Best free iPhone apps 2017

Bricks Camera is a novelty camera app that will strike a chord with anyone who has an affinity for plastic building blocks.

The app’s essentially a live filter. Through its camera, the world’s transformed into a universe of brightly colored ‘bricks’, the size of which you can adjust with a swipe. Hold down the shutter and you get a short video rather than a still. Also, if you’re not feeling the vibe in live mode, you can import a photo instead.

Your blocky masterpiece can be saved or shared – unfortunately only with a three-brick-wide watermark. It’s a pity there’s no cheap IAP to be rid of that, but otherwise this is an entertaining – if slightly throwaway – camera freebie.

Mood

Mood wants to add some visual style to your writing. It’s not about crafting a novel, but fleeting, simple thoughts, which can be assigned a dazzling layout. Think Twitter if you were armed with your own personal graphic designer.

Using the app is very straightforward. You start typing, and Mood reformats your text on the fly. Open the styles draw and you can flick between all kinds of appearances. Once you’re done, your tiny literary masterpiece is rendered to an image, which can be saved to Photos or shared on a social network.

Rather nicely, your creations aren’t transient, either – they’re also saved in the app and can later be edited. And there’s an amusing Easter egg, too – flip your iPhone upside down when in the styles section for some decidedly weirder themes (including an unnerving wall of bacon).

Today Weather

Today Weather provides a sleek, elegant take on weather forecasting, marrying modern design, usability, and a slew of data.

Set a location and you get current conditions below a supposedly representative photo. (The photo is, frankly, a bit rubbish but can fortunately be disabled.) Scroll to delve into predictions about the coming hours and days, and details about UV index and pressure, the chances of imminent rainfall, air quality, sunrise/sunset times, and what the moon’s up to.

Sadly, these components can’t be rearranged, and anyone who wants a rainfall radar will have to pay for it. But these drawbacks shouldn’t stop you downloading what’s a great freebie weather app.

Also, Hello Weather has a trump card in its data source menu, which lists conditions and temperatures from five different providers. If one regularly seems better than the others, you can switch with a tap. Nice.

Clarity

Clarity is all about creating wallpaper for your iPhone’s home and lock screens. The name comes from the app’s ability to create artwork that improves the legibility of the content above it.

Three options are available: Gradient, Blur, and Mask. Gradient has you choose two colors and decide on the direction of the gradient. Blur has you take a photo or picture and assign a blur level. And Mask allows you to overlay a color-to-transparent gradient atop an image.

It would be good to have positioning options for imported images (Clarity just crops as it sees fit), but otherwise this is a great freebie for quickly creating sleek and effective wallpaper for iPhone.

Infinite Music

Infinite Music says it will help you “rediscover your music library”, through “smart remixing and mashups”. What this really means is the app rifles through all the DRM-free music on your iPhone, throws it up in the air, and plays the result.

The theory is that Infinite Music figures out the dynamics of songs and then has everything flow together, potentially forever. And sometimes it works. Often, though, it’s more akin to a hyperactive DJ with no attention span over-excitedly live remixing your music collection.

In short, then, Infinite Music is often more a mad and jolting musical journey than seamless magic, but it’s certainly interesting. And given that it’s free, it’s worth grabbing for a distinctly different take on a music collection that might have become all too familiar.

8bit Painter

With 8bit Painter, you can pretend a couple of decades of technology evolution never happened, and create digital images like it’s 1984. On firing up the app, you select a canvas size – from a truly tiny 16 x 16 pixels, all the way up to a comparatively gargantuan 128 x 128. You’re then faced with a grid and a small selection of tools.

There’s nothing especially advanced here – this isn’t Pixaki for iPhone, and it lacks that tool’s layers and animation smarts. But you do get the basics – pencil; flood fill; eraser; color selection – needed for tapping out a tiny artistic masterpiece.

And, importantly, you can pinch-zoom the canvas for adding fine details, and export your image at scaled-up sizes, so it’s not minuscule when viewed elsewhere. For a freebie, this one’s pretty great.

Triposo

Billed as ‘your smart travel guide’, Triposo elevates itself above the competition. First and foremost, it’s comprehensive. Whereas other guides typically concentrate on a few major cities, Triposo drills down into tiny towns and villages as well, helping you get the best out of wherever you happen to be staying.

