App

Fed up with Mail? Frustrated with Calendar? Furious with Maps? Try these third-party alternatives instead

One of the great things about modern smartphones is they’re ready for use the second you fire them up. The iPhone’s no exception, being pre-installed with a range of stock apps. However, they don’t suit everyone – some are too limited, and others don’t work as you’d expect.

This feature’s about replacing those you don’t like with something better. Note that we’re not suggesting you replace them all (and, in fact, you can’t – there are no third-party equivalents for Settings and iTunes Store, for example).

But if you’re frustrated with how basic Reminders is, feel Maps isn’t pointing you in the right direction, or just want more from your device camera than the default Camera app offers, read on for our pick of the alternatives!

Replace Mail with…

Gmail (free)

People tend to think the Gmail app requires you to have a Gmail account. But Google’s email app works with other accounts, too, and provides a useable, sleek alternative to Apple’s Mail. It has excellent search and organization features, usefully attempts to separate out promotional and social email from important stuff, and sends notifications when new emails arrive.

Download Gmail

Replace Calendar with…

Fantastical 2 for iPhone ($5/£5)

Fantastical has two big plusses over Apple’s Calendar app. First, the main scrolling view isn’t restricted to the selected day, making it very easy to browse upcoming events. Secondly, event creation uses natural English – type “lunch with Tom on Friday at 1pm for 90 mins” and you’ll see the event build as you add and edit details. Handily, the app works with your iCloud calendar data, too.

Download Fantastical 2 for iPhone

Replace Photos with…

Google Photos (free)

We like Apple’s photo solutions a lot, but not everyone can afford iCloud storage for backing up a large collection. With Google Photos, that problem goes away – for free, it’ll store an unlimited number of photos (up to 16MP) and videos (up to 1080p). Beyond that, you get smart sharing features, automated collages and albums, and handy editing functionality.

Download Google Photos

Replace Camera with…

Camera+ ($3/£3)

Camera+ is appropriately named, although on discovering its many features you wonder whether the + should be in giant neon lettering. You get a timer and stabilizer for shooting, a horizon level, clarity shooting when taking photos in the gloom, multiple scene modes and effects, and powerful editing tools. If that little lot doesn’t make you snap happy, nothing will.

Download Camera+

Replace Maps with…

Google Maps (free)

There are all kinds of reasons to plump for Google Maps over Apple’s solution: more deeply integrated public transport information; superior listings for points of interest; the genuinely useful Street View (versus Apple’s more gimmicky Flyover). But the clincher is Google Maps being able to save chunks of maps for offline use – enabling turn-by-turn directions even when you don’t have a data connection.

Download Google Maps

Replace Clock with…

Sleep Cycle (free + IAP)

Apple’s Clock app will of course attempt to rouse you at a user-defined time. Sleep Cycle, though, tries something different, analyzing sleep patterns, and attempting to wake you gently, during a light phase of sleep. And when you’re up, there’s loads of data to delve into. Mostly use Clock for timers? There are alternatives there, too.

Download Sleep Cycle

Replace Weather with…

Dark Sky ($4/£4)

Apple’s Weather gives you the basics, but Dark Sky takes things further. Along with a typical day view and weekly outlook, you get hyperlocal rainfall predictions for the coming hour, and an excellent rainfall animation that shows storms rolling across the land. The snag: it’s USA/UK/Ireland only. If you’re elsewhere, grab the similarly impressive Weather Pro.

Download Dark Sky

Replace News with…

Reeder 3 ($5/£5)

With ongoing fallout over Facebook and “fake news,” people are suspicious of algorithms determining what they read. Apple News is better than most, but Reeder dispenses with randomness by having you subscribe to feeds from sources you like and trust. The reading experience is top-notch, too, stripping articles back to just text and images, with no additional cruft.

Download Reeder 3

Replace Home with…

Amazon Alexa (free)

To be fair, which smart home app you use will mostly come down to the smart home kit you own – you won’t be binning HomeKit-compatible fare because you don’t like the app. But Alexa shows there are alternatives – and the Alexa ecosystem is arguably more mature (and affordable) than HomeKit’s. Moreover, Alexa makes for a great (often Siri-beating) digital assistant, too.

Download Amazon Alexa

Replace Notes with…

Evernote (from free)

Notes has vastly improved in recent iOS releases, but Evernote still feels like the sort of repository where you can bung anything, from business cards and quick lists to handwritten scribbles and audio recordings, before sharing and collaborating with others. Be aware of the free version’s limits, though: 60MB per month and sync between only two devices.

