CARROT Weather rethinks weather apps, mostly in being helmed by an angry AI that seemingly won the ‘most likely to kill people in their sleep’ award over HAL. Sure, you get the usual rainfall warnings, hourly forecasts, and weekly outlooks, but they’re all delivered with a layer of snark.
Venture into the excellent Today view widget and CARROT will ‘LOL’ if it’s going to rain. If it’s sunny, she’ll hope you get tan lines, call you a meatbag, and suggest you make the most of the nice weather – “or else”.
It’s uniquely entertaining in its App Store category, but also usable, colorful, and configurable. The maps are poor (although they do house a secret locations game), and some useful settings lurk behind IAP, but otherwise this is one of the best – and certainly the most fun – weather apps for iPhone.
Pimp Your Screen
Pimp Your Screen is an app for customizing your iPhone. At its most basic, this means wallpaper. You select a category, swipe until you find something you like, tap to bring up a Home screen mock-up, and save the image to Photos when you’re done.
However, Pimp Your Screen goes further than its contemporaries in key ways. There’s a Themes section, which pairs matching lock and Home screen wallpapers. There are also ‘makers’ for both screen types, which enable you to combine components in a creative manner.
In the Lock Screen Maker, you can define a background, and add text. Swiping the status bar or clock adds a background for that area alone; swipe below the clock and a (static) calendar appears.
The Home Screen Maker adds a slew of virtual shelves and icon ‘skins’ to the status bar and page backgrounds. The results can vary from beautiful to eye-punchingly taste-free. Probably best if you try to veer toward the former.
Comic Zeal is the best comic reader for iPhone. There, we’ve said it. You import comics from cloud libraries or by dragging and dropping them to a special address in your web browser (sadly, there’s no local network drive access), whereupon they’re displayed as a grid or list.
Through slightly fiddly but powerful organizational tools, your collection can be categorized and tagged, making individual issues easy to access later.
The reading experience is the best bit, though. Whether you load a PDF, CBR or CBZ, Comic Zeal quickly renders pages. Page turn animations can be disabled, and you can use ‘assisted panning’ to efficiently read through zoomed pages that would otherwise be unreadable on an iPhone. There’s also a single tap button for switching between single pages and double-page spreads.
Ultimately, comics are still best read on a larger display, but Comic Zeal shows iPhones needn’t be left out when you’re on the move and want your next superhero or indie comic fix.
Pennies is all about managing your money. But whereas finance trackers have a tendency to be dry and complicated, Pennies goes for a much friendlier approach. Using the app’s colorful, straightforward interface, you can quickly and easily define new budgets around any kind of topic, and add or remove money from them.
Much of the app’s effectiveness lies in the way it encourages you to categorize your spending. Want to cut down on coffee? Create a ‘coffee’ category and get a monthly and daily budget, along with a visible reminder of when you can next spend.
Your entire history always remains available in an ongoing scrolling list, and because Pennies syncs across devices, your figures are readily available on iPad and Apple Watch too. In short, it’s the budget tracker for the rest of us.
Untitled rethinks screenwriting. Rather than you having to remember how to format your next Hollywood blockbuster, Untitled prioritizes you getting ideas down, through providing a helping hand regarding how your script should look.
This works by way of simple-to-remember shorthand, such as placing dialogue underneath a character’s name, or ‘>’ before a transition. The app’s also intelligent enough to reformat scene headers (intro/location/time) from plain English into the correct style.
On iPad, Untitled is a friendly screenwriting tool, but its relaxed, note-taking approach really feels at home on iPhone. It’s not a tool you’d likely use to fine-tune a fully polished screenplay, but it’s excellent for starting one – wherever and whenever inspiration strikes.
With its quippy slogan of ‘get drawn in’, Olli attempts to transform everyday moments from your photos into hand-drawn art.
You get a range of styles, some of which are more effective than others. A few let a little too much of the original image through, resulting in a strange concoction that combines photorealism and sketching. Others, though, work wonderfully, such as the scratchy black and white linework of ‘Salt’.
The app has its own camera, which can take stills or movies, the latter simply requiring you hold the shutter. It can also import directly from Camera Roll, whereupon you get an editor with sliders for brightness, contrast, shading, and detail.
Selecting a style in this mode is weirdly fiddly (you swipe between them, rather than getting the efficient thumbnails found in the camera mode), but otherwise Olli proves to be a usable, effective way of adding art and character to photographs.
