Table of Contents
The best free iPhone apps in 2022
Before you start checking out all the categories to super-charge your phone, take a look first at our free iPhone app of the last month, which we will update every month with a new one to check out. So, make sure to keep this page bookmarked to see our monthly recommendations. If you’re willing to expand into paid apps, take a look at our full guide to the best iPhone apps, which includes both free and paid options.
Free iPhone app of the month
Atlas Obscura Travel Guide
Atlas Obscura Travel Guide flips the idea of a conventional travel guide on its head. Whereas most such tomes – digital or otherwise – guide you toward the most famous places and sights within your vicinity, Atlas Obscura is more interested in surprising stories and interesting curiosities.
Give the app location access and it’ll quickly point you at nearby locations with interesting things to see. Tap one and you can peruse more details, check out images and a map, and bookmark the place. By default, there’s a wish list and a log of visited places, but you can also make your own custom lists.
Add in the friendly browsing view you can use instead of the map and a means to submit your own entries, and you’ve got a great travel guide when you want to move off the beaten track.
The best free iPhone video editors and animation apps
These are our favorite free iPhone apps for quickly editing videos, GIFs and Live Photos, and for creating stop-motion animation.
DoubleTake transforms a single iPhone into a multi-cam studio by letting you capture footage from two of your device’s cameras simultaneously. With a supported iPhone (XS/XR or newer), you can shoot two different focal lengths of the same subject, or use front and rear cameras to capture an event and your reaction to it.
By default, the app uses a picture-in-picture set-up called Discreet. This saves two separate videos, so you can later edit each one independently. But you can instead opt to ‘burn’ the PiP shot into the main video, or use a 50/50 split-screen view that’s saved as a single file.
There are limitations, most notably the app outputting to 1080p, presumably because two 4K streams at once would melt your iPhone. But for fun and serious work alike, DoubleTake is well worth a download.
Plays: animation design kit
Plays claims it can “elevate your self-expression” and “make your content beautiful”. In reality, it’s a free iPhone app that lets you type in a tiny missive (140 characters or fewer, like old-school Twitter), and then hurl the letters about the place.
This isn’t freeform animation – you don’t need to know anything about keyframes and paths. Instead, you select a font, an animation style, a background pattern (which also animates), and an image to sit underneath everything. By default, you get an Instagram-friendly square composition, but a button lets you cycle through a range of alternatives.
Quite a few of the animation styles result in questionable legibility. But work with some of the subtler options – and the rather nice backgrounds – and you can end up with a visually arresting video to share online.
Splice sits in a space between traditional movie-making software and quick-fix video editors.
As with products geared towards quickly fashioning something for social networking, Splice is keen to get you started. Select some videos or stills from your iPhone, drag to arrange the thumbnails, select an aspect ratio, and you essentially have an edit.
However, the app gives you plenty of options for taking things further. You can add titles, effects, text overlays, and audio. Individual clips can be trimmed, cropped, and have filters added to them. Naturally, in-progress projects are saved so you can return to them later.
Throughout, layout and workflow resemble the kind of thing you’ll be familiar with if you’ve ventured into desktop editing – only streamlined for mobile, and without a price-tag attached.
Enlight Pixaloop enables you to animate your photos. This is achieved through you manually drawing ‘path’ arrows to define the direction of animation, and setting anchors to keep other areas of your image rooted to the spot. Tap the play button and you get something akin to a cinemagraph – only based on a single still image, rather than dozens of shots or a video.
Whatever you create can be exported to Photos as a video (sadly, there’s no animated GIF option), but there’s plenty more you can add first, including camera wobble, overlay effects and automated moving skies. Some of those features work better than others, but the entire package is a great way to bring your photos to life. Note that there’s subscription IAP lurking, although you don’t need to pay to get a lot out of this app.
Moodelizer is a one-trick pony – but it’s quite a trick. It enables you to add custom soundtracks to videos – and all you need is a single finger.
You select a genre, and ‘rehearse’ playback by dragging your finger around the square viewfinder. Move up to increase the music’s intensity increases and move right to adjust variation. You can perform rehearsals using the viewfinder or with an existing video loaded from your Camera Roll.
Just messing about with the audio alone is fun, but it all properly comes together when making a video. Now, when you’re shooting yet another clip of your cat being mildly amusing, Moodelizer can add much-needed excitement by way of rousing club music or head-banging guitar riffs.
Vue is a video editor whose initial incarnation was an odd mix of intriguing and ridiculous. In short, it was designed to give you six seconds of fame by snapping an ultra-short video comprising three shots.
Fortunately, Vue is relaxed a bit now – and all the better for it. The app still prefers brevity, but will allow movies of up to three minutes in length and can load existing videos from your iPhone, too. Once your miniature masterpiece is done, it’s possible to add filters and stickers, overlay subtitles, and mess around with zooming and adjustment sliders.
The app still feels a touch rigid compared to the likes of Clips, but Vue’s sense of focus and style – along with the sharing network that underpins everything – makes it worth checking out.
Clips is a video-editing app geared towards making content for sharing on social media. To that end, it eschews convention (widescreen, standard titles, typical editing tracks) and attempts to infuse plenty of fun into a streamlined, straightforward editing process.
You can record directly in the app or import existing videos. In either case, you can overlay stickers and live captions that appear as the subject speaks, and apply filters for a different look. Posters serve as a replacement for titles, helping with pacing and context in a way that’s much more interesting, animated and editable.
For iPhone X users, there’s an extra treat: animated 3D selfie scenes. These can transport you into a number of stylized landscapes, including neon cityscapes and ships from Star Wars. The effect is mesmerizing to the point where the app’s worth picking up for selfie scenes alone.
Motion Stills aims to help you do more with the Live Photos you shoot on your iPhone. Apple’s own Photos app, of course, provides options for adjusting how these images animate – but this Google offering does far more.
On giving the app permission to view your photos, it will display a scrollable feed of pictures that animate as you browse. This alone makes Motion Stills worth a download, not least because the app applies stabilization technology to your Live Photos, eradicating wobble.
But with a few quick swipes you can quickly select a number of Live Photos, which can then be transformed into a tiny movie. Alternatively, you can turn Live Photos into collages, or add text and emoji to your favorites. In short, Motion Stills feels like the Live Photos editor Apple forgot to make itself.
If you like the idea of editing home movies but are a modern-day being with no time or attention span, try Quik. The app automates the entire process, enabling you to create beautiful videos with a few taps and show off to your friends without needing talent – surely the epitome of today’s #hashtag generation.
All you need do is select some videos and photos, and choose a style. Quik then edits them into a great-looking video you can share with friends and family. But if your inner filmmaker hankers for a little more control, you can adjust the style, music, format and pace, along with trimming clips, reordering items, and adding titles to get the effect you desire.
Cementing its friendly nature, Quik offers a little pairs minigame for you to mess about with while the app renders your masterpiece. And there’s even a weekly ‘For You’ video Quik compiles without you lifting a finger.
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The best free iPhone sketching and design apps
Our favorite free iPhone apps for drawing, sketching, painting, layout and animation.
Add Text: Write On Photos
Add Text: Write On Photos has a name that tells the whole story. Actually, that’s not quite true – most free apps where you slap text on images are packed full of IAP, or are plain dreadful. Add Text, though, is the real deal: a cruft/price-free app that makes it a cinch to add text to images.
Load a snap, and you can then switch between tabs to adjust font, color, alignment, perspective, and applied effects. Some of these offer a decent amount of fine-tuning, such as leading and kerning in alignment.
There’s the odd niggle – the color picker is iffy, and dragging to adjust text orientation can be twitchy. But otherwise, Add Text is the sort of app that these days often comes with subscription IAP attached. So take advantage of this developer’s generosity, and get Add Text on your phone.
Vectornator X provides all the tools you need to work up sleek vector-based illustrations, interface design layouts, and logos on your iPhone. Tools and panels get out of your way, maximizing the screen space afforded to your work – although if you have an iPhone Plus/Max, you can flip it into landscape to see the canvas and settings simultaneously .
Even if you aren’t a professional, Vectornator X is worth grabbing because it can act as a pseudo filter app, transforming a photo into vector art with just a few taps
Load a picture, tap the up arrow to access the settings panel, and unlock your photo in the Layers tab. Then select the Style (paintbrush) tab, tap the photo layer in the background, and select Auto Trace. Finally, swipe the tools away and gaze at the work of art you’ve created in mere seconds.
Desyne is for creating flyers in a jiffy. You get a slew of templates, categorized into sections like posters and events, or aimed at specific social networks. Select one and you can get to work.
This app has few limitations. Although you can make quick changes to a template – for example, swapping out the background image, and a few words – there’s lots of scope for creativity. You can add stickers, text, and masks to your creations, working with a straightforward but smartly designed layers system.
Naturally, there’s a catch: IAP. Without a subscription, templates and tools are limited, and a watermark is enforced. But even the free version of Desyne is fun, usable, and useful. If you like it, there’s a big annual discount you can make use of during your first few hours with the app.
Universe – Website Builder
Universe – Website Builder is – as its name suggests – a tool for building websites. The thought of doing this on your iPhone may make you feel queasy, but Universe works well, primarily because of the limitations it imposes.
Pages are essentially grids. You drag out a section and insert a content block. This might be an image, some text, a link, or a video. Once you’re done, your efforts are uploaded to the Universe website.
The app is usable, fun, and effective. With some effort, you can fashion surprisingly smart multiple-page sites; but also, with almost no effort, you can get something online. Of course, IAP’s are lurking – for $9.99/£8.99/AU$14.49 per month, you can add a domain, create a store, and view analytics. But even for free, this one’s worth checking out.
Autodesk SketchBook is a drawing app for iPhone. It’s of course far from alone on the App Store, but what sets SketchBook apart is the sheer range of things you can do with the app.
