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Christmas on iOS: the best apps for festive fun

When Christmas is actually happening, you might need some apps to keep the cheer at optimum levels – or just give yourself a bit of festive space. Fortunately, your iPhone and iPad can help you keep the jolly rather than (as the Brits would say) going off your trolley – if you have the right apps installed. Want to also use your phone or tablet for other things to get you through the holiday season intact? Our full festive index is below!

Part one: the best apps for making plans.
Part two: the best apps for gift shopping.
Part three: the best travel and weather apps.
Part four: the best food and drink apps.
Part five: apps to keep the kids quiet.

Part six: having fun

The wrapping paper’s been torn off in strips, some of which still linger in the air. 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. Have your iPhone or iPad help you unwind with these apps and games.

Christmas Radio [Free]

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!

Christmas Radio

Heads Up! [$1/£1]

If you’ve fewer devices, this only requires one. It’s an iPhone version of that old party game where you hold to your head a card with a famous name written on it, and try to guess their identity from clues yelled your way. The difference here is it’s played at speed, with you zooming through a deck of cards in double-quick time. And if you feel like an idiot holding an iPhone to your forehead, get your own back by using the app to record the people giving you clues, and upload their hopeless efforts to Facebook.

Heads Up!

The Jackbox Party Pack [From $25/£24]

If everyone’s armed with their own device and spending too much time gawping at it, put that to use by playing a Jackbox Party Pack game. It uses an iPad or Apple TV as a hub of sorts, and other devices as remotes. The challenges are varied fare, with the entire production coming across like an unhinged game show where you guess at weird trivia questions and pair T-shirt designs and slogans for everyone to vote on.

Jackbox Party Pack games

Pic Collage [Free]

Oh no – you’ve forgotten to send any cards! Don’t worry – pretend you were being eco-conscious and instead use Pic Collage to send digital ones. The app’s pretty great for fashioning customized efforts, whether you want to use card templates, or compile a bunch of photos into a framed collage. For free, you can export your handiwork, but a watermark is burned in; if you can’t stand watermarks, banish them by grabbing a month of premium ($5/£5).

Pic Collage

JibJab [Free]

When you’ve decided someone you know needs some kind of festive greeting that’s simultaneously personalized and terrifying, reach for JibJab. Shoot your face, and it’s then automatically inserted into the app’s selection of occasionally risqué cards and videos. (Some options require you to “cast” multiple people – although you can always have several yous to properly freak friends out.) Some cards will require you to splash out on a $3/£2 monthly IAP, but, hey, that’s a small price to pay for art, right?


Elf Yourself [Free + IAP]

We’re in broadly similar territory to JibJab with ElfYourself, which demands you snap a picture of your glorious face, and then watch as it’s magically applied to a deranged dancing elf. Suffice to say that this is probably the kind of app to use once you’ve had a few Christmas sherries – but also remember you’ve done so to later avoid eye contact with whoever you sent the resulting movie files to.

Elf Yourself

A Good Snowman [$5/£5]

If you want a bit of solo gaming downtime, and have a desire to keep your brain engaged while the TV’s doing its best to fill your head with vacuous rubbish, try A Good Snowman. A wintry variant on Soko-Ban, it finds an adorable monster rolling snow around a maze-like garden, in order to create balls large enough to make some icy friends. If that concept doesn’t melt your heart, you’re probably the monster.

A Good Snowman