- Books, Comics and Reading
- Cloud Storage
- Drawing and Painting
- Education and Learning
- Finance and Money
- Home and Garden
- Learning musical instruments
- Meditation and Relaxation
- Music Creation
- Movies and TV
- Navigation and Driving
- Photography and Camera
- Podcasts and Radio
- Recipes & Food
- Social Networking
- Video Editing and Content Creation
- VPN and security
The best apps for every iPhone
An iPhone is nothing without apps. Sure, a lot of fuss was made about the first iPhone’s standout design and, quite rightly, how it made the touchscreen so popular among the public. But apps gave the iPhone legs.
More than 1.7 million apps live on the App Store. Useful as Apple’s app discovery tools may be, a pointer in the right direction can help anyone looking for inspiration, or those new to the iPhone ecosystem.
We will run through all types of iPhone app in the list below, and we’re not just talking about apps for work versus play. There are completely free apps, ones you buy outright and, the favourite method of the moment, apps that ask you to subscribe to get full access and pay a fee each month.
Best iPhone apps: Books, Comics and Reading
We’re going to assume most of you have heard of Amazon Kindle. It’s not just a series of ebook readers. It’s also the entire Amazon bookstore, which is fully accessible from your phone. It’s great as a discovery tool, particularly as Amazon lets you try out samples of books, to get a taste of the
writing style before you commit to buying. You don’t actually buy books through this app, but on the Amazon app. Once purchased, the books then appear in this Kindle app.
This no-nonsense comic book reader app lets you add comics and graphics novels through a whole load of methods, indulging cloud services like Dropbox, the Files app and the YACReader app for PC and Mac. There’s no comics store here, but as long as you have a digital comics library, that means you get a cleaner, less clutter-filled experience. The panel view is the special feature of this particular reader app, letting you read graphics novels panel-by-panel. It’s not free, at $4.99, but is worth the investment if you like reading comics on your phone.
You know when you mean to read an article you saw online, but you end up forgetting where it was by the time you find the time to do so? Pocket is out to fix that. It’s an app you send links to, just as you might share a story with a friend over WhatsApp. Pocket then works it up into a super-readable format for later reading. And you can change the font size, and the font. There’s also a glitzy front end to the app, which lets you discover stories other folks are reading on Pocket. You can use this app for free, but to get rid of ads, unlock text searching and loads of fonts, you will need to subscribe. It costs $4.99 a month or $44.99 a year.
Did you know there’s a good chance you can borrow digital books and audiobooks for free through your local library? There are two key apps these services use in our experience: Libby (aka Overdrive) and Borrowbox. At one point we got so into borrowing audiobooks we went around the local area signing up to as many libraries as possible, just to get the widest possible array of titles. Who needs Audible? OK, Audible will get you a much broader catalogue, but Libby is well worth checking out, following a trip to your local library, folks. Use it or lose it.
Best iPhone apps: Cloud Storage
Sometimes it’s a good idea to have a cloud storage provider not run by the folks who handle your emails, as they end up sharing your storage allocation. Dropbox offers 2.75GB storage for free. We use it all the time to share files, for work or just among friends. The app lets you create folders, and you can then share just specific folders. Or even specific files, so people don’t get access to your entire Dropbox library. It’s not a mega-exciting app, but useful? Absolutely. You can then access your stored files from anywhere, including the Dropbox web interface.
Cloud storage apps are not the most interesting of things. But they are a way to get a tranche of free server space without signing up for a paid subscription. You’ll need a Google account, of course, but each of those comes with 15GB of space. That’s a lot better than the 5GB Apple offers. Our favourite use for this space is to store photos. And you can do so by downloading Google Photos. However, using the Drive app you can fling any old files up on there.
Best iPhone apps: Dating
App dating has a bad rep, largely a deserved one. But many of the daters we talk to have less scorn to pour on Hinge than most. It’s an app where you are asked a series of questions, with which you can show off your wit. Yes, even among the better-regarded dating apps there is still potential for mountains of embarrassment. Hinge also makes you pose questions to be asked of your potential matches. When perusing profiles you can “like” certain parts, to make a match-up seem more specific, and hopefully get you off the cycle of swiping.
The Bumble quirk is women message first, giving this dating app quite a different vibe to the competition. It’s not just for heterosexual folks, but the USP does rather rely on having people of the opposite sex getting involved. Bumble has also opened up beyond pure dating. You can list your account as being out for friendship or business connections too. Responsiveness is part of the equation, as matches expire after 24 hours if no contact is made.
