Tag Archives: Iphone App Directory

The Best System Monitor for iPhone

The Best System Monitor for iPhone

At a glance, system monitors might not seem as useful on your iPhone as they are on a desktop computer, but they can pack in a lot of good data. This includes detailed battery life breakdowns, storage space, data speeds, and more. For the average user, our favorite system monitor for the iPhone is Omnistat.

Omnistat

Platform: iPhone (and iPad)
Price: $1.99
Download Page

Features

  • Customizable Notification Center widgets let you decide what data is shown and where it shows up
  • Universal app for iPad and iPhone. Also includes Apple Watch support
  • Shows activity and stats for: device name, device model, current OS version, current OS build number, device uptime, Wi-Fi details, mobile carrier data usage, download and upload speed, storage information, CPU usage, battery details, and more
  • Choose when your data plan resets so you can always track mobile data usage accurately
  • Estimates remaining battery time

Where It Excels

Omnistat’s biggest strength are the Notification Center widgets. A system monitor is something you want quick access to, and Notification Center widgets are a clever way of doing that. With Omnistat, you can customize which stats appear as widgets, and any time you want to take a glance at them, just pull down on the Notification Center. Omnistat gives each activity its own widget, so you can customize the layout in Notification Center easily.

Beyond that, Omnistat provides the details most people want. This includes battery life, including estimations for remaining talk, text, and data time. You can also easily track Wi-Fi and cell data usage. For data usage, Omnistat supports creating an automated reset date for cell data so it’s always in time with your data plan. If you’re running on a 16GB iPhone or you’re just always against the wall with remaining space, the storage widget is extremely helpful for keeping your remaining storage space in check. Omnistat has plenty of other widgets, from network details to device CPU usage, so it should have the data you need access to the most.

Where It Falls Short

Omnistat excels because of the inclusion of Notification Center widgets. However, Omnistat is not the most extensive system monitor available. While it does track most activities the average user wants, it’s missing a lot of data for anyone looking for a more granular approach. Likewise, Omnistat gives a lot of overview data, but you can’t focus on more specific information, like what hours you tend to use more data, a history of Wi-Fi networks, or anything else like that.

The Competition

Omnistat is great for the average person looking to glance at a few broad bits of information, but if you want to dig really deep into data, it’s not the app you want. Thankfully, the system monitor space is pretty packed full of solid apps.

For those who love massive amounts of system details, System Monitor Ultimate (Free) is worth a look. System Monitor Ultimate displays a ton of data about your CPU, GPU, network, active connections, and plenty more. System Monitor Ultimate is not exactly the best looking system monitor around nor is it packed with features, but it’s free and displays just about every bit of data you can track on an iPhone. There’s no Notification Center widget support, but if widgets aren’t your thing, System Monitor Ultimate is the app you want.

If you’re looking for the same amount of data as System Monitor Ultimate with more interactive features, then System Status ($2.99) fits the bill. On top of monitoring a number of data points, network information, battery, and memory, System Status also shows you file statistics, detailed page statistics, tracks three minutes of background activity, and allows you to export all those charts over email. If you love to look at and save activity monitor data, but don’t care about the widgets, System Status does the job.

Finally, Omnistat isn’t the only system monitor with widgets, Usage Widget (Free/99¢) and SnapStats (Free) both include Notification Center widgets alongside basic system monitors. Unlike Omnistat, both apps display all the stats in a single widget, so you can’t move them around or customize them quite as much. That’s a preference thing though, so if you don’t mind all your data being jammed into one spot, both apps are worth a look.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

The Best Calendar App for iPhone

The Best Calendar App for iPhone

You have tons of options for calendars on iPhone, many that are free, but when it comes to the best, we recommend Fantastical 2, even if you have to shell out $5 to use it.

Fantastical 2

Platform: iPhone (and iPad)
Price: $4.99
Download Page

Features

  • Compatible with Google Calendar, iCloud, and Exchange
  • Quickly add new events with natural language (“Lunch with Alan tomorrow”)
  • Notification Center support
  • Map view for event locations
  • Week view in landscape mode
  • Integration with Facebook events
  • Widget support
  • Quick Actions on iPhone 6s
  • Light and dark themes
  • Reminders integration with notifications

Where It Excels

A lot of things are great about Fantastical 2, but what separates it from the pack the most comes down to its design. Fantastical 2 is incredibly easy to use, fast, and it’s powerful enough for most people. As a basic calendar, you can view your events on a calendar and they’re visualized in a readable and easy to understand way. You can add new events without a lot of taps and the natural language entry means you can type out an event just like you’d say it out loud.

