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The 50 Best Free iPhone Apps of 2013

  • Category: Features
Date:11/26/2013

By Jill Duff

The way to get the most out of your iPhone, whether it's a brand-new iPhone 5s or an older model, is to load it up with great apps. Of course, all those microcharges for 99-cent apps can add up, which is why you're doing yourself a favor by finding the best free ones that are available. Why pay for an app when a free alternative can do the job just as well? In many cases, they do.

Many free apps are best in class, but a whole bunch are duds, and you don't want to waste your time with those. We sort through hundreds of apps a year (probably thousands if you count those we check out for reference but don't actually review) looking for those special apps that work well or accomplish some feat you didn't even know you needed done, but also don't cost a dime.

This list highlights 50 apps, across a number of genres, that we think have shown outstanding performance, have been well received by a variety of technology users, and are truly "free." No gimmicks, no "membership required" or in-app purchase necessary. Free. Period.

Missing from this list are apps and features that come pre-installed on the iPhone, although they are certainly not to be ignored. In particular, Apple's apps for iTunes, Music, and the App Store typically see a fair share of well-deserved usage, but I suppose you technically paid for them because you bought the phone, so they're not really free, are they? In any case, you don't need to choose to download them, so we're not listing them here.

Games aren't heavily featured on this list, in part because a lot of the good ones aren't free—for more iPhone game recommendations, including paid apps, see "The 30 Best iPhone Games."

To see the 50 best free iPhone apps, which are listed alphabetically, click through the "next page" links below to find 10 apps listed per page; or click through the slideshow via the graphic below if you prefer (or use the print function to get them all on one page). For even more recommendations, see "The 100 Best iPhone Apps," which includes paid apps as well.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Adobe Photoshop Express

Digital photography editing has, until recently, been a task best suited for desktop and laptop computers, but Adobe proved that it could be done in the mobile space with Photoshop Express, a free photo-editing application for the iPhone and other iOS devices. Photoshop Express is a powerhouse of a mobile app and can even handle noise reduction (getting rid of those extraneous particles that show up on photos). All in all, Adobe Photoshop Express is a solid tool for making light photo edits on your iPhone.


Any.do

List-making and task-management app Any.do has a unique feature called the Any.do moment, which encourages making a habit of reviewing your daily tasks. This sophisticated app includes time and date reminders, as well as geolocation reminders, which work surprisingly well. Overall, Any.do is great iPhone app for jotting down tasks and goals, and keeping yourself committed to doing them.


Asana

If you use the powerful and collaborative task-management platform Asana, you'll definitely want to install the free Asana iPhone app. It's an essential piece of the Asana puzzle, and it's also a great little to-do app, if that's all you want to use it for. Free Asana members can collaborate with up to 30 people.


BillGuard

The BillGuard app connects you to your online credit card statements and flags merchants who frequently charge consumers for products or services they've either forgotten about or they didn't know they were requesting. If another company is providing this kind of fantastic service as well or better than BillGuard, we haven't heard of it yet. BillGuard is one personal finance app to keep on your side.


Bitcasa

New to the cloud syncing and storage wars is Bitcasa, which works beautifully on iPhones and offers 10GB of space for free, which is whole heaping lot. For $99 a year, you can get "infinite" storage. Because of the ample space, it's extremely useful for mobile video backup. The interface is great, too.


Brewster

The Brewster iPhone app may be one of the most visually appealing contact managers you'll find, tapping into multiple social networks for images of people you know. It insists on having access to your iPhone Contacts and either Twitter or Facebook to work, though.


Cloze

The iPhone app Cloze collects tweets, emails, Facebook posts, and other bits of communication from your contacts and prioritizes them based on people who are most relevant to you. In other words, if my colleague tweets three times, posts on Facebook twice, and shares an article on LinkedIn all in a single day, I can see all that activity in one shot in Cloze. It's a wonderful tool for getting relevant information about people in your network.


Converter Plus
This all-in-one calculation app, Converter Plus, delivers numbers on nearly everything, from currency conversions to loan-interest figures. It converts metric to imperial measurements for temperature, cooking volumes, length, and more.