50,000 destinations worldwide are included, complete with information on bars, restaurants, hotels, tours and attractions.

Beyond that, the app is easy to use, and it optionally works offline, enabling you to download guides on a regional basis. This is perfect for when you’re ambling about somewhere new, without a data connection. And if you’re unsure where to head, Triposo can even build an editable city walk for you too.

Moodelizer

We’re in one-trick pony territory with Moodelizer, but it’s quite a trick. The app’s all about adding custom soundtracks to videos while you record them, and all you need is a single finger.

You select a genre, and ‘rehearse’ playback by dragging your finger about the square viewfinder. As you move upwards, the music’s intensity increases; rightwards adjusts variation.

Just messing about with the audio alone is quite fun, but it all properly comes together when making a video.

Now, when you’re shooting yet another clip of your cat being mildly amusing, Moodelizer can add much-needed excitement by way of rousing club music or head-banging guitar riffs. Quite why you can’t import a video to add music to, however, we’ve no idea.

Emolfi

There’s no getting around the fact that Emolfi is ridiculous – but it’s also a lot of fun. Self-described as the “first empathic selfie app”, it has you take a photo of your face, whereupon the app’s wizardry attempts to figure out your mood. The app then cuts out the background and adjusts the rest of the image accordingly.

If you’re feeling happy, you might be surrounded by bubbles and sunshine. If you’re angry or scared, you’ll get something that looks like a horror movie, or a massive spider on your face with your eyes animating towards it in worried fashion.

It certainly beats yet another app unconvincingly transforming you into characters from fantasy and comic-book movies.

TaoMix 2

There are plenty of ambient noise products on the App Store, designed to help you relax, or to distract you from surrounding hubbub. TaoMix 2 is one of the best, due to its gorgeous interface and the flexibility of the soundscapes you create.

You start off with a blank canvas, to which you drag noises that are represented as neon discs. These can be recolored and resized, and positioned wherever you like on the screen. A circle is then placed to balance the mix, or flicked to meander about, so the various sounds ebb and flow over time.

For free, you get eight sounds, can save custom mixes, and can even import your own recordings. Many dozens of additional sounds are available via various affordable IAP.

Popcorn

If you’re bored with watching the same old movies or relying on rental charts, Popcorn may be just the ticket, as the app instead aims to catch your eye with hand-picked lists. This means you delve into anything from ‘movies starring robots’ to the comparatively oddball ‘most harrowing kids’ movies’ (complete with a gruesome still from Watership Down).

Open a list and you get offered a few cards, which you swipe Tinder-style: left consigns them to oblivion and right adds a film to your watchlist. If you’re not sure about whatever’s on a card, you can have a quick look at a trailer first. It’s a fast, simple, effective means of building a movie watchlist in an unusual way.

Pigment

With its large display and the Apple Pencil, the iPad seems the natural home for a coloring app like Pigment. But if you fancy doing the odd bit of coloring-in when you need to relax, Pigment’s great to also have installed on the device you always have in your pocket.

Even on the smaller screen, it excels. You get quick access to a set of top-notch coloring tools, and a range of intricate illustrations to work on. Sure, buy a subscription and you gain access to a much bigger range; but for free, you still get an awful lot.

Amusingly, the app also offers options for staying inside the lines. By default, Pigment automatically detects what you’re trying to color and assists accordingly – but you can go fully manual if you wish!

Instapaper

It’s so easy to click links you plan to get to later, and at the end of the day realize you’re left with dozens of unread tabs. With Instapaper, such problems vanish.

The app is effectively time-shifting for the web. You load articles and it saves them for later. Even better, it strips cruft, leaving only the content in a mobile-optimized view ideal for iPhone. The standard theme is very smart, but can be tweaked, and there’s text-to-speech when you need to delve into your articles eyes-free.

Should you end up with a large archive, articles can be filtered or organized into folders. Want to find something specific? Full-text search has you covered. It’s all great – and none of it costs a penny.

Wikipedia

Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia is an app for browsing Wikipedia, the massive online encyclopedia that makes all paper-based equivalents green with envy. It’s the official app by Wikipedia and is easily the best free option, and only rivaled by one paid alternative we’re aware of (the rather fine V for Wikipedia).

