What's the point in carrying a tiny supercomputer round in your pocket all day if you're not going to use it to make yourself a bit more productive? iPhones and iPads are great at keeping us busy with distractions like games or the latest Netflix series, but you can also use them to give yourself a bit more time in the day to enjoy those distractions. In this article we've rounded up a few apps that might help you do just that.
If you're looking for tablet-specific tools, then be sure to also read How to use your iPad for work.
If you're looking to up your note-taking game, Evernote is still the best place to start. You can take notes in a variety of different formats (including images), sync them across your devices, share them, and search within them to quickly find what you're looking for. The big benefit Evernote has over the competition is that it integrates with a whole host of other apps and services, helping it fit play nicely with the rest of your workflow.
There are some restriction on the Basic (Free) tier, such as a monthly upload limit of 60MB, a maximum note size of 25MB, syncing only two devices, plus access to content offline available solely on the desktop version.
So, if this is too strict for your needs then you'll want to upgrade to the Premium plan which also add features like searching and annotating PDFs, linking with Google Drive files, as well as being able to forward email to your Evernote account.
As the name might suggest, Spendee is a budgeting app that can help you manage your personal finances. All of your spending habits are displayed in a selection of attractive graphs and charts, and it can handle multiple currencies for when you travel abroad too. Everything is then synced across multiple devices, including a browser version and an Apple Watch app.
If you pick up the paid premium version for £2.79/$2.99 a month, then you can create and manage multiple wallets and budgets, including shared ones - in case you have communal spending with your family or flatmates.
There are plenty of to-do list apps out there (and a couple more in this list), but Todoist is one of the classics, and it's still got plenty going for it. It's available across more than 10 different platforms, so you can track what you have to get done across just about every device you own, online and offline.
Tasks can be broken down into sub-tasks, shared with other users for collaborative progress, colour-coded for different priority levels, and set to recur, while paid add-ons include attachments, reminders, labels, and filters. Throw in the attractive, minimalist design, and it's easy to see why Todoist has stuck around for so long.
Basic tier is free, allowing you to create up to 80 projects and share them with up to 5 people, or there's the Premium tier for £3/$3.99 p/m which increases both allowances while also introducing reminders, comments, file uploads, labels, filters, and trends.
OK, sure, we're not exactly pushing the boat out by recommending Google Docs here, but there's good reason for that. For one thing, Google's online Office equivalents are among the most fully-featured out there, and for the most part you can happily shift all of your writing, spreadsheets, and presentations onto the system without losing any functionality.
But the other big advantage is Google itself. It means Docs is fully integrated into the rest of the Google ecosystem, ideal if you already use Gmail or any other Google platforms. It also means there's a good chance you already have Docs in your office, and that a lot of the other productivity apps on this list will integrate with Docs, which should help to keep your life a bit more streamlined - which is probably the reason you're here.
In the straightforward sense, Forest doesn't really do anything. It doesn't let you take notes, plan your calendar, share documents, or anything like that. But it could, in theory, help you get better at doing all of those things.
The idea is pretty simple. If you want to get on with some task, you plant a tree within the app. If you can stay in Forest for a set period of time, the tree will grow. If you get distracted and open Facebook, it will wither and die. The more successfully you work and resist distractions, the bigger your virtual forest. Sure, it's a bit silly, but we've heard of worse ways to keep yourself motivated.
Streaks is another app that doesn't directly let you do anything that you couldn't do before, but should help you form the habits you need to just be a bit more productive in general. You choose up to twelve tasks that you want to be regular habits. Complete one, and you extend your streak. Fail to, and it resets. It's that simple.
Tasks are set to daily by default, but can instead be weekdays-only or three days a week, or whatever else you can come up with. It also syncs with the iOS Health app to track your steps, heart rate, and more for specific goals. Oh, and it works on the Apple Watch too, to make things even easier.
Forgive the unpronounceable name, IFTTT is probably worth it. It stands for 'If This, Then That', and it allows users to create 'applets' combining the actions of a variety of apps under certain conditions.
You could set your music to start playing when you get home, or to add any Facebook photos you're tagged into a specific album, or any number of other combinations. IFTTT claims to work with over 360 apps, and is regularly expanding its selection of triggers and actions so it can automate even more of your life.
There are few elements of modern life more tedious than filing expenses. Thankfully, there's an app for that. Shoeboxed is pretty simple: it uses your iPhone camera to scan receipts and store digital copies of them, allowing you to get rid of all those crumpled bits of fading paper cluttering up your 'miscellaneous stuff' drawer.
The app can use your GPS to track mileage, and receipts are actually scanned and turned into text, rather than just left as photos, for easy use in other software and apps, and it'll import email receipts from Gmail too. You can even have them printed out and sent in a 'magic envelope' to anyone who insists on receiving physical copies.
There are various paid tiers, but the 30-day free trial gives you the chance to test out whether Shoeboxed is for you before adding another receipt to your collection.
Habitica is another motivational, habit-forming app - but with a pretty crucial difference. The whole app is 16-bit RPG themed, turning chores and tasks into quests and hopefully making everyday life just a little more epic.
You can set real-world rewards (like getting to watch TV or eat a treat), level up, unlock new gear, and even team up with other people to defeat monsters by generally all being a little more productive in your day-to-day lives. Admittedly, if you don't know your Final Fantasy from your Chrono Trigger you might not get as much out of it, but for those of us weaned on epic RPGs, it's a great way to make flossing your teeth every night feel a little less mundane.
Passwords are, frankly, bloody annoying. A necessary evil of the modern world, we’re all stuck either using one password everywhere, with all the obvious security risks that involves, or using different ones on every site and inevitably forgetting them every time we actually need to use them.
1Password is intended to be slice through this particularly modern Gordian knot. It stores passwords for hundreds of websites and apps behind one secure Master Password - or a pin or fingerprint on your iPhone, if you prefer. It's free for the first 30 days, but costs £3.49/$3.99p/m if you decide you'd like to keep using it beyond that.
To see how it compares to other services, read our Best password managers for iPhone guide.