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Passive apps – let your iPhone do its thing

Your iPhone can be both a powerful tool and a fun toy when you engage with it directly. Unfortunately, it can also be a source of stress and distraction, which has led to many of us seeking to lessen our screen time.

Thankfully, there is a very loosely affiliated category of ‘passive apps’ that offer function and entertainment without the need to engage too much with your iPhone. Just set these apps off running and leave them on a stand or table to do their thing.

Many of these passive apps have a meditative, therapeutic focus, meaning they can actually help rather than hinder those lower screen time plans. Here are some of our favorites.

Fliqlo [$0.99/£0.99]

Fliqlo is a particularly sharp digital clock screen saver that recreates the classic vintage flip-over style. Its screen-filling, easy-to-read font makes it a great bedside table tool, especially as it works equally well in portrait or landscape orientation. Find a decent stand, and you have yourself an excellent bedside clock replacement.

Bloom: 10 Worlds [$7.99/£7.99]

This fascinating app is the product of a collaboration between ambient music legend Brian Eno and musician and software designer Peter Chilvers. It’s also a reimagining of the seminal original Bloom app from 2008. Requiring no musical talent whatsoever, Bloom enables you to steer generative ambient music by touching the screen (or just leaving well alone), with accompanying generative artwork. There are 10 themed worlds to explore, each with its own deeply meditative sounds and shapes.

Portal – Immersive Escapes [Free]

Portal – Immersive Escapes is all about bathing your ears in peaceful ambient noise, from lapping water on a Thai beach to the pitter-patter of an Amazonian thunderstorm. The developer makes use of Apple’s spatial audio to fully immerse you in the environments, while picture-postcard visuals help further place you in the scene. As effective as a sleep tool as it is a relaxation and stress-relieving measure, Portal is the most blissful of passive apps.

Living Earth – Clock & Weather [$4.99/£4.99]

Living Earth does a lot of things for you without the need to interact with your iPhone. Primarily serving as a clock and weather app, it presents a striking 3D view of Earth complete with a real-time weather map of cloud coverage (temperature, wind, and humidity are also available). Sure, you can pinch to zoom and rotate this Earth view, but it’ll sit there presenting its information whilst you go about your business.