50 Essential iOS Apps

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

By

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.)

Prepare the perfect cocktail with Highball [50 Essential iOS Apps #50]

By

Highball app with small bar
Highball is the best cocktail app for building and perfecting your drink repertoire
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: HighballThe perfect cocktail can compliment nearly any moment in life. Whether it’s celebratory event, a social drink, or a work function, the blend of flavors in a quality drink can be icing on the cake. Highball makes saving or sharing your favorite drink recipes easy and beautiful. Best of all, you’ll never have to guess whether the perfect cosmo has 1oz of cranberry juice, or 2.

Save your reading list for later with Pocket [50 Essential iOS Apps #49]

By

Pocket app article view
Pocket makes it easy to catch up on the articles in your reading list on your own schedule.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: PocketStaying informed and up-to-date with the latest news is tough. Scrolling through Twitter or browsing the web can often lead to news stories that you want to read, but can’t be bothered to read RIGHT NOW. With Pocket, you can save those stories for later and catch up on the stories you want to read on your schedule.

Save your ideas, thoughts, and memories with Day One [50 Essential iOS Apps #48]

By

Day One journal entry on iPhone with Day one on iPad in background
Day One makes it easy to create a vibrant and modern journal documenting and archiving your life.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Day OneResearch shows that keeping a journal is great for your mind. It allows you to clear your thoughts or think through problems in different ways. Finding a good way to journal is easy with the Day One app. Designed to provide a feature-rich, modern journaling experience, Day One gives you the ability to keep track of, write about, or create a virtual archive of almost anything you want.

Paper app turns your iPad into a sketch book [50 Essential iOS Apps #47]

By

Cult of Mac logo poorly painted with Paper app
Paper by FiftyThree might not make you a good artist, but it does make it fun and easy.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Paper app For the past several years, the iPad has served as a tool to digitize the analog world. Board games are now virtual, books are electronic, and with the art app Paper by FiftyThree, your sketches and artwork are turned digital. Thanks to the incredible touch interface of the iPad and Apple Pencil, the app makes your device feel like its analog counterpart.

Take back your music library with Cesium [50 Essential iOS Apps #46]

By

Cesium album view Airplane Mode
Escape the annoyance of Apple Music and enjoy your personal music library with Cesium
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Cesium When Apple Music launched in 2015, the service received mixed reviews. One of the biggest gripes was the impact it had on the Music app. Instead of it being a place for your music library, the app began catering to the streaming service.

Cesium offers a better music library experience. The simple, brilliant app brings back the classic Music app (aka the “iPod” app), making it easy to view and enjoy your personal song library.

Escape emails and get work done with Slack [50 Essential iOS Apps #45]

By

Slack iOS app on iPhone in front of computer
Slack helps you get work done by opening up direct lines of communication.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Slack Email can be a total productivity bottleneck. Following conversations between multiple participants gets confusing. The unfortunate result of all this email chaos? Important tasks get lost in long email chains.

Luckily for collaborators everywhere, messaging app Slack replaces the need for internal email, allowing for real-time productivity and communication for teams. Instead of redundant threads and signatures, Slack strips away the cruft of the email inbox. It turns your communication into what it was meant to be — a conversation.

Clue helps you understand your period. [50 Essential iOS Apps #44]

By

Clue app current cycle screen
Clue helps you understand your body's reproductive cycle.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: clue appFor the last few years, health has been a key focus area for Apple. Fitness tracking, sleep tracking, nutrition tracking, mindfulness and even reproductive health have made their way into the Health app. Unfortunately, when it comes to your sexual wellbeing, Apple’s offering is pretty minimal. With Clue: Period and Ovulation Tracker, you can track a wide range of physical and mental details and gain useful insights into patterns and abnormalities in your natural cycle.

Annotable makes annotation and markup powerful and easy [50 Essential iOS Apps #43]

By

Annotable redacted information in document
With Annotable, you can easily hide sensitive information in photos and screenshots.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Annotable appSome of the most useful apps on iOS take system features and turn them up to 11. For a few years, the photos app has had basic markup tools but it’s felt underwhelming and lacked pro features. Annotable for iPhone and iPad adds pro-level annotation and markup tools to highlight or hide whatever you want in an image.

