19 apps for any task on your iOS device

Philip Michaels
14 May, 2014
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App Guide

Whether you’re the proud owner of an iPad Air, iPad mini or iPhone, great apps abound for your iOS device. Here are some of our top picks.


We’ve surveyed our colleagues for their favourite iPad apps, and picked the ones that are best for certain tasks. Whether you see your iPad as a productivity tool, a gaming device or a family resource, we’ve selected the right app for you.



The iPad can be a powerful productivity tool, especially when loaded with the right apps. Power users who work with text can turn to Editorial ($6.49; OMZ Software).

Its customisation features let you bend the interface and the extended keyboard to your will. The app also makes it simple for even non-programmers to assemble customised workflows to automate functions like converting text.

While workflow support may be its standout feature, Editorial also offers niceties such as Markdown and HTML previews, powerful search features and an integrated web browser.


Take notes

The compact iPad is perfect for scribbling notes, and Notability ($3.79; Ginger Labs) perpetually ranks among the top-selling iPad productivity apps. It lets you type or write notes, giving you options for changing colour and style.

A nifty recording feature lets you capture audio for a meeting or lecture; when you play back that audio, tapping a section of your notes takes you to that part of the recording. Notability offers great search tools, and you’ll never lose an important file, as it syncs with cloud-based services like Dropbox and Google Drive.


Read comics

Since its launch, the iPad has been an appealing device for people who enjoy comic books. Recent hardware changes have only improved matters. Artwork really pops on the iPad Air’s screen, and the lightweight tablet truly lends itself to extended reading sessions.

On the iPad mini with Retina display, you get crisper text and sharper art. So what comic reader should you choose? Comics (free; ComiXology) provides a smooth interface and an easy-to-navigate storefront for purchasing issues.


Entertain small kids

If you’re a parent, that iPad Air or iPad mini won’t remain your sole property for long, so you may as well make sure it has a few apps your kids can enjoy. As the parent of a preschooler, I can’t say enough nice things about Toca Boca’s apps. They’re like digital playsets, fostering your children’s imaginations.

Almost all of Toca Boca’s offerings would be fine additions to your iPad, but I’ll single out Toca Hair Salon 2 ($3.79; Toca Boca), in which you use an array of scissors, curling irons and other beauty parlour tools to give assorted cartoon characters unique coiffures.

If you’re having a bad hair day yourself, Toca Hair Salon Me ($3.79; Toca Boca) lets you snap a photo with the iPad’s camera and then start styling.


Engage big kids

Children in the upper grades of primary school may have outgrown Toca Boca, but they’ll enjoy the colourful Barefoot World Atlas ($6.49; Touch Press). This digital version of the book of the same name takes full advantage of your iPad’s touch interface, with a spinnable, interactive globe.

Tap any country or any animated point of interest to learn more about it. Up-to-the-minute information includes the country’s current temperature and how far away it is. Not many apps put the whole world in your hands; Barefoot World Atlas does so with a distinctive, pleasing look.


See the stars

If you often gaze up at the night sky and wonder what’s blinking back at you – star, planet or satellite? – equip yourself with Star Walk HD ($3.79; Vito Technology), a beautifully designed astronomy app.

Star Walk takes advantage of your iPad’s accelerometer and location awareness to help you identify the heavenly bodies immediately above you. Just tilt your iPad to the heavens, and Star Walk displays planets, stars and constellations based on their orientation relative to you.


Learn about endangered animals

There’s a reason WWF Together (free; World Wildlife Fund) gets showered with awards. This beautifully designed interactive app contains a wealth of information assembled by the World Wildlife Fund.

You’ll find detailed stories of 16 endangered species, with interactive elements (drag around a dot to
see how cowbirds follow bison, for example). A spinning globe lets you locate and learn about endangered species around the world.


Cook a meal

Turn to How to Cook Everything ($12.99; Culinate) – a digitised version of Mark Bittman’s reference book for home chefs – for expert instruction on the fundamentals of cooking, with illustrations that really pop on your iPad’s screen.

It’s easy to jump from recipes to techniques to kitchen basics. Ingredients tabs show you recipe variations, explain how to use relevant kitchen tools, and offer a window for your own notations. Other features, such as the ability to print recipes so you won’t have to touch your new iPad with sticky hands, make this a must-have for home cooks with four-star dreams.