AirPano City Book
You know you’re in for something special with AirPano City Book when you tap the virtual tome on your screen and it flips open to reveal a tiny New York that builds itself before your very eyes. Turn more pages and you get to check out miniature takes on Paris, Barcelona, and more. (A map provides faster access to each location, should you desire that later.)
On selecting a location, you’re treated to gorgeous panoramic photography you can swipe with a finger or explore by moving your iPhone around in front of your face.
We could do without the on-screen watermark, and the city ‘travel guides’ seem a bit tacked on and lightweight (although they do include smart tips, such as ‘best views’, ‘lifehacks’, and places the locals enjoy); but mostly this is a fantastic means of exploring and discovering amazing sights around the world in a new way.
There are plenty of apps that provide access to sunrise and sunset information, but none do so as stylishly as DayLight.
You can either have it figure out your current location, or tap in a specific city. On doing so, you’ll see a large clock covering all 24 hours, and a clear visual indication of when dusks and dawns arrive (and there are three of each: astronomical, nautical, and civil).
In portrait or landscape, DayLight’s great to look at. And although it might seem gimmicky, it has clear practical uses – if you’re a photographer and want to capture a certain kind of light, the best times are clearly visible; and if you like cycling but want to return before it gets dark, DayLight makes it easy to figure out optimal times.
The iPhone is well-served when it comes to podcast apps, and Pocket Casts has a decidedly premium and feature-rich feel.
Podcast discovery is straightforward, by way of search, charts, trends, networks, and categories. Organization is deftly dealt with, through customizable filters and the ability to download or stream.
Playback is also smart, including a speed boost function, silence-trimming for talky shows, and a volume boost for when listening in a noisy environment.
Naturally, there will be comparisons with Overcast, which is an excellent free app, with a similar feature set. For our money, Pocket Casts nudges ahead in terms of interface and usability, making it worth the outlay.
Pocket Casts also has the advantage of being available on a range of platforms – ideal if you also use Android and want to sync podcast subscriptions and listening progress between all your devices.
Space by Thix
What you get out of Space by Thix will likely depend on how you approach the app. If you’re looking for some kind of tool for exploring the cosmos, you need an astronomy app like Sky Guide or Redshift. But if you fancy noodling away at a tiny miniature universe you can build yourself, Space is ideal.
The app doesn’t hand-hold. Instead, you’re left to fend for yourself, figuring out the somewhat opaque interface, and dropping celestial bodies onto the screen. Over time, you figure out how they interact, and that, for example, dumping a massive black hole inside your otherwise happily swirling solar system probably isn’t going to do it much good.
Although flawed – your little planets mostly appear as tiny specs, and navigation is a touch clunky – there’s nonetheless something rather magical about having a tiny galaxy in the palm of your hand.
There are quite a few apps that attempt to automatically get rid of backgrounds from an image, or have you paint them out with a finger. Exacto, though – as its name might suggest – is all about precision.
Using the pen tool, you tap out a string of blue points on the screen, which map out the outline to mask. Any point’s position can be adjusted by selecting it and then dragging anywhere on the screen. Exacto places black points between the blue points, and these when selected bend the line, so you can create a curve with two blue points rather than dozens.
There’s unlimited undo, project auto-save, and a layers system for multiple selection. And although you might balk at the price for what’s effectively a single-feature app, Exacto is unparalleled at what it does on iPhone, and opens up scope for creative superimpositions and collages when using other creative software.
What kind of art do you think you can make from the humble rhombus? That’s the challenge you face when working with Isometric, which is – as its name suggests – designed for creating isometric artwork.
The app is very simple to use – you tap a rhombus to add it to the canvas, and can tap existing ones to rotate them. Shapes can be dragged together to make larger groups, and elements on the canvas can be colored and styled.
Isometric is especially well suited to abstract geometric art, and proves relaxing to use when stressed about the world and its problems.
But with a little planning, you can coax it towards more realistic, ambitious fare. Either way, the canvas can expand to a whopping 2048 x 2048, and you can export your angular masterpieces to Photos – or to vector formats with an additional IAP.
On the iPad, Graphic resembles a touchscreen take on desktop vector powerhouse Adobe Illustrator. You might think you’d need to be mad to try and squeeze that into an iPhone, but Indeeo has succeeded in fine style.
