We’re celebrating another end to the work week with our Twitch stream, which starts at 1 p.m. PST today. This time around, we’re going to playAstroneer, a space-based, early access game from System Era Softworks.
Astroneer puts you on an alien planet, and your job is to survive by scavenging resources and creating your own colony. However, you’ll need to stay alive in order to create your new home. When you’re not tethered to your pod you will continuously lose oxygen, but it’s possible to stay alive far away from home base by building additional tethers. You’ll also have a handy tool that can dig through the ground to find resources, flatten surfaces, or even add to the landscape.
All of the resources gathered will be used to create tools that can help you survive, such as additional oxygen tanks or an attachable solar panel to provide additional power to your digging tool. You can also use them to expand your base. You can create a smelter to process ore, for example, or build a vehicle bay to create buggies so you can travel faster.
As far as early development is concerned, System Era Softworks mentioned on thegame’s Steam pagethat it aims to have a finished version of Astroneer in one to two years. By then, players will be able to create larger and more complex bases and structures, travel to more planets, and find rare items. For now, there are a handful of planets to explore, and a limited number of buildings to create. We’re going to see how far we can get in the two-hour session and try not to die of oxygen deprivation in the process. Wish us luck.
The Tom’s Hardware Community is constantly busy. Whether our members are discussing the site’s latest articles and reviews, providing tech support and building advice, or playing the latest PC Games, we have so much great stuff going on that it could make your head spin! Not to worry — Community Roundup is here to let you know the best of what’s going on in the Tom’s Hardware forums on a regular basis.
There are seven days left in our latest Steam giveaway. We’re giving away three copies of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons to three lucky members of our community. Experience co-op in a single player game as you guide two brothers through an epic fantasy journey. For your chance to win, head to the giveaway thread in the Tom’s Hardware PC Gaming Forum and enter the raffle or answer the discussion prompt. The Steam Giveaway will run until 6pm ET on Friday, February 24. The game will be awarded to the winners as a Steam gift. A Steam account is required to receive and play the game.
The submission period is now over in our Best PC Builds competition, and we’re now accepting votes. Thanks to everyone who submitted a best build. These configurations are not chosen by Tom’s Hardware’s editors. They are submitted and selected by our forum members based on defined pricing tiers. The competition is fierce this quarter, making it difficult to decide which were the best builds in each category. Click here to cast your vote for the best build in each category. For the first time ever, we will now be accepting mini-ITX and SFX format builds in every budget category. You can find links to each of the eight budget categories in our Systems forums or in the Best PC Builds announcement article.
Ever wanted to ask one of the big hardware or software giants something directly? How did you design that? Where did that feature come from? What’s in store next? Well, now you have the chance! The Community team is proud to announce a Q&A and XPS 13 Laptop Giveaway with our friends at Dell. Donnie Oliphant, Director of the XPS Product Group, as well as other members of the XPS Product Team will be joining us in our next community Q&A. He’ll be answering your in-depth questions about all of Dell’s current XPS line up. The Q&A starts Friday, March 3rd at 2pm EST, but we’re collecting questions ahead of time. Please submit all questions to our Q&A thread.
We just reviewed Intel’s latest entrants for their dual-core budget lineup, the Intel Pentium G4620 and G4560. Although the high-end processors give us little to talk about, Intel’s recent realignment of the Core i3 and Pentium families are a bit more newsworthy. First, the company launched an unlocked Core i3-7350K, and though it doesn’t offer the value we expect from an i3, it’s a fun chip for tuners. What do you think? Does the new line of Intel Pentiums have enough to take the budget CPU crown? Let us know in the article comments or give us your expert opinion in the CPU Forums.
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Knock it for the Windows 8 launch. Lay into it for how it debuted the original Xbox One. But, when it comes to the Surface Pro 3, don’t pull out the torches and pitchforks just yet – Microsoft is onto something here.
Over the past few years, the Redmond, Wash. Windows maker has proved to be one of the bolder technology companies, for better or worse. Microsoft clearly isn’t scared of falling on its face in the hope of landing on what in the world tech users want next in this turbulent industry, and the Surface Pro 3 is – well, it just might be an exception.
The company has hammered away at what it considers is a problem with tablets for years. Since the launch of the Surface Pro, Microsoft has sought after the ultimate mobile computing device, one that could usurp the laptop with a tablet-first approach.
All five versions of the Surface Pro 3 are available now in the US, UK and Australia. They are: 64GB / Intel Core i3 ($799); 128GB / Core i3 ($899); 128GB / Core i5 ($999), 256GB / Core-i5 ($1,299), 256GB / Core i7 ($1,549) and 512GB / Core i7 ($1,949).
It’s also available in many more countries, including 25 new markets for the first time.
The Surface Pro 3 is closer than Microsoft has ever been to making good on its mobile computing vision. After over a week with the slate, I’d go so far as to say that the Pro 3 is closer than any laptop-tablet hybrid released yet.
Microsoft was so sure of itself that not only did it directly compare the Pro 3 to Apple’s iPad Air and 13-inch MacBook Air, it gave members of the press pre-release Surface Pro 3 units during an announcement event in New York. Sure, the units have bugs as of this review, but who cares?
“I forced the giving away of the device, just so you’re aware,” Surface team lead Panos Panay told me just after the reveal. “I said, ‘You know what? I want the product in people’s hands.’ ‘But the bugs are still there. They’re not all done until June 20, until it’s on market.’ I don’t care. The purity of the device is still true, and on June 20 there will be more drops.”
One look at the thing might explain Panay’s eagerness to get the Surface Pro 3. It’s no iPad Air, that’s for sure, but the iPad Air isn’t packing a 12-inch display.
Going on three years now, the Surface Pro 3 is by no means obsolete, though it is much harder to come by. That’s because, for a reason unbeknownst to us, the Surface Pro 3 has been completely eradicated from the Microsoft Store online.
The good news is that we’re due for a second major Windows 10 update later this year. In addition to the Creators Update, which is slated for the spring, Microsoft has promised that a “Second Update in 2017” (hopefully a working title) is on its way, though any further details are unclear at this point.
By then, for Microsoft’s sake, we can only wish that the company improves upon its security measures. After being called out by the European Union (EU) for its lack of transparency regarding how it handles user data, Russian security company Kaspersky revealed that it’s making its own desktop OS with security (unsurprisingly) squarely in mind.
Yes, Microsoft bumped the Surface Pro touchscreen from a tiny 10.6 inches to a far roomier 12 inches. In the process, the pixel count has been upped from 1920 x 1080 to 2160 x 1440 The result is a modest boost in pixels per inch – 207 ppi to 216 ppi – given the increase in screen real estate.
More important is Microsoft’s interesting choice in aspect ratio. Rather than sticking with the Pro 2’s 16:9 or glomming onto the iPad’s 4:3, the firm went with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The company claims that, with this aspect ratio, this 12-inch screen can actually display more content than the MacBook Air’s 13.3-inch panel at 16:10. The move was also made to make the tablet feel more like your average notepad when held in portrait orientation.
Wrapped in a bright, silver-colored magnesium shell that’s cool and smooth to the touch, the Surface Pro 3 feels premium in every regard. The tablet keeps the trapezoidal shape of its predecessors, but manages to come in both thinner and lighter than before. Plus, the tablet’s upper half is beset by vents on its edges to better dissipate heat pushed out by its fan.
Microsoft also moved the Windows home button to the device’s left side of its silky smooth – though, rather thick – glass bezel. This way, it appears on the bottom of the slate while held upright, calling out, ‘Hey, hold it this way now.’ While it’s no doubt the lightest Surface Pro yet, I’m not sure whether I could hold onto it for an entire subway ride home.
Adorning both sides of the Pro 3 are 5MP cameras capable of 1080p video recording. While stills on either shooter won’t blow you away, the front-facing lens should do just fine for Skype and the weekly video meeting over VPN.
This Surface isn’t without its sidekick(s)
A tablet wouldn’t be much of a laptop replacement without a keyboard, and the Surface Pro keyboard was in desperate need of a boost. Luckily, Microsoft sent the Type Cover back to the drawing board, and what came back is the best version yet. From keys with deeper travel and stronger feedback to a wider glass trackpad that actually clicks, nothing was off the table.
But the most important improvement is the brand new double hinge. Equipped with a strong magnet that latches onto the Pro 3’s lower bezel, the Type Cover can now rest with just a portion of it touching your lap or desk. This proved to make writing on my lap much more stable than with previous Surface devices. (Plus, the plush cover comes in five colors: red, blue, cyan, black and purple.)
Tucked beside the Type Cover is also the newly improved Surface Pen. Microsoft made a point of calling its stylus that, because the firm wants it to be seen as and feel like the writing instrument we’ve all grown up with. With an aluminum finish and a useful clicker up top, the Surface Pen is weighted to better feel like a pen. Using Bluetooth and powered by N-trig, the stylus tracks closer to its physical position than ever before, thanks to some major improvements to the Surface screen.
The new Surface Pro 3 unarguably has the look and feel of a premium product, so it only deserves to be stacked up against the most luxuriously built tablet and laptop around.
Adobe launched major updates to two of its classic design applications in March. Called Touch Workspace, the apps are available now free of charge to existing Creative Cloud subscribers and Surface Pro 3 owners with the latest versions of Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2014 installed. The apps feature a streamlined design user interface that makes it more responsive to fingertips, while optimizing a number of new or existing software tools with touch interaction in mind.
After a late-night reveal by Nintendo, the Nintendo Switch has been showcased in all its glory, boasting a hybrid design that’ll provide both console gaming and on-the-go gaming with a single console. Is Nintendo’s upcoming console something you should get excited about, or is it full of gimmicks? We’ve spent a few days playing with the Switch to find out. Here’s our Nintendo Switch hands-on review. Read next: Best games coming to Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo Switch review: UK pricing and release date
The Nintendo Switch will arrive on 3 March with a price of £279 and is available for pre-order now from the official store and retailers such as Amazon, Gamestop and GAME. It’s $299 in the US and although there seems to be a fair bit of negative reaction to the price, we don’t think it’s too bad – especially if you consider the console could potentially replace your DS. Also, let’s not forget that Brexit has been driving the price of many tech products up so this might also be a factor.
Yes it’s more expensive than the PS4 but that’s not comparing launch prices. Nintendo could have gone for a budget price, some thought it would be £199, but we’re ok with it. If you can hold on, the price is likely to drop within a few months of the console going on sale.
For £279 you get the main console, the dock, a pair of Joy-Con controllers, a Joy-Con grip (to connect the controllers together), wrist straps, an HDMI cable and AC adapter.
What is a little bit disappointing is the price of accessories, because for starters an extra pair of Joy-Con controllers will set you back a whopping £74. One on its own is £43 and you’ll need to buy wrist straps at £4.99 each to avoid your TV getting smashing from an airborne accident. An extra grip for the Joy-Cons is £25.
If you fancy it, the Nintendo Switch Pro controller is priced at £65 and a spare dock to easily use the Switch with another TV or monitor is a whopping $89.
