Best iPhone Apps 2014: The Good, The Bold & The Quirky

Top 10s Michael Grothaus 17:49, 12 Nov 2014

All the best iPhone apps in one place - what more could you ask for?

Apple’s App Store boasts one of the most extensive collections of apps this side of the sun. Inside you can pretty much find anything – and we mean anything. But what are the best and, more importantly, which are worth having on your iPhone?

In a bid to locate, download and test the best apps for iPhone in 2013 we’ve been tinkering with applications all year to bring you a list of the best apps in the run up to Christmas. We’ll be adding 10 new applications to this list every week as December 25 approaches.

To keep things tidy we’ve decided not to include the big apps that every man and his dog knows about –– Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Mail and the like. Instead, we’re focusing on useful applications that might have slipped under your radar.

So, without further ado, here's our pick of the best.

Sleep Better − Smart Alarm Clock & Sleeping Cycle Tracker (free)

Sleep Better is a smart alarm clock and sleep cycle tracker from Runtastic. How the app works is you’re supposed to place your iPhone running the app on the bed. The app reacts to your movement during the night, collecting data about how often you twist and turn and get out of bed. In the morning you’ll be greeted with beautiful graphs of your nights sleeping pattern. The app’s alarm functions also allow you to wake up on you own terms, to your own music or alerts, and with full customization options of how long you snooze for. It’s also fully compatible with iOS 8’s HealthKit so you can view all your sleep data with the health app and even share it with other third-party apps.

SNOWidget - The Most Magical Widget Ever (free)

SNOWidget isn’t really an app. It’s a widget that lives on iOS 8’s Notification Center--and one with a very singular purpose. All SNOWidget does is count down the days and hours until Christmas--but it does so against a very beautiful backdrop of snowfall using particle physics. By launching the app you can customize the size of the widget, the size and font of the text, and the time units of the countdown. It’s the perfect widget/app for those who can’t wait until Christmas.

Doodle Jump DC Super Heroes (free)

Doodle Jump was the first game I ever played on my iPhone. Matter of fact, I suspect that’s true for many of you. Now in its 5th year the makers of the game have decided to start teaming up with popular brands to release custom versions of Doodle Jump. Doodle Jump DC Superheroes allows you to play as Batman as he jumps through levels filled with legendary DC villains such as The Penguin, Mr. Freeze, The Joker, and The Riddler. It’s a fun twist on an old game--and still just as addictive as ever.

Vivino Wine Scanner (free)

Vivino Wine Scanner is an app that I’ve wanted for a long time. I enjoy a good glass of wine, but I am by no means a wine expert. When I like a glass of wine I always make a mental note of it, but I inevitably forget the brand and type the next time I am out. Vivino Wine Scanner solves that problem by allowing you to snap a picture of the label on the wine’s bottle. It then matches that label to the wine in its database of over 3 million wines. You can then save it to your favourites list and even get links to stores where you can buy the wine in the future. The app also has a heavy social element allowing you to read other user’s reviews of wine and share your favourite types with friends.

Pennies – Personal Money, Budget & Finance Manager (£1.49)

Pennies is a simple personal finance app that allows you to track your spending with ease. The app forgoes the flashy financial charts and spending graphs you see in other personal finance apps. If you want to track your spending for a certain thing--like home improvement--you can create a budget for it and then simply populate that budget with the amounts you spent each time you buy something towards it. Once you’ve created several budgets and also entered your income Pennies will give you a daily breakdown of how much you can spend each day. Think of it as a personal finance advisor that is always with you whispering financial advice into your ear to keep you on track with your financial goals.

Writing Aid — Dictionary, Synonyms and Meanings (£0.69) 

Writing Aid is a godsend for anyone who writes a lot but finds themselves using wordy phrases instead of succinct words. It acts as a reverse thesaurus and dictionary. Type in a phrase or description like 'green blue colour' and the app will give you suggestions such as 'turquoise' or ‘aquamarine’. Tapping on a word suggestion will also show you the definition of that word.

