Saturday, June 22, 2024

10 iPhone productivity apps you need to download right now

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iPhone 14 Pro showing the Moon always-on screen, held in a man's hand.Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If you’re anything like us, your Apple iPhone is a beast with multiple uses. It can go from an email-firing machine to a dedicated Netflix device in seconds and then into playing video games just as fast. But just because it can do all of those things doesn’t mean it couldn’t stand a little fine-tuning when it comes to optimizing it for productivity.

“Productivity” can mean a lot of things, whether it’s sending emails, making tweaks to documents and spreadsheets, or just planning for your day ahead. Whatever being productive means to you, there are apps that will make it easier. Here are 10 iPhone productivity apps you need to download today.

Todoist

The best to-do app

If there’s one app that most will agree needs to be on this list, it’s Todoist. Todoist is the to-do app, but it isn’t just an app where you tick boxes. No, it’s much more than that, as Todoist has grown over the years to become something much more comprehensive.

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The to-do list is the app’s bread and butter, and you can add whatever you like, from household chores to high-level business meetings. To sort the wheat from the chaff, you can select four priority levels for a task so that Todoist knows which ones are the most important to you. Labels help you keep work, play, and home separate from each other, and you can create different projects to really keep tasks apart from each other. After all, you might not want to be reminded of your upcoming work tasks at 1 p.m. on a lazy Sunday, whereas remembering you have laundry to hang up is rather more important. A morning report will let you know what you have coming up for the day, while the evening review tells you what you have left — though you can switch those off if you’d rather not have them.

Todoist is largely free to use, but some of its features require a subscription to Todoist Pro. For instance, you’ll need Pro if you want to add a reminder or location to a task or see your tasks in the useful Calendar View. Pro costs $5 a month, or you can pay for a year upfront for $48.

iOS App Store

Goblin Tools

The best planning app

AI is a controversial subject for many, but we have a soft spot for Goblin Tools. It has a great name, for one thing, and it’s the perfect app to grab if you have a project to tackle but aren’t quite sure where to start. Essentially a wrapper for an AI chatbot, Goblin Tools is simple to use. Enter what you’re trying to do into the text box at the top of the app, and select the plus button to add it as a to-do checkbox.

From here, it gets a little special. Select the magic wand icon, and Goblin Tools will break down your task into several steps. Changing the number of spicy chili pepper icons will adjust how detailed and granular the steps should be. If you want a further breakdown of one of your main goals’ steps, you can do that, too.

The steps can be a little vague — after all, “create a plan for world domination” is a little easier said than done, but it’s meant to be a stepping-off point for your creativity. You can keep breaking those tasks down until your creative juices finally get flowing. It’s not free, unlike many of the apps on this list, but it costs just $1, which is worth parting with even if you just want to play with it.

iOS App Store

FocusPomo

The best timing app

A good work-life balance is a must, but what about making sure you don’t get burned out during the work day? Pomodoro is a very popular working method that balances periods of work with smaller periods of rest, and there are a number of apps out there that can support this style of working. One of the best, at least in our eyes, is FocusPomo.

Frankly, it’s adorable. The symbol for Pomodoro timing is the tomato because “Pomodoro” is Italian for tomato, so it’s no surprise the app has a lot of tomato imagery. They’re cute (though we’ll admit they look more like oranges than tomatoes), and they roll around the main page when you tilt your phone, which is a nice touch. You’ll earn tomatoes for every five minutes you stay in focus mode, and they’ll grow and mature the more you use the app. Twenty-five minutes of work with a five-minute break is the standard for the Pomodoro technique, but you can change them as needed.

It’s a simple design and a simple app, but that’s not all it does. It supports iOS’s new Standby mode and home screen widgets, so it can show your current timer on your StandBy dock, or you can kick off a focus timer from your home screen. It has charts and stats, including a timeline showing when you worked and when you rested, and it has iCloud syncing across devices and app blocking and whitelists.

