Though automation programs for the iPhone and iPad are not as robust as the programs for the Mac, there are several automation and productivity apps that I use to get things done on my iOS devices.
According to the tablet statistics on tabletfeast.com, 232 million iPhones, 61 million iPads, and 26 million Mac and MacBook units were sold in 2022. This underscores the importance of leveraging productivity and automation apps to maximize our device usage.
Also, according to the iOS tracking app Moment, I spend roughly three hours a day on my iPhone and iPad. These devices are my hubbub for social media updates and text messaging, ebook reading, typing notes, bookmarking and reading articles and PDFs, and setting and getting reminders and alerts. Because I engage with these devices so much, I rely on iOS apps that help me stay productive and save me a few taps and clicks along the way.
The following are my personal recommendations for the iOS apps I frequently use. I hope you will add and share with readers of this site some of your own iOS app recommendations.
Note: this article includes affiliate links. Thanks for your support if you click and buy items via the link from this site. Each subheading includes a link to the app.
The one application for iOS that is similar to Automator or Keyboard Maestro for the Mac is Workflow. This app allows you to assemble a series of actions to trigger from your home screen, an iOS widget or extension action, and even from your Apple Watch.
Workflow includes a gallery of workflows to get you started. I use the app for quickly cropping an image, adding tasks to Todoist, triggering a text-to-speech workflow that captures and reads a selected article, and quickly saving content to Dropbox. There are dozens of other available workflows, including ones for Apple Music sharing, sharing content to social network channels, speed dialing specific people and various interweb actions such as quickly running Google and Reddit searches and shortening URLs.
The one app I probably use several times a week is Copied. It’s the best iOS app for quickly copying and pasting content from within any application and syncing content between my iOS and Mac devices. I even use Copied as a notebook because you can manage copied content into folders.
You can also access content in your Copied library via the Copied iOS keyboard. And Copied includes an iOS widget for quickly viewing and/or copying recently saved content.
Launch has been around for a while. I especially like it for quickly posting preset text messages and time and day triggers. For example, every Friday evening on my iPhone, Launch posts an alert to open an #AppleWatch tag feed on Instagram that I can choose to browse if I have time.
Using Launch’s 3D feature, I can quickly post or dial preset messages or phone numbers without having to open the app. Launch has dozens of presets installed, and it supports hundreds of iOS apps.
See also my article: 10 Useful Tap-Saving 3D Touch Apps You Should Use
Launcher is similar to Launch. What’s most useful to me about Launcher is that it now has a widget feature for launching the apps and workflows you have installed in the app.
I have saved Workflow actions (for deleting the last photo or screenshot taken, cropping an image, or adding a task to Todoist) to Launcher and I run them from the iOS widget screen.
You know I’m a big fan of BetterTouchTool. Thus, I regularly use the iOS BTT Remote to run actions I’ve set up on my Mac, especially for when I need to put my Mac in my office back to sleep when it awakes in the middle of the night.
I also use BTT remote triggers for controlling iTunes and movies. Though there’s an Apple remote app for controlling iTunes, BTT remote gives you access to all the iTunes menu items.
I don’t have to drive very many places, but when I need to drive to the airport or the Bay Area, the ETA app provides instant traffic updates for the places I often travel to. It provides three route options and the estimated arrival time for designated places.
The app also includes a text message feature that allows for quickly sending a text that includes your expected arrival time. What’s unique about ETA is that it allows for keeping a permanent list of your favorite locations, and when the app is launched, it automatically updates the arrival times for all locations.
Gas Cubby is an app I’ve used to keep track of simple oil changes on my car, but the recent updates has added dozens of other automobile-related reminders (e.g., Air Filter, Battery, Tire Rotation, Windshield Wipers) that I need to be paying attention to.
Trip Case comes in handy when I need to do air travel. It allows for keeping and updating my flight itinerary, including hotel registrations. I use this app, along with TripList to prepare for trips, so I don’t have to carry paper printouts of information.
I simply use Wemo to turn on and off my hot water pot, and the fan in my office. The app includes automatic settings that I use for the fan to make sure it’s not running all night during the summer.
