iOS 7 is the biggest UI overhaul Apple’s mobile operating system has seen since the original iPhone OS was released 6 years ago. Under Jony Ive’s direction, iOS has gotten brighter, lighter, and animated, with translucency, layers, and 3D effects making the OS feel far different than before.
If that wasn’t enough change for one day, developers have quickly jumped on the bandwagon and crafted beautiful new apps that take advantage of the best of the new design and features of iOS. Whether you upgraded to iOS 7 or not, you’ll noticed tons of updates in the App Store for everything from Facebook to Kindle, sporting new features and in many cases radically new UIs. But the best app upgrades are those that require iOS 7, since they’ve been built around the new animation and text rendering engines in the OS.
So whether you’re excited about upgrading your existing apps, or looking for new stuff to try out to see the best of what iOS 7 has to offer, here’s the apps you should be using. They’re all absolutely great.
To Update or Upgrade
First, though, there’s something a bit different this time around. Practically every single update to every iOS app so far has been free. There’s been notable exceptions, such as when Tweetie 2 was launched as a new paid app instead of a free update, or when apps like Byword 2 added their new features as an in-app purchase. But by and large, developers have opted to ship updates and full new versions for free on the App Store.
iOS 7’s redesign prompted developers to go back to the drawing board and, in many cases, entirely reinvent their apps. The Evernote team said that “virtually no code is shared” between the older versions of Evernote and the newest version in their Techcrunch interview, while the Omni Group said that their OmniFocus 2 for iPhone was “developed from scratch for iOS 7”. There’s many apps that got milder updates to make them fit in better in iOS 7, but the very best redesigns at the very least feel like totally new apps, often with new features and streamlined interfaces.
All of that development work costs, and this time, many developers are charging for new versions of their apps. Many are still free upgrades, and obviously the apps that were free before are still free, but from Reeder 2 to OmniFocus 2, there’s many new paid apps in the store. And that’s not bad, really. The App Store’s been open for 5 years, and many of us have used our paid apps for at least several years already, so paying for a great new version of an app you love is only reasonable. Plus, once you see how nice these apps are, you’ll want to get the latest versions, anyhow.
With that, here’s our favorite apps that sport the most dramatic iOS 7 overhauls today. They’re anything but the same apps you were using yesterday — they’re bold, new, and far more than just a flatter skin on the same old app. And if they’re free updates, we’ve listed that; otherwise, if there’s just a price, the iOS 7 version is a paid upgrade.
If there’s one app upgrade that’ll dumbfound you, it’s the latest version of Evernote for iOS. It’s still green, and still stores all of your notes. That much is still true. Everything else is totally different — and mostly for the better.
The new Evernote manages to pack much more data in the same area, while still feeling spacious and uncluttered. You can jump to your shortcuts, recent notes, notebooks, and tabs all with one tap from your homescreen. Then, you can add notes easier than ever with the quick add buttons on the bottom — and even add Skitch-style annotations to images and PDFs without leaving the app. It’ll automatically download new notes in the background, so it’s always ready with your info. There’s only one thing missing: the option to view your notes by location on a map. I really hope they bring that back ASAP, because it’s how I bookmark business locations by default.
Regardless, this is one upgrade you’ve got to try, even if you’re not an Evernote user by default. It’ll convert you.
Price: Free; $4.99/month Premium
Ready to be surprised again? Good. The new OmniFocus for iPhone is easily one of the more stunning redesigns that’s both unique and yet very similar to the iOS 7 default styles. For an app that last week looked much like the original iOS stock app designs in many ways, the new version is all the more stunning.
But it’s not just a pretty upgrade: it’s a functional one as well. You’ll find every feature from the previous version, aside from TextExpander and landscape mode support, both of which are coming soon. But, you’ll find the addition of new Save+ to save a new task and add a new one in one tap, and progress indicators on projects to see how much is left. Plus, it uses iOS 7’s new background update to keep your tasks synced with your Mac and iPad even when the app’s not open.
