Apple’s App Store has more than 900,000 apps. If you own an iPhone, you likely want to know which apps will make your mobile phone experience that much better.
Here in the Labs at PCMag and AppScout, my colleagues and I test hundreds of mobile apps each year, writing reviews and sharing helpful tips when we find excellent apps that will improve your mobile phone experience or sometimes just make life easier. (We also do our best to flag the duds, too.) After all that sifting, this article rounds up the 100 best apps you’ll find for the iPhone.
Many of the apps of this list have been thoroughly tested and reviewed by PCMag analysts, and when they are, you’ll find a one-to-five rating as well as a link to complete reviews of those apps. Other apps we’ve vetted based on our own personal use and the advice of readers, friends, and colleagues.
The 100 apps highlighted here made the cut because they’ve shown outstanding performance and have been well liked by a variety of users. We aim to represent a thorough array of app genres, while also remembering “different strokes for different folks.” If you use your phone more for entertainment and social networking, for example, and less for productivity, we’ve arranged this article in a way that will help you find the apps that will be more interesting to you, without neglecting those who do use their phones for business and getting things done.
Before you check out the 100 best iPhone apps, let me address a few frequently asked questions:
100 slides? Are you kidding?
You do not have to click 100 slides to see the apps in this article. The slideshow is only one way. Another way is by using the table of contents that appears at the top right side of this block of text. You’ll notice gray links that indicate different groups of apps, such as Browsers and Reference (1-9) and Utilities (20-27), and so forth.
Wait. Haven’t I seen this list on PCMag before?
In all likelihood, yes, because we update the list frequently to reflect new apps that come out. We try to keep it fresh.
You left out some of the most important apps, like Safari, iTunes, and Siri! What’s up with that?
Those apps (well, technically, Siri is a feature and not an app) come bundled with the iPhone, and since you don’t have a choice about owning them, we exclude them from the possible list of the 100 best iPhone apps.
I’m new to iPhone and 100 apps is overwhelming! Can you simplify this list?
Yes! We already have! A better article for you is “10 Must-Have iPhone Apps.”
Some of these apps cost money, and I refuse to pay for apps. What else ya got?
How about “The 50 Best Free iPhone Apps for 2013?”
Finally, if you know of a great app that isn’t on this list, you’re encouraged to tell us about it in the comments below, and we’ll consider it for future updates to this article. Be sure to give the full name of the app, price, and a short description so other readers can learn about your favorites, too.
Browsers and Reference (1-8)
The free Ask.com iPhone app brings the website’s question-answering feature set to mobile users, with voice search and data culled from a multitude of online resources, and real people who are a part of the Ask.com community. The updated app returns results quickly, provides a good amount of information, and has enhanced social networking elements.
Chrome for iPhone is just Safari with a better interface and a few more features, but it’s a must-have app for desktop Chrome users. Anyone who has fallen in love with the “Omnibox,” or combined URL address bar and search bar, won’t want to use anything else.
Google Maps, which was once included with all iPhones, is now an app that you have to download separately—and you should. Google Maps has proven itself more accurate than Apple’s own map app, with turn-by-turn directions by car, foot, and public transportation. With Google Maps, you’ll see estimated travel times, integration with your Google account for quick access to your home and work addresses (optional), and the ability to rotate the map by pressing two fingers to the screen and twisting them.
With more than 30 languages supported and the ability to deliver impressively accurate results most of the time, the Google Translate app is one of the most remarkable programs you can load onto your iPhone. Most people probably won’t need it too often, except when traveling or studying a language, but it can be amazingly useful in unexpected circumstances.
The HealthTap app, a spinoff of the HealthTap website, gives you access to health professionals across the U.S. who are willing to answer your health questions. It’s free to download and free to ask questions, but if you want your answer expedited or have a specific doctor in mind you’d like to answer, it costs 99 cents per question. You can also see questions that other people have asked and the answers provided, as well as use an interactive symptoms checker to find information about whatever ails you. It’s a great resource for professional, non-emergency medical advice.
IMDb Movies & TV
“What was the name of that movie… the one with Ally Sheedy and Fisher Stevens?” The next time you can’t remember the name of an actor, television show, or film (Short Circuit, by the way) IMDb saves the day. One of the handiest reference websites on the planet, IMDb never fails when it comes to looking up anything that has to do with TV, film, or Hollywood. The IMDb Movies & TV app also lets you find which movies are playing at your local cinema, and even purchase tickets. With an IMDb account (free or paid for Pro), the app provides even more features, like the ability to create a watchlist of movies you want to see.
Half the fun of having a smartphone is looking things up when you’re in the middle of a bar bet—and hopefully being right. Wikipedia is the go-to source for fact-checking in the mobile age, and the Wikipedia app usually returns results faster than a mobile search engine.
WolframAlpha is like a math and science version of Wikipedia. It’s a great source of information for expert knowledge and computation about virtually anything, from basic algebra to the depths of the universe. The app stores a vast collection of algorithms and data to compute answers and generate reports that you may need or simply be curious to investigate. Parts of WolframAlpha are compatible with Siri (in iPhone 4S only). Organization and Productivity (9-15) >
Organization and Productivity (9-15)
List-making and task-management app Any.do has a unique feature called the Any.do moment that encourages making a habit of reviewing your daily tasks. Geolocation reminders actually work in this app, and it’s an overall great app for jotting down tasks and goals.
