I was asked by a colleague what iOS apps I use the most and what I think are the "must haves" on an iPhone. Since I like listing things I was happy to oblige.
There are plenty of these sort of lists available and I have to say, that most are completely useless to me. We all have different needs that are defined by our lifestyle, work, friends and interests. Making a list that would satisfy all is nearly impossible. In addition, I'd like to say this is just a list of apps I feel comfortable recommending. I mention the apps but I don't review them in detail. I'd need to do a separate post if I'd wanted to do proper review. I'm a software developer by trade and as a hobby, so I need apps like SSH clients and TestFlight. I play mobile game or any games extremely casually. I enjoy more pen-and-paper roleplaying games. I don't like dedicated navigators. My phone is supposed to be smart so I want to use that. I try to keep myself healthy and want to track my process. These amount to needs and preference unique to me. If you recognise some of the same interests or preferences there might be apps in the list below that you like.
Without analysing more here is the list.
Social Media and Communication
Many of the apps above might be familiar to you. They are all cross-platform apps and popular. Flipboard is a nice app for reading curated news and news pulled out of your Twitter and Facebook feeds. It's UI is pleasing and makes going through headlines and news fast. In addution, it gives just enough information so you can decide if the article is worth reading or is likely to be just link-bait. I tend to switch between Flipboarad and the official Twitter-app. The official app's timeline is nicer for casual browsing, Flipboard is better for serious news catch-up.
Telegram is my favorite IM app. It's open source, it has an app for the mobile platforms and to desktops as well. It also support Linux-desktops which is important to me. Telegram focuses on privacy and security. WhatsApp, another IM app is just like Telegram but without the focus on privacy and security. Though if I have understood WhatsApp has catched up at least in privacy functionality. Skype is in the list for the casual video chats. This is an area where Skype still excels. Once so dominant, it now has to face some serious competition from apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple's Facetime and Google Hangouts.
Games & Entertainment
Like I mentioned. I'm a casual gamer at best. I like games that I can play a few minutes and then forget about them. Threes, Crossy Road and Sky Force are just that kind of games. Threes is a puzzle. Crossy Road is a game where need to get the chicken across the road. Sky Force is a frantic arcade type "shoot enemy spaceships as fast as you can" type of a game. Simple and fun in small dosages.
Health & Fitness
The Quantified Self is a big thing right now. Maybe the hype is not anymore what it was since it has become more ordinary, allmost expected of from any health related gadget. My health apps of choice are the Withings HealthMate app, Apple's Activity and Runkeeper.
Withings is a device manufacturer that makes great health related devices like step counters, smart scales and sleep monitors. Withings was bought by Nokia some time ago. The Withings HealthMate app pulls info from the devices and displays it in an appealing way. The one big minus with the Withings app used to be that it wouldn't read from Apple Health. Now that's fixed I don't have that many bad things to say about it.
Runkeeper is a nice activity tracker app for walks and jogs. It can also track trips made with a bicycle. Both apps seem reliable and their UI is good. I haven't registered and created an account for Runkeeper which would give me some additional functionality. I use the app purely to log walks and jogs and I'm pleased that Runkeeper does not force me to setup an account to do that like many other apps do.
I chose Apple Health to the list because integration to Apple Health is an important feature to me. The app used to be just a way to check that something had been logged to Apple Health, but not much more. The app was very utilitarian in appearance and in function. Since the first release the app has improved. For instance, it now has a useful today view. The app is still very utilitarian, which is fine but its approaching a point that I could consider using it as the main view for my health information. However more important than the app is the Apple Health framework that powers the app. It allows all the health apps to share information with each other. You can be very granular what information you want to share or not to share. Health information is very private so this kind of control is an absolute must for me. So far Apple has been good how it handles the information. It's also a in business to sell devices and not information and adds so I feel more comfortable Apple storing my info than some others. If you are committed to specific app, then Apple Health might not be so important to you. But as soon as you have more than one source of health information, Apple Health becomes more relevant.
Files and Documents
Files. iOS has been accused of being difficult when you want to work with files and the filesystem directly. There's some point to those accusations since iOS does not reveal it's filesystem to the users. However I think for most parts and for most users this is a good thing. The last thing I want to do in my phone is to manage files. That said, there are plenty of apps for managing documents and other kinds of files that are actually nice.
Goodreader is the swiss-knife of document managers. You need to pay couple of euros/dollars for it but I have found the app to be worth it. I mostly use it for PDFs since it's also a good PDF reader and editing tool. There are various ways to get files to Goodreader. Most often I drop files into Dropbox or iCloud. The app integrates well with the more popular cloud services such as Dropbox, One Drive, Google Drive and iCloud. This means you can open the files in Goodreader without jumping back and forth with separate apps. I sometimes use the built-in HTTP file server. I turn it on, access the address of the file server on my computer or on another device and just drag'n drop files. You can also access file servers from Goodreader, such as all sorts of Unix/Linux -fileservers as well as Windows compatible Samba-shares. It's a good tool.
