The iPhone has the largest selection of apps on the mobile side, but that means it’s also the most frustrating to find what’s worthwhile. For our fourth annual Lifehacker pack for iPhone, we’re highlighting the apps that help you stay productive, connected, informed and entertained.
The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favourite, must-have applications for each of our favourite platforms. For an always up-to-date guide to the best apps on the iPhone, check out the iPhone App Directory.
The email game has changed a lot over the last year, and we’ve seen heaps of new email clients released recently. If you’re a power user when it comes to email, we like Dispatch because it’s packed with pretty much everything you could possibly need in an email client. You get TextExpander snippets, folder access, unsubscribing options, powerful search and plenty more. That said, if you are using Gmail and prefer something simple, our pick goes to Mailbox. Mailbox is incredibly fast, easy to navigate, and you can blaze through your email in just a few simple steps. Better still, Mailbox is free, so even if you don’t end up liking how it works you’re not out any money.
Sunrise Calendar is our favourite calendar app on the iPhone because it’s free, feature-packed and easy to use. It does everything that a calendar needs to do, including syncing and offering a lot of different views to see your upcoming events. What really makes Sunrise great is the way it taps into other services including the weather, Google Maps, Evernote and TripIt. In the end, you get a powerful calendar with a lot of features.
We adore Drafts as a note-taking app because it manages to blend simplicity with a lot of power user options. Drafts operates as a central hub for all your text notes, and it works with pretty much every other service around. For example, if you’re a fan of Simplenote, you can use Drafts to write up a quick note and send it to Simplenote right inside Drafts. Prefer Evernote? Drafts can instantly export there as well. Drafts is about the quick capture of notes and ideas, and it’s incredibly good at doing both.
There are so many to-do apps in the App Store that it’s nearly impossible to find one that works for you, but we like Any.Do because it toes the line between simplicity and feature-rich. Any.Do has a simple interface that makes it easy to add tasks and organise them, but you can also add tasks with your voice, share lists with other, sync across multiple devices, and even easily postpone tasks.
If This Then That is already one of our favourite web apps, and the iPhone app is just as powerful. Not only can you create any recipe you want on the go, you can also tap directly into the iPhone’s contacts, photos and reminders to automate whatever happens on your phone.
Dropbox is already a fantastic cloud storage service, but what really sets it above the competition is its mobile app. While it used to be nothing more than a file browser, nowadays you can instantly upload all your pictures, edit files and easily share anything in your Dropbox through a wide variety of services. Plus, it’s super easy to get a bunch of free space.
Internet and Communications
Third-party browsers on the iPhone get a bad rap because Apple restricts them from being as fast as Safari, but that doesn’t mean Chrome doesn’t have its share of advantages. In fact, if you’re a Chrome user on your desktop computer, Chrome’s syncing features alone make it a stellar replacement for Safari. Chrome’s packed with some great stuff, including a desktop view, a solid incognito mode, and the speed dial to quickly access your favourite sites. If Chrome isn’t your thing, you have a few other solid options as well.
Skype has long been the king of video calling, but Google’s recently introduced Google Hangouts is giving it a run for its money. The reason is simple: pretty much everyone already has a Google account, and that’s all your need to use Google Hangouts. With it, you can make video calls instantly, and it doesn’t cost you a cent. That said, Skype is still the king of VOIP, and it’s widely used enough that most people have it. Both work great for video chats, so pick whichever suits you best.
The official Facebook app does a good job of providing you with a solid mobile experience, but it’s especially handy on your phone for when you need to double-check event locations, get a friend’s phone number or update your profile. Of course, if you’re not a fan of the app, the mobile site works even better.
Tweetbot is our favourite Twitter client on the iPhone because it manages to provide you with a lot of options without being overwhelming. Tweetbot also has its own set of options for navigation, a powerful interface that allows you to control your Twitter experience, as well as heaps of options.
When it comes to finding a good IM client, you don’t really need much. It needs to tap into a lot of different services, support different types of media, and it’s beneficial if it syncs to other devices. IM+ does all that and makes it easy to chat with your friends regardless of what service they’re using.
Google Maps is the best turn-by-turn navigation app on the iPhone. It’s free, has a fantastic location search, and it offers a wide variety of routing options. It even includes public transit and walking directions right in the app so you don’t have to worry about flipping between apps.