Fantastical also offers up just enough options for viewing your calendar to make it useful for a variety of people. You can check out a list view in portrait mode that offers both a week ticker and a month calendar at the top, or flip your phone to landscape view to see a more detailed look at your week. These three views make it pretty easy to glance at your calendar to get a gist of your schedule at any given moment.

Fantastical 2 is updated consistently with new features, but more importantly it’s always kept up to date for new versions of iOS and any new features that might come along with a new iPhone (like Quick Actions on the iPhone 6s) or in the operating system itself (like widget support). Finally, Fantastical 2 is just as reliable as Apple’s built-in options, which, when it boils down to it, is one of the most important aspects of a calendar. Syncing always works, crashes are very rare, and notifications always happen when they’re supposed to.

Where It Falls Short

The most obvious downside of Fantastical is the $5 price tag. While paying for the app means you’ll get continued support and you don’t have to worry as much about the app getting acquired by another company (which are oddly common in calendar apps), not everyone wants to shell out cash for a calendar app. We do cover some free options below though.

Beyond that, Fantastical is missing some of the social or third-party integrations that you’ll find in other calendar apps. While it does support Facebook events, that’s pretty much it. You won’t find detailed views of your weather, Evernote reminders, or anything else here. On one end, that means Fantastical is a solid calendar app on its own, but on another, it means you can’t auto populate your calendar using other services.

The Competition

You have a lot of good competition in the calendar space on the iPhone, so if you don’t feel like shelling out the $5 for Fantastical, don’t worry.

Let’s start with Sunrise Calendar (Free). Sunrise Calendar was our previous pick for the best calendar on iPhone. It’s free, supports the big three calendar services, integrates weather forecasts, and links up with tons of other services. The problem is the app’s now dead after Microsoft acquired the team who made it. A lot of the Sunrise features are now being integrated into Microsoft’s Outlook app, but the iOS app for Sunrise will never get updated again.

Any.Do Cal (Free) is another decent free option, but it hasn’t seen an update in a year. Cal is a little more fun and playful then Fantastical, integrating a lot of images into its design as well as working well with the Any.do to-do list app. As a calendar, it does everything it needs to, but doesn’t go too far out of its way to do anything new.

Finally, as far as free options go, it’s worth mentioning Google Calendar (Free). If you’re deep into Google’s ecosystem, the Google Calendar app is great. It shows you events from Gmail, to-dos, and even gives you little added features like flight information. The problem, of course, is that most of the usefulness relies on other Google services, so if you’re not using any of them, Google Calendar is far less useful.

In the paid space, the biggest competitor to Fantastical is Calendars 5 ($6.99). Calendars 5 is a very capable app that includes natural language input, a task manager, and a variety of view options to glance at your calendar. The week view in Calendars 5 is good, better than Fantastical’s in some ways, but the rest of the interface is a bit lacking. Calendars 5 is also a universal app, so if you use your iPad a lot, it’s great to just purchase one app instead of two.

Week Calendar ($1.99) is another app that once sat in our App Directory. It’s packed with a ton of features, including multiple views, your choice of navigation app integration, templates, widgets, and more. It’s also quite possibly the ugliest option available, but that hasn’t prevented it from being one of the most popular calendar apps out there.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

The Best App Launcher for iPhone

The Best App Launcher for iPhone

The iPhone doesn’t support app launchers in the same way as OS X, but that doesn’t mean app developers haven’t come up with clever workarounds. Case in point, our pick for the best launcher, Launch Center Pro lets you launch not only apps, but specific actions within apps.

Launch Center Pro

Platform: iPhone (and iPad)
Price: $4.99
Download Page

Features

  • Provides shortcuts to thousands of apps
  • Notification Center support
  • 3D Touch support with customizable quick actions
  • Simple launch creation tool
  • Support for organizational groups
  • IFTTT support
  • Automation settings for launching at specific times or locations
  • Light and dark themes
  • Dropbox backups

Where It Excels

Launch Center Pro is one of the first apps to get the idea of being a launcher on iOS right. Instead of simply linking you to various apps on your iPhone (which your home screen already does), Launch Center Pro links you to what it calls actions. An action is what you do inside an app. For example, from Launch Center Pro, you can instantly jump into Facebook’s new photo page, start a text message to a specific person, compose an email to a group, or countless other things. Launch Center Pro essentially gives you access to a specific place inside an app without you having to tap around a bunch to get there. It’s incredibly useful once you get the hang of how it works.

