iPhone Apps for Beginners

Two years ago, Apple was selling 4 iPhones a second. That’s actually low by whatever the rate is in 2014 (I haven’t heard what it is now). Tim Cook mentioned at WWDC14 that there were 3 million new iPhone users in the last year. A large number of them were coming from Android phones.

It’s exciting to think about how many people are still new to the device and what it can do for them. I think it’s a great time that we live in, when many people know their way around the App Store that are capable of assisting the new iPhone adopters. I want to do my part for the uninitiated.

So, if you are new to the iPhone, here’s a few apps I recommend you should download while just getting started. At the end I’ll share a few more thoughts about apps for the iPhone.

Find My iPhone »

Honestly, I don’t know why this app doesn’t come with iOS. If you think there is any possibility that you may misplace your iPhone, or that there’s a possibility it may be stolen someday, then you will want Find My iPhone installed and on.

With this app’s features turned on, you can track the whereabouts of your device, send text alerts to it so any person in possession of it can reach you, and if worse comes to worst, erase it so that a thief cannot take advantage of your accounts, content, or personal information.

If you want to get started with Find My iPhone now, check out these tips from The Sweet Setup.

Sleep Cycle »

This is a bio-alarm clock that analyzes your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in a light sleep phase (based around the time you’d prefer to wake up). I’ve used this app since I got an iPhone 4s in 2012. I love it. Merlin Mann has talked about it on the Back To Work podcast, saying that it’s helped him too.

For an app that’s all about getting good sleep, it has a surprising amount of handy features. You can track your sleep quality over the weeks and months. It has good sounding alarms. It will start the alarm quietly and progressively get louder so it’s never blaring unless that’s what you need to wake up.

Snapseed (photo editor) »

I think everyone with an iPhone has at one time or other wanted to see what photo tools can do for them. The iPhone actually has way too many photo apps to choose from. Few of them have a credible set of features to offer. Snapseed stands out among them.

It’s a great app that makes photo editing straightforward and a little fun. Enhance most any picture with it, or make photos look artistic with filters, if that’s your thing. Snapseed is great for beginners and experienced photographers.

Pocket Casts »

I have used all the podcast players worth mentioning since 2010. By far, my favorite is Pocket Casts.

Pocket Casts has a dark interface on the player that I especially appreciate. Managing podcast subscriptions is easy enough, and Pocket Casts boasts many customizable smart playlist features. Gesture controls are easy to learn and appreciate. This is a podcast app that will work well for new podcast listeners as well as obsessive podcast enthusiasts with years of listening experience.

For more about Pocket Casts, I recommend you read The Sweet Setup’s review. It got me interested in the app when I thought I had already seen everything podcatchers had to offer.

1Password »

This is one of the pricier apps I recommend. I’d be willing to pay double for it because the security features it offers me are substantive. In my humble opinion, when 1Password is paired with the Mac or iPad’s copy of 1Password, it’s the most valuable tool across the Apple device platform.

Keeping good passwords together as well as other account login info couldn’t be easier (until the discussion of Extensibility came into play). Log passwords and their related data together in 1Password and it will serve them up with incredible ease. It’s a very safe way to store them together, since the contents of 1Password are password protected by the one password you keep locked up in your head.

Day One (journalling) »

Sometimes I feel that the right way to clear my head is to write in my journal. I tried a variety of journaling tools in the past. The one that’s been most successful for me is Day One. It’s the little journalling app that could.

If you want to make a record of life, work, or some other topic, Day One is by far the greatest tool on iOS and the Mac. Need convincing? Read The Sweet Setup’s review.

Monument Valley »

Anyone with an iPhone needs to try out a game. At least one. Here’s the one that will bend your mind and pleasantly surprise you.

Monument Valley has a very simple story, charming design, and clever 3D puzzles. I’ve played countless games on the iPhone. This one isn’t the most addictive, but it was the most rewarding. It’s great for all ages.

Onavo Extend »

This is a simple utility that works like magic. When you are on data, Onavo Extend compresses content that’s incoming. You consume less of your data plan per site you load or media you stream or item you install on your phone with this app.

When I say Onavo Extend "compresses" the stuff you consume on data, I don’t mean to say that quality is lost. You will get the original quality for what you used the web for, but it won’t consume as much of your data plan. This is terrific if you have a data cap.

Blur Studio »

If you like to fiddle with the background wallpaper on your iPhone, start with blurred wallpapers. A great background on your Home Screen is a blurred one. It makes it easy to focus on the app icons and navigate your iPhone. It’s probably why frosted glass effects are used for the background of open iOS folders.

Blur Studio will take any image and make it go out of focus—as blurry as you like. You can also tint the image to give it more character. Blur Studio even gives you a preview of the background on the Home Screen while you’re editing the image. This saves time editing images and applying them as your wallpaper in iOS Settings, only to find you don’t like the results on your actual Spring Board. Blur Studio saves me time fiddling.

Read more about Blur Studio at Lifehacker.

Logsit »

If you want to keep track of the last time you walked the dog, watered the lawn, read a book, took your spouse on a date… then track it in Logsit. This simple app does one thing right. It presents a log of whatever you want to routinely keep record of by date. It shows the items in a list, like…

  • Purchased phone
  • Dated wife
  • Called a best friend
  • Finished a book
  • Mowed the lawn

…with the date you last checked off the item beneath. If you want to be reminded to do something like “It has been three weeks since you Dated wife” it will do that too.


There’s all sorts of app categories I’ve not touched upon, like coffee, e-books, calendars, music, fitness… but they wouldn’t be the first apps that make it to my iPhone from the App Store. They wouldn’t be the first apps I recommend you check out. Those above are.

What I love about our phones is how they reflect our lives. The apps I keep around are on my phone for personal reasons. They suit my use cases, hobbies, work, and goals.

On a related note, I challenge you to find one person that doesn’t use third party apps in addition to Apple’s iOS apps. I don’t think I know of such a person, because the App Store presents endlessly great possibilities for all of us.

Joe Darnell

Joe is a UI and graphic designer with prior experience as the creative director for three media-based businesses. Joe’s passionate about web design and graphic design with about 15 years of experience in the media industry. Additionally, Joe is the host of the Top Brew and Techtonic podasts, both featured on iTunes.