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Manage the Holiday Season on your iPhone – the ultimate app guide

Whether you’re getting ready for the holidays or trying not to burn the sprouts, get these apps on your iPhone!

It’s December. The holidays are relentlessly galloping towards you like a snow-covered horse with Santa hats for hooves. That’s a terrifying image, especially if you haven’t started organising anything yet.

Never fear, because your iPhone can help. Get the right apps and you’ll be sorted for buying gifts, sending cards, keeping restless kids quiet for a bit, cooking a turkey, and then collapsing in a heap while listening to carols. Many of the apps are free; most of them are great. And the ones that aren’t objectively great are at least really funny.

Happy holidays!

Making plans

First things first, we need some apps that enable you to dump your brain somewhere and make sense of the mess. You need to figure out and track gifts and food to buy, and make notes of important things before they fly out of your ear and into the ether.


The revamped version of Paper moves beyond sketching. Now, you can also use it to create checklists and annotate photos. Piles of virtual sticky notes can be quickly rearranged and exported in various formats. It’s a great way to keep tabs on things you’ve bought or want to buy and, as our screen grab shows, fingerpaint really bad pictures of snowmen.


Download Paper (free)


For the serious organiser who needs a bit more flexibility than Paper provides, there’s Evernote. You can stash pretty much anything on that service, from web links to audio files. Everything can be tagged for later retrieval, and Evernote has an app on pretty much every platform, so you can never escape your to-do list. Well, unless you hide in the shed, where the most high-tech thing is a lawnmower. (And there’s no Evernote for lawnmowers. Yet.)


Download Evernote (free)

The Christmas List

Specifically designed for tracking gifts, The Christmas List enables you to select people from your Contacts list, assign a budget, and then track gifts you’ve bought for them. The app’s interface is a bit weird at first, but once it clicks, you’ll find it easy to filter lists by person or store, and to quickly check which gifts you’ve bought, received and wrapped. There’s even Touch ID support to keep the app away from prying eyes.


Download The Christmas List ($1.99/£1.49)

Shopping for gifts

Buying stuff is such a hassle. You have to leave your house, and mooch around stores so crowded with people that you fear you might all get wedged in and have to be crowbarred out by an angry mall employee dressed as a snowman. But it doesn’t have to be this way if you shop online.


Give it a few years and there will be no shops — only Amazon. Help usher in this shoppy dystopia by buying all your gifts from the comfort of your iPhone. The app makes it easy to browse, or to search for specific items. In fact, by the time you’ve checked out, your wallet might argue the app makes everything a bit too easy.


Download Amazon (USA) | (UK) (free)


Most people think of eBay as the place they sell their tat and then buy new tat that they subsequently sell on eBay again. But in recent years it’s also become a shopfront for a whole range of outlets, from the smallest indies to the largest stores. It’s often a place to find a great bargain, but do take care to check shipping times before you buy something, lest your sister’s amazing gift not arrive until the middle of January.


Download eBay (free)


Away from the corporate claws of Amazon lies Etsy. It’s also a global marketplace, but one that encourages handmade goods. Here, you can find all kinds of unique items, crafted by creative people from all around the world. Even if someone’s deeply into tech, Etsy’s worth a look — when we browsed, there were some seriously lovely iPhone stands available.


Download Etsy (free)


There’s something deeply impersonal about many cards you can buy in stores. Pre-packaged, canned verses and generic imagery don’t get across your wishes in a sincere manner. So try Moonpig, which enables you to personalise cards with your own images and messages. It’s also handy for sending cards to other countries, when you’ve missed the last post from your own.


Download Moonpig (USA) | (UK) (free)

Keeping kids happy

You can tell it’s no longer summer when your kids start demanding to know how long it is until Christmas — every single hour of the day. As the big day draws near, keep them distracted with these games and apps.

Toca Hair Salon – Christmas Gift

If we’re honest, Santa’s look’s getting a bit old, and it’s time for something a bit different. In Toca Hair Salon, you can restyle his beard and hair, adding some vibrant color and entirely unnecessary Christmas decorations. And because it’s Christmas, you can do precisely the same to Topzy, an oddly sentient and grumpy Christmas tree. (Or perhaps he only got grumpy because we painted him orange.)


Download Toca Hair Salon – Christmas Gift (free)

Dot to Dot Christmas Advent Calendar

There are loads of advent calendars on the App Store, but we liked this one for two reasons. First, rather than just showing you a rubbish picture when you open a door, you get a dot-to-dot puzzle. Secondly, the first dot-to-dot we completed was a dinosaur! Yes, it turns out we are in fact six years old. RRWWAARRRRR!


