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The best iPhone AR apps for exploring augmented and mixed reality

Back in 2018, Apple was all-in on augmented reality (AR). With the launch of iOS 12, you got the impression that AR would soon be baked into every app.

Fast forward to today and AR isn’t quite the Apple darling it once was. Yet with the Vision Pro, Apple’s once again pushing the boundaries of this exciting space.

But what can you do in AR with just your phone? This round-up explores the best apps that let you blend the physical world with virtual objects, in useful and often educational ways.

Google Translate (free)

Google Translate

This translation app will convert your words or speech into another language. But hold up the camera and it’ll have a go at live-converting any text it can see. Accuracy isn’t perfect, but it feels like magic when a menu or sign in a foreign tongue instantly changes before your very eyes.

Download Google Translate

Google Maps (free)

Google Maps

If you navigate by holding a map app in front of your face, Google Maps should make doubly sure you won’t get lost. In walking mode, tap Live View, and massive arrows will be overlaid on the camera view – except when you approach a junction and the app suggests paying fuller attention to your surroundings.

Download Google Maps

Plane Finder (free + IAP)

Plane Finder

From finding your way around to watching other people navigate the globe – albeit in planes. This app’s AR mode lets you hold up your phone and see cards bobbing about that detail passing flights. Or you can have a radar point you to the nearest plane , so you needn’t randomly wave your iPhone around to find one.

Download Plane Finder

Sun Surveyor ($9.99/£9.99)

Sun Surveyor

This app lets you track the sun’s movements in various ways – including AR. Photographers, construction workers and gardeners can all benefit by using that mode to visualize the sun’s path in real-time – and predictions of where it will be at any given hour – directly on their phone’s camera view.

Download Sun Surveyor

Night Sky (free + IAP)

Night Sky

When the sun’s gone, you might point your eyes skyward to take in the stars. Night Sky enhances the experience by allowing you to add an AR overlay that helps you identify what you’re looking at. And when back indoors, you can turn your ceiling into an ‘AR window’ or pluck individual objects from the sky for further scrutiny.

Download Night Sky

Big Bang (free)

Big Bang

This CERN app takes you right back to the beginning – of everything. Tilda Swinton narrates how our universe came to be, while it forms around you, right in your home, across a series of short chapters. As you move around, the AR scenes feel convincing, with an excellent soundtrack adding to the immersion.

Download Big Bang

JigSpace (free)


The idea behind JigSpace is to explore objects, crafted as interactive 3D presentations. Several examples are included, which can be placed in front of you and explored from any angle. And if you’re a dab hand with 3D modeling, it’s possible to use the app to create your own step-by-step 3D story.

Download JigSpace

Human Anatomy Atlas ($24.99/£19.99)

Human Anatomy Atlas

Universes… objects… and now people. This extensive reference app helps you learn about human anatomy by dissecting a virtual cadaver in AR. The interactive interface and layered approach to models teach you more than any paper tome. If the price is too rich, try the similar – but more limited – Insight Heart (free) and Brainapse ($1.99/£1.99).

Download Human Anatomy Atlas

MauAR – Berlin Wall (free)

MauAR – Berlin Wall

A second time travel app, but this one only takes you back to the era of the Berlin Wall. When in Berlin, the app shows where the wall used to be, in AR. But you can also explore it elsewhere (a large outdoor space is best), examining its structure and learning more by way of the included stories of East and West.

Download MauAR – Berlin Wall

David Bowie is ($9.99/£9.99)

David Bowie is

Our final pick shows another – and more positive – side of human nature, in squeezing an entire Bowie exhibition into your iPhone and letting you explore it in AR on your desk. There are dozens of songs, costumes and rarities within. If you crave more AR art, check out Jonathan Yeo Studio (free) and Shepard Fairey’s Damaged (free).

Download David Bowie is