Best free iPhone apps 2016
There are now hundreds of thousands of apps available for your
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.
Whatever bank you’re with PayPal has you covered for mobile banking and it’s a pretty solid performer.
You can manage your account on the go, send and receive money and find local businesses using PayPal Here, so you can pay for stuff without cash. Nifty.
The App Store has so many to-do apps that it’s in severe danger of tipping over, due to the sheer weight of digital checkboxes, but Wunderlist is one of the very few that really stands out.
The interface is very usable, and the app’s ability to seamlessly sync across devices and platforms makes it a great download.
This one falls under ‘essential’ rather than ‘amazing’. If you’ve turned on two-step verification on your Google account, chances are it’ll regularly ask for a code. You can get this sent to you via SMS, but it’s much less hassle to have Google Authenticator instead provide the numbers to type in.
Safari’s a perfectly decent web browser on the iPhone, but Chrome has a couple of particular advantages.
First, the card-like tabbing system (technically unlimited, but Chrome does tend to get a bit crashy if you open too many) is really very nice indeed; secondly, you can send tabs to your iPhone from the desktop version of Chrome.
Photo Editor by Aviary
Another image editor, but Photo Editor is a good ‘un. The interface is clear, and it contains all the tools you’d expect: filters, enhancements, cropping, and the ability to fire that picture of your frothy coffee/amusing dog/current skyline to Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter.
“But Gmail works in Apple Mail,” you might say. And this is true, but it doesn’t works really 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.
With weather apps, you’re frequently forced to choose between lashings of data or something that looks lovely. Yahoo! Weather combines both, offering a stunning interface that also happens to be rich with information. The maps are a touch weak, but other than that, this is an essential weather app.
Such is the nature of social networks and online media that Vine‘s 15 minutes might have passed by the time you read this. Still, the app is a great way to rifle through the many thousands of six-second videos people have uploaded to the service.
Long-time internet users frequently dwell on what might have been regarding Flickr. It should have the ubiquity of Facebook, but seemingly missed the mobile boat. Still, Yahoo! now has new leadership and if apps like Flickr are any indication of what’s to come, the service might get a second wind.
We keep hearing about how important coding will be to the future of everything. That’s all very well, unless code makes about as much sense to you as the most exotic of foreign languages.
The idea behind Lrn is to gently ease you in. Through friendly copy and simple quizzes, you gradually gain confidence across a range of languages.
The rules have changed when it comes to modern media. Pretty much anyone can do it, but there’s much more out there. Also, unless you’ve loads of spare time and a hobbyist mentality, chances are what you love isn’t what you’re being paid for. That’s where Patreon can help.
People who make stuff get direct access to the fans who fund them; and everyone else gets access to loads of really interesting projects.
The app’s a typically mobile ‘discovery and interaction’ tool, for the most part, enabling you to search Patreon, find new things, and post comments and notifications.
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.
You might get the sense that GPS trackers are all very much alike, and there’s some truth in that. But we nonetheless reckon Runtastic is worth installing, on the basis that it’s nicely designed, frequently updated, and quite generous with its free tier.
The app tracks your movements, calculating distance, speed, pace and calories burned. For free, you get a map view of your run, charts (speed, elevation and heart rate), access to your training history, and the means to manually add activities.
You can even have other users cheer you on. Splash out for ‘pro’ and you can add routes, voice coaches, smartwatch connectivity and more; but as a starting point, the free app gets you moving.
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 — $1.99/£1.49 for ‘Vert Pro’ — but conversions for other units are free.)
A great many iPhone cookery apps make the mistake of aping cookbooks a little too closely. You tap a recipe, only to get a set of steps, rendered in tiny, barely readable text.
Kitchen Stories is different. From the off, the app dazzles your eyes (and tempts your tastebuds) with stunning photography. Better: open a recipe and you’ll find handy step-by-step photo instructions and typography that you don’t have to squint at.
Not sure about some of the basics of cooking? The app’s got you covered there, too, with a selection of HD video guides.
Developer Pixite is best known for its eye-popping filter apps, and so Assembly was quite the surprise. The app is all about building vector art from shapes.
Individual components are dropped on to the canvas, and can then be grouped or have styles applied. It feels a bit like the iPhone equivalent of playing with felt shapes, but you soon realise that surprisingly complex compositions are possible, not least when you view the ‘inspirations’ tab or start messing about with the ‘remix’ projects.
For free, you get loads of stuff to play with, but inexpensive IAP unlocks all kinds of bundles with new themed shape sets to explore.
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.
Apple’s Music Memos is all about getting music ideas down — fast. You launch the app, hit record, play your guitar or piano, and your riff is safely recorded, rather than vanishing from your head the moment you see something vaguely interesting outside.
Smartly, the app provides additional toys to experiment with. There’s a tuner, and during playback, you can add automated electronic bass and drumming. The virtual instruments attempt to match tempo and energy with whatever you recorded (and with some success, although more complex inputs can confuse this feature to an amusing degree).
Music Memos also tries to transcribe the chords being played; its accuracy is questionable beyond the basics, but not bad as a trigger when you later want to learn how to play your own spark of inspiration.
Usefully, you can fling recordings at GarageBand and Logic (bass and drums going along for the ride as separate tracks).
Less usefully, you can sing into the app, and still add bass, drums and chord transcription, for some kind of madcap tech-based cacophony of awfulness that we felt entirely compelled to try in the name of a thorough review. Expect our effort to (not) trouble the charts shortly.
The Weather Underground app (or ‘Wunderground’ to your iPhone, which sounds like an oddly dark Disney film) is one of those products that flings in everything but the kitchen sink yet somehow remains usable.
Whatever your particular interest in the weather, you’re covered, through a slew of ’tiles’ (which can be moved or disabled to suit) on a huge scrolling page.
At the top, you get a nicely designed tile detailing current conditions and showing a local map. Tick and cross buttons lurk, asking for input regarding the app’s accuracy. During testing, we almost always tapped the tick — reassuring.
Scroll, though, and you find yourself immersed in the kind of weather geekery that will send meteorological nuts into rapture. There are rainfall and temperature graphs for the next day and hour, along with simpler forecasts for the week.
You get details on humidity, pressure and dew point. Sunrise, sunset and moon timings are presented as stylish animations. You can investigate local and global webcams and photos, and then head to the web if not satisfied with that deluge of data.
Weather Underground is funded by non-intrusive ads (which you can disable annually for $1.99/£1.49 if you feel the need), and is easily our favourite free iPhone weather app; in fact, it even rivals the best paid fare on the platform.
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.
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.