The 10 Best iPhone Augmented Reality (AR) Apps of 2020

These apps show how you you'll use augmented reality in the future

Looking for the best AR apps for your iPhone? Look no further than our Top 10.

There are some big differences between Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). The two terms tend to be used synonymously, but that is not correct. AR does not try to replace your reality but seeks to add to it. This list of AR apps for the iPhone will let you dip your toes into augmented reality or even dive completely in if you wish.

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Augment - 3D Augmented Reality: Place Things Into Your Own Augmented World

Augment app
See what isn't there with Augment. Augment PR
What We Like
  • Comes with a supply of objects in categories.

  • Option to search public galleries for 3D objects.

What We Don't Like
  • Poor documentation.

  • A high number of one-star reviews.

Have you ever asked yourself how two objects might look beside each other? That’s where this handy app comes into its own: It helps you see what isn’t there.

Not only can it render three-dimensional objects that you can then virtually place where you like, but it will also create renderings using QR codes.

How it works: Launch the app, select an object from one of the categories and use the camera to place it in the part of your room you want to visualize the object in. You can then take the rendered object and resize it to fit what you see. Use one finger to reposition the object in your room. Use two fingers to rotate. The app ships with a substantial library of objects, including educational, merchandising, and interior design collections. Think of this as a great way to get a feel for how things may look before you invest in furniture or other changes.

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IKEA Place: Create A Showroom in Your Home

See it in place
IKEA Use AR and VR Apps. IKEA PR
What We Like
  • Easy to understand and operate interface.

  • Option to save rooms you create.

  • Scan entire rooms or just sections.

What We Don't Like
  • The AR graphics are illustrations, not photos.

The IKEA Place app offers AR tools that let you virtually place furniture and accessories into your own home.

The idea is simple and effective: You want your home or office to look great, and no matter how good something looks in the catalog there is nothing better than seeing it in your home.

How it works: Launch the app and aim the camera toward the part of the room where you want to view IKEA products or scan an entire room. Tap the plus sign and select from product categories. Review the product description before clicking "Try in your place" to drop the life-size item into your room. Move it around with your finger; its proportions change as you move it further away, remaining proportionate to your other furniture. Tap the plus sign again to add additional products until you have the room decorated to your taste.

The app also locates similar products to ones you already have. For example, point the camera at a lamp, enclose it in a selection box, and IKEA displays lamps that are similar in size and appearance.

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Google Translate: Read Anything Anywhere

WordLens in Google Translate
You'll Never Have Problems Reading Anywhere. Google
What We Like
  • Translates street signs, store signs, and printed text.

  • Photographs text for enhanced translation.

  • Translates text without data connection.

What We Don't Like
  • Translation is literal and can yield awkward results.

Google Translate sometimes generates laughably weird translations, but it still excels at simple day-to-day translation tasks.

The Google Translate app takes this a few steps further — it lets you translate words offline and online, allows you to take or import photos for higher quality translations, and more.

However, in a quite thrilling AR implementation, it will also translate street signs using OCR and your iPhone’s camera. That’s incredibly useful for travelers.

How it works: The app is insanely simple. All you must do is point your camera at a sign, tell the app which language you wish to translate, hit the big red button and read the translation on screen.

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SketchAR: Create Impressive Drawings

Improve your Drawing Ability with SketchAR
You Will Draw Amazing Images With SketchAR. SketchAR PR image
What We Like
  • Great for people who always wanted to draw.

  • Step-by-step AR drawing lessons.

  • Makes shareable time-lapse drawings.

What We Don't Like
  • Subscription needed for premium AR features.

SketchAR is a smart solution that helps you do something hard in the real world. In this case, you can draw impressive images with your own hands. You can choose between a big collection of line drawings which the app virtually projects at a piece of paper using the smartphone display, making it much easier to draw.

How it works: Launch the app and place your iPhone on a tripod to keep it stable. Choose the image you want to draw, point the camera at your paper on the table and draw five circles on the paper.

The app will use those circles to orientate itself, once it does it will virtually draw what it is you want to draw on the paper, using the screen. Now you just need to follow the guidance of the app to impress others with your sketching ability.

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Wikitude: See What's Happening In Your Location

See more with Wikitude
Wikitude Enriches What you See with Real Information. Wikitude/Flickr
What We Like
  • Accepts business search codes that lead to augmented experiences.

  • Part of AR development platform for businesses.

What We Don't Like
  • Interface is counterintuitive and confusing.

  • More valuable to businesses than individuals.

  • Recipient of many one-star reviews.

Wikitude is a complete AR development platform used by big brands, travel catalogs, retailers, and publishers to deliver a range of compelling solutions.