Documents is the files app iOS deserves [Essential iOS Apps #42]

By

Documents app main screen
Documents offers mobile access to all your files, across your servers and cloud storage products.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: DocumentsFor the last few years, discussions about whether you can do “real work” on iOS have circled the internet. One of the most commonly cited issues with iOS was the lack of a file browser. In iOS 11, Apple gave us the Files app, but it suffers from some major limitations. Documents by Readdle takes the file management on iOS to the next level.

Your iPhone is your time card with Hours [50 Essential iOS Apps #41]

By

The Hours app running timer
Time tracking is as easy as hitting "start" with the Hours app
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: HoursIf you’ve ever done a freelance project, worked as a consultant, or spent any time being self employed, you know how important keeping track of time spent working can be. Some people prefer to log their time on a sheet of paper, while others have little routines to mark the start and stop of work. Hours for iPhone is a time tracking app designed to make logging your time easy.

Unleash your graphic design prowess with Pixelmator [50 Essential iOS Apps #40]

By

Pixelmator on iPad surrounded by camera gear
Pixelmator is a powerful, all-in-one graphic design app for photographers and designers alike
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: PixelmatorSince its introduction, the iPad has slowly won over new markets of people. Over the past couple years, photo and image editing apps have found a home on Apple’s tablet. Pixelmator for iOS takes photo editing and graphic design on iOS to a new level, bringing a photoshop-like experience to your fingertips.

Discover new music you’ll love with Spotify [50 Essential iOS Apps #39]

By

Spotify app now playing screen
Spotify and Siri are finally a team.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Spotify Streaming music has revolutionized the way we listen to music on the go. Starting with streaming radio, and quickly evolving to carrying millions of songs in your pocket (thanks to cellular data), streaming services have enabled incredible access and discovery of great music.

With Spotify, you can experience your favorites and discover great new music better than ever, thanks to algorithmic intelligence and some genius features.

Save time and money on parking with ParkWhiz [50 Essential iOS Apps #38]

By

ParkWhiz Start Search screen
ParkWhiz makes finding parking as easy as searching our destination.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: ParkWhiz appIf you live near a big city, or travel to metro areas frequently, you know what a pain in the butt parking can be. Parking lots and garages use confusing signage to trick you into spending more money, and some less expensive spots are often poorly labeled or hidden entirely. With ParkWhiz, you can get the most bang for your buck, and know exactly what you’re getting. Best of all, you’ll save time so you can enjoy your trip without adding stress.

Give the perfect GIF with GIFwrapped [50 Essential iOS Apps #37]

By

You'll be amazed at how easy GIFwrapped makes finding the perfect animated GIF.
You'll be amazed at how easy GIFwrapped makes finding the perfect animated GIF.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: GIFwrapped In the ’90s and early 2000, animated GIFs were a staple of web design. Today, they’re still imperative to the web, but for entirely different reasons. With GIFwrapped, you can search a massive database of GIFs, create a personal library of your favorites, and save the ones you find on social media for later.

Refuel for less with GasBuddy [50 Essential iOS Apps #36]

By

GasBuddy makes it easy to see where refueling will cost you less.
GasBuddy makes it easy to see where refueling will cost you less.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: GasBuddy gas app It’s road trip season, and that means gas prices can have a big impact on your vacation. Sometimes what seems like a decent gas price is actually a ripoff because you don’t know about the local station around the corner that’s selling fuel for far less.

If you want to get the best gas price, use GasBuddy for iPhone. The app shows you where all the nearby gas stations are. Better still, GasBuddy helps you find the best prices on gas, wherever you are.

Understand your sleep patterns with Pillow [50 Essential iOS Apps #35]

By

Pillow on Apple Watch report
Pillow users your Apple Watch or iPhone for sleep tracking and reporting your sleep quality.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: pillow sleep tracker appDo you ever wake up feeling exhausted, even though you are sure you slept well the night before? Or do you find yourself getting that 2:30 feeling a few hours early without any clear explanation? With the Pillow sleep app for iPhone and Apple Watch, you can get detailed analysis of your nightly slumber. Even better, you can gain insight into your body’s ideal sleep and wake times.

