A few truly, absolutely amazing iPhone apps you’ve probably never heard of

I’m crazy, which means every so often I go through the apps on my phone, delete any that I’m not using, and try and optimize the placement of the rest. While doing that last night, it occurred to me that a few of my favorite apps probably aren’t getting the widespread love they deserve. I’m going to do my small part and fix that. Here are five apps that I couldn’t live without.


I’m pretty new to Boxer, so it’s totally possible it’s more popular than I realize. Boxer is an incredibly customizable IMAP email client for power users. The biggest feature I look for in an email client is the ability to quickly triage messages. When I go through my email in the morning, every email is either

  • archived
  • deleted
  • spammed
  • saved for later

Until boxer, I had never been able to find a mail client that provided shortcuts to handle all of those actions. Apple’s Mail.app has a toolbar button for delete. But archive and spam meant first tapping on the “Add to Folder” button and then finding the correct folder to move the message into. Gmail’s dedicated app is a little better, but it still doesn’t have a quick way to send emails to spam. Boxer, however, allows you to customize up to four swipe actions to be anything you want. I can quickly short swipe right to archive, short swipe left to delete, or long swipe left to spam a message. Moving through my emails has never been so quick or fluid.

One benefit the Gmail app has over Boxer is push notifications for new messages. Boxer is never going to get full featured push alerts since they’re not a first-party client, but they support background refresh which means your messages appear almost as quickly.

Another added benefit, Boxer works natively over IMAP, which means there’s no wonky server-side component between you and your email like Dropbox’s Mailbox.

After a month of use, I don’t feel any need to go back to Gmail or Apple’s Mail.app.

Weather Line

I’ve tried tons of weather apps. They all tend to be either too light on the details or way too heavy with information overload. Weather Line is the only app I’ve ever felt comfortable using. It’s beautifully designed and offers just the right amount of information. It’s also the most “glanceable” weather app I’ve used. Your brain immediately parses its home screen without any real thinking.

Bonus points: Weather Line also taps into Dark Sky‘s legendary API to provide hyper-local upcoming precipitation forecasts at a glance.

And speaking of Dark Sky, you’re crazy if you’re not using it. The app is basically magic. It’ll buzz your pocket to tell you it’s going to rain in five minutes. And then five minutes later it begins raining.


For years I kept my shopping lists in OmniFocus. As much as I love that app, I knew in my heart of hearts that was overkill. I just felt silly adding “toilet paper” into the same database that I use to organize my software and writing projects. Further, I can’t share that list with my wife. If she wants to add an item to the grocery or Target list, she has to tell me to do it.

Silo solves that problem. It’s a beautifully designed list app that syncs instantly between multiple users. The app can hold as many lists as you want and each list can be shared with any combination of other users. The items on the list are super simple. They’re either checked or unchecked. There are no due dates. No priorities. It’s just a list of items. And did I mention they all sync? Well I’ll mention it again. Changes are pushed instantly between everyone’s phones.

For couples with shared shopping lists, I can’t recommend Silo enough.


Unbound is one of the key pieces of software I’m writing about in my book. It’s a dedicated photo and video viewer for Dropbox. If you keep all of your photos and videos in Dropbox like I do, just point Unbound at the appropriate Dropbox folders, and boom. All your photos and videos, always at your fingertips. They have an iPad version, too.


Calca is one of my nerdiest apps. I use it all the time to handle back-of-the-napkin calculations. It’s also what I use to pay my bills every month. With it, you write down math equations in plain English and Calca handles all of the calculations for you. For example, when I’m paying my bills each month, I enter something like…

When you enter that into Calca, the app turns it into a live spreadsheet-like calculation. All of the values after => are computed automatically. Change any other number, and all the other values update instantly. There’s no better way to work out math problems that you would otherwise use a piece of paper for. Best of all Calca is available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. All of your calculations sync over iCloud or Dropbox.