39 best iPhone and iPad apps of 2014
If you're looking to get the most out of your iOS device then filling it with useful apps is a good place to start. Here is a list of 39 of the best apps you can download for your iPhone or iPad
Looking for inspiration for the next app to download for your iPhone or iPad? Then this list of 2014’s 39 best iPhone and iPad apps is a great place to start.
Note: this is an article that will be updated at regular intervals. If you discover an app that you think warrants a place in the chart, then get in touch via the comments sections at the bottom of the page or tweet us @PCPro.
Best iPhone and iPad apps 2014: general
This year has seen Google’s browser launch first on Android and then on iOS. Its main strength is synchronisation, and with so many people now defaulting to Chrome on the desktop that’s a big one. Open a series of tabs on your work PC, continue working in them on the train home on your tablet, then open them again on a home laptop. This seamless working has quickly made it a favourite among the PC Pro office, even though the iOS version lacks some of Safari’s integration with the rest of the OS.
Room Planner has been in the App Store for a while, but this premium app is free for a limited time, and it’s well worth downloading. It’s aimed at helping budding architects and interior designers try out different room designs and layouts without the need for sketching skills.
The premise is straightforward: draw out a floor plan using the templates provided, and add windows, doors, walls and furniture as necessary. There’s a whole library of components to choose from, including kitchen cabinets and bathroom appliances, alongside more humdrum items such as sofas and beds.
The clever bit is that, once you’ve finished your design, you can change viewpoint and see your 2D plan transformed into a 3D model. This is no featureless wireframe, though. All components are fully realised and detailed, so your virtual room looks like the real thing.
We encourage anyone doing a bit of home renovation to install Room Planner. Even if the price increases again, we’d still recommend it. Jonathan Bray
No one likes syncing their iPhone, largely because of iTunes. Thankfully, an app such as FileBrowser makes it possible to get files on and off your iOS device in another way, albeit with some restrictions. It can see your Photo Library and your iTunes sync files by default, but you can also use your own folder to store files, and copy them to and from any network-connected device you know the address of. It’s a bit fiddly and requires some tech knowledge, but with Dropbox integration for an extra 69p, and the ability to stream files from to your phone, it’s a rare Android-esque slice of feature-adding for iPhone and iPad users.
Quora is a social network for questions and answers: post any query you like, and if people deem it interesting they’ll post responses, which other users then up or downvote. How useful Quora can be naturally depends on people seeing your questions, so the app neatly integrates with Facebook and Twitter – the first time you log on it will list the questions posed or answered by those you follow. Even if you don’t have a question to ask, browsing topics quickly becomes an addictive timesink.
If we could use just one password creation and storage system across our devices it would be 1Password. Whether it’s the basic app for iPhone or the Pro app that also supports the iPad, it offers the most intuitive way to use a different random password for every site you visit without having to remember them. Combine it with the desktop software for Windows and Mac, which can store credit cards, passport details and even personal notes, and you have the ultimate password solution. Our only gripe is the cost – if you'd prefer a less expensive option, try LastPass.
We use so many different cloud-based services these days that managing them all and remembering where your information is stored can be a tricky proposition. Enter CloudMagic, which acts as a hub for all your online activities, giving you one search box for email, contacts, Twitter, Facebook, Google Docs, Evernote, Dropbox and more. It isn’t just about search, either, as CloudMagic’s homescreen also provides an invaluable overview of recent activity across all your online services, so you can keep yourself up to speed… on yourself.
Devoted users of Xobni – the popular Outlook plugin that spruces up your inbox with pictures and updates from social networks – will enjoy the company’s mobile offering. Smartr Contacts creates an address book with the details of pretty much anyone you’ve ever had any communication. It can pull data in from social networks, email contacts and conversations, and even calendar entries – and it recognises phone numbers among the wealth of information. It doesn’t work with all email accounts, and it can be a little frightening at first, but there’s no doubt it’s a powerful tool.
A splendidly simple, well-executed concept, Bump lets you send files to other smartphones and PCs by physically bumping them together. Most of the app’s features are geared towards bumping two phones together to swap files – the iPhone’s motion sensor acting as a trigger – although in our brief tests, we found we had to synchronise our bumping pretty closely to make it work (A "one, two, three", scissors, paper, stone-style countdown proved effective). However, Bump is the most convenient means we know of transferring files from iPhone to PC (as long as they’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network). Visit http://bu.mp in your PC browser, physically tap the phone against the PC’s spacebar, and the selected files are transferred in a heartbeat. Photos, videos, music and documents can all be flung from phone to PC, and vice versa.
