The 25 Best Productivity Apps for iPhone in 2018

Jill Duffy
Jill Duffy / September 26, 2018

The best productivity apps for iPhone make possible something that would otherwise be impossible, or they make something you need to do simpler and faster. Imagine being asked, unexpectedly, for a copy of a tax form from last year as proof of address during an important appointment that you traveled many miles to attend. In fact, it happened to me, and thankfully I had a copy of the document I needed saved to a file syncing application, which meant I could pull it up on my phone and show it to the gracious Customs and Border Protection officer who demanded to see it. If that's not productivity by way of efficiency, I don't know what is.

Perhaps a more routine example is keeping track of time spent in an off-site meeting so that you can claim it as an expense later. If you have the right time-tracking mobile app, you can record the time on the spot rather than having to estimate it and remember to record it later.

The use cases for productivity apps are infinite, and sometimes it seems like the number of apps in the App Store that promise to make you more productive is infinite, too. Not every app is worth your time, money, and attention, however. Duds and inferior apps abound.

This list of productivity apps for iPhone highlights only the very best in class based on our (the writers and editors at Zapier) experience with the platform and our knowledge of productivity.

How We Choose the Best Productivity Apps for iPhone

We used two factors to home in on what types of apps to include for this list: universality and context. Then we assessed apps using additional criteria to find those that are the best for most people.

First, we looked for apps that have near-universal appeal, rather than those that boost productivity only in specific industries or professional roles. For example, visual artists and social media managers likely need a rich photo editing app to work efficiently on the go, but people in other positions might not have any need for one. Conversely, a great file syncing app has much broader application. It gives you access to your files no matter where you are, for both personal and work-related situations, which makes life more productive all around.

Second, we considered the mobile context. What apps aid your productivity when you're away from your computer and your iPhone becomes your primary internet-connected device?

After narrowing down the scope, we assessed apps based on a number of subjective factors, including quality, ease of use, design, and value. Finally, we assigned a category to each app other than "productivity" and limited our picks to one app from each. In many cases it was straightforward. 1Password is a password management app, for example, and it's the service we picked for being best on iOS. It doubles as a productivity app in the sense that it speeds up the process of logging into online accounts. Other apps don't fall so easily into tidy category boxes. Evernote and Notability both made this list and are both note-taking apps, but people tend to use them differently. We think Evernote is a top productivity app for putting all kinds of notes into easy reach, whereas Notability shines in the areas of sketching and annotation.

Honorable Mentions and Additional Resources

Ultimately, we chose only one "best" app in each secondary category, though throughout this article, you'll see a few honorable mentions. Those apps are by all accounts nearly as good as the ones picked for this list and, depending on your situation, perhaps a better option for you.

The Best Productivity Apps for iPhone

1Password

Best for managing passwords

1Password iPhone app

1Password is one of the best password managers on the market, with an iPhone app that fully takes advantage of all the operating system has to offer. It saves you time by speeding up the process of logging into your online accounts, filling in forms with your personal information, and entering credit card details for purchases—and all done securely. 1Password is available for a variety of platforms (Android, macOS, Windows) so that you're passwords sync effortless across all your devices. On iPhone, it's tightly integrated with the operating system, and new features in iOS 12 (expected in September 2018) will make it even tighter. For example, one function coming soon is an autofill suggestion for two-factor authentication that triggers immediately after you receive a code via SMS.

Price: $35.88/year or $3.99/month for Personal account

Adobe Acrobat

Best for annotating and working with PDFs

Adobe Acrobat for iPhone

Annotating and working with PDFs on a teeny tiny smartphone screen can be a bear. Adobe Acrobat eases the pain by giving you tools that work well with your fingers. With the Acrobat iPhone app, you can open PDFs and mark them up in a variety of ways, such as drawing on them, striking out text, highlighting text, signing documents, and so forth. You can share PDFs easily from the app, too. There are a few other very good PDF readers and annotation tools on the market, such as Good Reader ($4.99), but rarely do you get all the core features for free the way you do with Adobe.

