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Best iPhone apps of 2021 — must-have downloads for Apple's phones

best iphone apps
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Your iPhone isn't complete until you've installed some of the best iPhone apps on your device. After all, while the best iPhones boast impressive hardware, it's the apps that really help the iOS platform shine. 

Apple's iOS App Store is one of the standout features of the iPhone experience, since some of the best mobile apps available often appear on the iPhone first. But should those apps make an appearance on your phone? To find out, we've gone through the App Store's virtual shelves, looking for the best iPhone apps we could find. 

We picked apps across a selection of categories to find a nice mix of old favorites and hidden gems that can help you do more with your iPhone. (We've got the best iPad apps, too, if you're into Apple's tablets instead.) These are the best iOS apps that you should add to your phone or tablet right now.

Best iPhone productivity apps

Whether it's taking better notes, keeping track of to-dos or working more efficiently with others, there's a productivity app for your iPhone that's sure to help you get more things done. 

Drafts

best iphone apps: drafts

(Image credit: Agile Tortoise)

Agile Tortoise makes a great note-taking and quickfire writing app with the aptly named Drafts. 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 $2.99/month premium subscription to Drafts lets you add and edit quick actions; it also adds themes and icons while introducing workspaces and other handy productivity features.

Download Drafts for iPhone

Flow by Moleskine 

best iphone apps: Flow by Moleskine

(Image credit: Moleskine Studios)

Moleskine isn't just about physical journals and notebooks anymore. The company has made a strong push into iOS apps, highlighted by Flow, an impressive drawing and note-taking app that does justice to Moleskine's notebook roots. Flow is ideal for the iPad's more expansive screen, but you'll find a solid iPhone version, too.

Users can draw or take notes on an infinite-width canvas that lets you customize everything from your writing tools (virtual pens, pencils and markers in a variety of colors and sizes) and paper (from Moleskine's traditional ivory paper to black, white, and blue, with options for grids and more). Additions in the Flow 2 updated included real-time collaboration, vertical documents (ideal for the iPhone's screen) and a pencil case feature that puts your drawing tools on your iPhone while you use your full iPad screen as a canvas.

The app is free for a 7-day trial, with subscriptions costing $1.99 per month. With that fee, you get cloud storage and app updates.

Download Flow by Moleskine for iPhone

Notion

best iphone apps notion

(Image credit: Notion)

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. 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.

Download Notion for iPhone

Best iPhone utility apps

When you're on the hunt for the best iOS apps, don't overlook utilities. Many of them may handle just one task, but that one task can make your iPhone that much easier to use.

Just Press Record

just press record

(Image credit: Open Planet Software)

The stock Voice Memos app in iOS 14 does an good job as a voice recorder, but if you're looking for something more muscular in the vein of Google's Recorder app for Android, try out Just Press Record, a $4.99 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.

Download Just Press Record for iPhone

Calzy

best iphone apps calzy

(Image credit: Waple Stuff)

Calzy 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 $2.99 app also includes a configurable keyboard, 3D touch support, scientific functions, history and bookmarking, as well as multitasking support. 

Calzy is an excellent all around calculator app, and it's no surprise that the app can point to an Apple Design Award on its resume.

Download Calzy for iPhone

Deliveries

best iphone apps deliveries

(Image credit: Deliveries)

Deliveries is one of the best iPhone apps because it handles everything associated with your packages. You can track parcels through 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. 

With that info at hand, 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.

Deliveries is a subscription-based app now, with $1 a month unlocking all the app's features.

Download Deliveries for iPhone

1Blocker

best iphone apps: 1blocker

(Image credit: Salavat Khanov)

1Blocker has been optimized for Apple's Safari browser, with the goal of making your mobile browsing experience faster and more secure. Install this best iPhone app on your phone, and it will block ads, pop-ups and trackers. And that's something most iPhone users would welcome, even at $2.99 a month for a premium subscription. (Don't worry — 1Blocker's basic blocking skills come free.)