No, we don’t get why you’d call a calendar app Fantastical either, but if you can forgive the hyperbolic name, this is a cracking little organiser. The app not only pulls together your various calendars (Google, Exchange and Apple’s own), but merges to-do lists and calendar events to give you a clear breakdown of the days ahead.
With the iPhone in portrait orientation, Fantastical shows a list of upcoming events, with the option to flick between daily and monthly calendar views; flip the phone into landscape orientation, and you’ll find the weekly view, with appointments plotted in the diary.
Best of all, however, is the ease with which you can enter appointments using natural language commands. Type "lunch with Tim at 2pm on Friday" and it’s popped straight into your diary. You can even speak the diary entries, provided you’ve got a data connection.
Launch Center Pro
Launch Center Pro is described as a "speed dial for anything you do with your iPhone", which might be pushing it a touch. Instead, it’s a handy shortcut creator for various tasks, such as adding the last photo taken with your phone’s camera to Facebook, or sending a text message to a particular contact.
Its greatest strength is that it’s not only capable of working with the default iPhone apps, but a decent range of third-party apps too, so you can create a one-click button to call a certain contact in Skype, for instance, or search Spotify for a particular artist. It’s one of those apps that you’ll quickly find indispensable.
Until its recent acquisition by Dropbox, downloading Mailbox involved nothing more than a tedious, weeks-long wait to get to the front of the queue and start using the app. Now, seemingly with greater server muscle behind it, everyone can get up and running with this minimalist take on inbox management.
The aim of Mailbox is to clear your email in tray, either by swiping right to archive the message, or swiping left to deal with the message at a point in the future. You can defer the message until "later today", "tomorrow", or the rather wooly "someday", at which point it will darken your Mailbox once more. Messages can also be replied to or forwarded in the normal manner, or sent to lists such as "To Read" or "To Buy".
You’re rewarded for clearing your inbox with a picture of the day, which is far less of an incentive than the sheer satisfaction of knowing you’ve dealt with all your email, even if some of it has merely been kicked into the long grass. Alas, Mailbox works with only Gmail accounts at present, which is a shame since this refreshing approach to inbox management would be perfect for a work account.
To-do list apps are ten-a-penny, and it often comes down to which one you like the feel of after you’ve made and cleared a few items. Still, this minimalist iOS app is as effortless as they come. Create, delete and clear items with simple swipes, and drag items up and down in the list to keep your priorities in order. And that’s it. It’s a doddle to learn, and its colour-coded entries give a suitable sense of urgency to your tasks.
Best iPhone and iPad apps 2014: photography
Photoshop Touch for phone
Introduced on the iPad and Android tablets last year, Photoshop Touch has now made its way to the iPhone. It certainly offers more editing power than any other iOS photo app we’ve come across, although whether you’ll want to be fiddling with features such as layers, lasso selections and such like on a 4in smartphone screen is debatable. The range of special effects filters is excellent, however, and the ability to swipe to adjust the colour and intensity of filters is more than most of the Instagram clones offer. Options to apply gradients and fades, or warp and transform images, provide even greater creative control. Photoshop Touch pushed our test iPhone 4S to the very limits, and consequently took a heavy toll on battery life, but if you’re bored with the identikit photo filters that arrive with most iPhone apps, this is a cheap way to take creative control.
Overlaying text on photographs with generic photo-editing apps tends to be crude and unconvincing. Over, as the name suggests, is designed specifically for that task, and includes a selection of attractive fonts to make the typography look stunning across your photos.
It’s great for designing high impact, poster-style motifs, and there’s a full range of control over the size, colour and positioning of the text, which is smoothly dragged and dropped into the desired position. A limited selection of photo editing tools allow you to tint the photo to make the text really stand out.
As ever with these apps, there’s an additional range of font packs to acquire as in-app purchases for modest fees, but the 20 or so fonts included for the admission price provide plenty of range to get you started with. There’s even an option to create printed postcards of your work and have them sent anywhere in the world. For a fee, of course.
The concept behind Cinemagram is so good that Nokia has purloined it for its thinly veiled Cinemagraph feature in the Lumia 920. The app allows you to shoot a short video, freeze a frame, and then paint in areas that retain their motion, creating clever effects such as bubbles rising up a static pint of lager. A steady hand and a rich imagination are pre-requisites.
