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Got a library card? Then you’ve got access to thousands of e-books and audiobooks through Libby. You can check out books right from your device, or you can send books to your Kindle for easier reading. It’s a no-brainer for people who read faster than their wallet can keep up with!
It’s time to put that notepad away—writing your passwords down on a sheet of paper, or using the same few combinations on every website is not a good look from a cybersecurity perspective. That’s why we recommend LastPass. All you need to remember is your master login, and this app will autofill all of your other password information for each website that you use.
The spiritual successor to the much-missed Vine app, TikTok has become an internet sensation. Its algorithm-powered discovery engine makes the app incredibly addictive and its audience is as creative as those who made Vine their social media channel of choice. If you love ingesting bite-sized videos, this is a must-have.
Finally, finally, Apple has made it to the big leagues—and by that we mean that the latest iOS 14 update has made it possible to add widgets to your iPhone’s home screen. If you want custom widgets and app icons, this is the app for you. Just be careful not to fall too far down the rabbit hole: all of the customization options will give you too many choices to contemplate them all.
Chimani National Parks Guide
There are tons of National Parks waiting for you to enjoy. This app helps bring all the information about these parks into one, easy-to-digest app. Now go get outdoors.
The internet isn’t as innocent as it used to be, and if you want to stay safe while browsing, you need tools to help you do it. This app promises to help you take control of your data from sites like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Alexa, and more. This app doesn’t just tell you what is a threat but also explains why it’s a threat so you can learn new ways to protect yourself online.
You never know when disaster strikes, and you need to help bandage a wound or even save a life. This app puts first aid information right in your pocket. Videos and interactive quizzes will help you become a grade-A survivalist. Just remember to call emergency services before taking matters into your own hands.
If targeted ads creep you out, or you just want to research something embarrassing without having to cycle through multiple menus to delete your history, do your web browsing in this app. It blocks ad trackers, clears your browser history, and can even be set to verify Face ID or Touch ID before opening to existing pages.
Even if you don’t know or care what DNS (domain name server) or IP addresses are, throw this app on your iPhone. In short, it sends your internet traffic through Cloudflare, an esteemed cybersecurity company, rather than ISPs like Verizon or AT&T. Meaning, your connections to websites and services will be faster, and better hidden from corporations looking to monetize your data.
Google Maps’ public transit functions are reliable, but its algorithms can give some strange recommendations and can overlook options like scooters and bike shares. If you live in one of the cities that Citymapper covers (New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Seoul, Tokyo, São Paulo, Moscow, etc.), chances are, it’ll give you the fastest, most comprehensive list of choices for getting around on public transportation.
COVID Symptom Study
You can help quell the spread of COVID-19 with just a few taps on your iPhone by downloading COVID Symptom Study. By taking one minute each day to track your symptoms—or lack thereof—scientists at Stanford University, Harvard, Massachusetts General Hospital, and King’s College London will be able to find high-risk areas more quickly.
Apple’s calendar is solid. So is Google’s. But if you, like many people, have your online identity split between your work email, a Gmail account, then an Apple ID on top of that, Fantastical is the answer. It unifies every event into one interface, and handles changes easily. And unlike Apple’s Calendar, Fantastical will even put your scheduled reminders next to your other events.
Smartphones, especially the iPhone, are designed to be beautiful and intuitive. They’re meant to hide stuff like CPU processing speed ratings from us. But if you’re the kind of user who wants to know more about your phone, or just test its battery health, Geekbench is the best overall diagnostic tool, and a favorite of tech reviewers at Popular Mechanics.
Call recording in the U.S. is a web of regulations, all of which means that there are few options for doing this outside of using speakerphone and a dedicated recorder. TapeACall Pro, however, gets around this by merging your call with its own servers, recording the call as if it were an additional party on the line. Yes, you still have to tell the person you’re recording before you start.
Let’s face it. You use Google Search. In fact, statistically you probably found this article through Google Search, so it make sense that you’d want to use a keyboard that also harnesses the power of the world’s most powerful search engine. Of course, Google’s Gboard has other tips and tricks—like fast GIF search and glide typing. It’s a noticeable upgrade from what comes standard on an iPhone.
Otter Voice Notes
If you find yourself in a meeting or classroom frantically trying to take notes, Otter Voice Notes is here to save you a lot of trouble. This app creates “smart notes” that record live conversations, transcribes them, and can even differentiate between voices for more organization and accuracy. It sounds too good to be true, but the overwhelmingly positive reviews suggest otherwise.
There are a lot of note-taking apps out there, but Bear is our favorite. With a variety of tools offering tons of flexibility for whatever you need a note-taking app for (along with easy export), Bear is beautifully designed for the iPhone and will quickly take up a prominent place on your home screen.
Reddit is one of the world’s most popular resources for perusing the internet, but doing so on your phone can be a bit of a chore. But Apollo uses iOS design guidelines to create a Reddit reading experience that feels tailor-made for your device. Simply put, there’s nothing better.
Some default apps on iPhone get the job done, but Apple’s calculator is woefully deficient if you need to something more advanced that your most basic calculations. Calzy 3 is the one-stop app for all budding mathematicians that should even hold up to the most impressive calculators from Texas Instruments. Its best feature is a memory area that stores previous calculations for quick reference when you’re working out a problem.