Awesome Note (+ToDo)
As the name implies, Awesome Note (+Todo) is an iPhone app for creating notes and to-do lists. Of all the personal organization apps on Apple’s mobile devices, Awesome Note is one of the most visually compelling, letting users choose which colors, background images, fonts, and icons they want to use in their notes. It’s a treat to play with all these options, plus the app’s graphical calendar, while also being productive.
For LinkedIn members, CardMunch connects with a transcription team to accurately transform business cards into contacts on your iPhone. Contact info includes full LinkedIn profile data, when available. It’s a much better solution than any OCR (optical character recognition) tool we’ve seen.
The free iPhone app EasilyDo works as a personal assistant and automation machine. You connect the app to a variety of online services, like your email, calendar, Facebook account, and so forth, and then EasilyDo looks for things it can help you get easily done. For example, a notification might ask you if you’d like EasilyDo to add the contact details of someone who has recently emailed you to your address book. Or it might spot an upcoming birthday of a friend and let you set up a “happy birthday” post to their timeline in advance. It’s an amazing productivity app that helps you take care of a variety of tasks quickly and efficiently.
Without the Evernote app for iPhone, I’d be a lot less productive while I’m away from my desk. This free, straightforward note-making app outrivals most competing apps thanks to its strong search capabilities and effortless organization. But the real key to its success and popularity is that Evernote synchronizes all your files by saving them to a cloud service, meaning anything you create or alter from your iPhone will be there waiting for you when you log into any other version of Evernote.
‘If this, then that’—shorten that little tag line to ifttt, and you’ve got one of the best apps on the market. This amazingly simple yet powerful iPhone app can automate just about anything you’d want to do in your digital life, from backing up photos on Facebook to sending you text message reminders of upcoming appointments.
Apple’s iPhone comes with a pre-installed Mac calendar app, which is pretty good, but it doesn’t offer nearly enough customization to tickle the fancy of highly organized and methodical people. Week Calendar does. It’s highly graphical, with multiple viewing options, and plenty of ability to add color-coding to your schedule.
The password manager 1Password stores and keeps safe all your passwords and logins for the multitude of sites and services that requires them. The app can log you into password-protected websites, so you don’t even have to look up the passwords you’ve saved—just tap the app and open sesame.
If you’re both security-conscious and lazy, Dashlane is the perfect iPhone app for you. This slick mobile complement to the Editors’ Choice-winning desktop password manager securely saves all your login names and passwords, which you can then copy and paste into Web-based logins in Safari. All you need to remember is a single master password. In terms of features, Dashlane doesn’t beat LastPass Premium on the iPhone, but the latter isn’t free, costing $1 per month.
Dragon Dictation Utilities (16-26) AVG Family Safety
Reasonably accurate and fast, the Dragon Dictation iPhone app cuts the typing out of jotting down a note, drafting an email, posting to Twitter, and a few other light tasks. As a simple dictation app, Dragon transcribes whatever you speak with good accuracy. The app does have some shortcut buttons to push the transcribed text through to Facebook, a new email message, and a few other places, but Dragon Dictate doesn’t actually store any notes in the app itself. —
$19.99 per year; free for users of AVG Family Safety for desktop
AVG Family Safety for iOS is a powerful family-friendly browser that blocks all sorts of inappropriate content from young eyes: porn, malware, scams, phishing, and much more. It’s an Editors’ Choice parental control app for iOS. Parents have two sets of controls, monitoring and filtering, to configure from a remote Web interface. However, if you’d rather not go through the setup, just choose presets from one of four age categories and you’re good to go.
AVG Family Safety
This all-in-one calculation app, Converter Plus, delivers numbers on nearly everything, from currency conversions to loan interest figures. It converts metric to imperial measurements for temperature, cooking volumes, length, and more.
If your files live all over the place—your office computer, home desktop, laptop—having a dependable syncing program is a must. Dropbox, the service that lets you store your files in the cloud and access them from anywhere you have a signal, fills that role nicely with a Dropbox iPhone app. It has a simple interface, easy uploading, and swift syncing across all accounts.
The Google Search app isn’t really about just searching anymore. It’s now about Google Now, which is an included service that delivers personalized information, such as directions to an upcoming appointment in your Google Calendar from your home or office. It also can send you traffic alerts before you leave, and let you know sports scores and game summaries from your favorite teams as they happen. It’s a wonderful app that’s highly customizable, and it looks sharp, too.
The free app Onavo Extend compresses data automatically to help you reduce data usage on your phone. In other words, it will save you money if you typically exceed your mobile service plan’s data allotment. Additionally, anyone traveling abroad with an iPhone should absolutely have Onavo installed. Learn the settings well, but be forewarned that there’s no compression for streaming video. It’s also not supported on Verizon accounts with iPhone 4.
Repeat Timer Pro
If you frequently find yourself firing up the iPhone’s built-in timer to measure or track units of time, then the Repeat Timer Pro is a must-download. The $1.99 iPhone app is packed with functionality not included in the default iOS clock timer—a whopping 26 alerts, three independent timers, background functionality with notifications, an interval timer, and more. In short, if you need to time anything—a yoga session, meal preparation times, etc.—this is your app.
