You might think that if you spend your days reading and writing about phones, the last thing you'd want to do in your downtime is spend even more time using them. But the five apps here are my favorites precisely because they help me enjoy those rare moments when I'm not editing copy about the iPhone 14 Pro Max or Google Pixel 7.
Although actually, that's a bit of a lie — because one of them is an app I use for work rather than play. However, I had to include it even though it didn't fit the narrative, simply because it's so good that I always want to tell people about it. Still, the other four are very much aligned with my hobbies, and maybe they'll be useful for yours, too.
Like about 70% of the world's population, I bought myself a bike during lockdown and discovered that after a 30-year break from cycling I actually really enjoyed it. I also quickly learned that I had much more fun tearing down muddy trails than dodging idiots in SUVs on the road, and that's where Komoot comes in.
Komoot excels with off-road action, providing hyper-detailed maps that show even the smallest tracks and serving up recommendations from other users who have ridden them. You can create and save routes your own routes, too, and though I also use Strava I find Komoot's ride-recording interface to be far superior, not least because you can view both the route and your stats at the same time. It's free but offers various in-app purchases and can also be used for hiking.
Download Komoot: App Store / Google Play
Music is an even bigger passion of mine, and I would literally not be able to keep track of the various gigs I go to without the brilliant Songkick.
Think of it as a personal assistant purely for alerting you to upcoming concerts and you won't be far wrong. You simply tell it which bands and artists you like, where you are, then let it do its thing; as soon as new dates are announced, you'll get a notification telling you who's playing and where, and linking you to the ticket-purchasing page.
Better still, if you connect it to your Spotify account it will scan your library so you don't even need to manually add your favorites. Once you purchase tickets it'll also remind you what you're going to, which is very handy if (like me) you regularly buy them months in advance then forget about them. It's a one-stop shop for music lovers.
Download Songkick: App Store / Google Play
As a true nerd, I've always been fascinated by the night sky. I don't always have time to set up my telescope-and-camera combo, which I use for a spot of astrophotography now and again, but Skyview is one of several apps that bring the stargazing experience to my phone instead.
It's incredibly easy to use; just point your phone at the sky and it will tell you what you're looking at, be it planet, star or constellation.
Lots of other apps do this, and some actually do it better — for instance I'm also a big fan of SkySafari and Stellarium, both of which offer far greater functionality overall. But what I like about SkyView is that it uses AR to overlay the stars and what your camera is seeing, making it much easier to pinpoint exactly what you're looking at. Plus, it does this in the free version, rather than requiring a paid upgrade. For the astronomy curious beginner, it's a great download.
Download SkyView: App Store / Google Play
I spend far too much of my free time hunting through Netflix, Disney Plus, Prime Video, AppleTV Plus and other streaming services searching for the show I want to watch… or at least I used to before I discovered JustWatch.
My colleague Henry Casey first alerted me to the genius of JustWatch, and I'm forever grateful to him for doing so. Simply search for the show or movie you want to see and it will tell you exactly where to find it, across 37 streaming services. Plus, you can link your own accounts to it and it'll tell you at a glance whether it's available on anything you already subscribe to. Absolutely essential.
Download JustWatch: App Store / Google Play
The sole work-related app in my list is Otter — a transcription app. Boring, right? Well maybe, but it's also brilliant. Simply press record before you talk to someone and it'll use powerful AI to give you real-time transcription of what's being said.
It's impressively accurate — right down to punctuation and line breaks — and can even identify who's speaking. Then, once you're done, it's uploaded to the cloud for safe keeping or easy sharing with colleagues. It may not be as much fun as the options above, but it's worthy of a place on any smartphone.
Download Otter.ai: App Store / Google Play
Next: From our Senior Editor Kate Kozuch: these are the 5 iPhone apps I can't live without.