Plane Finder (£2.99)

Wouldn’t it be interesting if you can find out where the a flight is heading every time you spot one in the sky? With Plane Finder you can now do that, if you spot a flight in the sky you can just open up the Augmented Reality view, point your iPhone’s camera up at the plane and find out all the details on it.

The app will share the flight number, the place name, the airport, the airline, the specific aircraft and where it currently is on the map. If you head into the map mode you’ll see all the flights nearest to you and you can even zoom out to other countries to see how busy the airspace is.

You also get the preference to use Google Maps or Apple Maps depending on your taste. This isn't just one for the aerophiles amongst you, it's actually quite interesting to those not accustomed to plane watching.

Swype (£0.69)

With the release of iOS 8 last week, the iPhone can now finally support third-party keyboards. One of the most popular third-party keyboards, of course, is Swype. The keyboard allows you to enter text by simply dragging your finger from one key to the next. Swype also comes with five free themes to choose from.

The Walking Dead Pinball (£1.49)

The next season of The Walking Dead will air in just a few short weeks. But if you need something to tide you over until then check out The Walking Dead Pinball. Based on the fist Walking Dead game by Telltale games, The Walking Dead Pinball is a fun take on classic pinball games. The board is made up of miniature models of key scenes from the first game (including the St. John’s Dairy Farm, Travelier Motel, Bell Tower, Train & Level Crossing, RV and more) and it has some great ambiance with sound effects, scores, and dialogue from the Telltale game as well.

World Time Widget (£0.69)

Another new feature in iOS 8 is the ability for apps to add widgets in the Notification Center. World Time Widget is an app whose sole purpose is to include a world time widget in Notification Center. You simply launch the app on your iPhone to set the various world time clocks you want to appear and then launch Notification Center to see them. It’s a great app/widget combo for those that need quick and frequent access to world time clocks.

Normal: Battery Analytics (£0.69)

Battery drain is a huge pain for every iPhone user, but the rate at which your battery drains can vary from user to user even if they are using the exact same model of iPhone. That’s because there are plenty of apps which are big battery hogs. That’s where Normal comes in. The app identifies the worst battery hogs on your device and advises you what you can do to get them to stop draining the battery so much. Best of all it shows you a chart for each app that easily explains how much battery life you’ll gain if you delete the app entirely. I had one app that was sucking a whopping 4.5 hours of my battery life. Thanks to this app I found out what it was and now my iPhone lasts much longer on a single charge.

Photo Sphere Camera (free)

Google’s spherical photo app for Android finally comes to iOS. Photo Sphere Camera lets you take 360º photos with your iPhone 4S or above. In that way it’s not too much different than other spherical photo apps for iOS, but Google has done a great job with the user interface. This app looks like it belongs on the iPhone. You can also upload your 360º photos and publish them on Google Maps as soon as you're done shooting.

Sickweather (free)

Sickweather is billed as the first doppler radar for sickness. The app uses social media reports to plot the location of outbreaks of Flu, Norovirus, Pink Eye, Whooping Cough, and 19 other illnesses. If you’re in the US the reports are displayed on a 5 Day radar map so you can see color-coded locals of outbreaks. People in other countries can still use the app to report outbreaks and lookup recent illness reports. Sickweather is the perfect app for both parents with young children and hypochondriacs.

Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past (£1.99)

This X-Men game is one of the funnest I’ve played on the iPhone (it works on the iPad too). If you’re a comic fan you’ll know the storyline already: it’s the future and mutant are being hunted to extinction by the Sentinel robots. Matter of fact the latest X-Men movie was based on this storyline, but this game is based firmly in the comic world, which is obvious from both the artwork and characters used. You can play as Wolverine, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Cyclops, Polaris or Scarlet Witch as you side-scroll through worlds including a post-apocalyptic New York City, Washington D.C., Savage Lands, Asteroid M and more. The gameplay harks back to classic arcade games, but best of all is this game, refreshingly, has no in-app purchases or adverts. Pay once, play forever.