The new Nintendo is like no other console we’ve seen before and is a little hard to describe in terms of design. That’s because the Switch has been designed so you can use it in various different ways, not just a box that plugs into your TV and stays put.
The main part of the device is essentially a tablet so requires docking to turn into a console you play on the TV, hence the ‘TV mode’. Other modes are ‘Handheld’ and ‘Tabletop’ – see below. We used the Switch in console mode for a couple of games like Zelda and Splatoon and moving the tablet in and out of the dock is easy. You can even do it mid-game without pausing if you wish.
With the console docked you can use the Joy-Con controllers attached to the grip as a sort of make-shift traditional controller, or use one each for some multiplayer games. You can also use the Pro controller, of course.
Undock the Switch from the, er, dock and don’t attach the Joy-Con controllers and you’ve got Tabletop mode. Thanks to a kickstand on the back of the device, you can easily set it down on any flat surface and get gaming.
This is pretty cool and not something you can do with the PS4 or Xbox One. However, it is a little fiddly in the sense that you’re playing games on a relatively small 6.2in screen so you can’t sit too far away and play comfortably.
It’s also fiddly because the Joy-Con controllers are very small. Holding them sideways to play is awkward because of the size and the way the joystick and buttons are so close together. With one being Left and the other Right, you don’t get the same experience on each using them this way due to necessary button placement.
The Nintendo Switch in handheld form is what makes the console so unique when compared to the likes of the PS4 and Xbox One. While Sony offers PS4 Remote Play via PC and Mac, and Microsoft offers something similar for the Xbox One, neither can offer a fully fledged portable gaming experience like Nintendo can. When combined with the two Joy-Con controllers, the Nintendo Switch is lightweight and surprisingly comfortable to hold. It resembles a thinner, more attractive Wii U GamePad with a 720p HD output, joysticks on either side along with the standard ABXY buttons and directional pad.
The edges of the Switch with Joy-Con controllers are curved, allowing for longer play times without any kind of discomfort – although we have our reservations about the layout of the Joy-Con controllers, which we’ll come to in more detail below. The gaming experience in handheld mode is impressive, as it offers the full game on-the-go without any real compromise apart from the downgrade in screen resolution and a finite battery life.
The Joy-Con controllers, despite having a rather silly name, are actually impressive – especially the built-in advanced HD rumble motor, which boasts similar levels of precision to Apple’s haptic engine.
This doesn’t only enhance standard gameplay vibrations, but opens a whole new kind of game: in one of the 1-2 Switch mini games we tried, you use the Joy-Con controllers to guess how many ball bearings are inside your virtual box by moving the controllers and feeling the balls ‘roll’ around. This would simply not work with a standard vibration motor, but the motor within the Joy-Con controllers tricked our brains into believing there were ball bearings rolling around inside, and we even managed to guess the right number.
However, the Joy-Con controllers do have their downside – the layout is a little awkward, especially when playing certain two-player games where each person has one Joy-Con controller each. As they’re used as left and right controllers for the main console, the analogue stick and buttons are in different places on each side. While one controller is fairly centred, the other features an awkwardly placed joystick and buttons, making long periods of two-player gameplay a little bit uncomfortable.
Joy-Con grip controller
As mentioned, one of the ways to use the Joy-Con controllers and will be the main way to play when the Switch is in console mode – especially if you don’t buy the Pro controller.
You sort of build it by sliding each Joy-Con controller onto the grip. This creates a traditional style controller that you hold with two hands but it’s quite an odd one. As you can see, it’s very square and although it’s more comfortable than we were expecting, the section in the middle could do with being wider so your hands are further apart.
It’s also a shame that the grip supplied with the console doesn’t charge the Joy-Cons at all, merely holds them in place so you’ll need to think about how you’re going to keep them topped up (Nintendo will only sell a charging grip).
Switch Pro controller & steering wheel accessory
The Nintendo Switch offers a few lesser-known types of controller at an extra cost: the Pro controller, and an accessory that’ll change your Joy-Con into a mini steering wheel for use with games like Mario Kart 8. The Pro controller looks similar to the standard controller provided with the Wii U, offering a gameplay experience similar to other consoles with four bumper buttons, two analogue sticks, ABXY buttons and a directional pad. What is unclear at this time is whether the controller will only be supported by certain games, or whether it’ll have universal game support.
The mini steering wheel for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe edition is much more impressive (sold separately). Simply pop the Joy-Con inside the wheel and it’ll provide you with a more natural driving experience. While the standard Wii U steering wheel was rather unwieldy and awkward to use, we found the new controller to be much more responsive and easy to use – in fact, it quickly became our preferred way to play Mario Kart during our time with the Switch.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the new steering wheel is much smaller than the old one, meaning those with big hands might not be able to hold it with both hands like a normal steering wheel.
iPhone 8 price and release date | iPhone 8 features and specs
Forget the iPhone 7, it’s the iPhone 8 you’ll be more interested in. Set for a 2017 release to celebrate the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, here’s what the rumours say about the iPhone 8 UK release date, features and specs.
10 years of iPhone mean one thing: the iPhone 8 should be the best iPhone update yet
The iPhone 7 has only been on sale for a while, but all we seem to be hearing are rumours about the iPhone 8. We think Apple might well be holding back some major updates and improvements for the iPhone 8, which – if the rumours are true – will be launched on the 10th anniverary of the first iPhone. Here we round up the rumours about the iPhone 8 release date, price, features and specifications. See also: Best phones 2016.
Hang on a minute, shouldn’t the next iPhone be the iPhone 7s? It still could be. Leaks and more rumours are pointing to not one but three new iPhones, two of which may well be branded as iPhone 7s and 7s Plus models. The main launch, though, would be the flagship, 10th anniversary iPhone ‘8’.
We’d be surprised if Apple goes for that naming convention, however, and other rumours say it could even be called simply ‘The iPhone’, or iPhone Pro, but for now we’ll stick to calling it the iPhone 8 for simplicity.
Update 24 February: The rumour mill is running at full tilt at the moment, so here’s a summary of what to expect from the iPhone 8:
That’s the main specs covered, but here are the other rumours:
The main logic board will be in two pieces instead of the traditional one
Apple may move the SIM tray to the bottom edge (this could be to allow room for other internal components or to include a Smart Connector)
Quick charging will be supported when using a cable
New speaker design could make the phone the thinnest ever
It will use an OLED screen from Samsung – read more.
Facial recognition in addition to fingerprint scanner
The latest video from ConceptsiPhone does a decent job of showing what the iPhone 8 might look like. It’s interesting to see an idea of how the bottom of the display might be used, similar to the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro.
iPhone 8 release date rumours: When is the iPhone 8 coming out?
iPhone 8 UK release date: September 2017 (TBC)
Although still months away, we can fairly confidently predict the iPhone 8 release date. Assuming the annual September announcement tradition continues, the iPhone 8 release date will be in September 2017. However, 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone launch, so we wouldn’t be too surprised if Apple mixed things up a bit (it launched the SE – pictured below – in March).
According to Tech Trader Daily (via MacRumours), Apple might be putting the iPhone 8 into production in June, sooner than expected. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the launch will be earlier than September given the potentially radical design change.
It’s not necessarily going to be called the iPhone 8, of course, but that’s the name we’re using to keep things simple.
iPhone 8, iPhone 7S, iPhone X or something else? What will the iPhone in 2017 be called?
It seems the name may have been confirmed with an Apple employee referring to the new device by the name ‘iPhone 8’ unprompted when speaking to Business Insider. However, there is another suggestion as Apple Insider claims that Apple could call this year’s iPhone the iPhone X.
As we’ve mentioned, the iPhone for 2017 is slightly harder to predict because it will mark a big anniversary for the smartphone.
The latest rumours are that Apple will release three new iPhone models as part of the main lineup. This could well be the ‘S’ versions of the 7 and 7 Plus, and the extra ‘iPhone 8’, an even more premium flagship with ‘revolutionary’ features.
The Wall Street Journal says: “Apple plans bigger design changes for 2017, the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. Those changes could include an edge-to-edge organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, screen and eliminating the home button by building the fingerprint sensor into the display, according to people familiar with the matter.
“At a meeting with an Apple executive, one of the company’s China-based engineers asked why this year’s model [the iPhone 7] lacked a major design change in keeping with Apple’s usual two-year cycle. The answer, one person at the meeting recalled, was that the new technology in the pipeline will take time to implement. People familiar with the matter said some features that Apple hopes to integrate into iPhones, such as curved screens, weren’t ready for this year’s models,” it added.
If Apple follows the usual pattern, the iPhone 7 that launched this year will be followed by the iPhone 7S in 2017. The fact that it’s 10 years since the original iPhone means this could all go out the window. Apple will want to do something special to celebrate the occasion so an ‘S’ model, which usually just brings small tweaks, won’t suffice.
It’s pretty much anyone’s guess at the moment, hence, we’re calling the 2017 model the iPhone 8 at the moment but it’s perfectly plausible that the new phone won’t conform to the traditional naming system at all. The iPhone SE (special edition) is already a thing, so perhaps Apple will go with ‘iPhone Pro’, iPhone Anniversary Edition’ or even just ‘iPhone’ – although naming the iPad 3 as ‘the new iPad’ didn’t go down too well.
A report from Nikkei suggested that in 2017 there would be three new iPhone models. It sounded as though we were in for the usual 4.7- and 5.5in models (the regular and Plus), plus a third new ‘Pro’ model with a 5.5in or above curved screen. Its source said the screen would be “bent on the two sides” making it sound like a Galaxy Note 7 rival. Of course, this didn’t happen with the iPhone 7, though it doesn’t mean we won’t see a curved-screen iPhone 8.
Vote in our poll to let us know what you think Apple will name the anniversary iPhone.
iPhone 8 price
We’re speculating for now, of course, as the iPhone 7 has only recently gone on sale. Whether Apple will introduce a price increase for the potentially special iPhone 8 is anyone’s guess. However, the iPhone 7 price jumped up to £599 in the UK thanks to Brexit and we hope that it will stay the same with next year’s anniversary model. However, in light of the latest leaks, the ‘anniversary’ model seems to be an ultra-premium device that could cost more than any iPhone yet. At least one report claims it will be more than $1000 in the US.
Although one analyst predicts the iPhone 8 will be the best selling model ever – with up to 150m sales – another is worried that following the anniversary edition, Apple will see a possible 10 year slump afterwards.
It is believed that moving to OLED for the iPhone 8 will push up costs as much as $50m for Apple, eating into the firm’s profit margin. Whether the firm takes the hit and keeps the price of the phone the same or not remains to be seen.
iPhone 8 specifications and new features
If Apple does indeed do something special for the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, which is ever more likely from all the leaks, the iPhone 8 will be one which fans will no doubt want to upgrade to on launch day. Could we see the biggest queues ever?
A combination of design and hardware changes will make the iPhone 8 the most radical new iPhone to date, if we are to go by the rumours and leaks.
iPhone 8 screen
It seems certain that the iPhone 8 will have an OLED screen – like the Samsung Galaxy S7 – rather than the traditional IPS tech Apple has used previously.
