Free apps and things to do at home during the coronavirus pandemic [u]
If you've been stuck at home with plenty of free time lately, there's probably an app for that. Finding things to do online while social distancing doesn't cost that much money, and it can even be free.
We've added a bunch of new stuff on April 15, and pruned out the dead offerings. We'll be adding to this list and periodically bumping it up to the top of AppleInsider as we authenticate what we find.
Maybe you've found yourself with an abundance of free time and you're not quite ready to dedicate yourself to binge-watching another season of your favorite show. Instead, maybe you're ready to learn something new or take up a new hobby. If that's the case, then this is the place for you.
Swift Playgrounds (macOS and iPad): If you've ever wanted to learn to code Swift, now is your chance. Swift Playgrounds teaches you how to code Swift through fun and intuitive games.
Duolingo: Now is as good of a time as ever to start learning another language or brushing up on one you haven't used in a while. Duolingo provides fun, quick lessons in over 94 different language courses in 23 languages.
Khan Academy: It never hurts to brush up on the basics, and Khan Academy has thousands of free lectures and practices on everything from grammar to science.
Udemy: Udemy is an app with tens of thousands of video lectures on a range of topics, from singing courses to event planning. Most courses aren't free (though they are affordable), but there are still free options available.
iTunes U allows anyone with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to learn from a large collection of free education content in public courses from leading schools, universities, museums, and cultural institutions.
Archive.org: If you're looking for a large collection of public domain media, your best bet is Archive.org. It has millions of public domain books, songs, TV shows, magazines, and more. If you're feeling particularly bored, you can also use the site's Wayback Machine feature to snoop on what your favorite sites looked like way back in the day.
National Emergency Library: Archive.org is suspending waitlists for the 1.4 million (and growing) books in the lending library by creating a National Emergency Library to serve the nation's displaced learners. This suspension will run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.
Babbel: Students who are worried about falling behind on language courses can keep up on their studies on their own time. Babbel is offering students enrolled in schools and colleges in the U.S. three months' free access to its app and platform, in any and all of its 14 languages offered: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Dutch, Turkish, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Indonesian, and English.
JSTOR: University and college students will probably be familiar with JSTOR, the academic resource that contains a plethora of ebooks and journals. Now, JSTOR is making its entire library accessible to the public — without academic credentials.
The Great Courses will release free content to benefit the general public. Included is the course "An Introduction to Infectious Diseases," taught by Dr. Barry Fox, Clinical Professor of Infectious Disease at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, as well as the short video "Coronavirus Outbreak: What You Need to Know," led by Dr. Roy Benaroch, acting pediatrician and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine.
Roblox for Educators: Roblox's new "Teaching Remotely" feature includes over 100 hours of free, ISTE certified content that can be used to teach game design and coding fundamentals in remote learning environments. Educators can learn how to set up Roblox Studio, the free online development tool to build and publish on Roblox, and use Team Create to allow students to collaborate on projects.
Arts, Culture, National Parks, and Zoos
The Met Opera: The Met is offering free nightly streams of their The Met: Live in HD series for anyone interested in taking a digital trip to the opera.
The Louvre: Now is as good as time as any to take a virtual trip to one of the world's most iconic museums — the Louvre! There are several virtual tours you can choose from, including "The Advent of the artist," which showcases artists like Rembrandt and Delacroix, "Egyptian Antiquities," which shows a collection of Pharaonic artifacts, and even a tour of the remains of the Louvre's moat!
Tour the Sistine Chapel Take a virtual tour of Vatican City's very own Sistine Chapel, including a close up look of the chapel's ceiling.
Yosemite Virtual Tours: Head to one of the United States' most profound park system, California's Yosemite National Park. You can spend the afternoon browsing the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, the Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point, among others.
The Great Wall of China: One of the most famous World Heritage Sites is available to visit right from the comfort of your own home.
San Diego Zoo Live Cams: One of the best hidden gems on the internet, San Diego Zoo's live cams give you an up-close and personal look at some of the zoo's most popular residents, including penguins, polar bears, baboons, tigers, elephants, and more!
The Smithsonian: Now is a great time to take a virtual tour of America's most iconic museums. This tour includes permanent exhibits, past exhibits, and current exhibits like Bone Hall and Butterfly Pavilion, among others.
Yellowstone National Park: The National Park service has a great site set up for taking a virtual tour of many of Yellowstone's most iconic locations, including its famous hot springs, canyons, paint pots, and even geysers like Old Faithful.
FaceTime: This one should be obvious, but if you and your loved ones own Apple products, like the iPhone, iPad, iMac, or MacBook, using FaceTime to keep in touch can help ease the loneliness of social isolation. You can even use FaceTime with a group, perfect for virtual family get-togethers.
Fitness and wellness
Taking care of your own health and wellness should never take a backseat, no matter what's going on in the foreground. With that in mind, there are several excellent apps that can help you work out indoors or find some zen in the midst of chaos.
Headspace: Science has proven that a meditation practice can reduce stress and anxiety, so there's no better time to start than now. Headspace has made several of its meditation collections free due to the ongoing pandemic. (Healthcare workers can also get a full subscription for free.)