This simple productivity and business app can spare you countless headaches. The next time you have a document that requires your signature in a hurry, just open it with SignNow, place your John Hancock, and be done with it. The app can open files from email, Dropbox, the Camera app, and other sources.
One of our favorite file-syncing services, SugarSync, added an iPhone app to its offering in 2011. SugarSync gives you access to your files from a multitude of devices, no matter if you store them on your laptop at home, desktop computer at the office, tablet, and so on. You can use SugarSync to stream music, back-up photos, collaborate on projects, and more.— Next: Communication and Social (27-34) >
Communication (27-34) Brewster Gmail Google Voice Hightail (formerly YouSendIt) Skype WhatsApp Messenger Games (35-45) Amazing Alex Beat Sneak Bandit Doodle Jump NYTimes Crosswords Plants vs. Zombies SpellTower Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor Temple Run 2 Trainyard Words With Friends World of Goo Audio (46-55) iHeartRadio Pandora Rdio Shazam Encore Slacker Radio Stitcher Radio Video (51-54) Hulu Plus iMovie Netflix TED by TED Conferences Hobbies (56-68) Adobe Photoshop Express 2.0 Cards Duolingo ESPN Score Center Kickstarter NASA App Snapseed Untappd Finance (64-67) Check (formerly PageOnce) LevelUp Mint.com Square Wallet Health, Fitness, and Cooking (69-79) Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner Pro Cook’s Illustrated Cyclemeter Epicurious GAIN Fitness MapMyRide+ MyFitnessPal Pepperplate RunKeeper Seamless – Free Food Delivery & Takeout WebMD Reading (80-89) BBC News Digg Feedly iBooks Instapaper Kindle Nook Reeder StumbleUpon Shopping (90-94) Amazon Mobile Pinterest RedLaser – Barcode Scanner and QR Code Reader RetailMeNot Zappos Mobile Travel (95-100) Gate Guru Hipmunk Kayak Pro MenuPages TripIt Yelp
The Brewster iPhone app may be one of the most visually appealing contact managers you’ll find, tapping into multiple social networks for images of people you know. It insists on having access to your iPhone Contacts and either Twitter or Facebook to work, though, which may be a showstopper for anyone who is anti-online social networks. Brewster puts faces to names in an interface you can explore, though. That design choice may lead you to waste time (I got sucked into looking for pictures of people I didn’t recognize), or it may aid your memory if you’re someone who remembers people by their faces rather than company affiliation, location, or name.
Speed, better search functions, and color-coded threading make the standalone Gmail iPhone app preferable to the built-in Mail app (where you can access Gmail). The Gmail app for iOS 4 and later, made by Google, gives users another choice for managing email. It allows iPhone users to decide what they value in an email app. Do you value search capability over text displayed at readable sizes? Is it more important for your various email accounts to be managed in one app, as Mail arranges them, or would you rather have a dedicated app just for Gmail that looks more like Gmail on the web, with color-coded threading? The Gmail app searches your entire email so much easier and faster than the pre-installed Mail app.
As a new convert to Google Voice, I really love the ability to have another phone number that I can use when I don’t want to give out my direct iPhone number. Google Voice lets you screen calls, gives you a free voice-mail system, and also enables free text messaging and calls (among U.S. phone numbers only; international rates vary). The Google Voice app is a great addition to the iPhone.
Who among us hasn’t felt the sting of a failed delivery in email due to the size of an attachment? Hightail, formerly called YouSendIt, specializes in remedying that problem by allowing users to upload large files to its servers and then share them simply with a generated link. The company’s revamped iPhone app lets you not only email large files, but also digitally sign documents and store files in the cloud as well.
LinkedIn provides an effective online network for keeping up with your contacts. It’s easy to rely on LinkedIn more than your own address book for finding otherwise long-lost colleagues and business partners. Anyone in the job market will want to stay on top of LinkedIn for both its networking aspects and its wonderful database of job listings. It works well on an iPhone, although I like the full-sized LinkedIn iPad app even better.
Skype is one of the best, free communication tools for the iPhone. As of version 3.0, the app lets you make video calls. As with other versions of Skype, you can call or chat with other Skype users at no charge, or buy credit to call any other phone number, landline or mobile.
For a long time, Twitter Inc., the company that owns the 140-character social network, didn’t make its own app. Dozens of third parties did, however, but not all the resulting apps were worth using. So when Twitter released its official Twitter app—and it worked well and loaded quickly!—users folded the new tool into their iPhones happily. If you tweet, it’s a no-brainer to have this app. If you don’t tweet and have been on the fence about joining the masses, the iPhone app makes it easy and convenient to get on board.