A recent KGI report says that it will be a 5.8in screen which will fit into a chassis a similar size to the current 4.7in iPhone and that the phone will have a significantly higher capacity battery.
Here’s a diagram from the report which illustrates how the iPhone 8 will slot into the range:
As you can see, the screen will have two parts. A 5.15in ‘main’ screen with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels and a separate ‘function area’ across the bottom. This is likely to be where the integrated fingerprint scanner will live, and it may operate like the Touch Bar on the latest MacBook Pro laptops.
Whatever turns out to be the case, the screens are coming from Samsung. The Korean Herald reported that a source confirmed the order from Samsung and that – like the screen on the Galaxy S7 Edge – it will be made from plastic and not glass. Typically glass is only used for flat screens, so this is not too surprising.
And now according to GSMarena, the deal between Apple and Samsung for the screens is now finalised.
The iPhone 8 won’t be the first to have a bezel-less screen. Xiaomi has already launched the Mi Mix, reviewed. It’s a stunning device and the first of a new category of phones with it’s 91.3 percent screen-to-body ratio, according to the firm.
A Facebook post by Robert Scoble – a well-known tech strategist – reveals new details about the next iPhone. In the lengthy post Scoble claims to have been told that it will be “a clear piece of glass… which will put holograms on top of the real world like Microsoft HoloLens does”. He also says the phone will have an OLED screen and that Apple has 600 engineers working on a next-generation 3D sensor and that the phone will have eye sensors. These will bring “a new kind of interface”. He also says that you’ll “pop it into a headset which has eye sensors on it, which enables the next iPhone to have a higher apparent frame rate and polygon count than a PC with a Nvidia 1080 card in it.”
Plus, he says that new sources revealed we can “expect battery and antennas to be hidden around the edges of the screen, which explains how Apple will fit in some of the pieces even while most of the chips that make up a phone are in a pack/strip at the bottom of the phone.”
These sound like ridiculous predictions, especially the part about the phone being transparent – battery tech is not yet good enough to make one small enough to “hide” – but if true, the iPhone 8 will be a revolution rather than the evolution we’ve seen with the iPhone 7 this year. We’ll continue to update this article as new information appears, but here’s how things stand right now.
This concept image via ConceptsiPhone shows what an edge-to-edge OLED display iPhone might look like:
Jony Ive has wanted to introduce an iPhone which resembles a single sheet of glass for a long time and the 2017 anniversary iPhone could be the one. It’s rumoured that at least one iPhone in 2017 will use a glass body, according to Apple supplier Catcher Technology. Glass on the front and back would make it like a hugely updated version of the iPhone 4S.
This, combined with the rumour that the iPhone 8 will sport an edge-to-edge OLED screen makes things rather interesting.
Allen Horng, chairman and chief executive of Catcher Technology, a key supplier said: “As far as I know, only one [iPhone] model will adopt glass casing next year. I don’t think this move will have an impact on Catcher’s revenue as glass casing still needs a durable metal frame which requires advanced processing technology and would not be cheaper than the current model.”
However, don’t get your hopes up. Although Foxconn – the manufacturer of iPhones in China – has been experimenting with building a glass chassis for around a year, it is likely too early to put it into mass production. Current tooling is all for aluminium chassis and that’s where the expertise and investment is. A switch to glass – or ceramic or some other material – would be such a massive change that there would be far more leaks backing up these rumours. Put simply, we don’t believe that the iPhone 8 will be an all-glass machine.
In-screen Touch ID home button
What’s much more likely is that the home button will be ‘virtual’ in the iPhone 8. This makes sense, and is surely one of the features of the ‘function area’ in the diagram earlier.
But will Apple ditch Touch ID? Previous rumours say no but another new Apple patent for an “Acoustic Imaging System Architecture” suggest otherwise.
It’s impossible to know what Apple will do, since there are so many patents. One Apple patent shows that the new iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which is usually situated beneath the Home button, could be built-in to the entire display, eliminating the need for a Home button and making room for a larger display without enlarging the overall size of the smartphone.
These rumours seemed pretty far fetched to begin with, but it might just happen. Sonavation recently announced that it has found a way to insert ultrasonic biometric sensors underneath a Gorilla Glass display, still being able to read a user’s fingerprints.
The newly developed tech is “well suited for through-the-glass fingerprinting and specifically architected to deliver advanced security
and ease-of-integration into mobile and IoT devices” Sonavation’s CTO Rainer Schmitt said.
The company claims that it can even do one better than the existing Touch ID (and most other fingerprint scanners on the market) by being able to scan fingerprints on a finger that’s wet, dirty or oily. Though it’s not clear which devices will be the first to feature this new technology, but we assume it’d either be the iPhone or a flagship Android smartphone.
Another patent has been awarded to Apple for a button which places the fingerprint sensing technology underneath the screen. Named a ‘capacitive fingerprint sensor including an electrostatic lens’, it means the Touch ID fingerprint sensor can work through various layers of the display.
Yet another patent, via Apple Insider, deals with the light sensor – the one which adjusts the screen brightness automatically. It’s called ‘Electronic Devices With Display-Integrated Light Sensors’ and explains that having a light sensor can result in an increase in the size and weight of the device so “it would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved electronic devices with light sensors and displays.”
3D front-facing camera
However, Macrumours says that a JP Morgan analyst claims there will be no fingerprint recognition at all, and that Apple will instead embed a front-facing 3D laser scanner that will be able to accurately recognise your face. This will avoid the problem where Touch ID doesn’t work if you have wet fingers – or the sensor has water on it. He says it will also be more secure, which could lead to more companies – including banks – supporting Apple Pay.
This theory is backed up by Kuo of KGI Securities whose latest report, via 9to5Mac, says Apple will put an enhanced front camera and an IR sensor in order to build up a 3D model of the user’s face.
The report also says that Apple’s 3D algorithms are “years ahead” of Android, and such a feature could be an iPhone exclusive for a couple of years before Android phone makers catch up.
More display rumours
As pointed out by Patently Apple, yet more patents suggest a curved-glass design and also that the sides of the phone could be used for virtual buttons. For example, this could be used for certain controls when the camera app is in use. If true, the phone would rival Samsung’s edge screen features.
There were also some rumours we heard about the iPhone 7’s screen that never made it to fruition. It’s possible that they could see daylight with the iPhone 8.
Economic Daily News speculated that the iPhone 7 could feature a 3D display, and one that doesn’t require the use of those annoying 3D glasses. The website claimed at the time that Apple supply chain partner TPK is working on a project that could produce a glasses-free 3D display, though we’re not holding out much hope for this as its been done before (remember the LG Optimus 3D?) and has never done well.
There were also some rumours to suggest that the iPhone 7 could have a sidewall display, similar to that found on the Galaxy S7 edge and Note 7. This came from an Apple patent that was published in 2015. The patent hints at a future iPhone with a display that extends onto the sides of the device, providing interactive or touch sensitive portions that give access to slide-to-unlock functionality, music player controls, messaging readout, called ID, system controls and more.
One of Apple’s partners, Japan Display, is working in flexible an foldable screens similar to Samsung and LG. Whether this will end up in the iPhone 8 remains to be seen – it’s unlikely but still interesting. Apple has plenty of patents describing bendable and folding devices, according to TechnoBuffalo.
More details on the screen tech include that Apple is supposedly working on a new generation of 3D Touch. According to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the firm will make it from a thin film in order to introduce enhanced sensitivity – via AppleInsider.
The lawsuit alleges that Uber stole plans for the LIDAR sensors used in Google’s self-driving cars that scan for obstructions and allow the car to steer and brake automatically. Google developed the technology originally but it is now part of their sister company Waymo. (Both are now part of parent company Alphabet.) Google and Waymo found out about the schematics when an employee was wrongly copied on an email from a supplier.
It’s a serious claim, and the demands are clear. Waymo is asking for the stolen documents be returned. It’s 14,000 files or a total of about 10GB of data. Waymo is also demanding that Uber stop development on the self-driving car technology.
In recent months, it’s become clear that Waymo doesn’t intend to actually make a self-driving car, even though prototypes have been driving autonomously around San Francisco and other areas for years. The new plan, which could be a pivot or possibly the intention all along, is to create an operating system used for cars that are developed by automakers like Chrysler, who is working with Waymo and Google on the self-driving Pacifica minivan.
The reason this is a major setback is because Uber was testing self-driving cars with actual passengers in cities like Pittsburgh and Tempe, Arizona. There’s a human driver who keeps a light touch on the steering wheel, but it’s still an aggressive move (in a good way) to see how the cars operate in the real world and not only with professional testers (and no passengers).
More than anything, it’s a setback because there are way too many variables already when it comes to autonomous driving. Tesla is still the leader in making an actual production car that is semi-autonomous, but Uber was attempting to go much further (allegedly by using stolen technology) to go beyond “lab testing” and make robotic driving something that is actually useful and can help us get across town in a way that’s safer and more reliable.
Similar to how an autonomous bus might operate, the idea was to have a fleet of self-driving cars someday soon — within a few years anyway — that drive around a city picking up passengers and delivering them to their destination, all with an app you can use to follow along. There are still a lot of local regulations and insurance issues to work out, and those who signed up to take a ride in the Uber self-driving car had to agree to the obvious dangers.
Now, there are a lot of questions about how this will pan out from here. Uber could have worked partnered with Google and Waymo — all companies involved have bucketloads of cash — or found another company like Cruise Automation (now part of GM). A lot of the complexity of self-driving cars has to do with the sensors that scan the road and the related algorithms that adjust the car steering, speed, and braking to make it all work. There are hundreds or even thousands of variables — nighttime driving, tight corners, congestion, people in the road, rain and snow.
Even if there’s a quick settlement, even if the allegations prove incorrect, and even if Uber emerges somehow without a dark shadow behind them, it’s still a setback for autonomous cars. The technology needs to move forward quickly, not get tangled up in lawsuits.
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Apps are the cornerstone of Apple’s iOS platform. The ecosystem is what sets Apple’s mobile platform apart from its rivals, and the highest-quality iPhone apps are typically best in class.
But, like any app store, it is sometimes difficult to find out what are truly the best apps, the ones that stand out from the rest and offer a tool or service that’s far beyond anything else available.
Sometimes the best apps are free, other times you will have to pay a little bit for them. Here we showcase the best available and offer up everything you need to know about the app and how much it will cost.
This round-up compiles our favourites, from top-quality creative tools and video editors to the finest productivity kit and social networking clients. And in addition to our ongoing list of the absolute best, every week we’re adding our picks for the latest and greatest new or updated apps, so check back often.
Even if you don’t have an iPhone right now, it’s worth reading up on what’s available if you’re considering investing in the iPhone 7.
New this week: Hipstamatic
There are two sides to . In its ‘native’ form, the app apes old-school point-and-click cameras. You get a tiny viewport inside a virtual plastic camera body, and can swap out lenses, film, and flashes, along with messing about with multiple exposures and manual shutters. It’s pleasingly tactile and twangs your nostalgia gland, but feels a bit cramped.
