My essential 10 iOS apps

Two weeks ago, after regretfully trying to use the iOS 11 developer betas on my primary devices, I was forced by general instability to roll back to iOS 10.

Unfortunately, there’s no great way to do this without doing a restore and fresh install. I had a backup from iOS 10 that I’d taken prior to jumping on the beta train, but it was old now. This process is further complicated by the way Apple Watch activity and health data is really maintained on the phone, not the watch itself.

The result was I ended up fresh installing iOS 10.3.3 (beta 6) on my iPhone 7 and iPad Pro 10.5”, as well as doing a factory reset of my Watch. It also meant losing a couple years worth of workout data, awards and streaks. But such is beta life. It did give me an opportunity to reassess what gets installed on these devices. I find it helpful to mix things up from time to time, even going as far as doing a reset of my app icon layouts periodically to reshuffle the deck chairs and throw out any old cruft hiding in corners. One of my favorite activities is to delete apps that don’t get used anymore, or used enough to take up my attention.

This time I took the approach of installing only the apps that I know I need on a daily basis, and then filling in the rest as the need for them arise.

For the most part, these are the apps that if I couldn’t put anything else on my phone, I’d be able to make due. These are the apps that I interact with daily or that provide an essential service or workflow.

1Password

Hands down, 1Password is the best password manager on the market and without a doubt the one app I couldn’t survive without. There isn’t really much more to say except if you’re not already a user, become one.

There’s been a bit of controversy recently about their move to a subscription model, but in my mind, it’s overblown. This software is worth every penny.

Better

I’ve been using Better as my iOS content blocker of choice for at least the last six months or so. It’s not as aggressive as other blockers, so you’ll still see ads, but it’s focus is more on blocking the unethical user tracking. It also tends to not slow down site rendering, or be detected by anti-ad-blocking scripts.

Tweetbot

At this point, I’ve been a Tweetbot user for so long, I don’t even know how to use (or why anyone else puts up with) the regular Twitter app. I even own stock in Twitter, and refuse to submit.

There are a few features you lose by going with a third party app, like group DM, but its advanced keyword muting, gestures, plus the clean and “traditional” timeline/tweet view, keep me hooked.

Overcast

This has been my podcast player of choice since it came out a few years ago. The syncing between devices works great, and it has a nice clean design. What really motivates me to keep using it though is Voice Boost and Smart Speed, which cleans up the audio on even the most well produced podcasts, and saves you time listening to dead air.

86 hours, in my case.

Carrot Weather

Who doesn’t love a little attitude with their weather report? This is exactly what Carrot delivers. It’s powered by Dark Sky, with an option to enable Wunderground data as an alternative. To be honest, before last week I kept flipping between this app, the stock Weather app, or apps like Weather Line, as my “primary” app. What kept Carrot on there for me was actually it’s fantastic Apple Watch app, but prior to Carrot Weather 4.0 the app wasn’t hands down The Best on iOS.

However, since 4.0 came out this week, that really put it over the top. I’ll still use RadarScope during storms for active tracking, but for general use, it’s all about Carrot now.

Also, they threatened me.

It rained later that day.

Pcalc

It’s a calculator. I mean, not really a lot to say here. I suck at math, so I use it a lot. But really it’s so much more advanced than the stock one, that I can’t not use it. It also has a built in unit conversion system. Also, since there isn’t a calculator on the iPad, it gets installed there and I like to have things consistent between it and the phone.

Workflow

I started using Workflow a few months ago, and now I have built enough little scripts with it, that help me get things done faster, that it’s become a part of my essential kit. Tip calculator, sending items to Tweetbot, getting public links to iCloud documents, cleaning up screenshots in my Photo Library… just to name a few. The app was recently acquired by Apple, and is now free.

Things

There are many to-do list applications I’m not totally married to this one, and occasionally I will just go back to the stock Reminders app (or use my #9 pick’s integration with them) but right now it’s Things.

Fantastical

Fantastical takes the stock Calendar application and turns it up a notch. It integrates with the system calendar and reminder synchronization to pull in iCloud, Exchange or Google data but it just presents them in a far more useful way than the stock app.

These days my current employer forces the use of Good as an corporate email/calendaring app, so Fantastical is really just for my personal and shared/family calendar, but I’m hoping corporate policies change to allow native Exchange integration at some point.

Nomorobo

My phone number is on a list somewhere, multiple lists probably. I get a lot of crap phone calls, sometimes a dozen a day. Well, at least I used to, until I subscribed to Nomorobo. It integrates with iOS to act as a blacklist for known robocallers and spammers. It’s not perfect, and some still slip through, but it’s better than nothing.

Cloak

If you were counting, this would be #11. Didn’t I say there were 10? Yes I did. Tough. This one is too important not to include. Cloak is my VPN provider of choice, for use when connecting to insecure wireless at hotels, coffee shops, etc. I don’t leave home without it. It automatically activates on unknown networks, and can even work around captive portals.

One thing you’ll probably notice, is that these are all independent app developers. They’re also all paid, or free with in-app subscription. There’s a reason for this. Not only is it because these particular folks make what I consider to be the best software, but I want to make sure to support their ecosystem and their livelihood.