Launch Center Pro does an admirable job of toeing the line between the average user and the power user. When you open up the app, you’re greeted by a number of tutorials to help you get started creating your own actions. Within a few minutes you can instantly create launchers for simple stuff, like texting a close friend or searching for coffee near your current location using Yelp.

If you want, you can stop right there and still enjoy Launch Center Pro. However, if you want to take it further, Launch Center Pro is filled with power-user features. If you’re willing to dig into it, you can set up Launch Center Pro to do some crazy stuff, including sending a specific set of text to a specific person at a certain time of day, or chain together a bunch of actions based on your location. You can even link up Launch Center Pro with IFTTT to chain things together even further. It’s intense how much you can do with Launch Center Pro if you’re willing to spend the time with it, but it’s also impressive how useful it is even if you’re just scraping the surface.

http://lifehacker.com/learn-the-basi…

Where It Falls Short

While Launch Center Pro certainly does its best to make creating actions easy, it’s still a little complex for the average iOS user. Still, if you’re willing to invest just a little bit of time in it, you’ll eventually grasp how it works. Once you do get over that hump, the usefulness jumps up quite a bit as you start experimenting with different types of actions, triggers, and more. All that said, because of the complexity of the app, it would be nice if there was a free, trial version for people to check out first.

The Competition

The most direct competition to Launch Center Pro is Launcher (free/$2.99 in-app purchase). Launcher works similar to Launch Center Pro, where you create a set of actions that launch directly into specific parts of an app. Launcher isn’t nearly as intuitive to use as Launch Center Pro, but the fact there’s a free ad-supported version means it’s a good choice if you’re looking to test the waters.

Less directly, Workflow ($2.99) sort of falls under the same category of apps as Launch Center Pro and Launcher. Workflow is an incredibly powerful app that allows you to create your own set of actions that function like micro-apps. Workflow differs a bit because it doesn’t always require a third-party app to complete those actions. While Workflow is powerful and does a lot of what Launch Center Pro does, it’s not exactly a launcher. Workflow lacks some of the base functionality needed in a launcher app, especially when it comes to a breadth of app support. Still, Workflow can be manipulated to work as a launcher if you spend some time with it, so it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for something a little different.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-create-…


The Best Movie Showtimes App for iPhone

The Best Movie Showtimes App for iPhone

In a world where multiple apps help you watch flicks on the big screen, there’s one app that rises above the rest. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it’s the best way to buy movie tickets on the go. Coming to an iPhone near you: Fandango.

Fandango

Platform: iOS (iPhone and iPad)
Price: Free
Download Page

Features

  • Lookup showtimes by movie, theater, or time frame.
  • “Go Now” feature finds you the next movie showtimes at theaters close by.
  • Add specific theaters to a list of favorites.
  • Add movies to your favorites to create a watchlist of upcoming movies you want to see, or movies you’ve already seen and want to rate/review.
  • Receive notifications when tickets for upcoming movies on your favorites list go on sale.
  • Receive reminder notifications when a movie you’ve purchased tickets for is going to start soon.
  • Watch trailers for upcoming movies.
  • Research cast, crew, and synopsis information about movies.
  • See what movie tickets are selling like hot cakes in real time with “The Pulse” on iPad

Where It Excels

The Fandango app has all the basics like searching movie showtimes by movie, theater, GPS location, or time frame, but it’s also the best way to buy movie tickets with your phone. Fandango’s movie ticket-buying system (including the paperless, scannable mobile movie ticket), is used by several other movie showtime apps and services, so why not cut out the middleman apps and go right for the source? You can save your credit card information in the app, and purchase movie tickets for your entire family all at once with only a few taps.

The “Go Now” feature lets you turn a boring evening into a spontaneous movie night on the fly. You’ll see every theater near you, and what movies will be playing soon so you don’t have to do any more research. Just pick the movie, buy your tickets in the app, and go. You can get directions to the movie theater too, and Fandango lets you choose between using Google Maps or Apple Maps. If you have notifications enabled, you’ll receive a reminder that your movie is going start in half an hour. That way, if you’re out and about, you won’t get sidetracked doing something else and miss out on getting snacks before the show starts.

Fandango’s favorites system is also simple and straightforward. You can designate certain theaters as your preferred destinations, and you can keep an eye on movies that aren’t out yet. Just select a theater or movie within the app and tap the heart in the upper right. Any theaters you favorite will be the first ones that show up in the list when you’re looking for showtimes, which is nice if you frequent the same theaters most of the time. When you favorite a movie, the movie gets added to your “My Movies” list. Once there, you’ll receive news updates, exclusive offers, and notifications when tickets go on sale so you don’t miss out on opening weekend.

