Favorite iOS Apps of 2012

Favorite iOS Apps of 2012

Perhaps the most tired cliché in all of publishing is the end-of-the-year “Best of” list. But since this hasn’t been the most scintillating spot for intellectual conversation in the blogosphere lately, you’ll have to take what you can get.

Actually, I’d written a post like this last year, but I managed to accidentally delete the post–after hours of work–before uploading it. Alas, you will never know what were my favorite iOS apps of 2011. But rejoice, because now you can hear about my favorites of 2012! Let’s get right to it.

N.B. Click the images for larger versions of the screenshots.


Google Chrome

My preferred web browser on all platforms is Google Chrome. Not only is it faster and less prone to memory leaks than either Firefox or Safari, the browser extensions are great (with some that you can’t find for either of the other two)[1] and the syncing among all your computers and devices works great.

This year, Google brought Chrome[2] to iOS and I’ve been using it whenever I have a choice. First, it allowed syncing of tabs before iOS 6 brought it to Safari and since I only use Chrome on my Mac, this is the only way to syncs them. I can also access any individual tab on any of my devices, like my work Mac, my laptop, our kitchen computer, my iPad, or my iPhone, from any of the other devices. Can’t tell you how handy that’s been.

Now the downside. Apple doesn’t allow you to switch default browsers for iOS. While individual developers can choose to you the option, you can’t (unless Apple changes its mind in a future iOS update) have a link in your email, say, open up in Chrome as long as you’re using the stock Mail app on your iOS device. (Of course, you could use the Gmail app, if you’re using Gmail, and then get links to open in Chrome.

Chrome is free to download.

Tweetbot for iPad

Tweetbot for iPad

Tweetbot, the awesome and popular Twitter client, was one of my picks for 2011 for it’s iPhone version, but 2012 brought us the iPad version, specially constructed to take advantage of the larger screen.

I’ve tried many Twitter clients for iOS. (At least fifteen by my rough estimate.) Tweetbot is the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. The interface is intuitive and makes reading your tweets a pleasure. A very nice feature is the ability to synchronize between devices so you can pick up on your iPad where you left off in Tweetbot for iPhone or Tweetbot for Mac. Also, not to be underestimated is the ability to monitor several separate Twitter accounts which benefits those who have split personalities or who need to access work and personal accounts.

Tweetbot for iPad is $2.99.[3]

Drafts for iPhone and iPad


At first glance, Drafts (for iPhone and iPad) looks like a simple notepad app. When you first launch it, you’re presented with a blank screen and a couple of icons. Each time you open it, you’re presented with a blank slate to work with, while your previous notes are available with the tap of an icon.

Where Drafts really comes into its own is its integration with other apps on your device. Type some text into the note screen, tap the share button, and you can have a long list of actions to take with the text: Email it; Tweet it; post it to Facebook; send as an SMS/Message; Print it; Add as an item or note to Omnifocus; Create a Reminder; Create a calendar event; Save it as a text file to Dropbox or append it to another file; Save it to Evernote; Send it to a dozen different text editors or social media apps. The list goes on and on.

I like to use it to take meeting notes at work and then send them right into Evernote for long-term storage. It’s also handy for quickly creating a calendar meeting or appointment, especially in conjunction with another favorite, Fantastical (see below). And by keeping it in my Dock, it’s available for quick launch. Drafts is just a very versatile toolbox disguised as a simple notepad.

iPhone version is $2.99 and iPad version is $3.99.

Fantastical for iPhone

Fantastical for iPhoneAs with Twitter clients, I’ve tried a number of different calendar apps to find the one that works best. My calendar needs are somewhat complex with my personal calendar in iCloud, another personal calendar in Google that subscribes to my wife’s Google calendar; and a work calendar in Google, plus any number of subcategories in each. Getting all of my calendar items to show without having any duplicates has been difficult for most apps to accomplish.

Fantastical isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve been using the OS X version for some time and on the Mac, it sits in your menu bar and when you want to add a calendar event, you click on it and then start typing in plain English. The app has enough smarts to figure out the who, what, when, where, and why of your event and parse the different parts into the appropriate fields. The iOS app does the same thing, as well as displaying your calendars in a uninque day-at-a-time view.

Where other apps like Calvetica and Agenda display events in a pleasing manner, entering new events is a much greater hassle than it should be. Fantastical makes it much simpler. And if you have a newer iPhone you can simply dictate the event to the app. What could be easier?

Fantastical is $3.99. It’s not a Universal app and there is no iPad version yet, but the iPhone version works fine on the iPad.

Just Landed for iPhone

Just LandedThis is an app that you’re not going to use all that often, but provides a handy service that most of us can appreciate. Many people have experience with having to pick someone up at the airport and while there are apps that can tell you whether a flight is on time, Just Landed goes a step further.

In addition to tracking a particular flight, it also notes your location in relation to the airport and monitors traffic conditions in between, calculating the best time for you to leave where you are to get to the airport as the plane lands. It even provides notifications to you when the app isn’t open.