Since the release of iOS 5, Apple has done a remarkable job of making iPhone-to-iPhone texts cheaper, automatically bypassing SMS and using Wi-Fi anytime it’s available. (You may have even noticed a decrease in your data usage since upgrading to iOS 5.) However, because some of your smartphone-toting friends and family almost certainly use other mobile operating systems, like Android and BlackBerry, the WhatsApp Messenger should be on your list of apps to download. It’s a cross-platform smartphone messenger that uses 3G/EDGE or Wi-Fi when available to deliver messages, and it uses push notifications to alert you to incoming messages.— Next: Games (35-45) >
Amazing Alex is a mobile game created by Rovio, the same development house that made Angry Birds. In Amazing Alex, you rearrange toys and household items to create a Rube Goldberg machine. As an item drops on your design, it sets off a chain reaction that sends existing objects ricocheting off each other. The goal is to collect the three stars located in every challenge board by hitting them with these flying objects. For about a dollar, you get loads of game time and a good mix-up of challenges to keep your noodle flexed. You just have to get through a few too many minutes’ worth of boring, easy challenges first, before the real fun begins.
The recently released Beat Sneak Bandit game for iPhone is all about three things: rhythm, stealth, and puzzles. Everything in the game moves rhythmically, so you have to tap and use your controls to a beat as you use stealth tactics to solve puzzles. It has an odd mash-up of gameplay, but provides an interesting and novel game experience.
Quirky and lovable, Doodle Jump is a fairly simple action game. A springy little creature called “Doodle the Doodler” bounces—all the time—and it’s your job to make sure he lands on a firm platform every time he jumps. As he bounces, you guide him up through each level of the game. Tilt your iPhone, and he’ll sway left or right with each successive bounce.
Free; optional subscription from $2.99 per month
Even if I didn’t live in New York, I’d still admit that the paper of record has the best crosswords puzzles. And now, rather than ink up your daily paper, you can solve (or try to solve) the crosswords on your iPhone. The app is free but has a limited selection of puzzles. But cough up for a subscription, and every brain-busting puzzle the Times publishes will be at your fingertips.
After Angry Birds, a strong contender for the most beloved iPhone game is Plants vs. Zombies. Part action game and part tower defense game, Plants vs. Zombies gets players strategizing about how they’ll ward off zombies using different kinds of greenery, with different properties and undead-repelling powers. For a zombie title, the game is actually quite lighthearted—I might even call it “cute.”
SpellTower is a wonderfully addictive word puzzle combining elements of Boggle and Tetris. The game has a few different modes. In one, you try to draw words formed from letters on a grid. In the others, you draw your words, but the grid builds from the bottom and increases by a line every turn; if it fills up the screen, the game is over. “Rush mode” adds lines every few seconds rather than each turn. Some letters will clear a whole row, and some can’t be used unless you’re making longer words. As the game goes on, it demands more five- and six-letter words. SpellTower is an excellent game for wordsmiths of all ages.
Part of what makes the game Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor interesting is that it looks like your average casual game, but it’s actually quite hard to master. You play as a spider that has to weave webs to catch insects to feed. There’s a larger story arc behind the game—you discover an abandoned mansion and try to learn why it’s empty—but the gameplay mechanics require a good amount of focus and concentration. It’s a real delight for more serious game players who might otherwise skip this seemingly casual title.
In this sequel to the original platformer Temple Run, you play as an Indiana Jonesesque character who dashes through a jungle. The game mechanics are surprisingly simple. All you the player do is make your running character turn corners, jump, and swing when the time is right to avoid obstacles while he’s running. Temple Run was a smashing success when it first debuted in 2011, and the sequel has seen just as much adoration for being an entertaining and thrilling game designed for mobile play.
In this captivating iPhone game from indie developer Matt Rix, players lay down tracks to guide trains from their starting points to the stations, sometimes merging with other trains along the way. Trains, starting points, and stations are color-coded. Red trains must end up in red goal stations. A blue train can merge with a red train to become a purple one before it reaches a purple station. As the difficulty increases, the number of trains also increases, as well as the number of objectives in each level. The free version, Trainyard Express (4.5 stars) is a great way to whet your appetite for this absolutely addictive and fun puzzle game for players of all ages.
Scrabble players know Words with Friends as the digital knock-off of that trademarked game. Whatever you call it, it’s a fantastic game for wordsmiths, even if the app itself can be sluggish at times. You can play asynchronously or in real time with another opponent of your choosing or a random player. Because the game also integrates with Facebook, you can challenge friends to a game even if they don’t have an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad.
World of Goo is one of the most stylized (think Tim Burton, Danny Elfman) and cerebral games I’ve ever played. The gameplay involves building web-like structures out of little, living gobs of goo that are prone to instability. Playing it on the Nintendo Wii is addictive yet maddening because it requires very steady hand control. On the iPhone, the game is even more enjoyable because you can use your fingers right on the screen to pull the goo gobs into shape.&mdash ;Next: Audio and Video (46-55) >
If you like both live radio and curated stations, download iHeartRadio. iHeartRadio manages to capture the radio’s spontaneity (complete with ads and annoying DJs), while giving users options to create commercial-free custom stations. It’s also a great app for listening to live sports when you want to hear the announcers for your home team.
Pandora Radio is one of several great free, personalized radio apps that try to play only the kinds of songs you want to hear. Tell Pandora what you like, and it will suggest more songs, artists, or composers that are similar. As a freemium service, you’ll get the most of Pandora with a subscription (from $3.99 permonth). Otherwise, be prepared to put up with a few advertisements.
Free; optional subscription $9.99 per month
Rdio combines a redesigned, easy-on-the-eye interface, quality audio streaming, and lots of options into an iPhone app that music fans will love. If you choose to purchase a subscription to the service for unlimited mobile streaming ($9.99 per month, which also includes unlimited streaming through Roku and Sonos), be sure to do so via the website and not through the app itself.
