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Essential apps: 21 must-haves for your Home screen

The first apps you should get for a new device

So you’ve got your shiny new iPhone, but it’s only going to be as useful as the apps you put on it. The tiny snag: there are over 1.5 million of the things. So which should you install first?

This list is what we consider the absolute must-haves for every new iPhone owner – a selection of superb apps to help you live your life, get creative, have fun, and stay healthy.

Even if you’ve not upgraded recently, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got these gems on your Home screen. Oh, and most of these are must-haves for iPad users too.

Everyday essentials

Apps for finding your way, getting weather forecasts, and watching your spending.

Google Maps

Free • v4.36 • 127 MB • By Google, Inc.

Apple’s own Maps app is fine, but Google’s solution is superior in key ways. You can roam streets using Street View, partake in armchair tourism, and access far more details on points of interest and transit. Perhaps the best bit, though, is how you can save maps for offline use, turning your iPhone into a turn-by-turn sat-nav, regardless of whether you have a data connection.

Download Google Maps

Carrot Weather

$3.99/£3.99 • v4.0 • 51.7 MB • By Grailr LLC

Your iPhone has the Weather app, but Carrot‘s much better. Notably, it has personality, being helmed by a HAL-like AI who hates humans (and will ‘LOL’ when it’s about to rain on you). But this app’s not just a gimmick. The interface is colourful, smart and informative – including handy rainfall predictions for the coming hour – and its Today view widget is superb and packed with details.

Download Carrot Weather


$3.99/£3.99 • v5.3 • 81.0 MB • By Emile Bennett

If, having spent loads of cash on a new iPhone, you need to figure out where the rest of your money’s going, try Pennies. This expenses tracker is simple and friendly, making it a cinch to set up multiple budgets. It’s ideal whether you meticulously account for every penny you spend, or just want to ensure you’re not wasting half of your income on expensive coffee.

Download Pennies

Health and fitness

Apps to help you relax and exercise.

TaoMix 2

Free + IAP • v2.0.7 • 69.6 MB • By inookta studio inc.

Modern life is hectic, and iPhones don’t always help alleviate that, bombarding you with notifications and ensuring you’re always available for work. TaoMix 2 is all about just sitting and relaxing for a bit. You select sounds, arrange them on a canvas, and slowly send a playback head to bounce around, thereby creating a custom and endlessly changing ambient soundscape.

Download TaoMix 2

Streaks Workout

$2.99/£2.99 • v2.1 • 43.2 MB • By Crunchy Bagel

Unlike many exercise apps, Streaks Workout makes few assumptions about ability, and eschews complexity. You choose how long your workout should last, from six minutes (‘Quick’) to 30 (‘Pain’). It then randomly selects exercises until the timer runs out. Specific exercises can be disabled if you don’t like them, and workouts are tracked, which continually encourages you to beat your best streak.

Download Streaks Workout


Free • v8.3 • 146 MB • By FitnessKeeper, Inc.

For socially minded people who want to get fit outside, Runkeeper’s an excellent choice. Whether you’re walking, running, or cycling, it’ll map where you go, calories burned, and time taken. You can join groups of friends to see how sickeningly fit they are, and challenge yourself to eventually reign supreme. Need some sounds to motivate you? Check out the app’s Spotify and iTunes integration.

Download Runkeeper

Podcasts and news

Apps to ensure you never miss favourite shows or website posts.


Free • v3.1.7 • 19.5 MB • By Overcast Radio, LLC

Apple popularised podcasts in the first place, and so it should come as no surprise there are great podcast apps for iPhone. Overcast is very smart indeed, with clever features for managing and filtering your podcasts. Playback’s the best bit, though, with first-rate controls for adjusting speed and removing silences, without distorting the conversation in any of the more talky shows you listen to.

Download Overcast

Reeder 3

$4.99/£4.99 • v3.0.5 • 11.9 MB • By Silvio Rizzi

Sure, you can trawl the entire internet every day, to find new things to read. Or you can use Reeder to subscribe to feeds from your favourite sites. That way, you never miss a thing. The app makes it a cinch to scan headlines, tap through to Safari to read an article, or tap a button to load the page’s content into Reeder’s stripped-back, minimal, reader-friendly layout.

Download Reeder 3


Free • v7.3.3 • 55.2 MB • By Instapaper Holdings, Inc.

If you chance upon something online you fancy reading at some point – but not right now – you need Instapaper. Send a web page to Instapaper using Safari’s share sheet (or a bookmarklet in a desktop browser) and it’ll sit in your archive. As a bonus, saved articles are stripped of everything bar words and images, making them much easier to read on an iPhone than most web pages.

Download Instapaper

Photography and painting

Apps for getting more from your photos, and painting your own pictures.


Free • v5.3.1 • 116 MB • By Retrica, Inc.

We’re big fans of Apple’s Camera app, but it’s pretty straight-laced. Retrica, by contrast, wants you to have fun. It has loads of filters you can slap on images, along with a wonderful burst mode that stitches together a series of photos to make a collage. If that all sounds a bit superficial, alternatively consider Halide and ProCamera, both of which are at the more professional end of the iPhone photography spectrum.

