Sometimes you love your iPhone, and other times you wish that it were a little bit different: that its features were more customizable or its native apps were more capable. While we can’t change the shortcomings of your iPhone or the flaws of its operating system, we can give you some pointers on how to take advantage of one of the biggest benefits of having an iOS device: The huge selection of high-quality apps that developers have built for iOS.
A good app can feel like an upgrade to your iPhone, so we’ve gathered the best alternatives for 10 of the major native apps that come preloaded on your device: Photos, Camera, Messages, Mail, Music, Safari, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, and Weather. The third-party apps that can replace these default apps can make all of the tasks that you complete on your iPhone easier to manage. They also show how taking a little bit of time to customize the app lineup on your iPhone can help you maximize the capability of your device.
If you’re looking for an easy way to upgrade everything without thinking much about the apps you choose, you can go with this great list of Google apps. But if you’re looking for apps from a variety of developers, the apps ahead come from a wide range of designers. Even better, they offer an array of exciting features that will make your iPhone even more fun and functional.
Photos and Camera
In Photos, users can edit and share their pictures and videos, search by time or location, or browse by Collections and Moments. Photos is now equipped with editing tools, like ones that can automatically straighten the horizon or provide the ideal way to crop an image. Users can also make adjustments to exposure, brightness, contrast, light, and color, as well as add filters. Camera comes with a time-lapse mode, which takes photos at dynamically-selected intervals, and if you have a new iPhone, you can capture Live Photos. But there are plenty of great apps that help you do more with your iPhone camera and your photos.
1. Afterlight, which costs $0.99, is an editing app that provides 15 adjustment tools, 75 filters, 78 textures, and 128 frames. Users can also crop their photos with a tool equipped with 15 presets and use a variety of other tools, including a Double Exposure feature, a rotating tool, vertical and horizontal flipping tools, and straightening. Afterlight also supports extensions, so users can choose to access the app’s filters and editing tools within the iOS Photos app.
2. Camera+ provides up to 6X digital zoom, enables users to set exposure separately from focus, and offers a Clarity filter to “intelligently” adjust details and add crispness. Shooting modes, scene modes, effects, and a horizon level give users better control over photos both while they’re shooting and afterward. All the photos taken in Camera+ are saved to its Lightbox feature, which can sync with iCloud to enable users to edit photos they took with their iPhone on, for example, their iPad. You can get Camera+ for $2.99 in the App Store.
3. Manual gives users full control of the camera’s shutter speed, ISO, white balance, focus, and exposure compensation. The app also features grid overlays, live histograms, fill flash using the iPhone’s Flashlight mode, and tools to monitor automatic exposure values live. It’s especially useful for nailing the exposure in tricky shots, like backlit subjects, which the iPhone’s camera may struggle to handle automatically. Manual costs $3.99 in the App Store.
4. ProCamera, which costs $2.99 in the App Store, offers manual control and HDR, which can capture fast-moving objects without a tripod. Users can control a photo’s focus and exposure points separately while locking white balance in both photo and video mode; set values for exposure time, ISO sensitivity, and white balance; use 78 different filters and effects; take night shots; and save photos within a dedicated lightbox within the app.
5. VSCO is a free app that enables users to shoot and edit photos, and share them either via the usual social media outlets or on the VSCO Grid, VSCO’s free photo publishing platform. VSCO features a variety of presets that users can adjust precisely, includes editing tools, and affords you the increased control of a separate exposure ring and focus ring while shooting. You can take advantage of manual focus, shutter speed, white balance, and exposure compensation.
With Messages, users can add, capture, and share sound recordings, videos, or photos right from a conversation. Users can also share their location in the middle of a conversation and easily find all of the attachments in a thread. Some recent additions to iOS include tools that make it easier to manage group conversations, and features that enable you to send voice or video messages right from a conversation. And iOS 10 adds all kinds of fun features, including bubble effects, screen effects, sticker packs and apps, handwritten notes, and the ability to type a word to find an emoji. But there are plenty of good reasons to replace Messages with a different messaging app.
