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Upgrade your Home Screen: swap Apple apps for something better

Fed up with Mail? Frustrated with Calendar? Furious with Maps? Try these third-party alternatives instead

Modern smartphones are ready to use the second you fire them up. The iPhone’s no exception, with its range of pre-installed stock apps. But they don’t suit everyone.

This feature’s about replacing those you don’t like with something better. We’re not suggesting you replace them all. Some don’t have third-party equivalents (such as Settings), and others have no meaningfully better replacements.

But if you, for example, feel Maps isn’t pointing you in the right direction, or you want more from your camera than the Camera app provides, read on for our pick of the best alternatives!

Replace Mail with…

Spark (free or subscription)

Spark Email

Apple’s email client has evolved slowly. Spark offers many more tools to help you blaze through your inbox, including filters, smart helpers, and email writing assistants. Some features require you pay, but even the free version has plenty to offer.

Download Spark

Replace Calendar with…

Fantastical Calendar (free or subscription)


The iCloud-compatible Fantastical beats Calendar with a ticker view that lets you scroll indefinitely into the future, and event creation in natural English. Type “lunch with Tom on Friday at 1pm for 90 mins”, and the event will build live as you add details. (Free vs paid comparison).

Download Fantastical Calendar

Replace Photos with…

Google Photos (free + IAP)

Google Photos

Alas, Google no longer offers unlimited photo storage, but you do get 15GB for free. And the app goes beyond Apple’s Photos with superior search and editing, great automated collages, smart sharing, and excellent object identification technology.

Download Google Photos

Replace Camera with…

ProCam 8 ($9.99/£9.99)

ProCam 8

For basic snaps, Camera is fine. But when you want control, dig out ProCam. Along with anti-shake, a timer, and on-screen grids, it provides manual controls, focus peaking and overexposure warnings. Unlike most rivals, there’s no ongoing subscription either.

Download ProCam 8

Replace Maps with…

Google Maps (free)

Google Maps

As of iOS 17, Apple Maps matches Google Maps in being able to store maps for offline use. But Google has the edge for public transport info, points of interest, and Street View, which remains leagues ahead of Apple’s half-finished equivalent.

Download Google Maps

Replace Clock with…

Sleep Cycle ($39.99/£34.99 per year)

Apple’s Clock app will attempt to rouse you with alarms. Sleep Cycle tries something different, analyzing your sleep patterns, and attempting to wake you during a light phase of sleep. And when you’re up, there’s loads of data to delve into.

Download Sleep Cycle

Replace Weather with…

Carrot Weather (free or subscription)

Carrot Weather

Apple’s Weather is improved over its basic beginnings, but Carrot Weather is next-level – if you subscribe. This provides you with access to a wealth of options to customize the app – including a see-everything-at-once multi-column iPad view. Plus, it’s fun, with personality and amusing games.

Download Carrot Weather

Replace News with…

NetNewsWire (free)


Sick of algorithms deciding what news you see? Take back control with RSS client NetNewsWire. You subscribe to feeds (which sync over iCloud) from sources you like and trust, and read articles in a stripped-back view that’s just text and imagery.

Download NetNewsWire

Replace Home with…

Amazon Alexa (free)

Amazon Alexa

Which smart home app you use will mostly be down to the kit you own. But Alexa shows there are alternatives – and the Alexa ecosystem is more mature and affordable than the HomeKit one. Moreover, Alexa also makes for a great (often Siri-beating) digital assistant.

Download Amazon Alexa

Replace Notes with…

Notability ($14.99/£14.99 per year)


Apple’s Notes can now do an awful lot. But integrating media and other components feels clunky. Notability is more natural, echoing a hand-written notepad, and yet letting you effortlessly add sketches, photos and even audio. Templates provide a headstart for different projects too.

Download Notability

Replace Stocks with…

Stocks Live (free + optional IAP)

Stocks Live

Apple’s Stocks offers a clean overview of tracked stocks, and links to related headlines. Stocks Live is about digging deeper, to manage multiple watch lists and portfolios, check out upcoming IPOs, and peruse advice from people who’ve made a fortune with their trading skills.

Download Stocks Live

Replace Reminders with…

Todoist (free or subscription)


Reminders is another Apple app that’s come a long way, but Todoist feels more efficient and effective. At its most basic, you can organize tasks by urgency; but a robust feature set (some paid) adds powerful task management and collaboration tools – all of which work on any platform.

Download Todoist

Replace TV with…

JustWatch (free + optional subscription)


Apple’s TV wants to be a hub for viewing habits, but some services aren’t compatible. JustWatch casts a wider net. You tell it what services you can access, and it says where you can watch any TV show or movie you search for.

