The 21 best free apps for your iPhone

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There are more than a million iPhone apps out there, and that means it can be hard to sort through all the noise and find the ones truly worth using.

But we can tell you this: most of the best apps are completely free.

Whether you just bought a new iPhone or you're simply looking for something new, here are some of the best free apps you should download today.

Operator is your own virtual assistant.

Operator

Virtual assistants are going to be big in 2016, and Operator has been one of the most talked about. Launching from Uber co-founder Garret Camp's Expa incubator, the assistant acts as your "operator" to help you book flights, send flowers, or pick out Christmas presents. It has growing competition from Facebook M, but it opened to the public in November, beating M, which is still in limited testing.


Hinge helps you meet your friends' friends.

App Annie

Like Tinder, Hinge matches users with nearby singles, but Hinge takes the matching process one step further by only searching for people with whom the user has at least one Facebook friend in common. It eliminates the randomness that makes some of Tinder's potential users skeptical.


Paribus gets you money back from stores.

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Paribus takes advantage of the fact that many of stores vow to refund customers the difference if their competitors offer the same product for cheaper or if they introduce their own additional discount not long after the initial purchase. Every time a receipt hits their inbox, Paribus scrapes the product information and will spend several weeks poking around for potential discounts. If it finds one, the shopper will get a refund.


Robinhood is a great stock market app for beginners.

Robinhood

Robinhood is an app built around one promise: no-fee stock trading. The app makes trading cheap, intuitive, and mobile. The beautiful interface also won an Apple Design Award, and there's also nifty night and day themes and an Apple Watch version of the app.


Reserve helps you book a dinner table.

Reserve

Reserve handles your dining experience from start to finish. You can use the app to book a reservation at restaurants in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The app acts as your mediator with the restaurant for handling anything that may come up, like a reservation time change.

When you arrive, you pay for your meal through the app. Bills can even be split if you're with a group. The goal is to make eating out as frictionless as a ride with Uber.


SeatGeek finds you the best tickets.

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SeatGeek is a dream come true for anyone who's gone through the process of buying concert and event tickets from online resellers. The service scans all of the popular sites where sellers post their tickets and shows you the best options based on your search.

The mobile app is unparalleled in its interactive seating chart interface, which includes photographs from inside every venue so you know exactly the view you'll get from each seat.


Facebook Messenger is so much more than just a messaging platform.

Facebook

Facebook's decision to break Messenger out of its main app in 2014 turned out to be a very smart move. Messenger now has 800 million users worldwide, and it's become much more than a way to send text messages to friends.

Messenger can now send money, make video and phone calls over the internet, and send stickers and animated GIFs with ease. When Facebook's virtual assistant "M" becomes available outside of San Francisco, Messenger will be able to do anything from order a pair of shoes to call your cable company for you.

If the future is one app that does everything, Messenger is poised to be a big winner.


Seamless gets food delivered to your doorstep with just a few taps.

YouTube

Seamless changed takeout by allowing people to order food through their computer and smartphone instead of calling a restaurant. The service, which is part of the online and mobile food ordering company GrubHub, allows people to order from around 35,000 restaurants in more than 900 cities.

The app and website itself went through a rocky redesign this past summer, but it's still as reliable as our late-night pizza cravings.


Headspace helps you meditate.

iTunes

British meditation teacher Andy Puddicombe trained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk before he made Headspace, an iPhone app that pitches itself as a "gym membership for your mind." Certain meditation techniques have been scientifically proven to work, and Headspace has been downloaded over 3 million times since its release in 2012.

Here's how it works: hundreds of hours of original meditation exercises are broken down into guided and unguided lessons that range from 2 to 60 minutes long. Some of the benefits it promises include "better self awareness," "less stress and worry," and the guarantee that you'll "smile more." The app tracks your progress and even lets you pair with a buddy for accountability.

The app is free to use up until the completion of level 1, and from there it's $12.99 per month month or $94.99 per year.


Wish is a highly valuable e-commerce startup.

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Valued at $3 billion, e-commerce startup Wish has been described as the company Fab was supposed to be. Wish sells cheap but stylish products by optimizing social channels like Facebook. Its layout resembles Pinterest, but on Wish everything is for sale, and you'll be hard-pressed to find an item that costs more than $25.

Wish gets merchants to bid on prices so it can bring the lowest-cost items possible to its users. Alibaba uses a similar approach.


Periscope is the video livestreaming app Twitter bought before it even launched.