The Dropbox app is a great app to view files in Dropbox. You can't really edit text or do any complex management, but that's what apps like Goodreader are for. In any case, if you use Dropbox, this apps is handy.
Resilio Sync (formerly BitTorrent Sync) is very much like Dropbox. However, instead of storing files to a server you know nothing about, Resilio Sync allows you to use sync with sources you know and without any storage limits. I would prefer Resilio Sync over Dropbox but it hasn't catched on like Dropbox has.
Genious Scan is a QR-code reader. It's extremely fast and I have found it reliable. This is my goto app when I need to read QR codes. The downside is that it costs money. Not much but it might be a problem for some.
Tools of the Trade
- Microsoft Outlook
- Prompt, SSH Client, see notes below!
- iTunes Connect
- Test Flight
- Calcbot Calculator
Working in an office environment and as a developer means that I get to use lots of exiting tools like email and remote conference apps. Luckily there are some pretty good ones. Slack, Outlook and GoToMeeting forms the core of the business apps.
Slack has become popular in many hipster-ish companies but outside the corporate world the service is fairly unknown. Slack is essentially a chat, comparable to IRC but with out the technical hurdles. It's focus is on group chatting. With Slack you can reduce some of the email count and for example reserve email to external communications only. Microsoft is still the giant in office applications. The iOS client for Outlook, happily, is well made. So if you need to use corporate Office products or you use Office 365, Outlook is a good app to have. GoToMeeting is an expensive remote conferencing service used mostly by companies. It's like Skype but a notch better.
Prompt is a nice SSH-client for iOS. It's strength is that it supports external bluetooth keyboards well, something that not all SSH clients did well when I chose Prompt. It can also store private keys and use them in login. It's made by Panic, a well known Mac and iOS app company. They make great apps, but their practices tend to leave a sour taste in my mouth. Their apps are expensive and they have a habit of creating new paid versions. Letting the old ones to rot. So while I can say Prompt is a good app, I can also say it's expensive and the fun won't last for ever.
1Password is a well-known password management program. It's well known and reliable. Instead of storing the password vault into cloud, iPassword user can store passwords just locally or share the passwords with other 1Password app via Dropbox or iCloud. 1Password's downside is that it's a payed app, at least the pro features are. You can start free (and keep it free) but if you feel you need some additional features they will cost few euros/dollars. It can be also installed to Mac or Windows, but those are payed separately. For me it's well worth it. It has a nice UI, I can use the same passwords on desktop and mobile. The app can also be used to store software licenses.
iTunes Connect and TestFlight are useful apps if you develop iOS apps. iTunes Connect allows you to see what apps you have at what stage. TestFlight is like a AppStore for beta apps that you are invited to test. You get updates for the apps you are testing, just like you would get trough AppStore.
iOS has its own calculator but there is something about Caclbot I find endearing. In addition, it has some nice extra functionality. Such as the result list and conversion tools. Calcbot is a paid app.
Even though European Union attempts to harmonize the markets, banks are still very regional. Most of thses apps are relevant only in Finland. Most banks have their own apps that allows you to see your balance and pay bills.
Pivo lets you to see your balance, both credit and debit. In addition it can manage some of the Finnish customer loyalty cards. On Android-side you can also make payments, if your phone has NFC. Since Apple Pay isn't yet in Finland the iOS users are left in the cold in this instance.
MobilePay is a handy app for paying back those small loans you take and give to your friends and family. Using your phone number as identifier you can transfer smallish sums of money to other MobilePay users. This is especially handy if you don't usually carry cash with you.
Most of the banks operating in Finland have mobile apps as well. As a honourable mention, I'd like to point out the OP-bank app. It's well made and visually pleasant.
The modern smart phones are great GPS navigators as well. When driving, I use Apple Maps. In addition, sometimes I use the Google Maps app and OpenStreetMap's website. Apple Maps was not well received but it's quality has improved greatly. As a navigator I feel it's in par or better than Google Maps, since it can give directions in my own language. Google Maps is sometimes useful to check addresses and OpenStreetMaps has the best coverage of pedestrian and bicycle lanes.
Instead of feeding the meter when I park, I pay my parking with ParkMan. In additions for being useful for us natives, if you are visiting and have for example rented a car, this might be a useful app. Instead of having to use coins or your credit card you can just use your phone.
If I use buss, tram, metro or local trains I use ReittiGPS. It's a nice app tied into the Helsinki and Tampere region open timetable databases. Both ParkMan and ReittiGPS work in the capital region and in larger cities, such as Tampere.