The iPhone's Default Apps Aren't the Best, But These 10 Alternatives Are

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The iPhone's Default Apps Aren't the Best, But These 10 Alternatives Are

People love their iPhones—and for good reason. They’re fast, streamlined, and incredibly well-designed. The thing iPhones are known most for, however, is the App Store, which is home to the best third party apps available for mobile devices.

One of the iPhone’s biggest flaws, though, are the default apps that Apple so wants its customers to use. Many are overly simple and don’t often play well with other non-Apple apps—not to mention that Apple doesn’t like giving users the choice of changing third party apps to default ones.

With that all in mind, it’s time to go through your iPhone and swap out those old Apple apps for some shiny new ones.

1. Replace Mail with Outlook

Historically, Mail has been one of the biggest disappointments in all of iOS—specifically for being slow, clunky, and hard to use. There have been a number of great replacements of Mail over the years, but the best you can get right now is Microsoft’s Outlook.

That might be surprising to a lot of people given’s the app’s reputation for being more enterprise-focused, but the iOS Outlook app is really quite intuitive for all the basic functions of an email client, while also being feature-rich. The biggest advantage Outlook has over its rivals is the inclusion of a calendar, letting you take care of all of your scheduling and planning in one app.

Other alternatives: Airmail, Gmail, Inbox

2. Replace Calendar with Fantastical 2


Whether it’s Sunrise or Tempo Smart Calendar, it seems like all of my favorite calendar apps over the years have been shut down. A good solution might just be using Outlook as both your email and calendar app mentioned above.

But right now, Fantastical 2 is the best standalone calendar app you can find on iOS. It’s unfortunate that it costs $4.99, but it’s a comprehensive calendar that lets you organize all of your life in one place. It even includes a place for reminders.

Other alternatives: Cal, UpTo

3. Replace Apple Maps with Google Maps

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This is an easy one—and one that pretty much every iPhone user should do. While it’s true that Apple Maps has gotten a lot better since its well-documented flop back in 2012, it’s just not as good as Google Maps yet.

Not only does it do the basics of navigation flawlessly, it’s also easy to search for things like gas stations and nearby restaurants, and it’s unbeatable for public transit directions. It even works great in a surprising number of countries.

Other alternatives: Waze

4. Replace Notes with Simplenote


You’d think that Notes would be a simple enough concept that you could just stick with what Apple has given you. However, I prefer the minimalist approach to design and syncing that Simplenote has taken with its app. The most important thing that Simplenote does is synch effortlessly—and can even be accessed from the web.

Functionality is as basic as typing, hyperlinking, searching, and adding new notes, but what more do you need in a notes app? Everything else just gets in the way.

Other alternatives: Evernote

5. Replace Keyboard with the Gboard

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Apple opened up keyboard access to third party developers in 2014 and we’ve seen a number of third party keyboards coming in to fight for that all-important spot on your iPhone since then. The best, by a long shot, is the new Google Keyboard—or Gboard, as it’s known.

The Apple keyboard isn’t all that bad, but Gboard adds in its world-class predictive typing, GIF support, and even customizable themes. Speaking of GIFs, Gboard will send you GIF suggestions so that when you start typing something it’ll give you some proper GIF reactions that will really take your texting game to the next level.

Other alternatives: Swype

6. Replace Weather with Dark Sky


Apple’s simple approach to weather is appreciated, but Dark Sky’s comprehensive view is also extremely worthwhile, especially if you’re interesting in more than just the temperature. This one costs $3.99, but it’s beautiful designed, delivers weather alerts, and gives a detailed look into what is really going on with the weather around the world. It’s even got a great Apple Watch to go along with it.

Other alternatives: Yahoo! Weather

7. Replace Reminders with Wunderlist


Like Notes, Reminders is a fairly basic task and to-do list. However, Wunderlist is a much more comprehensive app that does a great job working across all platforms, including for the Apple Watch. Wunderlist lets you categorize your tasks, as well as add due dates—it’s everything you need to stay on task and keep track of your goals.

Other alternatives:

8. Replace Camera with Manual


The basic Camera app works wells enough, but like a lot of these apps, it’s pretty basic. The alternative we’re suggesting here is Manual, which gives users access to controls like ISO and shutter speed. It doesn’t add a bunch of editing tools, but really you should be doing that in VSCO Cam or Instagram anyways. If you want to really take a great raw photo on your iPhone, switch out the Camera for Manual.

Other alternatives: Camera+

9. Replace Podcasts with Overcast

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The Apple Podcasts app did a lot for the proliferation of podcasts as a medium, but it isn’t exactly the more user-friendly thing made in the world. Overcast is a fantastic alternative that makes it easy to listen to the podcasts you love—as well as discover new favorites. It even has a great playlist feature and comes completely free of charge.

Other alternatives: Pocket Casts

10. Replace Clock with Sleep Cycle


Why only have a basic alarm clock when you can have something that analyzes your sleep cycle and wakes you up at a time that is actually healthy for you? Sleep Cycle does that—all while doing all the basics that the Clock app does too.