You’ve got an iPhone, and have ventured into the melee of Apple’s App Store, which has well over a million apps.
Great news! Many of them are free. Not so great news! You’ve got to sift through them to work out the very best. Fortunately, that’s what we’re here for, listing them here.
Our selection’s sorted into handy categories, so whether you need a no-cost photo editor, translation app, sat-nav or anything else, you can just jump straight to the relevant category.
Click through to the following pages for each category, but first check out our free iPhone app of the week below, and make sure you give this page a cheeky bookmark so you can keep up with our latest free iPhone app pick every seven days.
Free iPhone app of the week: Autodesk SketchBook
Autodesk SketchBook is a drawing app for iPhone. It’s of course far from alone on the App Store, but what sets SketchBook apart is the sheer range of things you can do with the app.
Despite the minimal interface, there’s tons to discover. There are dozens of brushes, which mimic all kinds of real-world tools. Every one of them can be tweaked. Multiple layers afford you flexibility when working on complex compositions. And transform, shape, and text tools provide scope when you’re working on technically oriented illustrations rather than free-form doodling.
You’d usually expect to pay a fair amount for this kind of quality – and once, SketchBook did have a price-tag attached. But now it’s free – and yet still superb – it would almost be an insult to not download it, even if you can barely scribble a stick-person.
The best free iPhone video editors and animation apps
These are our favorite free iPhone apps for quickly editing videos, GIFs and Live Photos, and for creating stop-motion animation.
Enlight Pixaloop enables you to animate your photos. This is achieved through you manually drawing ‘path’ arrows to define the direction of animation, and setting anchors to keep other areas of your image rooted to the spot. Tap the play button and you get something akin to a cinemagraph – only based on a single still image, rather than dozens of shots or a video.
Whatever you create can be exported to Photos as a video (sadly, there’s no animated GIF option), but there’s plenty more you can add first, including camera wobble, overlay effects and automated moving skies. Some of those features work better than others, but the entire package is a great way to bring your photos to life. Note that there’s subscription IAP lurking, although you don’t need to pay to get a lot out of this app.
Moodelizer is a one-trick pony – but it’s quite a trick. It enables you to add custom soundtracks to videos – and all you need is a single finger.
You select a genre, and ‘rehearse’ playback by dragging your finger around the square viewfinder. Move up to increase the music’s intensity increases and move right to adjust variation. You can perform rehearsals using the viewfinder or with an existing video loaded from your Camera Roll.
Just messing about with the audio alone is fun, but it all properly comes together when making a video. Now, when you’re shooting yet another clip of your cat being mildly amusing, Moodelizer can add much-needed excitement by way of rousing club music or head-banging guitar riffs.
Vue is a video editor whose initial incarnation was an odd mix of intriguing and ridiculous. In short, it was designed to give you six seconds of fame by snapping an ultra-short video comprising three shots.
Fortunately, Vue is relaxed a bit now – and all the better for it. The app still prefers brevity, but will allow movies of up to three minutes in length and can load existing videos from your iPhone, too. Once your miniature masterpiece is done, it’s possible to add filters and stickers, overlay subtitles, and mess around with zooming and adjustment sliders.
The app still feels a touch rigid compared to the likes of Clips, but Vue’s sense of focus and style – along with the sharing network that underpins everything – makes it worth checking out.
Clips is a video-editing app geared towards making content for sharing on social media. To that end, it eschews convention (widescreen, standard titles, typical editing tracks) and attempts to infuse plenty of fun into a streamlined, straightforward editing process.
You can record directly in the app or import existing videos. In either case, you can overlay stickers and live captions that appear as the subject speaks, and apply filters for a different look. Posters serve as a replacement for titles, helping with pacing and context in a way that’s much more interesting, animated and editable.
For iPhone X users, there’s an extra treat: animated 3D selfie scenes. These can transport you into a number of stylized landscapes, including neon cityscapes and ships from Star Wars. The effect is mesmerizing to the point where the app’s worth picking up for selfie scenes alone.
Squigglish! is a very silly drawing app, on account of the fact that its brush strokes wiggle. There’s quite the variety on offer, too, from thick, snaking, gloopy lines that just jiggle a little, to spiky electrified offerings that give the impression that your artwork has just been jabbed into a socket.