Find My iPhone has been a staple of iOS for a long time, but that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. With it, you can track down your iPhone if it’s misplaced or stolen. If you’re the type to leave your phone sitting around, Find My iPhone is a must have.
For whatever reason, there are a lot of different weather apps on the iPhone. However, our pick for the best is Yahoo Weather. It manages to include a lot of great features without being overwhelming, and it’s very easy to use. It has all the little things, including radar and satellite maps, and it also makes it easy to quickly glance at the current forecast.
Music, Photos, Video
Listening to podcasts on your iPhone is a fantastic way to pass the time, but Apple’s option is less than perfect. We’re big fans of Downcast, because once you set it up it automates pretty much everything for you. It downloads all your podcasts directly in the app, it works over the air or Wi-Fi, or you can set it up so it only streams content. It’s a powerful podcast app that’s a heck of a lot more useful than the other options out there.
Pandora is a great app that does exactly what it’s supposed to do: provide you a stream of music that you don’t need to think that much about. Spotify also excels on iOS. Even if you’re not a paid subscriber to Spotify, you can still stream artist radio stations in a similar way to Pandora.
The default Music app on the iPhone is fine, but it’s not the most elegant solution. Ecoute manages to look great, and it’s a lot more usable than Apple’s option. You can quickly reorganise playlists, sift through your music through filters or just play a few podcasts right in the app. It also taps into lots of social networks if you want to share you music, and it features a night mode so you’re not blinded when you’re listening to music in the dark.
Camera+ turns your boring old iPhone camera into a feature-rich point-and-shoot camera. It’s fast and it takes great photos. On top of that, you can also enhance pictures, get rid of red eye, add special effects and lots more. It’s well worth the $US2 if you take a lot of pictures on your phone.
Movies and Video
We’ve all been in the situation where we’re sitting around having a conversation and we can’t think of an actor or movie title. IMDb takes the guessing out of that and gets you the answer to your strange movie trivia questions quickly. Even better, you can now purchase movie tickets from within the app as well.
Plex turns your iPhone into a place where you can easily stream your media right from your computer. Working in conjunction with the desktop app, Plex lets you stream your videos from pretty much anywhere. The best part is the ability to watch something at home and then pick it up right where you left off on your mobile.
Watch a lot of movies on a variety of streaming services? Then you certainly know how much of a pain it is to find what you’re looking for. Can I Stream It? is a simple app that scans the libraries of services to tell you where a movie or TV show is available for streaming. You can kiss your physical media library goodbye.
Reading and News
It’s hard to really differentiate between any of the ereader apps on the iPhone because they’re all similar. They all let you read books on your phone, and most of them are tied to an account on the the store they’re part of. So, if you’re using iBooks on another device, then that’s the logical choice. The same goes for the Kindle app. Pick the ebook app that works best for you.
Bookmarking services are great on the desktop, but they really excel on mobile devices. Save articles wherever you find them, and you get access on your phone so you can read when you’re bored. Each service has its own set of benefits and downsides, but they’re all terrific in their own right. So, pick one and run with it.
Google Reader might be dead, but Reeder for iPhone is still our favourite RSS reader. With a recent update, Reeder added support for a few third-party RSS readers, including Feedly. Reeder is incredibly clean, and you can quickly save articles for later viewing, sync articles or browse your feeds in its simple interface.
Health, Food and Fitness
When it comes to running apps, you have a surprising amount of choices, but when it boils down to it, RunKeeper and Strava are our favourites. Both apps track your runs, show you a feed of what your friends are doing and make it easy to set up a training regimen for any goals you might have. Strava has the added benefit of being more geared towards cyclists as well, so the app works great if you happen to run and bicycle for your workouts.
If running and cycling isn’t your thing, Fitocracy is great for tracking pretty much any other kind of workout. It gamifies your whole workout, encourages community involvement and connects to a web app so you can track your workout wherever you are.
Waking up is hard to do, but Sleepcycle makes it a little bit better. Start up the app, put it on your bed, and Sleepcycle tracks your sleep patterns so it can wake you up at the exact right moment. It’s not a miracle worker, but it does make waking up a little better.
If you eat out fairly often then the Yelp app is pretty much a requirement on your home screen. If not for its reviews, then at least for it’s up-to-date information about opening hours. You can also now make reservations from right within the app at a number of restaurants, which handily eliminates the need to other apps on your phone.