The app, equally happy in portrait and landscape, is initially set up for vector-based sketching, with you scribbling freehand lines that can subsequently be tweaked and edited. Smartly, the app always lets you know what’s going on under your finger, because Graphic shows that area elsewhere on the screen while you draw.
Delve deeper and you’ll find a shape library, Bézier curves, a layers system and everything else you need to craft illustrations and logos on your iPhone. It can be a touch fiddly at times, but the powerful zoom and general friendliness, of what’s a hugely powerful mobile app, help immeasurably.
There are plenty of apps that transform photos into personalized takes on works of art. Printed does something similar, but with vintage printed art. This means you can with a few taps turn a photo of a loved one into something resembling artwork that might once have graced a 1950s postcard or ancient theater poster.
You get a decent selection of filters, along with smartly considered additional tools for adjusting dot pitch, brightness, colors, and borders. These things add a personal touch sometimes missing from this kind of app.
The interface sometimes trips up – edits are weirdly done in a thumbnail overlapping your current image, which makes it hard to see what’s going on until the edit is expanded. But Printed is nonetheless a great buy, especially if the novelty’s gone in turning your photos into pseudo-Munchs and Picassos.
There are two sides to Hipstamatic. In its ‘native’ form, the app apes old-school point-and-click cameras. You get a tiny viewport inside a virtual plastic camera body, and can swap out lenses, film, and flashes, along with messing about with multiple exposures and manual shutters. It’s pleasingly tactile and twangs your nostalgia gland, but feels a bit cramped.
If you’d rather use your entire iPhone display to show what you’re snapping, you can switch to a ‘pro’ camera mode. That’s closer in nature to Apple’s own Camera, but with Hipstamatic’s huge range of rather lovely filters bolted on – a great mash-up of old and new.
And if you’re wedded to Apple’s camera, Hipstamatic’s still worth a download, given that you can load a photo, slather it in filters, add loads of effects and bask in your creative genius.
Space by Tinybop
The eighth release in the popular educational Explorer app library, Space by Tinybop is all about exploring the cosmos, fiddling about with the major components of the solar system.
On creating a profile, you launch a little spaceship, choose a planet, and start messing around, with an emphasis on play rather than dry facts and figures. To compare the mass of planets, you pop them on a weighing scale. Size comparisons are done by dropping planets into adjacent circles, whereupon they resize accordingly.
Elsewhere, you can peek inside celestial bodies, but the app would sooner have you hurl a piano into Jupiter’s Great Red Spot storm, just to see what will happen.
So this isn’t the place to learn that Saturn takes over 29 years to journey around the Sun; but Space is the kind of app that might whet appetites to the point those using it want to find out more.
The idea of tapping out your next novel on an iPhone might seem mad, but if you’re armed with an iPhone Plus and a small portable keyboard, why not add to your potential bestseller when you’ve the odd spare moment?
Storyist is designed to transform your iPhone into a powerful writing environment. Efficiency is the app’s watchword from the off, with excellent templates that provide a document structure ready for input, including example pages so you can see how things work.
When typing away, you’ll appreciate the custom keyboard bar that makes it a cinch to navigate on-screen and adjust text styles. Impressively, the app also integrates the kind of index cards seen in Scrivener (but absent from its iPhone version), so you can get a high-level view of your work, and quickly rearrange your story whenever needed.
Head back to the 1980s and pixel art was just, well, art. Computer graphics were chunky due to technological limitations, not because of the aesthetic desires of creatives. Nonetheless, for a mix of reasons – nostalgia, primarily – pixel art remains popular in illustration and videogames.
On iPhone, Pixure is a great app for dabbling with pixel art. Along with prodding individual pixels using a pencil tool, there’s a neat flood fill option and shape tools too. Layers provide scope for more complex art, as does the option to import an image from elsewhere as a starting point.
There’s no lock-in either: you can export to a range of formats to share your miniature masterpiece, or work on it further elsewhere.
For many people, Overcast is king of the podcast apps, but Castro has a key feature that could find it ousting the aforementioned favorite from many home screens: episode triage.
In use, the system works a lot like email: new podcasts show up in your inbox, you fling those you’re interested in to the top or bottom of a queue, and dump the rest in a searchable archive. For those podcasts where you must listen to every episode, they can be queued by default.
This is smart, saving you time and effort, and the archive works brilliantly, too, providing speedy access to older episodes.