Best iPhone apps: Drawing and Painting
The ultimate version of Procreate lives on iPad, but we’re not throwing shade at Procreate Pocket’s creators. iPhones have smaller screens and do not support the brilliant Apple Pencil stylus, two elements that pair so beautifully with a digital painting app. However, aside from that, and the lack of support for 3D model painting (seen in the iPad version), this does feel just like the full version for iPad. Lots of professional artists swear by Procreate.
This sleek and stylish design and drawing app can be used as a photo editor or a full-on drawing and painting suite. It’s packed with brushes, effects and advanced manipulation features like warp and pinch. Pixelmator reminds us of a mobile version of Photoshop. Crucially, it supports layers, making it suitable for fairly serious work. We’re impressed by how much has been packed in here, without making the app seem remotely unwieldy or unfriendly.
While Tayasui Sketches is a technically impressive app, it’s the vibe of the thing that proves so appealing to us. Developer Tayasui has managed to get away from the the slightly cold feel of some digital drawing/painting apps. It relies more on graphical depictions of pens and brushes when you pick your tool. And the way they interact feels fairly natural. You can get by for free with this app, but a Pro upgrade ($7.99) unlocks different brush patterns and styles. The free version still has layers, though, so you can create pretty advanced art, gratis.
Best iPhone apps: Education and Learning
How do you foster good habits? Make doing the healthy stuff fun. DuoLingo does that for language learning, with a veneer of gamification. The idea is you practice a language for a few minutes a day, in order to maintain your DuoLingo streak. Even if you don’t end up remotely fluent, a daily dose of this must be good for your grey matter. It’s free to use, while the SuperDuolingo subscription gets rid of ads and stops mistakes from blocking your daily progress. More than 30 languages are supported, from Japanese to Swahili, and even the High Valerian, a language constructed for Game of Thrones.
Learning shouldn’t top when your leave school. Khan Academy brings a massive treasure trove of video sessions in math, science, economics, arts & humanities and computing. Each subject is broken down into digestible chunks, and you earn mastery points to let you keep track of how much of each area you have covered. You’ll find everything from the Realism art of Manet to the molecular structure of ionic solids in here. And as it’s mapped against the US school system, in terms of being middle school, high school or college grade (or above), you have an idea of what to expect. It’s all free too. This is a real treasure trove of an app.
Teach your Monster to Read
This utterly charming app developed in collaboration with the UK’s University of Roehampton teaches your kids phonics and reading. But it’s no dry purely education-driven experience. It’s inspired by kids’ cartoons, games and, in particular, the character customisation in those video games many kids love. The experience of reading becomes part story-book, part interactive adventure. And Teach Your Monster to Read splits the learning process into three chapters: First Steps, Fun with Words and Champion Reader. Free to download, $8.99 to unlock the full app. Once your child is up to speed, don’t miss the follow-up, Reach Monster: Reading for Fun, which includes 70 free story books, which cycle around day after day (three available per day).
This may sound odd, but SkillShare is basically Netflix but for learning creative skills. You sign up for $31.99 a month or $169.99 a year, and get access to thousands of video courses across fields like creative writing, illustration, painting, film-making and photography. While there’s a lot of great tuition available for free over on YouTube, the smarter presenters clue up to their value and make courses people can sign up for. As they should. However, these are often quite pricey, while Skillshare lets you dabble in a bunch of fields to see what takes your interest.
Best iPhone apps: Fitness
If it’s not on Strava, it didn’t happen. It’s a popular saying. This app has become so ubiquitous, it is basically the default pick for exercise logging, particularly among cyclists. It can be paired up with many wearable platforms to log your run, ride and gym (and more) data. Or you can log outdoors sessions using the phone app itself, thanks to your phone’s GPS. This is effectively a giant social network for active folks, and is at its best when you add friends or find a group to join within Strava. It’s free to use but a paid subscription unlocks stats like your weekly intensity. $11.99 a month, or $79.99 a year.
OK, so this one requires some extra equipment. Zwift is an awesome cycling platform, or game if you like. It lets you ride around a virtual world called Watopia, and other game worlds inspired by Japan, France, New York and London, among other places. You compete with other real cyclists if that’s your bag, potter around or take part in structured workouts. You need a bike and a smart turbo trainer to get the most out of Zwift, but there’s a runner’s mode too. This is a must-try if you are into indoor bike riding. There’s a free trial, after which you’ll pay $14.99 a month.