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In March, Twitter launched Periscope, a livestreaming app it acquired back in February before Periscope even launched. Periscope lets users easily stream video footage from their devices to followers. Viewers can comment and send "hearts" to the streamer. The footage can be then replayed later.


VSCO Cam is the only mobile photo editor you need to use.

App Store

If you want to make the photos you take on your smartphone look better, one of VSCO Cam's dozens of retro film filters will do the trick. The app offers more editing capabilities than Instagram, and each filter preset is designed to emulate the effect of an old-school film camera.

VSCO offers free cloud syncing and uploads to a personalized VSCO Grid account, which is essentially a hi-res, ultra minimalist version of Instagram that has less of a focus on social networking and more of a focus on pretty pictures.


Replace the default iOS podcast app with Overcast.

App Annie

Overcast was already the best app to listen to podcasts on before this year, but a big update in 2015 made it free for everyone. This means free users can now get access to "smart speed" — which takes away pauses to speed up the podcast — voice boost, and downloading on the cellular network. There's really no reason to not have Overcast replace the native podcast app on iOS.


YouNow is a livestreaming mobile app and website that young people are obsessed with.

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There's no shortage of livestreaming apps, but there's one that teens are clamoring to: YouNow.

YouNow's founder, Adi Sideman, told us last year year that 70% of YouNow's users are under the age of 24 and that the platform has 100 million user sessions a month, with about 150,000 broadcasts daily. The four-year-old streaming startup also recently raised a $15 million round of funding.

The interaction between performers and their audiences is what sets YouNow apart from other buzzy livestreaming services such as Periscope or Meerkat. The average mobile session length on YouNow is about six minutes. The average mobile broadcast length is about 18 minutes.


Snapchat could be the future of social media.

Snapchat / YouTube

With more than 100 million daily active users and a primary audience of 18 to 24-year-olds, Snapchat is nothing short of a cultural phenomenon.

The app's premise (and Snapchat is just an app — there is no web interface) is the idea of ephemeral messaging: once a message, or "snap," is viewed, it disappears forever.

Snapchat is about consuming media as much as it is a place for self-expression. The app's Discover section features interactive content from a range of publishers, including BuzzFeed, CNN, People, and Vice. The goal seems to be keeping Snapchat's users in the app as long as possible — and it's working.


1Blocker is a smart ad blocker that gives you plenty of choices.

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1Blocker is the smartest iOS ad blocker out there, and helps you customize exactly what you want to block. You can block trackers, Twitter or Facebook widgets, custom web fonts, even Disqus comment and "adult" sites.

And you can, of course, whitelist sites you want to support — if for instance you want to allow ads on a site that relies on them for revenue. Blocking ads is free, but if you want to block multiple things, you'll have to pay $2.99.


Pac-Man 256 is a retro throwback.

YouTube/Patrick Scott Patterson

From the creators of Crossy Road comes Pac-Man 256, the mobile successor to everyone's favorite game from the 80s.

Tech Insider game editor Ben Gilbert says that "it feels great" like "classic Pac-Man." The graphics are fresh and lively. You'll feel transported back to the golden age of arcade gaming.


Slash Keyboard is the only keyboard you need.

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Slash is the best iPhone keyboard out today, and its killer feature is taking the pain out of jumping between your apps. Slash's innovation comes in the form of a blue forward slash that sits at the bottom of the keyboard. That slash is a magic button that can instantly give you access to a slew of app-based search engines baked into the keyboard itself.


Wunderlist is a to-do app for groups of people.

Wunderlist

There's tons of to-do apps in the App Store, but Microsoft's Wunderlist is clean-looking, easy-to-use, and lets you collaborate on tasks with other people. Wunderlist is free to use, but there's a pro version with more features for businesses that costs a small monthly subscription.


Slice tracks your packages.

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Automatic package tracking app Slice helps you keep track of all of your deliveries from the time you place an order. Slice links up with your Yahoo or Gmail account, and automatically parses out and organizes your e-receipt emails, shipping information, tracking numbers, and your packages' estimated date and time of arrival. Use the app to track all of your shipments, organize your receipts, and even visualize your finances.


Spotify is still the best way to listen to music.

Spotify

Spotify is the best streaming music service for most people. As competition in the streaming music space has heated up — Apple's long-awaited Apple Music service launched over the summer — Spotify has been adding some great new features. One of those is Discover Weekly, which builds a custom playlist each week for every Spotify user.

The app supports free listening on shuffle with ads, while a Spotify Premium subscription unlocks everything, including offline mode for when you can't stream.

Additional reporting by Nathan McAlone and Alex Heath.


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