With the Republican National Convention starting today in Tampa, the 2012 election enters its most intense phase. Thanks to our smartphones and social networks, there have never been more ways to get information on the candidates and events of the season.

Through social networks and mobile apps, you can watch live-streams from the conventions, read news, brush up on the issues, play trivia, donate, and volunteer. It can be a little overwhelming, but that’s how it is when we have access to so many virtual channels.

Both Romney and Obama have released official apps for their campaigns. I’m only including Obama’s mobile app on this list because Romney’s two apps, With Mitt and Mitt’s VP, are incredibly limited. “With Mitt” lets you take a picture of yourself or someone else, add a Romney stencil, and post it on social networks. (The app became famous for misspelling America as “Amercia.”) The “Mitt’s VP” app’s only purpose was to let you know who Romney’s Vice Presidential choice was, and that app wasn’t very good at that job, either. Weirdly, there is no official Romney app that outlines the candidate’s views and events being held to support him; if there were, we’d include it here.

Since there are so many options for ways to get your election info, we’ve outlined the 10 best mobile and social apps for connecting with campaigns. Take a look at the alphabetical list below.

1. Ad Hawk


Platforms: Android and iOS

Have you ever wondered which Super PAC was in charge of an ad? The Sunlight Foundation’s Ad Hawk can listen to any political ad being aired and then give you information on which organization is behind it and what backers are involved in that organization. Essentially, it’s the SoundHound for political ads.

2. CNN ‘I’m Voting’ Facebook app


Platform: Facebook

CNN’s new “I’m Voting” app adds voter participation with social media. It can give insight into who people on Facebook are voting for and give you an easy way to voice your political opinions on your Facebook Timeline. While user participation in the app is low thus far, we still appreciate the concept of pushing more people to vote and be proud of it. CNN also has a cool new app called Election Insights that ties to Facebook.

3. DNC 2012


Platforms: Android and iOS

The Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. doesn’t begin until Sept. 4, but the DNC already has a silky-smooth and smartly designed app ready to go. The DNC’s official app offers a look at the convention schedule, press releases, information about Charlotte locales, live videos, photos, maps, and social media updates. It also lets you tag “favorites” among the content and places so you can access or read it later.

4. Google+ Hangouts


Platform: Google+

Google+ Hangouts are already pretty cool, but now Hangouts will create a new interactive experience for those watching the Democratic and Republican national conventions online. Viewers will be able to watch Hangouts featuring representatives of both political parties and organizers for the conventions. These folks will be chatting with reporters from outlets including the New York Times, NBC, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press, and the Huffington Post.

5. NBC Politics


Platform: iOS

If you’re political news junkie, the NBC Politics app for iOS and iPad is one of the best places to get the latest on the campaigns. The app is slick and well-designed, with photos, news, and analysis of the conventions and anything else that becomes part of the news cycle. When the polling comes in on election night, the app will update in real-time as well to help you keep track of who’s winning. Politico’s mobile apps for iOS and Android provide similarly good news, analysis, and election coverage.

Check out apps 6 through 10.

6. Obama mobile app


Platforms: Android and iOS

While the official Obama mobile app for iOS and Android isn’t new, it’s at least got a crisp design and serves its purpose well. It features quite a bit of negative material on Romney and Paul Ryan, while also outlining Obama’s stances on education, energy, equal rights, health care, and the economy. It additionally features a “Donate” button and listings for Obama events if you feel so inclined.

7. PollTracker


Platform: iOS

Political watchers love polls, even if polls this far out from November don’t mean much. (The tides can change quickly in election years.) But if you absolutely can’t help yourself, PollTracker from Talking Points Memo is for you. The data it displays averages polls from many sources including Gallup and Rasmussen. The app not only gives insight into the Obama/Romney race state-by-state, but it also gives available polling on some Congressional and local contests too.

8. Tampa 2012


Platforms: Android and iOS

Tampa 2012 is the official app of the Republican National Convention. It doesn’t offer as many features as the DNC app, but it’s still extremely handy if you’re attending the convention or want a detailed schedule of events. The app features an event listing, an interactive map of Tampa, Shuttle service info, a GOP Store for buying gear, and My Experience button for sharing your time in Tampa on social networks.

9. U.S. Politics on Facebook


Platform: Facebook

As you saw from the CNN app, Facebook can provide a fascinating look into the voting electorate. The U.S. Politics page, which is curated by Facebook itself, is also quite interesting. The page highlights how politicians and campaigns are using Facebook to communicate with the community. It also shares best practices for using Facebook for campaigns. With 191,000 “likes,” folks on Facebook seem to appreciate what the page is doing.

10. YouTube Elections Hub


Platform: YouTube

While Google already offers the aforementioned Google + Hangouts for the two conventions, it also has a handy election hub on YouTube for timely political videos. The hub shows the most pressing news clips concerning the election in one place. On top of campaign videos, the hub features content featuring reporting and analysis from news outlets like ABC News, Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

11. Vote!!!

Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama in VOTE!!! The Game

Platform: iOS

Okay, so we included one completely non-serious app just for fun. In Vote!!!, from the makers of popular action RPG Infinity Blade, you get to play as Obama or Romney in this over-the-top brawler for iOS. The game includes many different costumes and melee weapons so you can bash your opponent and “win” the election however you see fit. Check out the trailer here.

Democratic National Convention 2008 photo via Kelly DeLay/Flickr