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Best of 2017: 12 apps you can’t afford to miss

We never stop bringing you recommendations for the best apps for iPhone and iPad. But the App Store’s so huge that we can’t hope to cover everything. So here’s our selection of amazing new and updated apps from 2017 we think deserve more attention – and a place on your home screen.

We’ve focused on apps that we’ve not written about before, and we’ve also avoided the more obvious choices that Apple feature heavily in their own best of 2017 lists.

Instead, here are some genuinely great apps that are likely to have passed you by this year.

12 great iOS apps from 2017 you need to install right now

Whether you want to shoot and edit video at speed, write your first screenplay, or transform photos into beautiful watercolors, there’s something here for you.


Free • v2.0.1 • 116 MB • By Apple

When Clips arrived in April, we thought Apple had missed the boat – after all, there were loads of other apps for shooting video on-the-fly, and sharing the result to social media.

But with version 2, released last month, Apple totally nailed it. The interface has been vastly improved, and it’s now very clear Clips offers a really smart combination of powerful tools and intuitive design.

You use Clips to quickly record footage, or import existing movies. You then add stickers, animated ‘posters’ that act like title cards, and can set live captions to appear as the subject talks.

There are filters, too, and iPhone X owners can use the selfie cam to place themselves within 360-degree animated scenes that include Star Wars spaceships and neon cities.

Watch out for our tutorial series on Clips, coming soon.

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Free • v2.3.2 • 1.77 GB • By Apple

This music-making app always impressed, but Apple in 2017 went all out to improve what was already a leader in its field.

Along with the existing slew of synths and smart instruments, you now get the wonderful, tactile Alchemy synth, the Beat Sequencer programmable drum machine, full integration of third-party synths and effects as audio units, and add-on sound packs.

What this means is GarageBand manages the tricky task of appealing to everyone. A newcomer can play with loops and smart guitars, while a jobbing musician can delve into amps, arrange songs of up to 32 tracks, and use the app as a hub to link together all the other audio apps on their device.

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Google Earth

Free • v9.2.4 • 178 MB • By Google, Inc.

Google Earth always felt like an oddball – like someone had taken Street View from Google Maps and wrapped it around a virtual Earth you could spin with a finger. That aspect still remains, but Google Earth now feels like an app with purpose.

Mostly, this is down to it being reimagined as an app for armchair tourism. Google Earth’s navigator section takes you on tours of the world’s most amazing sights; but even ad-hoc searches encourage you to explore further via Street View, and ‘knowledge cards’ that flag interesting places that are nearby. And if all that choice is a bit much, and you’re not sure where to head, just tap the dice and see where Google Earth takes you.

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$4.99/£4.99 • v1.5.2 • 25.2 MB • By Chroma Noir LLC

The creator of Halide isn’t wrong in noting many iPhone camera apps are akin to airplane cockpits, with countless buttons, widgets and controls. Halide takes a more measured approach, offering a greater sense of focus.

This is apparent from the second you start using the app. It’s bereft of modes, cropping options and filters, and instead wants you to think more about what you’re shooting.

Those controls and features that do exist are there to improve your photography: an on-screen grid; a real-time in-focus overlay; manual white balance and exposure. If you’re used to a barrage of options, Halide may feel limiting; but this premium camera app really does bring back the joy – and precision – to photography when using an iPhone.

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Just Press Record

$4.99/£4.99 • v3.1 • 4.7 MB • By Open Planet Software

On its original release, Just Press Record made Apple’s Voice Memos look comparatively clunky. The app out-Appled Apple with a super-sleek, insanely simple interface, and cross-device sync of recordings by way of iCloud.

With version 3, released earlier this year, everything has been dialed up a notch. Recordings can be paused and resumed, and when later listening to them, you can seek backward and forward, and adjust playback speed.

The interface is also much improved. Tabs provide quick access to previous recordings, and there’s a bespoke tab for getting at anything you’ve recorded on your Apple Watch. The new search proves useful, too, returning relevant results based on file names, but also the content of your recordings, which are automatically transcribed.

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$19.99/£19.99 • v1.4.8 • 95.1 MB • By Luma Touch LLC

With iMovie being available for free, it takes a really special iOS video editor to convince anyone to spend actual money. LumaFusion is one such app. It’s a powerful, feature-rich tool for anyone who feels hemmed in by iMovie, and yet doesn’t want to spend hours editing in front of a Mac or PC.