Wikipedia gets the basics right: an efficient, readable layout; fast access to your browsing history; a home page full of relevant and potentially new articles. But it’s all the small things that really count.

Save an article for later and it’s also stored offline. Finding the text a bit small? You can resize it in two taps.

Also, if you’ve a fairly new iPhone, 3D Touch is well-supported: home screen quick actions provide speedy access to search and random articles; and when reading in the app, the Peek gesture previews a link, and an upwards swipe displays a button you can tap to save it for later.

Filmborn

Many apps attempt to emulate film stock, but most go for an over-saturated, larger-than-life take on old-school photography. By contrast, Filmborn is all about realism, arming you with tools to make you a better photographer.

The icon-heavy interface takes some getting used to; but once you know where everything is, Filmborn quickly replaces the stock camera app – or any other app you had previously favored. Much of this is down to features such as manual controls and a superb blown highlights preview, which covers problematic areas of your potential snap in red.

But it’s the filters that will most wow anyone keen on real-world stock. They’re few in number but extremely realistic, and Filmborn also assists regarding when to use them, thereby adding educational clout.

Beyond that, there’s an editor for making post-capture adjustments, and some pro-oriented features you can unlock using IAP, such as curves and multiple set-up slots. But even in its free incarnation, Filmborn is an essential download.

Round Health

You might not associate taking medication with a hip and cool iPhone, but technology can be a boon to anyone with such requirements. Round Health offers great pill tracking and dosage notifications – and it doesn’t do any harm that the app also happens to be gorgeous.

It’s split into three sections: in My Medicine, you add medications, and for each you can define a name, strength, individual doses, and schedules based around reminder windows of up to three hours. In Today, you view and log the day’s medication.

Flexible preferences enable you to set up cross-device sync, push notifications, and to export data — and reminding users to refill will be a real help too.

That the app is free is generous, given the job it does – and how well it does it. Also, the system is flexible enough that Round Health might work as a reminders system for other repeating tasks, albeit one in which jobs are labelled as ‘taken’ rather than ‘done’!

Firefox Focus

There are two sides to Firefox Focus – and both make it worth installing on your iPhone. The first is in providing you with an idiot-proof private browser, for when you don’t want to be tracked.

You type in a URL, visit whatever pages you like, and then tap erase to eradicate your session. (This is also suitable if someone else wants to quickly use your phone, negating anyone first having to sign out of services.) If you at any point want to jump over to Safari, you can do so by tapping a button.

However, Firefox Focus can also – with permission – integrate with Apple’s browser. What this means is you can block trackers that follow you around the web, analyzing your browsing history and serving ads. And if you’re on a poor cellular connection and finding sites loading slowly, Firefox Focus can block web fonts to improve performance.

It’s all very effective and simple to use. 

Productive

There are loads of to-do apps on the App Store, but Productive has a different goal: rather than having you merely tick items off of a list, it wants to encourage you to change your routines and habits.

You create habits within the app that are designed to be simple and assigned to a period of the day, making for straightforward but flexible planning.

Bright icons atop a deep gray background make your list simple to browse, and the calendar pages ensure tracking progress is a breeze. You can add iOS reminders to any item, too, although we preferred regularly visiting the app – a nice habit in itself.

For free, you’re limited to five ongoing habits, but that should make for a good start – and adding too many could make sticking to new routines less likely. However, if you hanker for unlimited habits, you can upgrade for a one-off $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99.

The Bohemian Rhapsody Experience

It’s safe to say that the original promotional video for Bohemian Rhapsody – which popularized the medium – is on the weird side, but it doesn’t compare to The Bohemian Rhapsody Experience.

This experiment by Google aims to send you on a journey through Freddie Mercury’s subconscious mind, and recreate the sensation of being on stage with the band.

With VR glasses strapping your iPhone to your face, the experience is at once deeply strange and excitingly varied. Wherever you look, something’s happening, whether on stage with a distinctly stylized animated take on the band, and then looking behind you to see the crowd, or standing before a rock face, watching singing creatures in the distance, only to peer down and see a stomach-churning chasm below.

Smartly, the app also works as a standard 360-degree video, which might not have the same immersive clout, but remains impressive all the same. 