Where It Falls Short

Fandango isn’t perfect, though. There are two things that keep Fandango from that title: ads and review scores. No matter what tab you’re on in the Fandango app, there’s usually a small banner ad along the top or bottom of the screen. Occasionally you’ll get full-screen ads as you change tabs as well. There’s no “premium” fee or membership or app version to get rid of them, so they might be frustrating for some.

When it comes to Fandango’s review scores, they aren’t as helpful as the scores you’d find in some competing apps like Flixster and the IMDb app. Fandango’s user review scores are based on a five-star system which is harder to glean anything from when compared to a percentage-based aggregate system like Rotten Tomatoes. Furthermore, Fandango’s fan review scores are questionable because movies never seem to get less than three stars, according to a recent analysis from FiveThirthyEight. Fortunately, Fandango does show professional movie critic review scores (and a Metascore based on all of the linked critic scores), as well as links to each complete review for you to read.

The Competition

Fandango just bought one of its biggest competitors, Flixster (our previous pick), and the movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Both Fandango and Flixster will still operate as separate entities for now, but the best features of Flixster will probably come to Fandango shortly, and vice versa. A better review score system may well be on the way for Fandango (hopefully), and Flixster, the only movie showtimes app that wasn’t using Fandango’s ticket-buying system, will likely start using it.

IMDb (Free) is definitely a solid alternative (as well as our pick on Android) if you’re a serious movie buff who wants more behind-the-scenes information. In addition to all of the stuff IMDb is known for, you can lookup showtimes for any movie by theater or within a certain time range, and watch trailers for upcoming films. You can even buy tickets through the app, but the service is powered by Fandango.

http://lifehacker.com/5889566/the-be…

Movies by Moviefone (Free) is another alternative, but the app’s features are sparse and the ticket-buying system is powered by Fandango. Moviefone doesn’t have any ads, however, and uses Metacritic for its movie review scores, so it might be worth it for some folks. In the same ballpark, Showtimes (Free) is pretty barebones when it comes to features. The app has banner ads, ticket sales are powered by Fandango, and Showtimes’ movie review scores are simply an average of the scores found in the Flixster app.


The Best Weather App for iPhone

The Best Weather App for iPhone

The iPhone has a remarkable number of weather app options, and you’ll find a ton that suit different needs depending on what you want. That said, one shines brighter than the rest, and Dark Sky is one of the best full-featured weather apps in the App Store.

Dark Sky

Platform: iPhone
Price: $3.99
Download Page

Features

  • Available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch
  • Hyperlocal weather forecasts based on your exact location
  • Minute-to-minute, hour-by-hour, and weekly predictions
  • Full radar views with smooth animations
  • Completely customizable push notifications
  • Today widget to quickly check the weather

Where It Excels

It’s a little hard to justify paying for something as simple as a weather app, but Dark Sky is really worth it. Dark Sky once suffered from a lack of features, but recent updates make it a full-featured weather app that still manages to be simple to use. Open up the app, and your immediately see what matters: current weather and the forecast for the next hour. You can then dig a little deeper to find hourly and weekly forecasts, as well as take a look at the radar for your area. You can set up custom notifications too, so you get alerts when precipitation is likely in the next hour, a daily summary, severe weather alerts, or your own customizable alerts for things like if it’ll drop below freezing or if you’ll need sunscreen.

Where It Falls Short

There’s not much to complain about with Dark Sky. Sure, it costs $4, but you get a solid weather app that’s consistently updated and has a bunch of features. Since it does use your exact location, forecasts do get a little wonky sometimes, but it doesn’t happen anymore than any other forecasting tool. It’s also only available in the U.S., U.K., and Ireland, which leaves a lot of potential users out of the loop.

The Competition

There are a ton of excellent weather apps on the iPhone that suit different needs. Want a full doppler radar? Sure, that’s doable. Prefer something minimal? You have options. Want one that only notifies you about bad weather? Yep, that exists too. All of these are worth checking out to see if they fit your specific needs.

If Dark Sky isn’t your thing, Yahoo Weather, our previous pick, is a worthy contender. It has a gorgeous design, large photos that are easy to read, and the basics of radar, satellite, and heat maps. Sadly though, it now has large, annoying ads, which can really get in the way. Likewise, the four big free apps, Accuweather, The Weather Channel, WeatherBug, and Weather Underground are all similar alternatives. All have the same basic feature set as Yahoo Weather, but offer slightly different experiences in terms of interface and coverage. The fact is, different apps might have more accurate forecasts than others for your area, so it’s worth playing around with a few to see which works best for you.

