13 of the Most Unique Apps for Your iPhone or iPad

Awesome, interesting, unique, and useful apps for your phone or tablet

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

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Best VPN App: TunnelBear

Tunnel Bear maps on mobile screens with a cartoon bear on a laptop screen.
What We Like
  • Connecting to the internet anonymously is easy.

  • The annual pricing option is a good deal.

  • 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.

A Virtual Private Network (or VPN) app allows you to connect to the internet privately and anonymously. Of the many out there, TunnelBear is the best overall.

While the app is free for 500 MB of data per month, you can purchase more. This VPN is adorable and easy to use.

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Best Artistic Photo Editing App: Photoleap by Lightricks

Photoleap by Lightricks images
What We Like
  • A ton of editing features, from basic to advanced.

  • Written and video tutorials.

  • The free version is powerful on its own.

What We Don't Like
  • You're probably going to want to buy the advanced features.

  • Steep learning curve.

Photoleap by Lightricks (formerly 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.

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

Advanced editing tools such as 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 $36.

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Best Writing App: Paper by Dropbox

Paper by Dropbox iOS app
What We Like
  • Creating, editing, and collaborating on documents is simple.

  • Access your docs on any device—mobile or PC.

  • Create and add sketches on iPad.

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks advanced features such as aligning text in a table.

  • It isn't updated frequently.

There are plenty of writing apps to help you block out the clutter of typical word processors, but Paper by Dropbox is particularly 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 that you never have to worry about where you saved a particular doc again. Several templates are available for starting a new document, including templates for brainstorming, taking meeting notes, and planning a project.

The editing and collaboration tools are easy to use and unobtrusive, too. The app is free; use it with an existing or new Dropbox account.

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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.
What We Like
  • The stories are fantastic and well-written.

  • Many options to reinvigorate your running practice.

  • Works whether you walk, run, or are on a treadmill. 

What We Don't Like
  • Not the best choice for easy runs without goals.

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 plenty of apps available for iOS that log your mileage and track your routes, but Zombies, Run! is the only one that keeps you moving and distracted at the same time.

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

Training plans are tailored to specific goals, such as 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.

This app is free with optional in-app purchases. It is compatible with iPhone and Apple Watch.

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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.


What We Like
  • End-to-end encryption.

  • Easy to set up and use.

  • Not locked into any specific ecosystem.

What We Don't Like
  • No business features such as centralized user control.

  • Smaller user base than WhatsApp or Apple iMessages.

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 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. Everything goes through your network connection, whether Wi-Fi or cellular. Launch the app, enter your phone number, add a picture for your secure Signal profile and start chatting as per usual.

There are read receipts for text messages plus image annotation tools for working with others efficiently.

Signal is a free app that is available for iOS and Android.

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Best Podcast App: Overcast

Podcast app Overcast for iPhone
What We Like
  • Basic and advanced functions make for a better podcast listening experience.

  • Easy to discover new podcasts.

  • The free version contains most of the features you need.

What We Don't Like
  • Only plays the audio tracks of video podcasts.

  • Doesn't show unplayed episodes of podcasts.

Overcast, by indie developer Marco Arment (Instapaper, Tumblr), is hands-down the best app for listening to your podcasts. 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 a Twitter-powered podcast recommendations system.

Overcast allows you to access password-protected podcasts from within the app and lets you upload your own audio files if you buy a premium subscription.

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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
What We Like
  • Vibrates to identify the best times to run to the loo during a long movie.

  • Reviews and pee times are generated by people who watch each film.

What We Don't Like
  • Must earn (or buy) peecoins for information the on newest movies.

As modern movies frequently 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. You receive a discrete vibration to alert you to an upcoming pee time and a synopsis of what you are missing while you are in the restroom.

It also features movie reviews, links to IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, and information on extra scenes during or after the credits.

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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.
What We Like
  • Easy to use app tracks packages from multiple delivery sources.

  • Pull in tracking info from emails and texts.

What We Don't Like
  • Requires a monthly or annual subscription.

If you send and receive a lot of packages via Amazon, FedEx, USPS, UPS, DHL, or Apple, you might find it tricky to manage all your tracking info. This one app takes care of all of that for you.

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

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

This free-to-download app requires a $0.99 monthly or $4.99 annual subscription.

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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.
What We Like
  • Carrot Weather is quirky, funny, and full of sass.

  • The user interface is well-designed.

  • Secret locations and achievements add fun.

What We Don't Like
  • The free ad-supported version has minimal features.

  • Premium and Premium Ultra subscriptions automatically renew unless canceled.

Weather apps are a 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. However, CARROT Weather is a weather app with an attitude, and it will win you over quickly.

The app uses advanced weather data to show daily, hourly, and up-to-the-minute weather facts. If rain or a snowstorm is coming, you can get a short-term forecast that lets you know what's going on every minute.

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

The app is free to download, but most features require a Premium or Premium Ultra recurring monthly or yearly subscription.

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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.
What We Like
  • Analyzes sleep cycles, heart rate, and mood in one app.

  • Graphs and analyses are clear.

  • Records your voice if you talk in your sleep.

What We Don't Like
  • Free to download, but many features require an in-app purchase.

  • In-app purchases are expensive.

  • Annoying wake-up sounds.

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

Pillow offers a chart showing your REM sleep, deep and light sleep, and any waking periods, and it tracks your heart rate if you're using the Apple Watch app. Plus, if there are any noises during the night, such as when you talk in your sleep, the app records them—which could lead to some amusing times the next day.

The app 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.

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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.
What We Like
  • The free app has all the features most people need.

  • One main password is all you need to remember.

  • User vault data encrypted with bank-level encryption.

What We Don't Like
  • LastPass Free covers only one type of device: computers or mobile devices.

  • Unlimited device types is available only with a Premium in-app purchase.

Keeping track of your online passwords is a big deal, and LastPass makes it simple on your iPhone and iPad. This password manager stores your passwords and personal information in a secure vault and auto-fills your login credentials as you visit apps and websites.

The free version does just about all anyone needs for regular use, though there is a premium in-app purchase that costs about $36 per year. The LastPass free version syncs passwords and other security data across either all your mobile devices or all your computers. If you want both, you need to buy the Premium subscription.

So, a free download to your iPhone covers all your iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watch. You get unlimited password storage, a password generator, secure notes, easy password sharing, and a way to test your security on your device.

You can log in to the service with FaceID if you have an iPhone X or higher or TouchID on a compatible iPhone.

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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.
What We Like
  • Easy to use and remarkably fast.

  • Translates 38 languages.

  • Offline mode for English, German, Spanish, French, and Chinese.

What We Don't Like
  • Internet connection required to translate most of the supported languages.

  • Not 100 percent accurate all the time, but improving steadily.

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 one of the subscriptions, which begin at about $5 per month and top out at about $70.

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Best Notetaking App: Bear

The iOS Bear app
What We Like
  • Gorgeous, minimalist interface.

  • Syncs via iCloud, not Bear servers.

  • Supports Split View on iPad.

What We Don't Like
  • Syncing with all your devices requires a Pro subscription.

  • Advanced themes are behind a paywall.

Bear is the best way to keep track of your electronic notes. The free app works great on any single iOS device, but to sync across all your iOS devices and your Mac, you need a subscription.

Use Bear to 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 such as bold, italic, underline, bullets, to-do check boxes, 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 accommodates Split View and drag and drop.

The subscription is affordable at about $15 per year and includes advanced themes.

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