By Emily Price
Just pick up a new phone? Starting out with a fresh install of iOS 8? Or simply have an afternoon to burn and want to download some toys? These are our must-have iPhone apps.
Google Maps – free
Once an iPhone standard, getting Google Maps on your iOS device now requires a download from the App Store. While Apple’s built-in Maps app is getting better, it’s still not quite as good as Google’s offering. Apple Maps also doesn’t have built-in transit info—a must-have if you’re trying to get around in a larger city.
Waze – free
Whether you’re a big driver or just going on a long road trip, you should check out Waze. The app knows how fast users are traveling on the road and redirects you around traffic mid-trip, ultimately shortening your commute. Waze tracks more than just traffic; it also alerts you to construction, accidents, red-light cameras, and even police ahead on your route.
VSCO Cam – free
VSCO Cam brings some of your favorite features from DSLRs to your iPhone. The app gives you fine control over focus, shutter speed, exposure, and ISO. What’s most powerful though, is VSCO Cam’s built-in image editing tools: its suite of film filters is unparalleled (they’re much more subtle and balanced than what you’ll find on Instagram or Facebook).
The app’s intuitive interface for editing temperature, exposure, shadows, vignettes, and contrast is so good that you’ll never want to use iPhoto on your desktop ever again. Finally, it offers a built-in social network for sharing your photos, but you can also easily share to everything from Instagram to Google+.
Cash – free
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 1 to 2 business days for the deposit to clear.
There’s never enough time to read everything you want to online. Pocket will save the articles you come across during the day to read later—simply set up an account, grab the [Chrome extension](https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/save-to-pocket/niloccemoadcdkdjlinkgdfekeahmflj?hl=en), and you’ll be able to access your list of saved articles on nearly every mobile and desktop platform. Even better, Pocket downloads articles to your device, so you can read even when you don’t have a working cell signal.
Uber or Lyft – both free
At some point you’re going to need a cab and there just won’t be any in sight. Save yourself some time now and go ahead and download Uber or its competitor Lyft. Both apps are operating in most major cities (and some not-so-major ones and will come pick you up whenever and wherever you need them, often for less cash than a traditional taxi). Watch out for surge pricing, though. If rides are in high demand then prices often double, and can reach more than ten times their regular rate.
Evernote – free
Evernote is essentially a virtual notebook you have with you everywhere—perfect for downloading whatever is bouncing around in your brain. You can make notes directly in the app, save images and articles from the web, upload pages from physical notebooks, and track tasks. Evernote can even handle audio files. The best part? Everything you add to Evernote is searchable, so you can find it next week (or even five years from now) quickly and easily.
Hotel Tonight – free
Whether it’s an unexpected getaway or an accidental mishap that has you looking for a last-minute hotel room, finding the perfect place on short notice can be a huge headache. HotelTonight allows you to book a single night stay on your phone in less than a minute. The app hand-selects each hotel it works with, which helps with quality, and offers selections based on the type of stay you’re looking for (basic, luxe, hip).
Mailbox – free
Let’s face it: most of use our email inboxes as glorified to do lists. Mailbox accepts that, and lets you snooze messages and have them come back later in the day, week, or month—when they actually matter. Once you get in the groove of delaying messages, Mailbox makes makes it easier to stay on top of important messages as they come in, and ensures you don’t forget to follow up on the notes that matter most.
Swiftkey – free
With iOS 8, Apple finally added the ability to install third-party keyboards on your phone, and Swiftkey is one of the best options available. The keyboard learns how you type and adapts to your unique tapping style over time, meaning you’ll be able to type faster with fewer typos.
Dark Sky – $3.99
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.
1Password – free
Remembering a unique password for every app and service you use is a nearly impossible task, and you should be using unique passwords. 1Password’s new mobile version syncs with the desktop app to help keep your accounts safe by creating and storing a different secure password for all the services you use — all you have to remember is one password.
Facebook Messenger – free
Facebook got a lot of heat when it split its messaging tools off into a separate app, but without the clutter of the rest of the app, Facebook Messenger is a lean, mean communication tool. It just feels fast, and all of your messages sync flawlessly across any device running messenger and the web. The app started out with a barebones feature set, but has since added full group functionality, packages of beautifully rendered stickers, and some of the best image, audio, and video sharing options we’ve seen on any platform.
Kindle – free
The Kindle app is simply one of the best reading apps out there. Obviously, you get full access to all your e-book, magazine, and newspaper purchases you’ve made from Amazon, with nearly all of the same functionality you get from a Kindle or Kindle Fire. Your reading place is synced across the cloud, so you can pick up on your phone during the morning commute where you left off last night in bed on your classic Kindle. Plus, a handy new lock screen widget gives you quick access to the latest books you’ve been reading.
Beer lovers, keep track of every brew you drink with Untappd, a mobile social network of sorts. Check in different beers, rate them, and even send a virtual “cheers!” to a buddy when you like their most recent selection. Like Foursquare, you can earn badges for different types of check-ins, upload photos, find nearby bars with great selections, and share what you’re drinking with friends.
Instagram – free
200 million users strong and growing, Instagram is a monster in the photo sharing world. Your friends, parents, and coworkers are definitely on there, and for good reason: Instagram is still one of the easiest ways out there to spruce up your iPhone pics — and now 15-second videos. The app’s trademark filters have been toned down and are far more tasteful than they used to be, and Instagram now offers a versatile mix of photo editing tools for tweaking everything from contract to straightening up your shot.
Mint – free
Need to save money for an upcoming trip, pay down a loan, or figure out how you overspent so much last month last much? 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, lets you break down spending by category, and offers reminders for upcoming bills.
Day One – $4.99
Your old paper journal might smell great, but it can’t compare to Day One. The beautifully-designed app from Bloom makes chronicling your life as easy to do as writing a tweet or Facebook post, and can even provide you writing prompts and reminders to keep the habit alive. It syncs your private journal across the web via Dropbox or iCloud, and you can annotate each entry with tags, weather, location information, and even the music you’re listening to. Features like a passcode lock, Markdown support, and the fantastic desktop Mac and iPad apps make the $4.99 purchase totally worth it.
Slice – free
Slice makes you wonder why Apple and Google haven’t built the same functionality themselves. Used at its simplest, the app plugs into your email and intelligently pulls out tracking information for upcoming shipments of things you’ve purchased. You can also set it up to notify you when prices drop on items that you want. You don’t need to open the app if you don’t want to; Slice intelligently sends push notifications whenever your package ships, prices drop, and more.
Rdio or Spotify – both free
Music streaming services Rdio or Spotify let you listen to your favorite jams on demand from your phone with the purchase of a premium plan. Both offer radio options, smart stations, and friend lists for easily discovering new music, and let you sync music to your phone to listen to in offline mode. Download a few gigs of music on Wi-Fi before you head out on a trip, flip offline mode on, and don’t worry about getting a big charge on your cell phone bill.