You just got a new iPhone, you’re done setting it up, and it’s time to hit the App Store. Which apps should you download to really make your iPhone great?
Obviously, there are the go-to standards that nearly everyone seems to have on their phone. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, maybe Netflix or Amazon…you don’t need a list of suggestions to tell you about those household names. If you’re new to iPhone, or just looking to find some new favorite apps, you should also consider these ten gotta-have-it suggestions.
Updated 12/30/2019: We’ve updated our selection of recommended apps.
There are lots of good photography apps for your iPhone, but Spectre is a cut above. No wonder it won Apple’s iPhone App of the Year for 2019. Made by the same people who create the awesome Halide photo app, Spectre is tailored toward taking awesome long exposure shots.
It uses fancy AI to steady your shot so it looks sharp, and can produce all sorts of neat effects—light trails from traffic, smooth waterfalls, you can even make pedestrians or traffic disappear on the streets. It’s got a great interface, is fast and intuitive, and even records the whole long exposure as a Live Photo.
If you don’t have a password manager, get one. Password managers make it easy to practice good password habits, like using long and complex passwords that are unique to every service and site.
With iOS 12, Apple made password managers even better—they can automatically fill in passwords and forms in more places, including in apps, and you can authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID.
1Password is one of the best password managers around, with great support on multiple platforms and a very reasonable price (there’s a 30-day free trial, then it’s $2.99 per month or $4.99 for a family of five).
Pay actual money? For a weather app? But you already have a weather app on your iPhone! And other weather apps are free!
Sometimes quality is worth paying for. If you’re the kind of person who checks the weather on your phone almost every day, Carrot Weather is well worth the cost. It’s fast, well-designed, and packed with features and customization options. There are multiple Apple Watch complications, a home screen widget, and a fun iMessage app.
To really unlock its full potential, you have to subscribe to the Premium Club, but that’s cheap: only about $4.99 per year. It’s meant to cover the cost of API access to various weather sources. Did I mention you can choose from multiple different weather data sources? Or that it has awesome weather maps with lots of layers? Or that it’s ad-free? Or that a snarky AI voice will speak to you?
Apple has its own Podcasts app installed by default, but it’s pretty bare-bones. If you enjoy listening to podcasts, or want to get into them, you should check out Overcast instead. It has a nicer interface and a whole bunch of useful features like voice boost and playback speed adjustment.
It supports Apple Watch (with standalone playback) and CarPlay, and has nice rich notifications, too. Overcast is a free ad-supported app, but you can eliminate ads with a $9.99-per-year subscription.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, get in shape, or just live a healthier life, the one thing that has been proven to work time and again is keeping a food journal. Counting calories and nutrients is a pain, but MyFitnessPal makes it easy.
It has a huge database of common foods and you can just scan the barcode of almost any packaged food item to add it to your daily count. You can do all this with the free ad-supported app, but a $9.99 per month Premium subscription kills the ads and gives you lots of control over custom macronutrient goals and historical analysis of your eating habits.
This is the most full-featured and easy-to-use app we’ve found for keeping track of your diet. And keeping track of what you eat and drink is the first and most effective step toward being healthier.
The best way to build good habits is through repetition. Do something every day without fail, and it soon becomes a regular part of your life.
That’s the basic idea behind Streaks, a to-do list app that focuses on tracking up to a dozen different activities that you want to turn into good habits; things you want to do every day or every other day like go to the gym, or quit smoking, or read more.
It’s got a simple and intuitive interface with bright bold colors and icons so you can customize your tasks, and it integrates with the Health app, too.
When it comes to working out, especially boring cardio, the hardest part is keeping motivated. Zombies, Run! is a unique spin on a workout app, and it just might keep you motivated to run, walk, jog (or bike or use the elliptical) every day.
The app plays a bit of a radio drama where you’re a new runner for an outpost of survivors in the zombie apocalypse. As the outpost talks to you over the radio, you avoid zombie hordes, gather random supplies (which you can use to build up your base after the run) and progress through a compelling story. In between story elements, you listen to your own music.
Things get really interesting if you turn on the “zombie chases” option, wherein you’ll hear zombies approach you from time to time, and have to run faster to avoid them. They’re entirely optional, but highly motivating.
This app is quite old, but it has been constantly updated and improved over the years. It now works indoors on treadmills, and had a ton of new missions, activities, and training modes.
Things is a task manager par excellence. If you’re trying to get your life in order and stay on task, you’ll fall in love with its clean and clear design. In fact, Things won an App Store Editor’s Choice award and an Apple Design Award in 2017. It has the right balance of easy-to-use and powerful features. It’s the poster child for working well with all the technologies Apple builds into iOS: Handoff, Siri Shortcuts, dynamic Notifications, home screen widgets, 3D touch, you name it.
Things makes it easy to keep on top of your obligations, chores, and tasks. If there’s a downside, it’s the price. At $9.99 for the iPhone and Apple Watch, Things is pretty pricey, and it only gets worse if you want to spread it to the rest of your Apple devices—the separate iPad version is $19.99 and the Mac version is $49.99!
There is no transit app as full-featured, powerful, and elegant as Citymapper. It pulls data from a bunch of transit agencies and creates a cohesive, unified, clear picture of how to get around the city. Know when that next train is coming. Figure out exactly how much it will cost to get you from point A to point B. Know exactly what stop to get off at, and even get a notification to remind you as you approach it.
Citymapper combines busses, subways, trains, and even bike and scooter rental services. It’s a one-stop, all-inclusive city transit wonder app. However, it only works in about two dozen cities. If you live in (or will be visiting) Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, or one of about 20 other major metros around the world, it’s an absolute life-saver. If not, there’s simply no point to it.
You don’t have to be an astronomy geek to love Night Sky. If you’ve ever looked up at night and wondered “what star or planet is that?”, you’re going to love this app.
Of course, it allows you to point your phone at the sky and see a map of everything in the heavens. All the astronomy apps have done that for years now, but Night Sky expands on that with notifications about when to see your favorite stellar objects or events like meteor showers, a slick augmented reality viewer that lets you see the depth of constellations and 3D models of satellites, and grand Sky Tours.
With Siri Shortcuts support, you can point your phone at a star (without even having the app open) and say “Hey Siri, what star is that?” and you’ll get a detailed card with the answer. It feels like the future!
I have written professionally about technology for my entire adult professional life - over 20 years. I like to figure out how complicated technology works and explain it in a way anyone can understand.