While the plane is in the air, you can see it’s estimated time of arrival and even the terminal and gate number, as well as a countdown to when you should leave. When you arrive at the terminal you are given the option of sending a text message to the person you’re picking up alerting them that you’ve arrived. When the plane lands you’re sent a notification and even told which baggage claim area you should go to.

This isn’t a multitasking wonder. Just Landed does one thing and it does it so well, you’ll want it on your phone always.

Just Landed is $0.99.

Day One

Day One for iPad

In a sense, my pick of Day One (iPhone and iPad versions are separate) is for the app on both iOS and OS X. This beautifully designed app lets you keep a journal or diary. You’re not the “Dear Diary” type? That’s okay, because you can use it to keep track of anything that will benefit from chronological entries. Track the progress of projects. Document meetings at work. Keep track of your children’s school assignments. Write drafts of blog posts.

The iOS and OS X apps sync via iCloud or Dropbox so that you always have access to all your entries. (And it’s all password-protected so you can feel free to be as honest as you want to be.) But the iOS version has a few added features, namely it can automatically add the location of your entry as well as the weather. Both versions let you include photos and on iOS you can add snap the photo with the camera right then and there. If you link to your Foursquare account

You can “star” favorite entries; put tags on them for organization; show your timeline as a list or on a calendar or list them by year.

It’s like your a blog or social network for your eyes only.

Day One is $4.99 each for the iPhone and iPad versions which must be purchased separately.

Sara Jenkins’ New Italian Pantry

Sara Jenkins New Italian Pantry

This is a relatively recent addition to my iPad and while I haven’t delved deeply into the recipes yet, Sara Jenkins’ New Italian Pantry still one of my favorite apps of the year due to its beautiful design and unmistakable promise.

Jenkins is a New York chef who owns an Italian restaurant and an Italian sandwich shop. What sets the app from other cooking apps is that it’s designed to help you cook in the classic spontaneous Italian style, where you cook creatively from your pantry and whatever the market has available.

To that end, the app starts with a visual list of 16 core Italian pantry ingredients as assembled by Jenkins that give the mximum variety. The user selects which ones he has in his pantry as well as whatever main ingredients you have or are considering–chicken quarters and asparagus, say–and then the app generates a list of recipes using those ingredients.

Each of the 16 pantry items has an accompanying video narrated by Jenkins explaining the ingredient , how to select it, and her take on it in Italian cuisine. The app also starts up with a video that explains the entire concept and while it’s a good introduction, I wish it didn’t automatically play every single time you launched the app. (You can stop it and move past to the main menu, but it’s a bit of friction in an otherwise nicely designed app.)

New Italian Pantry is $3.99 and is iPad only.

And that’s my list of favorite iOS Apps introduced in 2012 (or that I installed in the year anyway.) Next up is my list of iOS Apps with Best Updates in 2012 and my favorite OS X Apps in 2012.

  1. To be clear, none of the iOS versions of these browsers allow the use of extensions.  ↩


  3. All links go to the iTunes Store.  ↩


  5. Prices were current as of publication date of this post.  ↩



1 comment
  • I use Chrome and Safari where I can use the strengths of both.  Reader on Safari is still one of my favorite browser implementations and while I can use Instapaper on any browser, being able to format instantly is great.  I still need to remember to use Chrome more on iOS.

    Well TweetBot has become my Twitter client of choice and I have pretty much tried most of the Twitter apps.  Great design and so functional.  I even bit the bullet and bought TweetBot for Mac, even while I understand why they priced it the way they did – it was still annoying.  Although maybe the new app economy has totally rebooted what I am willing to pay for apps.

    I had been using Reeder since it first came out, but this year switched over to Newsify.  I liked the multi-column display for glancing over my plethora of RSS feeds and it has a bunch of great sharing options.

    My podcast app of choice has been Downcast.  It just keeps getting better with regular updates.  This year they added the feature to import media, so I could play audiobooks I created within the app.  I also love that I can paste in links to media files, which is what I do with Patrick Madrid’s “Right Here, Right Now” show which has no podcast.

    The new 1Password app is quite awesome.  Especially with the built in browser so it is quite easy to login sites on my iPad.  The new iCloud sync meant once I set it up on one iOS device, it was instantly setup on the other.

    I had been a Spotify user, but got frustrated by the playlist-centric approach where I prefer an artist/album collection approach.  I had tried out MOG and it was a step up with a solid iOS app, but there desktop app was just an embedded version of their web player. Now I am using Rdio and I am pretty satisfied with it.  It was pretty easy to setup and even matched my iTunes collection where possible.  Even better is that of the music services so far it is the only one that lets you pick up where you left off on another device.  For example if I am playing something on my Mac, I can switch over to playing the same thing on an iOS device.  A feature I had wanted from the beginning and wondered why Spotify didn’t implement something so obvious.  There are improvements I would like to see with the Rdio player and interface – but I can live with the current implementation.