Elsewhere, Castro is perhaps more ordinary, with functional podcast discovery, a dull playback interface, and basic effects that don’t match Overcast’s voice boost and smart speed. But for managing and prioritizing what you listen to, Castro can’t be beaten.
Stephen Hawking’s Pocket Universe
One of the things the iPad’s been really great at – with the right app installed – is making science approachable. But Stephen Hawking’s Pocket Universe is, in many ways, more ambitious than iPad tomes.
That’s because it attempts to bring accessibility to Stephen Hawking’s phenomenal work on mind-bending topics such as space-time and the expanding universe — and squeeze everything into the much smaller screen of an iPhone.
Given such weighty subject matter, this is a surprisingly friendly digital book, broken down into easily digestible, bite-sized sections. Throughout, the app playfully animates, filling your screen with color and using illustration to aid understanding of the text.
Naturally, there’s still the possibility of bafflement, but the app helpfully tracks what you’ve read, and is perfect brain food for filling journeys on the bus in a manner mindlessly scrolling through social feeds can never hope to compete with.
You can of course use a wide range of apps for storing real-world scribbles – photograph a journal page and you can fling it at the likes of Evernote, say. But Carbo tries something more ambitious. Your sketches and notes are cleaned up, and converted to vectors, while preserving your original stroke.
What this means is that images within Carbo retain the character of your penmanship, but are also editable in a manner standard photographs are not – you can select and move specific elements that Carbo intelligently groups, adjust line thicknesses throughout the entire image, add annotations and tags, and export the result to various formats.
It’s a friendly, intuitive app to work with, and efficient, too – a typical Carbo note requires only a tenth of the storage as the same image saved as a standard JPEG photo.
From a functionality standpoint, Living Earth is a combination clock/weather app. You define a bunch of cities to track, and switch between them to see current time, weather conditions, and when the sun’s going to make an appearance and vanish for the day.
Tapping the forecast quickly loads an outlook for the entire week; prod the clock and you’ll get the weather and time in each of your defined locations.
What sets Living Earth apart, though, is the globe at the screen’s centre. This provides a live view of the planet’s weather — clouds, by default, which can be swapped for temperature, wind and humidity.
We like the clouds most, along with the way the virtual planet can be slowly spun with the slightest swipe. It’ll then lazily rotate between zones in daylight and those lit up after night has fallen.
With virtual assistants like Siri, technology companies are betting hard on a hands-free, voice-controlled future for software. But eyes-free is also an interesting area of exploration. LeechTunes is designed for controlling music playback without you looking at your iPhone, largely by utilising the entire display for gestural input.
This kind of interaction can be handy when driving — skip a track by quickly swiping the screen of a docked iPhone; it’s also useful when exercising (or anywhere noisy), since you can switch playlists without talking to or looking at your iPhone.
The app provides 15 configurable options in all, and there’s also a handy sleep timer buried away in the settings. One niggle is you’ll need to fire up tunes in Music if you don’t have files stored on your iPhone, but LeechTunes can subsequently ably take over.
On the desktop, Scrivener is popular with writers crafting long-form text. On iPad, the app is — amazingly — barely altered from the PC and Mac release; but Scrivener on iPhone is a slightly different prospect.
That’s not to say this isn’t a feature-rich and highly capable product. You still get a solid rich-text editing environment and a ‘binder’ to house and arrange documents and research, before compiling a manuscript for export.
What you lose on the smaller screen is those features that require more space: a two-up research/writing view; the corkboard for virtual index cards.
But Scrivener is still worth buying — although you’re unlikely to write an entire screenplay or novel on an iPhone, you can use the app to take notes, make edits, and peruse your existing work, wherever you happen to be.
If you like the idea of editing home movies but find the thought daunting or lack time, try Quik. The app essentially automates the entire process, enabling you to create beautiful videos with a few taps.
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 Spielberg hankers for a little more control, you can adjust the style, music, format and pace, along with trimming clips, reordering items, and adding titles.
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.
On iOS, astronomy apps tend to be about gazing from Earth to the heavens, but Cosmic-Watch instead has you peering at the Earth and explore its relationship with time and the cosmos.
The default view is a clock that surrounds the planet like Saturn’s rings. You can pinch and drag to zoom and spin the planet, and the app enables you to save multiple locations to snap to via a tap. Elsewhere, you can overlay constellations and astral charts, and experiment with a digital model of the solar system.
