Awesome iOS apps come in all price ranges, whether they’re the free app of the week or a more premium investment. Truly great apps, though, are the ones that become essential from the moment you download them. Here is a look at the most unique apps available to make your iPhone or iPad as useful as possible.
Best Easy DJ App: Pyro
What Pyro does well is mix songs like a DJ would – there’s magic AI in there to crossfade your tunes from one to another, regardless of actual tempo. Pyro isn’t just for DJs, either. It’s a great way to listen to music on your iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch, too.
Re-order songs on the fly, and check out Pyro’s suggestions for songs that fit in with whatever list you’re listening to.
- Spotify integration is super simple and works flawlessly.
- Beatmatching ensures a flawless transition between songs every time.
- Large playlists can feel unwieldy on the smaller screen.
Best Artistic Photo Editing App: Enlight Photofox: Photo Editor
Enlight Photofox is a fantastic photo editor that’s free to download. It has in-app purchases for various advanced functions, but it’s completely functional without them, too. You can adjust color, light, saturation, and exposure manually or use various presets to take the guesswork out of the whole process.
Enlight Photofox makes it easy to combine more than one photo into layers, which allows for incredibly artistic compositions using your own photos (it also has a searchable photo library of free images to use in your creative process). Photofox has some great tutorials, too, and a robust user community to turn to.
More advanced editing tools like Heal, Blur, and Reshape are available via the Pro version, which you can unlock for a per-month price of about $7 or an annual cost of $40 (or unlock the whole thing for around $70).
- There are a ton of editing features packed in here, from basic to advanced.
- Written and video tutorials ensure you know how to use the app to its full potential.
- The free version is pretty powerful on its own.
- $70 for an app seems like a lot of money to spend, even with lower monthly subscription options.
Best Writing App: Paper by Dropbox
There are plenty of writing apps to help you block out the clutter of typical word processors, but Paper by Dropbox is even more useful. The app has a clean, functional workspace on your iPhone or iPad, letting you get directly to the act of writing.
You can create, share and edit documents on any device (your computer included) so you never have to worry about where you saved a particular doc ever again. There are several templates to help you start a new document, including one for brainstorming, taking meeting notes and planning a project.
The editing and collaboration tools are easy to use and unobtrusive, too.
- Creating, editing, and collaborating on documents is super simple.
- You can access your docs on any device, whether mobile or PC.
- More advanced formatting options, like centering text or photos, are noticeably absent.
Best Running App: Zombies, Run!
Let’s face it; running is hard work. What better way to stay motivated than with hordes of the brain-hungry undead coming for you? There are quite a few apps available for iOS that will log your mileage and track your routes, but Zombies, Run! is the only one that will keep you moving and distracted at the same time.
You’ll listen to over 40 storylines created by award-winning novelist Naomi Alderman, and can even mix in your own music if you want. You’ll collect resources to help you and other survivors along the way, like batteries, food, and medical supplies.
There are also training plans tailored to specific goals, like running a 5K, Interval Training to increase your ability to run faster and farther, mini-missions good for a quick run, and 5K, 10K, and 20K races with their own special stories.
- The stories are fantastic and well-written. Each mission pulls you along with solid pacing and world-building.
- There are so many options to reinvigorate your running practice, you’ll never run out of stuff to do.
- You can use this app while walking, running, or even on a treadmill.
- If you just want to have an easy run without goals, this isn’t the app to use.
Best Encrypted Communication App: Signal
Signal is a fantastic communication app that is great for journalists, privacy advocates, and people in countries where surveillance is the norm. Unlike similar mass-market apps like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facetime, Signal only uses your own phone number and contacts lists to register to its system.
You can do group, text, voice, video, document, and picture messages without any SMS charges as everything goes through your network connection, whether WiFi or cellular. Simply launch the app, enter your phone number and add a picture for your secure Signal profile and start chatting as per usual.
There are read receipts for text messages, too, plus image annotation tools to let you easily work with others.
- Using end-to-end encryption keeps your conversations, texts, calls, and interactions private.
- The app is easy to set up and use.
- You’re not locked into any specific ecosystem; Signal works on iOS, Android and the Chrome browser.
Best Podcast App: Overcast
Overcast, by indie developer Marco Arment (Instapaper, Tumblr), is hands-down the best app to listen to your podcasts with. It’s a free download with tons of features that make it easy to find and manage as many podcasts as you can throw at it.
There’s a Voice Boost function that normalizes voice podcasts so they’re easier to hear in noisy environments, a Smart Speed feature that gets rid of long pauses between words to shorten talk podcasts without speeding up the actual recording, and Twitter-powered podcast recommendations system.
Overcast allows you to access password-protected podcasts from within the app itself, and will even let you upload your own audio files (if you buy the annual subscription).
