"Dear God do I love this [iPhone] app" - iPhone apps that bring you joy?
January 21, 2019 8:10 AM   Subscribe

As a recent convert, I'm looking for the iPhone apps that you absolutely adore.

I recently switched from an Android to an iPhone, and although there are many, many "top 100" articles out there, it feels as if there's too much 'noise' in the Google results to sift out the truly good gems.

Let me know what apps you absolutely, categorically LOOOOOOVE. Games, utilities, tools, iMessage sticker packs, whatever.

The only qualification is that you have to adore it -- it's got to be the equivalent of your desert-island discs. (Although if it's been updated for the bigger iPhone X screen, that's definitely preferred.)

Thanks in advance!
posted by WCityMike to Technology (30 answers total) 128 users marked this as a favorite
Okay, I got a _list_.

1. Drafts: this is where text starts for me. It lives in my dock, and any time I need to write something down on my phone, I open it and start typing. I can then send it to various places, like my todo app, save it to Apple Notes, send an email, search the App Store, all kinds of things. It's very powerful.
2. Due: the best, and most persistent reminders app. Incredibly customizable, powerful, and great at pestering you do just do the thing you said you would do. Here's a great guide to it.
3. Shortcuts: Automation for your iPhone. In one tap, I can do all kinds of stuff like log my weight in the morning, create a quick reminder in Due, start a Toggl timer, all kinds of things. And it works _great_ with pick number 4...
4: Launch Center Pro: Lets you launch apps, shortcuts, contacts, all kinds of things in a couple taps, or on a schedule, or at specific locations. If you have an iPhone XS, XS Max, or XR, you can also trigger stuff with NFC tags. (I have an 8 Plus, so this doesn't work for me yet, but I have some NFC stickers for when I upgrade.)
5. Overcast: The best podcast app. Has some awesome features, including Smart Speed, which trims short silences in shows, so you can get through them faster, and a great voice boost for shows with sub-par audio.
6. Cesium: The iOS music app sucks, doubly so if you're syncing music to your phone instead of streaming. Cesium uses your phone's music library and is much nicer to use than the stock app.
posted by SansPoint at 8:36 AM on January 21, 2019 [9 favorites]

Podcasts - Overcast. I really like this app. It's realiable, has some nice features and my sync-listening-position-between-devices problems are gone. (Preview: heck yes)

"Shelf/working items" - Gladys. I use it a bit like a clipboard manager, it's basically a "shelf" to put items you're working on. It handles different data types really well aaannd let's you peek at those items via the files app for integrating with other apps where that's useful. There's also an OSX application with good sync

Shell/terminals - Blink. I mostly use a tablet for working remotely but in a pinch when I need my phone I really like blink. It supports mosh and doesn't waste any UI space on chrome or widgets. Nice.
posted by mce at 8:44 AM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

So this is a bit of a specialized app, but if you have multiple family members whose schedules need to be visible to all and all of whom need to be able to edit the schedule - I haven't found a better app than Cozi. It's a little bit cheesy and a little bit clunky, but we recently ponied up for the paid subscription, after a couple years of using the free, since we've just found it so invaluable. Honestly the free version is more than enough, there were just a few things we wanted with the paid so we decided to reward the makers of the app. It does separate schedules for different family members, reminders, meal planning, grocery and shopping lists and to do lists, which can also be specific for each family member. The individual pieces are not necessarily best in class, but it all works together, which is invaluable for me.
posted by peacheater at 8:50 AM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think there are Android versions of these apps...

I love Libby for checking out audio books and e-books from my local library. IMHO so much easier than Overdrive which it replaced.

I also spend a lot of time in Flipboard which gives me curated news.

And, Life360, which shows me where my family is at any given time.
posted by elmay at 8:50 AM on January 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

I love Fantastical as a calendar app, especially since it has an Apple Watch app as well. You don't specify whether you prefer free or paid apps, so I'll add that while you do pay for Fantastical, it's a one time purchase instead of a subscription.
posted by Roger Pittman at 9:03 AM on January 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

Overcast for podcasts

Signal for more secure texting

For games - Monument Valley, Eliss, Neko Atsume, Blendoku, Plants vs Zombies, Alphabear (not recommended if you have dyslexia, it's a scrabble-type game), Triple Town.

I do a lot of photo manipulation and art stuff. Here are the apps I like for that: Prisma, Afterlight 2, Repix, Pixlr, Trigraphy, Freemix, Intermix, Paper, Brushes, Flowpaper.

Flashlight, because you need a flashlight more than you think you do

For language learning, Drops and Duolingo.