Cash App makes splitting the check easy [50 Essential iOS Apps #34]

By

Cash app with cash money
Cash app makes paying back your friend as easy as using cash.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Cash App There are tons of ways to give money to a friend or family member. You could mail a check, hand them a stack of cash, or send it digitally. With the Cash App, sending money to someone is as easy as entering an amount, dropping in their $cashtag, and hitting send. While this is very similar to Apple Pay Cash, the Cash App packs a few extra perks that make it awesome.

TickTick helps get your to-do list finished [50 Essential iOS Apps #33]

By

Ticktick next week tasks
TickTick works as a Reminders replacement, or an advanced task manager.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: TickTick When Apple rolled out iOS 5 way back in 2011, one of the software’s highlights was a new app — Reminders — to help you keep track of tasks.

Since that time, Reminders hasn’t evolved much. However, the type of task manager people are looking for has changed dramatically. TickTick offers greater control, more granularity, and is an all-around better to-do list app.

Add some personality to your forecast with Carrot Weather [50 Essential iOS Apps #32]

By

Carrot Weather forecast says its hot hot hot
Carrot weather tells it like it is... rain or shine, frigid or inferno.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Carrot Weather app Weather can be exciting, but checking the weather rarely is. Regardless of what’s going on outside, Carrot Weather makes checking the forecast hilarious and fun. Better than that, Carrot Weather offers an Apple Watch app that is best in class for the platform.

Paprika makes your iPad a kitchen sidekick [50 Essential iOS Apps #31]

By

Paprika on iPad with kitchen items around
Following recipes is easy and convenient with Paprika.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: PaprikaHave you ever decided to make dinner, only to find the recipe has gone missing. Sometimes it’s a misplaced notecard, other times, a saved (or pinned) link that is now dead. With Paprika, your favorite recipes are stored digitally, and you’re in control. As someone who cooks nearly every day, Paprika is the best recipe app for chefs of any skill level.

Take control of your schedule with Fantastical [50 Essential iOS Apps #30]

By

Fantastical Ticker view upcoming events
Understanding your calendar, reminders, and events is fast and easy with Fantastical
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: FanstasticalManaging a busy schedule is something we all deal with from time to time. Relying on a calendar app makes it easier, but entering every meeting, project, or appointment can be a hassle. Fantastical is the best calendar app for adding events to your calendar and managing your schedule.

Movies Anywhere puts your movies everywhere [50 Essential iOS Apps #29]

By

Movies Anywhere my movies
Movies Anywhere syncs your movies across online services.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: Movies AnywhereOwning digital movies used to be a pain in the neck. Movies bought on iTunes were trapped on Apple devices, Google Play movies on Google’s service, and Amazon purchases in Prime Video. At the same time digital copies included with DVD and Blu-rays were often stuck in services like Vudu, Flixter, or UltraViolet. With Movies Anywhere, you can finally sync most of your movies across various services, putting your movies everywhere you want to watch.

Nuzzel highlights important news from your Twitter feed [50 Essential iOS Apps #28]

By

Nuzzel news feed on iPhone
Nuzzel prioritizes the most talked about stories from Twitter.
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: NuzzelTwitter is a great way to stay up-to-date with the news. A well-curated Twitter feed can provide important updates on topics important to you. Sometimes, knowing what is most important can be a challenge as conversations, memes, and social commentary overwhelm actual news updates. With Nuzzel, you can view a summary of the news stories everyone is talking about. Best of all, it’s personalized to you.

Stay focused on writing with iA Writer [50 Essential iOS Apps #27]

By

iA Writer on iPad
iA Writer is perfect for bloggers and others writing on the go
Photo: Ian Fuchs/Cult of Mac

50 Essential iOS Apps: iA Writer appThere are dozens of ways to write on iOS. Apple’s own Notes app offers a simple writing platform, while Pages allows for elaborate documents – complete with pictures. While both are good for certain tasks, more serious writers typically want something a little different. iA Writer offers more while doing less, making it the perfect text editor app.