Apple's latest iPhones certainly impress, with their more powerful processors and camera enhancements. But it's more than just hardware that defines Apple's smartphones — the iPhone experience is also greatly enhanced by the apps you can install on your device. It's not hard to find great lists of the best iOS apps to load into your iPhone and iPad, if you want to load up on crowd favorites such as Facebook, Instagram or Spotify. But the App Store also includes a wealth of apps that might not have gotten any widespread accolades.
We searched through the App Store to bring you more hidden gems — the best iOS apps that don't always get a lot of attention or headlines, but deliver great utility, interesting new features or fantastic experiences to your iPhone or iPad. Whether you're picking up one of the new iPhones or just want to freshen up your current model before iOS 13 arrives this fall, give some of these overlooked iOS apps a try.
Drafts 5 (Free)
Agile Tortoise makes a mean note-taking and quickfire writing app with the aptly named Drafts, now in its fifth iteration. Fire Drafts up, and the app throws you a quick blank page with keyboard at the ready. New entries and notes get placed into an Inbox so you can tag and sort them later. Alternatively, you can use any of the dozens of useful quick actions and app integrations to turn your jotted-down text notes into documents, tweets, social media notes, emails or messages, while Inboxed notes can be tagged for sorting, flagged for importance, or archived. The text editor itself is highly customizable, allowing you to tweak everything from spacing to line heights and margins. A premium subscription lets you add and edit quick actions; it also adds themes and icons while introducing workspaces and other handy productivity features.
If you do a lot of traveling, you need Hopper on your iPhone. Sure, the app will let you look up airfares and hotel rates. But Hopper's really power lies in its ability to predict future discounts. Enter where you're traveling from and where your headed to, and Hopper gives you a color-coded calendar showing when's the best time to go. Select the date you have in mind, and Hopper will tell you if the rate is good or not — and more importantly, when it might rise or fall. Hopper's a must-have app if you want to stretch your travel budget farther.
Notion aims to be your personal and team productivity hub, allowing users to create private or shared workspaces where they can then add versatile "blocks" that act like text snippets, bookmarks, images, toggle links, files, code snippets or discussion sections. As a result, you can easily customize your workspace, and it's also easy to drag and drop individual blocks of content to where you need them without disrupting an entire document. Whether you're taking notes, crunching spreadsheets, or assembling a Kanban board, Notion's powerful building blocks make things a snap to set up. The free version of Notion allows you to save and sync up to 1,000 blocks of content, while premium plans remove content limits and add admin tools, permission settings, and other features, depending on which tier you opt for.
If you're not impressed with the sparse look of the built-in Reminders app on your iPhone, you can adopt a more modern look by turning to Memento. This app gives you a choice between a traditional vertical view of upcoming to-dos and a more visually pleasing grid look. The app also appears as a Widget on iOS 12's Today screen, and a For You tab helpfully provides an at-a-glance look at your most important reminders. A share extension even lets you create reminders from other apps. And don't worry about leaving existing reminders behind — Memento syncs with Apple's app so those existing to-dos are waiting for you when you set up your new app.
1Blocker X ($4.99)
1Blocker was one of the first really good ad blockers on iOS when Apple opened up that functionality on iPhones and iPads, and 1Blocker X is a full-on overhaul optimized for Safari. The app is designed to make browsing faster and more secure by blocking ads, popups, trackers and other online cruft. Rather than blocking content of a downloaded page, 1Blocker works with Safari's content blocker API to tell the browser what to block in advance, saving time and resources. 1Blocker X features more than 115,000 blocker rules, custom regional ad blocking settings, and easy-to-use custom rules settings.
iTranslate Converse ($4.99/mo)
An Apple Design Awards winner, iTranslate Converse is a more nimble version of iTranslate's mobile app, focused entirely on two-way voice translation for 38 different languages, with automatic language detection. Speak into the phone mic, and the app quickly translates your speech into your selected language, complete with text and audio. Then, it's ready to listen for an answer and translate to the first language you used, and provide text transcripts. Converse's main virtue is its ease of use, with a simple interface and few extras to get in the way. The app subscriptions start at $4.99 per month, with a free 7-day trial.
Unfold provides a clean and easy-to-use creative tool that focuses on creating slick and polished Instagram Stories-ready presentations. Download the app, and you'll get an arsenal of sleek and elegant templates that you can apply to your photos. It's a no-guff approach that focuses on the simple and stylish, eschewing the wacky for the elegant, with 25 free templates and fivefonts, applicable on photo and video presentations; even more are available as in-app purchases.