The RSS reader that won us all over back when Google Reader was still king, Reeder has had a tough transition ever since the search giant decided to kill Google Reader. But you couldn’t know that from the brand-new Reeder 2. It’s one of the very first iOS 7-centric redesigns to hit the App Store, and is still one of the best. It keeps its own unique design while still feeling like a built-in iOS 7 app, and syncs RSS feeds on its own or with the best sync services available today.
Reeder unfortunately doesn’t have iOS 7 background update yet, so we sure hope to see it added soon. But regardless, it’s once again the RSS reader to beat on iOS.
The new iOS 7 calculator is nice, but has far too few features if you’re serious about your math. And you sure don’t want something that looks exactly like a plastic calculator on your crisp, clean new iOS. Enter the new PCalc. It’s got all the features it’s always had — advanced scientific calculator features, conversions, and more — combined with a new design that looks great on iOS 7. Plus, it still has all of the old themes, so you can still make your virtual calculator look like a real one if you really want to.
Turns out, you can have a beautiful iOS 7 redesign and still sport legacy skeuomorphic designs.
Price: $9.99; free update for existing users
Apple’s backtracked from their peak of extreme skeuomorphism in their own Podcasts app, but it’s far from the best podcast app out there. For that, you’ll need to look to Pocket Casts 4’s bold new iOS 7 design. With one of the few designs ready to show off with the new colorful iPhone 5c, Pocket Casts’ player will change hue to match the color of your podcast artwork. But it’s more than just a fancy UI; Pocket Casts will automatically download new podcast episodes in the background, along with the great features you’d already expect.
Price: $3.99; free update for existing users
Simplenote has long been a mainstay of iOS note taking, but one that was feeling sorely neglected recently. Then, the Automattic team bought out the notes app we all loved, and — instead of aquihiring their team — they put together brand new apps for the service on the Mac, Android, and now iOS. The new app brings a touch of Vesper’s style mixed with iOS 7’s bright white and Adobe’s Source Sans Pro typeface to make one of the nicest note apps on the market. It’s ready to battle against the new Evernote.
The app that started out as the black-and-yellow Read Later has sure grown up and lightened up in its reincarnation as Pocket. But that’s not exactly new; Pocket has already had a fairly light and flat interface ever since its launch. What is new is its new background syncing that’ll get new articles automatically, along with a much faster interface that recedes into the background while you’re reading. It’s nice.
Pocket’s main competitor (and the app I tend to prefer), Instapaper, also got an iOS 7 update with a new UI design and brand-new sorting options. Unfortunately, without the new text engine and background sync, it’s not quite as impressive of a leap to iOS 7.
Long hailed as one of iOS’ must-try apps, Sky Guide is an amazing app that shows you what stars are above you right now. And now, it’s nicer looking than ever with a new UI that recedes into the background, giving you the tools you need to find more info about stars without taking up precious onscreen real estate. Less really is more, here.
When you’re ready to stop and look at the stars, this is the app to get. But then, turn the phone off and gaze at the sky. Your eyes likely need a rest after spending all day looking at new apps.
Price: $1.99; free update for existing users
iOS 7 is all about bring content forward, and letting the UI disappear. That’s great for reading apps, but it’s an even more appreciated strategy for remote desktops. Screens sported one of the nicest iOS 6 interfaces, but it still had too much UI chrome. So they took it back to the drawing board, and applied a beautiful dose of transparency to their great VNC engine. There’s the tools you need to connect to your Macs and PCs remotely, from keyboard shortcuts and touchpad gestures to copy/paste support, but none of it will get in your way.
Mailbox showed us what a clean inbox should look like, then Apple decided to clean up their own Mail app and make Mailbox look like it was clutter. Perhaps it was game over for Mailbox, just after Dropbox bought them out.
Nope. Their team came back fighting, with a beautiful new design that brings the best of iOS 7’s clean design and the best of Mailbox’ organization tools together. It’s a great upgrade, and if you’re a Mailbox fan you won’t have to wonder if you should switch back to the default Mail app.