Weather Kitty for basic weather. Weather Underground if you want a fancy weather app.

Waze for navigation, and I have my local area transit app. Citymapper is really great for public transit but it's basically starting with the biggest US cities so that may not apply to you - it doesn't to me at home, but it's great in NYC.

I also have my city's winter parking app, and if you live in a place that has variable parking rules in snow, you should see if your city has one of these.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:31 AM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love Genius Scan to quickly turn photos of docs into PDFs. Also allows you to sign them, join multiple pages into one doc, or split them apart, and you can email directly from the app.

Another vote for Waze.
posted by kimdog at 9:36 AM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

My go-to game has been The Battle of Polytopia for awhile now. Distilled 4X game that plays quick and is well balanced, free unless you want to unlock extra tribes.
posted by hankscorpio83 at 10:02 AM on January 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Grateful: A gratitude journal. A little mental hygiene goes a long way and this app helps a lot with that.
posted by veggieboy at 10:06 AM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

DarkSky is the best weather app.
posted by capnsue at 10:14 AM on January 21, 2019 [12 favorites]

- Instapaper. This is a "read it later" app. It's very good. I believe it's also on Android. It may not solve a problem for everyone, but it's very useful to me.
- Fantastical. The stock Calendar app is good, but this is great.
- Anylist. For grocery lists.
- 1Password. Doesn't just store passwords. I don't really trust web-based password keepers like Lastpass.
- Scanbot
- Paprika. Recipe manager. In theory I could keep grocery lists in Paprika, or keep recipes in Anylist, but each is really better for one thing.
posted by adamrice at 10:39 AM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Holy moly do you need to get Paprika if you do any sort of cooking/baking.

Super easy way to store/sort your recipes. But the best part is it has a bookmarklet for your desktop web browser/shortcut in your Action button (the rectangle with the up arrow in your Safari browser on your phone.

So when you're reading about how the recipe's author grew up in the Rolling Hills of Wherever where peaches just mean more to people, you can click/tap the button and Paprika just imports the recipe part (with like a 95% success rate). I go on and on about this app so much that you'd think I was a paid shill but it's just so handy.

I use Evernote to keep my stuff organized between my desktop and my devices. They have a paid version but I've found the free one does everything I need.

Voxer is a nice voice-to-voice app (like a walkie talkie) for when texting isn't as helpful.

Also nthing Overcast for podcasts.
posted by Twicketface at 10:54 AM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

another vote for Waze.
Anylist, which I share with household members. I do 95% of the shopping so if they want it, they better add it to the list. I also use it for recipes.
Keeper, for passwords. I also share some records with family who also have it.
Yelp..Because I find it an easy app to find food where ever I may be.
Outlook. Because it supports my work email the best and I can easily add and sort the myriad of email addresses I have/manage.
I also have an ipad and I have a different list of favorites for it, larger screen and all.
posted by ReiFlinx at 11:10 AM on January 21, 2019

Star Chart for astronomy.
posted by jgirl at 1:05 PM on January 21, 2019

If you're into nutrition, check out Wholesome.
posted by salvia at 1:13 PM on January 21, 2019

If you do anything with sheet music, I sing the praises of ForScore.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you've always wanted to learn plainchant, Square Note is the app for you.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:26 PM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Marvin is my favorite for reading ebooks. It has an "extra-dim" setting that is perfect for reading in bed at night.
Stardew Valley on iOS brings me enormous joy.
Frotz for playing interactive fiction games.
Dropbox for saving and organizing documents has changed my life.
NYT Crosswords (expensive subscription but I love it so much).
posted by beandip at 1:51 PM on January 21, 2019

Echoing a few previously mentioned--
1Password - The best. Essential. I've been a customer since 2011.
Fantastical - Also been a long-time customer, great to manage calendar and to-do reminders
Bear - Beautiful, simple note taking
Day One - Beautiful journaling
Instapaper - great for bookmarking longform to read later
Carrot Weather - More powerful than it looks. I disable the silly stuff and have added some additional weather details.
Transit & Citymapper - Great if you need public transportation assistance in larger city
Star Walk 2 - My preferred favorite night sky app
Deliveries - If you're big with deliveries, this has been a champ for years now.
PCalc - The best calculator, bar none.
Reeder - For RSS Feeds, supposedly a new version is coming any day now
posted by Baphomet's Prime at 2:49 PM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nth Dark Sky.

I have Libby and Overdrive, and use Parcel for tracking shipments.
I’m back to Spark for email which has smart inbox filtering for newsletters, multiple accounts, and Dropbox integration.
MeFi’s own seanmpuckett built Argent, a nice powerful photo app.