Download JustWatch

Replace iTunes Store with…

Bandcamp (free)


Given the dominance of streaming services, we wonder if anyone buys music using the iTunes Store these days. But if you’d like to directly support artists, Bandcamp might be a better bet anyway: it’s full of indies, and the musicians get a bigger cut.

Download Bandcamp

Replace Fitness with…

Nike Training Club (free)

Nike Training Club

Apple Fitness wants you to get fit while raiding your wallet. Nike’s app only does the first of those, having generously been free since the covid pandemic. But free doesn’t mean substandard – this is a properly impressive app packed with home workouts and meditation guides.

Download Nike Training Club

Replace iBooks with…

Kindle (free)


For digital book readers, Kindle matches Apple’s Books for usability, but has a wider range of titles and more regular offers. Moreover, if you’re a keen reader with an actual Kindle, you may as well use the same book collection on your iPhone.

Download Kindle

Replace Compass with…

Commander Compass Go (free or $3.99/£3.99 per month)

Commander Compass Go

Although ostensibly a compass, this app does far more. You get a map overlay, GPS pins, multiple target tracking, and the means to navigate by the stars. If you like the app but not the subscription IAP nudges, try the paid Commander Compass ($5.99/£5.99).

Download Commander Compass Go

Replace Contacts with…

Cardhop Contacts (free or subscription)


Part of the Fantastical/Flexibits plan, or available in a more limited free form, Cardhop powers up your contacts. It makes it a cinch to search contacts and birthdays, add new contacts, and trigger actions, such as calling or emailing someone.

Download Cardhop Contacts

Replace Translate with…

Google Translate (free)

Google Translate

This one’s a pure numbers game. Apple’s Translate can translate voice and text between 11 languages. Google’s app gives you well over 100. Its capabilities are solid, whether you’re working with text, instant camera translation, or handwriting that you’re trying to decipher.

Download Google Translate

Replace Tips with…

Tips & Tricks – for iPhone (free + optional IAPs)

Tips And Tricks

Apple’s Tips quickly runs out of things to say. Fortunately, we don’t. From the team behind Swipe for iPhone and TapSmart, Tips & Tricks offers many chapters packed full of advice, augmented with a daily news feed of reviews, tutorials and breaking Apple news.

Download Tips & Tricks – for iPhone

Replace Voice Memos with…

Just Press Record ($4.99/£4.99)

Just Press Record

One great feature can make all the difference. Just Press Record one-ups Voice Memos on iPhone by instantly transcribing your speech to editable text. Given the one-off price tag, it’s well worth the outlay, due to the time it’ll save you.

Download Just Press Record

Replace Podcasts with…

Overcast (free or $9.99/£8.99 per year)


We love this podcast player’s interface, but the best bit is playback. Smart resume cleverly rewinds your podcast a bit when it’s paused, to remind you of the conversation. And the app simply sounds better than its rivals, due to superb smart speed and voice boost features.

Download Overcast

Replace Calculator with…

PCalc ($9.99/£9.99)


On the surface an unassuming traditional calculator, PCalc has tons of depth. There’s a tape, multi-line display, conversions, multiple undo/redo, RPN, and a layout editor if you fancy a really big equals button. Unsure? Try PCalc Lite first – the best free calculator on the App Store.

Download PCalc

Replace Files with…

FileBrowser ($6.99/£6.99)


Apple’s Files app lets you root around what you‘ve stored on your iPhone and on iCloud. FileBrowser does that too – but lets you go beyond. So from one tabbed interface, you can get at documents on cloud services, remote servers and networked computers.

Download FileBrowser

Replace Phone with…

Skype (free + credit)


Calling people overseas using your standard carrier plan can be expensive. Skype offers much cheaper rates, making it an ideal Phone replacement. Probably avoid its messaging and video chat options these days, though – there are better options for those.

Download Skype

Replace Safari with…

DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser (free)


Safari’s so deeply embedded in the iOS ecosystem it’s hard to free yourself from it entirely. However, DuckDuckGo provides an interesting alternative – a usable, simple browser that doubles down on privacy. Great when you want to keep your browsing secure from prying eyes.

Download DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser

Replace Messages and FaceTime with…

WhatsApp Messenger (free)


Apple’s Messages is enough to keep many people faithful to iOS. But WhatsApp is a hugely popular alternative, which works cross-platform (including online). Its video chat capabilities aren’t bad either, and again work better between operating systems than FaceTime likely ever will.

Download WhatsApp Messenger

Replace Music with…

Spotify (free or $10.99/£10.99 monthly)


Apple’s greatest streaming rival bests Music in offering a free (albeit ad-supported and shuffle-only) tier, and superior handpicked playlists and personalization. Simply want a different music player for your Apple Music collection? Apps for that exist too.

Download Spotify