The best entertainment apps and distractions for iPhone and iPad
Infuse Pro: best iOS video streamer
If you’re more of a collector than a streamer when it comes to video, you’ve probably got a load of files stashed away on local network drives and cloud storage. Should you want to get them playing on an iOS device, Infuse Pro’s a must. This app will delve into folders, live-convert videos when it needs to, and even grab cover art and subtitle files.
There’s support for local downloads, streaming to your telly by way of AirPlay and Google Cast, cloud sync to keep your place across devices, and even DVD file support, so you needn’t bother converting old DVD rips to MKV or MP4. If you’re feeling a bit cheap, there’s also a free version to play around with, although that lacks key features (sync; cloud library support; streaming over AirPlay/Google Cast) unless you splash out for an annual subscription.
Metamorphabet: best iOS kids app
If you’ve any tiny humans toddling about the place, you’ll know they are very much of the opinion iOS devices shouldn’t be hogged by adults. Send them into a state of quiet glee with the quirky, playful and charming Metamorphabet.
In this educational app’s oddball universe, letters transform in ways you’d almost certainly not have foreseen: an A grows antlers, turns into an arch, and then goes for an amble. Then a B grows a beard, sprouts a beak, and spews an endless stream of bugs. It’s deranged and imaginative — like CBeebies employed Terry Gilliam as controller — and marvellous to explore for kids and adults alike.
CARROT Weather: Best iOS weather app
Plenty of weather apps are informative and beautiful, but only CARROT is snarky. The AI that sends forecasts your way’s gone a bit HAL, making threats, laughing when it’s pouring down outside, and hoping you get embarrassing tan-lines when it’s sunny.
Fortunately, the app’s useful, too – packed full of colourful forecasts, accessible data, a widget that’s actually good, and a reasonable amount of customisation.
The only minor drawback is CARROT’s maps are a bit rubbish (our previous favourite, Dark Sky is great for those), but otherwise we’re one with the snark these days. Mostly because we’re scared CARROT will kill us in our sleep.
Journeys of Invention: best interactive iPad book
On seeing the original Elements app, it was very clear Touchpress had nailed digital books. The app was packed full of content and beautiful photography, but also infused with interactive components. But Journeys of Invention takes everything a stage further, in terms of ambition and interactivity.
In this app, you explore how science and invention interconnect, often by way of beautifully photographed objects you rotate and study. And unless science is dead to you, it’s hard to not feel a thrill on scrolling around the inside of the Apollo 10 command module, or using an Enigma Machine to send encoded messages to friends.
Scape: best interactive iPad album
The notion of interactive albums isn’t new – even in the days of the Commodore 64, you had the likes of Delta’s Mix-e-Load, which updated a tune as you waggled the joystick.
But Scape is something else entirely. A collaboration between ambient music pioneer Brian Eno and software designer/musician Peter Chilvers, this album can be listened to in its entirety or reconstructed from its component parts.
Being able to build your own ‘scapes’ almost places this app in the music-making category, but really Scape is all about subtly manipulating Eno soundscapes; you can then save favourite combinations, and then sit back and listen while blissfully shutting the world out for a while.
Oilist: best iOS art toy
At a glance, Oilist is easy to dismiss as a Prisma-like artsy photo filter app. But it’s really a very different beast, sitting at the crossover of art apps, interactive toys, and filter apps.
This mix proves compelling. Load a photo, pick a style, and Oilist starts painting – and it never stops. Plonk your iPad in a dock, and you get a gradually evolving virtual oil painting take on a favourite photo.
If you fancy your own artistic talents, you can adjust settings on-the-fly, along with taking high-res snapshots to later print and hang on the wall.
Streaks Workout: best iOS exercise app
If the idea of going outside to exercise fills you with dread, you may have chanced upon indoor personal training apps. But sometimes they try and contort you into strange shapes, or make you exercise with a chair, like you’re starring in a baffling furniture-oriented round of Strictly.
Streaks Workout smacks the excuses out of you, shortly before punching your energy reserves in the face. You get 18 equipment-free exercises to toggle, which are then hurled at you randomly throughout your routine. Stats are logged and tips are offered – but be aware that the 30-minute routine is called ‘pain’ for good reason.
White Noise+: best iOS wellbeing app
A lot of wellbeing apps go a bit overboard with pastel colours and endless imagery of perfectly toned people smiling on beaches. White Noise+ has no interest in such fluff, instead offering a minimal, modern interface for creating your own ambient sound mixes.
In short, you get a grid, to which you drag icons. Those towards the top and right, respectively, play louder and with added complexity. You can try the app for free, for which you get white noise, rain, wind, thunder and wind chimes. But pay the IAP and you get every sound unlocked, a sleep timer, and the peace of mind that comes from supporting a great app.