Dashlane

Dashlane is an elegant and secure app that acts as a digital wallet backup, password manager, and more. It can automatically save information from when you make purchases online, so you don't have to keep track of them via email confirmations. The data that Dashlane stores remains encrypted until you unlock the app. The app and basic service are free, although if you like Dashlane, you will probably want to upgrade your account to Premium ($4.99 per month, or $39.99 per year, or "free" if you earn enough points in the app for referring friends and completing other challenges) to get even more automated functionality. Previously, syncing was included free with Dashlane but it is now a Premium feature (although existing users from before the change are grandfathered in and won't lose their free syncing). —Next: Digg to Gate Guru >


Digg

A recent update this year to the Digg iPhone app added one huge new feature: Digg Reader. Digg Reader is the brand-new RSS feed reader from Digg. Digg Reader is a wonderful replacement to Google Reader for who wanted to replace Reader with some service that had a good mobile app. The use of space on the iPhone is great. If Digg doesn't tickle your fancy, take a look at Feedly (listed a little later in this article).


Dropbox
If your files live all over the place—your office computer, home desktop, laptop—having a dependable syncing program is a must. Dropbox, the service and productivity tool that lets you store your files in the cloud and access them from anywhere you have a signal, fills that role nicely with a Dropbox iPhone app. It has a simple interface, easy uploading, and swift syncing across all accounts.


Duolingo

Could your learning a new language somehow add value to other people all over the world? It's a strange idea that plays out when you use the free language learning Web app Duolingo (4 stars), which now has an iPhone app as well. Among free mobile apps for language-learning, the Duolingo iPhone app is easily the best. A recent update makes your next lessons available offline, so you can continue learning even when you're not connected to the Internet.


EasilyDo

The free iPhone app EasilyDo works as a personal assistant and automation machine. You connect the app to a variety of online services, such as your email, calendar, Facebook account, and so forth, and EasilyDo looks for things it can help you get easily done. For example, a notification might ask you if you'd like EasilyDo to add the contact details of someone who has recently emailed you to your address book. Or it might spot an upcoming birthday of a friend and let you set up a "happy birthday" post to their timeline in advance. It's an amazing productivity app that helps you take care of a variety of tasks quickly and efficiently.


ESPN Score Center
ESPN's free app lets you check the game quickly, and discreetly when necessary (that is, with your phone under the dinner table), for your favorite teams in more sports than most other apps. It can pull game data from baseball, basketball, American football, the sport the rest of the world calls football (soccer, in the U.S.), ice hockey, cricket, rugby, and more.


Evernote

Without the Evernote app for iPhone, I'd be a lot less productive while away from my desk. This free, straightforward note-making app outrivals most competing apps thanks to its strong search capabilities and effortless organization. But the real key to its success and popularity is that Evernote synchronizes all your files by saving them to a cloud service, meaning anything you create or alter from your iPhone will be waiting for you when you log into any other version of Evernote. I use Evernote to write, take notes, and even snap pictures of whiteboards and PowerPoint slides in meetings, so I can remember details later.


Feedly
Flipboard curates content from your social networks and websites you like, from magazines to blogs, and turns them into stunning magazine-like digital pages. Flipboard absolutely shines on the iPad, where it first debuted because it takes full advantage of all the possible swiping gestures with both visual and interactive grace. On the smaller iPhone, it's still quite elegant.


Flipboard

Flipboard curates content from your social networks and websites you like, from magazines to blogs, and turns them into stunning magazine-like digital pages. Flipboard absolutely shines on the iPad, where it first debuted because it takes full advantage of all the possible swiping gestures with both visual and interactive grace. On the smaller iPhone, it's still quite elegant.


GAIN Fitness

The iPhone app GAIN Fitness acts as a total workout buddy, coaching you through a fully customized exercise routine as often (or seldom) as you want. The free app comes preloaded with a variety of exercises for a complete body workout, and it's more than enough to keep you from getting bored week after week. Optional in-app purchases can add special workouts, like yoga


GateGuru

No matter what app you use to book your travel arrangements or manage your frequent flier miles, you'll still want to pack GateGuru on your next trip to the airport. The free app is chockfull of suggestions and reviews pertaining to airports: food, retail, services, and even the amount of time needed to travel between gates and terminals. The next time you're stuck with a long layover and no idea if you can make it to the cleaner bathrooms by Gate B7, just consult GateGuru for some advice.—Next: Gmail to Mint.com >


