Essential, must-have paid iPhone apps
With more than 1.5 million apps, the Apple App Store can be a vast place to explore, and you might need some guidance when it comes to the best and most essential apps that will allow you to make the best of your iOS device.
We've been covering various apps since the very inception of the App Store, and we keep on coming back to a select few that work great and augment the functionality of stock apps. Hopefully, these apps will help you do the same. With no further ado, here is our selection of the best essential paid iPhone apps.
Launch Center Pro
Launch Center Pro saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap. Message a loved one, search Yelp for the nearest coffee shop, jump straight to the camera in Instagram, control your Nest Thermostat via IFTTT, all with just a flick of your thumb. Create shortcuts for email, Safari, Twitter, Facebook, phone or FaceTime calls, Google searches, and more.
Iconical is a $1.99 purchase that would allow you full control over the looks of your icons. Iconical is not just about this, though: it allows you to create quick and useful shortcuts to particular actions right on your home screen? Tired of having to go into the dialer, then favorites, then find your loved one to call them? You can replace this whole action with a simple shortcut created in Iconical (naturally, you can customize the looks of that shortcut icon). Shortcut icons are supported for over 17,000 applications and shortcut actions are available for over 250 apps. Take a look at the possibilities with Iconical icon customizations right below.
ProCamera8 + HDR
ProCamera 8 (a free update from ProCamera 7, the developer is obviously linking up app version numbers with iOS releases) is a surprisingly simple camera app at the surface, that also hides many advanced features in a way that is unobtrusive yet easy to access. Before we jump into them, though, it’s worth pointing out how stable and crash-free this app is, something very important given that even the most popular iPhone camera apps often crash.
In terms of shooting options, ProCamera 8 has gotten the absolute fullest pack of manual controls available with an extremely intuitive and easy to use interface. We are blown away by the level of fine control and the ease of use of this app (and we don't get impressed easily): you can set ISO, shutter speed (and lock them!), white balance (down to the Kelvin, with a guide that shows you which settings is appropriate for which conditions), exposure compensation, you also have independent focus and exposure controls as an alternative control and that gives you a much deeper hold over the looks of your photograph (you can naturally lock focus and exposure).
The histogram is a thing of beauty and usefulness: you get a live histogram that shows you when you start blowing up highlights or going too deep in the blacks. Other neat options include a tiltmeter, anti-shake option, and a self-timer, as well as the option to select the right aspect ratio. If you're aiming for maximum-quality, ProCamera 8 delivers with support for the lossless TIFF format, and if you dive deeper in the settings of the app you'll find a treasure trove of adjustments such as fine control of the level of stabilization, JPEG compression levels, and many more.
Unlike other camera replacement apps, ProCamera 8 can also be used to record video and it has the neat built-in option to scan QR codes. The video mode is not all that advanced, though (it does not allow you to select a 60fps option yet, for instance, but we hope the app developer will soon add this capability). Its outstanding photographic capabilities, however, make Pro Camera 8 our favorite camera replacement to the stock iPhone app.
High dynamic range imaging allows you to make the best of scenes with contrasty colors, but the stock HDR feature on the iPhone camera might be a bit too subdued and lacking in diversity. That's where vividHDR comes in with its various effects and much stronger, dramatic-looking images.
Dark Sky made a name for itself with its weather alerts: the app would notify users about rain just when this information is relevant - right before the rain starts, so you could react appropriately and grab that umbrella if you are going out. It is also a great all-around weather app with satellite images with radar data and detailed weather data and forecasts.
Fantastical 2 has long been a favorite calendar app for iOS users because of the great diversity in functionality. An iOS-only offering, Fantastical 2 is a pricey calendar app with a lot of depth that comes without the whole affair becoming overly complex. It's a straightforward experience that is easy to register and comes with the benefit of an impressively good natural language recognition, so that you can just type your appointment and have it setup without having to fill up endless fields. Just type something like "Meeting at 7pm with Alex", hit 'done', and off you go. Fantastical 2 is also neatly optimized for tablets with a separate app that makes use of the extra space.
Workflow is a personal automation tool, enabling you to drag and drop any combination of actions to create powerful workflows for your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Workflow includes over 200 actions, including those for Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Music, Photos, Camera, Reminders, Safari, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote, and iCloud Documents, to name a few.
If you want a Twitter app with a lot of added functionality and great, smooth performance, TweetBot 3 is one of the most popular and greatest solutions available on the Apple App Store.
Transmit for iOS allows you to connect to FTP, SFTP, WebDAV or Amazon S3 servers that you may use and it allows you to transfer files, make folders, rename, deelete and set permissions. Transmit is also a powerful internal file manager. Neatly, ever since iOS 8 you get a quick share button to upload to your server of choice.
A clean journal app with a modern design, Day One allows you to document your journeys or every-day adventures. It supports a lot of context that it can pull from photos and your phone sensor data as well.
ProTube offers ad-free video with selectable playback quality, audio only playback, background playback and adjustable playback speed. You can also manage videos in playlists without signing in with a YouTube account.
Star gazing is a great hobby, but to the newbie who just wants to learn more about the night sky, StarWalk 2 for iOS is probably the greatest solution as it offers striking visual illustrations for constellations, the origin of their names, and all of that picture of the night sky moves in correspondence with how you turn your phone.
Byword is designed to make writing more enjoyable with Markdown on your iPhone and iPad: it supports syncing text documents across all your Mac, iPhone, iPad devices, you can filter documents by text, and you have a neat dark theme that's easy on the eyes.
GoodReader is a diverse PDF reader with extra functionality: you can use it to view documents, books, movies, maps, and pictures. It also supports signing PDF documents with just three taps. It's particularly impressive with the way it works with large PDF files, something that is often a challenge for other apps.
Notability includes full-featured typing with a wide range of fonts, sizes, and colors and it's optimized to work with various iOS devices (including the iPad, with support for palm rejection). It comes with outlines and text boxes that help you quickly capture and organize ideas. Notability allows you to write and sketch with beautiful ink.
Castro is a full-feature podcasts app for iPhone: it features a convenient gesture-based interface that puts content front and center, it comes with an episodes timeline makes it easy to find the latest episodes of all your podcasts, and finally, it supports continuous play option to automatically play the next episode.
Duet Display allows you to use your iPad or iPhone as an extra display. Developed by a team of ex-Apple engineers, duet is the first high performance solution that has zero lag.
Soulver is an all-around great calculator and unit converter with a great and clean modern design.
This digital sketchbook allows you to sketch and illustrate concepts on the move. Powered by the same groundbreaking 64-bit Silica engine as its big brother, Procreate Pocket is designed to take every advantage of iPhone hardware. It comes with 12 specially made brushes for illustration and concept sketching, it supports imports of thousands of custom Procreate brushes available online, and finally, it comes with always available precision brush sliders for rapid brush and opacity changing.