Nike Run Club
Nike doesn’t just care about selling expensive trainers. It also produces this rather neat runner’s app. Sure, Nike Run Club doesn’t generally have the clout of Strava among the athlete classes. But it is ideal if you are just starting out and have no idea what you‘re doing. It features “guided runs” and training plans including a classic “couch to 5K” style program for beginners. While we tend to see people migrate on from Nike Run Club in time, it does even have a marathon training program. That ain’t for beginners. Well, aside from the very boldest of ‘em.
Also known as Zombies, Run!, we’ve been recommending ZRX for what feels like forever. It turns your runs into audiobooks of a sort, with the action mapping onto the structure of the workout itself. It started off with just the zombie theme, but now there’s a Marvel module inside ZRX called Marvel Move. And Venture, which is home to hundreds of genre stories, including horror and sci-fi ones. If you find running terminally boring, this is one way to spice up those sessions. To unlock all episodes you’ll need to subscribe ($5.99/month). There’s a separate subscription one for the Marvel stuff ($7.99/month).
This was Apple’s iPhone app of the year 2023, despite being a core part of the app landscape for outdoorsy types for many years. It’s a brilliant hiking, running and cycling app that helps you find routes worth taking, mostly on cross-country trails. It feels a vibrant place too, as routes will have comments, reviews and photos taken by other AllTrails users. You’re also given a difficulty rating for each route, and roughly how long it thinks the walking time is. You can use AllTrails for free, but will need to pay $35.99 if you want to access features like 3D mapped previews and, much more important, offline downloaded maps.
When Apple Fitness+ launched in 2020 you needed an Apple Watch to even use it. That policy was dropped in 2022, but we highly recommend it for use with Apple’s wearable. Fitness+ provides a massive library of video workouts across a bunch of disciplines including yoga, weights, treadmill, kickboxing and mindfulness. And it puts your vital statistics on-screen, relayed wirelessly form your Apple Watch. We also recommend using AirPlay to get the video from your iPhone to a bigger screen if possible. So, yeah, some extra equipment required for the best experience. But Fitness+’s $9.99 a month subscription is still affordable compared to the average city gym.
Best iPhone apps: Finance and Money
You’ve probably already heard of or used Cash App, at least if you live in the US. It’s the app that lets you send money to other people, handy if you go out for dinner and need to split the bill, or if you owe someone cash for concert tickets. It can also be used like a digital debit card. We don’t recommend this next bit to many, but you also also use Cash App to trade in Bitcoin.
You Need a Budget. That’s what YNAB stands for. It’s a no-nonsense outgoings calculator that works out how much you are spending in each category, from nights out to clothes to hobbies. The idea is you’ll be able to see what your spending is really like, rather than just fooling yourself. Its maker claims folks save "$600 in their first two months, and more than $6000 their first year.” Savings don’t appear out of nowhere, but if it helps you avoid debt, maybe the $14.99 a month ($99.99 a year) is worth it. UK readers might want to try out MoneyHub, which is much cheaper at £14.99 a year.
Best iPhone apps: Gaming
PS Remote Play
If you’re a PlayStation 5 gamer, you may have encountered Sony’s PlayStation portal, a handheld designed to stream games from your console. You can do this with your iPhone and the PS Remote Play app. Full disclosure: you need a great internet connection for this to work well. And your PlayStation 5 should ideally be plugged directly into your home internet router. Any opportunity to reduce latency and lag should be taken. Xbox fan? You can also use Xbox Game Pass Cloud gaming on your iPhone, but you do so through your phone’s internet browser. Fun fact: did you know Remote Play began more than 15 years ago with the Sony PSP and PS3?
If you enjoy games and haven’t tried Twitch, where have you been? Twitch is a bit like YouTube if it were made almost solely for live video game streaming. Find a creator you like and their streams will quickly start to feel like hangouts with a good friend, often one who is funny and charming to boot. You can easily lose hours to Twitch streams, so careful how you go. But if you have a work commute that could do with a cheer up, this app can help. It’s free to use, but Twitch relies on audiences supporting their favourite creators through subscriptions.
Moonlight Game Streaming
This open source app lets you stream games from your PC to your iPhone. It works brilliantly as it uses your home network rather than your actual home broadband. If your PC has an Nvidia graphics card, you can use Nvidia’s own software to make this work on the PC side. Have an AMD Radeon PC? You’ll also need to download a client on your computer called Sunshine, by LizardByte. A tiny amount of tech know-how is required, then, but once up and running you can play advanced games on your iPhone with either a gamepad or even using touchscreen controls.