Some of those features are locked firmly behind a paywall, though. You won’t be able to access cross-device syncing, the timeline, or app blocking and whitelists without paying for a Plus subscription. On the plus side (pun not intended), the costs are fairly low. You can pay $2 a month, $10 a year, or just fork out $20 for a lifetime subscription. If you find this a useful part of your workday, then $20 may well be worthwhile.

iOS App Store

TimeTree

The best group planning app

Organizing a group of people is often a thankless task — and an extremely hard one, too. Whether you’re trying to make sure everyone is free for a critical meeting, DnD session, or just a gathering at a restaurant, the constant back-and-forth of “I’m free on Wednesday, but not Thursday” can be wearing for even the most patient person. That’s where TimeTree comes in.

Essentially a group calendar, TimeTree has enormous utility and can be configured to fit almost any group. When you set up your group, you’ll be asked to choose a preset, with slightly different options and tuning for each. Invite the members of your group, and they’ll be able to see shared tasks and events and mark whether they’re available to attend events, leave comments, or just chat.

There’s a Plus subscription, but it doesn’t limit the free version too much, which is a nice surprise. Plus costs $5 a month, or $45 a year, and gives you access to file attachments, event priorities, and a vertical view of your calendars.

iOS App Store

Google Keep

The best note-keeping app

A lot of the apps on this list shine because of the extra features they add to a simple concept, but Google Keep is best appreciated for its simplicity. It’s a notetaker, and that’s pretty much all there is to it — but because it’s so well executed, it’s a mainstay that should be on every smartphone.

The first and most important part of the app is its notetaking. It’s pretty good. You can take notes as plain text files, checkboxes, or even handwritten notes. But it doesn’t stop there, as you can insert images, take photos, and record voice notes as notes. While you often can’t mix and match, it’s not often you need to, and Keep gets away with its simplicity.

Since it’s Google-made, it has strong cross-device support. Sign into your Google account on any other device, and your Keep notes will be there. Heck, even the price is fantastic because, well, there isn’t one. It’s completely free, and that puts it head and shoulders above everything else if all you need is a notetaking app that’s available pretty much anywhere.

iOS App Store

Bitwarden

The best password manager

While there are plenty of password managers out there, few are as good as Bitwarden. Another app that revels in its simplicity, Bitwarden offers unlimited storage for passwords on an unlimited number of devices. Whereas most password managers now charge for access to your passwords from more than a set number of devices, Bitwarden has stayed steadfastly free, earning it a lot of respect in our book.

But not having to charge doesn’t mean it loses out in capability. Bitwarden has passkey support and apps and companions for iOS, Android, desktop computers, browsers, and pretty much any device you could need it on. Your vault is secured with end-to-end encryption, including AES-256 bit, salted hashtag, and PBKDF2 SHA-256, as well as third-party audits that keep your data safe and secure. When Bitwarden is this good, why would you need to pay for any other password manager?

iOS App Store

Finch

The best habit-forming app

Forming habits is a case of just doing that thing over and over again. We all know this, but it’s much easier said than done. If you struggle to keep up with habits, then maybe you need a feathery friend from Finch to make sure you keep up those good habits.

Finch is, at its core, a to-do list app. But it’s so much more than that, thanks to the central conceit. Boot up the app, and a small baby bird greets you. Introduce yourself and give them a name, and they form the backbone of the app’s effectiveness. By completing tasks, your baby bird will grow into a toddler, child, and beyond, go on adventures, and learn more and more about the world. As you progress, you’ll earn currency and buy your bird clothes and accessories, and even decorate its birdhouse. It’s a cute and surprisingly effective way to establish new habits, as who would want to let down their very own baby bird?

It’s not just about tasks, as there’s a mental wellness aspect to the app, too. Every time you open the app, it’ll ask you how you’re feeling about the day, and if you score low, it’ll prompt you to fill out a journal entry, instilling even more healthy wellness habits. The dastardly little chicks will constantly trick you into treating yourself better, and you’ll soon find yourself shopping for new clothes for your bird and picking out a birdhouse theme.

