With the end of 2018 approaching (where did the year go?!), it’s time for the inevitable yearly roundups. I decided that groovyPost should be in on all of the roundup action too, so I am planning to write guides for the best iOS apps, best MacOS apps, and best Chrome add-ons.
These are not necessarily apps and add-ons which were invented in 2018. In fact, many of them date back many years. But as of December 2018, these are the apps and add-ons which we think you should be using. We look forward to hearing your opinions and disagreements in the comments! Today we are focusing on iOS apps.
The Best iOS Apps Which Should Be On Your iPhone Or iPad
We’ll start with some general tools, which don’t really fit in any of the other categories.
- Shortcuts – this came as a default app with iOS 12 and has rapidly become one of my favorite apps. A bit along the lines of IFTTT, you can tell your phone to do something that usually involves several taps – with a single tap of a button. There are many shortcuts available and you can also make your own. Look out for an article from me in the New Year about Shortcuts and the best ones available.
- CARROT Weather – this weather app has me in hysterics every time I open it up, and it has earned me a few strange looks in public when my phone calls me a “meatbag”. Carrot gives you the weather, along with a healthy dose of verbal abuse. It’s a fun and lighthearted way to get your weather forecast.
- MacID – if you are tired of constantly locking and unlocking your MacOS computer, you can use this iPhone app as a kind of unlocking tool. I have a long and complicated password for my Mac and continually having to enter it gets tiring after a while. So MacID is a button on your phone which you can use to instantly unlock your Mac without having to enter your password. Essentially, it turns your iPhone into a TV remote control, except it unlocks Macs. For it to work, you need BlueTooth LE.
- Google Maps – this one needs no introduction, but it is invaluable on any iPhone. I’ve lost count the number of times my wife has got lost driving the car, and Google Maps has got us back to 21st-century civilization. I’ve tried developing the same affection for Apple Maps but I just can’t manage it.
- Unzip – smartphones and tablets have come a long way, but you still occasionally come up against some limitations. One of them is downloading files from the Internet onto your phone or tablet. The other is unzipping files. I recently started using Unzip and it worked perfectly on my iPhone.
Chat & VOIP
- Skype – I used to be a huge Skype ambassador but I feel that Microsoft is doing its usual and degrading what was once a superb product. However, it’s undeniable that Skype still holds the crown when it comes to video calling and chatting. So I would be remiss if I didn’t include it.
- Zoom – this is one of the Skype alternatives which is slowly gaining my loyalty. Zoom has excellent video picture quality, excellent sound, and calls rarely drop. When I do video conversations with people, they are more and more asking if I use Zoom. It’s really starting to gain a foothold. Take note, Microsoft.
- Signal – another of my favorite chatting alternatives, especially with my tinfoil hat-wearing buddies. With highly encrypted messaging, I can now discuss the history of presidential assassinations with friends, without having the NSA repositioning their satellites over my home.
- Facebook Messenger – I really like Facebook Messenger, the only downside being that, well it’s part of Facebook. So assume everything you type somehow makes its way to the algorithms of Zuckerberg Enterprises. It keeps promising a “huge” upgrade soon with a newly redesigned interface, but I like the bots, the games, and running my business page through Messenger.
- WhatsApp – despite trying to get people to switch to Signal, there are some people stubbornly holding onto WhatsApp for dear life. Namely my wife, in-laws, and various friends. So I am forced to keep using it. Despite end-to-end encryption, it IS owned by Facebook. So I am waiting for the first advert to appear. It is still a good product though and I particularly like the groups feature and the web version.
Reading & News
- Flipboard – a favorite of my groovyPost boss, Steve. Plus many of my friends also love Flipboard. I have never really got into it. I much prefer Pocket.
- Apple Books – Apple Books is a good platform and really the only one worth considering for EPUB books. But when they did their upgrade and rebranding recently, they seem to have wrecked something. My books are not syncing! So I am a little ticked off but everyone else I know loves Apple Books, so it earns a spot here.
- Kindle – Amazon’s Kindle is my eBook platform of choice and I buy way too many books every single month. When I am sitting in the doctor’s waiting room (or waiting for another appointment), it is nice to get the phone out and get a couple chapters of “Fifty Shades of Grey” read.
- CNN – despite the right-wing hatred for this network in the United States, CNN has always been the network I have turned to when I want to get truthful news. Their app is particularly impressive with built-in video in the news stream. You can also have breaking news push notifications sent to your iPhone screen. I also get political news from Politico.
- BBC – being British, I always turn to the BBC when I want to get another angle on the news, especially British news. Again, you get push notifications for breaking news, but turn off the notification sounds because it sounds like a music recording studio gone haywire.
- Slack – It has taken a while for me to like Slack, as usually, chat apps are not my thing. They suck up too much time and destroy productivity. But more and more people are moving to Slack and eschewing email, which makes Slack an essential app if you are freelancing for a living.
- Dropbox – I use iCloud to back up my iOS photo albums but it doesn’t hurt to have a second backup with Dropbox’s Camera Upload. Plus, Dropbox ensures that my files are with me, even when I am out and about with my phone.
- Scannable – I recently discussed Scannable in my article about iOS scanners. Despite being an Evernote product, it can also be used as a standalone app. Another great scanning app which I recently discovered is PhotoMyne, which makes multiple photo scanning extremely easy.
- Evernote – after abandoning Evernote last year, I was tempted back with a 50% discount voucher. I’m not sure if I will end up paying full price again when it comes up for renewal in 2019 but I am enjoying having somewhere to dump all of my thoughts again. Plus Evernote now has a black mode! My boss Steve, on the other hand, prefers OneNote.