If you hear a song and don’t know what it is (or for the life of you, can’t remember who sings it)—Shazam to the rescue! Launch Shazam and hold it as close as you can to the speakers, then let her rip. Within a few seconds, the app will tell you the title, artist, and sometimes even find the album art, too. Shazam is a whiz with most radio-play songs, new and old, originals and covers, but it occasionally gets stumped by obscure b-sides.
Of all the music streaming apps in the Apple App Store, Slacker Radio always seems to pound just a few beats harder than the rest. The same outstanding service you’ll find in Slacker Radio’s online version is on the iPhone and has been for a long enough time for the company to have massaged the interface and performance to the point that you can appreciate it audibly.
Tired of Apple’s Podcast app? Try Stitcher instead, an alternative way to manage your podcasts. It has good controls for organizing groups of podcasts and limiting how many episodes are downloaded locally to your phone to help you manage free space.
Free, requires Hulu Plus subscription
Hulu Plus is a solid iPhone app with excellent video performance over both 3G and Wi-Fi networks, but its episode catalog is still full of holes, and you still have to watch occasional commercials even with the subscription fee. For television junkies, however, it has an ever-growing store of great shows.
For iPhone 4 and later only
The iPhone 4′s IPS LCD screen is remarkably sharp—even enough for video editing. iMovie for iPhone 4 is the first smartphone app that lets you edit video on the go. For about five bucks, the app is surprisingly peppy and worth a look if your video editing needs are very basic. One caveat: Don’t try installing it on any device older than the new iPhone 4. You’ll just lose your money.
Download free; requires membership from $7.99 per month
The Netflix app for Apple iPhone enhances the value of a Netflix subscription by letting you watch movies from its streaming, or Instant, service directly on your handheld device. In the latest version, Netflix has added the ability to rate movies from your smartphone, but it removed DVD (disc) queue management tools, so you’ll have to use the Netflix website for that.
TED’s tagline is “Ideas worth spreading,” and what better way to spread the ideas from this series of education, explorative, and motivational talks than by carrying them with you wherever you go. TED once was a highly exclusive conference, closed off even to most press, and the organization’s greatest accomplishment to date has been to open up the knowledge that comes from its speakers by making videos of their presentations and performances available online to the public. If you’re unfamiliar with TED, give Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight presentation a try. You’ll be hooked. Next: Next: Hobbies and Finance (56-68) >
Adobe knows something about image editing, and the free Adobe Photoshop Express 2.0 iPhone app gives you a taste of this expertise. While the app itself is free, you’ll need the $4.99 upgrade for full functionality. All in all, Adobe Photoshop Express is a solid tool for making light photo edits on your iPhone.
When Apple introduced its Cards app for iPhone (free to download; cards $2.99 each U.S., $4.99 international including shipping), it created a very good tool in a particularly niche-y space, one that’s easy to overlook but actually provides a lot of value to the average consumer. Using the Cards app to buy and mail customized greeting cards, with your own photos and text, is surprisingly cost effective, given that birthday cards and whatnot easily cost more than $3 at retail, not including postage. With the app, you can choose from a good number of well designed templates across several occasions—congratulations, thank-you, birthday. And the cards themselves are beautifully constructed.
Could your learning a new language somehow add value to other people all over the world? It’s a strange idea, but one that’s playing out when you use the free language learning Web app Duolingo (4 stars), which now has an iPhone app as well. As far as free, mobile apps for language-learning go, the Duolingo iPhone app is easily the best. A recent update makes your next lessons available offline, so you can continue learning even when you’re not connected to the Internet.
ESPN’s free app lets you check the game quickly, and discreetly when necessary (that is, with your phone under the dinner table), for your favorite teams in more sports than most other apps. It can pull game data from baseball, basketball, American football, the sport the rest of the world calls football (soccer, in the U.S.), ice hockey, cricket, rugby, and more.
Instagram is a light photo editing and sharing app. Many of the camera filters that you can apply to images will give them a retro-hip style, but they’re fun and can turn out some rather beautiful images with a little practice. It’s fun to browse images that other people upload, too.
Kickstarter has radically transformed individuals’ and small businesses’ ability to get their pet projects off the ground. The site made mainstream the concept of crowd-sourced funding. No more begging venture capitalists for money. No more changing the business plan to suit what VCs want to hear. Just straight talk from creators directly to people who might potentially back them—with as little as one dollar. And now Kickstarter has delivered a new medium for backers and creators to continue their conversation with an official Kickstarter iPhone app, the first mobile app from the company with tools for both funders and inventors. Slick, quick, engaging, and charming, the Kickstarter iPhone app will undoubtedly open a few more doors for people with passion and a dream.
NASA has released many iPhone apps, most of them with a specific focus (NASA Television, ISSLive, NASA Space Weather) but this app is the space agency’s flagship app, and, in that role, it aggregates a wide range of NASA content. Space enthusiasts and curious minds will love how it packs a wealth of news stories, features, images, video, and information about the space agency’s activities into this one mobile app.