Peloton: Peloton may be known for pricey fitness equipment, but its app actually offers a slew of different audio and video workouts across that you can use without the fancy bike. The company is offering a free 90 day trial to new users.
Active: Popsugar has made their ACTIVE app available for free, aiming to help users keep active during lockdown. Loaded with video workouts, photo tutorials, treadmill workouts and more.
Balance: If you're feeling stressed, Balance has begun offering a free one-year subscription to their personalized meditation app. In order to redeem the subscription, interested parties will need to email [email protected] for instructions.
Sanvello: Sanvello is a digital care app that offers mood tracking, self-assessment test, coping tools, and a peer support network. The service is offering free premium access for as long as COVID-19 remains a national emergency.
Dark Noise: If you've been having a particularly tough time dealing with the quietness of being home, Dark Noise is a great ambient noise app that can help fill the silence. It includes sounds from coffee shops, office spaces, camp fires, rain storms, and white noise. During the pandemic, the developer has opened up the Dark Noise Test Flight for anyone who would like to try the app.
Kids may be having an especially tough time during the coronavirus outbreak and may not understand why they can't go to school or visit friends and family. These apps and activities can help ease the boredom that comes along with social distancing.
Caribu: If your little one is missing their friends, set them up on a virtual playdate using Caribu. It functions like FaceTime but allows for on-screen activities, including reading books together, cooperative drawing, and playing games. Normally $7, the service is free during the outbreak, and does not require a credit card to use.
Time for Kids: Time is launching their Time For Kids digital library free for the rest of the 2020 school year. Included in the digital library are worksheets, teaching tools, and quizzes for both educators and family members.
Roblox Learn & Explore: Roblox is offering a series of self-paced programs designed to help kids and teens create their first Roblox games.
Sesame Workshop, the makers of Sesame Street are offering a wide variety of free online resources for children throughout the pandemic. Part of the offer, which includes free shows and other items, includes a collection of 110 Sesame Street ebooks that are available to access on Apple Books and other services.
PBS Kids Video: If you've got a little one at home, this is one app you should snag. It's 100% free and includes free episodes of popular shows like Author, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Sesame Street, Caillou, and more. You can also sign up for the PBS KIDS daily newsletter, which gives activities and tips for helping kids play and learn at home.
There are plenty of free games on the App Store, but we've curated some highly rated ones that have been made free since the outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
Monument Valley 2: The successor to the critically-acclaimed original provide more illusionary pathways and puzzles to explore in a seemingly impossible world.
On Steam for free is Drawful 2, the Jackbox Games party game where people secretly draw an image from a prompt, then have to guess which is the right title from a selection of made-up titles.
Digital marketplace GoG has compiled a list of "Stay at Home" games that are free to add to a user's library. The list includes quite a few Mac-compatible titles, including classic items, with games including "Beneath a Steel Sky," "Cayne," and "Ultima 4: Quest of the Avatar" on the roster.
Cards Against Humanity, Family Edition: If you've got some printer paper, a printer, scissors, and some free time, you can print your own Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition to play. The PG-rated humor makes it safe to play with kids, or those who weren't a big fan of the original game.
Google Stadia: Google Stadia, a video game streaming service, has just launched two free months for anyone who would like to try it out. While you won't be able to play on iOS, you can still play on your Mac with the Chrome browser.
Epic's Games of the Week
Epic continues to cycle a few games into the "free" category during the coronavirus pandemic. Every week, they change what games they have on offer, so if you see something you like, you may want to act fast. This week's offerings are only available until April 23.
Just Cause 4: Dive into an open-world, action-adventure, sandbox experience. Cause chaos with a wide selection of weaponry and vehicles, and take to the skies with your wing suit and grappling hook.
Wheels of AureliaTake an immersive road trip through the gritty western coast of Italy during the roaring 1970's. In this narrative-driven racer, you'll play as as Lella, a bold, spunky woman, experience the sights and sounds of a tumultuous time in Italy's history while uncovering events from Lella's past.
E-Books, Audio Books, and Graphic Novels
Of course, we haven't forgotten about the bookworms out there, either. Whether you prefer reading an ebook on a tablet or an audiobook through your AirPods, here are some options for you.
Scribd: Scribd is now offering a 30 day free trial with no credit card requirement. They host over a million titles, including e-books, magazines, audiobooks and more.
Wattpad: If you're a fan of underground literature, it doesn't get much more unknown than Wattpad. Wattpad is a community that allows writers to publish new content across different genres, giving them a platform to have their works read.
Comic Chameleon: If you're a webcomic fan, it's high-time you check out Comic Chameleon. It's got a curated selection of some of the top webcomics out there, like Questionable Content, XKCD, Dinosaur Comics, and Girls With Slingshots.
Audible is providing hundreds of audiobooks for kids and teens for free, without a subscription. These include a number of classic works, such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, alongside fairy tales and foreign-language works. Audible is also now offering "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" as read by Stephen Fry for free. It provides over 9 hours of entertainment for Potter enthusiasts everywhere.