The old-fashioned pen-pal gets a modern take with Slowly, a social app that's intended for a slower, more deliberate messaging experience that might otherwise get lost in our modern age of instant gratification. Users set up a simple profile with an avatar, location and a list of interests; Slowly will then match you with users with similar interests. Unlike traditional messaging apps, Slowly adds a time delay element to your messages, encouraging longer-form writing at a more deliberate pace. In addition, the app has a stamp collection feature, with each message coming with stamps based on the sender's location, as well as special seasonal stamps or premium ones available as in-app purchases. You can also share a limited number of photos per day if your pen friend has agreed to receive them.
Serial Box (Free)
Instead of paying out for a complete ebook or audiobook, Serial Box gives you the option of buying or subscribing to shorter, episodic content in bite-sized chunks of novels that are perfect for your commute or break time. Serial Box offers a range of genres, from drama to fantasy and sci-fi, with the first episode free and subsequent episodes costing $1.99 — that includes both text and audio versions. You can get the full story at a discount via a season pass. With offerings such as “The Witch Who Came In From The Cold”, “Bookburners” and “Tremontaine” and a highly configurable reader and audiobook player mode, Serial Box is an interesting take on digital books.
Why spend a ton of money on ebooks if your local library already has a digital media lending system? Libby is the latest incarnation of Overdrive's popular digital media management system, allowing users to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from participating libraries. Simply sign in with your library card and then you can browse your library's digital media collection, allowing you to search for titles, set holds, borrow ebooks and audiobooks with a tap, and return or extend a lend just as easily. You can preview books from the app, downloading borrowed titles or streaming them to your phone or tablet if you prefer to save space.
Online TV and movie streaming used to be simple: go to Netflix for almost everything. But as the online video streaming market becomes increasingly fragmented and producers and networks scramble for exclusives to make their own streaming service stand out, it can be a pain keeping track of where to go to watch a particular show or movie series. Enter JustWatch, a service that keeps track of the latest offerings from 37 different streaming services, showing you where and when to watch a particular TV show, covering big names like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, and Amazon Prime Video. You can search for a particular series or browse through what's new. The app also offers latest movie trailers and showtimes, complete with one-click Fandango bookings for your local cinema.
Can't hear the TV at a noisy sports bar? Or maybe you want to listen without disturbing anyone else. Tunity is a neat app that lets you stream live TV audio straight to your headphones through your mobile device. Simply bring up your iPhone to scan the TV, and Tunity will stream audio through your phone to your headphones or Bluetooth speakers.
Skiplagged is a neat travel app can save you a fair amount of cash by taking advantage of "hidden city flights", where flyers get off at a layover, instead of at the final destination. Users enter their origin and target destination, and Skiplagged will show you the cost of a direct flight, as well as any cheaper "hidden city" flights that have your intended destination as a layover. The caveat? Stick to carry-on luggage, as any checked-in bags will go all the way to the flight's final destination. Skiplagged also allows you to book hotels, including last-minute deals and special offers.
Yoga Wake Up ($9.99 per month)
Start the day right with Yoga Wake Up, an alarm clock app that's designed not just to wake you up but also to get you up and moving. After a traditional wake-up alarm, you'll immediately receive a guided meditation and yoga session that starts right from your bed, so that you're gently eased into waking up and getting your body active. The app comes with a variety of yoga exercises and meditations to vary your morning routines. In addition to waking you up, the app can also help you get some restful sleep with bedtime reminders and meditations.
Enlight Photofox (Free)
Enlight Photofox is the latest edition of the award-winning photo editing app, allowing users to create stunning double exposures and other artfully manipulated effects. The app comes with a wealth of tools to affect color and tone, with filters, masks and layer effects making it easy to stitch together photos using a variety of blending modes and tools to keep everything seamless. The app offers some effects free, with an unlimited subscription unlocking all features.
Calzy 3 ($1.99)
Calzy 3 takes a neat approach to calculator apps with a "Memory Area" for quickly saving and labeling calculations, variables, and other bits of data that you might want to store for easy reference across multiple sessions. The app also includes a configurable keyboard, 3D touch support, scientific functions, history and bookmarking, as well as multitasking support. It's an excellent all around calculator app, and it's no surprise that it got recognition in the 2018 Apple Design Awards.
Deliveries is one of the best all-in-one package tracking apps available online, with support for a variety of services, including UPS, USPS, FedEx and DHL. A simple system allows you to enter package information through tracking numbers or via iCloud syncing that pulls delivery information from your emails and receipts to automatically populate your incoming deliveries list. You can then view a quick timeline summary of incoming and delivered packages and ETAs; you can even find the location of your packages on a map where available, or through the provider's online tracking portal. A Today widget keeps you informed of incoming packages and notifies you of package arrivals.