Snapseed is our Editors’ Choice among iPhone camera apps for its non-destructive editing capabilities, powerful photo correction, localized adjustments, and many image-enhancing effects. Snapseed also works very well when it comes time to share photos, integrating with all the major social networks, and it sports a clear and innovative interface. Moreover, it’s the only iPhone app that even approaches the power of desktop digital image editing software. At nearly $5, it’s a bit more expensive than some other iPhone camera apps, but its power and features help it handily outshine the competition.
Beer enthusiasts the world over use the Untappd mobile app to keep track of what they drink and share tasting notes with others, which is a huge selling point for this app. Its poor user experience and middling search functionality, however, hold it back from app greatness. Nevertheless, it is the best beer search and logging app you’ll find, with a great social network, too.
Check, formerly called Pageonce, is an excellent personal finance app specialized in bill payment. It’s not so much a budgeting app as one that you can use to get alerts of bills that are due soon and execute payment on those bills no matter where you are. It can be a real life-saver if you’re constantly hit with late fees.
LevelUp is an iPhone (and Android) app that lets you make purchases using your credit card via QR codes that the app displays. Participating merchants simply scan the QR code on your screen using his or her own smartphone, which initiates a credit card transaction, and you’re on your way. The fact that LevelUp doesn’t require any special hardware, other than an iPhone (or Android phone), gives it a huge advantage over the other strong player in the mobile payment space, Google Wallet , which uses a near-field communication (NFC) chip to communicate with PayPass readers, installed on some credit card swipe machines at checkouts. And bonus: A lot of LevelUp merchants give you a discount if you use the app to pay.
The website and service Mint.com helps you keep detailed accounts of your finances by connecting to all your financial accounts (and then some) and tracking all the money you earn and spend. The Mint.com iPhone app extends the experience so users can keep an eye on their spending better while on the go. The app gives you deep insight into how you’re spending your money and whether you’re sticking to the budget you’ve created in Mint. It’s one of the best personal finance apps you’ll find.
Square Wallet is a mobile payment app from a company called Square that makes another product/service, also known simply as Square, which small businesses can use to turn their iPads into credit card processing machines. Any merchant that uses Square can accept payments from wallet-less app-lovers, like myself, who carry Square Wallet on their iPhone (there’s an Android app, too). What makes this app unique is it’s available at a lot of small businesses, from boutique shops to independent coffee houses, unlike Google Wallet (only available on select Android devices, and only usable at retail location with a PayPass device), which is mostly supported in large, corporate chain stores. Next: Health, Fitness, and Cooking (69-79) >
Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner is, like Epicurious, a recipe app filled with user-uploaded content and ratings, but the one thing it has that Epicurious doesn’t have is a filter for how much time the recipe requires. Busy people with little time for whisking soufflés, curing fish, or sitting idly by for six hours while the proteins in their pork butt break down in a slow cooker, know the real value of a 20-minute meal. The “spinner” part of the app’s name comes from the filter categories on the homepage. You can set them as you like, or play roulette (with an audio cue to boot). Still hesitant to cough up three bucks for a recipe app? Try the Dinner Spinner—or, if you’re multilingual, one of the versions in other languages and with different cuisines—French, Quebecoise, Australian, German, Chinese.
Free; optional membership $34.95 per year
While many cooks will tout the depth of Epicurious’ app, I’ve always found it delivers unreliable results—and too many of them to wade through when I’d rather be in the kitchen. Cook’s Illustrated, an app based on the popular magazine of the same name and television series America’s Test Kitchen, caters more to those who want to master cooking techniques. Every recipe starts with a short explanation of “the problem” (why the finished dish isn’t always spectacular) and “the solution,” based on the empirical results of Cook’s Illustrated’s test kitchen. The app also has a list of recommended products by category based on taste tests. A limited amount of content is free to any user, but for the best experience, membership is $34.95 per year (with a one-day trial available).
Bicycle tracking app Cyclemeter (for iPhone) collects a wealth of data, is very accurate, contains several well thought out features, and appeals to fitness enthusiasts who participate in more than one sport, which is why it’s an Editors’ Choice app. This $4.99 iPhone app maps and records your bicycle rides, then compiles all your data into excellent graphs. And despite its name, Cyclemeter doesn’t just record cycling. Other activities, from cross-country skiing to running, come preloaded so at the touch of a button, you can leverage the app for more than one sport—an enormous benefit.
Epicurious is a recipe app, and I’ll openly admit that it’s not my favorite (I’m a fan of Cook’s Illustrated, which requires a paid membership, and the $2.99 AllRecipes.com Dinner Spinner Pro), but among the free options, it’s the best. This app from Condé Nast pulls recipes from a huge catalog, including the archives of Bon Appétit and the now defunct Gourmet magazine. You can search by ingredient or by the type of dish you want to make, such as appetizers and “weeknight dinners.”
Free to download; extra content packs from $2.99 each
The iPhone app GAIN Fitness acts as a total workout buddy, coaching you through a fully customized exercise routine as often (or seldom) as you want. Excellent options in the app let it remind you to work out and even customize the exercises you can do while on the go, at home, or at the gym. It comes with a substantial amount of exercises, but you can buy additional specialty packs, such as yoga, for $2.99 each.