A neat additional feature is time travel. Tap the clock icon and you can fast-forward your view. This is particularly lovely in the model, which when running sufficiently quickly (say, a month per second) leaves wiggly trailing paths from planets as they make their way around the sun.
Apps are transforming the way many people learn to play instruments. Capo touch is a case in point, attempting to simplify the process of figuring out songs loaded on to your iPhone.
At its most basic, Capo will slow down a song without changing its pitch, along with looping user-defined sections, thereby helping you figure out riffs and chord progressions. You can also tweak the settings to try and isolate important instruments.
The magical bit, though, is chord detection, which tries to supply chords for any song you load. Capo doesn’t always succeed, but during testing we found its hit rate was fairly high, and whenever it errs, you can always replace Capo’s choice with an alternative.
There are loads of camera apps for iPhone, broadly offering the same kind of pro-level controls: manual focus and ISO; white balance; zoom; levels; filters; grids. Obscura Camera is in this respect more of the same, but what makes it worthy of consideration is its really smart interface.
Next to the shutter are big ‘expose’ and ‘focus’ buttons, for locking each feature. Above, chunky ISO and shutter buttons beg to be tapped, and can be quickly swapped out for a raft of other controls. Want a different filter? Just swipe across the main viewfinder area.
The result is an iPhone camera that boasts the kinds of features its rivals have, but that obliterates them in terms of usability. It’s a properly one-thumb-controllable app, focussed on quick access to features, dispensing with the needlessly fiddly controls found in many of its contemporaries.
Using a phone while driving is not a smart thing to do. Even when your iPhone’s parked in a dock, app interfaces are typically too fiddly to use without your eye straying from the road for far too long. This is where Open Road comes in.
The app enables you to create a custom screen of big tappable buttons that trigger important actions, such as firing up a favourite playlist or calling a specific contact.
It also boasts a number of eyes-free gestural commands, voice control (occasionally flaky, but useful when it works), a car finder (so you don’t lose your car when parking somewhere new), and a drive recorder, in case you’re involved in an accident.
In a sense, Open Road is a veritable grab-bag of car-oriented goodies, all wrapped up in a clean, efficient interface that ensures the app is best-in-class.
- From free
There are quite a few apps that let you add text to images, but whenever we stray, Over always manages to drag us back. The app’s playful interface is fun to work with, but also it’s quite powerful. Import a photo and you can overlay multiple layers of text, artwork and further images, all of which can be edited and rearranged at any point.
This isn’t an app for super-crazy adjustments, though. Instead, it’s focussed and classy — perfect for adding some beautiful typography with a subtle drop shadow, thereby creating a birthday card, watermarking a favourite photo, or fashioning wallpapers with text for a loved one.
In these days of flashy news apps like Flipboard, old-school RSS readers get something of a bad reputation. But there’s something really handy about subscribing to your favourite sites, and knowing you’ll get every article delivered in chronological order, for you to pick through at leisure.
On the iPhone, Reeder 3 remains an excellent app for browsing and reading feeds. The interface is straightforward, and a built-in Readability view enables you to quickly load the text and images from feeds that only otherwise supply you with brief synopses.
If you’ve got an iPhone that supports 3D Touch, you can use that for article previews in the articles list.
Something that’s starting to grate about camera apps is they want to be everything. They bombard you with features and filters to the point they’re all looking very samey. SKRWT bucks the trend with an almost razor-sharp focus — it exists to fix problems in iPhone photography caused by the wide-angle lens sitting inside your device.
For the most part, then, SKRWT is all about dealing with lens distortion. With a single swipe, you can correct horizontal and vertical perspective distortion, or eradicate extreme effects from images taken using a fisheye lens or GoPro.
Elsewhere, vignettes can be added or removed, and auto-cropping attempts (mostly successfully) to give you a nicely finished photo that takes into account your various edits.
This isn’t the most immediate of apps, but learn how to use SKRWT’s tools and you’ll discover it’s hugely effective at making seemingly subtle changes to digital snaps that make a world of difference, especially with cityscapes.
Photoshop is so ingrained in people’s minds when it comes to image editing that it’s become a verb. Oddly, though, Adobe’s largely abandoned high-end mobile apps, choosing instead to create simpler ‘accessories’ for the iPhone and iPad, augmenting rather than aping its desktop products. Valiantly filling the void is Pixelmator, a feature-rich and truly astonishing mobile Photoshop.