Despite the minimal interface, there’s tons to discover. There are dozens of brushes, which mimic all kinds of real-world tools. Every one of them can be tweaked. Multiple layers afford you flexibility when working on complex compositions. And transform, shape, and text tools provide scope when you’re working on technically oriented illustrations rather than free-form doodling.
You’d usually expect to pay a fair amount for this kind of quality – and once, SketchBook did have a price-tag attached. But now it’s free – and yet still superb – it would almost be an insult to not download it, even if you can barely scribble a stick-person.
Paper is a sketching tool based around jotting down ideas quickly. Your drawings are stored in little digital notebooks, which you can open and flip through. Tap a page and you can scribble with a finger or stylus using the app’s selection of brushes.
There’s a smattering of additional handy tools in the free version, most notably the ability to add text notes to any picture, and the means to export a note or book. However, some features sit behind monthly IAP, including photo import, copy/paste, and auto-correct when drawing geometric shapes and lines.
Despite these limitations – and the app rather oddly reorienting your sketches on iPhone when you return to browsing – Paper remains one of the most pleasing apps of its kind, not least if you retain a fondness for real-life versions of the little notepads the app depicts.
Canva is a graphic design tool for the rest of us. It’s not going to send professionals scurrying for the shadows, but with its mix of templates, filters, and editable design elements, it gives the average iPhone owner a fighting chance of working up an invite or poster during a lunch hour.
Layouts are smartly targeted and categorized, and move beyond typical posters, greetings cards and flyers into social media territory (Twitter headers, Instagram posts and blog posts), and even business (cards, logos and presentations).
You can import photos, add text, and fiddle around with a wide range of drag-and-drop elements before sharing directly to social media, or saving your work to your iPhone.
For anyone who wants to design something for their burgeoning home business, or just for fun, Canva is a great place to start.
Back in 2009, Jorge Colombo did some deft iPhone finger painting using Brushes, and the result became a New Yorker cover.
It was a turning point for iOS and suitably handy ammunition for tech bores who’d been drearily banging on about the fact an iPhone could never be used for proper work. The app sadly stagnated, but was made open source and returned as Brushes Redux.
Now free, it’s still a first-rate art app, with a simple layers system, straightforward controls, and a magnificent brush editor that starts you off with a random creation and enables you to mess about with all manner of properties, from density to jitter.
Developer Pixite is best known for its eye-popping filter apps, and so Assembly was quite the surprise. The app is all about building vector art from shapes.
Individual components are dropped on to the canvas, and can then be grouped or have styles applied. It feels a bit like the iPhone equivalent of playing with felt shapes, but you soon realise that surprisingly complex compositions are possible, not least when you view the ‘inspirations’ tab or start messing about with the ‘remix’ projects.
For free, you get loads of stuff to play with, but inexpensive IAP unlocks all kinds of bundles with new themed shape sets to explore.
The best free iPhone camera apps and photo editors
Our favorite free iPhone cameras, photo editors and filter effects apps.
FlyScreen – Screenshot Manager
FlyScreen – Screenshot Manager is an image organizer that focuses on screenshots rather than camera snaps. Open it up and your screenshots will be displayed on a scrolling grid. Give the app a little time to rifle through them all and you’ll be able to search by text that appears within the screenshots – very nice.
Naturally, you’ll likely want to group images in other ways, which is where FlyScreen’s straightforward tagging system comes into play. There are further nice touches on each image’s details pane: copy/share actions, a single field that contains all detected text ready for copying, and similar images if very similar screenshots to the one you’re looking at exist.
For free, this is a generous app, and an essential download to make more sense of – and get more from – your screenshots.
Photoshop Camera is a world away from the Photoshop desktop/iPad app, which remains a high-end professional tool likely to baffle and impress in equal measure. Photoshop Camera is instead about creative spontaneity – a way to add punch and imagination to even the dullest of snaps.
The free iPhone app works in real-time, applying live filters and effects to whatever you’re looking at through your iPhone’s camera. Alternatively, you can load an existing image and have the app transform it into something unrecognizable.
That’s not to say Photoshop Camera doesn’t also flirt with the conventional. There are filters for improving snaps of scenery and food. But this app’s at its most fun and essential when you’re turning whatever’s in front of you into an eye-smashing slice of pop art, or having gigantic lollipops embed themselves in an otherwise ordinary landscape.
On the face of it, Graphite by BeCasso is yet another in a long line of free iPhone apps that turn your photos into a facsimile of art. In this case, it’s all about sketching, with a smattering of color, instantly transforming even the most mundane snap into an eye-catching combination of scribbly pencil work, pens, and paints.
As ever, the end results can be a touch mechanical, but the effects here are among the best we’ve seen on iPhone. What’s more, they can be fiddled with to some extent as well. Dip into the Edit tab and you can make adjustments that can radically update the look and feel of your picture.
Delve into your wallet and pay for monthly IAP and you can take things further, even messing around with the strokes laid down by the virtual artist.
Darkroom is a photo editor from the classy end of the spectrum. It also doubles down on productivity.
As soon as you open Darkroom, it has you select an image from your iPhone to work with. You can then set about making it look extra fabulous by way of cropping tools, adjustment sliders, or – if you’re feeling a bit lazy – one-tap filters.
Whatever you create can overwrite the original, or be saved as a copy. In the former case, edits are non-destructive, as are they when using the app itself. This makes it easy to experiment without fear of ruining your original image.
For $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99, you can upgrade to unlock a curves tool, a color tool, and dozens of extra filters. But even for free, Darkroom is a prize app.
sok-edit is a collage app that doubles down on immediacy. Instead of neatly aligning photos to a grid, it’s the digital equivalent of hacking photos to bits with scissors, and sticking them on other photos for purposes of amusement and creativity.
The app is tactile and noisy. You drag to cut out elements, which can then be rotated, resized, cloned and flipped. Most actions come with sound effects. It’s all a lot of fun.
The only minor snag is if you have too much fun – in the sense of using three layers – you have to watch an advert to add another object, or plump for the ‘pro’ IAP. Mind you, even the latter is a mere US$0.99/99p/AU$1.49, which seems like a bargain for unlimited collage larks.
Visionist has quite a lot in common with Prisma, in that it’s using neural networks to transform photos into something resembling art. The main differences with Visionist are that it affords you a level of control Prisma does not, and it doesn’t drown you in IAP and endless filters.
In fact, you get just 10 (60 more sit behind a one-off US$1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 payment), but even those have a range that can turn the dullest snaps into something pretty amazing.
This is largely because you can adjust abstraction levels and how images interact; there’s support for Portrait images (and depth data is retained during export); and styles can be mixed and merged. It’s a world away from Prisma’s more simple interaction.
For bringing a little artistry to your photos, Visionist is well worth a download, then, whether you stick with the free version or plump for the IAP.
Infltr started out as a photo filter app for people who considered choosing filters too much effort. You simply dragged your finger across the screen, and the chosen filter updated live. Simple. Fast. Random.
That tool still exists, but today it’s just one of several in a photo editor that increasingly has much in common with Snapseed. Now you can make all kinds of adjustments, from fiddling with brightness through to subtly altering perspective. Edits are non-destructive, and can therefore be reverted or changed later.
There are some limitations unless you’re willing to subscribe: no HD export, only saving three custom filters (rather than an unlimited number), and the odd locked tool. But the free version is nonetheless a must-have for iPhone photographers who fancy a great toolset with a dash of chance.
DailyFocus wants you to spend five minutes every day becoming a better photographer. This is achieved by way of super-fast lessons – short videos that outline how to succeed regardless of what you face when armed with a camera. (We’re not kidding – at the time of writing, the day’s lesson was about lenses, but an upcoming one was “capturing eggs and bacon in motion”.)
The app gamifies your viewing, listing a daily streak total, and offering further encouragement by way of optional notifications – although be mindful those are sent 24 hours after you last used the app.
Also, DailyFocus emphasizes the ‘daily’ bit. There’s no archive – miss a video and it’s gone for good. This is likely because DailyFocus is in part a teaser for a CreativeLive subscription; but for the camera-curious and pro photographers alike, it’s a fab freebie too.
Retrica is a camera app designed to bring creativity, randomness and character to your iPhone selfies and snaps. It’s packed full of filters, which can be manually added live or to existing photos – or randomly if you want to try your luck by prodding the shuffle button.
The filters are varied and interesting, and you can add blur and vignette effects. You can also quickly create multi-shot collages, which are automatically stitched together on a grid. There are GIF and video options too.
Perhaps inevitably, the app has its own a social network, and may as well scream “We really want to be Instagram!” Still, even if you never sign in, Retrica is a superb freebie iPhone camera.
Snapseed is a photo editor that marries simplicity and power. At its most basic, it can be a tool for loading a photo, selecting a filter (referred to here as ‘looks’), and exporting the result. But it’s when you delve into the app’s tools and stacks that its true potential becomes clear.
The tools menu, while a bit cluttered, offers a huge range of options for adjusting your photo. You can crop, adjust perspective, edit curves, and add all kinds of filters and effects.
But stacks are arguably Snapseed’s best component. The stack is where your edits live, each of which can be updated at any time.
This offers far more flexibility than editors that ‘burn in’ each change you make. Furthermore, you can save any combination of edits as a custom look – and use stacks to deconstruct pre-loaded ones. Brilliant stuff.
Adobe Photoshop Fix
Although creative giant Adobe doesn’t seem keen on bringing its desktop software to iPhone in one piece, we’re nonetheless getting chunks of its power reimagined as smaller, more focused apps. The idea behind Adobe Photoshop Fix is to enable you to rapidly retouch and restore photos on your iPhone – using the power of Photoshop.
Some of the features aren’t anything outside of the ordinary: you get commonplace tools for cropping, rotation, and adjustments. But Photoshop Fix has some serious power within its straightforward interface, too, as evidenced by excellent vignette, defocus, and color tools.