Loop by Seedling

If you lack the patience for working with full-on stop motion apps, but nonetheless fancy yourself as a mini-Aardman, Loop by Seedling is just the ticket.

You shoot frames using your camera, and can handily overlay your previous photo in semi-transparent form, to ensure everything is properly lined up.

Once you’re done, you can play your photos as an animation, where tools are available to adjust the frame rate, add a filter, and mess about with grid collages, creating a Warhol-like animated GIF to share.

The interface is a bit opaque – quite a lot of controls need to be ‘discovered’ before you become comfortable with using this app.

But once you know where everything is, Loop becomes a smart and efficient way to create charming miniature animations; amusingly, it also works within Messages, so you can reply to friends with a tiny movie should you consider the written word passé.

Tinycards

From the brains behind game-like language-learning app Duolingo comes Tinycards. The aim is to enable people to memorize anything by way of friendly flashcard sets.

Duolingo itself offers a number of sets based around language, history and geography. Smartly, though, anyone can create and publish a set, which has led to hundreds of decks about all kinds of subjects, from renaissance art to retro computing.

The memorizing bit is based around minutes-long drills. You’re presented with cards and details to memorize, which the app then challenges you on, by way of typing in answers or answering multiple choice questions.

Some early teething problems with typos and abbreviations (for example, stating ‘USA’ was incorrect because ‘United States of America’ was the answer) have been dealt with by way of a handy ‘I was right’ button. Just don’t press it when you don’t really know the answer, OK?

FaceRig

Following in the footsteps of MSQRD, FaceRig enables you to embody a virtual character by controlling it with your face.

Everything happens entirely automatically – you just select a character and background, gurn into the camera, watch a seemingly sentient floating hamburger mirror your very expression, and have a little sit down to think about the terrifying advance of technology.

For those not freaked out by the hamburger to the point that they hurl their iPhones into the sea, FaceRig provides plenty of characters, unlocked using tokens earned through regular use or bought using IAP.

You can also snap and share photos of your virtual visage, or record entire videos where you pretend you’ve turned into a sentient goggles-wearing raccoon, an angry dragon or a slightly irritated-looking turkey.

Timeglass

When you see an app describe itself as a ‘workout and kitchen timer’, you might wonder what its developers get up to. («Well, that’s dinner sorted, time for some press-ups!») But Timeglass ably showcases how timers for cooking and exercise have plenty of overlap.

The app itself is extremely user-friendly. You get three types of timer — single-use, stopwatch, and reusable. The last of those can have one or more steps. This means you can, for example, devise an exercise routine, and Timeglass will methodically work its way through the steps, optionally barking each one’s name or playing an alert noise.

It’s a pity there’s no looping timer — that would enable Timeglass to assist with repeating workouts and run work/rest Pomodoro cycles. Otherwise, this is an excellent timer app, and it’s also properly free, entirely lacking IAP.

Quik

If you like the idea of editing home movies but are a modern-day being with no time or attention span, try Quik. The app automates the entire process, enabling you to create beautiful videos with a few taps and show off to your friends without needing talent — surely the epitome of today’s #hashtag generation.

All you need do is select some videos and photos, and choose a style. Quik then edits them into a great-looking video you can share with friends and family. But if your inner filmmaker hankers for a little more control, you can adjust the style, music, format and pace, along with trimming clips, reordering items, and adding titles to get the effect you desire.

Cementing its friendly nature, Quik offers a little pairs minigame for you to mess about with while the app renders your masterpiece. And there’s even a weekly ‘For You’ video Quik compiles without you lifting a finger.

BitCam

Unashamedly retro, BitCam is like shoving a Macintosh Plus into your iPhone’s camera. It snaps retro pixelated black and white photos, with dithering right out of Mac co-creator Bill Atkinson’s playbook. But what really sets BitCam apart is its authenticity. Tap the settings button and a window zooms in, using the same effect Mac old hands will remember from the 1980s.

Even the interface apes old-school Macs, from the checkboxes and OK button to the trashcan that appears after you take a photo.

There are, though, some concessions to post-1984 living: you can apply the effect to existing images through a Photos extension, and if you need a bit more colour in your life, a ‘Color Graphics Card’ is available as a one-off $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP.