If you’d rather use your entire iPhone display to show what you’re snapping, you can switch to a ‘pro’ camera mode. That’s closer in nature to Apple’s own Camera, but with Hipstamatic’s huge range of rather lovely filters bolted on – a great mash-up of old and new.
And if you’re wedded to Apple’s camera, Hipstamatic’s still worth a download, given that you can load a photo, slather it in filters, add loads of effects and bask in your creative genius.
This one’s all about ‘points of interest’, hence the name – (‘POIs on maps’). Essentially, it’s a wealth of information from OpenStreetMap shoved into an app and twinned with an interface that makes it a cinch to drill down into categories.
So, mooching about London and fancy a bite to eat? Tap on the food and drink icon. Something quick? Tap Fast Food. Pizza? Sounds good.
Each tap filters the POIs and navigation buttons displayed, and arrows point at nearby locations when you’re zoomed in. Everything’s extremely responsive, and the maps and icons are clear and easy to read. Other nice bits include a full-screen mode, a search function, and public transport overlays.
The only snag is Poison Maps is a gargantuan 1.2GB install; if that’s a bit rich, smaller regional alternatives by the same developer exist, each being a free download with a small IAP to unlock all categories.
Space by Tinybop
The eighth release in the popular educational Explorer app library, is all about exploring the cosmos, fiddling about with the major components of the solar system.
On creating a profile, you launch a little spaceship, choose a planet, and start messing around, with an emphasis on play rather than dry facts and figures. To compare the mass of planets, you pop them on a weighing scale. Size comparisons are done by dropping planets into adjacent circles, whereupon they resize accordingly.
Elsewhere, you can peek inside celestial bodies, but the app would sooner have you hurl a piano into Jupiter’s Great Red Spot storm, just to see what will happen.
So this isn’t the place to learn that Saturn takes over 29 years to journey around the Sun; but Space is the kind of app that might whet appetites to the point those using it want to find out more.
Filters in iPhone apps are designed to bring a dose of creativity to your digital photos. However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the choice on offer, and to end up relying on the same old filters time and again. snaps you out of any such rut, largely by robbing you of direct control over the filters you apply.
Instead, Infltr has you load a photo and drag your finger over it to change the filter. Every movement subtly adjusts what you see – an intriguing mix of randomness and tactility that proves compelling.
The app also has its own camera, works with Live Photos and panoramas, and offers plentiful export options. And if all that dragging feels like a bit too much hard work, just tap the randomizer button to get a new filter and change things up once more.
If you’ve got yourself a resident tiny human, your house probably has a few of those wooden puzzles where letter shapes are shoved into their respective slots. isn’t quite, well, endless, but contains dozens of such puzzles, which work brilliantly on the touchscreen.
On your child selecting a word, monsters sprint along the bottom of the screen, scattering its letters. They then need to be dragged back into place, coming to life as they’re moved. When a word’s complete, monsters act out what it means in a charming animated cut scene.
There are some minor grumbles here and there – the app’s resolutely US-English in nature, and the sounds letters make when dragged might confuse, since they’re not full letters nor the phonics often used in education. Otherwise, this is a first-rate, charming, enjoyable educational app for youngsters getting to grips with words.
The idea of tapping out your next novel on an iPhone might seem mad, but if you’re armed with an iPhone Plus and a small portable keyboard, why not add to your potential bestseller when you’ve the odd spare moment?
is designed to transform your iPhone into a powerful writing environment. Efficiency is the app’s watchword from the off, with excellent templates that provide a document structure ready for input, including example pages so you can see how things work.
When typing away, you’ll appreciate the custom keyboard bar that makes it a cinch to navigate on-screen and adjust text styles. Impressively, the app also integrates the kind of index cards seen in Scrivener (but absent from its iPhone version), so you can get a high-level view of your work, and quickly rearrange your story whenever needed.
Stop Motion Studio Pro
You need an awful lot of patience to produce a stop-motion masterpiece, but it helps if you’re armed with an app like .
The main plus with the app is its flexibility: you can use its own camera to add new frames, bring in pre-shot images from Camera Roll, or even import video footage that is then automatically chopped up into a bunch of stills.
During editing, you also get plenty of options. Frames can be copied and pasted, and audio added – which intelligently plays until completion (rather than cutting off once a new frame is played), so multiple effects can be overlaid.
The app perhaps stretches a little too far in claiming to offer ‘rotoscoping’ – that is, drawing over frames for a result akin to A Scanner Darkly – due to the related tools being too basic and fiddly.
But for taking your first steps towards becoming the next Aardman, Stop Motion Studio Pro fits the bill.
Head back to the 1980s and pixel art was just, well, art. Computer graphics were chunky due to technological limitations, not because of the aesthetic desires of creatives. Nonetheless, for a mix of reasons – nostalgia, primarily – pixel art remains popular in illustration and videogames.
On iPhone, is a great app for dabbling with pixel art. Along with prodding individual pixels using a pencil tool, there’s a neat flood fill option and shape tools too. Layers provide scope for more complex art, as does the option to import an image from elsewhere as a starting point.
There’s no lock-in either: you can export to a range of formats to share your miniature masterpiece, or work on it further elsewhere.
There’s no denying the quality of the filters in the free Prism app, which quickly transforms photos into painterly artwork. However, the app can be slow to render (especially with video), and only makes the full selection of its filters available when you’re online. is a more premium take on the concept and, importantly, its filters all work wherever you are.
This means that whether you fire up Visionn’s built-in camera or work with existing photos and videos, you can swipe between filters and instantly see their effect.
The actual filters are or varying quality and not quite up to Prism’s in terms of aping real-world styles. But ‘animated sketch’ Hawthorne is superb, and we also loved using Belmont, which makes snaps akin to canvases with oil paint thickly applied.
V for Wikipedia
There are plenty of Wikipedia apps knocking around the App Store, but V for Wikipedia does something a bit different. Although you can use the app to search Wikipedia in the normal way, it starts out displaying a Nearby tab, providing articles about interesting things in your vicinity.
Visually, this looks superb – tabs snaking their way from locations on a map to large clickable thumbnails at the foot of the screen. It’s also a practical way to find out more about somewhere without resorting to review-oriented web services.
Regardless of how you end up at an article, V for Wikipedia excels. Typography and layout design are smart and sleek, and a slide-in table of contents is always only a tap away.
So while you might narrow your eyes at the prospect of paying for a Wikipedia reader, V for Wikipedia will soon have said eyes busy reading the world’s most dynamic encyclopedia.
For many people, is king of the podcast apps, but has a key feature that could find it ousting the aforementioned favorite from many home screens: episode triage.
In use, the system works a lot like email: new podcasts show up in your inbox, you fling those you’re interested in to the top or bottom of a queue, and dump the rest in a searchable archive. For those podcasts where you must listen to every episode, they can be queued by default.
This is smart, saving you time and effort, and the archive works brilliantly, too, providing speedy access to older episodes.
Elsewhere, Castro is perhaps more ordinary, with functional podcast discovery, a dull playback interface, and basic effects that don’t match Overcast’s voice boost and smart speed. But for managing and prioritizing what you listen to, Castro can’t be beaten.
Free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 IAP
A playground for GIFs, aims to bring life to whatever you capture with your iPhone – or to fine-tune the motion within those things that already move.
You start off by loading pretty much anything from your Camera Roll: photos, videos, Burst mode images, Live Photos, or GIFs. With stills, you can select a number of them to stitch together, essentially making ImgPlay a kind of low-end stop-motion tool.
But it’s with Live Photos and Burst shots that ImgPlay really becomes interesting. You can take the video or sequence of images your iPhone shoots, trim the result (including removing individual frames), add a filter and text, and then export the lot as a GIF or video.
For free, the app’s full-featured, but buy the small IAP and you get more filters, no ads, and no watermark on export.
Stephen Hawking’s Pocket Universe
One of the things the iPad’s been really great at – with the right app installed – is making science approachable. But is, in many ways, more ambitious than iPad tomes.
That’s because it attempts to bring accessibility to Stephen Hawking’s phenomenal work on mind-bending topics such as space-time and the expanding universe – and squeeze everything into the much smaller screen of an iPhone.
Given such weighty subject matter, this is a surprisingly friendly digital book, broken down into easily digestible, bite-sized sections. Throughout, the app playfully animates, filling your screen with color and using illustration to aid understanding of the text.
Naturally, there’s still the possibility of bafflement, but the app helpfully tracks what you’ve read, and is perfect brain food for filling journeys on the bus in a manner mindlessly scrolling through social feeds can never hope to compete with.
The burst mode in Apple’s camera app is designed to get you the perfect photo in tricky situations. If you’ve a fast-moving subject – or are snapping someone who blinks a lot – you hold the shutter, very rapidly take loads of photos, and later select the best.
But in capturing anything up to dozens of photos, there’s potential to do something with those you’d usually discard. Burstio is all about turning such images into animations.
Launch the app and you see your burst photos as little film strips, each detailing the number of images within. Select a burst and you can trim the series, adjust playback speed, and alter playback direction.
Your edit can then be exported to video or GIF. The process is elegant and simple, and brings new life to images you’d otherwise never use.
You can of course use a wide range of apps for storing real-world scribbles – photograph a journal page and you can fling it at the likes of Evernote, say. But Carbo tries something more ambitious. Your sketches and notes are cleaned up, and converted to vectors, while preserving your original stroke.
What this means is that images within Carbo retain the character of your penmanship, but are also editable in a manner standard photographs are not – you can select and move specific elements that Carbo intelligently groups, adjust line thicknesses throughout the entire image, add annotations and tags, and export the result to various formats.
It’s a friendly, intuitive app to work with, and efficient, too – a typical Carbo note requires only a tenth of the storage as the same image saved as a standard JPEG photo.
Ferrite Recording Studio
Free + from $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99
As a free app, Ferrite Recording Studio is mightily impressive – a kind of beefed-up Voice Memos, which lets you bookmark bits of recordings to refer to later, and then edit and combine multiple recordings in a multi-track editor view.
But when you pay for Ferrite, it becomes a fully-fledged podcast creation studio on your iPhone.
First and foremost, in-app purchases remove track and project length limits. This affords much greater scope for complex projects, which can have loads of overlaying tracks and potentially be hours in length.
The paid release also adds a range of professional effects, which can help transform your project by making the audio cleaner and more engaging.
But whether you pay or not, Ferrite’s usable, intuitive interface should make it a tempting go-to tool for amateur podcasters, even if they’re also armed with a PC or Mac.
From a functionality standpoint, Living Earth is a combination clock/weather app. You define a bunch of cities to track, and switch between them to see current time, weather conditions, and when the sun’s going to make an appearance and vanish for the day.
Tapping the forecast quickly loads an outlook for the entire week; prod the clock and you’ll get the weather and time in each of your defined locations.