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 features more than 115,000 blocker rules, custom regional ad blocking settings, and easy-to-use custom rules settings.

Download 1Blocker for iPhone

Best iPhone photo apps

We think the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the best camera phone you can get. But even a great camera deserves some great apps that let you tweak and edit your shots. 

Photoleap by Lightricks

best iPhone apps: photoleap

(Image credit: Lightricks)

Photoleap by Lightricks is the latest edition of the award-winning photo app, complete with a new name. (You may remember it as Enlight Photofox.) Whatever name it goes by, you can use this best iPhone app to create stunning double exposures and other artfully manipulated effects on your images. 

Photoleap 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 for $6.99.

Download Photoleap by Lightricks

Spectre Camera

best iphone apps spectre camera

(Image credit: Lux Optics)

A few years back, Spectre Camera took home Apple's iPhone App of the Year honors. And this $3.99 download is still worth adding to your phone.

Spectre Camera delivers beautiful long exposure shots, with the help of AI and software magic to stabilize the shot, process light trails, and remove crowds, moving vehicles, and other ephemeral elements. The result is a photo highlighting the perfect scenic view. 

Spectre takes in hundreds of shots during the exposure time saved as a live photo, so you can view and share the exposure in progress, individual stills, or the final result.

Download Spectre Camera for iPhone

Best iPhone health and fitness apps

Your iPhone can be a valuable tool when it comes to healthier living, thanks in part to the built-in Health app which you can use to keep tabs on health and fitness data. But the best iOS apps can aid in that cause, tracking your exercise, monitoring what you eat and helping you get a better night's sleep.

Lose It

best iphone apps lose it

(Image credit: FitNow)

You need all the help you can get when it comes to losing weight, and the calorie-counting capabilities of Lose It can come in really handy. This iOS mainstay lets you log both meals and exercise activity. You also enter in some personal information — weight, height and goal weight — and Lose It calculates how many calories you can consume each day to stay on plan for losing weight. 

A barcode scanner helps capture nutrition data, and Lose It also has the ability to sync exercise information with other apps.

Download Lose It for iPhone

Runkeeper

best iphone apps runkeeper

(Image credit: ASICS Digital)

When you go for a run, make sure that Runkeeper comes with you. The app uses the sensors in your iPhone to track your physical activity. In addition to runs, you can also use Runkeeper for cycling, hiking and anything else where you're logging distances.

The app records your pace, distance, total exercise time, calories burned and other useful metrics, and also comes with a variety of training plans, complete with reminders and gamified challenges. Runkeeper becomes even more of a must-have if you've got an Apple Watch, since the app works with Apple's smartwatch, too.

Download Runkeeper for iPhone

Wakeout

Best iPhone Apps: Wakeout

(Image credit: Andres Canella)

Finding it hard to break away from your desk for a workout? Wakeout promises to bring the exercises to you in the form of brief workouts geared to your location and designed to get you moving and energized.

You'll find a library of some 1,500 exercises in Wakeout, with new packs added each week. The exercise are flexible — you can perform them sitting down, standing up or even in bed. It's a great, non-stressful way to get yourself in the habit of taking time to move around and stay active, so it's no wonder that Apple awarded Wakeout App of the Year honors for 2020.

Full access to the app costs $4.99 a month with a free trial available to see if Wakeout is right for you.

Download Wakeout for iPhone

Headspace

best iphone apps: headspace

(Image credit: Headspace)

Good health doesn't stop with your body, and Headspace proved to be a big help in getting your mind right, especially for those of us who spent the last year in coronavirus lockdown. 

The mindfulness app features guided meditations designed to calm you down, as you take a minute or two to breathe and clear your head. Even if meditation is not your thing, Headspace offers a sleep aid section that looks to put you in the right frame of mind at bedtime to catch some serious z's. 

You can download Headspace for free to see a limited selection of guided meditations, but a subscription — $13/month or $70 if you sign up for a year — opens up the full library and experience.

