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AppAdvice's top 10 free iPhone apps of 2015

While 2015 brought us many new products from Apple, such as the Apple Watch, iPad Pro, and Apple TV, there is still the reigning champion of mobile devices, and that is the iPhone, which many of you may have received over the holidays. And with iOS 9, many improvements were made under the hood that make the experience even better than ever before. But the thing that breathes life into the iPhone are the apps that developers make for it. So let’s take a dive into what we consider to be some of the best free apps you can download on the iPhone App Store!

The AppAdvice Free iPhone App of 2015

Spark – Like your email again, released May 29, iPhone and Apple Watch only

spark-like-your-email

While Apple comes with a built-in email app on your iPhone, it is lacking in some departments and there are third party solutions to fill the void. One of the best ones that came out this year was Spark, the email client from Readdle.

Spark features a unique design that focuses on making email management easier than ever. With the Smart Inbox, your unified inbox is separated into different “cards” for each account, as well as Notification and Newsletter type emails, and you can do selective batches or just archive or delete everything at once. There is also the ability to snooze messages if you want to deal with them later, swipe to pin (also a card in the Smart Inbox for easy access), calendar management, access to attachments from all email accounts, HTML signatures, smart notifications (get notifications only for the emails that matter), quick replies, and much more.

And for those who like to use their Apple Watch for everything, Spark has a slick Apple Watch companion app that lets you check your email from your wrist, and even send off quick replies without ever pulling out your phone.

Readdle has outdone themselves with Spark, making it a great alternative for iPhone email. Don’t hesitate — get Spark on your iPhone now.

Runner-Up

Evernote Scannable, released Jan. 8, iPhone/iPod touch and iPad only

evernote-scannable

With such powerful cameras equipped on our iPhones nowadays, it makes a great alternative for document scanning for those who don’t want to deal with big, clunky scanners and printers. Which is why Evernote Scannable is another must-have app for your device.

Evernote Scannable launches directly into the camera mode, so you can start scanning immediately. The best thing about Scannable is the fact that it will automatically detect documents, receipts, business cards, or whiteboards, so you don’t have to do anything other than point your camera at it, since it works quickly. If you just scanned a business card, Scannable will instantly pull LinkedIn information, profile photos, and save the scanned information to your Contacts. There is also support for multiple pages, and you can save every scan as a PDF or JPG in your Evernote account or store them in other apps, and share with others through email or text.

With such powerful mobile tools at our disposal, there’s no reason to not go paperless these days. Evernote Scannable is a free app that will help you achieve that effortlessly.

Finalists

Darkroom – Photo Editor, released Feb. 12, iPhone only

darkroom

Ever since the iPhone came out and the App Store was introduced, mobile photography has exploded in popularity. That’s because it has never been easier to snap your photos and then edit them directly on your mobile device before sharing it with others. Darkroom is a fine app to add to your mobile photography toolkit.

Unlike other photo editing apps, Darkroom skips the tedious import process, so users can get straight to editing in a simple, out-of-the-way interface. Once an image is selected from your library, you’ll be able to crop it, apply a beautiful filter or customize it and make it your own, adjust individual setting levels with sliders, and access your full history of edits. The History is great as it allows you to jump back to a particular change and resume your editing from that point onward.

Darkroom’s real magic comes from the Curves tool, where you can change the entire RGB channel, or choose R, G, or B individually to change the overall appearance of the image through five sections: blacks, shadows, midtones, highlights, and whites. So while many photo editors have curve tools, Darkroom’s is different since it lets you fine tune every aspect of the photo. The only thing about the Curves tool is the fact that it is only available through an in-app purchase of $3.99, but it is well worth it. There are also more filter packs through IAP as well.

Darkroom is a powerful photo editor even without the Curves tool, and should be considered for your mobile photography needs.

Google Calendar, released Mar. 10, iPhone only

google-calendar

If you’re a Google Calendar user, then you should rejoice at the fact that you can get the official app on your iPhone. But don’t be fooled — you don’t have to be using Google Calendars to use this app, as it works with Exchange, iCloud, and locally stored calendars on your iPhone.

The Google Calendar app goes along with Google’s Material design, but it looks fairly sleek on iOS. There are three different views for your schedule, and everything is organized into color-coded blocks for easy recognition. There are even visual elements like contact photos and maps so you don’t miss a thing.

Adding new events is a breeze, as Google Calendar has its own kind of natural language input. As you type in event details, it will suggest titles, people, and even places, pulling in photos of businesses, contacts, and maps. And for Gmail users, there is the Events from Gmail feature, which automatically adds information to your calendar for flights, hotel reservations, concerts, restaurant reservations, and more.

If you’re looking for better calendar management on your iPhone, make sure to give Google Calendar a try.

Periscope, released Mar. 26, iPhone only

periscope

Is your life filled with interesting moments that you just want to share with others as they happen? Then you should be looking into the mobile live streaming scene, and Periscope is one of the better apps for the job.

With Periscope and a Twitter account, users can browse a world map to see people who are live streaming right now. This is a fantastic and interesting new viewpoint on the world, and lets you join in on some interesting moments. There is also the ability to comment and send the streamer “hearts” (equivalent to likes) as they stream. If you never want to miss a moment of a user, then make sure to follow them for notifications when they go live.

When you feel like streaming yourself, just tap on the button for a new stream. You can choose to share your stream with all of your Twitter followers, or go Private and invite certain people only. There are also Replays that you can store for 24 hours, which lets you relive the experience of the broadcast complete with comments and hearts. This applies to other user’s replays as well, if they choose to save it.

Periscope has made a dent in the mobile live streaming world, and it’s a fun way to share your life with others.

