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iPhone and Android apps to help you do some good

How to fund a microloan, find a place to volunteer, or help UNICEF – from your iPhone or Android device while you wait.

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Phil Marden

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Smart phones shine brightest during the slow moments in life. People can whip them out to read the news in a waiting room or play a game during a cab ride. But Vijay Kiran wants iPhone owners to fill these idle times by making a difference in the world.

So Mr. Kiran created iKiva. The iPhone application taps into Kiva, a microlending service that connects people to entrepreneurs in developing countries. The software lists businesses that need a little extra funding, such as farms, craftsmen, and community markets. Kiva shares their stories and provides an easy way to lend money.

Now, passing the time can change lives.

"Being from India and from a not-well-off family, working on an app that helped people was an obvious choice for my first [­iPhone] application," says Kiran in an e-mail.

While many programs for Apple and Android devices tout their "social" features, few push a true social mission. Here are some of the best phone apps – in our view – that turn users into change agents.

Kiva: Rather than ask each member to loan out hundreds or thousands of dollars, the microlending group pools small loans, as little as $25. Kiran's app helps potential lenders sift through the many projects.

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