The Best Utility Apps for iOS

On a recent episode of Mac Power Users, Katie Floyd and David Sparks discussed their favorite iOS utilities — simple little apps that do one thing really well. I thought I’d follow in their footsteps and publish a list of, what I consider to be, the best iOS utilities available.

Lookmark

Lookmark: A brilliant little utility from Heybox AB that let’s you save iTunes content for later. It has support for audiobooks, iBooks, iOS apps, Mac apps, movies, music, podcasts, and TV shows. Just use the app’s share extension to save content from within iTunes, the App Store, Safari, or just about any other application where you’d find a link to one of the supported media types. And with a Lookmark Plus subscription, you can even get notifications of price drops on your bookmarked media.

Deliveries: A package tracking application from Junecloud that helps you stay on top of your deliveries. It supports UPS, FedEx, US Postal Service, DHL, Amazon, and just about any other package delivery service you can think of. Deliveries also includes a Today View widget and an Apple Watch app that allows you to check the status of your deliveries with just a glance.

Transmit: The best FTP client on iOS is developed by the fine folks at Panic. It supports FTP, SFTP, S3, DreamObjects, and WebDAV. It features in-app drag and drop for quick file transfers and works well with the system’s document picker to receive or send files from within other applications.

PCalc: A powerful calculator app by TLA Systems which features a Today View widget, Apple Watch support, and several theme options. This is the calculator I use when my wife and I are out grocery shopping — the Watch implementation is superb.

GIPHY: An application that helps you find and share the perfect GIF for every situation. You can launch the app directly and use the application’s built-in sharing features or use the iMessage app to keep yourself within the context of the conversation.

Tailor Stitching a Webpage

Tailor: A brilliant little utility from Foundry 63 that automatically stitches multiple screenshots together into a single image. It works with iMessage, Safari, Tweetbot, Google Maps, and more.

Better: This is currently my ad blocker of choice. The app is made by Ind.ie and focuses on blocking trackers and behavioral advertising rather than attempting to remove all ads from your web browsing experience.

Screens: A remote desktop and VNC client from Edovia that allows you to quickly and securely control your Mac, PC, or Linux machine from your iOS device. I use Screens to help my mother-in-law with her iMac and manage my Mac Mini server, it’s one of the key pieces of software that has allowed me to go, nearly, iOS-only.

Countdowns: A simple little app from Stephen Hayes that let’s you place countdowns to important dates in your iOS device’s Today View.

Unobstruct: A brilliant content blocker from InfinitApps that automatically removes floating social toolbars and other unnecessary cruft from many popular websites. The app also includes an action extension to remove these elements from any other webpage, on-demand. The web is a much nicer place to be with this app enabled.

Linky's Textshot Feature

Linky: A simple little share extension from Pragmatic Code that let’s you post webpage links and images to Twitter and Facebook. When sharing a web page, it can suggest images to include in your post and it can create text shots from selected text automatically.

CornerTube: YouTube for iPad still lacks support for picture-in-picture and a little app from Tiny Whale can fill the gap for you. The app features a Today View widget, an action extension, and in-app search allowing you to get the video you want into picture-in-picture with little interruption to your workflow.

LongScreen: Similar to Tailor, Shing Cheong Cheung’s LongScreen can combine multiple screenshots into a single image. It can even clean up the screenshot’s status bar and overlay it within an image of the appropriate Apple device.

Omnistat: A system status and activity monitor app from Matthieu Bolard that allows you to view battery life, free space, CPU, and memory usage from the application’s Today View widgets. I use the battery life widget on my iPad, which let’s me have quick access to my current battery life without having to clutter the system status bar.

Terminology

Terminology: The best dictionary and thesaurus app I’ve found for iOS. It’s made by Agile Tortoise and can be used by launching the app directly or through its share extension, after highlighting a word from within another application. In addition to the app’s built in dictionary and thesaurus, it has support for searching Google, Wikipedia, and Wolfram Alpha. You can even add your own sources with the app’s custom actions feature.

Feed Hawk: A utility app from Golden Hill Software that does one thing really well — it allows you to quickly subscribe to website RSS feeds through the application’s share extension. It supports Feed Wrangler, Feedbin, FeedHQ, and several other popular RSS services.

Pocket Scale: A simple weight tracking app by Uptown Apps. Pocket Scale saves your weigh-ins to the Health app and can send you reminder notifications to input your current weight.

White Noise Pro: A white noise app from TMSOFT that features a catalog of fifty sounds — from box fans to rain storms and everything in between. It’s great for helping you fall asleep at night or to block out distractions when you’re trying to focus on your work.

Launch Center Pro

Launch Center Pro: My favorite launcher application for iOS. The app is developed by Contrast and gives you quick access to the tasks you do most. I’ve set it up so that I have shortcuts to my Wi-Fi, storage, Bluetooth, and battery Settings from the application’s widget, but it’s fully customizable to fit your needs.

View Source: An application by Paul Hudson that let’s you view the HTML source code of any webpage in Safari by activating the application’s action extension.