Animatic

If you used to sit there at school, doodling flick-animation masterpieces in the corner of your jotter, Animatic is the iPhone equivalent. You use simple tools to scribble on a small canvas, and then build your animation frame-by-frame.

The app uses a basic onion-skin approach, meaning you can see the previous few frames faintly behind the current one, ensuring whatever you draw doesn’t lurch all over the place. Once you’re done, you can adjust the animation speed of your creation and export it to video or GIF.

Given that you’re scribbling with what amounts to the iPhone equivalent of felt pens, you won’t be crafting the next Pixar movie here. But Animatic is fun, a great way to get into animation, and a useful sketchpad for those already dabbling. The app also includes a bunch of demos, showcasing what’s possible with a little time, effort and imagination.

Hello Weather

There’s a tendency for weather apps to either bombard you with facts or try to be too clever with design Hello Weather, by contrast, simply wants to get you all the weather information you need, but nothing you don’t.

This focused approach doesn’t mean Hello Weather is an ugly app. On the contrary, it’s very smart, with a clean layout and readable graphs. Mostly, though, we’re fond of Hello Weather because it eschews complexity without limiting the information on offer.

The single-page view is split in three, covering current conditions, the next few hours, and the week’s forecast. If you need more detail, a swipe provides access to things like sunrise/sunset times for the current day, or written forecasts for the coming week.

The app doesn’t quite check off our entire wish-list — the lack of a rainfall radar (or at least a precipitation prediction graph for the coming hour) is a pity. But as a free no-fuss weather app, Hello Weather is hard to beat.

TodoMovies 4

With the vast range of movies available at any given time, keeping track of what you’d like to see and what you’ve watched already isn’t easy. TodoMovies 4 aims to simplify the process and aid discovery.

The app starts off with the discovery bit, having you check out lists that range from Academy Award nominees to those with the ‘greatest gun fights of all time’. Beyond this, you can browse by genre, explore upcoming films and what’s on in theatres, or perform a search for something specific.

Selecting a film loads artwork, and most have a trailer. Tap the big ‘+’ to add the current film to your To Watch list, which can be searched or browsed (alphabetically, by date added, or by release date).

Watched films can be removed or sent to your Watched list, whereupon they can be rated. This mix of focus and friendliness — along with some very smart design — makes this app a no-brainer download for movie buffs.

Google Maps

It’s no secret that Apple Maps doesn’t have the best reputation, although it has got better in recent times.

Fortunately, Google Maps is a free download, and a far better solution than the old Google Maps app as well, thanks to the inclusion of turn-by-turn navigation and — in some cities — public transport directions. Handily, it can also save chunks of maps for offline use — great when you’re heading somewhere with poor connectivity.

It’s an easy way to supercharge your iPhone’s mapping capabilities and one of the first apps you should grab for the iPhone 7.

Overcast

Sometimes with apps, it’s the seemingly little things that make a big difference. With Overcast, for example, you get a perfectly decent podcast app that does everything you’d expect: podcast subscriptions; playback via downloads or streaming; a robust search for new shows.

But where Overcast excels is in attempting to save you time and improve your listening experience. Effects (which can be assigned per-podcast) provide the smartest playback speed-up we’ve heard, voice boost for improving the clarity of talky shows, and smart speed.

The last of those attempts to shorten silences. You won’t use that setting for comedy shows, but it’s superb for lengthy tech podcasts. As of version 2.0, Overcast is free, and betters all the other iOS podcast apps that also lack a price tag. (Should you wish to support the app, though, there’s an entirely optional recurring patronage IAP.)

  • Now you’ve downloaded Overcast, check out our list of the best podcasts

Duolingo

We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop with Duolingo, but it seems this organisation really does want you to learn new languages entirely for free.

And it’s a fantastic app — fun, friendly, and packed with bite-sized quizzes that hold your interest and never become onerous. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to dabble in a bit of Spanish, French, German, Portugese, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish or even English!

Brushes Redux

Back in 2009, Jorge Colombo did some deft iPhone finger painting using Brushes, and the result became a New Yorker cover.

It was a turning point for iOS and suitably handy ammunition for tech bores who’d been drearily banging on about the fact an iPhone could never be used for proper work. The app sadly stagnated, but was made open source and returned as Brushes Redux.