6. GroupMe, which is free in the App Store, is a Microsoft-owned group messaging app. It has native apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone and works on phones, tablets, and computers. And not everyone included in a group message needs to have the app — you can add anyone from your contacts list and he or she will be able to chat with the group directly over SMS. You can share photos and videos, explore all the photos in a group with a gallery view, “like” messages, share your location, use custom emoji, send direct messages, and mute notifications if you need some quiet time away from a chatty group.
7. Telegram Messenger is also free in the App Store, and claims to be the world’s fastest messaging app. It keeps your messages secure with end-to-end encryption and the option to set messages and photos to self-destruct. You can run Telegram on your smartphone, tablet, and desktop, and you can send an unlimited number of messages, photos, videos, and files of any type. Telegram is built on the MTProto protocol to make security compatible with high-speed delivery and reliability on weak connections, and it’s built to deliver messages with the minimum number of bytes possible. That means that the app remains reliable even on the weakest mobile connections.
8. Sicher is a secure messaging app that protects your text and media with point-to-point 2,048-bit encryption. Messages automatically self-destruct and can’t be recovered, and you set the timer for when the message will be deleted from both your phone and your contact’s phone. Sicher also features encrypted file transfer, and you can create an encrypted passcode to log in safely. It costs $0.99 in the App Store.
9. Slack, which is free in the App Store, is a chat app intended for the workplace, and for some companies it is replacing both another chat app and work email. It enables you to have one-on-one and group conversations, share files, use powerful search and file archiving functions, and configure notifications across desktop, mobile, and email. Slack’s dozens of third-party integrations supercharge the app to make your workflow simpler.
10. Signal, which is Edward Snowden’s favorite messaging app, enables you to send encrypted messages or place secure phone calls, all with your existing phone number and address book. (That means that you don’t have to remember a separate login, username, password, or PIN.) Everything in Signal is end-to-end encrypted, and you can even view the source code on GitHub. Signal is free in the App Store.
Mail has gotten smarter with the last few versions of iOS, with features like the ability to minimize the compose box to the bottom of the Mail app, an option to set alerts for email threads, and new Mailbox-inspired swipe actions to mark emails as read, delete emails, and access other options. And iOS 10 added new inbox filters, the ability to organize email threads, the option to share your location, and even the ability to unsubscribe from mailing lists. But there are still plenty of email apps that are easier to use and manage than the app that comes preloaded on your iPhone.
11. Newton Mail from CloudMagic, which is free in the App Store but requires a $49 annual subscription, is an email app for iPhone, iPad, and Android and enables you to manage all of your mail from any service, including Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo, Exchange, Outlook, and IMAP services. CloudMagic’s simple inbox and powerful tools help you manage your mailbox with swipe actions, an edit mode to act on multiple messages, and reminders to help keep track of important messages. CloudMagic provides a streamlined reading experience and enables you to save tasks to your favorite task management and productivity apps. You can protect access to the app with a passcode, and it’s designed to go easy on your device’s battery and data.
12. Boxer costs $4.99 to download. This app is a mobile inbox that adapts to the way you work and enables you tailor each aspect of your inbox to your workflow. It features tools like bulk edit, quick response, and smart labels to help you get things done more quickly, and you can set up customized swipes, signatures, and notification sounds. Boxer supports Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, iCloud, and AOL, and integrates with apps like Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, and LinkedIn to place their services inside the inbox.
13. Hop, which is free in the App Store, sorts incoming mail into two categories: active conversations and everything else. Messages from friends and colleagues take precedent over less-important emails. Hop runs at the speed of instant messaging so that threads can turn into real-time conversations without the formality of subject lines and signatures. You can create groups for sharing and conversation-tracking, and anyone can participate in the discussion without any installation, signup, or login. You can even make voice calls with other Hop users.