Discord is where the weird, wonderful and nerdy communities of the internet come to congregate. Anyone can make a server, which in this context becomes a chat room, in which you can setup different areas for specific topics. We don’t tend to establish our own servers, though, and instead find existing discord channels for content makers we like. Lots of podcasts, streamers and content creators have their own discord servers.
Best iPhone apps: Health
Flo Period & Pregnancy Tracker
The most popular period tracking app at the time of writing, Flo Period & Pregnancy Tracker monitors your ovulation cycle and estimates what your chances of pregnancy are on any particular day. You input your symptoms, sex drive, and even exercise and water intake, if you choose to go all-in. Its estimates are generally well regarded. And you can use Flo for free and get the core experience. A paid subscription ($11.49 a month or $39.99 a year) unlocks more data analysis, community features, a daily advice feature and more.
The Wonder Weeks
The first few weeks (and perhaps years) of parenthood are a potentially scary, intimidating place to be. The Wonder Weeks app ($5.99) attempts to insert a bit of predictable structure into your potentially sleepless life by mapping out the “leaps” in development of a young baby. You log all of your child’s own milestones in their virtual “diary”. You can also use one of the developer’s add-on apps to turn a spare phone or iPad into a baby monitor. That’s a $3.99 upgrade, or you can get a $1.99 subscription for access to that and an ebook.
From a look at its icon and name you might guess MyFitnessPal is an exercise logging app. While it can be used for that, steps and exercise are largely used to more correctly calculate your calorie deficit or excess. The idea is you’ll use the app to log all your food, and make sure your calorie consumption is on point, and that you are getting all your required macros in. Yep, it’s not the most fun job and it’s not the most healthy thing to do for some folks. But it is a pretty foolproof way to make progress in your weight and health goals. It’s free to use, but if you want to get rid of the ads and be able to barcode-scan foods, you need a sub. It costs $19.99 a month, but go for a year if you can, as it costs $79.99.
This big-money weight loss program gets rave reviews from its users, and does legitimately seem to be a cut above most other diet apps. Yep, there’s the usual food-logging and calorie counting involved, but Noom is more about changing your behavior and thinking, rather than a quick fix. That’s the idea anyway. You get paired with a “coach” when you sign up, who can be messaged for advice or reassurance. Noom has had a rough time of it of late, with rounds of coach lay-offs. But, as far as we can tell, these are still real people. Noom is a pricey subscription, though, the cheapest solution being $209 for a year, rising all the way to $70 for a one month rolling subscription.
Best iPhone apps: Home and Garden
Are you a little bit green-fingered? PictureThis is a must-download. It is a plant identification app. You point the phone camera at a plant and, in all likelihood, this app will be able to successfully identify it. It’s super-useful if you come across something you’d want to grow yourself, but have no idea what it’s called. Tens of thousands of species are in its database. PictureThis will also show you collections of plants you should be able to see growing in your local area. It’s a charming app that can even attempt to diagnose the health of plants. Free to use, but an ad-free, unlocked membership is $29.99 a year.
IFTTT stands for “if this then that”, and has been around since 2010. It seems kinda dorky on the surface, as it’s form of programming. But it also opens up countless neat possibilities. IFTTT lets you program your own automations based on all sorts of events, from you reaching a certain location to someone tagging you in a Facebook post. So many smart home systems are hooked up to IFTTT, you can run pretty much all your smart home gear through this app. You can create three automations, dubbed applets, for free. After that you have to pay for a Pro ($2.75) or Pro+ ($5.50) subscription, which lift that limit to 20 applets, or remove the limit altogether.
The real estate app you should download depends on where you live, but Zillow is the clear pick in the US. It collates listings from all over the US, letting you snoop on home for sale even if you have no real intention of buying. It’s fast to scoot across the map to explore homes, some listings have 360-degere photos, and the layouts are coherent and clean-looking. Even if some of the homes aren’t. In the UK? Use Rightmove. Australia? Try RealEstate.com.au.
We think of Pinterest as the place to go for home interiors inspiration. That may help explain why it ballooned in popularity so much over the pandemic, when many of us were stuck at home. The place to start is with a mood board, which is like a digital scrap book of ideas or styles you come across posted by other accounts on Pinterest. These aren’t just pictures either. They can link through to interior design DIY guides, for example, or YouTube videos. We used it recently when working out the color scheme for a kitchen, and it easily beats loitering around Google Images.