Adding a remote trigger to a camera can be expensive; getting a remote trigger that reacts to sound or movement adds even more to the cost. The superb TriggerTrap allows you to fire either your phone’s internal camera or, via an external cable, a wide range of DSLRs. The software supports various external stimuli such as sound and movement, or can simply be used as an external cable release. There are also a variety of timelapse modes, resulting in no end of creative possibilities.
It’s been available for iOS devices for some time now. It’s a fantastic app that can help you automate all sorts of tasks. Want to turn the ringer off at a set time in the evening and back on again in the morning?
IFTTT’s “recipes” can do that. Want to text your wife whenever you leave the office, or log every phone call you receive in a spreadsheet? This app can do that, too. We’d like to have seen a quicker response – there can be a lag between events occuring and actions being triggered – and the location-based events didn’t seem particularly reliable. However, there’s enough potential for us to persevere; it’s free, after all.
Adobe Lightroom Mobile
Lightroom Mobile is a companion to the desktop version of Adobe Lightroom. It lets you use the iPad to organise your photos, and to apply visual adjustments so as to present them at their best.
It isn’t intended for use as a standalone app, however. It’s possible to import JPEGs directly from the iOS
Camera Roll, but to make the most of Lightroom Mobile, the recommended workflow is to import your images into Lightroom on the desktop, then generate Smart Previews and sync these over to the iPad for organisation and processing. It’s an approach that makes sense given the limited power and storage of the iPad, but if you were hoping to take your tablet on a shoot and leave your laptop behind, you may be disappointed.
It’s also worth noting that Lightroom Mobile uses the Creative Cloud framework to synchronise information between the iPad and the desktop app – it can’t be used with the standalone edition of Lightroom.
For those who have bought into Adobe’s subscription model, Lightroom Mobile has benefits. It’s certainly more comfortable to flag and reject images with breezy gesture controls than fiddly icons or keyboard shortcuts, and it’s nice to be able to fix the white balance and exposure there and then. You can also crop the image and apply adjustment presets, although more advanced edits, such as local adjustments, aren’t currently available.
Ultimately, however, Lightroom Mobile is a limited tool. This may be the best that can be achieved with the hardware available, but it’s a disappointment all the same – and restricting its usefulness to a subset of customers won’t make Adobe any friends either.
DailySpank is far less salacious than it sounds. It is, in fact, an iPhone photography competition, in which you’re encouraged to submit photos on the theme of the day. Recent examples include "take a photo of something exotic", "take a photo of what’s on your shelf", and "take a photo of something you’re wearing".
The photos with the most votes – or Spanks – rise to the top; the standard isn’t as intimidating as sites such as 500px or Flickr; and there’s an active, friendly community of commenters on hand to offer encouragement. It’s a bizarre but strangely compelling daily diversion.
Best iPhone and iPad apps 2014: games
Another word game with a difference, W.E.L.D.E.R. plunges you into an industrial nightmare from which you can only emerge by “welding” words from a grid of letters. The unique feature here is that make words by swapping adjacent letters in the grid until they sit in the correct order – and you have a limited number of swaps available to do so. You get more swaps by hitting points targets, and progress to the next level by forming enough four-letter words. Plus, you can look up every word you form in the built-in dictionary, which makes it educational too.
Valve’s digital distribution platform, Steam, still calls the PC its home, but its app is a slick and versatile companion. It’s got many of the features PC users are used to in a similar interface, and the full catalogue of games can be purchased via the device – they’ll be downloaded to your PC when you next start Steam. The app will let you browse your friends list, see who’s playing what, and chat to your friends, no matter what device they’re using. Pretty much the only thing the app doesn’t do is let you play the games themselves.
Fantasy Premier League
Considering it has 2.4 million players, it’s amazing it’s taken until very recently for the Premier League to officially support its fantasy competition with an app. It’s nothing hugely innovative but it does what needs doing: you can change your team right up to the deadline, make transfers and check your points live, which is all us budding Mourinhos have wanted all along. Use in conjunction with the Sky Sports Match Centre for aperfect Saturday.
A halfway house between Snake and Gauntlet, Nimble Quest is another of those 8-bit parodies for the iPhone, but it’s a dangerously addictive one. Your task is to guide a "conga line" of mini-warriors around various stages, attempting to avoid collisions with a variety of harmful critters and making sure you don’t run into the walls.