It’s free to use, and while there are paid elements, they’re spread thin enough that you’ll rarely encounter any paywalls. Finch Plus costs $6 a month and provides access to more insights, exercises, shop options, and customization options within the app.

iOS App Store

Google Drive

The best cloud storage app

There’s no shortage of cloud storage apps out there, so what makes Google Drive so good? Is it the relatively generous 15GB storage offered on the free plan? The massive cross-device support means you can access your files pretty much anywhere. The strong auto-backup options. Or is it the fact it supports pretty much every file type out there and can often send them straight into the Google Suite of editors as well? It’s a mix of all of the above, and all of that together means Google Drive is the best cloud storage app you can download.

Drive’s cross-support with the rest of Google’s suite is the real key to its brilliance. Upload photos and pictures and you can find them organized in Photos, while text files will end up on Docs, spreadsheets in Sheets, and so on. Using Google’s built-in suite can save you time and effort, and it especially shines on mobiles, where the smartphone-optimized apps will function just as well as a desktop program. Add to this a game-changing search function that can identify and find just about anything, plus security options that can keep your sensitive files safe from prying eyes, and you’ve got a very good service.

It’s free to use, but even the 15GB of free space won’t go too far if you start using Google Drive to back up your phone pictures, documents, and videos. Thankfully, upgrading your storage doesn’t cost too much, at least not initially. Going to the first tier with 100GB of cloud storage will only set you back $2 a month, which is something of a bargain when it also comes with advanced photo editing tools for Photos.

iOS App Store

ExpressVPN

The best VPN app

You probably know what ExpressVPN is if you’ve ever seen a YouTube sponsorship, but for those who don’t know, ExpressVPN is a solid choice if you’re looking for a good VPN app to keep your surfing safe and secure.

A VPN works by tunneling your internet traffic through an encrypted and safe virtual private network, meaning your connection is less at risk than it would otherwise be. Of course, that means a slight hit to your connection speeds, as your traffic is being ferried elsewhere as it goes and comes back to you. That’s why ExpressVPN has created the Lightway, a fast VPN network that strives to reduce the lag you might otherwise feel.

ExpressVPN also comes with a password manager, doubling down on security. It also has servers in 105 countries, ensuring there’s a server near you. It doesn’t save your browsing details either and is constantly audited to assure users this isn’t the case.

But all of this won’t come free. A one-month subscription will set you back $13, which is quite a lot. You get a seven-day free trial, so you can at least be sure it’s for you before committing — but cancel before the hefty yearly subscription comes out if you’re not sold on it.

iOS App Store

Grammarly

The best keyboard app

Be honest. Are you still using the standard Apple keyboard? Keyboards are an oft-overlooked element of productivity, and the right keyboard can be a key tool in your productivity arsenal. This has never been more correct than in the case of Grammarly, which uses artificial intelligence to ensure your writing is thoroughly spellchecked, grammatically correct, and more finely tuned than the finest Formula 1 car.

Grammarly has been around for a long time, and it’s built a strong reputation. Grammarly’s capabilities begin with spelling and grammar fixes, but they don’t end there — not by a long shot. As you write, it’ll check to see whether any synonyms would work better (changing “very happy” into the stronger “thrilled,” for instance), suggesting changes to create a more formal, casual, or whatever tone you’re aiming for, and it’ll rate your own words for tone too. Because it’s a keyboard, it works in any app, and the onboard AI can also generate text for you in whatever style you need.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t come cheap. Grammarly Premium is where all the fun toys live, including the Formality rating, the ability to tell you when sentences need clarifying, enhanced word choices, and more. The free version is also limited to 100 AI prompts a month. The Premium version will set you back $12 a month, but without it, Grammarly is mostly a glorified spellcheck, so it’s definitely worthwhile.

iOS App Store

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