The 14 Best iOS Apps of 2021

14 awesome, interesting, unique, and useful apps for your iOS life

Awesome iOS apps come in all price ranges, whether they're the free app of the week or a more premium investment. Truly great apps, though, are the ones that become essential from the moment you download them. Here is a look at the most unique apps available to make your iPhone or iPad as useful as possible.

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Best Easy DJ App: Pyro

Pyro DJ app on iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch

The learning curve for professional DJ software can be steep. Pyro is an iOS app that will let you build playlists from music you store locally on your device or your own Spotify Premium account.

What Pyro does well is mix songs like a DJ would - there’s magic AI in there to crossfade your tunes from one to another, regardless of actual tempo. Pyro isn’t just for DJs, either. It’s a great way to listen to music on your iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch, too.

Re-order songs on the fly, and check out Pyro’s suggestions for songs that fit in with whatever list you’re listening to.

What We Like:

  • Spotify integration is super simple and works flawlessly.
  • Beatmatching ensures a flawless transition between songs every time.

What We Don't Like:

  • Large playlists can feel unwieldy on the smaller screen.
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Best VPN app: Tunnel Bear

Illustration of Tunnel Bear maps on mobile screens with a cartoon bear on a laptop screen.

A Virtual Private Network (or VPN) apps allow you to connect to the internet privately and anonymously. Of the many out there, Tunnel Bear is the best overall.

While the app is free for 500 MB of data, you can also purchase more at an added expense. This VPN is adorable and easy to use, too.

What We Like:

  • Connecting to the internet anonymously and privately is super easy.
  • The annual pricing option is a good deal.
  • Tunnel Bear doesn’t log your IP when you use it.

What We Don't Like:

  • VPNs in general slow down your connection speeds and Tunnel Bear is no exception.
  • Can be slow sometimes when switching networks.
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Best Artistic Photo Editing App: Enlight Photofox: Photo Editor

Two artistic composite photos, one with a woman's silhouette on a landscape with flying birds, the other a person on a highway road with a triangle behind them and purple smoke in place of a head.

Enlight Photofox is a fantastic photo editor that’s free to download. It has in-app purchases for various advanced functions, but it’s completely functional without them, too. You can adjust color, light, saturation, and exposure manually or use various presets to take the guesswork out of the whole process.

Enlight Photofox makes it easy to combine more than one photo into layers, which allows for incredibly artistic compositions using your own photos (it also has a searchable photo library of free images to use in your creative process). Photofox has some great tutorials, too, and a robust user community to turn to.

More advanced editing tools like Heal, Blur, and Reshape are available via the Pro version, which you can unlock for a per-month price of about $7 or an annual cost of $40 (or unlock the whole thing for around $70).

What We Like:

  • There are a ton of editing features packed in here, from basic to advanced.
  • Written and video tutorials ensure you know how to use the app to its full potential.
  • The free version is pretty powerful on its own.

What We Don't Like:

  • $70 for an app seems like a lot of money to spend, even with lower monthly subscription options.
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Best Writing App: Paper by Dropbox

Paper by Dropbox interface, including left column with document titles and a right area with a project overview template.

There are plenty of writing apps to help you block out the clutter of typical word processors, but Paper by Dropbox is even more useful. The app has a clean, functional workspace on your iPhone or iPad, letting you get directly to the act of writing.

You can create, share and edit documents on any device (your computer included) so you never have to worry about where you saved a particular doc ever again. There are several templates to help you start a new document, including one for brainstorming, taking meeting notes and planning a project.

The editing and collaboration tools are easy to use and unobtrusive, too. 

What We Like:

  • Creating, editing, and collaborating on documents is super simple.
  • You can access your docs on any device, whether mobile or PC.

What We Don't Like:

  • More advanced formatting options, like centering text or photos, are noticeably absent.
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Best Running App: Zombies, Run!

Three screens from Zombies, Run! A mission screen with a helicopter on top, a list of story missions in the middle, and the run log.

Let’s face it; running is hard work. What better way to stay motivated than with hordes of the brain-hungry undead coming for you? There are quite a few apps available for iOS that will log your mileage and track your routes, but Zombies, Run! is the only one that will keep you moving and distracted at the same time. 

You’ll listen to over 40 storylines created by award-winning novelist Naomi Alderman, and can even mix in your own music if you want. You’ll collect resources to help you and other survivors along the way, like batteries, food, and medical supplies.

There are also training plans tailored to specific goals, like running a 5K, Interval Training to increase your ability to run faster and farther, mini-missions good for a quick run, and 5K, 10K, and 20K races with their own special stories. 