14. Triage, which costs $2.99 in the App Store, is intended for people who struggle to stay on top of their email. Unlike most other email apps, it doesn’t aim to replace a desktop client, but instead enables you to use your downtime to reduce the noise and stress of a crowded email inbox. You can flick an email up to archive it, delete it, or mark it as read; tap to send a short reply; or flick down to save a message for later. Triage supports Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, and most IMAP providers.
Apple Music is a relatively new addition to iOS. With the app, you can create playlists or let Genius make some for you, listen to iTunes Radio, discover new songs and artists, and add new songs and albums to your collection. The release of iOS 10 brought a major redesign for Apple Music, which makes the app easier to navigate and more useful for discovering new music. But there are plenty of other music apps (and radio apps) that you consider using instead of, or alongside, Apple Music.
15. Listen is a free music player that you can control with gestures, not buttons. The app doesn’t need precise gestures and aims to enable you to use it without looking at it. You can swipe left to right to change tracks, tap to play or pause, or swipe up to add a song to your favorites. The app enables you to navigate your music library (or Apple Music) seamlessly and uses a simple media library search function. You can also disable iOS’s auto-lock feature, stream music via AirPlay, and instantly share what you’re listening to via social networks or email.
16. Openwhyd is another free music app that enables you to discover and create playlists, and collect and share songs from any music service in one place. You can collect songs from YouTube, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Deezer, and others to save to your Whyd profile; organize your music into playlists that you can share with others; connect with like-minded users who are discovering the best new music; and listen to your music anywhere.
17. musx focuses on offering the simplest way to share music with your friends. Musx makes sharing a song as easy as sharing a photo and brings you the latest recommendations from your friends and favorite sources. You can share songs, follow others to discover what they’re sharing, and save your favorites to playlists in seconds. You can also add songs to a queue for nonstop listening, create playlists with your friends, and like or comment on your friends’ posts. The app is free to download from the App Store.
18. Splyce, which is free in the App Store, is a music player with “magical DJ powers.” To experience the music on your iPhone in a new way, you select your favorite songs, put them in order with some visual cues in the app, and press play. The app can mix your music, enable you to select the mix mode and mixing time, and even connect with Philips Hue lights to create music-synchronized light effects that will help you “throw the best parties in town.” What’s not to love?
Safari is the Web browser that comes preloaded on your iPhone or iPad. When you open a webpage, the browser’s address and navigation bars move out of the way until you need them. You can easily add and edit bookmarks, and features like Reading List, Shared Links, and iCloud Tabs make the browser more capable. Apple touts Safari as the world’s most popular mobile browser — which reflects the fact that most iPhone users don’t think to switch out the default browser for one of the many other options available to them.
19. Chrome is a free web browser by Google and is available both for personal computers and mobile devices. The free Chrome app enables you to sync your activity across devices and access and open tabs from your laptop, phone, or tablet. Chrome provides users with data savings of up to 50% while browsing and offers faster browsing by showing you search results that appear as you type, enabling you to quickly access previously visited pages. You can use Google Voice Search to find answers without typing, translate pages into any language, open an unlimited number of tabs, and use Incognito mode to browse without saving your history.
20. Dolphin Web Browser, which is free in the App Store, is a fast browser that enables you to tailor your Web browsing experience with customizable gestures, third-party add-ons, and options to share and sync with Facebook, Evernote, Box, and more. Dolphin features one-tap share, simplified tab browsing, and sync options to send links, maps, phone numbers, history, bookmarks, passwords, and more between mobile and PC. Dolphin’s Sonar enables you to search, share, and navigate by voice, and its sidebar helps maximize the mobile interface.
21. Mercury Browser is free to download in the App Store. It’s a customizable browser that enables you to sync bookmarks with Firefox and Chrome, send downloaded files to Dropbox, easily download files and images, and transfer files via iTunes File Sharing, Wi-Fi transfer, or email. Mercury Browser has an ad-block feature that eliminates banner ads, fullscreen ads, and popups, plus speeds up your browsing and lowers your data consumption. The browser supports nine multi-touch gestures, supports plugins, has a private browsing mode, includes a reader mode, and features an in-page search function.