MyScript Nebo (Free)
MyScript's Nebo is a feature-rich note-taking app built with the iPad and the Apple Pencil in mind. Featuring MyScript's Interactive Ink technology, Nebo automatically parses your handwritten notes into text, while allowing you to easily format your text, add extras like emphasis, underlining, bullet points, diagrams, mathematical notations, and picture annotation. Users can write equations and calculate or export to LaTeX, export text into Microsoft Office documents or text files, and search through your notes to quickly find something you've scribbled down. If you're more about jotting down notes as opposed to typing them down, MyScript Nebo is an incredibly versatile note-taking tool.
Moleskine Timepage (iPhone, $4.99; iPad, $6.99)
Moleskine may be better known for its notebooks than its mobile apps, but the company's Timepage calendar app for iOS does a good job at being stylish and feature-packed. A smart calendar and day planner, Timepage works with existing calendar providers like iCloud, Facebook and Google, while providing some nifty calendar views and easy event creation. The base view provides a simple timeline of the day's coming appointments, with a date tab on the side for selecting specific days of the week. A month "heatmap" view quickly shows which days are free or busy, with filters surfacing particular events or calendars. Natural language parsing for event creation, maps and weather info, and natural language support are among the other additions. The iPad app provides expanded view modes and split-screen support.
Just Press Record ($4.99)
The stock Voice Memos app does an good job as a voice recorder, but if you're looking for something more muscular, try out Just Press Record, a one-tap recording app for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch that also adds some useful features like built-in transcription features for easy note taking. Users can record from a long press on the app icon, from a lockscreen or notification widget. The app can transcribe speech with support for a number of languages and spoken punctuation commands. Recordings are sorted by date and time, and can be manually renamed. The transcription also allows you to search through recordings for specific terms. You can sync recordings and transcriptions to iCloud, where they can be shared to a variety of apps.
Astropad Studio ($11.99 per month)
The first Astropad app did a fantastic job of turning your iPad into a video graphics tablet for your Mac, making for an excellent companion for anybody using Adobe Photoshop and similar software. Astropad has since upped its game with the new Astropad Studio, a subscription version of the app aimed squarely at graphics professionals using the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. Designed to work through Wi-Fi or a USB connection, Astropad Studio boasts improved responsiveness and features, shortcuts, gesture controls, and more. The app comes with a free 7-day trial, after which it will cost you $11.99 per month, or $79.99 for a year's subscription.
Depending on who you ask, RunPee is either silly or pure genius. The app keeps a database of movies, and then tells you the best time in the movie to head to the restroom. Each "PeeTime" tells you how far in the movie it is, as well as providing a handy reference line or scene. The PeeTime gives you how a window of time for how long you've got to heed nature's call before something good happens, and the app also comes with descriptions of whatever you've missed during your absence. Or you could just decide not to guzzle down that oil drum-sized soft drink before the movie.
Clue - Period Tracker (Free)
Clue – Period Tracker is a useful mobile addition to the tech-savvy woman's reproductive health toolkit. The app serves as an all-in-one period tracker, allowing you to record period dates, flow heaviness, and menstrual products used; you also can log other factors such as sexual activity, birth control use, cervical fluid, and more. With that info, the app provides in-depth info about the menstrual cycle, complete with references. Clue also includes a learning algorithm that can help predict your period cycles, PMS, and related fertility data. To make the most out of that feature, though, you'll need to subscribe to Clue's premium tier, starting at $0.99 per month.
Carrot Weather ($3.99)
Snark is a wonderful way to make terrible forecasts easier on the ears. At least that's the premise behind Carrot Weather, the iOS weather forecasting app. Gamers familiar with the GLaDOS character from the Portal series will love Carrot Weather's narrator, as it mocks your misfortune for living through rain, sleet and excessive sun. And if you've upgraded to iOS 10, Carrot Weather now integrates with Messages to let you send snarky forecasts to your friends.
Every once and awhile, you may find yourself needing to use public Wi-Fi, even though you've read about how unsafe it is. This is why the Encrypt.me service for iOS is so important, as it protects your activity when browsing on unsecured and untrustworthy open networks. Formerly known as Cloak VPN, the app is a free download, but service plans start at $2.99 per month.
More iPhone Apps
Still looking for more app ideas? If gaming is up your alley, check out our best iOS games across a multitude of categories. Or if you'd prefer your apps to be free, we've got a roundup of the 40 best free options in the store. Think we're missing out on a gem of an iPhone app? Sound off in the comments.