One of the best annual subscriptions I use is the personal finance application, You Need a Budget. I literally have never budgeted my finances as I do with YNAB. It’s my definitive solution for budgeting.
YNAB is based on thebudget-to-zeroo system in which you assign all your income to a budget category. You can use online and mobile apps to keep track of all your transactions, which can be automatically and manually updated.
The iPhone version of YNAB is convenient when I check my budget before purchasing. YNAB is most useful for helping me to stay a month or two ahead of my expenses and for budgeting money for non-monthly expenses such as car repairs and insurance, annual subscriptions, blog hosting, and the like. Since I started using YNAB in May of this year, I haven’t had to dip into my savings to pay unexpected bills. If you’re struggling with your finances, definitely check out YNAB.
Time is a utility app I use to track product purchases and household tasks. For instance, I use Time to track how long it’s been since I changed the fire alarm batteries in my house and for how long I’ve had my iPad 2. I also use the app to track anniversaries that I don’t want to put on my calendar. I don’t need to open Time much, but it’s useful when reviewing its data.
Agile’s Drafts is the app I use to quickly type and review notes on my iPhone and Apple Watch. I’ve used this app for years, but not so much as a notes manager. I use it more like for jotting notes as I would on scraps of paper.
Another Agile app I use is Interact. It allows for viewing my categories of contacts, which can’t be done in the default iPhone Contacts app.
Another thing that comes in handy with Interact is its Contact Scratchpad, which allows for typing in contact information that the app will convert to the appropriate contact fields. So basically, I can hand my phone to someone to type in their contact information, and Interact will create the contact card for me.
I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t buy paperback books anymore. The Kindle Reader for my iOS devices means I can access all my purchased ebooks. I have dozens of sample downloads of Kindle books I download, and I don’t buy a Kindle book until I’m ready to read it.
I especially like the Kindle for its highlight and annotation tools, which now can be exported in HTML format, though some publishers have limitations on the amount of data that can be exported. Nevertheless, it’s very easy to filter notes, highlights, and star content on Kindle.
I use Raindrop.io primarily for the purpose of bookmarking articles related to professional blogging. Raindrop is an uncluttered, well-designed cross-platform app that I use nearly every day.
Instapaper has been around for several years now, and I use it to bookmark articles that I don’t save to Raindrop.
The premium features of the Instapaper are now free, so I need to start using its text-to-voice feature more for having articles read to me. Instapaper also includes an automatic page scrolling feature that comes in handy. ,
I use the Google search app much more than Siri and Safari for Internet searches. Google search is extremely quick, especially its voice-to-text feature that instantly delivers search results.
The clean user interface of Google search means I’m not tapping two or three times to search, and I can easily access a history of my searches if I need the results again.
Because I like highlighting and annotating some articles as I read them, I’ve started using a new app called Liner.
You can share most any article you’re reading on your iOS device to Liner. It converts the selected article to a reader version, and from there, you make multi-color highlights and notes. Your highlighted articles get bookmarked in the Liner app, where you manage and review them.
I recently wrote about how I’m using the task management system Todoist, which in just a few short weeks, has helped me to cut the amount of time I spend multitasking and to really start prioritizing what I need to get done from day to day.
The key to using Todoist, or any task manager for that matter, is to check your tasks regularly. Don’t just throw tasks in the app and expect everything to run okay. I now manage my daily and project-related tasks similarly to how I manage my money, which means setting priorities for what tasks are most important.
I have recurring tasks and long-range projects that I need to keep track of. I’ve also started using the 1-3-5 rule for daily tasks, which involves setting one major task that might take a few hours, such as writing and producing this article, three medium size tasks that might take an hour or less, and five small tasks that take less than 15 minutes. My daily list of tasks is always full, but the clean user interface of Todoist allows me to view my tasks on my Mac and iOS devices easily, and the application’s Karma feature is especially useful for reporting how many tasks I complete every day. Todoist is, for me, the final solution to task management.
I’ve been using the login and password manager 1Password for years now, and it’s the app that keeps getting better over time. Some apps, like Todoist, support 1Password, which allows for signing into those apps without needing to type in your username and password, which otherwise is a pain the ass on mobile devices.
I’m sure there are other apps out there that you can recommend. Please share some of your favorites.