What sets Living Earth apart, though, is the globe at the screen’s centre. This provides a live view of the planet’s weather – clouds, by default, which can be swapped for temperature, wind and humidity.
We like the clouds most, along with the way the virtual planet can be slowly spun with the slightest swipe. It’ll then lazily rotate between zones in daylight and those lit up after night has fallen.
Apple offers a burst mode when you hold down the shutter in its camera app, but this is for very rapidly taking many shots in quick succession, in order to select the best one.
By contrast, SoSoCamera is about documenting a lengthier slice of time, taking a series of photos over several seconds and then stitching them together in a grid.
The grid’s size maxes out at 48 items and can be fashioned however you like. It’s then just a question of selecting a filter, prodding the camera button, and letting SoSoCamera perform its magic.
The resulting images, while low-res in nature, nicely capture the feel of time passing, in many cases better than video; although do experiment first with the filters, because some are a bit too eye-searing.
With virtual assistants like Siri, technology companies are betting hard on a hands-free, voice-controlled future for software. But eyes-free is also an interesting area of exploration. LeechTunes is designed for controlling music playback without you looking at your iPhone, largely by utilising the entire display for gestural input.
This kind of interaction can be handy when driving – skip a track by quickly swiping the screen of a docked iPhone; it’s also useful when exercising (or anywhere noisy), since you can switch playlists without talking to or looking at your iPhone.
The app provides 15 configurable options in all, and there’s also a handy sleep timer buried away in the settings. One niggle is you’ll need to fire up tunes in Music if you don’t have files stored on your iPhone, but LeechTunes can subsequently ably take over.
Free + $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 unlock
We often write about apps that are ambitious and push the iPhone to its limits, but there’s also a lot to be said for focus. And if there’s one thing that can be said about Tally 2, it’s that it’s focused. The app is a counting aid. Create a new tally, tap the screen and the number increments.
If that was all you got, you’d feel a bit ripped off. Fortunately, Tally 2 provides the means to have multiple tallies on the go (two in the free version; an unlimited number once you buy the one-off IAP), and these can be displayed and interacted with simultaneously, either within the app itself or inside Notification Center.
Smartly, each can also be customized, with a unique name, an initial value, a step value, a direction (as in, counting up or down), and whether it should be displayed in Tally 2’s widget.
On the desktop, Scrivener is popular with writers crafting long-form text. On iPad, the app is – amazingly – barely altered from the PC and Mac release; but Scrivener on iPhone is a slightly different prospect.
That’s not to say this isn’t a feature-rich and highly capable product. You still get a solid rich-text editing environment and a ‘binder’ to house and arrange documents and research, before compiling a manuscript for export.
What you lose on the smaller screen is those features that require more space: a two-up research/writing view; the corkboard for virtual index cards.
But Scrivener is still worth buying – although you’re unlikely to write an entire screenplay or novel on an iPhone, you can use the app to take notes, make edits, and peruse your existing work, wherever you happen to be.
There’s something of a Harry Potter vibe about Live Photos on iOS, and it’s fun to see a still image spring to life when you hold it, offering extra context and a snatch of audio. Ultimately, though, they are a gimmick, and one it’s easy to tire of; which is where Motion Stills comes in.
Google’s app reframes Live Photos in a number of useful ways. You can browse your entire feed, and isolate individual shots to fiddle with settings that showcase how much difference the stabilization makes. (A lot, as it turns out.)
Even better, there are tools for edit and export, so you can transform a Live Photo into a looping back-and-forth GIF to post online, or combine several into a short movie. Really, this is an app Apple should have produced; it’s ironic – but also terrific – that Google’s the one to bring extra life to Live Photos.
If you like the idea of editing home movies but find the thought daunting or lack time, try Quik. The app essentially automates the entire process, enabling you to create beautiful videos with a few taps.
All you need do is select some videos and photos, and choose a style. Quik then edits them into a great-looking video you can share with friends and family. But if your inner Spielberg hankers for a little more control, you can adjust the style, music, format and pace, along with trimming clips, reordering items, and adding titles.
Cementing its friendly nature, Quik offers a little pairs minigame for you to mess about with while the app renders your masterpiece. And there’s even a weekly ‘For You’ video Quik compiles without you lifting a finger.
We’ve seen quite a few apps that try to turn your photos into art, but none hit the spot quite like Prisma. The app is almost disarmingly simple to use: shoot or select a photo, crop your image, and choose an art style (options range from classic paintings through to comic book doodling).
The app within a few seconds then transforms your photo into a miniature Picasso or Munch.
On trying Prisma with a range of imagery, we found it almost never comes up with a duff result. But if you find the effects a bit jarring, a slide of your finger can soften your chosen filter prior to sharing your masterpiece online.
Our only criticism is the app’s low-res output, making Prisma pics only suitable for screen use.
On iOS, astronomy apps tend to be about gazing from Earth to the heavens, but Cosmic-Watch instead has you peering at the Earth and explore its relationship with time and the cosmos.
The default view is a clock that surrounds the planet like Saturn’s rings. You can pinch and drag to zoom and spin the planet, and the app enables you to save multiple locations to snap to via a tap. Elsewhere, you can overlay constellations and astral charts, and experiment with a digital model of the solar system.
A neat additional feature is time travel. Tap the clock icon and you can fast-forward your view. This is particularly lovely in the model, which when running sufficiently quickly (say, a month per second) leaves wiggly trailing paths from planets as they make their way around the sun.
On the iPad, Model 15 works brilliantly, providing a meticulously recreated take on a classic Moog synth, merged with the trappings of modern iOS music-making (presets, alternate keyboard controls, inter-app capabilities). Really, this should have been too much for iPhone, but it astonishingly isn’t.
Just like on the iPad, you can immerse yourself in messing around making new sounds by plugging in patch leads and prodding a keyboard to see what noise bursts forth. There’s a touch more scrolling and zooming on the smaller screen, but it’s perfectly manageable.
This certainly isn’t a cheap app, but Model 15 is the best standalone synth on iPhone, and another example of the most important thing that sets iPhone beyond Android – the scope and ambition found in native apps.
Coming across like a simplified social take on Lego, Tayasui Blocks is all about building objects and sharing them online. The toolset is simple but versatile, making it a cinch to stack and color blocks, along with viewing your creation from any angle.
And if you get bored, you can smother your object in stickers or attack it with a wide range of weapons.
The online bit works especially well, providing speedy access to a huge range of existing constructions that you can download and experiment with. (Smartly, you can’t reupload these unless the app deems you’ve made sufficient changes.)
On smaller iOS devices, the app is perhaps a touch fiddly at times, but you don’t need the acres of an iPad to thoroughly enjoy digital building blocks.
Apps are transforming the way many people learn to play instruments. Capo touch is a case in point, attempting to simplify the process of figuring out songs loaded on to your iPhone.
At its most basic, Capo will slow down a song without changing its pitch, along with looping user-defined sections, thereby helping you figure out riffs and chord progressions. You can also tweak the settings to try and isolate important instruments.
The magical bit, though, is chord detection, which tries to supply chords for any song you load. Capo doesn’t always succeed, but during testing we found its hit rate was fairly high, and whenever it errs, you can always replace Capo’s choice with an alternative.
The idea behind WiFi Priority is a simple one, dealing with a shortcoming within iOS itself. If you’ve multiple networks accessible to you, your iPhone may sometimes automatically join the wrong one – and there’s no way of creating a custom order for known networks.
This can be infuriating and require regular trips to Settings to put things right. All WiFi priority does is let you select and sign into a network and then block it from auto-join. (You can still connect manually via Settings, note.)
The app could be a bit more modern (it has a zoomed view on iPhones larger than a 5) and friendly (removing a setting requires you to delete a profile from Settings > General > Profile), but it does the job it sets out to do ably, dealing with an irksome iOS issue Apple appears oddly reluctant to fix.
There are loads of camera apps for iPhone, broadly offering the same kind of pro-level controls: manual focus and ISO; white balance; zoom; levels; filters; grids. Obscura Camera is in this respect more of the same, but what makes it worthy of consideration is its really smart interface.
Next to the shutter are big ‘expose’ and ‘focus’ buttons, for locking each feature. Above, chunky ISO and shutter buttons beg to be tapped, and can be quickly swapped out for a raft of other controls. Want a different filter? Just swipe across the main viewfinder area.
The result is an iPhone camera that boasts the kinds of features its rivals have, but that obliterates them in terms of usability. It’s a properly one-thumb-controllable app, focussed on quick access to features, dispensing with the needlessly fiddly controls found in many of its contemporaries.
Streets 3 for Street View
The idea of buying an app based on Google’s Street View might seem bizarre, given that Street View is integrated into the entirely free Google Maps. And yet there’s something oddly compelling about Streets 3. Accessing Street View using this app is simpler and faster than in Google Maps, as is changing your position on the overhead map and viewing coverage.
Beyond this, Streets 3 has several other handy features. It identifies as a navigation app, and so can be a kind of surrogate Street View for Apple’s Maps. You get information about a selected location, along with a list of ‘gallery’ places to check out. These include city sites, monuments, and actual galleries, for partaking in a little virtual tourism.
Moving about in the 3D mapping environment’s a bit jerkier than in Google Maps, and gallery places are weirdly arbitrarily ordered. Still, there’s a search for the latter, and any other niggles are countered by the genuinely useful and entertaining nature of Streets 3 as a whole.
Using a phone while driving is not a smart thing to do. Even when your iPhone’s parked in a dock, app interfaces are typically too fiddly to use without your eye straying from the road for far too long. This is where Open Road comes in.
The app enables you to create a custom screen of big tappable buttons that trigger important actions, such as firing up a favourite playlist or calling a specific contact.
It also boasts a number of eyes-free gestural commands, voice control (occasionally flaky, but useful when it works), a car finder (so you don’t lose your car when parking somewhere new), and a drive recorder, in case you’re involved in an accident.
In a sense, Open Road is a veritable grab-bag of car-oriented goodies, all wrapped up in a clean, efficient interface that ensures the app is best-in-class.
Apple’s built-in Music app has increasingly sidelined personal collections, instead heavily focussing on the Apple Music streaming service. Cesium is a player designed to help you enjoy your existing music library once again.
The interface marries old-school functionality with modern iOS design, offering tabs to quickly access artists, albums, songs and playlists.
Mostly, though, Cesium is great at providing the features music fans want: you can quickly edit and add to an upcoming queue; library sort options enable you to switch between alphabetical and chronological lists; and the landscape mode is just like the portrait mode but in widescreen, rather than trying (and failing) to do something ‘clever’.
So if you’re after a music player for iPhone that’s tasteful, smart, full-featured and free of gimmicks, buy Cesium.
There are quite a few apps that let you add text to images, but whenever we stray, Over always manages to drag us back. The app’s playful interface is fun to work with, but also it’s quite powerful. Import a photo and you can overlay multiple layers of text, artwork and further images, all of which can be edited and rearranged at any point.