Today Weather (1.99¢) may very well be one of the best weather apps around, but it doesn’t get updated as frequently as we’d like. That said, if you like the features of Accuweather, Weather Underground, or the Weather Channel, but hate the ads, then Today Weather is worth a look.

Perfect Weather ($2.99) is another fantastic weather app that features a ton of information if you’re willing to pay for it. Perfect Weather’s big strength is that it loads up fast, gives you a five day forecast, and then provides with all the additional details you could possibly need at a glance. This includes a full satellite image, hour-by-hour temperature, and plenty more. It’s all fast too, so you can get in and out of the app quickly.

If you’re more a fan of minimalist weather apps, you have a few solid options. Blue is a great little app that shows you the forecast for the next day or so in a handy color coded index. Sun is actually a free webapp designed specifically for the iPhone and uses gestures for control. Weather Neue (free) shows simplified current weather and a four-day forecast in a lovely package. Finally, Partly Cloudy might be the prettiest of the bunch by using the visualization of a clock to show you the weather forecast in a surprisingly intuitive way.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.

The Best Address Book App for iPhone

The Best Address Book App for iPhone

We’ve seen a ton of address book apps for the iPhone, but most have struggled because they rely on social network integration that tends to break after a few months. Because of that, we like Simpler Contacts, which keeps things simple, but has enough features to set it apart from the default app.

Simpler Contacts

Platform: iPhone/iPad
Price: $4.99/Free
Download Page

Features

  • Easy contact merge for duplicate contacts
  • Various search parameters
  • Quick contact group creation
  • Group texting and email for groups
  • Contact backup with Dropbox, Google Drive, or Email
  • Filter options to find people by job title or company
  • Filter contacts by birthdays
  • Favorites menu for quick access
  • Search for contacts without names, phone, or email
  • Smart dialer

Where It Excels

Simpler lives up to its name in that it’s a simple address book that’s easy to use. Once you get your contacts imported into it, you can quickly start searching through them, creating groups, and removing duplicates. The best feature is the groups management, which allows you to create groups of people to send group texts or emails to. Beyond that, Simpler’s filters are handy when you’re trying to find a contact with a certain job title, or your just want to take a quick look at upcoming birthdays. It’s also nice that you can backup and export your contacts to a variety of services, so if you decide to stop using the app (or leave iOS altogether), it’s easy to import your contacts elsewhere.

Where It Falls Short

Simpler Contacts doesn’t do the social network integration that a lot of other address book apps do. But it’s better for it because those apps rarely keep up with the changing API settings on social networks. Simpler also doesn’t feature any fancier features like adding contacts from business cards or organizing contacts with tags, so if you’re trying to manage thousands of contacts, Simpler’s not going to make your life much easier than the default app.

The Competition

FullContact (Free) is a bit more feature-rich than Simpler, but not nearly as elegant to use. The big pitch is adding “context to contacts,” where you can see recent tweets or Facebook updates as well as add tags to keep contacts organized into different groups. It also syncs across Google, iOS, and FullContact itself, which is handy if you have a lot of contacts in different places.

Connect (Free) is a simple contact manager, but that’s also what makes it one of the best. Unlike other apps that integrate a ton of social media profiles into your address book, Connect simply uses the iPhone address book and makes it better. From the app you can instantly call, message, tweet, or email a contact. You can also easily create custom groups to make connecting to people easier (and make group messaging a tad simpler as well). If you don’t care about social features, then Connect’s the address book you’re looking for.

The Best Alarm Clock App for iPhone

The Best Alarm Clock App for iPhone

The iTunes Store has almost as many alarm clocks as it does to-do apps, so it’s difficult to choose the right one. In our tests, we found Wake Alarm Clock to be the best thanks to a good set of features and solid reliability.

Wake Alarm Clock

Platform: iPhone
Price: $2.99
Download Page

Features

  • Three alarm styles: slap and flip, shake, and swipe
  • Simple interface for setting alarms quickly
  • iTunes support for waking up to music
  • 12 built-in alarm sounds with additional sounds available via in-app purchase
  • Recurring alarms
  • Progressive alarms that get louder gradually
  • Siri support to set the alarm by voice
  • Free, ad-supported version if you don’t want to pay

Where It Excels

Wake Alarm Clock manages to capture a lot of the key features from alarm clock apps and roll them into one. The three separate alarm styles and wide variety of alert sounds mean it should work as an alarm for just about everyone. Likewise, the integration with your iTunes library means you can pick songs to wake up to if alert tones and bird chirps aren’t your thing. The interface takes some getting used to, but once you do, setting alarms is quick. Most importantly though, Wake Alarm Clock works every time, which is really the only thing you can ask from an alarm clock.