Now free, it’s still a first-rate art app, with a simple layers system, straightforward controls, and a magnificent brush editor that starts you off with a random creation and enables you to mess about with all manner of properties, from density to jitter.

Sleep Cycle alarm clock

The science of sleep is something few people delve into. But you know some days that you wake up and feel awful, even if you think you’ve had a decent night’s sleep. Sleep Cycle might be able to tell you why. It analyses you while you sleep, using sound or motion, and provides detailed statistics when you wake.

Additionally, it’ll constantly figure out what phase of sleep you’re in, attempting to wake you at the best possible time, in a gentle, pleasing manner.

That probably all sounds a bit woo-woo, but here’s the thing: this app actually works, from the graphing bits through to helping you feel refreshed and relaxed on waking up.

Marvel

It’s interesting to see how far the App Store has come. Time was, Apple banned apps that gave you the chance to build prototypes. Now, Marvel is welcomed by Apple, and is entirely free.

Using the app, you can build on photographed sketches, Photoshop documents, or on-screen scribbles. Buttons can be added, and screens can be stitched together.

Once you’re done, your prototype can be shared. If you’re not sure where to start, check out existing prototypes made by the Marvel community.

Novation Launchpad

On the iPad, Novation Launchpad is one of the best music apps suitable for absolutely anyone. You get a bunch of pads, and tap them to trigger audio loops, which always sound great regardless of the combinations used. This isn’t making music per se, but you can get up a good head of steam while imagining yourself as a futuristic combination of electronic musician, DJ and mix genius.

On iPhone, it shouldn’t really work, the smaller screen not being as suited to tapping away at dozens of pads. But smart design from Novation proves otherwise. 48 trigger pads are placed front and centre, and are just big enough to accurately hit unless you’ve the most sausagey of sausage thumbs.

Effects lurk at the foot of the screen — tap one and a performance space slides in, covering half the screen, ready for you to stutter and filter your masterpiece.

As on the iPad, you can also record a live mix, which can be played back, shared and exported. This is a really great feature, adding optional permanence to your tapping exploits.

Splice

We’re big fans of iMovie. Apple’s video editor for iPhone is usable and powerful. In our lazier moments, we also really like Replay, which takes a bunch of videos and edits them on your behalf. But there are times when you hanker for a middle ground, and that’s where Splice fits in.

Getting started is simple — select some videos and photos to import (from your Camera Roll, or online sources like Facebook and Google Photos), along with, optionally, a soundtrack. Name your project, choose an orientation, and the app lays out your clips. These can be reordered by drag and drop, and transitions can be adjusted with a couple of taps.

If you want to delve deeper, individual clips can be trimmed and cut, and you can apply effects. Several filters are included, as is a speed setting, and the means to overlay text.

These tools perhaps won’t worry the Spielbergs of this world, but a few minutes in Splice can transform a few random iPhone clips into something quite special — and all without a price-tag or even any advertising.

Timehop

The nature of social media is it’s all about the ‘now’. With Timehop, you get the chance to revisit moments from this day, based around your online history.

The service connects to whatever accounts you allow it to, and then shows you what was happening in your world. It’s a simple concept that’s perfect for iPhone.

Find My Friends

AKA ‘Stalk My Contacts’, but Find My Friends does have practical uses: if you’re meeting a bunch of iPhone-owning friends and want to know where they’re at, for example, or for when wanting to check where your spouse is on the road, to see if it’s time to put the dinner in the oven/pretend to look busy when they walk through the door. (Or maybe that’s just what freelance tech writers do.)

It’s all opt-in, so you won’t be able to track your friends / be tracked without explicit consent, so you can rest easy once you start using it.

Skype

FaceTime is a great alternative to standard voice calls, but it’s no good if you’re trying to contact someone without a Mac or compatible iOS device. Therefore, Skype remains an essential download.

The interface is simple and usable (even if you get the distinct impression it desperately wants to be a Windows Phone app), enabling anyone with a Skype account to make free calls to other Skype users and cheap calls to anywhere in the world. If you’re on Pay and Go, this is particularly handy, but the app also enables iPod touch users to utilise their devices for calls.

Vidgets

A great many Today view widgets seem quite gimmicky, but Vidgets provides a great mix of monitoring and utility.