- Trello – As with Slack, I am a late convert to Trello, as traditionally I have hated the whole concept of to-do lists. But with more and more freelance clients insisting on using it, Trello has grown on me. With its drag and drop functionality, it’s easy to set up different categories and move stuff between them. Steve, on the other hand, suggests Wunderlist when it comes to tracking simple to-do lists. Although Microsoft picked it up a few years ago, it’s still getting updated and makes tracking lists across all platforms (and collaborating on lists) simple.
- Google Calendar – after flirting with the built-in iOS calendar, I am now using Google Calendar. It has a beautiful user interface and is extremely easy to use. You can also set reminders and goals, which technically removes the need to use the iOS Reminders app.
Email & Browsers
- Gmail – in between using the encrypted email app Protonmail, Gmail is the default email app on my phone. Compared to the web version, it is a little bit limited (no canned replies for instance, and no snooze). But Google is steadily improving the iOS version. Steve recommends Outlook, especially if you need it to sync with Outlook.com or Office 365 for corporate email.
- Google Chrome – I tend to use a few browsers on my phone (Firefox and Onion being two of them), but I always seem to end up coming back to Chrome. It just works. Chrome Sync is massively better than Firefox Sync, which is hugely important for me. Plus the built-in search bar means that the Google search app is now basically obsolete.
- Netflix – Netflix needs no introduction as it is the monster in the room when it comes to online streaming. I occasionally use it on my iPhone but mostly on my iPad. I particularly like the offline downloading function and its enormous selection of stuff to watch.
- Amazon Prime Video – Arguably, Netflix’s biggest rival. Their selection is not as big and as interesting as Netflix in my opinion. But when you are sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, putting in the earphones and watching “Lethal Weapon” is a good way to pass the time. Oh, and it’s just one of many free services if you’re already an Amazon Prime customer.
- DirecTV Now – This is one I am personally not familiar with. But I have included it on the strong recommendation of Steve. You need a paid subscription to access it. Over 120 channels of live streaming, with movies and shows.
- YouTube – despite streaming services like Netflix and Prime, oldies like YouTube will always have a special place in my heart. Where else am I going to get my daily Stephen Colbert fix or watching parrots dancing to Backstreet Boys, or dogs on skateboards?
- Shazam – there’s nothing worse than hearing a fantastic song on the radio and not knowing its name or artist. That is why Shazam is so beloved on my iOS device. It will listen to the song and identify it within literally seconds. The fact it has now been bought by Apple means it may get deeper iOS integration, but I am still a bit uneasy about my favorite app.
- Google Authenticator – two-step authentication is a MUST but text message codes are becoming increasingly risky. This is why Google Authenticator steps in. To get the 2FA code, a hacker has to have physical possession of your phone. Another alternative is Authy.
- Tunnelbear – I love watching Saturday Night Live videos on YouTube but most of them are geo-blocked, due to me being outside the US. Tunnelbear is my favorite virtual private network which gives me an American IP address. Lots of streaming services can detect VPN’s now, but so far YouTube doesn’t. Steve recommends using PIA.
- MiniKeePass – whether you access the web on a desktop computer or mobile device, a password manager is a must. My BFF in this area and one I have written about before is KeePass. The iOS version is called MiniKeePass, and can be opened with Touch ID.
- Facebook – I would love nothing more than to ditch Facebook. But I run my business on it and family and friends are on it. So I am forced to keep using it. I’m sure many of you are in the same situation, making this something to keep on your phone.
- Instagram – I am more of an Instagrammer these days, finding that it has better engagement than Facebook. The app directly accesses your iOS photo album as well as a built-in camera for spontaneous snaps. You can cross-post to Facebook pages as well and other Instagram accounts.
- Tweetbot – after almost giving up on Twitter a couple of months ago, a friend recommended I try Tweetbot. I’m glad I did because it has made Twitter bearable again. Powerful filters can hide almost anything you don’t want to see, and a Dark Mode makes it nice to tweet in bed.
- Buffer – when it comes to social media scheduling, Buffer is still top of the game. Although rivals like Hootsuite and Meet Edgar are slowly catching up. Although I use Buffer very regularly, its use got crippled a few months back when Facebook pulled support for ordinary profiles. But adding to Instagram from a laptop is a breeze and a delight.
- Personal Capital – another recommendation by our founder Steve. This one tracks your finances and monitors your cash flow, portfolio and retirement planning. It’s completely free and does an amazing job vs. other online free services like Mint. and portfolio.
- Paypal – for getting paid online, Paypal is still the industry giant to beat. But a few run-ins with them in 2018 has dented my affection for them. So I am looking at alternatives. The two I am currently using – and which I am falling in love with – are Revolut and TransferWise. As well as shockingly low fees, you also get a Mastercard debit card for each of them. Revolut is my favorite though. They will shortly be introducing cryptocurrency transfers, as well as stock market investing.
- Wallet /Apple Pay – with Apple Pay FINALLY arriving in Germany, I have been giving this subject a huge amount of thought in December. I absolutely love Apple Pay and with it being a brand new novelty here in Germany, I always get the fascinated looks when I use it. You can add your bank cards and loyalty cards to Apple Pay and more or less discard your wallet.
- Robinhood – this is one which was highly recommended by Steve. I have never used it myself. Robinhood is an investment app in things like cryptocurrencies and stocks – commission-free! The company though seems to have got itself mixed up in a bit of a PR mess recently while trying to offer free checking accounts as well. That said, it’s stock trading service is popular and growing quickly.
Which iOS apps have a permanent place on your phone or tablet? Let us know in the comments and we just might add them to our list of best IOS apps for 2018 and beyond.