Gmail

Speed, better search functions, and color-coded threading make the standalone Gmail iPhone app preferable to the built-in Mail app (where you can access Gmail). Google's Gmail app gives users another choice for managing email. It allows iPhone users to decide what they want in an email app. Do you value search capability over text displayed at readable sizes? Is it more important for your various email accounts to be managed in one app, as Mail arranges them, or would you rather have a dedicated app just for Gmail that looks more like Gmail on the Web, with color-coded threading? The Gmail app searches your entire email so much easier and faster than the pre-installed Mail app.


Google Maps

With beautiful, smooth, vector-based map animation, and accurate routing, Google Maps is our favorite map app for the iPhone. It's adept at pedestrian directions, car navigation, and local transit instructions where applicable. Beautiful satellite data and Street Views enhance an already excellent experience. Google Maps will get you where you need to go.

Google Search

Google Search
Search giant Google has many excellent free apps (as evidenced by the fact that more than one is on this very list), but its namesake search app recently got a refresh on the iPhone to include some pretty special features. It's no longer just a search app, but more of a personal assistant. It can save your home and work addresses, for instance, to give you precise directions how to get back to those two location from anywhere you are. It also has "cards" or little customizable alert cards that show the latest score of your favorite sports teams, up-to-date stock quotes, the weather forecast, and more. There's a lot to explore in this little app, and, considering it's free, you'll definitely get your money's worth. (Just be sure to toggle off location services when you don't need them to spare your battery!)


Google Translate
With more than 30 languages supported and delivering impressively accurate results most of the time, the Google Translate app is one of the most remarkable programs you can load onto your iPhone. Most people probably won't need it too often, except when traveling or studying a language, but it can be amazingly useful in unexpected circumstances.


IMDb Movies & TV
"What was the name of that movie… the one with Ally Sheedy and Fisher Stevens?" The next time you can't remember the name of an actor, television show, or film (Short Circuit, by the way) IMDb saves the day. One of the handiest reference websites on the planet, IMDb never fails when it comes to looking up anything that has to do with TV, film, or Hollywood. The IMDb Movies & TV app also lets you find which movies are playing at your local cinema, and even purchase tickets. With an IMDb account (free or paid for Pro), the app provides even more features, like the ability to create a watchlist of movies you want to see.


Kayak
Much like the full website Kayak.com, the Kayak iPhone app is one of the best travel search and booking apps you'll find. Formerly, Kayak only performed searches without letting you pre-pay for flight, hotel, and car reservations—but no more. Now, you can book through Kayak (or occasionally a partner, but still without leaving the Kayak app), to get the best deals on airfare and many other travel arrangements. For complex travel needs in particular, Kayak is aces.


LevelUp

LevelUp is an iPhone and Android app that lets you make purchases using your credit card via QR codes that the app displays. Participating merchants simply scan the QR code on your screen, which initiates a credit card transaction, and you're on your way.


LinkedIn
In this fast-paced, high-pressure world where business blends with the personal all too often, an app like LinkedIn's turns out to be pretty useful to have at your fingertips. If you've ever found yourself wanting to suggest a new potential connection to a friend, associate, or colleague, the LinkedIn app is the one you want. It's the central place where you can find all those "loose ties," the acquaintances that turn out to be the most valuable to our career advancement and overall success.


MenuPages
The free app and website MenuPages keeps a database of restaurant menus, with prices included. If you've ever gritted your teeth at online restaurant menus that omits prices, try MenuPages for unbiased information. Admittedly, MenuPages is not a great for every locale, but, in major U.S. cities, it's awesome—especially when Yelp's recommendations seem skewed by college students who give five-star ratings to fast-food burgers and less-than-fresh sushi. With MenuPages, you can make your own decisions about a restaurant's dishes and prices. The app and website won't give you much insight into quality, but it will help you quickly weed out places that are too pricey or don't serve the kind of food you have in mind. It's also useful for ordering take-out.