Price: free

Asana

Best for collaborating with a team about tasks

Asana iPhone app

The Asana iPhone app makes it dead simple to keep up with the state of your team's work while you're traveling or offsite. As a collaborative work-management app, Asana often contains a lot of information, and the design of the iPhone app makes it easy to see what you need when you only have a small screen at hand. The app allows you to effortlessly tell your teammates the status of all tasks assign to you, letting you push them forward and assign the next steps no matter where you are. While some people refer to Asana as a project management app (and it certainly can be one), it works extremely well for managing ongoing work, as well as work that doesn't necessarily have a fixed start date, end date, and deliverable. Its flexibility in helping you manage either projects or ongoing work makes it one of the best apps for aiding both productivity and collaboration. Asana is available as a web app and Android app, too.

Price: free; $119.88/year per person for Premium

Cloze

Best for managing relationships and networking

Cloze iPhone app

Have you ever had a meeting with someone in real life without realizing you two have chatted online extensively before? Or have you lost touch with good contacts simply because it slipped your mind? Cloze connects to your online accounts to analyze your contacts and provide you with briefs about people you know, which increases your productivity because you're more equipped to jump into conversations with them when need be. With a free Cloze account, you can connect up to four other accounts, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Yahoo, and so forth. It can remind you at selected time intervals to get back in touch with people if you haven't communicated with them recently. Cloze's real value is helping you network more effectively by getting you to focus on the relationships that require some tending. Cloze has a web app and Android app, too.

Price: free; $159.96/year for Pro

Copied

Best for copying and pasting

Copied app for iPhone

Clipboard management app Copied saves you time by storing snippets of text within easy reach so that you can quickly edit, copy, and paste them in whatever other app you need. Copied can store images and links as well. The app has a clipboard for managing text you need to copy and paste on the spot, in addition to letting you save text snippets for long-term use. Formatting tools and the ability to sync the iPhone app with the Mac app of the same name (requires upgrade) add even more ways to boost your productivity.

Price: free; optional $2.99 upgrade for added features and syncing

DocuSign

Best for electronically signing documents and sending documents for signature

DocuSign

DocuSign is one of those apps that you have no need to download until suddenly you do, and from that point forward, you end up using it often. DocuSign serves a niche purpose: to enable secure and official electronic signing and delivery of documents. While competitors exist, DocuSign is quickly becoming the de facto choice in many markets. For example, if you intend to buy or sell property anytime soon, save yourself some time by downloading the app and creating an account now. If you're a freelancer juggling many contracts, you'll likely need it, too. DocuSign is free to use for signing a document, but if you're in the business of generating documents and collecting the signed copies, you'll likely need a paid service plan. DocuSign is also available for iPad, Android, Windows, and the web.

Price: free; paid plans from $120/year per person

Doodle

Best for scheduling among groups

Doodle for iPhone

When you need to find a suitable date and time to get a group of people together, you need Doodle. Doodle's iPhone app (also available for Android and as a web app) lets you quickly and easily create a poll for possible times to meet and send it to your colleagues or friends. As they fill out the poll, you see which option works best for the greatest number of people. It's so much more efficient than using email, text messages, or some other method to get multiple people together. Doodle offers not just scheduling polls, but also text-based ones for getting feedback on other group questions, such as "Which restaurant do you prefer?" or "Should we meet in person, by phone, or via video call?" Given the limited screen space of the iPhone, Doodle does an admirable job of making group scheduling easy when you're on the go.

Price: free; $39/year Premium membership

Dropbox

Best for file syncing and backup

Dropbox for iPhone

Having a reliable file syncing app is indispensable on the iPhone. It gives you access to your most important documents no matter where you are, so if you need proof of address or some other paperwork in a pinch, you can get it within seconds. The very best file syncing services also offer options to back up photos and videos from your phone automatically, which Dropbox includes. For iPhone, Dropbox is one of the best file syncing apps because it's fast and easy to use. Dropbox has apps for a variety of platforms, including Android, Kindle Fire, macOS, Windows, and the web.

