Lingvist: best free iOS language learning app
If you fancy learning a language but lack the time, Lingvist will happily give you a shot by worming its way into every spare moment. Its razor-sharp design streamlines the learning process to a series of flashcards. In each case, you’re tasked with typing in a missing word.
You can at any point reveal the word, and Lingvist will, when necessary, provide in-context assistance (such as verb tables). But the idea is that over time vocabulary will be burned into your brain, whereupon new cards then appear. It’s fast, simple, and surprisingly moreish.
Swift Playgrounds: Best free iPad coding app
If the notion of learning to code fills you with terror, Apple’s iPad-only app aims to put a friendly face on the process. Rather than hurling you deep into a sea of code, it splits the screen in two. On the left sits your work in progress. On the right, there’s an interactive 3D world you control by way of your typed commands.
This might sound a bit ‘My First Programming App’, but Apple’s on to something here. Swift Playgrounds is immediate, intuitive and approachable. There’s a good reason it’s also used by the likes of Lego, Sphero and Parrot for helping you work with their technology to take over the world (or at least your living room).
Night Sky: best free iOS astronomy app
The galaxy in your hands might sound like hyperbole, but that’s what Night Sky offers – of a sort. Using the app, you can wave your device in front of your face, to see what celestial bodies and satellites are in that direction, or drag about the virtual sky with a digit.
Although some of the apps more dazzling moments (notably the AR orrery) lurk behind IAP, you do for nothing also get events notifications, an astrophotography camera, and a Night Sky Tonight animation, outlining which planets you’ll be able to gawp at once the sun scarpers.
Civilisations AR: best free iOS history app
This AR app brings to life historic treasures. The real objects all lurk in British museums, but Civilisations AR enables you to put your nose right up to everything from an Egyptian mummy to a Henry Moore sculpture, resizing and perusing it right in your living room.
The app’s light on detail – each object has a few hot spots that when prodded natter away a bit about what you’re viewing, and that’s it. But this kind of modern immersion is nonetheless just the ticket to get you interested in history, rather than stamp-sized photos in a dusty old book.
Yousician: Best free iOS app guitar tutor
It’s fun pretending to rock out with a tiny plastic guitar with colourful buttons, and learning to play a real guitar can be tedious. Enter Yousician, which spins Guitar Hero 90 degrees and has you play along with a real guitar, aiming to get your timing right as coloured notes and chords work their way leftwards. The instant feedback and slight difficulty curve work wonders, and every lesson is free. The only caveat is freeloaders get limited play time every day.