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Stuck at home? Apps to help you make the best of lockdown

These apps can help you learn a new skill – or simply claw back a slice of sanity as you bounce off the walls

COVID-19 has changed the way we interact with the world, both physically and digitally. Even if full-on quarantine isn’t on the cards anymore, it’s quite possible you’re still spending more time at home and less at the office or the local bar than usual. As a result of this shift, millions of people are finding themselves with far more free time than they’re used to.

Luckily, if you have an iPhone or iPad, there’s plenty you can do to pass that extra time in a vaguely productive manner. Whether you want to use this opportunity to learn a new skill, power through some life admin, or simply sit back and relax, here are ten fantastic apps to help while the hours away without going stir crazy.

Practice sketching and painting with Procreate

Procreate is a great tool for anyone who wants to try out digital painting – especially if you own an iPad and Apple Pencil. It’s become the app of choice for many professional illustrators, crammed to bursting with amazing brushes, textures, and drawing tools, but remains approachable even for rookie sketchers. Layers allow you to build up complex compositions on a virtual canvas, and the app plays back a time-lapse of your process when you’re finished. And if you don’t have an iPad, sister app Procreate Pocket does a remarkable job of squeezing all that power onto the iPhone.


Clear out your camera roll with Gemini Photos

If you’re forever running out of storage space, or you’re sick of searching a full-to-bursting photo library to find the best shots, Gemini is a godsend. It scans your camera roll and automatically picks out images you could probably do without: duplicates, blurry pictures, screenshots, photos of text, and so on. It’s an incredibly efficient way to clear out and declutter your photo library. Gemini runs on a subscription model, but if you just want a one-time spring clean you can achieve a lot with the three-day free trial!

Gemini Photos

Archive your physical albums with Google’s PhotoScan

What are you going to do with all that extra storage space? Fill it back up by digitizing old photos, of course! PhotoScan by Google allows you to quickly capture a batch of physical photographs for posterity, including clever tools to fix perspective errors and avoid the irritating glare usually associated with photos of photos – and unlike similar scanner apps, it’s completely free. So why not grab those old albums from the attic and take a trip down memory lane?


Relieve stress by coloring with Pigment

In recent years, adults have rediscovered the joys of coloring books. However, physical media is messy, and not terribly easy to carry around. Pigment deals with such problems with 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 color, 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.


Learn to play an instrument with Yousician

Yousician is a distinctly game-oriented take on an educational pursuit. You use your own keyboard, guitar, ukulele or piano, and the app acts as a personal tutor, providing exercises for you to play along with. There’s a sense of fun throughout, with exercises often feeling like a round of Guitar Hero as you match chords and notes that scroll across the screen. (Though the piano lessons are a touch more conventional). For free, you’re limited in terms of how much time you can play per day, with a subscription unlocking unlimited play.


Make some music with Garageband

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 stompboxes, multi-track recording, and a wide-eyed wonder at the realization this set-up would have cost as much as a house 25 years ago. Nowadays, it’s completely free – though it will absorb a large chunk of your device’s storage space.


Write a novel or screenplay with Scrivener

Everyone has a novel in them, or so they say. If you’ve always fancied trying your hand at penning a best-seller, start mapping things out and writing now, using Scrivener. The notion of writing on your iPhone or iPad might seem crazy, but it’s ideal for planning. Every time you get an idea, you can drop it into Scrivener, which can be used to gradually grow your manuscript, stash research, reorder chapters, and then export the lot, ready for hurling at the internet – or a publisher.


Craft easy origami masterpieces with Foldify

Foldify’s roots are traditional papercraft. The app provides templates from basic geometric forms – cuboids; pyramids; cylinders – to the likes of cars, houses, and tiny arcade cabinets. These can be printed and then put together by way of deft folding and a dab of glue. Choose a template and you can unleash your decorating skills – or lack thereof. You can import photos, scribble on to the template, and slap stickers everywhere. A 3D render of your work is always in view, so you have an inkling of what the model will look like when constructed.


Stay fit without the gym with Streaks Workout

This workout app wants to simplify the process of you getting fitter. It offers a streamlined interface, a range of exercises, and options that range from a six-minute ‘quick’ session to the aptly named 30-minute ‘pain’. The interface is fast and refined. You choose exercises you’re happy to do, a workout length, and you then get started. If you fancy customizing things, that’s available too. Stats and timers are built in, and workouts are saved to the Health app. A giant calendar complete with ticks for successful workouts really encourages you to maintain a daily exercise habit.

Streaks Workout

Power up your TV binge with JustWatch

If all else fails, at least we have TV to rely on. But if you’re signed up to more than one streaming service, it can be a pain to figure out what’s on across every app. 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, consolidating nearly everything from Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and more.