Default iOS App Replacements

There are a lot of people who feel that iOS is dated and boring. I am borderline with those feelings. I like it because it is simple and easy to use. I dislike it because the default Apple apps are boring. I won’t say this often, I am jealous that Android OS allows you to set different apps for default tasks. If you wanted to use K-9 email as your default app you can. If you like Tom Tom for GPS over Google’s own maps app you can set it that way. I would love for Apple to do this in iOS 7. Will it happen with Jonny Ive in charge now instead of Scott Forstall? We will have to wait until June (WWDC) to find out. In the mean time here are some apps that replace and blow always Apple’s default apps.

1. Mail

Mail is a tricky one. I like the default app, but at the same time I like Sparrow ($2.99). Sparrow as you may or may not know was purchased by Google sometime ago so nobody really knows how long it will be around for. The downside with Sparrow is no push email notifications. Another interesting app is one that has yet to be released. Mailbox looks like a simple and clean mail app. It will be free and they are currently taking reservations. There is a short video showing the app off on the about page, I would check it out. Google and Yahoo! both offer their own Gmail app(free) and Yahoo! Mail app (free). It has come a long way from the terrible app that it was.

2. Calendar

The Calendar app needs a ton of help. Lets just jump into some replacements. Fantastical($4.99) is just amazing. It is a simple app that is also a powerhouse. Here are some facts from the iTunes page:

Fantastical is the fastest and friendliest calendar app. Just type in “Lunch with John in Cupertino on Friday” and Fantastical will schedule it! If your device supports dictation* you can also speak the details for your event and Fantastical will handle the rest. Best of all, the beautiful interface makes using your calendar fun and easy.

• Fantastical’s DayTicker is the efficient and enjoyable way to see your schedule
• The expansive and beautiful event list makes it easy to find your events
• Use search to instantly locate specific events
• View and manage your Facebook events (requires iOS 6)

WeekCalendar & Organizer($7.99) & Organizer Lite(free) also appear to be good replacements, I have not used them myself.

3. Contacts

The contacts app needs a refresh more then it needs replacing. That said the only contact app I have used is ContactsXL + Facebook and Twitter. I like it because you can see your contacts by name AND picture. You can’t see the picture in the default app unless you are viewing the contact. You can do all of the same things the default app offers; call, message, email, get directions and Face Time. The app also allows you to view your contacts FaceBook wall and their tweets (in both cases you need to authorize the app to use the services). Within the settings you can change the maps from Apple (default) to Google. Its only $0.99 and it is visually pleasing and has a ton of features and options.

4. Camera

The camera app works well. What it desperately lacks is editing & sharing functionality. You can currently crop, rotate, use red eye reduction and auto enhance your images. Sharing is limited to email, message, Photo Stream, Twitter and Facebook. My favorite camera replacement app is Camera+ by tap tap tap($0.99 currently on sale). It is quick, has settings for both advanced and novice users and adds Flickr to the sharing list. My only gripe about the app is the lack of video support. You will need a separate app, which brings me to my next suggestions. ProCamera ($2.99) has everything above plus adds Dropbox and Instagram to sharing services and includes video support. Camera Awesome (Free) has a nice feature set and adds YouTube, SmugMug, Picasa and Photobucket to the list of sharing services. Did I mention that it is free? There are in app purchases that include filters and presets. You can unlock everything for $10.00.

5. Video

Video is built into the camera app but has the same short falls as the camera app. The only editing available is trimming and sharing is limited to email, message and YouTube. The two apps I would use are ProCamera (see above) and YouTube Capture from Google. YouTube Capture allows for color correction, trimming, stabilization and the ability to add music tracks. You can share with Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and obviously YouTube. There two things I really like about YouTube Capture. The first is that your video starts recording as soon as the app launches, a great time saver. Being a father of a little one, I know that he acts fast and every second that can be saved waiting for the record option to appear is greatly appreciated during playback. The second is that you can set the app to only record in landscape mode. Public Service Announcement: To everyone recording in portrait mode, just stop it. Please. Playback looks terrible on wide screen devices. How many people out there are NOT using a wide screen device?? I am constantly begging people to record video in landscape. You also get more of the scene into your shot and can have better video stabilization by using both hands to hold the device. YouTube Capture is free in the App Store.

6. Notes

Evernote is my choice as a replacement. It’s free, has an iPad app & a Mac OS app so my notes go everywhere. Simplenote (free) looks decent as well. I have not used it but it looks good. There are some mixed reviews about it so do some research. Its not that i dislike the notes app, it gets the job done. I just cant stand looking at it.