This isn’t an app for super-crazy adjustments, though. Instead, it’s focussed and classy — perfect for adding some beautiful typography with a subtle drop shadow, thereby creating a birthday card, watermarking a favourite photo, or fashioning wallpapers with text for a loved one.
The built-in iOS Calendar app isn’t great, and Reminders is pitiful. Although we’re big fans of Fantastical, you might prefer something a bit more conventional. If that’s the case, grab Calendars 5 immediately.
It offers a range of views that have far more clarity than those in Apple’s app, a task centre that makes Apple’s Reminders look truly abysmal by comparison, and natural-language input for events that makes adding to your calendar a breeze.
It works with existing iCloud data (and other calendar services), so you can easily switch between apps, and there’s a free version if you want to check out the interface — although be mindful that it lacks many of the best bits of the paid version.
This follow-up to the original iMaschine builds on its predecessor’s beatbox smarts. You still get pads for tapping out rhythms and keyboards for composing bass and leads, but all the new bits help you take musical ideas and experiments much further.
Pads now have a step-write function, enabling more precision, and there’s a superb arpeggiator for keyboard instruments, adding dynamism to your output.
More powerful arrangement features urge you towards full tracks rather than mere loops. It does feel a bit ‘walled garden’, though — iMaschine 2 should largely be considered a standalone app or a satellite for Native Instruments hardware; but even a lack of interest in integrating with the wider iOS music app ecosystem doesn’t stop this being an essential purchase for musicians with an iPhone.
Korg Module is a digital sound module, and its high price tag is fortunately matched by seriously high-end audio. You get five dedicated sound engines, enabling you to do anything from tinkling virtual ivories to outputting ear-smashing synth noise.
Clearly, then, this app is geared towards the pro user. Although you can play instruments using virtual on-screen keys, Module’s really intended to output to a MIDI keyboard, and handily includes set-list functionality for rehearsals and gigs. If you want to have a peek without blowing a large amount of cash, the limited LE version gives you a free taste.
Free + $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99 per year
Writing a journal used to be an arduous task before smartphones came along. Now apps help you automate much of the process, only requiring you to perhaps write a few words to go alongside some choice photos and location data, which can then be tagged for later retrieval.
Momento boasts a distraction-free interface and offers optional gentle reminders to urge new entries. But perhaps our favourite feature is Momento being able to import content from social networks — Twitter, Facebook, and the like — giving you a rather more complete diary than you’d get from ad-hoc entries alone.
from free; $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 bundle
The Nursery Rhymes apps (of which there are three volumes, each available in freemium or paid flavor) are all pretty much the same. You get a nice image that depicts a famous nursery rhyme, and various on-screen objects can be prodded to make them move and emit noises. Finally, tapping the lyrics kicks off a rendition of the relevant rhyme.
That might not sound terribly exciting to you, but if you’ve any tiny humans about the place, this could be the best few bucks you’ve ever spent.
Although be warned: if our experience is anything to go by, your 18-month-old will be desperate to fish your iPhone out of your pocket at every available opportunity, for just one more go on Hey Diddle Diddle.
It’s not often we feel the need to add extremely simple single-task apps to this list, but for Duplicate Photo we’ll make an exception. The app’s name tells you everything about what it does: it duplicates photos.
Specifically, you select one or more images in the Photos app and then use ‘Duplicate’ within the Share sheet to make copies. You can then make all kinds of crazy edits to the copies, safe in the knowledge the pristine originals still exist.
Just Press Record
Apple ships Voice Memos with iOS, but Just Press Record goes one better, rethinking simple iPhone recording by adding automated sync. The app is mostly a huge button, along with a list that gives you access to previously saved recordings.
Beyond this, the iPhone release bundles a great Apple Watch app, which makes it a cinch to record from your wrist, even when your iPhone’s not around. The next time the devices connect, your Apple Watch recordings seamlessly upload.
A Mac version is also available, which enables you to sync and play back your iPhone recordings on the desktop. But Just Press Record isn’t a closed system — you can share any recording made on your iPhone to the likes of Mail or Dropbox.
In these days of flashy news apps like Flipboard, old-school RSS readers get something of a bad reputation. But there’s something really handy about subscribing to your favourite sites, and knowing you’ll get every article delivered in chronological order, for you to pick through at leisure.
On the iPhone, Reeder 3 remains an excellent app for browsing and reading feeds. The interface is straightforward, and a built-in Readability view enables you to quickly load the text and images from feeds that only otherwise supply you with brief synopses.
If you’ve got an iPhone that supports 3D Touch, you can use that for article previews in the articles list.
We’re told coding is vital, assuming you want to get ahead in the world; but for newcomers, learning to code is akin to grappling with a foreign language. Lrn aims to ease you in, through a cleverly constructed series of interactive quizzes.
We know: you’d love to workout more often, but you lack the time and equipment. Streaks Workout scowls in your general direction and points out you just need it and an iPhone to become the brilliant version of you that you’ve always dreamed of.
The idea isn’t to have you become some kind of CrossFit superstar, merely to do a workout per day, even if it’s quick.
You select exercises from a list, avoiding those you don’t like, and sessions randomly use up to six of them. Said sessions last from six to thirty minutes. We thought the last of those being titled ‘pain’ was amusing until we tried it and discovered that moniker is quite accurate.
But whether you’re going for a short burst or long haul, Streaks Workout does the business. Icons are bold, and it’s easy to track what you’ve done at any given time. The need to have the screen visible and tap it after each exercise irks a bit – there’s no voice control – but you can at least catch your breath while prodding the display to cue up your next slice of hell.
And while this app’s randomness won’t suit those who demand very structured exercise routines, it’s great if you want something fresh each day to get you into the habit of regular exercise – which is kind of the point.
Something that’s starting to grate about camera apps is they want to be everything. They bombard you with features and filters to the point they’re all looking very samey. SKRWT bucks the trend with an almost razor-sharp focus – it exists to fix problems in iPhone photography caused by the wide-angle lens sitting inside your device.
For the most part, then, SKRWT is all about dealing with lens distortion. With a single swipe, you can correct horizontal and vertical perspective distortion, or eradicate extreme effects from images taken using a fisheye lens or GoPro.
Elsewhere, vignettes can be added or removed, and auto-cropping attempts (mostly successfully) to give you a nicely finished photo that takes into account your various edits.
This isn’t the most immediate of apps, but learn how to use SKRWT’s tools and you’ll discover it’s hugely effective at making seemingly subtle changes to digital snaps that make a world of difference, especially with cityscapes.
On using Deliveries for any length of time, you get the sense it’s overkill, but it’s a glorious kind of overkill. Essentially, it’s a package tracker that supports a wide range of services. Give it details and it’ll keep an eye on where your packages are and when delivery will be.
But Deliveries goes far beyond the basics. There are maps that show your item’s path to your door (a special kind of geeky fun with kit that ships from halfway around the globe), Notification Center support, the means to share to deliveries from emails in Mail, and even Peek and Pop on newer iPhones, for peeking at delivery details without fully opening items in the main list.
If you only order something once in a blue moon, you perhaps won’t get much value from this app. But if you’re often having cardboard boxes of joy show up at your doorstep, Deliveries is well worth the investment.
Photoshop is so ingrained in people’s minds when it comes to image editing that it’s become a verb. Oddly, though, Adobe’s largely abandoned high-end mobile apps, choosing instead to create simpler ‘accessories’ for the iPhone and iPad, augmenting rather than aping its desktop products. Valiantly filling the void is Pixelmator, a feature-rich and truly astonishing mobile Photoshop.
It’s packed full of tools and adjustment options, and works well whether you’re into digital painting or creating multi-layered photographic masterpieces. On iPhone, Pixelmator’s naturally a bit cramped compared to using the app on iPad, but at the price it remains an insanely great bargain.
Snapseed is Google’s own photo editor that’s been designed from the ground up to make tweaking your snaps as easy and fun as possible on a touchscreen device.
Although the interface is simple enough to use with just your fingers, there’s also a lot of depth to this app as well. You use tools to tweak and enhance your photographs to make them look the best they ever have, as well as playing around with fun filters that can transform the photos you’ve taken on your smartphone or tablet.
It’s no secret just how badly Apple’s own mapping app performs, although it has got better post-iOS 6.
Fortunately, Google Maps is a free download, and a far better solution than the old Google Maps app as well, thanks to the inclusion of turn-by-turn navigation and – in some cities – public transport directions. It’s an easy way to supercharge your iPhone’s mapping capabilities and one of the first apps you should grab for the iPhone 7.
Air Video HD
The vast majority of iPhones in Apple’s line-up don’t have a massive amount of storage, and that becomes a problem when you want to keep videos on your device.
Air Video HD gets around the problem by streaming video files from any Mac or PC running the free server software. All content is live-encoded as necessary, ensuring it will play on your iPhone, and there’s full support for offline viewing, soft subtitles, and AirPlay to an Apple TV.
Perhaps the best bit about the software is how usable it is. The app’s simple to set up and has a streamlined, modern interface – for example, a single tap downloads a file for local storage. You don’t even need to be on the same network as your server either – Air Video HD lets you access your content over the web. Just watch your data downloads if you’re on a limited cellular plan!
On the iPad, one of the best things about Procreate is its smart, efficient interface that gets out of your way as you’re working on your next digital masterpiece. If anything, this design ethos is even more successful in Procreate Pocket on the iPhone.
Across the top of the screen is the toolbar, providing fast access to brushes, smudging, an eraser, layers, and adjustment tools. At the screen edges are two handles for quickly changing the size and opacity of your brush.
Although the kind of app actual artists are likely to get the most out of, Procreate’s friendliness is such that it’s a great place to start dabbling in digital painting. You can even record the creation of your masterpiece and share it as a 1080p video.
If you’ve seen tiny humans around iOS devices, you’ll have noticed that even those that can’t speak beyond bababababa and dadadadada nonetheless merrily swipe and poke at the screens Metamorphabet capitalises on this ingrained infatuation with shiny touchscreens, and cunningly attempts to teach the alphabet via the medium of surreal interactive animations.
It starts off with A, which when poked grows antlers, transforms into an arch and goes for an amble. Although a few words are a stretch too far (wafting clouds representing a daydream, for example), this is a charming, imaginative and beautifully designed app.
Pre-conceived ideas about what an app should be can stifle innovation, and so it’s interesting to see Proud cheerily elude the drudge-like appointment-making evident in most list-based organisers.
Instead, you figure out what you want to do (adding sub-tasks as appropriate), assign vague deadlines (‘tomorrow’, ‘next week’) for your more pressing tasks, and gleefully mark things as done when they’re completed.
Fittingly, the app splits its workflow into three distinct tabs: Lists, Reminders and History. Pleasingly, each has a hidden ‘superpower’ mini-app to further improve your life.
Lists offers a breathing exercise for reducing stress; Reminders has a Pomodoro timer and utterly brilliant ‘give me more time’ button that shunts every task with a due date on a few hours, a day, or a week; and History delves into your completed tasks, so you can see what you achieved weeks or months ago.