Download Dot to Dot Christmas Advent Calendar (free)

A Charlie Brown Christmas

For many people, the holidays aren’t complete without checking in on the Peanuts gang. This interactive book reimagines the 1960s classic cartoon for the touchscreen, enabling you to interact with animations, play small games, and read along with the narrative. It’s really sweet and even the odd bug on current versions of iOS (the clock never seems to go away) don’t really spoil the fun.


Download A Charlie Brown Christmas ($5.99/£4.49)


The Instructables app is a bit clunky and still hasn’t been optimised for the iPhone 6, but we’ll forgive that on the basis of what it can help you do. Type in a word — such as ‘Christmas’ — and you’ll get all sorts of projects to keep kids (of any age) engaged until the day it’s time to tuck into some turkey.


Download Instructables (free)

Travel and weather

There’s extra stress when travelling during the holidays. The last thing you want is to be going precisely the wrong way along a very long road when you were due to meet the in-laws for Christmas drinks an hour ago. So get some apps to ensure you know where you’re going, and what it’ll be like when you get there.

Google Maps

There’s no longer anything inherently wrong with Apple Maps, and we quite often use it for driving directions. However, it’s pretty poor at enabling you to search for locations, terrible with public transport, and also doesn’t allow you to save chunks of a map for offline use. Fortunately, Google Maps ably deals with all those things, and is entirely free.


Download Google Maps (free)


Mapping apps will give you a sense of how long journeys will take, but it’s worth planning well in advance. WeatherPro is one of the more comprehensive weather apps around, with a broadly accurate forecast for the coming week. Before you make that cross-country trip, loaded with children and gifts, check out whether you should add an hour or two to deal with snow.


Download WeatherPro ($2.99/£2.29)


This web app also provides a forecast for the coming week, but its main benefit is in predicting more immediate conditions. If you all fancy attempting to burn off at least a bit of your Christmas dinner with an evening constitutional, use Forecast to see whether it’s going to pour down over the next hour first. (Note: to use Forecast on an iPhone, visit the website in Safari, tap the Share button, save it to your Home screen, and then open your saved Forecast ‘app’.)


Download Forecast (free)

Cooking Christmas food

Whether it’s your turn to cook, or you just fancy offering a helping hand, there are some superb iPhone apps for use in the kitchen.

Kitchen Stories

This is our favourite cookbook app, mostly because it’s so elegant and well thought out. Not only does the app tempt with gorgeous photography, but recipes provide step-by-step photo instructions, so you know what everything should look like at each point. How-to videos give you basic tips, too, if you’re caught on the hop and asked to assist in getting Christmas dinner ready.


Download Kitchen Stories (free)


The idea behind Yummly is to put every recipe in the world in your pocket. It roams popular foodie websites, and enables you to quickly search for food by cuisine, taste, diet, technique, and all kinds of other keywords. You can save ingredients lists, along with storing favourite recipes for next time round.


Download Yummly (free)

Vert S

Some cooking apps are good at dealing with conversions, but some aren’t. If you find yourself staring quizzically at ounces or grams, use Vert S to quickly convert units. If you use specific conversions frequently, you can save them to the app’s favorites tab.


Download Vert S (free)

Having fun

The wrapping paper’s been torn off. You’ve eaten more potatoes and turkey than you thought possible to fit inside yourself. And now you just want to melt into the sofa to the point that you may very well fuse with the fabric. Fortunately, your iPhone can help you unwind.

Christmas Radio

There are of course loads of radio apps for the iPhone. But imagine the horror on Christmas Day if you were to accidentally stray from a relentless stream of carols and classic Christmas hits! Even the family dog, now sporting a natty jumper with an oddly knitted reindeer, might turn against you. So check out Christmas Radio, which only plays Christmas stations, every day, all year!


Download Christmas Radio (free)

Christmas Keyboard

Infuse everything with a little extra Christmas cheer — including something as simple as sending a text message — with Christmas Keyboard. This third-party keyboard has festive backgrounds, and optionally makes sleigh-bell noises and emits snow when you type. It’s not very well optimised for new iPhones, and the letters can sometimes be hard to see, but you won’t care by the time you’re on your fourth glass of wine.


Download Christmas Keyboard (free)

Super Mega Worm Vs Santa 2

If everything gets a bit much and you just can’t take another mince pie, use Super Mega Worm Vs Santa 2 to vent your fury on the entire holiday season. In a game that resembles Tremors meets Elf, control a giant, ravenous worm as it attempts to scoff its way through a festive scene of penguins, gingerbread men and Santa’s little helpers. Only take care: before long, the elves have machine guns and the snowmen are armed with worm-killing bazookas.


Download Super Mega Worm Vs Santa 2 ($0.99/79p)