Price: free; paid plans from $9.99/month

Evernote

Best for taking notes of all kinds

Evernote for iPhone

No other note-taking app has as much functionality on the iPhone as Evernote. Evernote lets you quickly capture any type of note, whether it's a voice memo, checklist, text note, or an image. You can snap photos that contain text, such as a page of a book or a whiteboard from a meeting, and Evernote will not only save them so they're accessible to you any time, but also make the text searchable using optical character recognition (OCR). It works for both typed text and handwriting. It's an excellent app for productivity enthusiasts and essential on the iPhone. Evernote also has apps for all major platforms, including the web.

Price: free; paid plans from $69.99/year

Fantastical 2

Best for calendaring

Fantastical 2 for iPhone

It's surprising how few calendar apps for iPhone excel at keeping you productive by providing an interface that's both pleasing to see and easy to use. Fantastical 2 is one of very few that gets it right. It imports your appointments and events from Google Calendar and presents them in a summary list below either a monthly view of five-day view, and you can swipe to toggle between them. You can customize it to open links contained in your events in the app of your choices, such as Safari or Google Chrome, and for links to maps, Apple Maps, Google Maps, Waze, and so forth.

Price: $4.99

Grammarly

Best for checking your writing

Grammarly for iPhone

Autocorrect bloopers don't always leave people laughing. Using the wrong word or having grievous typos in an important email or document can cause embarrassment and put real strain on relationships. Grammarly goes a long way to preventing those kinds of mishaps. It's an online tool for checking spelling, grammar, overused words, and other matters related to writing, and it now has a mobile app (for both iOS and Android). Grammarly's keyboard app for iPhone helps makes sure your writing is free of errors. It reviews your spelling as you write, and when you're ready for it to look for larger mistakes in, it can scan and examine entire documents. The app is free with a few features reserved for Premium subscribers, such as suggestions for improvement in style and vocabulary. Because it's implemented as a keyboard app, it works in any other app that uses the keyboard. If you write a lot of important memos from your phone, it boosts your productivity by checking it over faster and more efficiently than if you used your eyes alone.

Price: free; $139.95/year Premium membership

HabitMinder

Best for tracking and reinforcing habits

HabitMinder iPhone app

Habit trackers help you stick to new habits you're trying to develop by having you log your daily activities and see over time whether you've committed to them. They're ideally suited for the mobile context because you want to be able to log your progress no matter where you are. HabitMinder stands out as the best habit tracker I've found because it offers quantity tracking for goals that require them, such as "spend 30 minutes per day studying" or "drink 64 oz. of water per day." For simpler yes/no actions on habits, you still have the option to note how many times per day you want to do the activity and how often HabitMinder should remind you about it. HabitMinder also sells its Premium subscription for a fair $5.99 one-time fee, which unlocks unlimited habits, unlimited reminders, data export options, and more. Free members are limited to tracking just three habits.

Price: free; $5.99 Premium membership

Launcher

Best for launching actions and apps from widgets

Launcher for iPhone

Launcher gives you one-touch access to both apps and actions, and it's one of the better apps at guiding you through the process of setting up these shortcuts. When you first use Launcher, it suggests actions you might want to take, such as texting someone you frequently message or opening an app you use all the time. Its guesses weren't spot on in my testing, but they did the job of showing me what's possible with the app. You can get rather detailed, too, such as sending a WhatsApp message to a particular group of people that says "On the way" or whatever your heart desires. Because it automates repetitive actions, it's an efficiency dream.

Price: free; $4.99 Pro membership; additional $3.99 for multiple widgets

Lucidchart

Best for diagramming

Lucidchart for iPhone

If you've never picked up diagramming and flowchart software, you should, and you should start with Lucidchart. It has universal appeal in helping people create professional diagrams for both work or personal use (it's often used to create family trees, for example), and its iPhone app is surprisingly easy to use. The next time you need to make or edit an org chart, decision tree, room diagram, or other visual, you can whip it up on the spot using your finger and your phone. Lucidchart works collaboratively as well, so that you can provide comments, feedback, and corrections on other people's charts even when you're not in front of your computer. Lucidchart works most powerfully in its web app form, which syncs with the mobile apps (available for Android, too).