Download Retrica


Free • v2.17 • 141 MB • By Google, Inc.

Apple’s Photos app has some basic editing functionality built in, but with Snapseed you can get properly creative. It has a slew of filters, and also practical tools for making subtler adjustments to an image. It’s usable, yet powerful, and rather cleverly applies edits as ‘stacks’, which you can later go back to and tweak – or remove entirely if you have a change of heart.

Download Snapseed

Procreate Pocket

$2.99/£2.99 • v1.6.3 • 74.9 MB • By Savage Interactive Pty Ltd

Although the iPad’s the Apple device most often recommended for artists, an iPhone’s great for digital painting – if you’ve got Procreate Pocket installed. The minimal interface gets out of your way, mostly leaving just you and your masterpiece, yet also providing speedy access to brush size and opacity settings. When you’re beyond initial dabbling, there are layers, transform tools, and filters to discover.

Download Procreate Pocket

Music and video

Apps for making music and home videos – and watching your favourite shows.


Free • v2.2.2 • 1.70 GB • By Apple

Apple’s music-creation suite is remarkable in the sense it offers something for everyone. If you’re a beginner, you can play with a loop pad, or fashion songs from ‘smart’ instruments. Already immersed in songwriting? Then settle down for hours of fun with Alchemy Synth, guitar stomp boxes, multi-track recording, and a wide-eyed wonder at the realisation this set-up would have cost as much as a house 25 years ago.

Download GarageBand


Free • v4.2.2 • 210 MB • By GoPro, Inc.

Your iPhone is a powerful camcorder, capable of shooting 4K video. But that’s no good if you never do anything with your home movies. Video editing can be tricky, though – unless you have Quik. Pick some videos and a theme, and Quik does the editing for you. If the result irks your inner director, that’s no problem – clips, titles, effects, and more, can all be manually adjusted.

Download Quik

Infuse Pro

$12.99/£12.99 • v5.5.2 • 90.9 MB • By Firecore, LLC

These days, a great many people stream telly from the likes of Netflix. But if you have your own digital video collection, Infuse Pro is the app to get it playing on your iPhone. It’ll connect to a range of sources, live-convert all kinds of formats, and even attempt to provide cover art and synopses for everything it finds. Still not sure? Try the free version, with its one-month trial.

Download Infuse Pro

Essential utilities

Apps for calculations, scans, and handy reminders.


$2.99/£2.99 • v2.6.0 • 24.3 MB • By Acqualia

Your iPhone comes with a traditional calculator app, but Soulver is different. You write out sums in plain English, and the app extracts figures, totting everything up as it goes. Line answers can be embedded as dynamic tokens in subsequent lines, and so complex calculations can be updated at any point, often by adjusting a single figure. Yet everything remains very readable. Imagine back-of-an-envelope scribbles combined with a friendly spreadsheet and you’re there.

Download Soulver

Scanbot Pro

$6.99/£6.99 • v6.5.6 • 157 MB • By doo GmbH

Paper remains a reality of modern life, but you can do your best to digitise receipts, books, and more with Scanbot Pro. Lay a document on a desk, and the app will quickly scan, crop and optimise it. Several pages can be combined into multi-page documents, and any text found will become searchable and possible to copy. (If you don’t need that last bit, you might find the free version fulfils your needs.)

Download Scanbot Pro


Free or $2.99/£2.99 • v2.6.5 • 37.5 MB • By Christopher Adam Overholtzer

Sometimes, the really simple ideas are the best. Cheatsheet has you make a list of very short notes comprising things you don’t want to forget – door codes; phone numbers; Wi-Fi logins. Items can be made distinct by assigning them icons. The entire list can then be added as a widget to your Today and Lock screens, for easy access.

Download Cheatsheet

Entertainment and hobbies

Apps for making the most of your spare time.

Sky Guide

$2.99/£2.99 • v6.2.3 • 177 MB • By Fifth Star Labs LLC

If you’re in awe of the heavens, Sky Guide will fuel that passion while simultaneously helping you make sense of it all. This elegant, beautiful astronomy app enables you to manually explore the night sky, tapping individual items to find out more about them. When outside, hold your iPhone aloft and the app with align itself with what’s before your very eyes.

Download Sky Guide


$3.99/£3.99 • v1.10 • 169 MB • By

In theory, this one’s a children’s app, but really it’s a playful and decidedly surreal take on the alphabet that’s entertaining for all ages. You get a feeling for what’s in store when the A sprouts antlers, turns into an arch and goes for an amble. Next, a B grows a beard and a beak, before spewing a stream of butterflies and bugs. This weirdness continues all the way to Z.

Download Metamorphabet


Free + IAP • v1.7.4 • 150 MB • By Pixite LLC

In recent years, adults have rediscovered the joys of colouring. However, physical media is messy, and not terribly easy to carry around. Pigment deals with such problems by way of a digital interface that’s as close to the real thing as you’ll find on an iPhone. You get loads of gorgeous designs to colour, which can be zoomed in some way without them losing quality and detail. Great stuff whether you’re armed with a stylus or just an eager finger.

Download Pigment