20 of the best iPhone and iPad apps and games this month
From custom-made maps to football stories for kids, via classical music, ninja bears, GIF keyboards and avian dating games, it’s been an interesting month for iPhone and iPad owners, with a range of new App Store releases to try.
As ever, prices are correct at the time of writing, and if you see “IAP” it means the app uses in-app purchases. Looking for Android apps instead? Don’t post an angry comment – click through to the separate Best Android Apps roundups instead.
If you’re planning a trip, Relay could be a really useful app to install in advance. You use it to pin several locations: from tourist hotspots to restaurants and clubs. You can add notes, search for directions, and generally set everything up so that when you’re there, you’ll have all the details to hand – including sharing your maps with friends.
Opera VPN (Free)
As a “free unlimited ad-blocking VPN” app, Opera’s new app is controversial on several counts. It’s undeniable, though, that VPNs and ad-blocking are both on the rise, so there’s a demand for this kind of service. For now, the VPN aspect enables you to connect through the UK, Germany, the US, Netherlands and Singapore.
Google has had a few misses when it comes to social networking apps, but Spaces looks like it has a shot at succeeding. Why? Because it has a tight focus on sharing with “small groups” of friends and family, meaning you only need a few contacts on it for it to be useful. Photos, websites and YouTube videos can all be pulled in.
Grammofy – Classical Music Streaming (Free + IAP)
Is there room for another music-streaming service? For classical music fans, perhaps there is. Grammofy is one of the companies trying to find out, charging £6.99 a month for access to its catalogue of old and new works, including collections recommended by its editors.
New Star Soccer G-Story (£2.99)
New Star Soccer remains one of the best football games on mobile, but this spin-off is targeting a different market: children and reading. It’s a storybook-app about a young footballer’s rise to glory, with more than 180,000 words to read, and New Star Soccer gameplay scenes thrown in that affect the storyline.
Swapshots: Post Your Prints (Free)
The Royal Mail’s new app is getting criticised by early reviewers for using Facebook to log in, but if you don’t mind that, the app is a good idea. It’s a simple way to turn your smartphone snaps into printed photos, delivered to whoever you like within the UK for 85p a time; to grandparents, for example.
Videorama (Free + IAP)
There have been quite a few video-editing apps for iOS, without much proof that there’s a big audience of people wanting to edit their videos outside the tools provided by their social network of choice. Still, Videorama is an impressive addition to this category: combining videos and photos then adding effects is quick and easy, and it plays nicely with the various social networks.
Somme 100 (Free)
This is the latest app from historian Dan Snow’s app development firm, which has partnered with the Royal British Legion for this first world war-focused app. It’s a mix of text, videos, photos, audio and maps from one of the most infamous battles in military history.
“Movement has value,” claims the blurb for this intriguing fitness app. It tracks your steps but then converts them into its “Sweatcoin” virtual currency, which you can exchange for rewards including clothing and fitness classes. It sounds too good to be true, but it will be interesting to follow its progress.
WRIO Keyboard (£2.29)
Clumsy-thumbed iPhone users may appreciate the latest alternative-keyboard app to be released for their smartphones. Taking up nearly half the screen, WRIO is trying to “get rid of typos” with its honeycomb layout. It takes a bit of getting used to, but its large keys and swipe gestures can speed up your typing.
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Bushido Bear has plenty of twists as you unlock and upgrade characters
Bushido Bear (Free + IAP)
Spry Fox is the developer behind the outstanding puzzlers Triple Town and Alphabear, and it’s kept the latter’s theme for this action title. It’s a bit Fruit Ninja-esque as you swipe your finger around the screen to attack enemies, but with plenty of twists of its own as you unlock and upgrade characters.
Hungry Shark World (Free + IAP)
The Hungry Shark games are closing in on 300m downloads on mobile, which is a just reward for their fun – and often bloody – take on aquatic life. Here, you’re playing various sharks, exploring the ocean and taking bites out of fish, crabs and humans as you grow.
GodFinger 2 (Free + IAP)
The original GodFinger was a fun take on god-gaming from the earlier days of mobile games. This sequel feels fresh in 2016, happily, as you cater to the whims of your tribe of followers on a rotatable planet, crafting goods, growing crops and letting loose lightning and rain to make the world just right.
INKS. (£1.49 + IAP)
The developer State of Play Games made the wonderful Lumino City last year, but now it’s turning its attention to pinball. The twist here is that as you play, your ball sploshes the scenery with digital paint: an inventive combination of art and play. The play is well-crafted too. One of the best pinball games on mobile.
Hatoful Boyfriend (£3.99)
This is definitely the best “visual novel/avian dating sim” in the world, although admittedly, it’s the only one. It’s hard to describe Hatoful Boyfriend to a stranger without getting odd looks: you play a (human) student at a school whose other pupils are all birds. And yes, flirting with them is a key part of the gameplay. Quirky, to say the least, but rather marvellous too.
War Tortoise (Free + IAP)
Thankfully you’re not romancing aggressively-militaristic shelled reptiles in this game. Instead, the War Tortoise of the title is a tank kitted out with all manner of heavy weaponry. Your job is to use it to blast anything and everything, while building up your own resources and defences. It’s accessible and excellent.
Liyla and The Shadows of War (Free)
This game caused a stir recently when Apple rejected the iOS version because of its politicial themes. The company saw sense, and this game set in the Gaza Strip has been picking up rave reviews. Presenting a Palestinian viewpoint on the conflict there, it’s a sign of how games can offer perspectives on real-world warfare and political situations.
Leap Day (Free + IAP)
This colourful platform game offers plenty of nostalgic thrills for longtime gamers, but it also has a modern twist: each day, the developer Nitrome makes a new level available, with the idea being that players complete it to fill up their in-game calendar. Which might seem like a gimmick, but the game is really fun.
Mekorama (Free + IAP)
Mekorama has been compared with the mobile hit Monument Valley, which is understandable given its isometric puzzles. It’s very good, though, and its killer feature is the ability to create and share your own levels, as well as playing those made by other players.
Britney Spears: American Dream (Free + IAP)
The developer Glu Mobile had a hit with Kim Kardashian’s mobile game and a miss with Katy Perry’s, so it’s hoping Britney Spears will follow the former’s path. Assuming you’re a fan, it’s a fun social game that sees your character making their way in the pop world. Read our full review for more details.
Those are our choices, now tell us yours. What iOS apps and games have you been enjoying in the last month, and what do you think of the ones we’ve recommended above? The comments section is open for your thoughts.