Where It Falls Short

iPhone alarm clocks apps used to suffer from the fact you had to keep them open and running to work, but thankfully, recent versions of iOS have fixed this problem. However, some features, like the “slap and flip” alarmstill require that you leave Wake Alarm Clock open and running all night. Thankfully, that alarm style is totally optional, and if you use one of the other two alarms you don’t need to worry about it.

Wake Alarm Clock uses a lot of gestures and the interface is pretty minimal. This is great once you get used to it, but it does take a little bit of effort to figure out how to do everything. Once you do, it’s quicker to set an alarm with Wake Alarm Clock than most other alarms, but the barrier of entry is still worth noting.

The Competition

Clock, the built-in app provided by Apple is clearly the biggest competition for Wake Alarm Clock. It doesn’t do much more than wake you up, but it’s good for people looking for a no-frills alarm.

CARROT Alarm ($2.99) is probably the goofiest alarm clock in the App Store, but it has a robust feature set. Like the other CARROT branded apps, CARROT Alarm adds a little snark into the mundane. It’ll wake you up just fine, but it’ll also berate you, make fun of you, and shame you for hitting snooze. There’s a game built into it too, so the more often you wake up on time, the better rewards you get. If you really hate waking up in the morning and are looking for a way to make the experience a little more enjoyable, CARROT Alarm is for you.

Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock ($1.99) and Sleepbot (Free) both use your sleep and motion activity to wake you up in the morning. Instead of placing your phone at your bedside, you put your phone on your bed and the apps monitor your sleep behavior to wake you up at the optimal time. They also track your sleep behaviors and feature a variety of sounds to wake up to. The downfall of both of these apps is the fact they don’t work particularly well if you share the bed with someone or if you don’t like having your phone in bed with you.

Rise ($1.99) is similar to Wake Alarm Clock, but with a few less features. The interface is incredibly easy to use so setting alarms is simple, and it also gradually wakes you up to different tones. If Wake Alarm Clock is too feature-rich for you, Rise is worth a look—but it’s only a dollar less.

Wake N Shake Alarm Clock ($1.99) is the perfect alarm clock for people who just can’t seem to get out of bed. The premise is simple: to turn the alarm off, you have to shake your phone vigorously. Wake Alarm Clock has an option for this as well, but Wake N Shake has a variety of shake settings that make it so you really have to toss the thing around when needed.

The Best Email Client for iPhone

The Best Email Client for iPhone

You have an insane amount of choices for email clients on the iPhone and each does something a little differently than the rest. Shockingly, our pick for the best of these options goes to Microsoft Outlook. Yep, we’re surprised too.

Outlook

Platform: iPhone
Price: Free
Download Page

Features

  • Unified inbox
  • Works with Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com, iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and IMAP
  • Customizable swipe options for deleting, archiving, and scheduling messages for later
  • Built-in calendar and contacts list
  • Attach files from email, OneDrive, Dropbox, and more
  • Several filter options to quickly find emails
  • Powerful and quick search
  • Shows most common recipients
  • Focused mode filters your most important emails to the top
  • Available for iPhone and iPad

Where It Excels

As you’d expect from Microsoft, Outlook tries to be as powerful as a desktop app. Considering it’s Outlook, what’s surprising is that it does so without compromising usability. It accomplishes this partially because it’s just a rebranded and updated version of the already fantastic Acompli. Even with all its features, Outlook has a clean design that only takes a few minutes to familiarize yourself with. Outlook divides your email into two main sections: Focused and Other. Focused is similar to something like Gmail’s Priority Inbox, where Outlook learns what emails matter to you and pushes those to the top. Everything else lands in the Other tab. You can also quickly filter your emails by flagged or unread, so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. If triaging email is your thing, you can delete, archive, and snooze emails for later using a swipe gesture.

Outlook’s other main focus is hooking into other services. You can add attachments from a variety of different cloud services and view your calendar without ever leaving the app. You can also use that calendar to set up meeting times and share them via email. As far as notification are concerned, you can set up notifications for calendar events alongside new emails on a per account basis. If that’s too much for you, you can also set notifications for only important emails that land in the Focused tab.