Most tech-connected bicycle nerds have heard of the iPhone app MapMyRide+ ($2.99; limited free version also available), made by the same company that developed the equally well-known MapMyRun. Both apps track your route via GPS while you run or cycle, and show you on a map where you went when you’re done. It also displays length, in both time and distance, as well as pace, maximum speed, and a few other statistics. MapMyRide is a solid companion for cyclists, not to mention an excellent tool for new cyclists in particular.
The free fitness app MyFitnessPal is one of the best all-in-one calorie counter and exercise trackers for the iPhone. A simple design and interface make using the app a quick chore rather than a fatiguing project, which is essential when trying to reach a long-term fitness or weight goal. The selling feature of this app is its exhaustive food and nutrition database, which trounces every competitor’s that we’ve seen.
Pepperplate, which is available as a Web app as well as an iPhone and iPad app, is a nifty tool that lets you save recipes that you find online, or write your own, and export the ingredients to a shopping list. The mobile app is essential for the shopping part. It also has a calendar for meal-planning, which is a feature that’s not seen often in other food and recipe apps. It’s a good recipe-management tool, and a handy reference when you’re shopping for your next meals.
Runners, fitness enthusiasts, and anyone trying to shed a few pounds might know that the iPhone is an incredibly powerful tool at helping you track your exercise. With the RunKeeper app, one of the most popular apps among outdoor runners in particular, you can tap into the phone’s GPS technology to map where you’ve run, jogged, or walked. (You can also manually enter information from indoor runs.) RunKeeper figures out more statistics for you, like your pace, total distance covered, and so on. All your data is synced to the RunKeeper.com, where you can view a history of all your activities. The app also has a coaching feature if you want audio some encouragement while you’re working out.
The Seamless app lets you order takeout food for delivery or pickup without the hassle of trying to understand (or be understood by) a person on the other end of a telephone call. With Seamless, you can select items from a menu, write notes about special requests, such as food allergies, and find new restaurants in your area—so long as you live in one of the cities that Seamless serves. For those of you living outside the geographic limits of where Seamless offers its amazingly simple food ordering system, I send my regrets. If you know of other great apps that offer a similar service in another country or region, please share them in the comments to this article!
WebMD is much more than a diagnosis app, although you certainly can use it to input symptoms you are experiencing and find some clues as to what’s ailing you. It also contains listings for healthcare professionals and pharmacies in your area, as well as first-aid guides—simple instructions for dealing with an emergency that everyone should have accessible to them at any time. This free reference app is one you hope you don’t need, but the moment you do, you’ll be glad you downloaded it. Next: Reading (80-89) >
Among news apps, The BBC’s has one of the best interfaces—clean, with relevant headlines, good photos, and no advertisements. (Whether you agree with its angles and choice of coverage is another matter.) As far as international news organizations go, though, the BBC really does have correspondents in every corner of the globe, as well as varied and widespread topics. Another perk is that you can elect to view some news in other languages, such as Urdu, Arabic, and two kinds of Chinese.
Free With the beta release of the brand-new Digg Reader gone public, Digg has breathed new life into its iPhone app, notably by adding an RSS feed reader. The app is both speedy and responsive, with a lovely design and wonderful overall user experience.
RSS reader Feedly delivers the content you want from your favorite websites into your iPhone. It’s powered by Google Reader, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instapaper, and Read it later. Existing Google Reader users will find Feedly a seamless and natural extension to the mobile space what you’re already doing online.
Flipboard, an app initially designed for the iPad that curates content from your social networks and Web partners (think periodicals, blogs, etc.) based on your interests and turns them into stunning magazine-like digital pages, is now available on the iPhone. The app is free to download and requires a free user account. Flipboard absolutely shines on the iPad, taking advantage of swiping gestures with both visual and interactive grace, and on the iPhone, it’s still elegant, but a little tight.
If Kindle and Nook don’t tickle your fancy, Apple has its own little online bookstore where you can download and save novels, magazines, newspapers, and other reading material—and yes, many of the books and periodicals are free! iBooks, a personal digital library, works on iPad aas well, so you can browse for books on the go from your phone and save them to read on the tablet later.
If you read a lot, Instapaper helps you in two ways. First, it strips out some of the annoying ads, images, and extra junk on a Web page so that it’s easier to read on a small screen. Second, it saves Web pages and content for you to read later by downloading a simplified version of them (again, stripped of junk). Read newspaper articles, blogs, and other online content, even when you don’t have a signal, when they’re saved to Instapaper.
Read books, magazines, and newspapers right on your iPhone without ever buying an e-reader. The Kindle app gives you access to buy or download for free hundreds of thousands of books, and more than 100 different newspapers and magazines.
Anti-Amazon book lovers might prefer an app by Barnes & Nobel for reading on their iPhones, NOOK. NOOK and Kindle largely do the same thing (give you access to an impressive library of books, newspapers, magazines, and other things to read), although their interfaces and experiences are different. Whether you like Amazon or B&N is largely a matter of personal preference. The NOOK app feels a little more graceful in its design, whereas the Kindle app looks more utilitarian.
Reeder, is another feed or RSS reader that taps into Google Reader to get the content you want as it appears online. Like Feedly, Reeder syncs with Google Reader to give you a more seamless experience when you’re away from your desktop or laptop computer. The app lets you browse by feed or folders, manage starred items, mark pages as read or unread, and more.
