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. So 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.
You wouldn’t think it based solely on the name, but our pick for the best email client on iOS is Microsoft Outlook. It includes everything you need in an email client, including a unified inbox, customisable swipe options, powerful search, and a solid filtering system. It blows Apple’s default Mail app out of the water, so if you’re looking for something with more power, Outlook’s the way to go. If you don’t want to deal with Microsoft, Spark is the next logical choice, and a fantastic email app in its own right. It does everything Outlook does, but adds in a smart inbox that’s much better than Outlook’s, and a ton of customization options to make the app your own.
You have tons of options for calendar apps on the iPhone, but our favorite is Fantastical 2 because it’s a perfect mesh of features and usability. Fantastical allows for natural language input, so you can type out “lunch tomorrow with Alan” and Fantastical will automatically create the event. Beyond that, the app features a variety of view modes, a light and dark theme, Reminders integration, and a map view to get a visual look of your day.
Picking a notes apps used to be easy, but things are a lot more complicated these days and you have tons of solid options. If you like a ton of features, blow for blow, OneNote and Evernote are the most comparable, offering you means to save images, integrate IFTTT, have tons of folders, special recipe filters, and tons of more options. The catch, really, is that OneNote’s free, while Evernote’s best features are locked behind a paywall. These everything buckets aren’t for everyone though. If plain text is more your thing, Simplenote is the app for you. There’s no long list of features here, Simplenote just does text, and it does it very well. If you’re looking for something in-between, Google Keep is well worth a look. It’s powerful, but still pretty simple. Of course, you’ll get a lot more out of Google Keep if you’re already invested in the Google ecosystem. Heck, it’s also worth pointing out that Apple’s default Notes app has made a lot of strides over the years, so if you haven’t checked it out recently, give it a look. It fits somewhere in-between the everything buckets of Evernote and OneNote and Google Keep.
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, reminders, and more 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.
Workflow is an app that allows you to create macros and small apps for iOS. Essentially, it’s Automator for your iPhone. You can make it so with a tap of a button you can load up upcoming calendar events, print a page to PDF, find lyrics for the currently playing song, and more.
Internet and Communications
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.
Simply put: Waze is also a great choice for driving directions, but its usefulness is limited by how many other users around you.
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 stolen, or if you’ve simply misplaced your phone. 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 ton of great features without being overwhelming, and is very easy to use. It has all the little things, like radar, satellite, and heat maps, but it also makes it easy to just 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 Overcast, 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. Overcast can also intelligently boost the sound on podcasts and has a “smart speed” option that speeds up your favorite podcasts without making them sound weird. It’s also free, which makes it automatically appealing.
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. Plus, you can do all sorts of cool things with it that you might not realise.
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 $US3 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.
Netflix is inarguably the king of content streaming online. While you may want to make sure you’re on WiFi before you stream the entire new season of Orange is the New Black, the mobile app is a must have for watching movies and TV shows while away from the living room. Where Netflix doesn’t have what you want, Hulu (which requires a VPN to use in Australia) very well may. The overlap between the two services’ libraries are so minimal that it’s sometimes worth it to have both.
Reading and News
It’s hard to really differentiate between any of the ereader apps on the iPhone because they’re all pretty 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, with the added benefit of it being excellent for students. Pick the ebook app that works best for you.
Instapaper or Pocket
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.