Where It Falls Short

Outlook’s not perfect. The Focused inbox works incredibly well, but it does take a little time before it works as well as Priority Inbox. Until then, you’ll have to manage your email (and notifications) to get it working properly, and even then there’s no manual override to ensure you always get notifications from a single person. The calendar, while handy, requires that your calendar is linked to your email, so if you’re just using the iOS calendar option and iCloud it won’t show up in Outlook. The same goes for your contacts. There’s also not much in the way of customization beyond changing the swipe gestures.

The Competition

Outlook certainly isn’t the only email app worth paying attention to. Apple Mail, the built-in option, is a solid choice for most users. The VIP email list makes it easy to keep your notifications from overwhelming you and its deep integration with iOS means it’s the most accessible email app for the platform.

Newcomer Spark (Free) is easily the biggest competition for Outlook and will likely overtake it as the best email app for iOS once it’s updated. Once the app works out some kinks and is feature-complete it’ll be an excellent email app. Spark features an intelligent search engine, integrates with big cloud services, has a clever smart notification system, and is customizable in all kinds of ways. Spark’s still in its infancy, so it’s a little buggy and crashes for some users. It also has a number of features that are promised soon in updates, so once those come along it’ll be a lot more powerful.

If you’re a Gmail user, you have three excellent options as well. Mailbox (Free), Inbox by Gmail (Free), and Gmail (Free) all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Mailbox is mostly about organizing email with swipes and other gestures, but it’s not great for anything else. Inbox by Gmail and Spark are incredibly similar, with the caveat that Inbox is Gmail only. Its organization system is much like Spark’s, but has a few more options and a variety of Google tricks, including creating to-do lists, setting up reminders, and bundling emails together. If you’re a big Gmail user, it’s a solid option. If Inbox is too nontraditional for you, the Gmail app looks a lot like the web app and does a great job of organizing email. You can easily switch between accounts, organize and archive emails with a swipe, and more.

For power users with multiple email account types, Dispatch ($4.99) is all about processing emails and automating as much as possible. You can easily respond to emails with text expansion snippets and quick replies. Beyond that, Dispatch connects to a ton of other services so you can organize your emails into 31 different apps, including Evernote, pocket, Reminders, and more.

Beyond those, a couple other email apps are worth mentioning, including Boxer ($4.99), which stresses quick replies, and CloudMagic (Free) which hooks into other apps so you can organize your email using those instead of CloudMagic itself.

The Best Calendar App for iPhone

The Best Calendar App for iPhone

Going by the number of calendar alternatives in the iTunes App Store, nobody seems satisfied with Apple’s offering. Even with so many good choices, we feel Sunrise trumps them all thanks to its intuitive interface, great features, and support for so many calendar services.

Sunrise Calendar

Platform: iPhone
Price: Free
Download Page

Features

  • Compatible with Google Calendar, iCloud, and Exchange.
  • Hybrid app works with your iPhone and iPad.
  • Syncs in real-time and in the background.
  • Quickly add an event with real language (e.g. "Lunch tomorrow at 1pm!").
  • Add reminders the same way.
  • Include Facebook events and birthdays.
  • Weather forecasts based on your location included in your daily agenda.
  • Use Google Maps for directions.
  • Connect multiple Google Calendars.
  • No ads—completely free.

Where It Excels

Sunrise is beautiful and easy to use. By default, you get a straightforward agenda view that shows you exactly what’s coming up over the next day or so on all your calendars, plus the local weather. You can access the day you want to view, too, and open up an entire month to quickly find the date you’re looking for. If or when you prefer, you can also switch over to a traditional calendar view and see everything scheduled out at specific times.

Aside from having a great and intuitive feature set, Sunrise works with just about everything. You have support for Google Calendar, iCloud, and Exchange—pretty much everything you’d need.

Where It Falls Short

Sunrise doesn’t necessarily fall short in any department, but there are some calendar apps that offer additional features that Sunrise just doesn’t have. If a simple, everyday calendar isn’t your thing you might find this one doesn’t meet all of your criteria. Check out the competition section below for more options.

The Competition

Canary (Free) is really the main competitor. While not quite so intuitive, it provides a fantastic view of your day and how much free time you have. You can then switch into regular calendar mode to add and view other events. It displays Facebook events and birthdays and makes scheduling a breeze. If it supported more than Google Calendar and was a bit easier to navigate, it would definitely be our top choice. (It’s the top choice of Nick Denton, who owns Lifehacker and all of Gawker. If you have tons of meetings and events to deal with, you’ll probably appreciate it just the same.)

