A look back at 2015: My Top iOS Apps
Continuing my very late “best of 2015” series, here are my top iOS (including Apple Watch, Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad) for last year.
I worked more on my iOS devices in 2015 than all prior years combined. I’ve entirely stopped taking my laptop with me on most trips, instead just packing an iPad and a keyboard. There are some things I still wait to get back to my Desktop for, but I’ve built workflows that allow me to continue working and have those tasks ready to go when I get back to my desk. I’m quite happy with the results.
I think I busted out my Sony Alpha twice last year. My iPhone 6+ has taken over 99% of my photography needs, with a little help:
- I have a more-than-healthy number of apps for editing and filtering. I’ve actually found the tools built into Apple’s Photos app to be plenty of power for most of my needs. Enlight has become my go-to app for additional image adjustment (plus it makes creating “memes” a snap).
- Darkroom would be my runner up pick, especially good for “artsy” photo editing.
- If I need to do more complex editing, such as masking or compositing, Pixelmator is a great app. I don’t love doing more advanced work on my iOS devices in general (as opposed to a desktop), but it gets the job done.
- DropPics for Dropbox
- I spent way too long trying to find an easy way to make a slideshow out of a Dropbox folder of images. This app does that superbly, along with other tools that make it more convenient to use Dropbox as photo storage.
Despite exponentially increasing the amount of work I do on iOS, I still have my iOS game vices.
- Altos adventure
- Alto is probably my favorite game of 2015, and one that I still play regularly. It takes some time and isn’t much fun if you have to pause in the middle of a run, so it’s one of the few I play that I actually have to sit down and make time for. It’s great on the Apple TV as well.
- SketchParty TV
- When friends or family come over, this game is always requested (I think it’s why my parents bought an Apple TV). A multiplayer game of Pictionary™ using an iPad and an Apple TV (either over AirPlay or with the new, native Apple TV app).
- Rock On
- I pride myself on knowledge of music across decades, and this game can be a fun way to flaunt it or a humbling rebuttal. It’s fun either way, and there’s a multiplayer version for Apple TV (SongPop Party) that I highly recommend for any 2-4 player setting.
- This Tetris-ish game is insidious. It’s the one I play in bathrooms and waiting rooms. It’s challenging to the point of seeming impossible at first, and there’s no goal. You’re always just playing against your own high score, and when you beat it, you’re immediately starting a new game to beat that one. I know, that’s kind of the point of most puzzle games, but I just keep playing them.
- Crossy Road
- I’m mentioning this primarily because of the Apple TV version. If you’ve never played, just think “Frogger.” It’s my favorite game on the Apple TV right now.
- Tally 2
- I’m horrible at keeping counts in my head. Tally is an elegant counter with a solid feature set, and an Apple Watch component (which is one of the few truly useful 3rd-party Watch apps I use).
- I don’t know if I need to explain this one; if you don’t use 1Password, just go check it out. The iOS version is extremely handy for online logins, credit card storage, and even encrypted notes. It, too, has a very useful Apple Watch app as well.
- Duet Display
- Use your iPad as a second display, without the lag found in most Screen Sharing-based apps. It uses the lighting port for a very responsive extension of your laptop screen. Pair it with a Ten One Mountie
- An elegant and flexible metronome for your iPhone (and Apple Watch).
- I’ve tried all of the recipe managers, Paprika is my favorite on all platforms.
- If you want to use SSH to access remote terminals from your iOS device, Prompt is hands-down the best app for doing it.
- Working Copy
- My favorite way to work with Git repositories on my phone.
- The best way to read documentation for just about any programming language. The update in 2015 allowed Dash on your Mac to use your iOS device as a secondary, documentation-only display.
- Reuters is how I get news on my Apple TV. You can choose 5, 15, or 30 minute blocks and it will generate a string of top news stories at any time of day. I enjoy the unbiased reporting and up-to-the minute updates.
- I have a lot of sound generators and relaxation apps (I don’t sleep well). MySleepButton takes a very different approach using cognitive interruption to “shuffle your thoughts to sleep.” It works for me every time.
- Night Sky Pro
- If you like stars, this is the app to get. Point it at a celestial entity to identify it, get additional data, and even plan your stargazing time with appropriate weather forecasts.
- Flying Ruler
- This thing is awesome. There have been ruler apps on the iPhone since the App Store began, but this one uses the clinometer and accelerometer to allow the user to simply hold the phone at a starting point, then move it to the ending point, for highly accurate distance and angle measurements.
- Dark Sky
- Like other genres of apps, I have a ton of weather apps. Dark Sky’s accuracy and presentation on my iPhone and Apple Watch have made it the only one I typically open.
- You’ve probably never heard of this one. Ever shoot some quick video you want to post on Twitter, but you sound stupid talking in the background or there were irrelevant noises? This app just silences the audio and saves a new video. Handy.
- This quickly became my default note-taking app. In combination with Drafts, I have quick note-taking and fast search, all via Dropbox and compatible with my nvALT setup.
- There are a few great Pinboard apps on iOS, but this is the one that I’ve settled on.
- If you ever post links to iTunes products (music, apps, movies), you should set up an affiliate account and let Blink help you make some money on those clicks.
- Spark ended my long-running quest for a good iOS email client. It’s smart and highly customizable. Things like being able to promote a subfolder to a top-level menu item, automatic signature detection, multiple signatures (swipe to change between them), natural language search, pin and snooze features, and more.
- I love the new version of OmniFocus for iPhone. I’d appreciated the iPad version that came out earlier, but the iPhone had fallen behind. It’s excellent for my needs now.
- Just like on my Mac, Fantastical is the only calendar app I need.
- For quick note taking and information gathering, you can’t really beat Draft’s application-agnostic focus on getting the information down and getting it where it needs to go later. The more I get into it, the more I appreciate its flexibility and extensibility.
Web Apps and Services
- New last year from the team behind MindMeister, this Kanban-style tool integrates with mind maps, Slack, and more.
- This is how I’ve been handling my email flow for a few years now. It works well with Spark’s features on my phone and MailMate’s features on my Mac, automatically determining whether something is worth being in my immediate Inbox or not. Additional features like email-forwarding to snooze or remind you that an email hasn’t been replied to are excellent.
- If you enjoy writing depressing quotes on motivational backgrounds, this is the web app. I wish it worked better on mobile devices, but I figured I’d mention it anyway because I’ve had so much fun with it.
Next up: The rest of the stuff (books, products, and my favorites from my own projects for the year).