Given its oddball toolset, you’re probably not going to use Squigglish! as the basis for some highbrow iPhone art. But because you can import a photo, it’s perfect fodder for making yourself or a friend look vaguely ridiculous, with some silly blue hair, a pair of wibbly glasses, and the kind of animated mustache Dali would have killed for.
Naturally, your tiny animated masterpiece can be exported to GIF or a movie.
Motion Stills aims to help you do more with the Live Photos you shoot on your iPhone. Apple’s own Photos app, of course, provides options for adjusting how these images animate – but this Google offering does far more.
On giving the app permission to view your photos, it will display a scrollable feed of pictures that animate as you browse. This alone makes Motion Stills worth a download, not least because the app applies stabilization technology to your Live Photos, eradicating wobble.
But with a few quick swipes you can quickly select a number of Live Photos, which can then be transformed into a tiny movie. Alternatively, you can turn Live Photos into collages, or add text and emoji to your favorites. In short, Motion Stills feels like the Live Photos editor Apple forgot to make itself.
Loop by Seedling
If you lack the patience for working with full-on stop motion apps, but nonetheless fancy yourself as a mini-Aardman, Loop by Seedling is just the ticket.
You shoot frames using your camera, and can handily overlay your previous photo in semi-transparent form, to ensure everything is properly lined up.
Once you’re done, you can play your photos as an animation, where tools are available to adjust the frame rate, add a filter, and mess about with grid collages, creating a Warhol-like animated GIF to share.
The interface is a bit opaque – quite a lot of controls need to be ‘discovered’ before you become comfortable with using this app.
But once you know where everything is, Loop becomes a smart and efficient way to create charming miniature animations; amusingly, it also works within Messages, so you can reply to friends with a tiny movie should you consider the written word passé.
If you like the idea of editing home movies but are a modern-day being with no time or attention span, try Quik. The app automates the entire process, enabling you to create beautiful videos with a few taps and show off to your friends without needing talent – surely the epitome of today’s #hashtag generation.
All you need do is select some videos and photos, and choose a style. Quik then edits them into a great-looking video you can share with friends and family. But if your inner filmmaker hankers for a little more control, you can adjust the style, music, format and pace, along with trimming clips, reordering items, and adding titles to get the effect you desire.
Cementing its friendly nature, Quik offers a little pairs minigame for you to mess about with while the app renders your masterpiece. And there’s even a weekly ‘For You’ video Quik compiles without you lifting a finger.
If you used to sit there at school, doodling flick-animation masterpieces in the corner of your jotter, Animatic is the iPhone equivalent. You use simple tools to scribble on a small canvas, and then build your animation frame-by-frame.
The app uses a basic onion-skin approach, meaning you can see the previous few frames faintly behind the current one, ensuring whatever you draw doesn’t lurch all over the place. Once you’re done, you can adjust the animation speed of your creation and export it to video or GIF.
Given that you’re scribbling with what amounts to the iPhone equivalent of felt pens, you won’t be crafting the next Pixar movie here. But Animatic is fun, a great way to get into animation, and a useful sketchpad for those already dabbling. The app also includes a bunch of demos, showcasing what’s possible with a little time, effort and imagination.
We’re big fans of iMovie. Apple’s video editor for iPhone is usable and powerful. In our lazier moments, we also really like Replay, which takes a bunch of videos and edits them on your behalf. But there are times when you hanker for a middle ground, and that’s where Splice fits in.
Getting started is simple — select some videos and photos to import (from your Camera Roll, or online sources like Facebook and Google Photos), along with, optionally, a soundtrack. Name your project, choose an orientation, and the app lays out your clips. These can be reordered by drag and drop, and transitions can be adjusted with a couple of taps.
If you want to delve deeper, individual clips can be trimmed and cut, and you can apply effects. Several filters are included, as is a speed setting, and the means to overlay text.
These tools perhaps won’t worry the Spielbergs of this world, but a few minutes in Splice can transform a few random iPhone clips into something quite special — and all without a price-tag or even any advertising.
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