One such application, Lonely Planet provides Wikitude-based city guides that use your location data and smartphone to provide you with local information surfaced from Wikipedia and TripAdvisor. The idea is that when you stand in a place, the app will use your location data and geospatial information to determine where you are and superimpose information such as restaurant or tourist information on what you see on-screen.

How it works: It’s as simple as point, click, and select. You choose between data sources and what sort of information you wish to find. One more thing: One tap of the "route me there" option will fetch you Apple Maps to guide you to what you see. 

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Pictures with lives of their own. Lifeprint
What We Like
  • Printed hyperphotos include embedded AR videos.

  • Robust photo-editing tools

What We Don't Like
  • Requires LifePrint hardware and software to work.

  • Pushes the social aspect.

  • App is clunky.

LifePrint is a little more expensive than the other solutions we’ve mentioned, most of which are free. It is a little different, it requires a special printer, an online service, and an app, but in use, it brings your own photo collections to life.

You take moving and still images and create VR scenes which are played back using an app on a smartphone when pointed at an image printed using a LifePrint printer. 

How it works: Gather still images and video together using the app, create the static image, and print and point. You can also have the image print to other people’s printers and they will also see the video. This implementation still sounds a little complicated, but I like to think of it as a bit like the Marauder’s Map in the Harry Potter series. 

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Smartify: Discover Art In A Whole New Way

Find Out More About What You See
Smartify Opens You Up to Art Appreciation. Smartify PR image
What We Like
  • App recognizes art in real life and in print.

  • Delivers stories behind great works of art.

  • Audio commentary on many works.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited to art in selected museum and gallery collections.

Smartify’s aim is ever so simple: point your iPhone at an object of art in a gallery or museum and its intelligent image recognition technology will try to identify the picture and give you more information about it. This sounds great, but implementation is limited. The museum/gallery you are attending needs to sign-up for the service, in exchange for which they’ll gain access to info about what people do and see at that location.

How it works: Smartify works at the Louvre in Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; and the Wallace Collection in London. Can't visit one of those? The image recognition inside the app is so good that when you point your iPhone at a postcard image of a piece held by one of these collections you'll get all the information about it.

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Spyglass: Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Your iPhone is a Compass
Never Get Lost With iPhone GPS. Magenta Software PR image
What We Like
  • Swiss Army knife of GPS navigation apps.

  • Operates in 3D and uses AR to overlay maps and stars.

  • Serves as binoculars, speedometer, and sun, moon and star finder.

What We Don't Like
  • Jam-packed app may overwhelm first-time users.

This great app uses your iPhone’s built-in GPS to provide you with a range of navigational tools you’ll use.

This app superimposes GPS navigation on your display, provides a real compass with maps integration, lets you point your camera at the stars to figure out where you are going, and even lets you place (and find) virtual waypoints to help. It also provides you with a variety of other pieces of interesting information, such as the speed of movement and height above sea level. You can even use the app as a sextant.

How it works: This is a very well-developed, complex, and useful app that takes the GPS data your iPhone already collects and augments it with layers of intelligence for anyone exploring the outdoors.

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Gorillaz: A Future for Music Marketing

Gorillaz in Your House
A Fantastic Example of Music Marketing and Augmented Reality. Photo Credit: J C Hewlitt
What We Like
  • Fans of British virtual band Gorillaz will love it.

  • Cool graphics and interesting use of AR.

What We Don't Like
  • Can't share photos taken in the closed experience.

  • Limited content. More for fans than gamers.

There is no doubt that VR and AR will be used in marketing. One great example of this is Gorillaz, an app developed by members of the band of the same name.

Part game and part music promo, it lets you explore images from the band’s recent videos, but you’ll find them superimposed onto your surroundings. Tapping on these virtual objects when they appear on your iPhone screen gives access to interesting extras, such as playlists, video clips, and more.

How it works: The app uses your iPhone camera to create the illusion and shows you a slightly altered universe on your screen. It’s a great example of how popular culture can exploit these technologies to bridge the gap between artists and fans.

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Blippar: Information Anywhere

Blippar -- Intelligence Anywhere
Blippar's powerful solution uses super-advanced tech to augment your world. Blippar PR image
What We Like
  • Identifies cities, landmarks, famous faces, and flowers.

  • Doesn't use location data.

  • Small fish in a behemoth-dominated pond.

What We Don't Like
  • Sometimes identifies objects incorrectly.

Blippar uses augmented reality, artificial intelligence and computer vision to provide you with information about what you find around you. It lets you point your iPhone at objects to get all kinds of interesting information about them, with sophisticated image recognition algorithms figuring out what the objects are and fetching relevant info.

The company also provides services to brands, who can provide all kinds of augmented information and other content to make available to Blippar users.

How it works: Launch the app and point your iPhone camera at an object. Blippar will try to figure out what the object is, offering you information about it through a circular interface, including data from social networks, Wikipedia, and Blippar brands.

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