What We Like:

  • The stories are fantastic and well-written. Each mission pulls you along with solid pacing and world-building.
  • There are so many options to reinvigorate your running practice, you’ll never run out of stuff to do.
  • You can use this app while walking, running, or even on a treadmill. 

What We Don't Like:

  • If you just want to have an easy run without goals, this isn’t the app to use.
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Best Encrypted Communication App: Signal

Photo of a hand holding an iPhone that shows a cat on it, calling Chairman Meow with Signal app.


Signal is a fantastic communication app that is great for journalists, privacy advocates, and people in countries where surveillance is the norm. Unlike similar mass-market apps like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facetime, Signal only uses your own phone number and contacts lists to register to its system.

You can do group, text, voice, video, document, and picture messages without any SMS charges as everything goes through your network connection, whether WiFi or cellular. Simply launch the app, enter your phone number and add a picture for your secure Signal profile and start chatting as per usual.

There are read receipts for text messages, too, plus image annotation tools to let you easily work with others. 

What We Like:

  • Using end-to-end encryption keeps your conversations, texts, calls, and interactions private.
  • The app is easy to set up and use.
  • You're not locked into any specific ecosystem; Signal works on iOS, Android and the Chrome browser. 

What We Don't Like:

  • We miss our Bitmoji.
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Best Podcast App: Overcast

Three Overcast iPhone screens, one shows the listening screen, one shows a list of podcast episodes, and the final one shows the browsing interface.

Overcast, by indie developer Marco Arment (Instapaper, Tumblr), is hands-down the best app to listen to your podcasts with. It’s a free download with tons of features that make it easy to find and manage as many podcasts as you can throw at it.

There’s a Voice Boost function that normalizes voice podcasts so they’re easier to hear in noisy environments, a Smart Speed feature that gets rid of long pauses between words to shorten talk podcasts without speeding up the actual recording, and Twitter-powered podcast recommendations system.

Overcast allows you to access password-protected podcasts from within the app itself, and will even let you upload your own audio files (if you buy the annual subscription). 

What We Like:

  • Basic and advanced functions make for a better podcast listening experience.
  • It’s so very easy to discover new podcasts.

What We Don't Like:

  • Overcast only plays the audio tracks of video podcasts.
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Best App to Use at the Movies: RunPee

Three RunPee app screens. One main movie info screen for Blade Runner 2049, one showing details of the app, one showing the Synopsis

As modern movies regularly break the two-hour mark (and theater drinks get larger), you might find yourself looking for a good time to run to the restroom.

RunPee takes the guesswork out of the equation with a regularly-updated database of human-curated information on the best time for a pee break. It also features movie reviews, links to IMDB and RottenTomatoes, and information on extra scenes during or after the credits. 

What We Like:

  • Figuring out when to run to the loo is key with a long movie.
  • The reviews and pee times are all created by people who watch the film itself.
  • Vibration notifications keep you from getting kicked out of a theater for using your phone.

What We Don't Like:

  • Having to purchase (or earn) “Peecoins” to view when to hit the bathroom for newer movies can be annoying.
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Best App for Tracking Packages: Deliveries

Three screens from Deliveries app. One shows a list of upcoming deliveries, one shows a map of where the package currently is, and the third shows the iOS notifications screen.

If you send and receive a lot of packages via Amazon, FedEx, USPS, UPS, DHL, or Apple (and who doesn’t these days), you might find it tricky to manage all your tracking info. This one app will take care of all of that for you, though.

Deliveries makes it super simple to see what is heading your way and how long it might take, showing a summary list of all your shipments. Tapping on a specific delivery will get you information on where your package is at on a map, too.

You can use your iPhone’s built-in sharing sheet to log your package tracking number, making it super easy to keep everything in one place.

What We Like:

  • Tracking packages in one easy-to-use app.
  • You can pull in tracking info from emails and texts with ease.

What We Don't Like:

  • $4.99 can seem like a high price compared to the “free” market sensibilities in the App Store. 
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Best Weather App: Carrot Weather

Three screens for Carrot Weather, one showing a daily forecast, one showing rain predictions, and a third showing more features like maps, widgets, and apple watch.

Weather apps are the proverbial dime a dozen; Apple provides one with iOS and there are literally dozens of free and premium apps you can download to keep track of what it’s like outside. Carrot Weather, though, is a weather app with an attitude, and it will win you over quickly.