Each of your little fighters has different weapons and skills, and it takes some time to work out how to best deploy these against the various foes that cross your path.
While the game itself is free, you’ll need to pay £1.49 to open the online arena section of the game, which you can only access after completing at least four levels of the game. It aggressively pushes in-app purchases for weapons and warrior upgrades too, so be careful if you’re handing this one to the kids.
Year Walk is about as atmospheric as smartphone gaming gets. This wonderfully evocative first-person adventure sees you trampling through a gothic woodland, attempting to solve puzzles and foresee the future on your "year walk". The graphics are immaculate, but it’s the eerie soundtrack that makes this game; from the crunching snow underfoot, to the haunting woodland sounds that provide subtle audio clues as to where to head next (headphones are essential). The puzzles are infuriatingly difficult – we had to consult a walkthrough guide just to get far enough through the game to review it – but once you get into the game’s mindset it becomes a little easier. A free companion app provides a potted history of year walking, but whatever you do, don’t hand this one to the kids – you’ll be paying off the psychologist bills for decades.
Letterpress is an addictive hybrid of Boggle and Othello, demanding that users form words from a 5x5 grid of letters while retaining dominance of the board. Like the classic board game, Letterpress initially appears to be insultingly simple, but actually requires first-class wordsmithery and a decent appreciation of the game’s tactics to prevail (our advice: guard corners jealously). It’s an online multiplayer game, so there’s no chance to while away five minutes while you’re on the Tube, and the lack of any kind of statistic-gathering grates, but it’s a genuinely innovative addition to an oversaturated genre.
Click here to download Letterpress - free (£1.99 in-app purchase to play multiple games simultaneously)
This addictive one-button flier has been stealing spare minutes since early 2011, but – in a rare display of app altruism – its designer Andreas Illiger released an update this July that’s not far off a full sequel. It added missions in which you race against three other birds, and added new gameplay elements, bringing the addiction back in force.
Like an updated version of a classic TV game show, SongPop lets you pit your musical knowledge against your online friends. Pick a playlist such as “80s Collection”, “Classic Rock” or “Love Songs”, then listen closely to musical snippets and race to identify the artist or titles as quickly as possible. Winning earns you coins that let you unlock more esoteric playlists, from jazz to industrial, Bollywood, TV themes and even national anthems. Yes, it’s another of those Facebook-centric social games whose immense popularity can be seen every day clogging up your news feed.
We know what you’re thinking – not another word game – but SpellTower manages to eke something new from the old formula. In Puzzle Mode your towers are shunted upwards by a new line with every word you eliminate, inching towards doom at the top of the screen. With scattered dead tiles and numbered ones that demand words of a certain length, in no time you’ve lost control of your peak, salvation blocked off by a rogue Q with no U, or an extra-long P. It’s tense, tactical and very moreish, and that’s before you even get onto the hellish timed mode.
Best iPhone and iPad apps 2014: Social
A more high-brow alternative to Pinterest, ArtStack lets you share works of art that have caught your eye with the wider world. Submissions range from sculptures to paintings to photography, and it largely seems to be used as means of showcasing upcoming talents, rather than another means of browsing through Monet’s portfolio. The app encourages you to take photos of artworks using your iPhone camera – which could land you in strife with gallery security guards, and isn’t exactly the ideal means of preserving the quality of fine art – but most people seem to source images of the artwork from the web before uploading.
Twitter clients are something of a personal preference, but there’s one that wins near-universal from the iOS users of PC Pro. Tweetbot doesn’t do anything hugely novel – these days, few Twitter clients do – but it does make the basic experience as smooth, stylish and painless as any we’ve used. It can turn your Twitter lists into multiple timelines, it syncs your reading position across devices, and it’s all navigated with intuitive gestures, keeping the menus and icons that blight many clients to a bare minimum. We also like the cartoonishly sinister company logo.
Don’t laugh – we know not a lot of people are using it, but if you do happen to be on Google+ you’re in luck, as its app is the nicest of the main social networks. The layout is heavily image-led, giving it a more modern feel than Facebook – more akin to something like Pinterest, or a photo-sharing app – and its Hangouts work neatly with your phone or tablet’s camera. If you’re not yet on Google+, or if you are and haven’t logged in for a while, try the app – it might just convert you.