7. Maps

Maps has been a big deal since iOS 6 was announced. People complain about it, people praise it and people just don’t care. I personally don’t mind Apple Maps. There are a few hiccups here and there but for the most part it works just fine. What does bother me is that maps are new to Apple. Google Maps were not perfect when they launched but nobody ever mentions that. Siri integration works very well for me. Now as fas as replacement apps go, there are two I would recommend. The first is Waze. Crowd-sourced realtime traffic information with voice guided GPS. I have used it numerous times and it works very well. The second choice is Google Maps. With Google Maps you are getting what has been missing since the day iOS 6 was installed on your device. The difference is that voice guided GPS is now included and the app has undertaken a major refresh. Both apps are free in the App Store.Edit: I failed to mention that voice guided GPS from Apple will only work on the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 3,4 and mini. Google’s voice guided GPS will work on iPhone 3GS and newer, iPad, iPod touch 3rd generation and newer.

8. Reminders

I am ok with the reminders app. Thats because I hardly use it. When I need a reminder I just ask Siri to set one. Clear ($1.99) looks great and has positive reviews. The price is not bad either. There are a lot of other things you could waste two dollars on, why not an app that you could used everyday? Here is the description from the app store:

Life is messy. Keep it together with Clear, an amazing new app for list-keeping that is unbelievably simple, quick and satisfying to use.
“Clear’s interface is elegant and clever…” — The New York Times
“Clear is quick, simple, intuitive, and perfect for busy people” — Gizmodo
“If you’re regularly turning to a simple to-do list app… Clear is definitely going to wow you.” — TechCrunch
Clear is designed with simplicity and flexibility in mind and works great with any list you throw at it!
Try it with a:
• Personal todo list
• Shopping list
• Quick notes list for phone numbers and things
• List of movies to watch, or books to read
• Guest list for that party
• Bucket list for those big life goals
We became obsessed with how to simplify our lives without adding clutter… Our solution is Clear.

Its also worth noting that Clear is featured as a Best of 2012 Collection

9. Weather (Link to iTunes)

The stock weather app is very boring and lame, IMO. There are literally hundreds of apps in the App Store that do a much better job. My favorite is Check the Weather which I wrote a review on yesterday. It is Simple, sleek and easy to use. I also have MyRadar Weather Radar, Weather Bug and The Weather Channel on my phone. The top 5 paid apps in the App Store are currently; InstaWeather Pro, Weather Live, NOAA Hi-Def Radar, Check the Weather and WeatherBug Elite. Here are the top 5 free apps in the App Store; The Weather Channel, AccuWeather for iPhone, SKYE Weather+Photo, WeatherBug, MyRadar Weather Radar.

10. Calculator

This is another app that doesn’t bother me because I hardly use it. What does bother me is that there is no default app for the iPad or iPad Mini. Maybe that will change with iOS 7. There are a boat load of calculator apps available in the App Store, most of them free. Calculator+ (Free) has a clean look to it and is simple to use. The app is somewhat limited as there are some features missing but are made available with an in app purchase. In app purchases include a graphing calculator, handwriting calculator, polynomial calculator, linear calculator and a currency converter.

11. Stocks

I dont think I have ever launched my stocks app, its even turned off in the Notification Center. I used Bloomberg a while ago but has recently been getting hit with bad reviews. Yahoo! Finance has a slew of features, is free and has a rating of 4.5 out of 5. TD Ameritrade, CNN Money, Fidelity Investments and E*Trade also offer free apps.

12. Clock

The default app works just fine. It doesn’t look bad either. That doesn’t stop developers from making replacement apps. I use Siri to set my alarms and timers (most of the time) although I do use a separate timer app. Timer from App Cubby(free) is very well designed and the simplest app I think I have ever used. Once you launch it you are presented with default timer settings, 1 minute, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 2 hours and 3 customizable timers at the bottom. Just set it and forget it. Now back to the clock. There are different types of clocks available, digital, analog, weather, music. Nightstand Central(free & paid) is nice. It gives you a weather widget a la HTC Sense and a bunch of other options. The paid version allows you even more options.

Siri integration with third party apps is a must. I feel that Apple knows that and is slowly going to let it happen (In 6.1 you can purchase movie tickets with Siri). Once third party apps are integrated I think, hope really, Apple will allow you to choose different apps as default. I don’t think Apple cares if your use their weather app or The Weather Channel. They want you to use their phone and their OS. Otherwise they would never have allowed apps into the store that duplicated core OS functionality. Imagine asking Siri what the weather will be and seeing Check the Weather open instead of the boring weather app. Siri, remind me to call my mom at 12 o’clock tomorrow, and Clear pops up with your reminder.

Will Apple ever allow you to change default apps? Only Apple knows and we will find out if it is coming in iOS 7 in the Spring. In the mean time, what are some of your favorite replacement apps? Are you happy with Apple’s apps or are you hoping that you could use something different by default? Let me know in the comments below!!

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