This is part three of a three-part series covering some of my favorite apps for 2012. So far I’ve posted about my favorite Mac apps and my favorite iOS and Mac combo apps. This post covers some of my favorite iOS-only apps for the year.

Great iOS apps for 2012


In Episode 22 of Systematic, I talked at length with Joey Carenza about iPhone photography. I brought a few of my favorite apps to the table, and he introduced me to a few more. These have become my favorite photo tools:

An awesome, all-purpose photo tool. Choose lighting, film, lens effects and edit them all with live preview and non-destructive save (you can change effects later). Great editing tools and white balance adjustments. It even has a “high speed” mode that takes lower resolution images very quickly. The list of features goes on, definitely check it out.
This is my favorite HDR tool. It has auto and manual modes for taking two exposures at once and lets you adjust the mix and contrast immediately. I did a quick review of Pro HDR a little bit ago.
Cortex Cam
Cortex Cam uses the video capabilities of your iPhone to shoot a series of photos at high speed, averaging them to remove noise from a scene and provide an amazingly high-resolution image. It works best with poorly-lit scenes with little to no movement, but in those situations it’s amazing.
The new Flickr app is awesome. And free. I’ve used Flickr for years and never slowed, but this app has rekindled my interest in surfing other people’s photos and uploading on the go.

For some real fun, be sure to check out the Olloclip 3-in-1 Lens (also available for iPhone 5).


I spend a lot of time dabbling with a lot of iOS text editors and note-taking apps. You may be familiar with my iTextEditors comparison chart…

People often ask what my personal preferences are. Truth be told, there’s something I love about almost all of them. The ones that become permanent additions to my “Writing” folder, though, are the ones that are both well-rounded and stable. Here are my current top choices:

Notesy is my Dropbox-based counterpart to nvALT. I’ve been testing a variety for over a year now, and Notesy provides the most stable and speedy access to my large note collection, as well as cool features like regular expression search. Did I mention it’s pretty fast?
Trunk Notes
Trunk Notes is a long-time favorite of mine. It’s a full wiki platform, complete with a lot of the things you’ve come to expect from MediaWiki or even Gollum. In addition to its special syntaxes, audio and image linking and full Markdown support, it also has a built-in web server for browsing and editing your wiki in any browser on your local network. All of your files are stored as Markdown text files in Dropbox, so you can open them anywhere.
Textastic is a code editor and is just plain impressive. Incorporating TextMate themes and syntax definitions, intelligent autocomplete and character pairing and document syncing with multiple platforms, it offers a very well-rounded way to work with just about any code on the go.
Writing Kit
Writing Kit remains my favorite tool for putting together blog posts. With a ton of editing features, built in web browser and Markdown support, it’s a fully-fledged portable blogging platform. You can write long form with it, too, of course, but I don’t do a lot of non-web writing on my iPad.
Daedalus Touch
An elegant, Markdown-friendly editor with a more abstract document management method
WriteUp is a solid text editor with Markdown capabilities. A recent release added some awesome cursor navigation with keyboard gestures that are absolutely worth checking out.
Definitely my favorite way to post to a WordPress blog on the go. It has Markdown handling and image upload capabilities combined with a minimal and very elegant interface.
I mentioned MindNode in a previous post, but I use several mind mapping programs for notes and brainstorming. MindMeister was originally a web app and has developed nicely as a powerful browser-based solution. Their iPad app is also superb and syncs flawlessly with your web-based account. A new version is right around the corner, too.
A subscription is required to make use of sync. I won’t spend a lot of time trying to sell you on the service, but if you mind map and want a synced platform with amazing collaboration features and easy sharing and presentation of your ideas, this is my absolute favorite. I get no money for telling you this. I just really dig it.
A unique and highly usable take on iPad writing. It lets you write and then easily rearrange paragraphs and sentences whenever you need to. Full Markdown preview and send-to options. It’s not my primary Markdown editor, but it’s slick enough that I would suggest anyone interested in writing longer form pieces take a look at it. It also fully integrates with Terminology, an excellent iOS dictionary application.

If you’re doing a lot of typing on your iPad, I recommend the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It’s served me well on many a road trip and airplane ride. It doubles as a case for your iPad, and I love the hard keys and easy-to-open magnetic attachment.


iPad and iPhones are commonly labelled as media consumption devices, but the possibilities for creation are very exciting. Here are a few of my favorite ways to generate and work with audio and video.

Pro Metronome
It’s a metronome. It does what it says on the box, with plenty of options to suit your particular rhythmic needs. I expecially like the light pulse mode for a visual metronome.
There are a few very good guitar effects processors for iOS, but AmpKit is my current favorite. With a variety of input devices available, the iPad and iPhone make great effects boards for practice or gigging. Honorable mention: AmpliTube Slash, because, really, what else would I need my guitar to sound like?
I love iStopMotion. I haven’t done anything “serious” with it, but it’s an evening of fun and entertainment with loved ones (who have the patience for stop motion). The latest release offers full soundtrack editing and you can create complete animations and shorts with nothing but your iPad. You can, of course, export your creations to the desktop for further editing. Also check out the free iStopMotion Remote Camera app.