Download Evernote

Replace Stocks with…

Stocks Live (free)

For stock market dabblers, Apple’s Stocks offers a clean overview of tracked stocks, and handy links to related headlines. But Stocks Live is about digging deeper, enabling you to manage multiple watch lists and portfolios, check out upcoming IPOs, and peruse advice from people who’ve already made a fortune with their trading skills.

Download Stocks Live

Replace Reminders with…

Wunderlist (free)

Apple’s Reminders has a tendency to be basic and awkward. Wunderlist might look comparatively utilitarian and dull, but it does enable you to reorder reminders alphabetically and by date. Delve deeper, and it gives you as many features as you want, too, up to some pretty high-end “getting things done” methodology. Ideal, then, for to-do-list advocates of all types.

Download Wunderlist

Replace TV with…

JustWatch (free)

Apple’s TV app acts as a hub for your viewing habits, but some services aren’t compatible – and it doesn’t always work with those that are. JustWatch – despite using websites as a go-between to open streaming apps – casts a wider net; additionally, it’ll track movie showtimes as well as TV shows, for when you need to get out of the house.

Download JustWatch

Replace iBooks with…

Kindle (free)

For anyone who likes their digital books, Kindle’s a great download. It matches iBooks for usability, but Amazon’s range of titles is larger, and has very regular special offers. Moreover, if you like reading a lot, chances are you own an actual Kindle, and so may as well use the same collection of books on your iPhone.

Download Kindle

Replace Tips with…

Tips & Tricks – for iPhone (free)

Apple’s Tips app is useful for getting acquainted with the basics of your iPhone, but it quickly runs out of things to say. Fortunately, we don’t. From the team behind Swipe for iPhone and TapSmart, Tips & Tricks offers many chapters packed full of advice, augmented with a daily news feed of reviews, tutorials and breaking Apple news.

Download Tips & Tricks – for iPhone

Replace Voice Memos with…

Just Press Record ($5/£5)

Convenience is the watchword at the heart of a good memos app. Just Press Record beats Apple’s efforts in key ways: what you record is saved to iCloud, and thereby easily accessible from multiple devices; and recordings are transcribed into editable text. It’s easy to use, and well worth the outlay due to the time it’ll save you.

Download Just Press Record

Replace Podcasts with…

Overcast (free)

We could bang on about Overcast’s features all day: the vibrant, usable interface; smart playlists; support for streaming and downloaded podcasts. But our favorite bit is playback – Overcast simply sounds better than its rivals, due to superb smart speed and voice boost features, and smart resume, which rewinds your podcast a bit if it’s paused, to remind you of the conversation.

Download Overcast

Replace Calculator with…

PCalc ($10/£10)

On the surface an unassuming traditional calculator, PCalc in fact has tons of depth. There’s a tape, multi-line display, conversions, multiple undo/redo, RPN, and even a layout editor if you fancy a really big equals button. If you’re unsure, try PCalc Lite first, which is the best free third-party calculator on the App Store. (Also: try to find the bonkers AR Easter egg available in both.)

Download PCalc

Replace Phone and FaceTime with…

Skype for iPhone (from free)

The main benefit in using Skype is its widespread nature. FaceTime requires someone at the other end to be using an Apple device. Also, the Phone app’s separate. Skype mashes everything together, combining video chat, cheap calls to landlines and cell phones, and a smattering of messaging.

Download Skype for iPhone

Replace Safari with…

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser (free)

Safari’s so deeply embedded in the iOS ecosystem that it’s unlikely you’d be able to free yourself from it entirely, and there’s little point going for a directly comparable rival like Chrome. That’s why we’re recommending DuckDuckGo – a usable, simple browser that also doubles down on privacy. Great for people who want to keep their browsing secure from prying eyes.

Download DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser

Replace Messages with…

WhatsApp Messenger (free)

Apple’s Messages has the kind of pulling power that alone is enough to keep many people faithful to iOS. But WhatsApp is a hugely popular alternative. Much of this is down to it being available cross-platform (including on the web), and its simplicity proves compelling during a time when Apple’s increasingly adding cruft to its own messaging offering.

Download WhatsApp Messenger

Replace Music with…

Spotify Music (free or $10/£10 monthly)

Apple’s greatest rival in the streaming music space has big advantages. Most notably, there’s a free tier, although it’s ad-supported, shuffles albums, and limits skips. Still: loads of music for no outlay. But pay and personalization comes into play, with the app having a knack for helping you discover new music through a weekly playlist designed specifically for your tastes.

Download Spotify Music