Download Headspace for iPhone

Best iPhone entertainment apps

You don't have to rely on Apple's built-in apps like Podcasts or subscription services like Apple Music and Apple TV Plus to find something to enjoy in your idle hours. We've found some entertainment apps that deserve a place among the best iOS apps.

JustWatch

best iphone apps justwatch

(Image credit: JustWatch)

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 more than 100 different streaming services, showing you where and when to watch a particular TV show, covering big names like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, 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.

Download JustWatch for iPhone

Serial Box

best iphone apps serial box

(Image credit: Serial Box Publishing)

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. 

The app 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.

Download Serial Box for iPhone

Qello Concerts & Live Music

best iphone apps qello concerts and live music

(Image credit: Stingray Group)

While there are a lot of apps for streaming songs and albums, it’s harder for those looking to listen to or watch concerts. Enter Qello Concerts & Live Music, which lets you stream live recordings from a vast array of artists, including Queen, The Rolling Stones and Coldplay. You can also turn to the app to check out concert films, documentaries and episodes of live music shows such as MTV Unplugged. 

The free tier of the app includes one or more free tracks from each show, 30-plus channels of concert moments and highlights and a selection of free concerts. A $7.99-per-month All-Access Pass unlocks the whole library of concerts and documentaries as well as the ability to check out or create curated Setlists.

Download Qello Concerts & Live Music for iPhone

Libby

best iphone apps Libby

(Image credit: Overdrive)

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.

Download Libby for iPhone

Best iPhone travel and weather apps

Your iPhone can be a great travel companion, especially with some of these travel-focused apps in tow. And know the weather at your destination with the help of the best weather apps.

Hopper

best iphone apps hopper

(Image credit: Hopper)

If you're ready to do a lot of traveling after a year of sticking to home, give Hopper a look. Like other travel apps, Hopper will let you look up airfares and hotel rates. But the real power of this best iPhone app lies in its ability to predict future discounts. 

Enter where you're traveling from and where you're 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.

Download Hopper for iPhone

Skiplagged

best iphone apps skiplagged

(Image credit: Skiplagged)

Skiplagged takes a different approach to the same goal of cutting down your travel expenses. This app takes 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.

Download Skiplagged for iPhone

Carrot Weather

Best iPhone apps: Carrot Weather

(Image credit: Carrot Weather)

To say Carrot Weather is an unorthodox weather app is putting it mildly. For a start, its narrator is an unhinged AI, intent on mocking you when you happen to find yourself lumbered with terrible weather. But this also happens to be the rare weather app that lets you set everything up just as you see fit.

That's even more the case now, after version 5 of Carrot Weather arrived in the App Store. You've got more customization options now, along with a preview of any changes you want to make to the app's look. As before, the best features are included with a premium subscription to Carrot Weather, with the app now able to show weather radar alongside your forecasts in a Maps section. Subscribers also get access to tidal data.

Carrot Weather's combination of facts, figures, customization and entertaining snark results in a weather app you’ll love far beyond anything else on the platform. At least until the Carrot AI threatens to hurl cows at you.

Download Carrot Weather for iPhone

Best iPhone social media apps

You've probably got Twitter, Facebook and the usual array of social networking apps installed on your iPhone. But don't overlook some of these iOS apps for connecting with others.

Flipboard

best iphone apps flipboard

(Image credit: Flipboard)

Articles on the web can look a little drab, but Flipboard jazzes things up with magazine-style layouts and feeds curated to match your interests. 

You select the topics you want to read about and Flipboard creates a "smart" magazine, pulling articles from around the web based on what you're looking for. 

The app looks particularly good on iPhones released since the 2017 debut of the iPhone X, as Flipboard has been optimized for the notched displays now common on Apple's phones.

Download Flipboard for iPhone

Slowly

best iphone apps Slowly

(Image credit: Slowly Communications)

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. 

Download Slowly for iPhone

Unfold

best iphone apps unfold

(Image credit: Unfold Creative)

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 five fonts, applicable on photo and video presentations; even more are available as in-app purchases. 

Download Unfold for iPhone