The 50 best free iPhone apps of 2012
Not everything in life is free, but many great iPhone apps are. And when you can find good software for free, take it.
This list of the best free iPhone apps highlights 50 apps that we at PCMag think have shown outstanding performance, have been well received by a variety of technology users, and are truly "free." No gimmicks, no "membership required" or in-app purchase necessary. Free. Period.
Apple's App Store for iPhone is a veritable bazaar of freebies, and while plenty of them are quite good, many more are duds. We at PCMag sort through hundreds if not thousands of apps a year looking for the best of the best, as well as those elusive and as-yet undiscovered gems, apps that work well or accomplish some feat you didn't even know you needed or wanted to do.
Missing from this list are apps and features (like Siri and Passbook) that come pre-installed on the iPhone, although they are certainly not to be ignored. In particularly, Apple's apps for iTunes, Music, and the App Store typically see a fair share of well-deserved usage, but I suppose you technically paid for them because you bought the phone, so they're not really free, are they? In any case, you don't need to choose to download them, so we're not listing them here. Sadly, Apple's Podcast app is one you do have to download and install separately, but it didn't make this list due to its confusing interface (a serious downer for me, personally).
Games only took three slots on this list, in part because a lot of great games aren't free—for more iPhone game recommendations, including paid apps, see "The 25 Best iPhone Games."
To see the 50 best free iPhone apps of 2012, click through the links below to find 10 apps listed per page. If you have more recommendations for more free apps that we need to check out, post your suggestions in the comments. We're always on the lookout for the next great app!
Adaptu Wallet for iPhone is great for entry- to mid-level budgeting enthusiasts, packing many unique features. It's both free and ad-free. And it's the closest thing to a mobile wallet on an iPhone yet. Not only does the app display your latest account balances in real-time and send you bill reminders, Adaptu also tracks loyalty programs, forecasts your spending, and lets you photograph and store images of all the loose ends in your wallet, like your insurance, Social Security, and business cards. All of this sits under bank-grade security, which is more than you can say for your physical wallet.
Adobe Photoshop Express
Digital photography editing, until very recently, has been a task best suited for desktop and laptop computers, but Adobe proved that it could be done in the mobile space with Photoshop Express, a free photo-editing application for the iPhone and other iOS devices. Photoshop Express is a powerhouse of a mobile app, and can even handle noise reduction (extraneous particles that show up on photos). All in all, Adobe Photoshop Express is a solid tool for making light photo edits on your iPhone.
The free AirPort Utility manager from Apple lets you control your Wi-Fi network and AirPort base stations, including AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and Time Capsule, right from your iPhone. When you launch the app, you'll see a pictorial representation of your network and devices that will tell you what's connected to what and how. You can change the network and Wi-Fi settings, start or restore a base station, access networking information (like DNS server, router address, IP address), and more.
Among news apps, The BBC's has one of the best interfaces—clean, with relevant headlines, good photos, and no advertisements. (Whether you agree with its angles and choice of coverage is another matter.) As far as international news organizations go, though, the BBC really does have correspondents in every corner of the globe, as well as varied and widespread topics. Another perk is that you can elect to view some news in other languages, such as Urdu, Arabic, and two kinds of Chinese.
The Brewster iPhone app may be one of the most visually appealing contact managers you'll find, tapping into multiple social networks for images of people you know. It insists on having access to your iPhone Contacts and either Twitter or Facebook to work, though.
When Apple introduced its Cards app for iPhone (free to download; cards $2.99 each U.S., $4.99 international including shipping), it created a very good tool in a particularly niche-y space, one that's easy to overlook but actually provides a lot of value to the average consumer. Using the Cards app to buy and mail customized greeting cards, with your own photos and text, is surprisingly cost effective, given that birthday cards and whatnot easily cost more than $3 at retail, not including postage. With the app, you can choose from a good number of well-designed templates across several occasions—congratulations, thank-you, birthday. The cards themselves are beautifully constructed.
Chrome for iPhone is just Safari with a better interface and a few more features, but it's a must-have app for desktop Chrome users. Anyone who has fallen in love with the "Omnibox," or combined URL address bar and search bar, won't want to use anything else.
This all-in-one calculation app, Converter Plus, delivers numbers on nearly everything, from currency conversions to loan-interest figures. It converts metric to imperial measurements for temperature, cooking volumes, length, and more.
Draw Something Free
Draw Something Free, the latest app craze, pits both iOS and Android users in simple gesture-based drawing competitions. Pick a word from a list of three, draw it on your screen with your finger using a variety of colors and brushes, and then send it to your friend to guess what you've drawn. You win coins if your friend guesses correctly. It's very simple and, like Words With Friends, the addiction lies in the robust social aspect. For more iPhone game recommendations, see "The 25 Best iPhone Games."
If your files live all over the place—your office computer, home desktop, laptop—having a dependable syncing program is a must. Dropbox, the service and productivity tool that lets you store your files in the cloud and access them from anywhere you have a signal, fills that role nicely with a Dropbox iPhone app. It has a simple interface, easy uploading, and swift syncing across all accounts.
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