The best free productivity apps for iPhone
Our favorite free iPhone apps for being more productive with reminders, to-do lists, flash cards, timers, keyboards, conversion aids and automation.
Authy is a sleek and usable app for managing 2FA (two-factor authentication). 2FA is increasingly commonplace, and is used to secure internet accounts. When signing in, an additional layer of security has you enter a code generated by an app – one only the owner of a linked device can access.
The Authy interface is simple, humanizing this technology. Accounts are represented by big buttons with icons on. Tap one and the relevant code is shown in large, impossible-to-miss text. If necessary, you can copy the code to the clipboard by pressing a button.
But where Authy really wins out is in being able to sync codes across multiple devices for almost zero effort. All you need to do is define a password; enter that in Authy elsewhere and – boom! – job done.
Launch Center Pro
Launch Center Pro has a lot of crossover with the home screen and Apple’s Siri Shortcuts. It’s perhaps best thought of - as its creator says - as a ‘speed dial for apps’. In each spot on the grid, you can place buttons to launch apps, or ‘group’ buttons you hold down to access a second level of shortcuts.
Some apps offer deeper links, enabling you to trigger specific actions. You can also configure what’s included in the app’s home screen quick actions, and in the Launch Center Pro widget, thereby powering up your launching outside of the app itself.
For free, there are limits: a cap on actions; no location triggers; no scheduling. Naturally, these can be removed with IAP. But even for free, there’s a lot to love here, in being able to boost the power of your launching digit.
Bring! offers a new spin on shared shopping lists. Although you can create a straightforward shared text-based list in Reminders, Bring! opts for large colored buttons adorned with icons. Not only are these easier to spot when you’re in a busy supermarket with a basket on one arm and a toddler on the other, they’re also a mite simpler to tap.
Beyond this, there’s all kinds of smart stuff going on. Color-coded rings on items change from green to orange to red when the product is getting closer to running out. For items where you want something very specific, you can add notes and a photo.
And when you fancy letting everyone know you’ve made changes to a list shared with many people (for example, in an office), ready-made messages can be sent, saving you the hassle of crafting one yourself.
Shortcuts is Apple’s redesign of the well-regarded Workflow app, which aims to streamline your day by automating common tasks.
Apps of this ilk have a history of being geeky and impenetrable, but Shortcuts is the friendly face of automation. In the Gallery view are dozens of pre-made workflows to download, which perform actions like calculating tips, figuring out how long it’ll be before you’re home, and logging aspects of your routine.
Actions can be added to your Home screen as pseudo-apps, and triggered from Today view or by using Siri voice commands.
For a fully custom experience, there’s an editing view to dig into. You can tweak existing downloads, or start with a blank canvas, adding actions using a drag-and-drop interface. On an iPhone Plus models or iPhone XS Max, this works particularly well in landscape, with an iPad-like dual-pane interface.
Meteor is an internet speed tester designed for human beings. It eschews complex information – and even advertising – and instead provides you with straightforward, colorful buttons and readouts.
An inviting ‘Start Testing’ button kicks things off, whereupon the app sets about checking your internet connection’s performance, a little meteor animating on-screen as it does so. Once the tests are done, speeds are scored, and are subsequently available from the History tab.
Meteor also attempts to estimate how well your connection would fare with popular apps and games, six of which can be added to an ‘app performance’ bar. These values should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, but this freebie nonetheless impresses for being a no-nonsense, user-friendly, ad-free way to check internet connectivity.
Apple’s pre-loaded Clock app has a perfectly serviceable timer – but you only get one countdown at any given moment. MultiTimer, as its name might suggest, gives you multiple timers that you can set going simultaneously.
On launching the app, you’ll find six timers already set up. Each has a different color, name and icon. Tap a timer and it starts, tap again to pause, or double-tap to reset. Easy. Long press and you open the timer’s options, so you can adjust its default time, label, color, icon and sound.
You also have plenty of preferences to delve into, including adjusting the default workspace. Should you want extra workspaces – or a custom layout – grab the $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 MultiTimer Pro IAP.
From the brains behind game-like language-learning app Duolingo comes Tinycards. The aim is to enable people to memorize anything by way of friendly flashcard sets.
Duolingo itself offers a number of sets based around language, history and geography. Smartly, though, anyone can create and publish a set, which has led to hundreds of decks about all kinds of subjects, from renaissance art to retro computing.
The memorizing bit is based around minutes-long drills. You’re presented with cards and details to memorize, which the app then challenges you on, by way of typing in answers or answering multiple choice questions.
Some early teething problems with typos and abbreviations (for example, stating ‘USA’ was incorrect because ‘United States of America’ was the answer) have been dealt with by way of a handy ‘I was right’ button. Just don’t press it when you don’t really know the answer, OK?
The idea behind Cheatsheet is to provide fast access to tiny chunks of information you never remember but really need to: your hotel room, your car's number plate, Wi-Fi passwords, or, if you're feeling suitably retro, the Konami code.
Set-up is pleasingly straightforward. Using the app, you add 'cheats' by selecting an icon and then typing your info nugget. When you've got yourself a number of 'cheats', they can be reordered as you see fit. Once you're done, the entire lot can be displayed on the Today widget or an Apple Watch.
Cheatsheet saves some features for a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 'pro' upgrade - a custom keyboard, an action extension, some of the icons, and iCloud sync. But the free version is nonetheless useful and generous, along with making really good use of the Today view on your phone.
We keep hearing about how important coding will be to the future of everything. That's all very well, unless code makes about as much sense to you as the most exotic of foreign languages.
The idea behind Lrn is to gently ease you in. Through friendly copy and simple quizzes, you gradually gain confidence across a range of languages.
The older app had you browse huge category lists to pick what you need, but Vert S is keener on immediacy. There's a search, but the app's core is a Favorites page, where commonly used conversions are stored.
Tap one and you enter a basic calculator, enabling you to convert between your two chosen units, which can be quickly switched by tapping the Vert button. (Note that currencies are behind an IAP paywall — $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 for 'Vert Pro' — but conversions for other units are free.)