The holidays are here, and if you’re lucky, you might be unwrapping a brand-new iPhone. But whether it’s a fancy iPhone XS Max or an older iPhone 7, chances are you’re going to need a few apps for that phone. And while a lot of your choices are pretty straightforward — odds are you already know that you’ll want things like Instagram or YouTube — here are recommendations for some interesting apps that you might not know about.
We’ve rounded up our favorite and most-used apps, games, and utilities. Look for our picks for iPhones, PCs, and Mac; our favorite games for iOS and Android, and our top choices for the PS4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
Simply put, the default email app (imaginatively called Mail) that comes with the iPhone is absolutely terrible, especially if, like most people, you have a Gmail account. Skip it and switch over to Microsoft’s Outlook app instead, which offers a fast, clean interface, fantastic support with almost every email company under the sun, and the kind of reliability that Apple’s app just doesn’t have.
There’s nothing wrong with paying for Apple’s pricey iCloud storage. If you want a quick, simple, and (best of all) free way to back up all your photos (or something to use as a backup for your iCloud backup), try Google Photos. You won’t be saving full, high-resolution pictures — unless you’re willing to pay for storage — but if your choice is between slightly lower-quality pictures or no pictures at all, it’s an easy pick, especially for the low, low price of free. Plus, Google’s sorting and tagging features are second to none, making it simple to find the exact shot you’re looking for from that birthday party five years ago without having to scroll through all your thousands of pictures.
Do you enjoy getting lost? If the answer is no, install Google Maps. Sure, Apple Maps is by no means as bad as it once was, but there’s still only one uncontested king of mapping apps, and it’s not the one that Apple includes on your iPhone.
As of yet, your phone cannot predict the future. But Dark Sky might just be the next best thing, offering oddly prescient predictions of the weather for the next few minutes, meaning that you’ll always know whether you’ll need an umbrella when you head out the door.
1Password / LastPass
Password security is incredibly important, especially in the age of near constant data breaches. Protect your stuff online with a password manager, which will both help you use stronger passwords and make sure that you’re not using the same password for every single website.
Plus, with the recently released iOS 12, Apple has made it possible for password managers to work nearly seamlessly with the rest of the operating system, making logging in with your new (and much more secure) passwords a snap.
If you’re the kind of person who takes a lot of notes, it’s worth investing in a copy of iA Writer — it’s a fast, minimal app that makes jotting down quick notes a snap. And you’ll be able to sync those notes to your computer (Macs and PCs) when it’s time to turn them into bigger things.
Amazingly, sometimes friends will expect you to pay them back for things. The Venmo payment system makes it easier — and makes it less likely you’re going to lose those friends. At the very least, it’ll make splitting that next bar tab a little easier.
The holiday season means that you’ve probably got a whole bunch of packages coming in and out of your house. Deliveries makes tracking all of them a snap — just paste in the tracking code, and it’ll do the rest, letting you know exactly when your new gear will arrive.
There’s too much great content on the internet, and not enough time to read it all. Pocket is here to help you save all that content, so you can come back and read it at your leisure when you have more time. At the very least, it offers a consolidated list of things you’ll probably never get back to in one place.
Apple’s default calendar is good, but Fantastical is better, with a scrolling view that combines meetings and reminders from all your accounts, and a smart system that cleverly adds things like locations and dates for new events as you type it. It’s not for everyone, but power-users who need more than the bare-bones option (or just folks who want a nicer-looking calendar) will find that it’s, well, fantastic.
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.