my 2014 list of indispensable, well-designed iOS apps (along with some clunkers)


Obviously, this is totally subjective, but here are the iOS apps that I really can’t do without. Generally, these are extremely well designed, and have sufficient updates to keep them useful. All are available on the iOS App Store, hence the lack of embedded links. These are always on my Home screen in one or another folder. In no particular order…

  • Google Maps. I am not a fan of Google on many levels, but they get Search right, and this almost never fails me. Now that they updated the UX, making the arrow even bigger (like that of Apple Maps), it’s even better. I have no reason to ever use Apple Maps.
  • Waze. The interface is not terribly pretty, but it works and I really like the crowdsourcing. There are many things that could be improved, but for long trips, I do like being alerted to slowdowns in the road and other obstacles.
  • Paprika. The best recipe manager out there, period. Unlike abject failures like TheRecipeManager that I’d really like to forget ever having had to use, Paprika syncs effortlessly with other devices and our Macs, and it’s trivial to import a recipe from the Web with one click. Worth every penny if you cook anything.
  • Xpenser. This is what I use to manage all my receipts for work travel. It uploads everything into the cloud and I can then obtain a report with the receipts through a Web site (www.xpenser.com). It always works, and it’s free.
  • GoodReader. While it’s not perfect, it does provide a great way to work with PDFs in iOS, and I use it all the time to securely annotate documents. The scrolling could use some work, but otherwise it’s something that most people really should probably have on their devices. It also opens compressed files.
  • Office for iOS. When this came out earlier this year, it was really annoying and not useful, in that one needed a pricey subscription to edit documents. Now that it’s free with a few limitations (and one can get around the lack of Track Changes by simply enabling it in a document via one’s computer), integrates with Dropbox, and has a decent UI, it’s a no-brainer. Much as I liked Pages, it just can’t compare when working with others who use MS Word. I still prefer Keynote any day, but being able to use Excel rather than fight with Numbers is so much better.
  • Newsify. I’ve tried many RSS newsreaders on iOS, and this is what I’ve found works best for me, and it’s free. Reeder used to be nice, but now it’s just not worth the additional money except on OS X, since Newsify doesn’t exist for the Mac OS.
  • Zite. It’s now end-of-lifed, and nearly dead after being purchased by the owners of Flipboard, and doesn’t seem to get updated news as much as it used to. But it’s still a great news aggregator and will be sorely missed. Flipboard is getting better through having access to Zite’s backend, but still can’t really replace Zite.
  • Kayak. I travel. A lot. Kayak helps me manage all of this, storing all my itineraries and giving me updates on flights. It used to be a bit more reliable and timely than it is now, but still is critical to my travel.
  • Transit Maps. It stores all my transit maps for various cities in Europe and in the US, and works perfectly.
  • Google Translate. It does what it is supposed to do.
  • Word Lens. While this would be even more useful if it had more language packs (like Dutch; I really need it in Dutch), and isn’t always reliable, when it works, it’s amazing. It uses my iPhone’s camera to translate signage into English (or in the other direction).
  • Runkeeper. A nice way to track exercise, with GPS and other functionality. It also integrates with other apps.
  • MyFitnessPal. This tracks food intake, integrates with my Fitbit, and really helps one try to stay healthy.
  • 1Password. Absolutely indispensable for managing passwords, and now has TouchID functionality.

Now for a few apps that I really wish were better…

  • Apple Maps. Getting better, but still nowhere near where it needs to be.
  • Quicken (2015). It works, but could be so much better and functional, and still crashes at times.
  • Wells Fargo. I loved the Mobile Deposit function when it came out, but now it’s become buggy for many users and is much less streamlined and elegant than similar apps from other banks (eg, Citizens Bank). I tried to give them feedback and they confused it with a tech support need that they required to be done via telephone, so I finally gave up.
  • Haaretz. The iPhone app has no swiping capability, often crashes, still has ads for paid users, but at least can work. The iPad app was deleted from my iPad after I realized it was horrible and not worth bothering with compared with just going to the Web site in Safari.
  • US Airways. I’m hoping this changes with the merger. It never remembers logins, and is nothing more than a Web app disguised as an iOS app.
  • Facebook. For something that claims to be updated (with no changes actually specified) every two weeks in the App Store, it’s only gotten worse. Many people hate that Messenger functionality was split off. I hate the lack of utility, the crashes, etc. I don’t really believe those claims that they update it every two weeks.
  • Paper. This was, I suspect, supposed to be a replacement for the main Facebook app. It isn’t. In many ways, it’s even worse than the Facebook app, even though the design is better in some ways.
  • Wikibot. When it doesn’t crash, it’s a great way to read Wikipedia.
  • Scramble. The HD version is now a year old, crashes and is totally unusable. The iPhone version isn’t much better.