Price: free; paid accounts from $59.40/year

Notability

Best for sketching and annotating by hand

Notability for iPhone

Evernote may be the best general-purpose note taking app for iPhone, but Notability is better for sketching and annotating images and documents by hand (er, finger). Anyone who works with concept drawings will see its apparent use, as well as students who can use Notability to mark up lecture notes, diagrams, and illustrations. The $9.99 price tag puts in on the high end of the paid app spectrum, but the purchase includes Notability for iPad, which offers an even better experience than the iPhone version.

Price: $9.99

Pocket

Best for reading

Pocket for iPhone

I know, I know. Pocket doesn't seem like a productivity app, but hear me out. So many apps on your iPhone brim with potential distractions. Push notifications from news apps or Twitter for breaking news never stop there. How quickly we get sucked into the rabbit hole of reading more, more, more. Pocket lets you focus on exactly what you set out to read and no more. It still takes a little discipline to use Pocket in this more productive way, but it's much better than scrolling endlessly through daily news feeds in other apps. Pocket is also available for a variety of platforms, including Android, Chrome, macOS, and Windows.

Price: free; $44.99/year for Premium

Pushbullet

Best for quickly sharing information among devices

Pushbullet for iPhone

If you only use Apple products, syncing information among them is reasonably easy. But if you also use Windows or Android devices (or you can't be bothered to set up and customize syncing for every Apple device you own), you should download Pushbullet. This app lets you push information, such as text and web links, from one device to another instantly and with complete ease. Say you've rabbit-holed your way into an article on Safari on your iPhone, and you've decided you'd rather read it on a Windows laptop. Share the link via Pushbullet, and you can have the same page open on your laptop in seconds. Or maybe you want to send an iMessage to someone, but you'd rather type it out on your Windows laptop. Type away, then send it to iPhone via Pushbullet. The app has additional opt-in features for messaging with friends, as well as notifications for news and other information, if you don't find them too distracting from focusing on your productivity.

Price: free; $39.99/year Pro membership

Scanbot Pro

Best for scanning, sharing, and OCR

Scanbot Pro for iPhone

When you have a stack of documents that you need to scan, crop, compile into a single PDF, and send along its way, Scanbot Pro helps you get the whole project done. Scanbot Pro also includes a QR code scanner, barcode scanner, and faxing option ($0.99 per page). Considering all you get, the $6.99 app offers very good value. There's a free limited version of Scanbot, too. If you pay for an Evernote subscription, however, you likely don't need Scanbot Pro because Evernote's iPhone app has stellar scanning functions already.

Price: $6.99

Shortcuts by Apple

Best for creating automations

Shortcuts app for iPhone

Apple's Shortcuts app lets you create and trigger automations, such as "upload the most recent photo I took to my cloud storage account," from your iPhone either with the touch of a button or by using Siri. The app is more or less an updated version of Apple's Workflow app for iOS 12 and later. With this app and a little tinkering, you have the power to create a multitude of automations in the vein of "when I press the button or ask Siri, do this action." You don't need any technical prowess, as you can choose templates from the app's Library, such as "when I press this button, get directions to the next event on my calendar." If you're reasonably comfortable with technology, however, you can add quite complex automations, many beyond the limits of Shortcuts and iOS if you use Zapier webhooks. See Zapier's tutorial on how to create Shortcuts beyond iOS.

Price: free

SwiftKey

Best for typing by swiping

SwiftKey for iPhone

With SwiftKey, you swipe to type. Rather than push each tiny keyboard letter as you write, SwiftKey supports swipe gestures, meaning you drag your finger across the keyboard over the letters you need, and lift it when you reach the end of the word. SwiftKey figures out what you wanted to say. The more you use, the faster you can write on your iPhone (there's a version for Android, too). One great value-add for SwiftKey is that the app supports two languages simultaneously, meaning multilingual folks don't have to switch keyboards everytime they need special characters or spell checking in another language.