The best bit, though, is Liquify. Using this feature, you can mash a photo to bits or make really subtle changes, depending on the subject matter. And if you’re facing a portrait, you can specifically fiddle with features, in a manner usually associated with high-end PC software.
Prisma wants to turn your photos into tiny works of art. Doing so is almost disarmingly simple: shoot or select a photo, crop your image, and choose an art style. (Options in the vast library of filters range from classic paintings through to comic book doodling.)
The app within a few seconds then transforms your photo into a miniature Picasso or Munch, and it’s instantly better than most of us could ever hope to achieve with Photoshop.
On trying Prisma with a range of imagery, we found it almost never comes up with a duff result, thanks to some insanely smart processing. But if you find the effects jarring, a slide of your finger can soften your chosen filter prior to sharing your masterpiece online.
- These are the best photo editing apps you can download right now
The best free movie and entertainment apps for iPhone
Our favorite free iPhone apps for having fun, whether reading, coloring or watching TV.
Outputter for Twitter
Outputter for Twitter helps you to avoid falling down a Twitter rabbit hole when you’ve something to say, largely by shielding you from most of Twitter. Instead of your timeline, the app starts off as a blank tweet posting box, to which you can add text and images. Tap the Tweet button and your diminutive missive is sent – without any threat of you getting distracted by anyone else’s.
Beyond basic broadcasting, the app makes a few concessions. You can browse your own tweets and delete ones you no longer care for. Mentions are accessible, and you can respond to those in-app. It’s a pity there’s no access to direct messages, nor any means to remove the ad banner for a small payment. But as a brutally streamlined zero-distraction Twitter client, Outputter fits the bill.
The Wallpaper App
The Wallpaper App makes your iPhone a little more swish by way of some arty wallpaper – but rather than giving you an endless feed of JPEGs to download, this app affords you a modicum of control over its output.
Swipe left or right to switch styles. Within a style, you can tap the left or right of the screen to load a new variation. Swipe upwards and you gain access to more controls, to adjust the wallpaper’s lightness and color. Even sharing provides a range of options, giving you wallpaper optimized for your device, or setting your output for alternate screen sizes.
If your wallpapers are always photos of amusing cats or real-world landscapes, perhaps steer clear. But otherwise, The Wallpaper App gives you an endless number of unique designs for no outlay whatsoever.
NetNewsWire is an RSS reader. This technology has fallen out of fashion, but we’re not sure why. It enables you to subscribe to sites you love, and to get every headline piped directly to an app. You can then read any article from your feed, or jump to the original piece in a browser.
The technology is handy, then, and this app is a great way to use it. If you just want to run RSS on your iPhone, you can subscribe to feeds directly in-app. Need sync? NetNewsWire supports the Feedbin and Feedly services.
Users of RSS readers Reeder and Unread might pine for visual customization features NetNewsWire lacks, but we were impressed by this app’s no-nonsense system-oriented styling, and the inclusion of vitally important features, such as loading full content from synopsis-based feeds.
Byte fills the void left behind when Vine vanished. That video-based social network filled your feed full of six-second recordings of joy, humor, music, and general weirdness. Byte similarly provides a mix of entertainment and creative scope. Of course, Byte’s not alone in this space – TikTok, for example, offers a similar experience. But Byte nonetheless has a lot going for it.
When browsing, you can quickly get to fun stuff, and follow your favorite creators. But where the app excels most is in making recording simple. You can add clips from your camera, but the app mostly wants you to hold its record button to build up your six seconds. Simple stuff, then, but fun and engaging all the same.
Sofa is designed to help organize your downtime. More specifically, it’s made to help you list amazing media you’d like to check out, and then keep track of it. In short, it’s a lists app. You make lists, and then populate them with movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, books, and video games.
The approach is cruft-free, which is a good thing. Sofa is about saving you time, and won’t suck you into an unnecessary social network. And for the most part, it works really well.
The one failing is books. Sofa’s library is missing a lot of titles and – frustratingly – you can’t add anything on an ad hoc basis. For screen-based and audio entertainment, though, it works like a charm, whether you’re adding top-notch TV masterpieces or a selection of classic games you’ve always wanted to play.
Big Bang AR
Big Bang AR isn’t the best app if you’ve already got an ego, given that it kicks off the creation of the universe in your outstretched hand. After that explosive moment, your local environment becomes an AR swirl of building blocks, as a virtual take on the universe forms.
With narration by Tilda Swinton, basic interaction, and a zippy journey through 13.8 billion years of history (finishing, naturally, with a selfie), Big Bang AR feels like a home take on an exhibit you might find at a science museum.
However, brevity doesn’t detract from the experience, and there’s further reading on steps in the journey for those who want to dig deeper. Great fodder for curious kids – and any adult who wants to go a bit William Blake and hold infinity in the palm of their hand.
GIFwrapped is an iPhone app for the GIF-obsessed. You can check out GIFs from a small range of broad categories, such as happy or sad; but the universal search bar enables you to drill down much more rapidly.
When you find something you like, it can be added to GIFwrapped’s internal library. The app enables you to quickly make your own custom GIFs, too, albeit merely by grabbing Live or Burst photos from your iPhone – if you want to add amusing text overlays, you’ll need another app for that.
Still, sharing is a breeze, GIFwrapped works seamlessly in Messages, and if you grab the subscription IAP, you can turn off adverts, bookmark searches, and remove the GIFwrapped watermark. Even for free, though, this app is a great way to GIF.
Twitterrific is a Twitter client that wants you to tweet on your own terms. So rather than the locked-down and vanilla experience of the official Twitter client, Twitterrific offers a range of customization options.
Two of the three tabs at the top of the screen can be swapped out for different kinds of content, for example providing fast access to custom lists. The way the app behaves regarding inline images (by default, huge) can be adjusted. And you can also change how it looks, through choosing a different theme.
From its playful sound effects to the lovely media browser, this is an app that screams polish. And if you’re happy with the unobtrusive image banner across the top of the display, the entire thing is yours to use for free.
Infuse 6 is a superb, elegant video player. It makes it a cinch to stream content from computers on your network, meaning you don’t have to load the videos directly on to your iPhone (although you can, due to Files integration). Assuming your files are sensibly named, Infuse 6 can pull down cover art and movie/show info, and even grab subtitles with a couple of taps.
One of the app’s big plusses is that it doesn’t need anything else. There’s no server software to install; and it will work across devices, including natively on Apple TV. Note, though, some advanced features – library and progress sync; HD audio; streaming from cloud services – require the pro version. For that, you’ll need monthly or lifetime IAP, or to grab the standalone Infuse Pro 6.
Night Sky initially resembles every other astronomy app. Hold your iPhone in front of your face to view celestial bodies that are in a particular place, or rather more lazily scroll about the heavens with a finger. You get chill-out music, constellation illustrations, ‘time travel’, and information pages.
But Night Sky differentiates itself in how you can interact with objects. Double-tap a planet and it’s plucked from the sky and can be explored in isolation on your screen, or examined more closely by moving around it in AR. This works for constellations, too, enabling you to better understand the distance between component stars.
Add subscription IAP and you get an AR grand orrery, sky tours, and more; but even for free, Night Sky is an absolute must for budding astronomers.
Pocket is a read-later system – time-shifting for the web. It’s designed to stop you clicking links all day, planning to read everything later, and then realizing at some point you have dozens of unread tabs.
With Pocket, you simply share pages to it from Safari (or on a desktop browser use the Pocket bookmarklet). When you have a data connection, open Pocket and it will quickly download everything. When reading, articles are stripped of cruft, leaving a mobile-optimized, reader-centric view.
Should you not be keen on the default set-up, it can be tweaked: fonts and colors can be adjusted, and there’s text-to-speech when you need to delve into articles eyes-free. Archives can be searched; and should you run out of things to read, Pocket has a Recommended tab you can check out to find something new. Perfect fodder for your daily commute.
JustWatch solves the problem of where to watch something. That might sound strange, but this is a common problem with modern television viewing – many shows are available on demand, but that’s no good if you’ve no idea what service they’re running on.
When searching for something specific, the app will list where it can be streamed or bought as appropriate. If you have the relevant app installed, you can head there with a tap. If you’re looking for something new, Popular and Browse tabs give you plenty of options, which can be quickly filtered by various criteria, and individual items can be stashed in the WatchList until later.
Given how decentralized television has become, JustWatch feels like a must-have install – a single, coherent tool for finding content from a range of providers.
Feedly bills itself as a smart news reader. For old hands, it’s an RSS client. If you’re still making a confused face, it’s an app that enables you to subscribe to website news feeds, which then pipe headlines directly to your iPhone.
The net result is a kind of curated newspaper. You get content from sources you know and trust, and because stories are listed in order of publication, you’re safe in the knowledge that you won’t miss anything – unlike the semi-randomized avalanche of content that afflicts social media feeds.
The reading experience is clean and simple too – just text and images for sites that provide full articles within feeds, and a built-in browser for those that don’t. And when you find something that’s just too good to keep to yourself, there are plenty of sharing options.
JigSpace is an education app that reasons we learn things better in 3D, on the basis that this is how we experience the real world. And that’s a good point. It’s all very well to learn how a car’s transmission works by reading about it, or even pore over an exploded illustration in a book. But being able to fiddle around with a real engine is much more helpful.
This app isn’t quite that level of magical, but it does use iOS’s augmented reality smarts to project various objects onto a flat surface. These can then be explored and fiddled around with, in a manner that hints at the future of anything from repair manuals to textbooks.
And even though you’ll perhaps exhaust the items on offer fairly quickly, JigSpace is a nicely immersive educational experience while it lasts.
The best free health, diet and exercise apps for iPhone
Our favorite free iPhone apps for forming great habits, cooking, exercising and meditating.
EZ Meditation Timer
EZ Meditation Timer aims to improve your mental health by giving you the tools you need to meditate and later check out your ongoing progress. It prioritizes all the right things, eschewing cruft. The timer can be set for as little as a minute or for hours, and you get a wide range of optional background noise loops – from rain to ambient synth noises – that can play while it runs.