Alphabear: World Puzzle Game, released July 9, iPhone/iPod touch and iPad only

alphabear

Do you love word games and cute bears? Then Alphabear is a match made in heaven.

Alphabear has been a real delight this year due to the adorable visual style and challenging puzzles. The gameplay involves spelling words by tapping letters on a grid. However, while you can select any letter on the grid, it is key to get as many adjacent ones as possible because each tile turns into a bear. When the letters are next to each other, that means the bear gets bigger, which means more points at the end of the puzzle. The game will end once the board is filled up with bears or leftover letters from which no more words can be formed.

The fun with Alphabear is trying to meet the target goals for each stage, as it will unlock more chapters and give you better rewards, which can be coins or a new bear (sometimes rare or legendary) to add to your collection. Before each game, you can also pick up to three bears to take with you, and they have special abilities like making certain letters worth more points, having more of a specific letter appear, giving you more time, and more. It’s in your best interest to pick the best bears for the stage.

Seriously, if you like cute and fun word games, then Alphabear is a must.

Sage Solitaire, released Aug. 26, iPhone/iPod touch and iPad only

sage-solitaire

Do you love Solitaire but wish it had a modern twist to it? Then you should give Sage Solitaire a try.

Sage Solitaire has simple and clean graphics that are perfect for your iPhone. The game contains many different types of backgrounds and card backs to choose from if you go with the full game unlock, which costs $2.99, and also comes with more game modes and stats.

In the initial free download, players have access to the Single Deck mode. The goal in this is to clear out all of the cards in the deck by making hands. The hands can be something simple like a Pair, but if you get something like a Flush or Straight (time to brush up on those poker skills), then you’ll earn more points. The big catch in the game is the fact that you must use cards from at least two rows. If no more hands can be made, then it’s game over. There are also bonus suits that net you double points, or a card that has been dealt out of the game. For the times when you get stuck, just trash a card if you have them available (earn more by making hands).

If you go for the in-app purchase, you’ll get more game modes, including risk-it-all ones like Vegas, where you won’t be able to play it again if you lose. There are also Double, Fifteens, and Grit modes, more wallpapers and card backs, and full statistics. Go on, give Sage Solitaire a try — you’ll be hooked, and it’s well worth the in-app purchase.

Paper – Notes, Photo, Annotation, and Sketches by FiftyThree, released Sep. 9, iPhone/iPod touch and iPad only

paper-notes-photo-annotation

While Paper is not an entirely new app, it was initially only available on the iPad until a few months ago, as the developers released an update making it a universal app. And it was well worth the wait.

Previously, Paper was purely a sketching app, where users used digital tools to draw or write, like pen and paper. With the universal update, Paper now allows for basic text notes and even photo annotation on the iPhone, along with the same drawing features. Users can create as many “spaces” as necessary, and customize each one with a color, design, icon, or even a photo cover.

When you add a new sheet to a space, the default mode will be a text note, but you can change it to sketching or import a photo by tapping a button. Text notes can be changed to a to-do or bulleted list with the swipe-to-style feature, and you can also use headers. You can import a photo or get a new capture from within the app, which you can then annotate with the drawing tools. Anything in Paper can be exported as a PDF file, or even a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation.

We’ve been fans of Paper for a long time now, so it’s nice to see that it is finally available on the iPhone as well.

Boomerang from Instagram, released Oct. 22, iPhone/iPod touch and iPad only

boomerang-from-instagram

Love Instagram, but tired of still photos or just regular videos? Then Boomerang could be the answer you’ve been looking for.

Boomerang from Instagram is a simple app that allows users to create short animations to post on the social network. This is done by snapping a one-second burst of five photographs, which are then turned into a silent video that plays forward and backward in a continuous loop. The app will automatically save your creations to the Camera Roll, where you can share them with whoever however you’d like. But there are buttons for quick sharing to Instagram, Facebook, and more through the Share Sheet.

Contrary to the name, Boomerang does not require an Instagram account, so anyone can join in on the fun. The app works with both the front and rear-facing cameras, so you can post silly selfies or get fun captures of pets.

If you’re looking to spice up your Instagram feed or just make some fun animations, then definitely give Boomerang a try.

Copied – Copy and Paste Everywhere, released Oct. 31, iPhone/iPod touch and iPad only, optional Mac app available

copied

Have you ever struggled with managing your device’s clipboard items, especially between multiple iPhones, iPads, and even Macs? Then Copied is the solution to all of your problems.

Copied is a relatively new app that has been making a splash in the iOS world. It has a simple interface that is easy and intuitive, but still sports a robust set of features to make clipboard management easier than ever before. Copied will store anything that you copy on your iPhone, such as text, links, and even images. With all of these clippings from different apps, you can edit and merge them if necessary, so your workflow is streamlined. There is also support for batch copying of multiple items back onto the clipboard to be pasted somewhere else, and there are shortcuts through 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

To top things off, there is also a Notification Center widget so you can access your clippings quickly, and there is support for built-in templates or custom ones that you create. There is a keyboard included that lets you input any saved text anywhere on your device.

The real magic with Copied, though, comes from the $1.99 in-app purchase. If you opt for the upgrade, you will get iCloud clipboard syncing, so all of your clippings will appear on other iPhones, iPads, and even Macs ($7.99 in the Mac App Store). There is even the ability to organize your clippings by lists through the upgrade.

Copied has proven to be an incredibly useful tool for anyone with an iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and is one that should not be missed on any platform.

This concludes our top 10 free iPhone apps of 2015. Stay tuned the top 10 paid iPhone app list on Dec. 31. For more, check out Best Apple Watch apps of 2015, Best Apple TV apps of 2015, and Top 10 free iPad apps of 2015.

Mentioned Apps