If you live and die on traditional calendars, where every hour must be accounted for, Proud isn’t for you. But if your life is a touch more vague or relaxed regarding scheduling, Proud will take advantage to the point you’ll consider it as revolutionary as when you first experienced a digital calendar.
Elsewhere in this list we mention apps that can be used to add text to a photo. However, this process is a bit fiddly on even the biggest iPhones, and many people just want to somehow instantly make something that looks fantastic. If that’s you, Retype is a must-download.
You open a photo (only from your local images as, for reasons beyond us, iCloud shared albums are not supported), type some text, and tap a style. Immediately, you get something resembling a finely-crafted poster. If you’re not keen on the layout, keep tapping the style button until you get something you like.
Although Retype is more about automation than customisation, that doesn’t mean it’s bereft of further options.
You can change the text’s colour and opacity, adjust the photo’s filter, fade and blur, and also have your image appear inside the text, rather than the text being an overlay.
It’s a pity there are no cropping tools — although countless other apps exist for performing such edits, being able to quickly change an image’s aspect ratio within Retype would be useful. That niggle aside, this is a fast, effective and entertaining app that’s perfectly suited to iPhone.
My Very Hungry Caterpillar
If you’ve been around young children for any length of time, there’s no escaping The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
That greedy larva seems to hypnotise tiny people, gluing them to whatever format it appears in, be it book or TV animation. There have been apps, too, but those we’ve seen before have disappointed. My Very Hungry Caterpillar, though, is a new take on the character, turning it into a kind of virtual pet.
Children familiar with the source material will watch happily as fruit they pluck from trees is quickly munched by the wriggly protagonist, but this app has far more to offer.
Gradually, it opens up all kinds of activities, such as growing a garden, playing with a ball, making art by getting messy with paints, and having fun on a pond. The app changes with the seasons, and so in winter the caterpillar gets to gleefully slide across frozen water, but in warmer months goes sailing.
It’s all very charming and adorable, along with being entirely without risk — there’s no way to off the little blighter. It’s also finite: the little caterpillar grows fat and eventually becomes a butterfly, at which point a new egg appears to start the cycle again.
And if we’re being honest, there’s something quite cathartic in seeing the little chap through this journey, to the point we imagine quite a few adults will sneakily launch the app for a while when their child’s asleep.
Let’s immediately get one thing out of the way: Korg Gadget isn’t cheap. It’s not the sort of app you’re going to download for some larks, use for a few minutes, and then casually toss aside. However, if you’ve any interest in making music — whether as a relative newcomer or jobbing musician — it is quite simply the best app available for iPhone.
Purely as a tool for live performance, Korg’s app is first-rate. You get a bunch of miniature synths, referred to as ‘gadgets’; they’re geared towards electronic music, but still have plenty of range.
There are drum machines, a gorgeous bell synth, some ear-smashing bass instruments, and plenty of other options, whether you want to be the Human League for a bit or go all clubby.
Each synth comes with a slew of presets, but you can fiddle with dials and levers to make your own, which can be saved for later use.
When it comes to writing music, you can record live, tapping out notes on a tiny on-screen keyboard or by using a connected piece of hardware. Alternatively, there’s a piano roll for tapping out notes on a grid as you do in GarageBand, creating loops to then combine into a song in the mixing-desk view.
Korg Gadget is one of the most flexible and intuitive music-making apps we’ve seen on any platform, and the deepest on iOS. It was superb on the iPad, but that it actually works — and is very usable — on iPhone is nothing short of astonishing.
You might question the logic in attempting to replace the stock Mail app on your iPhone, but Airmail is a few bucks well spent if you feel constrained by Apple’s app.
Airmail’s built around the idea of speeding up workflow. Although its interface is no more complex than Mail’s on the surface, the app’s far more feature-rich. There are plenty of customisation options for swipes across mailbox messages, and messages can be snoozed.
Document previewing is fast and efficient, and the attachments filter is excellent for quickly scanning through files you’ve been emailed.
Composing emails is superior to Mail as well, not least due to Airmail’s smartly conceived custom keyboard toolbar, which includes attachment and formatting buttons. A large range of actions (print; create PDF; third-party app integration) cements the app’s place at the top of the iOS email client heap.
If we’re being picky, it’s not quite good enough regarding email snoozing to quiet nostalgic pangs for the now-dead Mailbox, but even that’s a close-run thing.
Even on iPhone, chordbooks tend to be dry affairs, full of black dots and lines, and the unmistakable stench of tedium. From the off, Cheeky Fingers obliterates such grey competition through being beautiful, simple and having a sense of fun.
On launch, it cheerily plays ‘C’, cartoon digits atop a keyboard showing finger positioning for the chord. Tappable buttons and tabs then provide speedy access to a huge range of other chords, whether you’re trying to learn a basic ‘E-minor’ or master an ‘A-flat 7th suspended 4th’.
The more you play, the more great things you discover: changing the root (lowest) note with a swipe; toggling between chord (all notes at once) and arpeggio (one after the other) playback; and delving into related chords and progressions (sets of chords that form the basis of a song).
You can even save custom progressions, and although that system isn’t flexible enough to transform Cheeky Fingers into a songwriting tool, it further propels the app beyond ‘mere’ digital chordbook territory, making it an essential download for aspiring and competent keyboardists and pianists alike.
Free + IAP
The idea behind Auxy is to get more people using their iPhones to make music. It does this by subtly rethinking the interface for composing on the go, resulting in an app approachable enough for beginners but boasting enough power for pros.
You start with a blank grid, split into four tracks (one for drums, and the others for bass or lead instruments), each of which has 16 loops. Loop editing is simply a question of ‘drawing’ notes on to a piano roll grid, much like you do in GarageBand; only Auxy’s playhead moves vertically, recognising the fact iPhones are usually used in portrait.
This precision control removes the frustration found in other iPhone music-making apps, which force you to record live. And the more you explore, the more features you’ll find: longer loops; the means to adjust instrument characteristics just by fiddling with some sliders; saving a loop arrangement to an audio file by tapping loops live; and MIDI export for sending to a desktop app the notes you’ve painstakingly tapped out.
Auxy Studio feels almost like a halfway house between Figure and GarageBand, and from a music-making perspective, it’s just as good as either of those iOS classics.
For most kids, plastic keyboards and annoyingly loud toy drums are a typical starting point in music, but Loopimal ambitiously attempts to introduce children to the concept of computer sequencing. Fortunately, it does so by way of highly animated dancing cartoon animals, bright shapes, and plenty of flair.
Hit play and you’re immediately shown an animal bobbing its head to a backing track. You then drag coloured pieces (from a selection of five) into eight empty slots. When the playhead moves over the shapes, the animal adds its own sounds and melodies, often while performing impressive gymnastic feats.
It’s Loopimal’s character that initially wins you over. Unless you’re dead inside, you won’t fail to crack a smile when an octopus starts playing funky basslines with its tentacles, or the percussive Yeti gets all stompy. Smartly, once the player clocks how Loopimal works, the screen can be split into two or four, to combine animals and their unique sounds.
The one big miss is the inability to save your compositions, but every Loopimal riff is in C-major; this means you can use just the white notes on nearby keyboards to play along with whatever madness is happening inside the app.
Traditional calculator apps are fine, but even if they come with digital tape, you don’t get figures in context. By contrast, a spreadsheet is overkill for most adding-up tasks. Soulver is a neatly conceived half-way house — like scribbling sums on the back of an envelope, but a magic envelope that tots everything up.
You get two columns. On the left, you type everything out, integrating words as you see fit. On the right, totals are smartly extracted. So if you type ‘Hotel: 3 nights at $125’, Soulver will automatically display $375 in the totals column.
Line totals can be integrated into subsequent sums, ensuring your entire multi-line calculation remains dynamic — handy should you later need to make adjustments to any part.
Given the relative complexity of what Soulver’s doing, it all feels surprisingly intuitive from the get-go. There are multiple keyboards (including advanced functions and currency conversion), you can save calculations and sync them via iCloud or Dropbox, and it’s even possible to output HTML formatted emails of your work.
Although Apple introduced iCloud Keychain in iOS 7, designed to securely store passwords and payment information, 1Password is a more powerful system. Along with integrating with Safari, it can be used to hold identities, secure notes, network information and app licence details. It’s also cross-platform, meaning it will work with Windows and Android.
And since 1Password is a standalone app, accessing and editing your information is fast and efficient. The core app is free – the company primarily makes its money on the desktop. However, you’ll need a monthly subscription or to pay a one-off $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 IAP to access advanced features (multiple vaults, Apple Watch support, tagging, and custom fields).
The App Store description for Drafts states that the app is “where text starts on iOS”. A bit presumptuous, but actually a smart idea — instead of another note-taker, this app wants to be the one you instinctively launch before tapping out any words. This is worth serious consideration, because Drafts boasts a distraction-free editing environment that’s simple and powerful, including a live word count and Markdown support.
Lines of copy can be arranged by drag and drop, an extended keyboard row can be customised, and version history enables rollback and browsing for previous entries. Once you’re done, powerful sharing capabilities help you send your text anywhere — even to several places at once by way of multi-step actions.
Free + $7.99/£7.99/AU$12.99 IAP
There are two flavours of Scanbot, each of which is impressive in its own right. For free, you get a superb iPhone scanner with cloud storage integration, QR code support, and the means to detect edges for any paper document you want to digitise. Upgrade to Scanbot Pro and things get more interesting. You can add pages to existing scans, quickly name files using a clever smart-naming system, and search/extract text from previous scans.
There’s also an automated actions feature, where the app finds the likes of phone numbers and email addresses within your scans, turning them into single-tap buttons within each item’s actions menu. It’s not quite accurate enough to be witchcraft, but we nonetheless happily leave important scans within Scanbot these days, rather than immediately deleting after export.
There may come a time in the distant future when Twitter’s own app is our favourite (or Twitter bans third party clients entirely), but until then, there’s Tweetbot. This latest version builds on its predecessor, with an elegant interface fit for iOS underpinned by plenty of power-user features.
There’s a landscape mode and a second column for iPhone 6S/7 Plus users, granular mute settings, support for optional content blockers in the browser view, and new Activity and Statistics tabs. Twitter might greedily block access to a handful of its newest toys, but Tweetbot’s efficiency and power means we won’t defect just yet.
Traktor DJ for iPhone
In the early days of iOS, developers had a tendency to follow Apple’s lead and ape real-world technology on the screen.
This sometimes worked well, but we were always a little suspect of DJ apps that thought it a smart move to present you with two virtual spinning records to try and manipulate with sausage fingers.
On the iPad, Traktor DJ wisely thought different, instead enabling you to directly ‘touch the groove’, working with the waveform itself.
With Traktor DJ for iPhone, everything’s been crammed into the iPhone’s smaller display, which should be madness — but it works. There’s a bit more zooming and swiping involved, but you can apply effects, simultaneously work with two virtual decks, and get recommendations for tracks to play, based on their tempos and keys. Traktor DJ plays nicely with others, too — Audiobus and Inter-App Audio are both supported.
