If you’re like me then you may have fire up the iOS’ built-in Weather app maybe once while owning your iPhone or iPod touch.
How about the Notes app? Fahgetaboutit!
Maps app? Well, I do use that one.
These and many other iOS built-in apps haven’t changed much since they were first introduced on the original iPhone. Back then the Maps app was a crowd pleaser.
Nowadays iOS’ built-in apps are more yawn than applause worthy. Even the apps that have seen updates, like Camera, pale when compared to the trainload of feature rich apps that could easily replace them.
The problem is that while it’s easy to find a good replacement app if you are willing to part with a little cash, it’s a bit tougher to locate really good freebies. So, this week and for the next few weeks I’m going to take a look at apps that could replace the built-ins.
What’s surprising, to me at least, is the number of built-in apps iOS offers. If you never download an app in your entire iPhone-using lifetime, you would probably get along just fine because, truth be told, the iOS built-in apps are not bad.
Take the Map app, for instance. There are a host of GPS enabled navigation apps available for the iPhone that offer turn-by-turn voice navigation, 3D displays and more, but I like the Map app because of its uncluttered simplicity.
In all, I count 15 built-n apps, not including apps like Settings, or App Store. They are, in no particular order:
Weather - This one is pretty sad. More later.
Clock - Clock is useful but it could be a lot better.
Calculator - A very solid app, why is it not on the iPad?
Calendar - A mixed bag that’s gotten some improvements, but not enough.
Camera - Adequate if you just focus on taking photos.
Movie - Again, adequate if you just focus on taking movies
iTunes - The venerable music storehouse could use a mobile facelift.
iPod - And so can Apple’s iconic music player.
Maps - Not just for navigation, but for finding stuff around you.
Messages - Likely the most used built-in app. It just works.
Notes - Good in a pinch, but no wireless syncing.
FaceTime - This is a new one and already there are good alternatives.
Photos - There are other ways to display your shots.
Voice Memos - Surprisingly useful, but could use an update.
Stocks - For those who use it, a useful app, but the alternatives are better.
This week I’m going to cover three of the easy ones: Weather, Clock, and Calculator.
The Weather app is likely the easiest to replace, because the app has so few features; current and six day forecast for a list of locations of your choice. That’s it.
iOS Built-in Weather app (Sad)
The Weather Channel offers a free, ad supported app, The Weather Channel App, that is chock full of features. You get current, hourly, 36 hours, and an extended 10 day forecast, and maps that track a variety of conditions including clouds and precipitation, with motion radar to boot! You also get severe weather alerts when issued by The National Weather Service. These alerts can be life savers.
The Weather Channel
There’s also video forecasts and a listing of Weather Channel shows. One feature I like is iWitness where app users can upload weather photos and movies.
As I mentioned earlier, The Weather Channel app is ad supported, but the ads are not obnoxious and I think they are a small price to pay for so much service.
This one you should definitely download.
Another fairly obvious replaceable app is the Clock app. With its alarms and world clock display the Clock app is far more useful than the Weather app, but it’s about as interesting as day-old oatmeal.
Spice up your clock watching life with Nightstand Central. Here, again, is an ad support app that is loaded with features. Location aware weather forecasts, multiple alarms setting, wallpapers, even gesture controlled dimming.
Here’s my favorite feature: You can set a variety of alarms based on days of the week. I have a weekday alarm and a weekend alarm, both of which I can name and turn on and off as I wish.
You can shake the iPhone to snooze the alarm. Choose from a large variety of high quality photos for wallpaper. You can even change how often the weather gets updated.
The feature list goes on and on. If you want even more features, like using you iPod music to wake you, and if you are getting tired of the ads you can opt for the paid version.
Nightstand Central had me at gesture dimming, and it’ll be one of your favorites too.
Ok, the Calculator app is likely the most complete of the three built-in apps I’m replacing this week. In portrait mode on your iPhone or iPod touch it’s a regular calculator like you’d find for a few bucks at any store. Rotate the device to landscape and the Calculator app converts to a full featured scientific calculator that any student or engineer would appreciate.
So what’s missing? Calculator on the iPad.
It’s always been a puzzle to me why Apple chose not to include a calculator on the iPad. The app was already there on the iPhone, all they needed to do was make it fit on the larger screen.
It doesn’t matter because there’s Calculator Free for iPad.
Calculator Free for iPad
As the name implies, Calculator Free is a free calculator for the iPad. The term “free” is somewhat of a stretch because the app is ad supported, with a sizable ad right under the number display, where you can always see.
The static ad is pretty annoying, but if you can look pass it what you’ll find is an app almost exactly like the Calculator app on the iPhone. The biggest difference, aside from it being larger to fill more screen real estate, is that Calculator Free has different key colors, which you can change, as well as remove the ads, if you buy the “pro” version.
This app does a good job doing what Apple should have done by including a calculator on the iPad, but if you’re going to pay money get EZ-Digits HD, which includes a “paper tape” memory and other nice features.
If you’re going to stick to free then Calculator Free is for you.
That’s a wrap for this week. Next week I’m going to tackle 3 more replaceable app, so stay tuned.
More freebie apps below with direct links.