22. Opera Coast, which is free in the App Store, is a streamlined browser that enables you to navigate with touch and swipe gestures. When you open the browser, it surfaces something new for you to read or to entertain you, and it presents search results visually. It provides quick access to your favorite sites, enables you to quickly share content from the Web, and lets you customize the look of the browser. You can sync Opera Coast data between iOS devices, like your iPhone and iPad, and browse smoothly even on slow networks with the Opera Turbo technology.
23. Puffin Browser Pro costs $3.99 in the App Store, and claims to be the fastest mobile Web browser available. It speeds up mobile browsing by shifting the workload from your device to cloud servers, enabling you to run resource-demanding webpages “super-fast” on your phone or tablet. All traffic from the app to the Puffins server is encrypted, and Puffin can save up to 90% of your bandwidth on regular browsing.
When Apple first launched iOS in 2007, the mobile operating system included the Calendar app, which has been a core app on iOS devices ever since. Apple uses your iCloud account to sync calendar data among your various devices. Calendar has gained some useful features, like Family Sharing, which enables you to have a shared calendar with family members or close friends, a Travel Time feature that can warn you when it’s time to leave for an appointment, and auto-complete options for regular appointments and tasks. But there are plenty of other calendar options to consider.
24. Fantastical 2, which costs $4.99 in the App Store, is a best-selling calendar app with features designed to make you more productive. You can use natural language to create complex repeating events and set alerts, set reminders with time and geofence alerts, see a map on events with addresses, and send birthday wishes by text, email, Facebook, or WhatsApp. The DayTicker provides you with an efficient view of your schedule, and Fantastical works with the same calendar accounts that iOS’s default Calendar app already supports: iCloud, Google Calendar, Yahoo, Exchange, and more.
25. Calendars 5, which costs $6.99 in the App Store, is a great calendar app whether you have tasks or events to keep track of. The app supports natural language input, and has an easy-to-use task manager to help you with your to-do list. Its interface gives you a quick overview of upcoming tasks and events, and it works both online and offline.
26. Tiny Calendar is a free app that works with both Google Calendar and the iOS calendar. It’s packed with smart features like natural language input and gestures, and supports eight different standard views so that it’s easy to discover events or find time for a meeting or trip. You can create, edit, and delete events even when you’re offline, and set reminders via push notification or email for any event.
27. miCal, which costs $1.99 in the App Store, claims to be iOS’s missing calendar. The app supports seven different views, supports iOS reminders, and enables you to create events with the new natural language input feature. MiCal syncs with your device’s integrated calendar to support iCloud, Google Calendar, Outlook, Exchange, Facebook Events, subscriptions, and more.
Notes and Reminders
Notes and Reminders are two apps that are integral to iOS. Both integrate basic functionality to keep track of your appointments and events and create reminders of all of your to-do’s. A variety of third-party apps push these functions further to help you more intelligently manage your agenda and all of the tasks you need to complete, with all kinds of features that go beyond the basic capabilities of Apple’s apps.
28. Letterspace is a note-taking app that helps you to stay organized and increase your productivity. It lets you take notes in Markdown, create GitHub-like to-do lists, organize notes using inline hashtags, and sync notes with iCloud. It features a swipe-to-move cursor bar, Markdown syntax highlighting, hashtags and mentions to group related notes, and the ability to swipe on a note to send it to the archive. You can sync notes across your iOS devices using iCloud and mark to-do list items as either complete or incomplete. The app costs $4.99 in the App Store.
29. Evernote, which is free in the App Store, enables you to write notes of all types, from short lists to lengthy research, and access them from any device. You can collect Web articles, handwritten notes, and photos to keep all of the details in one place. You can find your notes quickly with Evernote’s search function, make to-do lists, create notebooks, and add tags to organize projects.
