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Best iPhone apps of 2020

The best iPhone apps have changed the way we communicate, watch TV and play games.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apps have dominated our lives for the last decade, and in 2020 they have only become more a part of how we move through the world each day -- how we communicate, learn, travel, watch TV and play. The introduction of the iPhone 11 and Apple's major moves into the world of subscription gaming and TV services in the last year only made the apps that give us access to them more important. 

The following iPhone apps were either introduced in the past year, got a major update, thanks to a new service (looking at you, Apple TV) or gained a cultural currency that we hadn't seen previously (I mean, The Washington Post has a TikTok channel with hundreds of thousands of followers now), and the CNET staff believed they deserved recognition. Without further ado, here are the best iPhone apps of the year. 

Read more: 25 apps that defined the decade

Spectre Camera


In December 2019, Apple awarded the AI photography app Spectre Camera its title of iPhone App of the Year. Spectre uses machine learning to take simulated long-exposure photos on your iPhone -- an effect that previously required a DSLR or mirrorless camera. The app also includes support for the ultrawide camera on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro

You can download Spectre in the App Store on iOS 11 or later for $2.99 (£2.99, AU$4.49). 

Read also: iPhone app of the year Spectre Camera uses AI to take photos that usually require a DSLR 


James Martin/CNET

TikTok is a social video app where you can watch people lip-syncing or dancing to songs, or create videos of yourself doing the same. While it was released in 2016, last year was when TikTok truly went mainstream: In November 2019, the app surpassed 1.5 billion downloads worldwide on the App Store and Google Play, with more than 600 million downloads in 2019 alone. TikTok was also the third most-downloaded nongaming app of last year, after WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger -- putting it ahead of the main Facebook app and Instagram, according to mobile intelligence firm Sensor Tower. It should be noted, however, that TikTok is under investigation from the US government for potential security risks due to its Chinese ownership. 

You can download TikTok for free in the App Store. It's also available for Android

Read more: TikTok: What it is and how to use it to possibly achieve internet fame

Apple Arcade games

Óscar Gutiérrez/CNET

Apple introduced its gaming subscription service Apple Arcade in September 2019, at $5 a month. Its catalog of more than 100 games -- available as downloadable apps for most iOS devices from the service in the App Store -- range from updates of nostalgic favorites like Pac-Man Party Royale and Frogger in Toy Town to puzzle games, mystery games and kid-friendly games. Apple named the musical motorcycle racing game Sayonara Wild Hearts as the Apple Arcade Game of the Year for 2019.   

You can subscribe to Apple Arcade for $4.99 (£4.99, AU$7.99) a month in the App Store, and download games from there. 

Read more: Apple Arcade updated: The full list of games

Disney Plus 

Angela Lang/CNET

Disney's $7-a-month streaming service Disney Plus launched in November 2019 to lots of fanfare -- and got 10 million subscribers in just one day. The platform includes some 500 movies and 7,500 episodes of TV, including Disney classics, as well as Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and the Simpsons (not to mention new original show The Mandalorian, which introduced us to America's sweetheart, Baby Yoda). Disney has already made some changes to improve the streaming experience, including a resume button

You can subscribe to Disney Plus for $6.99 (AU$8.99) a month -- or get a year for free if you have Verizon -- and download the app on iOS and Android. (It's not yet available in the UK.)

Read more: Disney Plus: Everything to know about Disney's new streaming service 

Apple TV 

Angela Lang/CNET

The Apple TV app has been a hub for movies and TV shows for a couple years, but got a big revamp last year and became the home for Apple TV Plus, the company's $5-a-month TV streaming service, in November. The streaming platform is home to the star-studded drama The Morning Show and a number of other original shows, all accessible through the Apple TV app, which offers a clean, easy-to-navigate interface. 

You can subscribe to Apple TV Plus for $4.99 (£4.99, AU$7.99) a month online or in Apple's TV app in the App Store. 

Read more: Apple TV Plus: How to sign up and everything else to know

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

WB Games/Niantic

In 2019, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite was the hottest augmented reality, app-based game, from the creators of Pokemon Go. The game pits players against dark wizards and magical beasts to save characters from the Harry Potter books. You play by walking around the real world, following the game's map through the app on your phone. Though it had some security flaws, Wizards Unite showed us that Pokemon Go wasn't just a fluke, and AR games are here to stay. It also brought in $1.1 million on its launch weekend, according to Sensor Tower.  

You can download Harry Potter: Wizards Unite for free in the App Store, though it does include in-app purchases. 

Read more: How to play Harry Potter: Wizards Unite



Online classified ads site Craigslist has been around since 1995, but crazily enough, it didn't get an iOS app until December of 2019. The app has a simple, nonfussy interface that's reminiscent of the website version, where you can search for everything from jobs to furniture to cars to purchase. The app currently has 4 out of 5 stars and more than 150 ratings in the App Store.

You can download Craigslist free in the App Store. 

Read more: Nerdy Craigslist founder wants to change the world -- starting with your news

Now playing: Watch this: Disney Plus streaming app is fun and full of rich content

Originally published last year. Updated periodically with new recommendations.