The timer is easy to read and can be paused/ended whenever you like. When you’re done, regardless of whether you ended the session early, you’re given a congratulatory message that includes your time and streak information. At any point, you can dig into your statistics, and should you have friends that use the app, there’s an optional sign-in process that lets you build a little community to keep track of everyone’s progress.
Sleep by Max Richter
Sleep by Max Richter reimagines Richter’s epic composition – one that normally lasts for over eight hours – as a relaxation and focus aid. To get started, tell the app whether you’re aiming to get to sleep, meditate, or focus. You’ll then get relevant options (including wake-up time and focus length) before the audio kicks off.
The app requires a premium account on Apple Music or Spotify to draw its audio from, which is all done seamlessly in the background. You’ll then be immersed in a mix of gentle music and moody moon imagery. Whether you’re heading for slumber or have your head down for a period of intense work, this is an effective and beautiful app.
Strut invites you to uncover a virtual world – all by traveling around the real one.
The app’s map starts life covered in billions of tiles. As you walk, cycle, drive or – as the app helpfully suggests – “ride a goat or take a hot air balloon”, areas beneath the tiles are revealed. The more sections you open up, the more virtual medals the app bestows on your person. It’s a simple, positive cycle.
Beyond the mapping and medals, there’s further mild gamification in the form of leaderboards. Head over to the score page and you’ll see your tile count, your maximum tiles uncovered in a single day, and your position in your country, state, and any visited cities. Through the players tab, you can also pit your feet/goat against those of your friends – or any other nearby Strut strutters.
Vanilla Bean is designed to help you eat in a more sustainable and green way – at least when you’re out of the house. It figures out where you are and lists nearby restaurants that cater for vegans and vegetarians, plus those that offer gluten-free, lacto-free, organic and local fare.
Although the app defaults to local outlets, there’s a map for browsing, and an intelligent search bar. Tap in a city name and you’ll not only get results based around locations, but also matching restaurant names. Searches can be further refined by adjusting the filters, for example to limit results to only those that match specific criteria, or – if you’re on a budget – lower prices.
There are of course other apps that offer similar data, but Vanilla’s focus, efficiency and elegance make it a smart install.
Moodflow: Year in Pixels
Moodflow: Year in Pixels is a free iPhone app that helps you track emotions and wellbeing, but without eating into your day. It keeps things simple, asking you daily to select a happiness rating, tap on moods you’re feeling, and optionally write brief notes about things you’ve done, or your day in general. Ratings are subsequently presented as colored squares on a calendar, potentially enabling you to identify what drags you down.
Just those basics alone would make for a useful app, but Moodflow goes deeper. Your recorded content can also be accessed as a journal or via a statistics page. A dashboard provides the means to create challenges for forming good habits, such as reading five pages of a book daily, or going for more walks.
Moodflow is also hugely customizable, from colors and backgrounds through to the labels used throughout the app. For free, it’s a no-brainer.
321FIT takes a streamlined approach to workouts. Borrowing from music players rather than exercise apps, it enables you to quickly set up workouts that act like playlists. And just like a playlist in Apple Music, 321FIT lets you customize your workouts to your own tastes.
This flexibility extends beyond choosing from exercises bundled with the app – you can define your own, setting values like reps and time limits. As you do your workout, a pixelated figure amusingly performs the current exercise, while the app emits retro bleeps and bloops to alert you as necessary.
But the main win is the clarity in the workout screen. You at all times know where you are in your workout, and also – thanks to an on-screen ‘ETA’ clock – when you’re likely to be finished.
Oak – Meditation & Breathing
Oak – Meditation & Breathing is a relaxation aid with no time for complexity and price tags – two things rivals often revel in, despite how they can (ironically) increase stress levels. Here, you choose between three options: meditate, breathe, and sleep.
The three breathing exercises provide techniques for unwinding and boosting alertness. Meditation options cater for beginners and old-hands alike, with guided and unguided sessions across a range of durations. And if you can’t switch off in bed, a guided breathing session helps you fall asleep.
Oak’s sense of elegance and focus is what sets it apart. This is an app that cuts to the chase, and immediately gets you on the path to a better you. And the Growth area helps keep you there, with tracking, stats, and achievements.
- Want an alternative? These are the very best meditation apps
Tasty gives you a modern spin on cookery apps, through a splash of color, and a large dollop of video.
It starts off much like any other iPhone app: you can filter searches to specific dish types and dietary requirements; all the while, lush photography of tasty treats attempts to lure you in. But when you open a recipe page, Tasty dispenses with convention by immediately showing how the dish is made – in super-fast fashion.
These tightly edited videos are like cookery TV with all the cruft removed, and they beat photographic stills because they show elements of technique.
Smartly, although you can check out vanilla step-by-step instructions, it’s also possible to view individual steps alongside a relevant video clip. This should ensure you won’t go wrong and cook up a culinary catastrophe.
Smiling Mind is a straightforward, approachable meditation app that wants you to slow down a bit and embrace mindfulness. It starts off with a simple exercise that introduces the concept, before getting you started with short practice sessions. But if you’re already familiar with this kind of thing, you can jump right into a range of programs.
As you use the app, it urges you to input how you feel, and tracks your progress over time. Also, along with providing programs for adults, the app offers exercises designed for children.
Most importantly, though, everything about Smiling Mind feels calming, from the stylish interface to its lack of a price-tag. Whereas rivals go for wallet-thumping subscriptions, Smiling Mind is by a non-profit; it’s intent only on relieving you of stress rather than money.
Habitica is a to-do list tracker. But before your eyes glaze over, Habitica does something very different in this particular app category, transforming boring lists into a game.
The idea is that you input all the things you need to sort, including one-off items and daily goals. As you check off tasks, your little on-screen avatar gets powered-up, acquiring armor, pets, skills, and quests. Get some friends suitably invested and you can battle monsters alongside them – or just keep everyone honest.
In short, this app makes productivity fun. And while there’s some satisfaction deleting an item from a boring bullet-point list, it’s a lot more interesting when taking the trash out results in your tiny hero beaming with delight at their shiny new sword.
If you need some ambient noise around you, White Noise+ proves an excellent app for blocking out distractions. The free version offers a small selection of sounds to soothe your soul – white noise, rain, wind, thunder, and wind chimes.
To create some ambience, you simply drag one or more noise icons to an on-screen grid; the items towards the top play at a higher volume, and those towards the right become more complex in nature. Happen upon an especially pleasing combination and you’re able to save your mix for later use.
The app smartly includes built-in mixes to provide a little inspiration – and to showcase a wider range of sounds that’s available via IAP. A single $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 purchase also removes the ad bar, unlocks a sleep timer, alarm, and dark mode, and allows you to fiddle with the 15 additional sounds – in both the bundled mixes and also your own creations.
But whether you pay or not, the combination of excellent sounds and a modern, usable interface make White Noise+ a best-in-class product on the iPhone.
You might not associate taking medication with a hip and cool iPhone, but technology can be a boon to anyone with such requirements. Round Health offers great pill tracking and dosage notifications – and it doesn’t do any harm that the app also happens to be gorgeous.
It’s split into three sections: in My Medicine, you add medications, and for each you can define a name, strength, individual doses, and schedules based around reminder windows of up to three hours. In Today, you view and log the day’s medication.
Flexible preferences enable you to set up cross-device sync, push notifications, and to export data – and reminding users to refill will be a real help too.
That the app is free is generous, given the job it does – and how well it does it. Also, the system is flexible enough that Round Health might work as a reminders system for other repeating tasks, albeit one in which jobs are labelled as ‘taken’ rather than ‘done’!
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
The science of sleep is something few people delve into. But you know some days that you wake up and feel awful, even if you think you’ve had a decent night’s sleep. Sleep Cycle might be able to tell you why. It analyses you while you sleep, using sound or motion, and provides detailed statistics when you wake.
Additionally, it’ll constantly figure out what phase of sleep you’re in, attempting to wake you at the best possible time, in a gentle, pleasing manner.
That probably all sounds a bit woo-woo, but here’s the thing: this app actually works, from the graphing bits through to helping you feel refreshed and relaxed on waking up.
Runkeeper has been around since the App Store’s earliest days, and has gradually transformed from a then-magical means of tracking runs using your iPhone’s GPS, to a combination of personal trainer and community, providing everything you need to keep yourself fit.
It still does the basics very well. Head out for a run (or a walk or cycling session), and the app will provide a clear view of your training in real-time. (And we mean that: the stats are in large enough type to see from across the street.)
But it’s the other features that make Runkeeper really special: training plans; iTunes integration; custom challenges for friends; and a stopwatch mode for indoor activities and workouts. Unfortunately, it can’t actually do the exercise for you – so you’ll still have to work up a sweat yourself.
The best free iPhone apps for kids and toddlers
Our favorite free iPhone interactive experiences and learning aids for toddlers and children.
Duolingo ABC draws from the famous tool for learning foreign languages. But in this case, the friendly interface is designed to help young children learn to read.
From the off, this free iPhone app is packed full of quick games and exercises, designed to engage, and have children directly interact with what they’re learning about. There are colorful buttons to press, letters to trace, and the (optional) opportunity to provide answers by talking.
The app’s been designed from the ground up as kid-safe, and so it’s offline-only and will never send you to a web page or beg for IAP. Parents should be aware, though, that this app perhaps works best with you alongside your child, since some of its elements may require some guidance – especially for younger users.
Toca Life: World
Toca Life: World rethinks the superb Toca Life apps, mostly by smushing them together. What you end up with is a spinning globe that provides access to the Toca Life apps you already have on your iPhone – or any equivalents you buy via IAP.