Play a game

Sometimes you just want to have fun. For a diversion that stimulates the ol’ brain, try The Room Two ($3.79; Fireproof Games) a sequel to last year’s well-regarded puzzle game.

This version has the same spooky ambience, along with puzzles that use pinching, zooming and other touch gestures to great effect. It offers hours of mysteries to unravel.


Drive really fast

The iPad’s built-in accelerometer makes it a great platform for racing games – just tilt your tablet to steer, and you can make like Mario Andretti. The Real Racing franchise has been in the winner’s podium for much of its time on the iOS platform, and Real Racing 3 (free; Electronic Arts) delivers racing thrills to your iPad.

The game’s payment model – it’s free to download, but you have to make micropayments to speed up your progress – is not without its critics, and that’s a shame because the gameplay is terrific.

Our advice: download the free version and give it a spin. If you find the requests for payments intrusive, you can still grab Real Racing 2 HD for $8.99.



The following nine recommendations cover a broad spectrum of the things you can do with your iPhone.


Protect your passwords

Though password security may not set your heart racing, one of your first download considerations should be 1Password ($22.99; AgileBits).

Yes, this app has to compete in a world of 99-cent downloads. But it creates strong, unique passwords that keep the bad guys out of your business.

All you have to remember is a single master password. You can secure website logins, banking information, credit cards and notes. The app syncs data across iOS devices. Spring for the desktop version ($64.99), and you can keep data synced there, too.


Watch movies

We enjoy watching old movies; what we enjoy even more is watching them while we descend into a second-screen wormhole to look up which actors appeared in what other films.

The mobile version of IMDb Movies & TV (free; IMDb) puts the movie reference site’s extensive database in the palm of our hand.



Keep active

Your iPhone can track your every movement, as long as you augment its location- tracking ability with an app such as Moves ($3.79; ProtoGeo). The app tracks your steps and distance travelled, tapping into your iPhone’s location and directional sensors to determine when you’re sitting, walking, running, biking or travelling in some other way.

It also provides a map of where you’ve been, how long you were there and what you were doing, making it not only a useful fitness tracker but also a log of your commute and daily activities. All of that monitoring can drain battery life, but the latest version of Moves offers iOS 7 users a battery- saving mode.


Look things up

While you could call Terminology 3 ($2.99; Agile Tortoise) a dictionary app, that undersells what it can do. Yes, you can look up words and get definitions, along with synonyms, related terms and other details. But you can also use custom actions to extend your searches to other resources – Wikipedia, say – or to other apps that offer integration with Terminology.

It’s a reference tool for novices as well as power users.


Check the weather

If you want your forecasts in a more detailed and pleasing format than iOS 7’s Weather app offers, try Weather Line ($3.79; Off Coast), which gives temperature, conditions and precipitation data in 36-hour, seven-day and 12-month time-frames.

It shows temperature data in graph form and throws in a severe weather warning feature, plus details such as humidity, wind and ‘feels like’ temperature.


Take pictures

Want an alternative to Instagram for editing and sharing photos? VSCO Cam (free; Visual Supply Company) offers its own take on photo filters, or ‘presets.’ The free mobile image editor comes with 10 presets, which you can augment by purchasing more through an in-app store.

Apply a preset, make adjustments and compare your edit to the original with a helpful before-and-after view.


Save the date

The Fantastical 2 for iPhone ($6.99; Flexibits) and Fantastical 2 for iPad ($12.99) calendaring utilities are miles ahead of Apple’s Calendar. A five-day view with a scrolling list of upcoming events lets you see your schedule at a glance.

Natural-language support means you can speak to create a calendar event or reminder. Include a location with your event and Fantastical 2 adds a map.


Blow off steam

Looking for a game you can play when you have a spare moment riding the train? Ridiculous Fishing ($3.79; Vlambeer) fits the bill.

First reel in as many mystical deep-sea creatures as possible, and then blast them all to kingdom come with whatever weapon you have on hand.

With each fish you knock out, you earn money to expand your arsenal. It’s a fun diversion – though maybe not from a fish’s perspective.

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