You don’t have to make your app look just like everyone else’s apps to look sharp on iOS 7. Just look at Konvert. It’s perhaps the perfect unique iOS 7 design — it looks flat, but then is filled with beautiful 3D transitions that are fast enough to not get in the way. And, it’s not just for iOS 7: it’ll still run fine on your non-updated iPhone.
The brand-new Word competitor that wowed us a couple months back suddenly looked a tad dated with textured backgrounds and realistic folders. That didn’t last long, though. Their new 1.3 update refreshes their app with a lighter touch that manages to mix ripped paper snippets into Apple’s iOS redesign in a way that looks quite nice. Perhaps we’re not over loving skeuomorphism just yet.
Everything’s not digital yet, so Prizmo’s the app for the paper in your life. It’s a brilliant scanning and OCR app that’s even better in iOS 7. The new lighter interface makes it easier to browse through your OCRed text, and it can now read back your text to you. That’s in addition to it’s best-in-class OCR engine that recognizes text better than anything else we’ve ever used. It’s great.
Price: $9.99 (half off for a limited time), free update for existing users
The official Twitter app is rather underwhelming, and crowd-favorite Tweetbot’s iOS 7 redesign is still in the works. Then, there’s the beautifully redesigned Twitterrific. It’s got a beautiful iOS 7 redesign, will fetch your tweets and sync your read location in the background, and lets you save links to Safari’s Reading List or open them in Chrome. And it’s faster than before. What more could you ask?
Price: $4.99 (half off for a limited time), free update for existing users
Video apps already sported the most focused UIs in the App Store, since the main thing they offer is content. But Vimeo found more cruft to cut in their latest version, making the Vimeo app really just about your videos. It’s a beautiful example of how nice iOS 7 styles can look with great photography. Throw in offline video support and AirDrop sharing, and you’ve got quite the entertainment pair.
Come to think of it, with all this background syncing and offline support in iOS 7 apps, it’ll be easier to get by with less 4G data usage than ever.
Another brand-new app with a flat design that’s not only for iOS 7, Currency wins a place in this list for its beautiful custom interface and great gesture support. Type in the amount you want to convert, then push the numbers to the right with your fingers to see them trip and fall off the screen as a rather animated version of a delete key. Then pull down on the keyboard to reveal the other currency options underneath.
Animations mixed with a flatter, layered UI? Yup, sounds like iOS 7 to us.
The new Byword is so similar to the original v2.0, it almost didn’t make the list. But then, I tried it out and noticed that it now has Markdown syntax highlighting, thanks to using iOS 7’s new Text Kit framework. That makes it the first iOS app with Markdown syntax highlighting, and for a dedicated Markdown writer, that’s huge. Really huge. Throw in AirDrop support for documents, and Byword’s existing nice feature set, and you’ve got a winner.
Price: $4.99, free update for existing users
Can we include an iPad only app, please? Ok, thank you. The Omni group not only redesigned OmniFocus for iPhone, but also managed to find time to push out brand new versions of both OmniOutliner and OmniPlan for iPad. It not only sports a new iOS 7 UI, but also includes dozens of hardware keyboard shortcuts to make writing and editing outlines on the iPad with an external keyboard a breeze. It’ll also sync your outlines in the background, so you’ll never lose your notes. It’s an expensive new version, but sure looks tempting for anyone who writes much on the iPad.
And That’s Only the Beginning!
“iOS 7 is exactly the sort of thing that makes being an app developer so thrilling.”
Andrew Sinkov, Evernote
There’s many more apps that have been updated for iOS 7, but those are the ones that have stood out to us with the boldest new redesigns specifically for the new OS. But you’ll notice little new changes in most of your favorite apps over the coming days and weeks, and even more apps will still be rolling out brand-new versions. It’s a great time to reevaluate the apps you use, see what’s worth keeping around and what new apps you should try out, and get the very best apps for your iOS devices. And hey: if you already own older apps, and don’t want to pay for new versions, the good news is that almost every older app still works great in iOS 7 today, so you can upgrade paid apps as you want.
It’s sure a fun time to be an iPhone user, even if you’re not getting a new iPhone this week. Let us know what other new apps you’re enjoying in the comments below!