Free with new devices or $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99
When Apple first brought its office apps to iPad, they were an impressive attempt to perform complex tasks on a glass screen. Squeezing them down to iPhone seemed nigh-on impossible, and yet Numbers in particular survives intact.
Naturally, there’s quite a bit of zooming and swiping to do if your spreadsheet has plenty of rows and columns, but data entry can be relatively painless and surprisingly rapid by way of custom forms.
Unsurprisingly, Apple would very much like you to use Numbers everywhere and sync by way of iCloud, but you can also export to CSV, PDF or Microsoft Excel, along with flinging completed documents to cloud storage providers such as Dropbox.
Should you find yourself in one of the supported cities (including Paris, London, New York and Berlin), you’ll be grateful to have Citymapper on your iPhone — assuming you don’t want to get lost.
The app finds where you are and then gets you from A to B, whether you want to walk, grab a taxi, or use public transport (for which live times are provided).
The idea behind Evernote is you should never forget anything again. Instead, you upload and tag everything, so the service becomes your digital memory. For free, you can upload 60 MB of data per month.
Go premium (a range of paid tiers exist), and you can upload significantly more data, sync data across devices (along with using an unlimited number of them, rather than be restricted to two), boost search capabilities, access notebooks offline, and more.
For the most part, social media is fleeting, but Timehop is all about digging up precious memories from the past. You link it to whatever social media services you frequent (and your on-device photos) and it shows you what was happening years ago on today’s date.
There are plenty of solutions for transferring content between your computer and iPhone, including Apple’s increasingly popular iCloud. Dropbox is still worth using, though. It has great cross-platform clients, integrates with iOS’s Share sheets, and has direct support in many iOS apps.
If there’s one thing that’s sorely lacking in the majority of weather apps, it’s a malevolent AI that’s seeking the destruction of all humankind, and in the meantime gleefully revels in you getting soaked in a downpour.
CARROT Weather still gives you a pretty accurate indication of what’s going to happen, though, given that it’s powered by Dark Sky tech; but rather than getting all po-faced and technical, it’ll instead laugh that you’re in for weather hell, while showing a picture of cows being hurled across the screen in a gale.
Secret locations are there for discovery as well, which is handy if you’re desperate to know whether you need sunscreen when visiting Tatooine. (Hint: you really, really do.)
There are quite a few apps for virtual stargazing, but Sky Guide is the best of them on iOS. Like its rivals, the app allows you to search the heavens in real-time, providing details of constellations and satellites in your field of view (or, if you fancy, on the other side of the world).
Indoors, it transforms into a kind of reference guide, offering further insight into distant heavenly bodies, and the means to view the sky at different points in history. What sets Sky Guide apart, though, is an effortless elegance. It’s simply the nicest app of its kind to use, with a polish and refinement that cements its essential nature.
Fantastical 2 betters iOS’s iffy Calendar app by way of a superior interface, a non-hateful method of dealing with reminders, and truly exceptional event input. The app has a powerful parser, and so while adding an event, you can enter the likes of “TechRadar lunch at 3pm on Friday”, watching a live preview build as you type.
Figure crams Reason’s rich history of classic-era electronic music apps into a shoebox. Via a mixture of dials and pads, you can create all manner of banging choons, and then export them and assault your friends’ eardrums. It’s a fun toy for anyone, but also has the chops to be part of a pro-musician’s mobile set-up.
$4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 or free with new devices
Camera enables you to do the odd bit of cropping with video files, but iMovie is an audacious attempt to bring a full video editor to your iPhone, infused with the ease-of-use its desktop counterpart is renowned for. Amazingly, it succeeds. Effects, themes, credits and soundtrack creation then provide extra polish for your mobile filmmaking.
Launch Center Pro
More or less a speed-dial for regularly performed tasks, Launch Center Pro can be a huge time-saver. You can create shortcuts for things like adding a new Tumblr post or sending your last photo to Twitter, and these shortcuts can be arranged in groups. An essential purchase if you heavily use even a handful of the supported apps.
Transmit is a missing link for anyone who wanted a file manager for their iPhone. It might have roots in an Mac FTP client, but Transmit also integrates with cloud storage and local networked Macs. It’s perfect for moving documents, renaming files, and creating archives to email or upload.
Apple’s Podcasts app has improved since its initial launch, but still falls short of Pocket Casts. The third-party app cleverly mixes elegance and character, with a friendly, easily browsable interface. Subscriptions can be filtered, and you can stream episodes of shows you’ve not yet downloaded.
Although Apple’s HDR mode in the Camera app works perfectly well, it pales in comparison to vividHDR. The basic concept is the same: stunning, vibrant photos, capturing amazing details in both highlight and shadow. But vividHDR‘s combination of speed, presets and ‘before and after’ comparisons results in better photos – and that’s what really matters.
If you don’t feel the iOS Camera app really cuts it, ProCamera should give you what you need: a bunch of extra modes (night; rapid fire; anti-shake; timers) and a dedicated lightbox with a range of editing features and filters. You can even buy vividHDR (see elsewhere in this list) as an IAP.
Every iteration of the iPhone has a superior camera to the previous model, and so it’s only right an enterprising developer came out with an app that can turn your crisp and beautiful snaps into something that you might once have seen on an ancient computer.
In Retrospecs, then, you load your photo, select a system, mess about with dither styles, filters and cropping, and bask in retro glory. A wide range of creaky old computers and consoles is covered, so you should be set whether you were into the C64, Spectrum, SNES, or, er, Mattel Aquarius. (C’mon there must be at least one of you who had the last of those?)
In all honesty, we’ve pretty much had it with filter apps. A new one comes out, and everyone gets all excited, but they pretty much all do the same thing. All of them, that is, apart from Fragment. Rather than offer the usual range of old-school camera filters and adjustment sliders, Fragment instead delves into prismatic photo effects.
In short, this means you get to see what your photos look like through glass collages, smashed mirrors and arty blur effects. Probably not one for the selfie-obsessed crowd, but a must-have download for if you want something a bit more creative and interesting than the norm.
$4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 or free with new devices
Apple’s GarageBand remains an impressive, ambitious app, turning your iPhone into a recording studio. For beginners, there’s a range of smart instruments, making it easy to learn the basics of songwriting and chord progression. You can also experiment with pre-recorded loops, including in the loop player, where you trigger riffs and drum beats with a tap of your fingers.
If you’re already a musical sort, GarageBand enables you to write directly into a sequencer or record any instrument live. The app can also act as a kind of hub for other iOS music software, tying your apps together through Inter-App Audio and Audiobus.
With its huge range of amps and effects, ToneStack is an excellent choice for guitarists wanting to make some noise by connecting their instrument to their iPhone. An ABY unit enables you to split the signal, for hugely complex set-ups. And if that’s not enough, a slew of IAP provides yet more amps, stomp boxes and features, including an eight-track recorder.
Although we’re happy making music on an iPad, the iPhone tends to be better suited to much more focussed composition, as evidenced by loop-maker Figure elsewhere in this selection of apps. Bloom may seem rather more noodly, on account of it being an app for fashioning generative audio, but it’s still stripped right back, making it perfect for the smaller screen.
Devised by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers, Bloom has you tap out patterns, which create visual patterns and ambient melodies. And if that all feels a bit much, Bloom takes over when left idle, potentially providing limitless ambient background goodness.
Although we’re fans of the likes of the simple, straightforward Byword, Editorial is the app for people who want to have a huge amount of control over creating and processing their output. The writing interface is strong, but what makes Editorial is the means to quickly add custom snippets and integrate workflows for extending the app and saving you time.
Workflow is all about automation. You can download sets of actions or compose your own, which can trigger iOS apps and related services. For example, you could create a Home screen icon to call a friend, or build a single-tap icon to get directions to your nearest coffee shop.
Next for iPhone
The problem with apps for tracking expenses is they’re usually dry, complex and time-consuming. Next for iPhone is none of those things, which is probably why we’re actually using it.
The app is icon-based, so you just tap the icon closest to the thing you’ve just bought. (You can add notes to be more specific if you want, but you don’t have to.) The Next app then tots everything up, enabling you to look back in horror at the end of the month when you realise you’ve in fact spent a third of your earnings on absurdly expensive coffee.
Duolingo is entirely free from IAP, which is extremely generous given the quality of the app and its potential for helping you learn a new language.
It’s packed full of bite-size quizzes that you can dip into at any time, and that gradually build your vocabulary and grammar in any of the ten supported languages.
Start using the eBay app and you won’t go near the site on a PC again. It’s fast, efficiently flags new finds based on your activity, and can be used to create new listings. The built-in bar-code scanner can save you loads of time with the last of those.
Find My iPhone
Using Find My iPhone, you can always find where your device is, and keep track of any other devices on the same account. It’s very useful if you’ve misplaced your device or think it’s been stolen and want to know where it’s at.
The revamped Google Translate is an astonishing app. When online, it’ll translate written, photographed or spoken text between a huge range of languages. And for English to French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish (and back), the app will try to live-translate whatever’s in front of your iPhone’s camera — even when you’re offline.
For beginners keen on making music, Launchpad is perfect. You choose a genre and then trigger loops with a tap. Effects are only a further swipe and tap away. If you really get into the app, there’s IAP for further loops and the means to import your own audio.
Now as synonymous with mobile exercise as Nike+, RunKeeper is an excellent app, backed by a robust social infrastructure. Using your iPhone’s GPS, you can track exercise routes and then share activities with friends. IAP subscriptions are available for ‘elite’ users, and are ad-free and offer real-time sharing.
FaceTime is a great alternative to standard voice calls, but it only works with Apple kit. Skype remains the best widely-used alternative for people you know distinctly lacking in Apple devices.
You get free calls to anyone else using Skype, and cheap calls to anywhere in the world. If you’re on Pay and Go, this can be handy, and the app enables iPod touch users to call normal phones too.
TunnelBear Free VPN
For free, TunnelBear VPN gives you 500 MB of private browsing that can worm its way around geo-locking. All you do is fire the app up and tell the bear where to tunnel. If you want unlimited data, you can choose from a range of paid tiers, with ad-hoc, monthly or annual costs.
You can do without most Today view widgets, but Vidgets provides some really useful monitoring tools.
The standalone app is where you manage your icon-like ‘vigets’, which comprise world clocks, indicators for storage and network speeds, and quick-launch buttons for apps, bookmarks and contacts. That sole $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 IAP is primarily for showing your support, but you do get an option for saving space by removing widget titles.
To some extent, Yousician Guitar is like Guitar Hero, only you use a real guitar that the app is teaching you how to play.
You start with basic plucking and strumming before moving on to working your way through full songs, the app scoring you as you go. For free, the app only restricts daily play time. To go unlimited, subscribe for $19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99 per month.
The Elements – a fantastic digital book
Originally the darling of the iPad, The Elements in late 2013 became a universal app, so it could be enjoyed on iPhones too. A rich, engaging digital book, it tells the story of the periodic table. Each of life’s building blocks can be manipulated on the screen, before you delve into related facts and figures.