I received a few emails recently asking me about my favourite mobile apps. Rather than responding individually I have decided to create a public blog post out of my response in case others are interested as well.
Out of the hundreds of apps (on iOS, BB and Android platforms) that I have downloaded since I purchased my first smartphone, there are very few that actually give me true utility on a regular basis. I have listed them below , organized into three categories.
For the record, I currently own an Android based Samsung Galaxy S3 as my smartphone , however my list was quite similar when I was using an iPhone 4 (nearly all of the apps listed below are available on both platforms). Also, I am not including native apps that came with my phone such as the internet browser, video player, music player, etc… which are used daily. I have also excluded any time-sensitive apps, which serve a useful purpose for a limited amount of time and then become obsolete (e.g. Olympics, Awards Shows, Superbowl, etc…).
- Gmail : Since I run both my business and personal email accounts on the Google cloud platform, this app is essential to me and used constantly.
- Whats App: This is how I communicate with my close circles of friends and family. Refer to my post on cross-platform mobile messaging for more info.
- Google Maps: Hard to imagine not having access to this. Luckily I switched to Android before the Apple maps fiasco so I didn’t have to experience it.
- Google Calendar: I do both my personal and business scheduling on the Google Platform so the native app makes sense. That being said it’s far from perfect and sometimes I find myself switching to the proprietary calendar app on my phone (Samsung Planner) when I need a specific calendar view that is not available on the Google App.
- GTasks: This app synchronizes with Google Tasks which is what I use for my to-do lists. I have both personal and a business lists.
- RBC: This is the native app of my bank, the Royal Bank of Canada. I do nearly all of my banking on-line therefore this app is essential for transfers and inquires on the go.
- The Native Apps of Social Media Sites I Use: These currently include: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ (still lagging on this last one)
- HootSuite: This is my main mobile monitoring and publishing dashboard (primarily for Twitter)
- Dropbox: I keep many of my files in the Dropbox cloud, therefore this app is essential for editing and retrieving files on the go
- Google Drive: I use Google Drive primarily for dynamic documents and spreadsheets (e.g. sharing project status with a client)
- Evernote: This is where I keep all of my notes. I have two notebooks, one personal and one for business.
- Quick Office Pro: This app is what i use to open and edit documents on the go. I don’t actively open the app, instead the app turns on whenever i try to open an office document
- Pulse: I use this aggregation app to catch up on news (both global, local and industry specific) based on sources which I spent some time pre-configuring. This app allowed me to get rid of numerous slower stand-alone native apps such as Globe & Mail, CNN, Africa World News, etc… That being said, in certain cases I have kept a native news app so as to take advantage of the widget feature on my phone (e.g. I love the BBC widget).
- Flipboard: I use this app to display hashtag streams, RSS feeds and specific Twitter lists in a visual, mobile friendly manner.
- SiriusXM: This app is only useful if you have a subscription to satellite radio (which I do). Self explanatory.
- Google Search: A fast self-explanatory app that gets right to the point. I have installed it in widget form (a unique feature on Android devices).
- Google Earth: Before any international trip I usually scope out the area surrounding my hotel using Google Earth and examine my surroundings.
- Skype: I use the Skype app primarily for calling long distance either Skype to Skype or Skype to land line (using my paid subscription). I also use it for video-calls with family.
- Skype WiFi Not to be confused with the actual Skype app, this app lets you connect to Skype branded wifi hotspots at many international airports using your Skype credit. Useful when no free wifi is available or if it is too slow.
- Instagram: I use Instagram to take select photos primarily when travelling to new locations (a sort of photo journal).
- Yelp: Usually I will ask my client and/or some locals for dining recommendations, however occasionally if I have just landed I will resort to aggregate Yelp reviews.
- Trip it: I send all of my travel itineraries to this app which keeps them nicely organized for me and sync directly to my calendar.
- Flight Aware: I use this app to determine what type of aircraft I will be flying and what the flight path is. Very useful for carry-on planning and statistics-based delay predicting.
- Sit or Squat: This app leverages crowdsourcing and geo-location to locate the nearest clean public toilet around you. Brilliant.
Apps that are very useful, just not necessarily every day
- Netflix: The few shows and movies that I watch, I watch via Netflix. If I start watching something in my basement home theatre and don’t finish it, I can continue watching it exactly where I left off on my phone next time I have some idle time (usually in a cab).
- Google Reader: This is where I keep and organize all the RSS feeds I subscribe to. I usually flick through my reader during idle time
- WordPress: I use this app to edit my blog posts on the go or to make changes to my corporate website on the go (it was built on the wordpress platform)
- Shazam: Still the leader in terms of instant music track identification. I use it as needed.
- Google Analytics: I use this app to track on-the-go analytics of all the web properties I am monitoring
- Fitbit: I wear a FitBit Ultra and use this app to track my progress via push messages
- Realtor.ca: Since I am currently in the market for a new home, I use this app to find out which properties around me are for sale and for how much, when driving around neighbourhoods I like.
- Yellow Pages: After years of missing the mobile boat, this brand came back with a vengeance with a killer app that has allowed me to delete multiple others apps I used to have such as bank locators, taxi locators, etc…
- Flixter: I rarely watch a movie without first running it through this app to see what the aggregate reviews were
- Grocery IQ: This is how I make grocery lists in 2013. Ok, so my wife makes them but I see the list pop up on my phone (our accounts are synced) and when possible I will get the items (she can track my progress in real-time). I’m waiting for the day grocery stores catch on and create native apps that can also locate the items in the store for me. A smartphone holder built into every shopping cart would be nice as well.
- Knot Guide: Brilliant self explanatory visual app
- Songza: Mood based user-generated playlists. An alternative to my satellite radio app if it becomes too repetitive.
- WebMD: Before freaking myself out with unfiltered Google search results, I’ll use WebMD to look up a symptom. Then I Google…
- The Score: This is the mother of all sports apps; Scores, schedules, news.
- Amazon: This app only become relevant to me when I purchased an Amazon “Prime” subscription. I can instantly scan any item in a physical store to see how much it would cost me on Amazon and how quickly it could be delivered to me (Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping). While the Canadian Amazon store has far less content than that of our southern neighbours, I still find it quite useful.
- Google Goggles: This is my go-to QR code (and more) reading app ever since Red Laser started disappointing me.
- Kids Songs: I use this app for on the go sing-a-longs to my 4 month old son when my tablet is not around
- Ultimate Guitar Tabs and Chords: My long-time favourite app for quickly accessing guitar tablature and chords. The music sheet even moves at user-controlled speeds as you play so that you don’t have to turn the pages.
I have numerous other apps , including a few games and crowdsourcing tools installed on my phone as well, however I’m either in the process of testing them out or simply don’t use them nearly as often. The rest I have deleted or never bothered downloading again upon switching platforms. Additionally, many apps that merely provide information became redundant since it is usually faster to obtain that piece of info via googling than it is to navigate the app (metric conversion tools come to mind). A few of my favourites were sadly unavailable in the Google Play store (Adobe Create and Garage Band come to mind).
So there you have it. I wonder how this list will change in a year.
Any must-have apps on your end? Tweet or comment.