Cal by Any.Do (Free) feels pretty similar to Sunrise, except Sunrise supports more services. Cal, however, will important a lot of different kinds of data and keep it in sync with Any.Do’s services. Speaking of which, it handles reminders by integrating into the Any.Do app, so that’s a big plus if you already use it.

Fantastical 2 ($5) is a great calendar app that’s easy to use. It was our top pick prior Sunrise. That said, it’s not really better any any way and it costs $5 while Sunrise is free. You won’t go wrong using it, but you’ll be spending $5 for pretty much no reason.

Week Cal ($2), our (former) former favorite calendar app, packs in a lot. Like most of the competition, it offers multiple views for your events and tasks. Where it truly excels, however, is in how easy it is to use such a vast number of features and still see all the information you need directly from any view. You can still scan the events of your day quickly even in year view, simply by tapping a date. Moving events around works just like moving apps on your home screen—you tap and hold, then drag it to where you want. Everything is very intuitive, it feels like you’re using iCal or Google Calendar but in a way that’s suited for your iPhone. Basically, it has the elegance of a minimal calendar app while still retaining a very respectable set of features.

Calvetica, or Fast Calendar and Tasks ($3) and Agenda Calendar ($1) are both great options if your main draw is a minimalist aesthetic. That’s not to say they aren’t great—they both have simple, intuitive interfaces that allow you to quickly navigate around all your events. That said, they’re not designed to be the feature-rich behemoths mentioned above. If you don’t need much more than the built-in calendar app provides but would prefer a better interface with additional views and some extra features, both of these apps are completely serviceable and nice to look at.

Finally, it’s just worth mentioning the UNIQLO Calendar (Free) purely for its uniqueness. It costs nothing, syncs with Google Calendar, is very attractive, and plays tilt-shift videos while you navigate. It may not be the most practical option, but it is free and a lot of fun.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories.


You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. Twitter’s the best way to contact him, too.

The Best Instant Messaging Application for iPhone

The Best Instant Messaging Application for iPhone

The iPhone offers up a handful of IM apps, but IM+ works best. It’s easy to set up, has an intuitive interface, supports many chat protocols, offers encrypted chats, and is available for free.

IM+

Platform: iOS
Price: Free (with paid add-ons and pro version for $5)
Download Page

Note: Our favorite IM client used to be imo, but they dropped support for other services. This isn’t to diminish our current choice in any way, but to let you know why imo is no longer a part of this post.

Features

  • Supports multiple chat protocols: AIM/ICQ, Facebook, Google Talk, MSN/Windows Live, Neighbors, and Beep.
  • Concurrent sessions allow you to be logged in on your desktop while also being logged in on your phone.
  • Push notifications will let you know when you receive a new message, even when the app is in the background.
  • Supports video, voice, and photo messages.
  • Access your chat history from the app or in any web browser.
  • Settings sync with iCloud.
  • Apps are available for many other platforms, so you can use IM+ if you have an Android tablet (or whatever else).
  • Supports OTR (Off the Record) end-to-end encryption.
  • Simple interface with colorful chat bubbles.
  • Easily set your status.

Where It Excels

IM+ provides a very simple interface yet offers plenty of features (seen above). It takes just moments to set up your accounts and start chatting. It’ll easily import friend/buddy lists with your accounts and have you up and running in minutes. You can sync all your settings with iCloud if you have multiple devices, like an iPad. IM+’s exists in the web, so even if you don’t have a supported device onhand (of which there are many) with the app installed, you can check your chat history and actually chat from pretty much any web browser. You’re not limited by message type, either. You can just send text, or add video, audio, and/or photos, too.

Where It Falls Short

IM+ doesn’t leave much to complain about. It’s easy to use and works well. Some users have complained about connectivity issues here and there, but we haven’t experienced this problem and these problems are the minority. IM+ comes with ads, which is to be expected with a free app. You can pay $4 in-app or buy the pro version to remove them. It’s not a huge fee considering you’re probably going to get free updates for the rest of eternity.

The Competition

BeejiveIM is another popular option but costs $5. It’s very similar to IM+ and is a good choice. But if you want a free app, IM+ is your go-to.

Verb offers minimalism, but users have complained that push notifications have become very unreliable. You’re welcome to give it a try—it’s a good app in theory—but it’s a bit outdated and most people seem to have problems with it.

Instant messaging apps worth noting seem to be dropping off the app store. People are using proprietary services more now than anything, and our previous choice (imo) decided to drop support for third-party services in favor of its own service. As a result, we’ll have a new app directory entry in the future to look at these alternative options as well.


Lifehacker’s App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories. This week, we’re focusing on IM clients.