Apps that make my iPhone better

Back in September, I wrote about some of the apps that make my Mac better. So I figured it’d make sense to do the same for iOS. Or more specifically, my iPhone.


I’ve lost count of how many times someone has asked me, “What apps are good?” only for me to completely flounder. So from now on, I’m sending them here. And if you’re here already, lucky you!

Over the last few years, I’ve been continually assessing and reassessing how I use my iPhone. Or rather, how I should use it. My home screen has changed a fair few times, but right now, things are pretty stable. Here are five of the highlights:

Todoist

I stumbled across Todoist via a blog post about the realities of remote work by the company’s founder, Amir Salihefendić. I hugely appreciated Amir’s perspective and figured that if it was so well-aligned with my own, his take on what makes for a to-do app might be a hit as well.

To me, Todoist is a like a more powerful take on Apple’s stock Reminders app. You can split tasks up by project (much like I can add reminders to different lists in Reminders). But on top of this, you can set things like priority and filter through tasks not just by project, but by due date, priority and more. It’s super helpful and the quick capture function means I can get stuff out of my head the moment it pops up (which is handy, because my short-term memory is worryingly bad).

Todoist’s native apps are smashing, as is its web app and browser plug-ins. The free version is incredibly powerful and the premium subscription has a compelling set of additional features.

Fantastical 2

Apple’s stock Calendar app has had a pretty rough ride over iOS’ lifecycle so far. And right now I think it’s in a trough, rather than at a peak. Which is sad, because I wish I could keep things simple and use more stock apps.

Fantastical 2 takes all the frustrations I have with Calendars and fixes them. It’s got a brilliant quick capture feature, plenty of extensibility via Apple’s Shortcuts app, and enough options to customise the calendar view that I can see what I need to see easily.

Instapaper

As the cliché goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. And when Instapaper blocked out its EU users for a while after GDPR came into effect, I really missed this app. Now it’s back in my life (and independently owned again), I appreciate it even more.

In a nutshell, Instapaper saves stuff from the web in a calmer, more readable format. I use it to save interesting, long-form articles if I haven’t got time to read them when I stumble across them. Their premium subscription also gives you the option to send articles to a Kindle device, which is probably worth paying for alone.

Oak

I’ve been pretty lazy about my meditation practice (if you can call it that) lately. But Oak is by far and away my favourite meditation app I’ve used. It gives me the option of both guided and unguided meditations, logs sessions to Apple’s Health app and keeps things brilliantly simple.

Better

I’ve plugged Better’s Mac app before, but since then the developers have dropped its price to the App Store’s cheapest pricing tier and in my view, that makes it a must if you value your privacy online.


Miscellaneous bits and bobs

  • I try and keep to having just a single page of apps — there’s no huge rhyme or reason, but I’m not fond of swiping through lots of different pages to find what I need.
  • I still use folders to hide away apps I don’t use every day (or don’t want to use every day — I’m looking at you, Instagram).
  • The non-folder apps on my home screen are either entirely practical and everyday necessities or aspirational (Oak, my meditation app, definitely falls into the latter category).
  • Instead of prodding around to find apps in folders, I tend to swipe down and use the search function instead — it’s way faster, trust me.
  • Very few apps get the privilege of interrupting me with a badge icon or push notification. The ones that do are invariably ones that involve humans (messages, calls, etc.).
  • I set pretty strict limits on how much I used my phone with iOS 12’s Screen Time feature, but I can’t say I always stick to them. If I’m feeling pretty distracted, I use the accessibility feature to greyscale my display instead.