It’s packed full of tools and adjustment options, and works well whether you’re into digital painting or creating multi-layered photographic masterpieces. On iPhone, Pixelmator’s naturally a bit cramped compared to using the app on iPad, but at the price it remains an insanely great bargain.
It’s no secret just how badly Apple’s own mapping app performs, although it has got better post-iOS 6.
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. 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.
On the iPad, one of the best things about Procreate is its smart, efficient interface that gets out of your way as you’re working on your next digital masterpiece. If anything, this design ethos is even more successful in Procreate Pocket on the iPhone.
Across the top of the screen is the toolbar, providing fast access to brushes, smudging, an eraser, layers, and adjustment tools. At the screen edges are two handles for quickly changing the size and opacity of your brush.
Although the kind of app actual artists are likely to get the most out of, Procreate’s friendliness is such that it’s a great place to start dabbling in digital painting. You can even record the creation of your masterpiece and share it as a 1080p video.
Pre-conceived ideas about what an app should be can stifle innovation, and so it’s interesting to see Proud cheerily elude the drudge-like appointment-making evident in most list-based organisers.
Instead, you figure out what you want to do (adding sub-tasks as appropriate), assign vague deadlines (‘tomorrow’, ‘next week’) for your more pressing tasks, and gleefully mark things as done when they’re completed.
Fittingly, the app splits its workflow into three distinct tabs: Lists, Reminders and History. Pleasingly, each has a hidden ‘superpower’ mini-app to further improve your life.
Lists offers a breathing exercise for reducing stress; Reminders has a Pomodoro timer and utterly brilliant ‘give me more time’ button that shunts every task with a due date on a few hours, a day, or a week; and History delves into your completed tasks, so you can see what you achieved weeks or months ago.
If you live and die on traditional calendars, where every hour must be accounted for, Proud isn’t for you. But if your life is a touch more vague or relaxed regarding scheduling, Proud will take advantage to the point you’ll consider it as revolutionary as when you first experienced a digital calendar.
My Very Hungry Caterpillar
If you’ve been around young children for any length of time, there’s no escaping The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
That greedy larva seems to hypnotise tiny people, gluing them to whatever format it appears in, be it book or TV animation. There have been apps, too, but those we’ve seen before have disappointed. My Very Hungry Caterpillar, though, is a new take on the character, turning it into a kind of virtual pet.
Children familiar with the source material will watch happily as fruit they pluck from trees is quickly munched by the wriggly protagonist, but this app has far more to offer.
Gradually, it opens up all kinds of activities, such as growing a garden, playing with a ball, making art by getting messy with paints, and having fun on a pond. The app changes with the seasons, and so in winter the caterpillar gets to gleefully slide across frozen water, but in warmer months goes sailing.
It’s all very charming and adorable, along with being entirely without risk — there’s no way to off the little blighter. It’s also finite: the little caterpillar grows fat and eventually becomes a butterfly, at which point a new egg appears to start the cycle again.
And if we’re being honest, there’s something quite cathartic in seeing the little chap through this journey, to the point we imagine quite a few adults will sneakily launch the app for a while when their child’s asleep.
For most kids, plastic keyboards and annoyingly loud toy drums are a typical starting point in music, but Loopimal ambitiously attempts to introduce children to the concept of computer sequencing. Fortunately, it does so by way of highly animated dancing cartoon animals, bright shapes, and plenty of flair.
Hit play and you’re immediately shown an animal bobbing its head to a backing track. You then drag coloured pieces (from a selection of five) into eight empty slots. When the playhead moves over the shapes, the animal adds its own sounds and melodies, often while performing impressive gymnastic feats.
It’s Loopimal’s character that initially wins you over. Unless you’re dead inside, you won’t fail to crack a smile when an octopus starts playing funky basslines with its tentacles, or the percussive Yeti gets all stompy. Smartly, once the player clocks how Loopimal works, the screen can be split into two or four, to combine animals and their unique sounds.
The one big miss is the inability to save your compositions, but every Loopimal riff is in C-major; this means you can use just the white notes on nearby keyboards to play along with whatever madness is happening inside the app.
