Beyond Settings, Apple’s basic iOS applications cover what most of us need. Safari, Mail, Calendar, Maps, Contacts, plus Pages, Keynote, and Numbers. Each of those have equivalents from third party app developers. Can you have an iPhone life without using Apple’s own apps?
First on my list of app families to replace Apple’s applications is Google. There’s Gmail, Chrome, Calendar, Maps, plus those crazy Sheets apps that compete against Microsoft Office and Apple’s office-like counterparts.
Google’s apps can handle the basics but there isn’t an app that does Find My iPhone, or Garageband and iMovie, and others, including TV, Health and so on. Google doesn’t really have a Notes and Reminders app that anyone can remember.
But Google does cover the basics so there is at least a name brand, optional ecosystem to replace Apple’s basic iOS apps. I collect apps and have a folder full of Google apps– 27 total. That’s far less than the 40-plus Apple apps on my iPhone
Windows maker Microsoft has plenty of applications for iPhone and iPad. I don’t have them all (only 21) but the basics compare favorably with Apple’s built-in apps, but with a few gaps. Office– Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook– compare well against Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and Mail. OneNote is like a combo of Reminders and Notes. Bing is a Google search engine replacement, but Microsoft has a few camera apps for iPhone users which Google does not. There’s also News, Sports, Health & Fitness, Travel, and many others which are not direct counterparts to iOS equivalents.
Microsoft does not have a built-in iOS Maps app and, oddly, no browser to compete against Safari. Yet, there is a Cortana app to compete against Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri.
So, with a few exceptions– Camera the most obvious– both Google and Microsoft have plenty of basic applications which are sufficiently feature laden and priced right (free) to replace some of Apple’s most basic and most used applications.
The real question to ask is, “Are those apps better than Apple’s apps?”
The answer, again, is, “Yes. And now. And, it depends.” Google Chrome is no better than Safari and Microsoft doesn’t have an iOS browser. Google Maps is considered by many to be better than Apple Maps but you can guess which one is used more often by iPhone customers. Both Google and Microsoft have cloud services to rival Apple’s iCloud, but Apple keeps it competitive on price. Neither Google nor Microsoft has an application to compare against Clock, one of my favorites. They don’t have an exercise or health data capture app equivalent to Activity or Health, either.
So, yes, you can live without Apple’s applications on an iPhone or iPad, and both Microsoft and Google have competitive equivalents– but not all match up well to what Apple provides for free. I use apps from all three, but use Apple’s applications more than the others combined.