You can also do plenty of media consuming, of course. A couple weapons of choice:

I’ve never used Rdio, and tried a few others in passing. Spotify is my music service of choice and (with subscription) the ability to make entire playlists available offline is awesome.
If you use YouTube, get Jasmine. It makes things pretty and even improves usability a bit.


It’s basically Tweetbot for, and it’s awesome. If you use ADN, this is a great way to handle it on the go. Rhino is worth a mention as well.
My job requires me to be on IM pretty much all of the time. Verbs is the best way I’ve found to do that when I’m not at my desk.


Ok, I admit it: playing games is my favorite part of my iPad and my iPhone. After a recent whittling down of my installed games, I have four folders left on both devices. Some games are more fun on iPad, but a lot of them are entertaining on both devices.

Super Monsters Ate My Condo
I’ll get bored with it someday, but this is still my hands-down favorite iOS game ever. I definitely do better on the iPad with it, but it’s a blast no matter what size you play it at.
A Game Center-based battle of words against your friends. The clickety-clack alert sound of a turn being played by a remote opponent is a Pavlovian trigger for me. Once I hear it, I can’t accomplish much of anything until I’ve volleyed back.
Boost 2
This accelerometer-driven tunnel game is the best I’ve seen. The controls require rotating the device like a steering wheel, but unlike other driving games I’ve played it’s extremely easy to make accurate movements and maintain control. Simple graphics, exhilarating gameplay.
Contre Jour
This is the exact opposite of Boost 2. It’s a slow, thoughtful game that’s perfect for relaxing your mind.
Tentacles: Enter the Dolphin
This showing from Microsoft is impressive. Navigating some strange octopus-like critter through the digestive system and neural pathways of an anthropomorphic dolphin while snatching and eating the eyes of your enemies may sound like an odd premise, but you can pick up the controls in a couple of minutes and it’s good for hours of fun.


iOS utilities are often one-trick tools, but the platform makes it easy to create a toolbox of your most-used utilities. Here are a few that have a permanent home in my Tools folder:

I did a review of Tally quite recently. It helps you count stuff. It’s awesome.
On Air Pro
This is a nicely done and affordable Teleprompter setup. If you have both an iPad and an iPhone, you can start the prompter on your iPad and then control it (start, stop, speed) from your iPhone. Until I get Promptdown working and polished up, this is my mobile teleprompter of choice.
Run a website? Like analytics? Quicklytics is my favorite app for at-a-glance stats on my posts and projects.
The best VNC/Remote Desktop app I’ve ever found. Setting up Macs available over Bonjour is a breeze, and adding new machines via IP isn’t much more complicated. It supports SSH login and secure connections, and it’s pretty to boot.
Had to toss an odd one in here. This is possibly a novelty, but by sending audible pings between two iOS devices it can give you a fairly accurate distance measurement. It’s actually really handy for measuring anything from a desktop to a full wall.


Gabe over at MacDrifter turned me on to Pythonista. It’s a Python shell for your iPad that allows you to write and execute snippets of code right within the app. It has a variety of modules available and an API for interacting with things like the system pasteboard. You can save your snippets and run them from a menu, providing a means of doing all manner of text and image processing without leaving your iPad. The developer has some very exciting tricks up his sleeve, but I can’t say any more than that yet.
Slow Feeds
If you use RSS, you’re probably familiar with the situation where the blogs with the lowest post count have the highest quality, but it’s easy to miss those few posts in the overall tide of news. Slow Feeds does the sorting for you, prioritizing those trickling treasures over the gushing masses.
RadioLab is awesome. You can’t argue with that (well, I won’t listen if you do). The iPhone app is really fun to peruse, too. It’s possibly a bit overboard visually for its basic functionality, but it’s an experience. Play with it, it’s fun.
pzizz sleep
I use a few apps to help me fall asleep at night, but pzizz is still my favorite. It combines binaural beats, music, sound effects and an optional soothing male voice to lull me into deep sleep.
I wear AcousticSheep SleepPhones for the immersive binaural experience. I also love pzizz energizer for shorter naps. For someone who doesn’t sleep enough, I sure know a lot about sleep apps. Maybe it’s because I don’t sleep enough…

That concludes my list of favorite apps for 2012. I may make some additions over the next couple of days, but these are top-of-mind for me right now. If I had time to write about every app that’s impressed me this year, I would, but you wouldn’t see the post until late in 2013. I’ll stick with this bunch for now.

Hopefully you found something new and interesting in here. If you have any suggestions for me, feel free to drop me a line.

Previously: Great apps for 2012: Mac and iOS

Also: Great apps for 2012: Mac