StumbleUpon, the site that helps you to explore your interests widely across the Web and find sites and page you might not have found otherwise, has put its love of discovery on Apple’s smartphone with a StumbleUpon iPhone app. A recent overhaul of the site helps the little app come closer to reaching its full potential as a beautiful, compelling, and cerebral plaything, though the tight dimensions of the screen hold the app back a touch. Next: Shopping (90-94) >
Amazon.com sells practically anything you might need, from toilet paper to dog food to magazine subscriptions. The mobile shopping app makes sure you can buy it anytime. The app contains a barcode scanner and photo tool, so if you’re in a store deliberating the cost of an item, you can snap a picture or scan the barcode and see if Amazon has it for less.
Pinterest is a virtual pinboard, but don’t be fooled by that description. It’s for shopping, and that includes virtual window shopping. Pinterest lets you organize and share all pictures of anything you find online or in your life. With Pinterest on your iPhone, it’s easy to snap photos in the real world and upload them to your boards. You can watch what others are pinning on Pinterest, and often, the items are for sale and can be purchased by following a link out to the retailer’s site.
RedLaser, an app that turns your iPhone’s camera into a barcode scanner, has long been on every new iPhone owner’s list of free apps to download. Overtime, the app has only improved, and it’s now a multi-functional scanner that works on QR codes, too. When shopping, scan any item with a barcode, and RedLaser delivers detailed information about the product, including whether you can buy it at a better price nearby.
Need a coupon for anything, anytime, anywhere? RetailMeNot is the go-to source for discounts of all kinds. The mobile app puts nearby offers, as well as discount codes for online purchases, at your fingertips instantly. Never buy anything without checking RetailMeNot first. It’ll save you bundles of money.
Let me be the first to admit that there have been times when I’ve forgotten to buy a gift for a close friend, or remembered at the least convenient moment that I still need to buy a pair of gold high heels for my sister’s wedding. Online retailer Zappos has one of the nicest mobile shopping applications. Images load fast. Filters, like brand name, can quickly par down unwieldy search results. Prices are displayed clearly. And many products come with videos, so you can see them in use. Next: Travel (96-100) >
GateGuru (for iPhone) is an app to pack. It will help you navigate airports, anticipate wait times, find the freshest food, and travel with greater confidence. Imagine this grim scene: You have a three-hour layover and the unenviable dining choice between the bloated cinnamon bun and a greasy sports bar. Which is less likely to inflict damage on your stomach lining? GateGuru can help you avoid the plight of past LaGuardia travelers with its user-submitted reviews of services in the airport. It also has airport maps and checkpoint wait times will spare you from extending your tenure.
The Hipmunk iPhone app, a spinoff of the Hipmunk website is a travel booking app for flights and hotels. What makes Hipmunk unique is it incorporates accommodation options from alternative sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway, two services that let homeowners rent out their private real estate by the day or week.
99 cents (free version also available)
Travel booking site Kayak is a wonderful multi-purpose travel app, helping you find and purchase flights, hotels, car rentals, and more. While there is a free version of the Kayak iPhone app, the Pro version is worth the dollar if you’re an avid traveler. One of the perks: detailed maps of more than 100 airports.
The free app and website MenuPages keeps a database of restaurant menus, with prices included. If you’ve ever gritted your teeth at a restaurant’s online menu that omits the prices, try MenuPages for unbiased information. Admittedly, MenuPages is not a great app for every location, but in major U.S. cities, it’s awesome, especially when Yelp’s recommendations seem skewed by college students who give five-star ratings to fast-food burgers and less-than-fresh sushi. With MenuPages, you can make your own decisions about a restaurant’s dishes and prices. The app and website won’t give you much insight into quality, but it will help you quickly weed out places that are too pricey or don’t serve the kind of food you have in mind. It’s also useful for ordering take-out.
The TripIt iPhone app is a lightweight front end for a powerful itinerary organizer. The coaxing to shell out for the expensive “Pro” upgrade is heavy-handed, but the app is an excellent itinerary organizer if you can ignore the up-sell pitches. The app’s greatest strength is the ease with which it gathers your reservation information, which would be difficult to replicate even with a carefully curated series of email folders. I was truly impressed by the reliability of the importing process, especially when I discovered that the app had a better idea of where to pick up my rental car than I did.
The most comprehensive review app, Yelp turns out to be an invaluable tool for finding businesses nearby, especially when you’re in a town you don’t know well. Yelp’s mobile app has helped me find a hairdresser when I was in a pinch in Washington DC, and a suitable lunch while driving through Ohio (shout-out to Moreland Hills!). Need to find an acupuncturist in Austin? Or the most popular coffee shop in Charlotte (emphasis on “popular” and not necessarily “best,” by the way)? Yelp’s the app to do it.
Hightail (formerly YouSendIt)
Beat Sneak Bandit
Plants vs. Zombies
Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor
Temple Run 2
Words With Friends
World of Goo
TED by TED Conferences
Adobe Photoshop Express 2.0
ESPN Score Center
Check (formerly PageOnce)
Health, Fitness, and Cooking (69-79)
Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner Pro
Seamless – Free Food Delivery & Takeout
RedLaser – Barcode Scanner and QR Code Reader