There are so many apps these days that if you printed out their icons and stacked them up, they’d reach Mars. Probably. Regardless, there are far too many to sift through yourself and so chances are you don’t bother. An awful lot of people download a handful of social media and telly apps and call it a day.
That’s a huge pity, because the very best apps for iPhone and iPad are fantastic. Moreover, they let you do more with your device. And if you’ve ever awoken from a marathon Facebook or Twitter session to realise it’s half-past Sunday, that should be a compelling reason to dig deeper into the App Store.
Here, then, are what we consider the very best apps for Apple devices. Each of them can transform your metal and glass sidekick into something to make the most of your time, rather than just eating into it.
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Obscura 2 Best for: Taking great photos Digital cameras are often identikit and soulless, but Obscura 2 has character and feels surprisingly tactile, given that you’re thumbing glass. Mostly, this is down to its dial-based interface that recalls classic cameras and affords great control over snaps, from selecting tools to subtly adjusting focus and exposure settings. Got a thing for filters? A bunch of tasteful ones are built-in to evoke the feel of old-school film.
Fantastical Best for: Not missing important events Your iPhone or iPad has Apple’s Calendar app, and that works fine, but Fantastical is like a calendar designed for actual humans, with its scrolling events ticker and integrated reminders. Beyond that, it understands natural language when you’re adding events and deftly deals with timezones. There are also embedded weather reports, “interesting calendars” for sports/telly/holidays and, brilliantly, the means to offer multiple times for an event, with Fantastical dealing with scheduling depending on responses from invitees.
Affinity Photo Best for: Creating art and design masterpieces Photoshop now exists for iPad, but isn’t yet fully baked, and also demands a monthly subscription. Yet Affinity Photo has been letting talented designer types crank out visually stunning fare for years. This desktop-grade (yet very affordable) app is packed with features for everything from tinkering with images to creating full-blown multi-layered digital art. It also integrates seamlessly with vector-based sibling Affinity Designer and the Mac/Windows versions of both Affinity apps.
MindNode Best for: Mapping out ideas Want to get an amazing idea out of your head and properly explore it? You could scribble notes down on the back of an envelope you’ll inevitably lose. MindNode is a smarter bet. This tactile, flexible app has you start with a bullet-point list, which with a tap transforms into a beautifully crafted mind map. Your main idea sits centrally and thoughts branch off in every direction. You can add icons, pics, stickers and notes and export the lot in a range of formats.
Ferrite Recording Studio Best for: Making a podcast At first, Ferrite doesn’t seem much different from Apple’s Voice Memos. Using your device’s mic, you can record your thoughts and then bask in your amazingness during playback. But tap the edit button and Ferrite instantly transforms into a powerful multitrack recorder. You get everything you need for pro-grade, on-the-go podcast creation, from automation and effects tools to unlimited tracks. Less lofty ambitions? Stick with the free version, which even for basic requirements is one of the best voice recorders and audio editors around.
Longplay Best for: Getting back into albums Want to return to the halcyon days of listening to entire albums? Longplay is for you. It lists your albums by various criteria, including ‘orderliness’, or ‘negligence’ to unearth forgotten faves. Tap a cover and the album starts playing. The app’s relaxed since its brutalist debut, which only let you skip entire albums, not tracks. Now you can avoid songs you dislike, but the app’s still geared towards you playing albums right through, rather than treating your music collection like a gigantic jukebox.
Infuse 6 Best for: Streaming videos to your phone Buy an Apple device and you can’t later upgrade its internal storage – a snag if you fancy stuffing it full of TV shows and movies that’d be better off sat on a NAS. Infuse is the solution: it’ll connect to local drives and convert almost any video on the fly. If files are named appropriately, you’ll get cover art too. Pay to unlock pro-grade audio, cloud storage access and library sync, so you can pick up on your Apple TV where you left off on your iPad.
Carrot Weather Best for: Controlling the weather Many activities hinge on the weather playing ball. Apple’s Weather can help you plan — but is rigid and dull. Carrot is neither. It’s helmed by a deranged AI that’s a mash up of weather forecaster and HAL 9000, providing snark and barbed comments alongside accurate forecasting. But grab a subscription and you gain access to unmatched customisation tools to build dynamic interfaces designed around your personal requirements. Carrot therefore achieves the improbable — this is a weather app that’s capable, flexible *and* fun.
1Blocker Best for: Taming the internet Trackers follow you around the internet, cookie notices spring up ad-nauseam, and social widgets eat into screen space – and your data. 1Blocker can rid your browsing experience of them all. Once installed, the app immediately blocks all such bothersome website content – but you can also create custom whitelist rules for sites you like, so they don’t lose out on ad revenue. 1Blocker’s not cheap, but it can vastly speed up web browsing on iPhone and iPad, and your iOS subscription also unlocks the app on Mac.
Lake Coloring Books Best for: Chilling while colouring Smart people long ago figured out colouring isn’t just for kids and is in fact a great way for adults to unwind. Lake brings such fare to iPhone and iPad, with a smart, stress-free interface and plenty of emphasis on the artists creating the artwork. For free, pics are limited in number, but there’s still plenty to keep you scribbling into the wee small hours. And if you fancy starting from scratch, there’s a blank canvas option for unleashing your inner Picasso.