Apple’s come a long way with its photo app, but it still lags behind the one built by its biggest competitor. Google Photos is a super-smart photo assistant that can store all your images in the Cloud (a very less frustrating version of iCloud), and also intelligently organize photos using machine vision so all your snaps are searchable. Also, it creates mini-films when it notices a lot of photos from the same day or location. It’s simply the best out there.
Learning a new language doesn’t have to just occur in high school, and it doesn’t have to be as expensive as Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is a free language-learning app that helps you learn to speak a new language through science-backed modules that are actually fun. It’s rewarding to collect gems and buy new outfits for the mascot owl, Duo, and if you feel like dishing out $6.99 per month to upgrade to Duolingo Plus, you’ll get bonus mastery quizzes and an ad-free experience.
To understand your place in the universe—and not just the world—Star Guide is an indispensable app. It shows you the locations of stars, planets, and constellations through an AR-like interface. Simply point the phone in any direction, and your display will show you the names of the stars and planets that you can see. If you want to try a free version, you can also check out SkyView.
Instapaper or Pocket
Reading on the internet can be an overwhelming experience with social networks, messaging, email, and personal assistants all serving up possible reads. Instapaper and Pocket help tame that information deluge. Pocket tends to be best with multimedia while Instapaper guns for the perfect reading experience no matter what.
It’s not raining now, but should you bring your umbrella with you for a quick coffee run across the street? Dark Sky knows. The app is able to predict weather for your exact location, not just your city, down to the minute. The app also features stunningly beautiful maps bound to bring out everyone’s inner weather nerd. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, Weather Underground is also a solid choice.
Shortcuts or IFTTT
These apps are for pros but can make your smartphone experience one of a kind. The app creates, well, workflows with a series of “actions” that can do all sorts of things. Essentially, you create mini-apps that you can then run in an app, home screen, or share extension. If all of this sounds somewhat daunting, you can also try out IFTTT (If This Then That), which also helps automate the ins and outs of your smartphone life.
Overcast or Pocket Casts
We’re in the middle of a podcast renaissance, and you need the right tools to listen effectively. Overcast and Pocket Casts are your best options for iOS. Although Overcast is free compared to Pocket Casts ($4), they share a similar feature set, though Pocket Casts has a slightly better design. Either way, you’ll be a happy listener.
Not everything you do on your phone is going to make you feel great. In general, our digital lives are overwhelming, so all the more reason to use 21st-century tools to decompress. With Headspace, you can learn meditation and mindfulness skills from the pros, which should ultimately help to quell your anxiety, give you more restful sleep, and generally ease your mind.
End-to-end encryption is what you should be looking for in any messenger you use. Although popular options like WhatsApp and Allo offer the feature, it’s Signal from Open Whisper Systems that really gets the tech right.
WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) and Allo (made by Google) are companies with an incentive to gather data on its users (they also store data), but Signal has no business model and exists just through donations and grants. If the government comes knocking for your information, Signal has absolutely nothing to give them, which is exactly the kind of chat protection you want.
Splitting a bar tab with friends can be a huge pain, especially when no one thought to bring cash with them. Cash is an app by Square that instantly transfers money between friends, for free, even between different banks. Using the app requires everyone involved sign up and connect their debit card—afterward you can pay your friends back instantly with just a few taps on your phone. In most cases, the money automatically deposits in your buddy’s bank account and is instantly accessible. At most, they’ll have to wait one to two business days for the deposit to clear. Of course, you could always try Venmo as well.
Need to save money for an upcoming trip, pay down a loan, or figure out how you overspent so much last month? We recommend Mint, a much-loved app that pulls all your accounts (credit cards, loans, banks, investments, and more) into one place. It gives you insight into how you’re spending, giving you tools to set budgets, break down spending by category, and create reminders for upcoming bills.
Who has time to edit their own videos? Magisto makes your smartphone videos look like they were edited by a pro with just a few seconds of work. The app takes your photos and videos and uses artificial intelligence to edit them together into videos you can share with friends and family. The video editor has a number of built-in effects as well as a music library. Finished creations can be shared instantly from within the app to places like Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp, or emailed to friends privately.
Smartphone maps are great at charting our earth, but what about the hardest places to reach on earth? If you’re a frequent hiker or mountaineer, PeakFinder is an app that will quickly become your best friend. This $5 app has information on 300,000 peaks and hills around the world and comes with an additional 360-degree panorama display. It’s an amazing tool for active hikers or if you just want to know more about our mountainous world.
While you could make lots of great video games with great chiptunes, you could spend those in-between moments of your day to make your own music. That’s where Nanoloop comes in. Pick what instruments you want in your composition, then lay out the notes. The app comes with a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, its limitation is only your imagination.
I know. Even we didn’t think we’d see the day when Microsoft made the best email app. But it’s great. The Focused Inbox is brilliant at separating human correspondence from sale announcements and spam, the swiping gestures work great, and ever since Microsoft bought the company that made the app Sunrise, Outlook’s calendar is seamless.
Arguably, this is the best among the many ad and tracker blockers you can get on iOS. Spend the $3 for the full version. It’s worth it because, besides blocking ads and trackers, it can disable those Share via Twitter things on web pages. If you want to whitelist a site (like ours), that’s easy, too.
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