But what if you don’t want to buy anything? Even then, Toca Life: World is worth a download. You get eight places to visit within the Bop City location for free. Kids can explore a hairdresser, shopping mall, food court and more, experimenting with characters, and even recording narrated movies of play sessions.
This is a generous, reasonable way to approach immersive, expansive children’s entertainment. There’s a lot for free, and added rewards when you decide to grow your collection – but there’s never any pressure to do so.
Noah’s Ark Animalibrium
Noah’s Ark Animalibrium isn’t a typical recreation of the famous story. Instead of a massive boat, there’s a precariously wobbly water-bound bowl for the animals to balance on. Also, there are just eight critters, rather than all of that two-by-two shenanigans you’d previously heard of.
Still, youngsters won’t mind as they have fun with the playful physics, flinging things about, scrolling the scene, and even dragging animals underwater – whereupon they close their eyes, and the audio appropriately dulls.
You also get two buttons: one changes the weather; the other shoots a snap for posterity, should the player manage truly epic balancing. There’s a one-off IAP too, for those who fancy a trip back to prehistoric times: $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 unlocks a pack of eight dinosaurs to save from a flood. We’re pretty sure that wasn’t in Noah’s Ark either…
Tankee is a video-streaming platform designed for kids who want to watch videos about gaming. It strips out social networking and comments, and also – crucially – has a real person watch every video that’s made available.
The downside is that this limits Tankee to a few hundred hours of content (although this is growing all the time); but you can at least know the videos will be age-appropriate, and algorithms won’t make horrific recommendations after your kid has delved into some Minecraft tips.
Everything can be browsed for free, right from the off. Create an account and your child can choose an avatar, save favorites, follow channels, and hammer smiley buttons at lightning speed when they like a particularly good bit of a video.
Wonderbly Story Time Books
Wonderbly Story Time Books is an iPhone take on a personalized illustrated children’s book. The story centers on a child’s magical quest to find their forgotten name, and each letter has its own beautifully realized miniature adventure.
In fact, each letter has more than one scene, which means there’s no duplication even if your kid has the unlikely name ‘Daaaaavid’. The only minor snag on iPhone is the text is sometimes a bit small. You can use a zoom gesture, but the second you let go, the page snaps back into place.
Still, should you want to free your book from the confines of your iPhone, you can order a printed version. And should you want to revisit previous adventures in digital form, they remain stored inside the app.
Peek-a-Zoo doesn’t look like much at first, given that every scene essentially features simplistic cartoon animals atop a flat slab of color, but you soon appreciate how much imagination has gone into this basic setup when you watch a child using the app.
It’s all down to the questions, which challenge a toddler to find the right animal. They’ll be asked things like who’s dressed up (which character has the hat), who’s winking, or who’s trying to hide. That last one makes brilliant use of the minimalist graphics, ‘hiding’ an animal by matching its body to the game’s background.
It’s all very sweet-natured, and has surprising range given how simple it is. That’s something to appreciate – a free children’s app that’s free from cruft and ads.
Toca Tailor Fairy Tales
Toca Tailor Fairy Tales turns your child into a designer and stylist. On selecting a character to clothe, they can then drag and swipe to give them a beautiful new outfit.
Well, ‘beautiful’ might be a stretch. The mix-and-match nature of the app offers equal potential for eye-searing garish fashion disasters. This is especially true when you delve into the materials section, zooming and rotating textures, or adding new ones by way of the camera.
Garments can be adjusted in other ways, too – tap to switch to a different type, or drag to change something’s length. Last of all, there are accessories to give the model a perfect final touch – or a very silly hat.
Laugh & Learn™ Shapes & Colors
Laugh & Learn™ Shapes & Colors Music Show for Baby is an interactive experience designed for very young children. Level 1 should be approachable enough even for a six-month-old you’re brave enough to arm with your worryingly expensive iPhone; they can tilt and tap to make shapes appear and bounce around the screen.
Level 2 is squarely designed at toddlers. The app chirps “Let’s put on a show!” as shapes dance and jump about on the screen. This is augmented by jaunty earworms that will burrow into your skull, while your tiny human makes their own live remix by prodding at a colorful piano keyboard. It’ll drive you bonkers, but the smile on that little face will be worth it. Probably.
Lego Creator Islands
Lego Creator Islands might seem like an odd choice for inclusion here, since parents would most likely sooner see their children playing with plastic bricks rather than virtual ones on an iPhone. But when the real thing isn’t available, this official game does the business.
It all takes place on the titular islands, which you explore to collect bricks that act as a kind of in-game currency. These can then be used to acquire Lego sets that are constructed with a few deft taps.
The selection is fairly small, but even so you can over time build a rather nice set of islands, featuring houses, roaming animals and dinosaurs, and vehicles blazing about the place. Also, there’s no chance of getting a plastic brick embedded in your foot.
The best free music and audio apps for iPhone
Our favorite free iPhone apps for playing songs, listening to podcasts, making music and being a virtual DJ.
Moonbeam feels a lot like a podcast directory and TikTok had a baby. Its main view is a series of audio snippets, and lets you rifle through tiny clips from interesting podcasts. Not keen on what you’re listening to? Swipe and you’ll instantly be immersed in something new. These moments are ad-free, and although the app’s setup won’t do anything for your attention span, it’s ideal for podcast discovery.
Usefully, should a clip prove interesting, it’s possible to flag it as a favorite, listen to the remainder of the podcast, or even subscribe to the show and listen to other full episodes in-app. The full player is too basic to tear us away from Overcast (and we wish there was a way to quickly and easily send podcast – rather than Moonbeam – links elsewhere); but for podcast discovery, Moonbeam is better than anything else out there.
Seaquence invites you to make living music. What this means is whatever you devise has the appearance of colorful creatures swimming in a Petri dish.
The actual bones of creating music are more conventional, though. On adding a new ‘planktone’ creature, you tap out notes on a grid. If you’re not keen on its sound, you can choose from one of the four other options, and mess about with the waveform.
Results tend to be a mite more abstract than, say, GarageBand compositions, but this is nonetheless a vibrant and interesting take on making music. Moreover, if you don’t feel creative, loads of built-in examples are there to listen to; or, conversely, should you get really into Seaquence, a one-off IAP unlocks pro-oriented note and sound editing features.
AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer
AudioKit Synth One Synthesizer is perhaps the most audacious synth you’re ever going to see on iPhone. That’s not because it’s full of knobs to twiddle, and amazing sounds – although Synth One is blessed with an abundance of both; it’s because you get all of this entirely for free.
There are no catches, and no ads. This is a fully open-source project that can match the power, quality, and clout of the most pro-level software found on iOS. This means if you’re a pro, you can delve into fashioning presets, working with MIDI, wiring up the synth via IAA or AudioBus, and more besides. If you merely like making a noise, you get a superb iOS synth for no outlay whatsoever. The word ‘bargain’ doesn’t really cover it.
djay is an app for budding DJs who want to spin some virtual vinyl. Launch the app and you can convince yourself that you’re a perfect mix of Martin Garrix and David Guetta, slamming amazing tunes into your ears, while fiddling with a mixer, looping, EQ, filters and effects. Alternatively, you can just fire up the app’s Automix feature and let it get on with all the tricky stuff.
With Spotify and iTunes integration, it’s not hard to find things to play, although the interface on iPhone is a touch fiddly for full-on DJ work (rather than entertainment for a wannabe). On that basis, we’d exercise caution before grabbing the feature-rich pro-subscription.
That said, if you’ve got an external DJ controller, djay for iPhone can feasibly become a vital – and portable – toolkit component even for the pros.
Wilson FM reasons there an awful lot of podcasts, and it’s tricky to find great new ones to listen to. It therefore packages hand-picked individual episodes in the format of a magazine.
A new issue of Wilson FM arrives every week, and each one is designed to be thematically and culturally relevant. It’s also a handy way of branching out from your usual listening bubble, and delving into the likes of entertaining science, the meaning of words, and cracking cultural mysteries.
The player itself is basic, and not a patch on the likes of Overcast. But that’s not the point of Wilson FM. It’s here to help you discover new things, and if you chance across a really great show, you can always copy its link and subscribe to it elsewhere.
Beatwave wants to simplify the process of creating music. You tap notes on to a grid, which explode in color like digital fireworks when the playhead hits them. You can keep adjusting your loop live, or add depth by overlaying loops of different sounds, including drums.
For an app that looks so simple, and with vibrant blasts of color not usually associated with music creation tools, there’s surprising depth here, with sliders to tweak sounds, drum generators, and auto-chords. Veterans, though, may miss the original’s more approachable square grid play surface, which echoed Yamaha’s Tenori-on.
The only other downside is the sounds you get being a touch limited. Still, there’s enough range for what’s ultimately a musical sketchpad; and if you want more, the ‘pro’ IAP US$9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 adds several extra sets.
Yousician helps you to master a musical instrument or sing, but without that feeling like a chore. To that end, it often resembles a video game.
When you’re learning piano, the interface depicts scores and keyboards with bright colors to help guide your eyes and finger, but the app really comes alive when you’re learning guitar. It turns into something like Guitar Hero, only you’re using a real guitar and the app is cunningly teaching you how to play.
Things start with the basics, but before long you’re strumming and picking with the best of them. The only big limit in the free version is daily play time. Grab a subscription if you fancy learning more rapidly.
The iPhone version of GarageBand has always been ambitious. Aiming at newcomers and professionals alike, its feature set includes smart instruments that always keep you in key, multitrack recording/editing functionality, a loops player, and superb guitar amps.
But 2017’s major update takes things much further, with new synth Alchemy improving the app’s previously slightly ropey sound set. Smart piano strips have been expanded to all keyboard instruments, helping anyone to play perfect melodies.
And Audio Unit support exists to load third-party synths directly inside of GarageBand, similar to how plug-ins work on desktop music-making apps.
Because of these things, GarageBand is now even more suited to musicians of all skill levels – although be aware on smaller screens that the app can be a touch fiddly, what with there being so much going on.