Izneo: Comic book fans rejoice — global comics service Izneo is offering 30 days of free service to anyone who wants to #StayHome and #ReadComics. Comics on the service include Star Trek, The X-Files, Judge Dredd, Transformers, Archie, Jem and the Holograms, and many more.
Marvel Unlimited: If you're a fan of Spider-Man, Captain America, and the X-Men, Marvel's making them free until May 4th. Simply download the app and gain access to a curated collection of Marvel's best, with no need to make an account or enter any payment information.
Whether you're a career musician or you just want to learn to play a few chords while you're social distancing, here are several free apps that are excellent for any level of music player.
Minimoog Model D Synthesizer: A digital emulation of a legendary analog synthesizer. Normally $4.99, it's now free to download. Just make to look up how to pronounce Moog correctly.
GarageBand: Sure, it may not be a "new discovery," but GarageBand is a free Apple-produced app with plenty of instruments, sounds and loops to play around with.
Also, Apple has now started to provide 90-day trials for Logic Pro X, if your music creation needs are greater than what GarageBand can provide.
Creative application suites aren't typically free, or even affordable. But we're keeping tabs on any special offers that the major players like Affinity and Adobe have during this time.
Affinity by Serif: Serif is making its suite of creative apps, including Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher, free to use for three months.
Zencastr: Maybe you've got some extra time to dedicate to that podcast idea you've got kicking around. Zencastr is removing limits for its free hobbyist plan during the Coronavirus outbreak, allowing users to host as many guests as they want and unlimited recording time.
While not completely free, Apple has started to offer 90-day trials of Final Cut Pro X, if you want to try out a professional-level video editing suite over a long period of time.
Adobe Coloring Book: Looking for a way to unwind away from your phone and TV? Look no further, as Adobe has released coloring pages available to download and print to color at your convenience. Each week Adobe will change the coloring book pages on offer, so be sure to check back regularly.
Nikon: For the entire month of April, Nikon, a popular camera manufacturer, is offering free online photography classes. There are 10 classes in total, each lead by a professional photographer, and don't explicitly require a Nikon camera to participate in.
Fender Play: Guitar manufacturer Fender is giving those signing up to its Fender Play service three months of free lessons. To access the offer, participants must go to the dedicated offer page, click on the "Get Code" button, and to enter the code while creating their account.
The Apple TV app offers a number of free trials for paid third-party channels, but usually they are quite short in length. Due to the ongoing crisis, some services including Showtime are being provided with a longer one-month trial.
Other Apple TV channels offering longer trial subscriptions of a month or more include Acorn TV, A&E, Arrow, The History Channel Vault, Lifetime Movie Club, Noggin, PBS Living, Showtime, and Smithsonian Channel Plus. And, Apple is streaming some of its own programming for free now too.
Apple TV channel Moonbug Kids is offering free access to its service through early June, without requiring a subscription. The option replaced a one-month free offer from Epix that ended on May 2.
HBO GO and HBO NOW From April 3, HBO started to make some of its content available to view from its apps for free. Approximately 500 hours of films and TV shows are streamable as part of the offering, though it is unclear when the free period will end.
Filmmaker Gary Hustwit is offering his documentaries for free streaming during the crisis, with the film selection changing each week.
Sling TV is offering free access to news and entertainment during the COVID-19 outbreak, including channels like ABC News Live and thousands of shows and movies. No credit card required.
Shudder: If you like thriller, suspense, or horror movies, Shudder is offering 30 days of free access to its library for those who use the promo code SHUTIN.
Netflix Party: The popular Google Chrome extension allows users to sync their Netflix accounts for free to watch movies and shows simultaneously while practicing safe social hygiene and social distancing.
NFL Game Pass: If you're craving sports, the NFL is extending complimentary access to its Game Pass through May 31. Viewers will be treated to replay games from 2009-2019 in commercial-free HD. Also includes bonus content such as behind-the-scenes interviews with players and coaches.
Plex: If you have an HD antenna and tuner, then now you can stream your free live TV to all your devices from now until the end of June— no Plex Pass required. DVR and other premium features will still require a Plex Pass. Plex has also stated that if you don't have hardware, their hardware partners will provide discounts for those with a Plex account.
SiriusXM: SiriusXM recently announced that it's making its full lineup of Premier Streaming content available to users, free of charge and with no credit card requirements. You can listen on the iOS app, or head to the website on a PC.
HBO Now & HBO Go : Now you can stream over 500 hours of programming for free, including popular shows like The Wire, The Sopranos, Veep, and Pokemon Detective Pikachu, thanks to HBO's #StayHomeBoxOffice campaign.
While it may not be the most entertaining or calming thing to do, keeping informed and up-to-date is important during a crisis. Because of that, we've highlighted several national news outlets that have let down their paywalls for COVID-19 coverage (some of them have even got rid of their paywalls altogether).
Many local newspapers across the U.S. have also dropped their paywalls, so check the media outlets in your own neck of the woods. Be sure to look at our previous coverage on sources for accurate COVID-19 information, as well.
Are you an app developer or have a service that's been made free to help out? Send us an email to tell us about it!
Update 5/2/2020: The Apple TV app's Epix free trial has been replaced by an offering from Moonbug Kids.