Stock App Upgrades: iOS

There’s an app for that, but most are junk…

Accurate Weather

Winner: Dark Sky

The top choice is Dark Sky, a big improvement over the stock Weather Channel data. Scary accurate predictions of impending forecast changes and interactidve Doppler radar make it a complete weather tracking toolkit.

Updates have become less frequent as it comes of age, but there’s little need for them with the polished interface we see today. Data collection and battery use are both minimal, a big plus for today’s devices.

I’ve used it for seven years and it’s saved me from many bad alpine decisions. That alone justifies the price when the stock app says “Mostly Sunny” when it’s actually raining.

A brief security note: There are a lot of shady weather apps on the App Store that do a lot more than serve up the forecast. We found several by the same developer in China that harvest contacts and mine crypto currencies. This has since been addressed by Apple in new developer guidelines explicitly prohibiting both practices.

Cost: $5

Runner-Up: Hello Weather

 A Better Mail Client:

Winner: Apple Mail Airmail

The best mobile mail client for 2018 is Apple Mail. It’s become independent of iOS, receiving updates and supports encryption on mobile; something Airmail is yet to even test in beta.

Edison is worth a look, but truth be told Mail by Apple wins this one for overall stability; the only metric to measure such an important entity. Airmail failed to pass our security tests in rendering scripts as well as other stability issues.

The advanced user might want to look into Airmail or Edison for features the simpler native app lacks. In my opinion, simplicity rules on mobile and Apple has that figured out.

Cost: Free

Runner-Up: Email by Edison

Camera Features

Winner: Halide – RAW Manual Camera

Enter the realm of camera apps, and there’s a lot, but most offer the same features: stabilizer, exposure, RAW output, etc.

We could only find two worth buying, and of the two, Halide won. For the serious iPhotographers missing out on Portrait Mode, it added an AR mode to create a realistic background blur.

Adding software portrait mode was pivotal, justifying the purchase on the 5, 6s and 8 we tested it with. Additional power on iPhone 8 Plus and X isn’t necessary other than for RAW support.

The interface has seen some changes in recent updates. The built-in photo gallery seems redundant and is annoying to use, but it’s simple to avoid altogether. Overall,

Cost: $5

Navigating The Right Way

Winner: Apple Maps (2018 Update)

Updated- Apple wins, iOS 11.3 update knocks out Google Maps:

In June we tested both side-by-side navigating in San Francisco. Google Maps never did us wrong; Apple failed 5/10 times to provide us with the quickest route or missed a detail like one-way streets or turn-only lanes.

2018 Update: Google had faster predicted times, but upon arrival, we were roughly about 1-2 minutes “late.” Waze always predicted the shortest time and never once delivered on it. Apple curbs this anxiety by giving a small buffer allowing a more accurate arrival time. You may be late, but you won’t feel like it’s your fault.

Security note: Privacy is a bit of an issue with Google, think Facebook data multiplied exponentially. Hidden settings need to be disabled in order for Google Maps. Sharing and storing your locations, travel times and a whole lot more isn’t for us, we will stick with Apple who doesn’t monetize apps by selling user data.

Cost: Free

Runner-Up: Waze 

Task Automation

Winner: Workflow

Apple bought this once high-priced app and offers it for free on the App Store. The perks of Workflow shine in the widget. I like the ‘Home ETA’: Swipe, tap, and you’re navigating home without any other interaction.

Workflow not only saves time by eliminating redundant tasks but adds tons of presets for each type of user. For the fitness savvy, there are loads of workflows for weight, caffeine, sleep, steps and all the rest. A library of growing macros makes this app more useful with each update of iOS.

Cost: Free 

Collaborative Notes

Winner: Evernote

Collaborate, draw, paste and format content quickly with Evernote. The free version syncs to two devices, which is good enough for most users, upgrading isn’t expensive. Attach nearly anything to the notes, send or save them; Evernote has been around long enough that its integration is vast and the platform very polished.

We like it for team collaboration, plus the text editor is super sturdy. While the stock app has added the ability to share and add photos, it’s a long way off from the power of these 3rd-party alternatives. 

If you want a replacement for the Reminders app, look no further than Things. It’s not cheap, but it is very useful for task-oriented users.

Cost: Free

Runner-Up: Microsoft OneNote 

(Things would be here but they charge you $20-30 for each device (iPhone, iPad, Desktop) which disqualifies it due to the this monetization strategy.

 

 

All images sourced from and property of the App Store

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