You don’t need a separate app for flashlight, compass, level, or measurement- those are all built into iOS.
posted by a halcyon day at 5:30 PM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

One thing: you should definitely install some kind of ad blocker app ASAP, since iOS supports this. I use Purify but there's probably other good ones. But you definitely want to do it, in addition to being more pleasant, it will save you battery life and megabytes of data. you can whitelist sites if you really want to support them.

I would want to have OmniFocus on a desert island, but they charge professional-desktop-app prices, even for the iOS version. But you should check it out if you are in the market for a totalizing system for organizing all tasks and goals in your life.

I think Castro is an even better podcast app than Overcast, because of its very sensible queueing system. You get new episodes in an inbox and pick out the ones you want to download and listen to.

PCalc is also fantastic; buy it and then check look for the weird augmented-reality easter eggs.
posted by vogon_poet at 6:59 PM on January 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

...the vast majority of these apps are Android && IOS, which is some dark humor.

There's a game called Slay. The Android version is terrible. The IOS version (iPad or other larger screen preferred but not at all necessary) is what I take to survive long plane flights; it's my desert island in thy sky game.
posted by talldean at 7:05 AM on January 22, 2019

Happy Scale. It's a weight tracker but it showers real projections and breaks up any weight loss goals into goal increments for you. I absolutely love it.

Out of Milk. Amazing grocery list app. Breaks up your list by category automatically.

CashApp. I am able to pay people through this app quickly, and get automatic deposits to my bank account. (ex. someone at work texts me and asks if i want anything from starbucks, i just sent them the money automatically)

Waze. By far the BEST GPS app invented.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 7:18 AM on January 22, 2019

I'm getting some great recs to check out in this thread, so here are mine. (Sorry, I didn't bother to make them links, but you should be able to identify them on the App Store by context.)
  • Fantastical for calendaring. Works with the system calendars, and makes it so very easy to add events on the fly.
  • Dark Sky, as others have mentioned, is the best weather app. I believe they crowdsource the pressure sensors in their users' smartphones to help improve their hyper-local weather forecasts, and their "Rain starting in 10 minutes" alerts have helped me out several times. (Others like Carrot Weather for its personality - Carrot uses Dark Sky as the underlying forecast engine, so if that floats your boat ...)
  • When I travel, I absolutely depend on a cluster of apps on my home screen:
    • TripIt Pro. I constantly forward my reservation confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com, and it's the rare few that can't be parsed automatically.
    • Flight Update Pro. It syncs with TripIt, and its travel disruption alerts have come in even ahead of the American app's alerts.
    • I'm stuck with American Airlines but their American app is quite good. Or whatever your favorite airline is, they probably have a decent app.
    • CityMapper. If you're in a city that they cover, they will even tell you which end of the subway train you want to make transfers faster. So very reassuring to head into the London Tube for the first time and make transfers like I've been doing it for years. They don't cover many cities yet, though.
  • Next is an expense manager that it makes it very fast to enter expenses as you go. I only use it for trips, but if I was more interested in tracking my budget I'd use it all the time.
  • Due is, without a doubt, a great reminders app. Others have raved about it above, and I can't say enough good things about it. The "Nag Me" feature is just fantastic.
  • Overcast for podcasts - I've been using it since the earliest version, and I love it. SmartSpeed claims to have saved me 104 hours of listening time so far, just by cutting out silences and pauses.
  • PCalc is a fantastic calculator, and it even supports Reverse Polish notation - if you grew up with classic HP calculators like I did, this is very important!
  • Halide is an alternative to the system camera that exposes some of the inner functionality of the depth mapping interface, as well as exquisitely designed controls.
  • OmniFocus will try to help you get things done. Can't overcome your (my) natural procrastination, but it'll make you (me) feel bad about it, at least.
  • Our Groceries. Do you share a grocery list with your partner? This app makes it simple to maintain multiple shopping lists, add items, check them off as you get them, and sync seamlessly across two people. It's a very specific use case, but this app does it really well.
  • Growth, if you have a kid or two and want to track their weights at pediatrician appointments. Again, it's a specific niche, and this app fills it well.
  • Scanner Pro. There are many apps for scanning files, but this one reliably uploads files to DropBox and/or iCloud. This is the last scanner app I ever tried, and I use it regularly.
  • Letterboxd is good if you're into movies and want to track what you watched and when. After a couple of years, it's a pretty neat record. Oh, and if you want to know if you can stream something online, JustWatch is a good app; if you want to know when it goes on sale on the iTunes Movie store, CheapCharts will hook you up.
  • I really can't get into lists of games, but as a starter, consider Alto's Adventure, Monument Valley, and Threes.
Wow. That was longer than I expected...
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:03 PM on January 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wowzers. Great recommendations, everyone. Thank you.

