historical events that took place on the day you view the app, starting with the most recent events and allowing you to easily scroll backwards in time.

It has over 100,000 historical entries, with Wikipedia links to most of them if you want more info. It’s quite US-centric, but still huge fun. If £1.49 is too steep, you can have the ad-supported Lite version for free.

5. Famous Speeches (£1.49; iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad; requires iOS 3.0 or later)

Famous Speeches has the full texts of hundreds of famous speeches uttered by dozens of famous people. This is perfect for inspiration, as well as allowing you to always have a pithy, argument-winning quote available.

The app allows you to browse speeches from famous historical figures like Winston Churchill and Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as authors, philosophers and theologians. Speeches for individual figures are labelled by their most famous quotations making it easy to find the speech you are looking for.

Apple has a real commitment to making learning fun and helping people get easy access to knowledge, as is quite clear from their recent Textbooks service. iPhone apps like the ones mentioned above can help you to get quick nuggets of information while travelling or away from home, so you can always be sharpening your knowledge. If you do not have an iPhone to use these educational apps on you can find a good deal for one at Best Mobile Contracts in the UK.