Associate: A simple utility from Squibner that helps you build affiliate links to Amazon with your Amazon Associates account. Use it while browsing Amazon’s website with Associate’s action extension or search for products from the app itself.

Blink: Another app from Squibner, this one let’s you quickly build iTunes affiliate links for apps, TV shows, movies, music, or books.

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The Ideal iPhone Lineup

Over the past several weeks, the discussion among Apple enthusiasts has shifted from opinions on iPhone Pro pricing to a conversation about how Apple will design around the notch and what will be placed in the Home Button area. I can certainly understand why this shift has taken place, the leaked HomePod firmware has provided a treasure trove of details about the bezel-less iPhone and none of it has anything to do with price points. But I wanted to take a step back and bring iPhone pricing back into the conversation.

Most of the speculation I’ve read on the topic has targeted $1,000 as their ballpark estimate for the iPhone Pro’s starting price point. And I agree. Apple has to walk a fine line with this device. It must be priced in such a way that it is both attainable for a reasonable percentage of customers and expensive enough to keep the masses from buying in droves. My gut tells me that $1,000, give or take $100 is the sweet spot.

I haven’t seen much out-of-the-box discussion regarding the starting price points of the rest of the iPhone lineup, though. Everyone seems to assume that the upcoming 4.7- and 5.5-inch models will be introduced at the same price points as the current iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus with last year’s models dropping in price by $100. But I’m not too sure.

All of the interest coming out of the event is going to be around the bezel-less model and, there’s certainly going to be a fair amount of grumbling about how expensive it is. Even if Apple finds the “perfect price point”, that price point is designed to keep a large number of people from being able to buy it. Apple’s manufacturing partners can’t manufacture enough parts to sell the iPhone Pro for $649, it has to be expensive. And that’s going to piss a lot of people off.

But what if, alongside the introduction of the most expensive iPhone ever made, Apple lowers the introductory price on the rest of the lineup? Here’s the starting price points I’ve sketched out with that in mind:

  • 4-inch iPhone SE at $349
  • 4.7-inch iPhone 7S at $549
  • 5.5-inch iPhone 7S Plus at $749
  • 5.8-inch iPhone Pro at $949

This would lower the introductory price of the latest iPhone models at every display size — $50 less for the 4-inch model, $100 less for the 4.7-inch model, and $20 less for the 5.5-inch model. If Apple wants to prevent a severe backlash coming out of this event, selling the rest of the lineup at a lower cost is a great way to do that.

This leads me to my pie-in-the-sky, it’ll probably never happen but wouldn’t it be cool if it did theory — what if Apple discontinued all of last year’s iPhone models and only sold the iPhone SE, iPhone 7S, 7S Plus, and iPhone Pro going forward? This type of broad-strokes lineup replacement happened with the iPod during its peak, why couldn’t Apple do it today for the iPhone?

The only downside I see with this proposal would be the higher cost of entry for the 5.5-inch iPhone. The iPhone 6S Plus is currently priced at $649, replacing their entire lineup with the aforementioned prices would increase the starting price of 5.5-inch iPhones to $749. Which doesn’t exactly fit with the whole iPhones are cheaper than they were last year narrative.

One solution would be to keep the 7 Plus around for a few months, at $649. And if Apple went this direction — starting from scratch with an all new lineup, keeping one model around to fill a price slot for a short while seems likely. The only other option would be to just live through the grief and point frustrated customers toward the incredibly affordable 4.7-inch iPhone. It might be too risky, but that’s the solution I’d advocate for.

An obvious criticism of my proposed price points is the gaps in between each of model. I suppose this could give competitors room to come in and steal some market share from Apple, but that’s what each model’s storage tier is for. Here’s another rough sketch with potential storage options:

  • iPhone SE: 32GB for $349, 64GB for $449, and 128GB for $549
  • iPhone 7S: 64GB for $549, 128GB for $649, and 128GB for $749
  • iPhone 7S Plus: 64GB for $749, 128GB for $849, and 256GB for $949
  • iPhone Pro: 128GB for $949, 256GB for $1,049, 512GB for $1,149

For each model, an additional $100 gets you more storage and an additional $200 gets you either a lot more storage or a larger display. This seems like the kind of value propositions that Apple likes to give their customers. And I think most buyers would find it easy to narrow down their options to find the right device for them.

The likelihood of Apple discontinuing all previous iPhone models is nearly zero, there’s no historical precedent for this beyond the release of the iPhone 3G, which discontinued the original iPhone. But I think it would further strengthen Apple’s brand as the premier smartphone maker — no matter what iPhone you buy, you’re buying the latest and greatest.

As for my pricing suggestions, I could certainly see Apple releasing the new iPhone lineup and setting their pricing as I’ve outlined above. It would help to shift everyone’s focus away from the sticker shock of the iPhone Pro and potentially lean the Apple community’s conversation toward the idea of iPhones being more affordable options compared to their previous lineup. And with the introduction of the far more expensive iPhone Pro, they might be able to change public perception without taking too much of a hit to their average selling price metric.

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