Plenty of apps claim they can get you making music in seconds, but Figure really means it. The app’s heritage helps, as it comes from Propellerhead Software, creators of the legendary Reason and ReBirth.
In Figure, though, working on loops and beats is stripped right back from what you’d find in those complex PC apps; instead, you tap out drums, and slide your finger around to fashion monster bass and playful leads.
Sounds can be tweaked or swapped out entirely at any point. Once you’re done, finished tracks can be uploaded and shared online. For serious musicians, there’s even Audiobus support.
Sometimes with apps, it’s the seemingly little things that make a big difference. With Overcast, for example, you get a perfectly decent podcast app that does everything you’d expect: podcast subscriptions; playback via downloads or streaming; a robust search for new shows.
But where Overcast excels is in attempting to save you time and improve your listening experience. Effects (which can be assigned per-podcast) provide the smartest playback speed-up we’ve heard, voice boost for improving the clarity of talky shows, and smart speed.
The last of those attempts to shorten silences. You won’t use that setting for comedy shows, but it’s superb for lengthy tech podcasts. As of version 2.0, Overcast is free, and betters all the other iOS podcast apps that also lack a price tag. (Should you wish to support the app, though, there’s an entirely optional recurring patronage IAP.)
On the iPad, Novation Launchpad is one of the best music apps suitable for absolutely anyone. You get a bunch of pads, and tap them to trigger audio loops, which always sound great regardless of the combinations used. This isn’t making music per se, but you can get up a good head of steam while imagining yourself as a futuristic combination of electronic musician, DJ and mix genius.
On iPhone, it shouldn’t really work, the smaller screen not being as suited to tapping away at dozens of pads. But smart design from Novation proves otherwise. 48 trigger pads are placed front and centre, and are just big enough to accurately hit unless you’ve the most sausagey of sausage thumbs.
Effects lurk at the foot of the screen — tap one and a performance space slides in, covering half the screen, ready for you to stutter and filter your masterpiece.
As on the iPad, you can also record a live mix, which can be played back, shared and exported. This is a really great feature, adding optional permanence to your tapping exploits.
The best free office and writing apps for iPhone
Our favorite free iPhone web browsers, calculators, password security tools and writing apps.
The Clocks provides an alternative to Apple’s built-in Clock app, which is ideal for those times when your iPhone’s docked in a stand or charger. Instead of Apple’s workmanlike world clock, this free iPhone app lets you choose between a full-screen analog clock, flip clock, or retro glowing LED face.
Each clock has various settings – you can adjust the appearance of the analog clock, change the color of the LED face, and opt to remove seconds from any of the clocks. And should you hanker after a world clock after all, a double-tap on the top half of the screen switches you to a view with six configurable clocks.
Most free clock apps on the App Store are stuffed full of ads. By contrast, this one does everything right: it’s clean, usable, customizable, and cruft-free.
Documents by Readdle
Documents by Readdle gives you an alternative to Apple’s Files on your iPhone. With its new Plus button, you can quickly import documents from a range of networked and cloud services, and subsequently manage them within the app. Many formats can be previewed, and ZIP archives can be created and sent elsewhere. There’s a built-in browser as well, which has standard and private tabs, and proves effective and responsive in operation.
With the improvements that came to Apple’s Files app in iOS 12 and iOS 13, Documents is perhaps now less essential, but we reckon it’s still handy. Many actions within this free iPhone app are faster and more user-friendly than in Apple’s, and it offers secure file storage and browsing if you otherwise want to keep Files and Safari unlocked. Given the lack of a price tag, it’s well worth checking out, in case you might find it useful too.
Hour Blocks: Day Planner
Hour Blocks: Day Planner reimagines calendars in brutally simplified form, reasoning what you need to be productive is a clear idea of what you’re doing during any given hour, rather than a slew of overlapping tasks.
The app can integrate with existing iOS calendar data, but will only display one item if you’ve got clashing events. It’s therefore better to start from scratch. Events in the app can have custom names and icons, and sync across devices by way of iCloud.
Although primarily intended for what you’re doing today, Hour Blocks lets you peek into the future if you scroll down. And if you desperately need to, it’s possible to break tasks into sub blocks if you go pro ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99). Arguably, though, Hour Blocks works best in its free incarnation, forcing you to rethink how you organize your time.
Secure ShellFish is an SSH and SFTP file manager. This enables you to make connections with remote storage, such as Macs and PCs on a local network, or servers hosting websites you’ve built.
Such apps are nothing new to iOS, but ShellFish has plenty going for it. The app immediately locates local network shares to connect to – you merely need to add a username and password. Or you can quickly and simply add as many remote servers as you like. In Apple’s Files, you then set ShellFish as a location, whereupon you can access your documents.
The app occasionally nudges you to buy the $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 pro unlock – which is excellent value, adding offline features and more – but the free offering is a good bet, too.
Otter Voice Notes
Otter bills itself as the place where conversations live. Which is a lofty way of saying it’s a voice memos app. That might not sound exciting, but Otter has fantastic features for anyone in the habit of jabbering at their phone.
It auto-transcribes in an intelligent manner, automatically including punctuation. You get ten hours per month for free, which seems generous. Additionally, notes are timestamped, can have inline images and highlights, and automatically get summary keywords, so you can check subjects at a glance.
There’s cloud data sync, conversation sharing, and Face ID/Touch ID security, too. Although there’s a paid plan, that’s only needed if you want up to 100 transcription hours per month or bulk file export. For most people, though, looking for a zero-hassle memos app with transcription, Otter’s free incarnation can’t be beaten.
LastPass has a lot in common with Apple’s iCloud Keychain, which comes baked into your iPhone. You get a place in which to securely store website login/password details and payment information. This integrates with Safari, and also – from iOS 12 onwards – with third-party app sign-in screens.
The main advantage of LastPass over Apple’s solution is that it’s available for Android and Windows, meaning you can use your passwords on whatever system you wish. But also it includes secure notes, and custom form filling options, which prove handy as well.
Because LastPass can be used alongside (rather than instead of) iCloud Keychain, it’s worth a look regardless, not least given that its editing and browsing interface far betters Apple’s. And although there’s a premium tier, the free version will be enough for most.
Drafts 5 describes itself as the place “where text starts” on your iPhone. That’s quite the claim, but the app really does excel if you work with words.
The efficient interface makes it a breeze to work on structured text with Markdown, glancing at a live word count as you go. A customizable keyboard row provides speedy access to Markdown tools – or anything else you fancy stashing there for easy access.
Once you’re done, you can keep your documents in Drafts, where they remain easily searchable, and can even be added to from the Apple Watch app. Or you can send them elsewhere by utilizing a range of actions. Splash out on a subscription and you unlock even more power; but for free, Drafts 5 is an astonishing bargain for anyone in the market for a top-notch iPhone text editor.
DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser
DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser is a web browser that reasons privacy shouldn’t be an optional extra. Instead, it doubles down on giving you control over your personal information as you browse the web, regardless of what you’re doing.
By default, tracker networks are blocked, encryption is forced whenever it’s available, and searches use DuckDuckGo, which never tracks you. Should you finish doing something confidential, you can prod a single button to erase your entire browsing history – easy. The browser can also give you details on any site’s privacy measures, and show improvements it’s made on your behalf.
DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser’s simplicity and standalone nature mean it might not be a total replacement for Safari, but it’s worth installing as a back-up browser – or even just if you fancy checking out the privacy credentials of sites you enjoy using.
Cake Browser is a mobile-centric web browser that wants you to skip right to dessert. Instead of presenting you with a list of search results, Cake immediately displays what it thinks is the most relevant page, while others load in background tabs. You then swipe between them (though you can still access a traditional results list by swiping from the left).
There are great ideas in Cake, not least the buttons that trigger searches specifically for video, images, news, and shopping.
The downside is that the search engines and sites Cake uses aren’t configurable, and the results it provides aren’t always what you want. Even so, that sense of surprise, and not always heading to the same old places, makes Cake worth a look – even if you stick to Safari for the bulk of your browsing.
Pages is a fully fledged and fully free word processor for your iPhone. Word processing might not be top of your list of iPhone-related tasks, but this great app might just change your mind.
Pages includes a wide range of templates, such as reports, letters, cards and posters. Although you probably won’t want to create and edit an entire magazine on your smartphone, Pages is user-friendly, with an efficient interface that’s suitable for banging out a first draft of a letter, leaflet or poster while you’re on the train.
Thanks to iCloud sync, whatever you create in Pages can be opened on a Mac or iPad running the app. If you’re resolutely iPhone-only, you can export your work in a range of formats, including PDF and Microsoft Word. If you’re really rocking it old-school, you can even send it to an AirPrint printer.
PCalc Lite is a version of leading iOS calculator PCalc, aimed at people who aren’t keen on spending money. In terms of functionality, it’s more stripped back than its paid sibling, but the app’s guts are identical.
What this means is PCalc Lite is undoubtedly the best free traditional calculator for iPhone. It’s fast, responsive, and friendly, and bundles a small set of useful conversions for length, speed, temperature, volume, and weight.
If you want to bolt on something from the paid version, IAPs exist, such as for multi-line support, or extra conversion options.
When iOS 11 arrived, Apple’s built-in calculator proved buggy, leading to people scrabbling around for an alternative. With PCalc Lite installed, that need never happen to you.
SwiftScan Scanner App
The SwiftScan Document Scanner app is, suitably, a scanner for your iPhone. This might seem unnecessary now Apple’s Notes app includes scanning functionality; and, indeed, SwiftScan and Notes do have some overlap. Even so, we reckon SwiftScan is very much worth a download.
First and foremost, having a separate scanning app is more efficient. Rather than fiddling around setting up a new scan in Notes, embedding imagery, and then sharing your scans, SwiftScan has a sleeker user flow.
It also seems faster than Apple’s app when it comes to scanning – for which you can scan single or multi-page documents, and then apply effects to the end results.