The app uses Dark Sky’s accurate weather data, letting you see daily, hourly and up-to-the-minute weather facts. If there’s a rain or snowstorm coming in the US, UK and parts of Canada, you can get a short-term forecast that lets you know what’s going on every minute.

Plus, there are some cool game-like activities, like secret locations and Achievements you can earn for experiencing different weather while traveling. 

What We Like:

  • Carrot Weather is quirky, funny, and full of sass (though you can turn that part off, too).
  • The user interface is well-designed; finding what you want is super easy. 

What We Don't Like:

  • A Premium club for extra features will cost you on top of the money you’ve already spent for the app.
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Best App for Sleep Tracking: Pillow

Three screens for Pillow app, one shows automatic sleep tracking with Apple Watch, one shows smart alarm clock, and the third says Pillow finds the optimal time to wake you up.

The best app for keeping track of your sleep is Pillow. You can use your iPhone or an Apple Watch to help keep and analyze data about your nightly rest.

Pillow offers a lovely chart of your REM sleep, deep and light sleep, and any waking periods and will track your heart rate if you’re using the Apple Watch app. Plus, if there are any noises during the night, like when you talk in your sleep, the app will record them — which could surely lead to some amusing times the next day.

The app also asks you to rate your mood each morning to help it better understand the kind of sleep you need to feel your best each day. 

What We Like:

  • Analyzing sleep cycles, heart rate and mood in one app is pretty useful.
  • Graphs and analyses are clear and easy to read.
  • A smart alarm clock can wake you when you are in a light sleep cycle.

What We Don't Like:

  • You still have to purchase a Premium add-on for access to the full app.
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Best App for Passwords: LastPass

Three screens for LastPass app. One shows the list of sites it stores passwords for, one shows autofill function, and one shows FaceID.

Keeping track of your online passwords is a big deal, and LastPass makes it super simple on your iPhone and iPad. The free version does just about all anyone needs for regular use, though there is a premium add-on which comes in at about $24 per year.

LastPass lets you sync passwords and other security data across all your devices for free, which gives it a leg up on the competition. You’ll get unlimited password storage, a password generator, secure notes, easy password sharing, and a way to test out your own security on your device.

You can also login to the service with FaceID if you have an iPhone X or TouchID if you don’t. There’s a Mac app and desktop browser plugin, too, which also syncs up with your other devices. 

What We Like:

  • Generating and remembering strong passwords is easier than ever before.
  • The free app has all the features most people need.

What We Don't Like:

  • LastPass keeps your data in the cloud for easy web-based access, which could pose a security risk.
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Best Real-Time Translation App: iTranslate Converse

Three screens for iTranslate Converse app, first one shows an illustration of a man and woman talking via the app, the second shows "Hello" on an orange background, and the third says it works well in noisy environments.

If you’ve always wanted to live in a Star Trek universe where conversations across languages are easy and error-free, iTranslate Converse is your best first step. No, it’s not always perfectly accurate, but the ease of use makes the app better than all others.

It has support for 38 languages, including three kinds of Arabic, Chinese, and English dialects as well as French, German, Greek, Hindi, Swedish, Japanese, Thai and Turkish. If you want more than the 500 translations per month from the free version, you’ll need to pay for a subscription, which comes in at about $5 per month or at an annual cost of about $40. 

What We Like:

  • Talking to someone without knowing the language feels like science fiction become fact.
  • The monthly or annual subscription is fairly priced for such bleeding-edge technology. 

What We Don't Like:

  • It’s not always accurate, though it can improve over time. 
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Best Notetaking App: Bear

Three iPhones showing Bear screens. The far left is dark theme, with white text on a gray background, the far right shows sepia theme and a list of notes, while the frontmost middle shows another list view but on a bright white background.

Bear is the best way to keep track of all your electronic notes. It syncs across your iOS devices as well as your Mac, letting you quickly jot down all those little things you need to keep handy at all times. You can search from the iOS app for any text string you want, and you can categorize your notes with tags. 

Bear uses a clean, minimalist interface and simple visual themes (dark, light, sepia) to stay out of your way while you use the app. It comes with a host of options like bold, italic, underline, bullets, to-do checkboxes, and more.

The app supports markdown for formatting, as well, and you can export to HTML, DOCX, RTF, PDF, or JPG. On the iPad, Bear lets you use Split View and drag and drop, too.

What We Like:

  • Bear has a gorgeous, minimalist interface with several themes.
  • Syncing notes to all your devices is fantastic. 

What We Don't Like:

  • Bear Premium locks its exporting and advanced themes behind a $15 annual paywall.
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