These are the best messaging apps on iOS

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Cult of Mac runs on Slack. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
It's an iOS messaging shootout! Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

I recently watched The Lady try to convince a friend of ours to download WhatsApp. The friend is moving to the United Kingdom, and we want to stay in touch. Our friend tried to say that email would do the job, but we all know that will never work.

Our friend doesn’t want WhatsApp (maybe because it’s owned by Facebook), and she doesn’t own an iPhone, so iMessage is out. Thankfully, there are plenty of free and good alternatives. Some are more secure, some have more features, and none of them is owned by Facebook.

Let’s take a look at what’s available and how these very different messaging apps compare on a number of key features.

App Watch: iPad messaging, speedy news reading and reinvented music albums

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App Watch: July 29, 2014

We've got lots of creative apps in the hopper this week, from the comic-book-artist-friendly Procreate 2.1 to the art-sharing app August. There's also stuff for metadata-hungry photographers, as well as a note-card app for screenwriters. Get to work.

Procreate 2.1

Procreate, already my favorite painting app on the iPad, just got a huge update. A few highlights are the new color wheel for selecting shades, with pinch-to-zoom for even more accurate picking; ColorDrop, which auto-fills color areas for you; and a new Reference Layer, which lets you designate a layer as a kind of template for filling other layers. Thus, you can make a color-fill layer under your line art, still using that line art as the reference for the fills. I love Procreate, and it keeps on getting better. $6

Together for iOS

Together for iOS syncs with the venerable OS X version, giving an Evernote-like everything-bucket that you can use and access anywhere. Create text files, add photos and import documents from other apps, then tag them and let them sync with the Mac version (and other iOS versions) over iCloud. iCloud sync means you’ll need the Mac App Store version of Together to make it work. It looks fantastic, and way easier to use than Evernote. The only problem is that it can’t search inside any of your documents. $10

Telegram HD

Slick, secure and open messaging app Telegram has just been updated with a native iPad version. The already-impressive app now brings GIF support, broadcast lists and an iPad-friendly interface, along with the same great cross-platform access, letting you read your messages anywhere, even on the Web. Free

PhotoMeta

PhotoMeta shows you everything about your photos that the iOS photos app doesn’t. You can view all EXIF data, from shutter speed and aperture to the direction you were facing when you took the shot. You can even browse photos from your Dropbox, and this latest update to the app lets you view the focus points your camera used. $3

Summbot

Summbot summarizes the news for quick reading. That is, it takes a link as input, parses the page and gives you a processed summary, a short version. I can think of a few sites I’d like to try this on. The problem is that you need to paste a link into the app for every page, easily wasting any time you might save from reading the condensed view. With any luck, this will be turned into a fuller-featured app in a later version. $1

Matter

Matter is a 3-D version of Pixite’s other amazing photo apps. Instead of adding stripes and patterns to your pictures like LoryStripes or Tangent, Matter adds 3-D objects to your 2–D photos. You can even animate them, and the objects reflect the lighting around them. I don’t often add strips and patterns to my photos, but when I want to, I reach for the Pixite folder on my iPad or iPhone. $2

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Celtx Cards

If you’re already in the (minimum $10-per-month) world of Celtx screenwriting apps, you’ll want to take a look at the new Celtx Cards, an ultra-simple index card app for the iPhone and iPad. Each card gets a title, a big text field and tags. You can color code the cards, and drag to rearrange them. And – if you have a Celtx account – you can sync them with your other Celtx apps. Seeing as sync is the biggest hurdle for all other index card apps I’ve tried, the fact that this integrates closely with other apps is a huge selling point. Free

August

August is a new kind of social network, kind of a hyper-focused Tumblr or an Instagram without the cute cats. With added music and film. The idea is that artists posts their photos, music and videos to their August streams, and followers can either save that stuff to their own streams or share to other places (Twitter and Facebook etc.) Thus you might follow someone who has great taste, but produces nothing of their own. The service is currently accepting requests for invites.

Islander

Islander is Norwegian musician Jarle Bernhoft’s new take on the music album for 2014. The app contains 48K 24-bit versions of the tracks, but that’s not all. You can also interact with the music using a virtual mixing console, and even add your own percussion. This combines with liner notes and all the other ephemera a music nerd could want. Plus, if every musician goes in this direction, you will have the added problem of finding an album on your iPad – just like finding a vinyl record in a stack on the floor. It’s so damn authentic. $20

7 Awesome Companies Apple Should Buy After Missing The Boat On Oculus

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Apple is heading toward a $1 trillion market cap. Photo: Pierre Marcel/Flickr CC
Apple is heading toward a $1 trillion market cap. Photo: Pierre Marcel/Flickr CC

When Facebook snapped up virtual-reality company Oculus VR this week, it got us wondering what other interesting startups Apple might want to buy before Mark Zuckerberg can get his hands on them.

While Oculus is most well known for its Rift gaming headset, Zuckerberg sees a far more wide-ranging application for the company’s VR tech, envisioning it as a futuristic communications platform. “One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people,” he said in his post about the acquisition.

That’s the kind of big thinking Steve Jobs brought to the table when he talked about the way the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad would change the way people interact with technology. While Apple rarely dips into its $150 billion cash hoard to buy other hardware firms, here are seven awesome companies whose technology could help Cupertino enhance and improve its existing devices — as well as build entirely new ones.