Price: free

Things 3

Best for GTD® task-manager

Things for iPhone

Things 3 is one of the best task-management apps for those who follow the Getting Things Done® (GTD®) methodology and, on the iPhone specifically, it's your best bet. As a GTD app, Things incorporates specific aspects of the theory in its design so that you can mark tasks you need to do today, anytime, or someday, depending on their relevance. Likewise, you can tag tasks based on where you must do them, such as home or work. Things for iPhone offers a widget that lets you jump to your Today list of tasks quickly or jot down something you need to do as quickly as possible. The $9.99 price gets you the iPhone app and Apple Watch hookup, but you have to pay an additional $19.99 for the iPad app and $49.99 for the macOS app. Seeing as these prices are one-time fees and not recurring subscriptions, the costs are fair, though hardly a bargain.

Price: $9.99

Tide

Best for enhancing focus

Tide app for iPhone

White noise app Tide can lull you to sleep or drown out the sounds of co-workers, and it also has a few neat options for helping you focus and therefore be more productive. First, a Pomodoro setting lets you set a timer to a work interval, for those who follow the Pomodoro Method. When your work interval is up, the app reminds you to take a short break. Second, when you enable a setting called Flip Focus, you must keep your phone face down throughout the duration of the white noise session. If you pick up your phone to respond to messages, check Twitter, or for any other reasons, the focus session automatically pauses. Sounds of the ocean, rain, forest, and a few other scenes are included, with additional audio files available for $0.99 each. If you have trouble pinning down this app in the App Store, its full title is Tide: Sleep Sounds Focus Timer.

Price: free; $0.99 per additional audio file

Todoist

Best for tracking tasks solo or collaboratively

Todoist for iPhone

For an all-purpose to-do app on the iPhone, it's hard to beat Todoist. It lets you keep track of tasks you need to complete and group them into different projects as necessary, such as Work, Personal, Household, Shopping, and so forth. It supports collaboration, too, so you can ask your household members to sign up for Todoist accounts and then assign them tasks, whether you need to remind your partner, children, or roommates of chores they should do. Todoist interprets natural language input well, meaning if you type "pick up dry cleaning tomorrow at 2 p.m." the app will assign the appropriate due date and time. Productivity enthusiasts will love some of the Premium features, such as productivity graphs that are color-coded to match your projects. When you create a Todoist account, your tasks and activity syncs all your devices, as the app is available on all major platforms.

Price: free; $28.99/year for Premium

Toggl

Best for tracking time while remote

Toggl iPhone app

Toggl is among the best time-tracking apps, and it stands out on the iPhone for its ease of use. If you need to track time spent in meetings, at a client visit, or while doing anything when you're away from your desk, Toggl is the best app for the job on iPhone. Whether you need to keep tabs on billable hours or simply want to record time on task for your own productivity purposes, it's the app to download. Toggl also wins hearts for having a free tier of service that's actually quite useful, though you may need to pony up to a paid plan for additional reporting tools and project management features. Toggl works across a number of platforms (Android, Chrome, Linux, macOS, web, Windows), and time you record via the iPhone app will sync to your other devices.

Price: free; paid plans from $108/year

Trove – AI for Email (formerly Notion)

Best for emailing

Trove iPhone app

The best email apps do a little bit of everything, such as consolidate mail across different accounts and help you separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, when you go through the messages in your inbox. Trove, formerly called Notion, is an iOS-only email client designed to increase productivity (there's technically a web app, too, but you have to authenticate all your connected email accounts every time you use it). When it displays messages in your inbox, it shows preview text for important messages addressed directly to you while keeping other messages, such as newsletters, condensed. You can tell at a glance what's important. Trove also highlights people in your network, based on contacts with whom you've exchanged emails. It shows new contacts in one line, people with whom you've emailed most actively in another line, and suggestions for people you haven't messaged in a while. Trove also gives you swipe gestures for archiving, snoozing, and more.

Price: free; $59/year Pro


All the apps in this list help you stay productive while you're on the go or be more productive despite the limitations of the screen size in front of you.

Top image by picjumbo.com from Pexels.
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