Mint.com

The website and service Mint.com helps you keep detailed accounts of your finances by connecting to all your financial accounts (and then some) and tracking all the money you earn and spend. The Mint.com iPhone app extends the experience so users can keep an eye on their spending better while on the go. The app gives you deep insight into how you're spending your money and whether you're sticking to the budget you've created in Mint. It's one of the best personal finance apps you'll find.— Next: Onavo Extend to Smartr Contacts >


Onavo Extend

The free app Onavo Extend compresses data automatically to help you reduce data usage on your phone. In other words, it will save you money if you typically exceed your mobile service plan's data allotment. Additionally, anyone traveling abroad with an iPhone should absolutely have Onavo installed. Learn the settings well, and watch your data usage decrease without you having to do anything else.


ooVoo

OoVoo is an ambitious little app. It supports video calls, voice calls, group video, and IM. And that's across a number of major platforms—iOS, OS X, Android, and Windows. Past experiences with video chat apps have taught us that more features does not necessarily equal a better experience if performance flags. Luckily, ooVoo delivers across the board. Super smooth communication makes this app shine. It's one of the few video chat apps on which you feel like you can have a real conversation.


PBS Parent Play & Learn

PBS Parents Play and Learn is a unique app designed to help parents incorporate learning activities into everyday life. It's great for parents (and aunties, uncles, big sisters, grandparents, baby sitters...) who want new ways to teach young kids reading and math skills. Games in the app are recommended for ages 2 and up. This is a must-have free app for anyone who needs to entertain a child every now and again.


Pinterest

Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that lets you organize and share all pictures of anything you find online or in your life. With the app on your iPhone, it's easy to snap photos in the real world and upload them to your boards. You can watch what others are pinning on Pinterest, and sometimes, the items are for sale and can be purchased by following a link out to the retailer's site. It's a great tool for collecting and browsing images of things you like or that inspire you.


QuizUp

QuizUp (free) is a social iPhone trivia game with an impress array of more than 250 quiz topics that amount to 150,000 questions. You can play against strangers or challenge a friend, and games are fast, wrapping up in about a minute or so.


Runtastic
Runtastic, despite its name, is a comprehensive activity-tracking app. You can use it not only for running, but also cycling, walking, hiking, kayaking, and a whole bunch of other activities. I love the data it outputs as well as the interface. While I do recommend dedicated runners and fitness enthusiasts pony up the $4.99 for the paid version of this app, Runtastic PRO, the free one is actually pretty awesome. Sure, you'll miss out on a few features that I really enjoy, such as auto-pause (for when you're running on streets with stoplights), but the basic app delivers on all the basics and then some.


Seamless – Free Food Delivery & Takeout Service
The Seamless iPhone app lets you place an order for delivery food without all the miscommunication problems inherent in calling in your dinner by phone. Online menus and pre-paid bills make Seamless a much better ordering solution for both hungry people and restaurant owners. Everybody wins. Well, almost everyone. The one hesitation I have about including Seamless on this list of the best free iPhone apps is because it's only available in a limited number of major cities: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington DC. It's a shame that it's not available in more places, but for the millions of people who do live in those areas, Seamless is a convenient and wonderful app to have.


Shazam
If you hear a song and don't know what it is (or for the life of you, can't remember who sings it)—Shazam to the rescue! Launch Shazam and hold it as close as you can to the speakers, then let her rip. Within a few seconds, the app will tell you the title, artist, and sometimes even find the album art, too. Shazam is a whiz with most radio-play songs, new and old, originals and covers, but it occasionally gets stumped by obscure b-sides.


Slacker Radio

When I ask my colleagues at PCMag which music streaming service they like best, someone always mentions Slacker Radio, and everyone else's heads start nodding. The same outstanding service you'll find in Slacker Radio's online version is on the iPhone and has been for a long enough time for the company to have massaged the interface and performance to the point that you can appreciate it audibly.


Smart Contacts

Need to find a specific person in your network in a hurry? Smartr Contacts provides great search functionality across your many address books, including your iPhone Contacts, Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts, and Gmail. The iPhone app Smartr Contacts hooks into all those different contact lists, and its designed to be more useful for searching rather than browsing.—Next: Spaceteam to YouTube >


Spaceteam

In the quirky and collaborative game Spaceteam, players act as the crew of a spaceship, shouting commands to one another until someone in the group has the right buttons on their screen to carry out the tasks. This unique and silly iPhone game is definitely one to check out with your whole family or a group of friends.


