Anyone who says that Apple doesn’t pay attention to detail when they’re releasing a built-in application for the iPhone or Mac OS X clearly doesn’t know the company that well (the maps debacle is an obvious exception, not the rule). Sometimes, however, a third party developer just shines so much brighter than the default app that it needs recognition. The following apps do exactly that and deserve a place on any iPhone homescreen in place of Apple’s built-in alternatives.
Chrome – Free
When it comes to browsers, I’ve never been a huge fan of Safari — both on the desktop and on the iOS. For a long time, if you wanted to browse the web on your iPhone, Safari was your only choice. In comes Google’s Chrome and I’m longing for a way to (without jailbreaking) set a “default browser” that isn’t Safari. It handles tabs better, offers incognito mode, and seems to run a little quicker than Safari. It even offers bookmark, history, and password syncing if you use Chrome on your desktop as well. The only major complaint I have is that more applications don’t offer a way to “view in Chrome” when opening a webpage inside of them.
Camera+ – $0.99
The built-in Camera app for the iPhone does exactly what it needs to do. Autofocus, optional grid, HDR, etc. Camera+ offers everything the built-in camera can do and then some. The autofocus is more easily targeted, while using autofocus you can also separately adjust where the exposure should be and zooming is significantly easier. As if that isn’t enough, there’s also an optional stabilizer, timer, burst mode, horizon marker, and a bunch of other more advanced options that anyone who wants more than the most basic point-and-shoot options will love. This is the app you have to thank for introducing taking a picture with the volume button. Just like Chrome, the only downside is that you can’t set this to be the go-to camera application when opening the camera from the lock screen.
Clear – $1.99
Frankly, I’ve never been a fan of Apple’s “Notes” app. It sits in a folder on my phone labeled “Unused” along with Safari, Stocks, Videos, Compass, and other apps that I never open. Clear, however, is the exact level of ease and polish that I’d expect from Apple themselves in a list-keeping or note taking app. Not only is it simple to use at every level, but it also syncs through iCloud with a desktop version. If you’re like me and most of your “notes” consist of a few words or maybe a line or two, then give Clear a look. If you’re actually taking lengthy notes, then do yourself a favor and pick up Pages. Clear probably considers themselves more of a replacement for “Reminders”, but without any kind of notifications it offers much better functionality as a list/notes app than as a to-do list.
AccuWeather – Free
Let’s be honest, if you gave a monkey a copy of [amazon_link id="1118091345" target="_blank" ]iPhone Application Development For Dummies[/amazon_link], it could probably write a better weather app than what comes with the iPhone. There’s a ton of good options out there and I’ve tried many of them, but I’ve always been partial to AccuWeather. It’s free, it’s accurate, it has way more weather information than you can possibly need, and (my personal favorite) if offers timely severe weather alerts via push notification.
StockWatch – $1.99
Much like the Weather app, Apple’s default “Stocks” app is a steaming pile of mediocrity. If you’re looking for the current price of a few different stocks and/or indices, then you’ll be fine with the default. If, however, you actually want to keep track of a portfolio and need more detailed information, then look no further than StockWatch.
It probably goes without saying that this list is in no way definitive, so if you’ve got another suggestion or an alternate app to any of the ones I listed above, please feel free to share it in the comments below.