- Basic and advanced functions make for a better podcast listening experience.
- It’s so very easy to discover new podcasts.
- Overcast only plays the audio tracks of video podcasts.
Best App for Tracking Packages: Deliveries
If you send and receive a lot of packages via Amazon, FedEx, USPS, UPS, DHL, or Apple (and who doesn’t these days), you might find it tricky to manage all your tracking info. This one app will take care of all of that for you, though.
Deliveries makes it super simple to see what is heading your way and how long it might take, showing a summary list of all your shipments. Tapping on a specific delivery will get you information on where your package is at on a map, too.
You can use your iPhone’s built-in sharing sheet to log your package tracking number, making it super easy to keep everything in one place.
- Tracking packages in one easy-to-use app.
- You can pull in tracking info from emails and texts with ease.
- $4.99 can seem like a high price compared to the “free” market sensibilities in the App Store.
Best Weather App: Carrot Weather
Weather apps are the proverbial dime a dozen; Apple provides one with iOS and there are literally dozens of free and premium apps you can download to keep track of what it’s like outside. Carrot Weather, though, is a weather app with an attitude, and it will win you over quickly.
The app uses Dark Sky’s accurate weather data, letting you see daily, hourly and up-to-the-minute weather facts. If there’s a rain or snowstorm coming in the US, UK and parts of Canada, you can get a short-term forecast that lets you know what’s going on every minute.
Plus, there are some cool game-like activities, like secret locations and Achievements you can earn for experiencing different weather while traveling.
- Carrot Weather is quirky, funny, and full of sass (though you can turn that part off, too).
- The user interface is well-designed; finding what you want is super easy.
- A Premium club for extra features will cost you on top of the money you’ve already spent for the app.
Best App for Sleep Tracking: Pillow
The best app for keeping track of your sleep is Pillow. You can use your iPhone or an Apple Watch to help keep and analyze data about your nightly rest.
Pillow offers a lovely chart of your REM sleep, deep and light sleep, and any waking periods and will track your heart rate if you’re using the Apple Watch app. Plus, if there are any noises during the night, like when you talk in your sleep, the app will record them — which could surely lead to some amusing times the next day.
The app also asks you to rate your mood each morning to help it better understand the kind of sleep you need to feel your best each day.
- Analyzing sleep cycles, heart rate and mood in one app is pretty useful.
- Graphs and analyses are clear and easy to read.
- A smart alarm clock can wake you when you are in a light sleep cycle.
- You still have to purchase a Premium add-on for access to the full app.
Best App for Passwords: LastPass
Keeping track of your online passwords is a big deal, and LastPass makes it super simple on your iPhone and iPad. The free version does just about all anyone needs for regular use, though there is a premium add-on which comes in at about $24 per year.
LastPass lets you sync passwords and other security data across all your devices for free, which gives it a leg up on the competition. You’ll get unlimited password storage, a password generator, secure notes, easy password sharing, and a way to test out your own security on your device.
- Generating and remembering strong passwords is easier than ever before.
- The free app has all the features most people need.
- LastPass keeps your data in the cloud for easy web-based access, which could pose a security risk.
Best Real-Time Translation App: iTranslate Converse
If you’ve always wanted to live in a Star Trek universe where conversations across languages are easy and error-free, iTranslate Converse is your best first step. No, it’s not always perfectly accurate, but the ease of use makes the app better than all others.
It has support for 38 languages, including three kinds of Arabic, Chinese, and English dialects as well as French, German, Greek, Hindi, Swedish, Japanese, Thai and Turkish. If you want more than the 500 translations per month from the free version, you’ll need to pay for a subscription, which comes in at about $5 per month or at an annual cost of about $40.
- Talking to someone without knowing the language feels like science fiction become fact.
- The monthly or annual subscription is fairly priced for such bleeding-edge technology.
- It’s not always accurate, though it can improve over time.
Best Notetaking App: Bear
Bear is the best way to keep track of all your electronic notes. It syncs across your iOS devices as well as your Mac, letting you quickly jot down all those little things you need to keep handy at all times. You can search from the iOS app for any text string you want, and you can categorize your notes with tags.
Bear uses a clean, minimalist interface and simple visual themes (dark, light, sepia) to stay out of your way while you use the app. It comes with a host of options like bold, italic, underline, bullets, to-do checkboxes, and more.
The app supports markdown for formatting, as well, and you can export to HTML, DOCX, RTF, PDF, or JPG. On the iPad, Bear lets you use Split View and drag and drop, too.
- Bear has a gorgeous, minimalist interface with several themes.
- Syncing notes to all your devices is fantastic.
- Bear Premium locks its exporting and advanced themes behind a $15 annual paywall.