30. Drafts costs $4.99 in the App Store, and each time you open the app, it provides a new, blank draft. The app features simple, mail-like organization, offers full-text searching, and enables you to use the share extension to capture text from the Web or from other apps. Drafts offers a powerful editing mode and features actions that can send email and messages, create reminders and events, post to Twitter and Facebook, and more. It also supports iOS 9 features like iPad multitasking and Spotlight Search indexing of inbox drafts.
31. Any.do is free and will manage your tasks, work projects, and personal to-do’s, enabling you to collaborate with others to be more productive. The app makes it easy to coordinate your business, home, and personal life all in one place. It features cloud sync, speech recognition, customizable time and location reminders, shared tasks, simple notes, file attachments, and gesture support.
32. Checkmark 2, which costs $4.99 in the App Store, is a to-do app that features the ability to create location-based reminders. The app enables you to create location-based reminders with three taps and add your favorite locations from a map, your contacts list, or your current location. You can create reminders for “location groups,” such as for multiple grocery stores or set date-specific location-based reminders. The lists feature enables you to manage projects for work or for school, or create simple lists of movies or groceries.
33. Moo.do, which is free in the App Store, combines note-taking with to-do lists, outlining, and planning in a single app. You can see upcoming tasks and appointments in your agenda, include contacts in your notes and tasks, sync across all platforms, access documents offline, collaborate with others on shared documents, and set mobile alerts and reminders.
34. Wunderlist is another free to-do list app that enables you to accomplish more during your day. You can share lists, collaborate with family and friends, use the comments feature to have conversations with friends or colleagues, and access public lists to discover things you can see, do, and make. Wunderlist is available for free across many platforms as well as online, which means that you’ll be able to access your to-do list anywhere or collaborate with friends on any platform.
35. Todoist is a free to-do app that enables you to stay organized, focused, and productive. The app enables you to break tasks into smaller sub-tasks, break projects into sub-projects, and share projects, delegate tasks, and discuss details. Todoist supports notifications, enables you to write due dates in natural language, supports multiple priorities, and enables you to visualize your productivity. Todoist has apps and extensions for 13 platforms so that you can access your tasks on your phone, tablet, browser, email programs, and more.
Apple’s native weather app provides basic information on the weather conditions in your favorite locations. There’s nothing wrong with Apple’s Weather app, per se. But an array of third-party apps provide more detailed forecasts or hyperlocal forecasts tailored to your specific location, which makes it a no-brainer to upgrade from the app that’s preinstalled on your iPhone.
36. Dark Sky, which costs $3.99 in the App Store, tells you exactly when it will rain or snow up to an hour in advance. Using GPS, Dark Sky can create forecasts for your exact location and give you minute-to-minute predictions for the next hour and detailed forecasts for the next day and week. The app features weather animations, sends you push notifications before it starts raining at your exact location, and provides a widget that can tell you at a glance what will happen in the next hour.
37. The Weather Channel offers a free app that aims to provide the most accurate forecast available. It provides detailed forecasts to help you plan your day, week, or even the next hour. The app’s maps take past and future radar into account, while push alerts and badges make sure you know about any severe weather around you. Seasonal tools like an airport delay feature, boat and beach module, and pollen alerts help you plan around the weather.
38. Weather Underground, which is free in the App Store, provides the most accurate hyperlocal forecasts with community-powered weather reporting. More than 100,000 personal weather stations report the most localized weather conditions, and the data that Weather Underground collects from user-owned weather stations fills in the gaps between airport weather stations.
39. CARROT Weather, which costs $3.99 in the App Store, is a great choice for iPhone users who want some humor with their weather forecast. The app features entertaining dialogue, characters, and scenery, and offers quick access to 24-hour and 7-day forecasts. You’ll also get a short-term forecast on exactly when it’s going to start raining or snowing, and the Time Machine feature will help you look into the future (or past).
40. Fresh Air, which is free in the App Store, uses graphs to show you what the weather is going to be like for the next seven days. You can scroll through the minute-by-minute graph and see what the weather will be doing for your calendar events, and you can even set notifications if you’re the kind of person who always forgets to check the weather until you’ve left the house with the wrong outerwear.