I did some rough computing, and counting favorites as votes, here's the ratings: Overcast (15), DarkSky (9), Due (9), Cesium (8), Drafts (8), Launch Center Pro (8), Shortcuts (8), Fantastical (7), Pcalc (6), Waze (6), Citymapper (5), 1Password (4), Battle of Polytopia (4), Instapaper (4), Libby (4), Omnifocus (4), Paprika (4), Anylist (3), Carrot Weather (3), Castro (3), Dark Sky (3), Monument Valley (3), Purify (3), Afterlight 2 (2), Alphabear (2), Argent (2), Bear (2), Blendoku (2), Blink (2), Brushes (2), CashApp (2), City Winter Parking (2), Cozi (2), Day One (2), Deliveries (2), Drops (2), Duolingo (2), Eliss (2), Evernote (2), Flashlight (2), Flipboard (2), Flowpaper (2), ForScore (2), Freemix (2), Gladys (2), Happy Scale (2), Intermix (2), Life360 (2), Neko Atsume (2), Out of Milk (2), Overdrive (2), Paper (2), Parcel (2), Pixlr (2), Plants vs Zombies (2), Prisma (2), Reeder (2), Repix (2), Scanbot (2), Signal (2), Spark (2), Star Walk 2 (2), Transit (2), Trigraphy (2), Triple Town (2), Voxer (2), Weather Kitty (2), Weather Underground (2), Alto's Adventure (1), American (1), CheapCharts (1), Dropbox (1), Flight Update Pro (1), Frotz (1), Genius Scan (1), Grateful (1), Growth (1), Halide (1), JustWatch (1), Keeper (1), Letterboxd (1), Marvin (1), Next (1), NYT Crosswords (1), Our Groceries (1), Outlook (1), Scanner Pro (1), Slay (1), Square Note (1), Star Chart (1), Stardew Valley (1), Threes (1), TripIt Pro (1), Wholesome (1), Yelp (1).
posted by WCityMike at 2:35 PM on January 22, 2019 [11 favorites]

Seconding Overcast and Happy Scale (I probably heard about both here) and adding Dots (which I probably also heard about here) for free, mindless time-killing game playing that is fairly minimalist visually. I use Dashlane (including its iPhone app which is quite good and now integrates with safari on the phone) for a password manager, but I will vote for any password manager over none.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 3:47 PM on January 22, 2019

I quickly turn iPhone Live Photos of our baby into adorable gifs with ImgPlay Pro.
posted by lieber hair at 4:21 AM on January 23, 2019

YNAB for zero-based budgeting, DarkSky for weather, Paprika & Tasty for recipes, Libby for library books, and (it may be boring, but) Spotify for music. Plus, for more specific needs: GuitarTuna for guitar tuning, and the official Capital Bikeshare app for the DC bikeshare.
posted by mosst at 11:49 AM on January 24, 2019

I use GoodReader for anything involving files. If I find a PDF or song on the web, I chuck it in here. I use it to read PDFs, listen to music, keep pics, even watch some video formats. It opens ZIP and RAR files. But it’s a great app for handling files, transferring them here and there, importing and exporting, and offering them to Android-using friends.

Focos is like Halide, but is free for the basic bokeh effect features, with in-app purchases for more advanced features. It’s my go-to camera app for dramatic shots when I don’t need a Live Photo or Panorama shot in the standard Camera app.

If you use Reddit, my preference is Apollo. I really liked Alien Blue, but Reddit bought it out and got rid of the features I liked and developed features I didn’t like.

I haven’t found the one true RSS feed reader, but Newsify works for me right now.

Also on Android, I think:

I always use Yelp.

I use Waze as well, but I’m slightly paranoid about Google owning it.

Tile has saved my sanity a couple of times.
posted by gentilknight at 11:17 AM on January 28, 2019

Weather Bug. I like Dark Sky and rely on it in my computer web browser and on my tablet. But Weather Bug remains my top weather app on phone. The ui isn’t the sleekest but it does a pretty good job of organizing all possible weather related info. Better than Weather Underground mostly because it isn’t sluggish and awkward.
Wikipanion. Having a dedicated app for wiki sites (including Wikipedia) is handier than you might think.
posted by ardgedee at 5:30 PM on July 26, 2019

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