Stitcher Radio
If, like me, you have not been happy with the way Apple broke out podcast functionality from its Music and iTunes apps and into its own Podcast app, the Stitcher Radio is the app for you. It's a great alternative for keeping up with all your audio shows. You can stream your shows or download them for offline listening. You'll hear the occasional advertisement and see small ads on some screens, but not too often.


SugarSync

One of our favorite file-syncing services, SugarSync added an iPhone app to its offering in 2011. SugarSync gives you access to your files from a multitude of devices, no matter if you store them on your laptop at home, desktop computer at the office, tablet, and so on. You can use SugarSync to stream music, back-up photos, collaborate on projects, and more.


TED by TED Conferences
TED's tagline is "Ideas worth spreading," and what better way to spread the ideas from this series of education, explorative, and motivational talks than by carrying them with you wherever you go. TED once was a highly exclusive conference, closed off even to most press, and the organization's greatest accomplishment to date has been to open up the knowledge that comes from its speakers by making videos of their presentations and performances available online to the public. This official TED app works for both iPhone and iPad. If you're unfamiliar with TED, give Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight presentation a try. You'll be hooked.


Twitter
If you tweet, download the free Twitter app. If you don't tweet and have been on the fence about joining the masses, the iPhone app makes it easy and convenient to get on board the 140-character social network, or just watch what others discuss on the site without actually participating if you prefer to be a silent lurker. It's true that since iOS 5, a lot of Twitter functionality is now directly integrated into the iPhone so you can tweet photos or links that you want to share with greater ease. But you still need the Twitter app (or another Twitter client) to read tweets, see when other people mention you, and fully participate in the social experience.


Voxer Walkie-Talkie PPT

PPT stands for push-to-talk, and it's not a new technology by any stretch. Walkie-talkies have utilized it since their invention, CB radios made it mainstream, and cell phones have had PTT over cellular on and off for a while. Voxer makes PTT not just useful on smartphones, but maybe a life-changer because of its ease-of-use... assuming you can get your friends and family to also download the free app (Android version available, too). Voxer's interface is a lot like the Messages interface on iOS. You see a list of all your friends also using the service. It's a wonderful and free communication app that's well worth downloading.


Untappd

Beer enthusiasts have flocked to Untappd to keep track of the brews they drink and their tasting notes. The app also lets you save beers you'd like to try, see reviews from other beer fans, look up nearby watering holes, and more. The app itself could use some improvement, but the community and database of brews is fantastic and make it one of the best apps a hobbyist beer-drinking can have.

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WebMD
WebMD is much more than a diagnosis app, although you certainly can use it to input symptoms you are experiencing and find some clues as to what's ailing you. It also contains listings for healthcare professionals and pharmacies in your area, as well as first-aid guides—simple instructions for dealing with an emergency that everyone should have accessible to them at any time. This free reference app is one you hope you don't need, but the moment you do, you'll be glad you downloaded it.


Wikipedia
Half the fun of having a smartphone is looking things up when you're in the middle of a bar bet—and hopefully proving yourself right. Wikipedia is the go-to source for fact-checking in the mobile age, and the Wikipedia app usually returns results faster than a mobile search engine.


Yelp

The most comprehensive review app, Yelp turns out to be an invaluable tool for finding businesses nearby, especially when you're in a town you don't know well. Yelp's mobile app has helped me find a hairdresser when I was in a pinch in Washington DC, and a suitable lunch while driving through Ohio (shout-out to Moreland Hills!). Need to find an acupuncturist in Austin? Or the most popular coffee shop in Charlotte (emphasis on "popular" and not necessarily "best," by the way)? Yelp's the app to do it.


YouTube
Formerly, YouTube came preinstalled on iPhones, but that's no longer the case. If you buy a new iPhone 5 , you'll want to install the YouTube app so that you can get quick access to all kinds of videos, from movie trailers to tutorials. I've relied on YouTube on my iPhone to figure out so many things in life that I am too embarrassed to ask someone else to teach me, from how to install additional RAM on my laptop to how to knit in the round. I thank my lucky stars it's free.

This article is in partnership with PCMag.com.