Although Apple introduced iCloud Keychain in iOS 7, designed to securely store passwords and payment information, 1Password is a more powerful system. Along with integrating with Safari, it can be used to hold identities, secure notes, network information and app licence details. It’s also cross-platform, meaning it will work with Windows and Android.
And since 1Password is a standalone app, accessing and editing your information is fast and efficient. The core app is free – the company primarily makes its money on the desktop. However, you’ll need a monthly subscription or to pay a one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 IAP to access advanced features (multiple vaults, Apple Watch support, tagging, and custom fields).
There may come a time in the distant future when Twitter’s own app is our favourite (or Twitter bans third party clients entirely), but until then, there’s Tweetbot. This latest version builds on its predecessor, with an elegant interface fit for iOS underpinned by plenty of power-user features.
There’s a landscape mode and a second column for iPhone 6S/7 Plus users, granular mute settings, support for optional content blockers in the browser view, and new Activity and Statistics tabs. Twitter might greedily block access to a handful of its newest toys, but Tweetbot’s efficiency and power means we won’t defect just yet.
Should you find yourself in one of the supported cities (including Paris, London, New York and Berlin), you’ll be grateful to have Citymapper on your iPhone — assuming you don’t want to get lost.
The app finds where you are and then gets you from A to B, whether you want to walk, grab a taxi, or use public transport (for which live times are provided).
There are quite a few apps for virtual stargazing, but Sky Guide is the best of them on iOS. Like its rivals, the app allows you to search the heavens in real-time, providing details of constellations and satellites in your field of view (or, if you fancy, on the other side of the world).
Indoors, it transforms into a kind of reference guide, offering further insight into distant heavenly bodies, and the means to view the sky at different points in history. What sets Sky Guide apart, though, is an effortless elegance. It’s simply the nicest app of its kind to use, with a polish and refinement that cements its essential nature.
- $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 or free with new devices
Camera enables you to do the odd bit of cropping with video files, but iMovie is an audacious attempt to bring a full video editor to your iPhone, infused with the ease-of-use its desktop counterpart is renowned for. Amazingly, it succeeds. Effects, themes, credits and soundtrack creation then provide extra polish for your mobile filmmaking.
Transmit is a missing link for anyone who wanted a file manager for their iPhone. It might have roots in an Mac FTP client, but Transmit also integrates with cloud storage and local networked Macs. It’s perfect for moving documents, renaming files, and creating archives to email or upload.
Every iteration of the iPhone has a superior camera to the previous model, and so it’s only right an enterprising developer came out with an app that can turn your crisp and beautiful snaps into something that you might once have seen on an ancient computer.
In Retrospecs, then, you load your photo, select a system, mess about with dither styles, filters and cropping, and bask in retro glory. A wide range of creaky old computers and consoles is covered, so you should be set whether you were into the C64, Spectrum, SNES, or, er, Mattel Aquarius. (C’mon there must be at least one of you who had the last of those?)
- $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 or free with new devices
Apple’s GarageBand remains an impressive, ambitious app, turning your iPhone into a recording studio. For beginners, there’s a range of smart instruments, making it easy to learn the basics of songwriting and chord progression. You can also experiment with pre-recorded loops, including in the loop player, where you trigger riffs and drum beats with a tap of your fingers.
If you’re already a musical sort, GarageBand enables you to write directly into a sequencer or record any instrument live. The app can also act as a kind of hub for other iOS music software, tying your apps together through Inter-App Audio and Audiobus.
Workflow is all about automation. You can download sets of actions or compose your own, which can trigger iOS apps and related services. For example, you could create a Home screen icon to call a friend, or build a single-tap icon to get directions to your nearest coffee shop.
The revamped Google Translate is an astonishing app. When online, it’ll translate written, photographed or spoken text between a huge range of languages. And for English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish (and back), the app will try to live-translate whatever’s in front of your iPhone’s camera — even when you’re offline.
Now as synonymous with mobile exercise as Nike+, RunKeeper is an excellent app, backed by a robust social infrastructure. Using your iPhone’s GPS, you can track exercise routes and then share activities with friends. IAP subscriptions are available for ‘elite’ users, and are ad-free and offer real-time sharing.
TunnelBear Free VPN
For free, TunnelBear VPN gives you 500 MB of private browsing that can worm its way around geo-locking. All you do is fire the app up and tell the bear where to tunnel. If you want unlimited data, you can choose from a range of paid tiers, with ad-hoc, monthly or annual costs.