Telegraph Fantasy Football (free)

Football is again upon us and the Telegraph’s fantasy football app wants to put you right in the (fantasy) action. The app features live points scoring during games, private leagues you can form with your friends, public supporter leagues, and even “elite” leagues with real money on the line. A total of £120,000 can be won through the app if you choose your teams wisely.

Notifyr (free)

In OS X 10.10 Yosemite coming this fall Apple has introduced a new feature called Continuity which allows iPhone users to send and receive plain old text messages and phone calls on their Mac. However, Apple’s features leave out support for third-party apps like What’sApp. That’s where Notifyr comes in. Notifyr sends push messages from apps like WhatsApp and Instagram directly to the Notification Center in OS X 10.9. The app pairs your iPhone with your Mac via Bluetooth and once paired the first time, connects automatically each time your devices are in range. Keep in mind you’ll need an iPhone 4S or higher and a relatively recent (last three years) Mac.

Google Analytics (free)

After years of cries for this app from webmasters, Google finally answered their prayers last week. This app is the company’s official mobile version of its Analytics tools that until now have been web-only. The app allows users to monitor all their web and app data from their iPhone including viewing real-time metrics, and delving into audience, acquisition, and behavior metrics. There are actually a lot of third-party Google Analytics apps that offer more features, but we suspect Google is only just getting started with this app. (free) is another app that aims to teach you a foreign language--only this app takes a unique approach to how it teaches you. The app shows you foreign news articles in their native language which you must read. If you don't know what a specific word means, tap on it to see its meaning. Words you tap on are also then saved and made into flashcards and games that are then used to help you commit the unknown words to memory. I love the current news article take as it keeps you abreast of current affairs and works your mind differently than most language learning apps that just ask you to translate generic phrases do. currently can teach you French, English, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Hebrew.

MapHook (free)

Have you ever been walking around somewhere and seen something cool? That something “cool” could be a beautiful piece of street art or a new cafe or even a shirt in a store window. The premise behind MapHook is we all see many cool things each day but there isn’t a good way to make note of what, where, when, and how we felt about what we saw. That’s where this app comes in. It’s a location-based journal that allows us to take on-location notes, photos, and video of the stuff we see and journal about it within the app. The app also allows us to share these entries with others and browse a collection of public entries, which the makers hope will prod people to explore their cities more and become aware of interesting places they didn’t know existed.

Pocket Drive + (£2.99)

Pocket Drive is the iOS file manager Apple forgot. Put this app on your iPhone and it turns it into a wireless hard drive. Launch the app and your iPhone appears in your Mac’s Finder or Windows Explorer as an external drive, then simply drag and drop your files between your PC and iPhone. There’s no syncing or any kind of connection setup to go through. The app just works. The paid version allows you to use all the free space on your iPhone (or iPad) to store files. But there’s also a free version with in-app purchases that gives you 512MB of space for free and allows you to buy more space as you need it. Pocket Drive is the best file manager for iOS I’ve ever used–and that’s saying something, because I’ve used them all. Download it today.

Sharknado: Go Shark Yourself! (free)

The movie event of the summer starts on July 31st when Sharknado 2 debuts on the SyFy network. Until then you can get your Sharknado fix with this app that lets you take funny pictures of yourself being attacked by sharks in unexpected locations like a New York City subway. But there’s also a gaming element to the app as you can fend off sharks with a chainsaw (Sharknado fans will get the reference).

Pedometer++ (free)

Pedometer++ was one of the first apps to take advantage of the iPhone 5s’ M7 motion coprocessor--and it’s still one of the best. I love the app so much because it does one thing only and does it well: it tracks the number of steps you take in a day and displays your results on a beautiful bar chart. The app will also show you if you’re on track to hitting your step goal each day, which you can configure in the app’s settings. So often fitness apps try to be everything to everyone, but Pedometer++ wisely knows that sometimes people just want a simple fitness tracking solution.


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