Cult of Mac’s 50 Essential iOS Apps [The complete list, sorted!]


50 Essential iOS Apps
The best and most useful apps for iPhone and iPad
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

With our 50 Essential iOS Apps series, the goal was to help you find some of the best apps for iPhone and iPad. Picking the finest offerings from the more than 2.2 million iOS apps in Apple’s App Store proved challenging. But we highlighted apps that offer excellent features or make life easier in various ways.

To wrap up the series, we’ve sorted the apps by category to make the list easier to browse. We’re also showcasing Cult of Mac readers’ alternatives to our picks.

(You’ll find reader faves linked at the end of this post. That’s especially helpful since one of our must-have apps is about to die an unceremonious death.)

50 Essential iOS Apps

If you are looking for the perfect app to boost productivity, make life more convenient or just give you a jolt of fun, you’re sure to find something that fills the bill on our list of 50 Essential iOS Apps.

It’s a great place to start if you’re ready to start loading up your new iPhone XS or XS Max with top iOS apps.

Best productivity apps

Get the lowdown on all your deliveries, both ingoing and outgoing, with this superb package-tracking app.


Hiya Call BlockHiya Call Block
Determine whether incoming calls are telemarketers, spam, or something worth picking up for.


Advanced features and a simple design make this a standout note-taking app.


The internet can be a scary place. This simple application to make it a little less creepy and a lot more tolerable.
A trustworthy, easy to use, and affordable VPN service for iOS and beyond.


Enjoy email again with smart features, email actions, and a built-in assistant. (Note: After being purchased by Slack, Astro is about to shut down.)


Edit code, manage a remote server, or upload files over FTP from your iOS device.


Use automation and personalized actions to get things done quickly and efficiently on iPhone or iPad.


A secure and easy to use password manager for iOS, macOS, and beyond.


GoodNotes 4GoodNotes 4
The best digital note-taking and document-annotation apps available on iOS.


iA WriteriA Writer
The perfect writing app that does more by doing less.


The customizable, flexible, and incredibly simple-to-use calendar app for managing a chaotic schedules.


A top-notch upgrade to your reminders and to-do list for iOS and Mac.


The time tracking app, designed to help you log and understand where your time is being spent.


The best way to take file management on iOS to the next level.


The messaging app for teams turns your communications into what they are meant to be — conversation.


Best photography and photo editing apps

This powerful all-around photo software eliminates the need for multiple photo-editing apps.


Obscura 2Obscura 2
Upgrade from the stock camera app and get powerful manual camera controls and a simple interface.


Google PhotosGoogle Photos
The best way to easily backup your photos and videos, and a more powerful search for specific images.


An advanced image editor and graphics application with a plethora of effects and professional editing tools.


Add pro-level annotation and markup tools to highlight or hide whatever you want in an image.


Best games and entertainment apps

Track price changes on iTunes and App Store content and save money.


Get a great podcast listening experience along with some awesome time-saving features.


If you’re not using the YouTube app to watch YouTube videos on your iOS Device, you’re missing out.


Carry an entire library’s worth of books on your iPad or iPhone.


Alto’s AdventureAlto’s Adventure
A fun, delightful, and perfectly addictive iOS game.


Movies AnywhereMovies Anywhere
Sync your digital movies between iTunes, Google, and Amazonand have your movies where you want them.


Find the perfect GIF, save it to a personal collection, and share your favorites quickly and easily.


A better way to experience your favorite songs and discover great new music, thanks to algorithmic intelligence and some genius features.


The alternative music app for accessing and listening to your personal iTunes music library on iOS.


Go from analog to digital and express your artistry without the cost and space constraints of an art studio.


The secret weapon for crafting the perfect, elegant cocktail for any occasion.


Best travel apps

Transit for iPhone makes finding train bus, and subway schedules simple, with support for more than 80 U.S. cities.


An easy to use navigation app that provides useful insights that other turn-by-turn apps lack.


Find nearby gas stations to save money and reduce stress on road trips and family vacations.


The best parking app to find a lot and reserve a spot and travel easier.


Best social apps

Get a better Twitter experience with a nicer, easier-to-use, better Twitter client.


Get a better Reddit experience with intuitive gestures and a clean interface.


Document your life, or explore your hobbies and interests through photos.


Best health, fitness and lifestyle apps

Nike+ Run ClubNike+ Run Club
The Running app that keeps you moving, from your first run to your thousandth mile, and beyond.


Turn your recurring tasks into lasting habits through gamification.


The recipe manager, grocery list, and meal planning application for chefs of all skill levels.


Split a check, pay a friend back, and save $1 on your morning coffee without carrying a stack of bills.


Get a clearer picture of how restful (or restless) your sleep is to improve your overall health.


Track physical and mental metrics to better understand your period and reproductive health.


Day OneDay One
The best journaling app for keeping track of, writing about, or creating a virtual archive of almost anything you want


Best news and weather apps

Dark SkyDark Sky
Get a constantly updated “next hour” forecast, highlighting when precipitation will start or stop.


Get a summary of the news stories everyone is talking about online, personalized to you.


Carrot WeatherCarrot Weather
A weather app with a hilarious personality and a best-in-class Apple Watch app.


Save articles and news stories for later and catch up on what you want to read, on your schedule.


Readers’ choice: Best iOS apps

Ultimately, everyone is going to harbor different opinions about what apps they prefer.

Some apps are too complex, while others are too simple. Thanks to our loyal readers for following the series — and for suggesting alternative essential iOS apps.

If you’re curious what else people enjoy or suggested, that list is below. If you have other iOS apps that you think are essential for iPhone or iPad, let us know in the comments or send me an email.


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