SwiftScan also has an upgrade path, for those who want more. Pay and you gain access to automatic cloud uploads, PDF editing, document encryption, and OCR. But even for free, SwiftScan deserves a place on your iPhone.
The best free productivity apps for iPhone
Our favorite free iPhone apps for being more productive with reminders, to-do lists, flash cards, timers, keyboards, conversion aids and automation.
Keyword Search brings much-needed instant multi-search capabilities to Safari on iPhone. Activate the extension and tap it in Safari’s extensions menu and you’ll find a number of popular search engines built in. Each details keywords you can use in the address bar to kick off a search – for example, ‘a phone stand’ to search Amazon for a phone stand, or ‘w fish’ to satisfy your daily piscine cravings by way of Wikipedia.
Every one of the defaults can be edited, making it a cinch to change the keywords or switch which regional variant of Amazon or eBay you’d like to search. Even better, you can add your own custom searches – just copy across the URL from a site’s results page and replace the search term you added with @@@. Top stuff, then, for getting you to search results on any website that little bit quicker.
StartPage.ai is a Safari extension that wants to get you out of the habit of opening yet more tabs. The aim is to help you be more focused, making quick decisions on the active tabs you already have, rather than adding yet more clutter to the grid.
The extension optionally replaces the new tab page, and presents as a brutally efficient list of recent tabs and associated close buttons. Tap a tab title and it opens, so you can read it or send it to something like Pocket. Or if you decide you no longer need that tab, the close button removes it.
It’s simple stuff, then, but effective in getting you to dig into the tabs you earlier opened or to quickly remove them, rather than leaving an increasing number to deal with later – when that later rarely comes.
Cloud Battery is a better battery tracking system for your iPhone. Apple’s own battery widget helps you keep an eye on your iPhone and Apple Watch, but Cloud Battery thinks bigger, enabling you to install the app on other devices – including iPads, Macs and connected peripherals – and use cloud sync to remain informed about their power levels.
You get all of the app’s functionality for free, including an Apple Watch complication, a home screen widget, and optional alerts when a device’s battery level falls to a user-defined level. That’s generous to a fault, and so if you find the app useful, consider buying the one-off $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP that removes the single on-screen ad and gives you additional widget customization options.
Buddywatch calls itself your personal watch face stylist. Although you can spend a lot of time messing around and creating custom Apple Watch faces yourself, now these things can be shared, it’s an awful lot easier to see if someone else has already done all the hard work.
What you get in-app is a directory to scroll through, adding faces to your collection if you choose to sign up. Regardless, when you find a favorite, you can download it to your device and send it across to your Apple Watch with a couple of taps.
This is of course all available online at the Buddywatch website; but having a sleek, simple, usable app housing many hundreds of great Apple Watch faces you can apply in an instant takes it to the next level.
Oh Bother provides a potential solution if you live and/or work in a shared space and have times where you really don’t want to be disturbed.
After choosing a username and icon, you set your status (botherable/unbotherable), context (such as “I’m on a phone call” or “I’m taking a nap”), and the duration of said status. These details can then be shared with other people via Messages.
During testing, status changes appeared on other people’s screens within seconds. Most importantly, the entire app feels approachable – a friendly way to create boundaries. The only real snag (besides a lack of custom contexts) is it being tied to iPhone. It works on iPad (albeit zoomed), but there’s no Android version. Still, if you live or work with a bunch of iPhone owners, it’s a great freebie.
Launcher with Multiple Widgets
Launcher with Multiple Widgets is a customizable widget for Today view, which can be used to quickly launch all kinds of things. It can provide deep access into apps, so you can fire off an email, run a Shortcuts workflow, open a website, or instantly access a Settings pane without laboriously navigating through that app.
Setup is simple. Using the Launcher app, you can rapidly create and arrange your set of launchers. These can be updated at any point, as you learn which shortcuts make you more productive and save you time.
All this, along with iCloud backup and restore of your widgets, comes entirely for free. But there’s a paid tier, too – splash out on that and you can configure up to six widgets, each of which can usefully be shown or hidden based on your location, or the time of day.
Agenda merges a notepad and task manager – ideal for people who’d usually jot down ideas and events on a scrap of paper, but who’d quite like said paper to be magical and actually organize everything for them.
Notes can be grouped into projects, be linked to Calendar and Reminders, and have attachments for added context, such as office documents, scans, and photos. Whatever you add can then be blazed through in timeline views that let you quickly get at the past, present and future.
For $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99, you can unlock Agenda’s premium features. These enhance integration with Calendar and Reminders, give you pinned notes, and add to formatting options. But even if you only ever use the entirely free version of the app, it’s excellent if you rely heavily on notes on your iPhone, but have always wanted them to do more.
Launch Center Pro
Launch Center Pro has a lot of crossover with the home screen and Apple’s Siri Shortcuts. It’s perhaps best thought of – as its creator says – as a ‘speed dial for apps’. In each spot on the grid, you can place buttons to launch apps, or ‘group’ buttons you hold down to access a second level of shortcuts.
Some apps offer deeper links, enabling you to trigger specific actions. You can also configure what’s included in the app’s home screen quick actions, and in the Launch Center Pro widget, thereby powering up your launching outside of the app itself.
For free, there are limits: a cap on actions; no location triggers; no scheduling. Naturally, these can be removed with IAP. But even for free, there’s a lot to love here, in being able to boost the power of your launching digit.
Bring! offers a new spin on shared shopping lists. Although you can create a straightforward shared text-based list in Reminders, Bring! opts for large colored buttons adorned with icons. Not only are these easier to spot when you’re in a busy supermarket with a basket on one arm and a toddler on the other, they’re also a mite simpler to tap.
Beyond this, there’s all kinds of smart stuff going on. Color-coded rings on items change from green to orange to red when the product is getting closer to running out. For items where you want something very specific, you can add notes and a photo.
And when you fancy letting everyone know you’ve made changes to a list shared with many people (for example, in an office), ready-made messages can be sent, saving you the hassle of crafting one yourself.
Shortcuts is Apple’s redesign of the well-regarded Workflow app, which aims to streamline your day by automating common tasks.
Apps of this ilk have a history of being geeky and impenetrable, but Shortcuts is the friendly face of automation. In the Gallery view are dozens of pre-made workflows to download, which perform actions like calculating tips, figuring out how long it’ll be before you’re home, and logging aspects of your routine.
Actions can be added to your Home screen as pseudo-apps, and triggered from Today view or by using Siri voice commands.
For a fully custom experience, there’s an editing view to dig into. You can tweak existing downloads, or start with a blank canvas, adding actions using a drag-and-drop interface. On an iPhone Plus models or iPhone XS Max, this works particularly well in landscape, with an iPad-like dual-pane interface.
Meteor is an internet speed tester designed for human beings. It eschews complex information – and even advertising – and instead provides you with straightforward, colorful buttons and readouts.
An inviting ‘Start Testing’ button kicks things off, whereupon the app sets about checking your internet connection’s performance, a little meteor animating on-screen as it does so. Once the tests are done, speeds are scored, and are subsequently available from the History tab.
Meteor also attempts to estimate how well your connection would fare with popular apps and games, six of which can be added to an ‘app performance’ bar. These values should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, but this freebie nonetheless impresses for being a no-nonsense, user-friendly, ad-free way to check internet connectivity.
Apple’s pre-loaded Clock app has a perfectly serviceable timer – but you only get one countdown at any given moment. MultiTimer, as its name might suggest, gives you multiple timers that you can set going simultaneously.
On launching the app, you’ll find six timers already set up. Each has a different color, name and icon. Tap a timer and it starts, tap again to pause, or double-tap to reset. Easy. Long press and you open the timer’s options, so you can adjust its default time, label, color, icon and sound.
You also have plenty of preferences to delve into, including adjusting the default workspace. Should you want extra workspaces – or a custom layout – grab the $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 MultiTimer Pro IAP.
From the brains behind game-like language-learning app Duolingo comes Tinycards. The aim is to enable people to memorize anything by way of friendly flashcard sets.
Duolingo itself offers a number of sets based around language, history and geography. Smartly, though, anyone can create and publish a set, which has led to hundreds of decks about all kinds of subjects, from renaissance art to retro computing.
The memorizing bit is based around minutes-long drills. You’re presented with cards and details to memorize, which the app then challenges you on, by way of typing in answers or answering multiple choice questions.
Some early teething problems with typos and abbreviations (for example, stating ‘USA’ was incorrect because ‘United States of America’ was the answer) have been dealt with by way of a handy ‘I was right’ button. Just don’t press it when you don’t really know the answer, OK?
The idea behind Cheatsheet is to provide fast access to tiny chunks of information you never remember but really need to: your hotel room, your car’s number plate, Wi-Fi passwords, or, if you’re feeling suitably retro, the Konami code.
Set-up is pleasingly straightforward. Using the app, you add ‘cheats’ by selecting an icon and then typing your info nugget. When you’ve got yourself a number of ‘cheats’, they can be reordered as you see fit. Once you’re done, the entire lot can be displayed on the Today widget or an Apple Watch.
Cheatsheet saves some features for a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 ‘pro’ upgrade – a custom keyboard, an action extension, some of the icons, and iCloud sync. But the free version is nonetheless useful and generous, along with making really good use of the Today view on your phone.
We keep hearing about how important coding will be to the future of everything. That’s all very well, unless code makes about as much sense to you as the most exotic of foreign languages.
The idea behind Lrn is to gently ease you in. Through friendly copy and simple quizzes, you gradually gain confidence across a range of languages.
The older app had you browse huge category lists to pick what you need, but Vert S is keener on immediacy. There’s a search, but the app’s core is a Favorites page, where commonly used conversions are stored.
Tap one and you enter a basic calculator, enabling you to convert between your two chosen units, which can be quickly switched by tapping the Vert button. (Note that currencies are behind an IAP paywall — $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 for ‘Vert Pro’ — but conversions for other units are free.)