Best iPhone and iPad apps 2014: music
vjay for iPhone
A sister app to the popular djay, vjay – as those with an IQ higher than their shoe size may have already worked out – allows you to mix together video footage on your iPhone. This can be done using a combination of pre-loaded commercial videos/music stored on your iPhone, videos you’ve recorded yourself, and pre-prepared footage provided within the app. The app includes a smattering of smart-looking special effects, allowing you to transition from one clip to another using two sides of a cube, for example, and there’s advanced tools such as automatic beat- and tempo-matching for those who don’t have the requisite timing. Beware that any exported videos containing commercial video/music tracks are likely to be booted off YouTube for copyright infringement, and that this app devours the iPhone battery.
Best iPhone and iPad apps 2014: weather
There are so many weather apps for the iPhone that the season would change before you’ve tried them all, but there are few more elegantly presented than Yahoo Weather. The app makes good use of the Yahoo-owned Flickr photo library to provide beautiful backdrops of the city in question – although that rather depends on whether you live in a town big enough to be on Flickr’s radar. The backdrop for our editor’s home town of Burgess Hill showed crashing waves lapping at the shore, even though it’s a good ten miles from the coast.
The Flickr wallpaper isn’t the only neat touch. Animated wind turbines that whizz faster in stormy conditions, live satellite imagery of your location, a graphical five-day forecast, and a swooshing infographic that reveals sunrise/sunset times and the name of the moon phase, all add up to an app that blows Michael Fish and chums out of the water.
Click here to download Yahoo Weather - free
It takes something quite special to stand out from the throng of identikit weather apps, and Partly Cloudy’s clever artistic visualisations are exactly that. Its clock face design seems minimalist, but you quickly its genius lies in its simplicity. The strip around the edge represents the temperature and the blue blobs in the middle mean rain; for more precise figures just swing the arm around to any hour. With 12-hour, 24-hour and seven-day views, and the ability to show any location in the world, it will become your go-to weather app primarily because it gives a full forecast for the day in a single momentary glance.
Best iPhone and iPad apps 2014: fitness
Whether you’re a reluctant runner or an adrenaline junkie, Strava turns your phone into fully-fledged sports computer. You can record bike rides or runs, with distance covered, speed and estimate calorie consumption, and the results are automatically uploaded to your own personal account and plotted on Google Maps. As a training tool, it’s invaluable, and makes it possible to track your performance over time. With the ability to compete against other users’ timed segments on disciplines ranging from cross-country running to downhill mountain-biking and even the daily cycle commute, Strava is as addictive as exercise apps get.
MyFitnessPal is a comprehensive fitness app with extensive third-party app and device integration. If you are looking for an all in one diet and fitness app MyFitnessPal is for you.
MyFitnessPal integrates with Fitbit and Jawbone Up devices and relays data between the app, the devices, and the respective third-party apps. It also includes an extensive list of UK foods - something that is sadly lacking in many other apps.
Users can set goals including weight loss (or gain), weekly exercise levels, daily calorie intake, and even how you want to divide up your nutrient intake.
It also has social features, including the ability to add friends from Facebook, your device contacts or by email.
All in all a great fitness app.
Best iPhone and iPad apps 2014: travel
Next time you stumble out of a nightclub at 2am, don’t stand on a street corner waiting for a cab to pass; whip out your phone, open up Hailo, and order one. It’s that simple. Using your phone’s GPS, all nearby black cabs receive your request, and you’ll be sent details of the first driver that accepts with an estimated time of arrival. Best of all, you can pay by card and Hailo will handle it. It’s London-only in the UK for now, but also works in several other big cities worldwide.
“TripIt drags traveling kicking and screaming into the 21st Century,” states the website, and we have to agree. Whenever you book a flight, hotel, rental car, restaurant or even a concert online, just forward the confirmation email to TripIt (or if you’re on Gmail you can set it up to auto-import, which is like black magic), and the full itinerary is compiled in your TripIt account. Even if you book everything separately, TripIt aggregates the details in the correct date and time order, and stores it across pretty much any device you own. If that sounds great, for an annual fee TripIt Pro can also alert you to delays and gate changes, point you to cheaper flights and track your frequent flier points.
£50 is unquestionably a lot of money for an app, but when the app in question can make an appreciable difference to virtually every car journey you make, with associated benefits in terms of fuel consumption it’s hard to argue. The TomTom iPhone app received a rare five-star rating when we reviewed it in July because of its superb route finding and excellent – if pricey as a £27 extra – HD Traffic feature, and it’s now finally made its way to Android. We wouldn’t rule out CoPilot either, but TomTom gets our vote.