You get three standard tracks to work with, and three additional audio tracks for overdubs and effects. Numerous editing tools and transitions are available, so you can make short work of hacking footage into shape. And when you feel your movie needs a little extra, built-in layered effects enable you to do everything from adding a subtle vignette to transforming your masterpiece into an eye-searing psychedelic animation.

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Free • v0.1.1 • 3.1 MB • By Masood Kamandy

There are loads of live camera filter apps for iPhone, but Oblique is very much at the bonkers end of the scale. Rather than attempting to transform a scene into a miniature Picasso, it apes crazy video effects, or the kind of thing you might see in a hall of mirrors.

Depending on your subject, the result can be trippy, beautiful, terrifying – or a mix of all these things. But whatever you’re doing with Oblique, it’s resolute about you being in the moment – making the world your art studio. This means there’s no place for loading existing photos, nor saving unfiltered originals – but then Oblique would be an entirely different proposition if it could do those things.

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$0.99/£0.99 • v2.1.1 • 34.0 MB • By Tin Rocket, LLC

The second camera filter app in our selection is markedly more restrained. Olli to a great extent echoes Prisma, in offering a painterly take on photography. However, its output is geared towards delicate hand-drawn art and animation.

On selecting a style, you snap stills by tapping the shutter button, or record short animations by holding the button down. You can also import images from Camera Roll, and subtly alter your chosen filter by adjusting brightness, contrast, shading, detail, and line thickness settings.

Some effects allow too much of the original photo to show through, but Cel offers a gorgeous and vibrant take on cel-shading, and Salt transforms almost any photo into a great-looking ink sketch.

Get Olli


$4.99/£4.99 • v1.0.4 • 12.3 MB • By A Tasty Pixel

Much like GarageBand, there are multiple sides to Samplebot. For people who fancy making a noise, it’s a way to quickly and easily sample sounds, and then spend a happy hour frantically tapping a luridly colored drum pad to fashion what might pass as ‘music’.

But you can take things much further. Samples can be trimmed, and then arranged on a timeline, so you can fashion full songs to export. And if you tire of sampling pots, pans, pens tapping glasses, and your own mouth trying to be an entire drum kit, Samplebot will happily import existing sound files, or chunks of audio played from other iOS audio apps. It’s that perfect mix of immediate and versatile.

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Toca Life Office

$2.99/£2.99 • v1.0.1 • 228 MB • By Toca Boca AB

At the rate of knots Toca Boca’s knocking out children’s apps, you get the feeling they’ll soon have to release Toca Boca: Actually We Already Covered Everything Humans Do, So Here’s Some Light Music. Even so, Office is an excellent addition to the catalog.

Kids can poke about an office, vault, courthouse and apartment, dragging and dropping characters, and seeing how they interact with everything around them. For youngsters, just moving the little cartoon people around will be fun enough, but older kids can revel in setting alarms, making meals in the café, and even discovering a secret exit in the jail.

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$5.99/£5.99 • v1.2.11 • 14.9 MB • By Levcoh LLC

We’ve seen smart notepads before on the App Store, most notably with superb spreadsheet/back-of-an-envelope mash-up Soulver. But Untitled is a notepad app for people with an eye on Hollywood, in that it attempts to help you quickly turn ideas into screenplays.

This isn’t a full-fledged screenwriting app, but it does give you the basics. Write a scene’s location in plain English and Untitled will correctly format everything when you access the preview. Likewise, dialogue merely requires you place the character’s name on one line, and what they say on the next. Untitled will then do the rest.

Scenes can subsequently be arranged by drag and drop, and everything you write can be exported in a range of formats, from PDF to Final Draft.

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$2.99/£2.99 • v1.0.4 • 126 MB • By Skeleton Business

Although it’s categorized as a game on the App Store, Vignettes is better described as a toy. It’s primarily concerned with you exploring vibrantly colored objects, transforming them in a blink of an eye when one surface is precisely flat against the screen.

Amusingly, the first object you manipulate is the app’s name, which duly morphs into a chest that when opened reveals a telephone. Many more objects await discovery, a number of which are interactive – such as a suitcase into which you can hurl an infinite number of socks.

It’s all very odd – a surreal sit-back experience that proves entertaining and that wholeheartedly embraces the joy of discovery.

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