The best free iPhone weather and travel apps
Our favorite free iPhone apps for mapping, sat-nav, translation, learning languages, weather forecasts, currency conversion and holiday planning.
Solstice is a weather app purely interested in daylight, and it presents its information in a minimal and readable manner. Give it your location and you’ll see sunrise and sunset times, a graph showing the sun’s position compared to the horizon, and a block of text that details how much more – or less – light there will be today compared to yesterday.
Flick to the second page and you can check out the average daylight hours for your location, along with how far away the next solstice is. Beyond that, there are widgets you can add to your home screen. In all, this is a tasteful, focused app, and a perfect freebie for anyone who needs to track daylight hours for health or professional reasons.
Weather Radar Widget
Weather Radar Widget bucks a common trend in weather apps: hiding a rainfall radar behind payment or IAP. Here, you can put one right on your home screen.
Once the app’s installed, you add a widget like any other (being mindful that it’s called A Radar Widget, rather than Weather Radar Widget). Long-press and you can define a location and zoom level. The standalone app gives you a full-screen alternative should you want that.
There’s a premium tier too if you want to support the developer and unlock customization options. In its free incarnation, though, this is a zero-risk and smartly designed app for anyone who likes to avoid getting soaked when venturing outside.
Hello Weather avoids the two most common problems with weather apps for iPhone: clutter and trying far too hard to be stylish. Both of those issues erode clarity – but clarity is something Hello Weather has in spades.
Launch the app and you’ll see vibrant, colorful bar charts and icons outline current conditions and the day’s forecast. Scroll down and you’ll find out what’s going on this week. Multiple locations can be saved, and the app provides a range of superb weather widgets.
Naturally, there’s an upgrade path, which for a very reasonable $0.99/99p/AU$1.49 per month adds a radar, rainfall warnings, themes, and alternate source options. Whether you pay or not though, Hello Weather is a weather app that should brighten your day – even when it’s gray and drab outside.
Air Matters differentiates itself from other weather apps by zeroing in on pollution and allergens. Although it does outline current conditions, chance of rainfall and wind speed, most of the main display is dedicated to pollen and pollutant data. The same is true of the world map, with layers for things like the Air Quality Index rather than cloud cover.
The free iPhone app also offers useful context for data and quick access to important figures. Every saved location’s page provides health advice for mask usage and outdoor activities, along with a data history and upcoming forecast.
Air Matters offers Today view integration as well, and an Apple Watch complication that can display any available data point. So if you’re allergic to grasses specifically rather than ‘pollen’ generally, you’ll be better served by Air Matters than an app with a generic global pollen count.
Saildrone Forecast – Weather
Saildrone Forecast – Weather is gunning to be the most beautiful weather app on your iPhone. Its dark interface is arresting, not least when vibrant clouds billow over the landscape, forecasting whether you’re due for a soaking. With the means to add an animated wind layer, it feels a lot like Ventusky or Dark Sky, albeit without the price tags those apps command.
Everything outside of the map is pretty great too. The upcoming forecast is clear and readable; a glanceable ‘what to wear’ graphic is amusing and useful; and there are temperature, rain, and wind graphs for weather geeks who like delving into detailed data.
There’s the odd quirk, and the omission of an imminent rainfall graph is a pity. But given how great it looks and works (no ads!), Saildrone is well worth installing.
Google Translate is like having an entire crew of translation staff in your pocket. When online, it can translate text and conversations between dozens of languages, giving you a fighting chance at a to-and-fro in a foreign tongue when you’re stuck for other options. Favorite words and phrases can be saved, to build up a personalized phrasebook.
But the real magic comes by way of the camera. Point Google Translate at some text and as long as it’s reasonably legible, it will attempt to translate it live, into your chosen language. You’re not going to be reading a book in this manner, but when you’re abroad and staring quizzically at a menu or the ingredients on a food packet, Google Translate can be a life-saver.
Koins is a rare currency converter that appears to have been designed with humans in mind. Rather than you dealing with a utilitarian ‘afterthought’ interface, you instead get something akin to a futuristic, playful calculator.
Yes, we know, playful isn’t usually a word you’d associate with this kind of app, but it’s fun to hear the bloops and bleeps as you tap out numbers and choose your currencies.
Naturally, Koins has more serious features, too: you can squish the keyboard for one-sided use (or use the app in landscape), and sync data via iCloud. However, if you want to check out how currencies have performed over time, you’ll need to unlock the premium version with IAP.
World Clock Time Widget
World Clock Time Widget does what you’d expect from its name, enabling you to set up a world clock that’s visible at a glance in Today view.
Setup is straightforward. Tapping a + button gives you a list of locations. You can type a place name to rapidly filter the list, then tap an item to add it to your clocks. Locations appear in order from west to east, although you can rearrange them manually.
The widget shows your first four clocks in Today view, but can be expanded to show more. Neatly, you can also move the clocks forward and backward by hourly increments. It’s a pity you only get a digital view – analog clocks are only available within the app – but otherwise this is a solid freebie.
Trips by Lonely Planet
Trips by Lonely Planet is an app for sharing travel experiences – or just reveling in the journeys made by others. It’s a bit like a travel-oriented Instagram mixed with a smattering of travel guide and blog. If you like gorgeous photography and a touch of commentary for context, it’s a must-have install.
New top picks are regularly showcased on the app’s Home tab, and you can favorite those you like, and/or follow the authors. Annoyingly, there’s no search, but you can delve into themed categories, such as ‘cities’ and ‘adventure’. (Think of it more like a magazine than a website and you should be fine.)
When you have an adventure of your own, you can upload your own story. The layout options are a bit basic, but the app is really easy to work with, making for stress-free sharing.
Google Maps is an app that’s been a mainstay in this list for years – and it’s easy to see why. Although Apple’s own Maps app has hugely improved since launch, Google Maps retains the lead in almost every way. It’s superb at locating points of interest –whether you’re looking for a distant town or local restaurant – and offers robust public transport suggestions.
Beyond that, it just proves handier than Apple’s app. Street View is great for virtually scoping out a location, looking for landmarks that might prove handy during a drive. You can draw a route to measure the distance between two places.
And best of all, you can download maps to your iPhone, transforming Google Maps into a free sat-nav equivalent that works entirely offline.
Google Earth simply gives you our planet in the palm of your hand, and encourages you to explore. You can manually rotate and zoom, search for specific locations, or take your chances with the dice icon, to check out somewhere random.
Wherever you end up, Google Earth provides local photography and information, becoming something of a virtual tour guide. Places others have explored nearby are provided as cards, which prove genuinely useful for giving crowdsourced points of interest or recommendations.
This concept reaches its logical conclusion with Voyager – a selection of journeys you can take to some of the world’s most amazing sights, from ancient wonders to modern ones like Kennedy Space Center.
Google Earth’s visual majesty is lessened on the smaller screen, but it’d be churlish to scoff at an app that in an instant provides access to so much of our planet.
Lingvist is a language-learning app that claims to be able to teach you at light speed. Naturally, that’s hyperbole, but Lingvist nonetheless has a methodology and interface that gets you going in your chosen language (French, Spanish, German, and Russian are supported) at serious speed.
Mostly, it’s about plugging words into sentences, in a drill-like fashion. Imagine interactive flash cards thrown your way in quick-fire fashion and you’re there. The underlying algorithm tracks words you’re finding tricky, and in-context explanations for things like verbs pop up as and when they’re needed.
Will Lingvist make you fluent in hours? Probably not. But as a refresher, or even a first step in learning a foreign tongue, it’s the best freebie around on iPhone.
Billed as ‘your smart travel guide’, Triposo elevates itself above the competition. First and foremost, it’s comprehensive. Whereas other guides typically concentrate on a few major cities, Triposo drills down into tiny towns and villages as well, helping you get the best out of wherever you happen to be staying.
50,000 destinations worldwide are included, complete with information on bars, restaurants, hotels, tours and attractions.
Beyond that, the app is easy to use, and it optionally works offline, enabling you to download guides on a regional basis. This is perfect for when you’re ambling about somewhere new, without a data connection. And if you’re unsure where to head, Triposo can even build an editable city walk for you too.
Citymapper is a travel aid that wants to help you get around big cities more easily. Unlike Google Maps, it doesn’t work worldwide, instead carefully selecting places that get coverage. But if you live in or visit one of the supported cities – which include London, Paris, Berlin and New York – Citymapper is an essential download.
The app will quickly zero in on your location. When you need to get somewhere else, Citymapper makes it easy to compare all of your options in real time.
But it’s the smaller features that properly cement its place on your iPhone: watching buses move about a live map; advice about the best train carriage to take; and real-time alerts when you should get ready to disembark – great when you’re dozing at the end of a busy day.
The Weather Underground app (or ‘Wunderground’ to your iPhone, which sounds like an oddly dark Disney film) is one of those products that flings in everything but the kitchen sink yet somehow remains usable.
Whatever your particular interest in the weather, you’re covered, through a slew of ’tiles’ (which can be moved or disabled to suit) on a huge scrolling page.
At the top, you get a nicely designed tile detailing current conditions and showing a local map. Tick and cross buttons lurk, asking for input regarding the app’s accuracy. During testing, we almost always tapped the tick — reassuring.
Scroll, though, and you find yourself immersed in the kind of weather geekery that will send meteorological nuts into rapture. There are rainfall and temperature graphs for the next day and hour, along with simpler forecasts for the week.
You get details on humidity, pressure and dew point. Sunrise, sunset and moon timings are presented as stylish animations. You can investigate local and global webcams and photos, and then head to the web if not satisfied with that deluge of data.
Weather Underground is funded by non-intrusive ads (which you can disable annually for $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 if you feel the need), and is easily our favourite free iPhone weather app; in fact, it even rivals the best paid fare on the platform.