The standalone app enables you to add and organise the likes of world clocks, network indicators, and widgets outlining remaining space on your device. These are then immediately available in Notification Center.

Shazam

Shazam is an app that feels like magic when you first use it. It’s deceptively simple—hold your iPhone near to a music source, and wait while the app listens and tells you what track is playing.

But the sheer technology behind this simplicity is mind-boggling, and while Shazam doesn’t always guess right, it’s worth a download.

Yousician Guitar

For the most part, Yousician Guitar feels quite a lot like Guitar Hero, only you use a real guitar and the app is cunningly teaching you how to play it.

Things start with the absolute basics, but before you know it, you’re strumming and picking with the best of them. The app’s free, although with limited daily play time. Subscriptions enable you to learn more rapidly.

Google Translate

Google Translate is a bit like an insanely portable and entirely free gaggle of translation staff. When online, you can translate written or photographed text between dozens of languages, or speak into your device and listen to translations.

And for English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish (and back), the app will attempt to live-translate (even when offline) any text in front of the camera.

SkyScanner

Skyscanner’s a great website, which enables you to punch in airports and find out the cheapest way of getting from A to B.

The Skyscanner app is the same, but it’s on your device and with a spiffy AI. Well worth a download, even if only to check flights for an upcoming holiday.

Slack

The thinking behind Slack is to free teams from the drudgery of email. It’s essentially a real-time messaging system, where people have group conversations based around user-defined hashtags, or send private messages to one-another.

Support for inline images, videos and Twitter-like summaries boost pasted content, and the app integrates with cloud storage from the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive.

It’s worth noting that while Slack is clearly aimed at businesses, it works perfectly well as a means of communication for groups of friends who aren’t thrilled about storing their personal insights and details on Facebook.

Around Me

Around Me figures out where you are and lists local stuff — banks, bars, petrol stations and, er, Apple Retail Stores.

The app’s reliance on Google Maps info means there are gaps, but it’s nonetheless handy to have installed when in unfamiliar surroundings, and the ‘augmented reality’ landscape mode is amusing, if flaky.

XE Currency

XE Currency is a fine example of an app that does what it needs to, without fuss. You configure a list of currencies, and it shows current conversion rates.

Double-tap a currency to set its base rate or to define values for custom conversions.

TED

TED is brain food. The app provides access to talks by insanely clever people, opening your mind to new and radical ideas.

You can also save your favourite talks locally, for even easier access, or ask the app to inspire you, based on your mood and available time.

Gmail

«But Gmail works in Apple Mail,» you might say. And this is true, but it doesn’t work terribly well. For the best of Gmail, Google’s own offering is unsurprisingly the app to opt for.

The Gmail app provides a full experience, enabling you to search, thread, star and label items to your heart’s content — and is far better when your connection is patchy.

Vert S

We’re told the ‘S’ in Vert S stands for ‘speed’. This is down to the app being an efficient incarnation of the well-regarded Vert unit converter.

The older app had you browse huge category lists to pick what you need, but Vert S is keener on immediacy. There’s a search, but the app’s core is a Favorites page, where commonly used conversions are stored.

Tap one and you enter a basic calculator, enabling you to convert between your two chosen units, which can be quickly switched by tapping the Vert button. (Note that currencies are behind an IAP paywall — $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 for ‘Vert Pro’ — but conversions for other units are free.)

NASA App

You’ve got to hand it to NASA: in naming its app ‘NASA App’, you’re well prepared for a product bereft of elegance, and so it proves to be. This is a clunky app, with ugly graphic design, and that’s heavily reliant on you being online to download its content.

Oh, but what content! It’s the wealth of eye-popping imagery and exhaustive commentary that will keep anyone with an interest in space glued to their iPhone, devouring items by the dozen. The ‘Images’ section is particularly lovely, with a huge range of photos.

There are pictures of star clusters that look unreal, moody shots of planets and moons, and snaps of engineers doing clever things. These can all be rated, run as a slideshow, shared, or saved locally.

Elsewhere, you get a ton of informative and educational videos, guides to missions, news, and, slightly weirdly, access to NASA’s Twitter feed. And if you fancy turning your brain off for a bit, there’s a live feed from the ISS, the blue marble that is Earth slowly rolling underneath.

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