I was drinking coffee the other day with a friend I had known for the past 20-something years. We hang out every day, and we’ve been through much of our lives together. We know each other inside-out. I was showing him a YouTube clip on my phone. We wanted to learn a bit extra about that clip, so I took his phone to bring up the browser. As I was scrolling through the mobile apps he had on his phone, I realized something strange.
I didn’t know many of his apps. The names, and their functions were a complete unknown to me. For someone who I thought I knew inside-out, that was a lot of unknown.
This inspired me to write. Regardless of how much you think you know the app universe, and how much you think your smartphone is helping you get through the day, I believe there’s always something else that can be improved with an app. Hopefully, by writing about the apps I can’t imagine my life without anymore, I might inspire you guys to look for some of these yourselves and even take inspiration from their qualities to better your own app .
I decided not to include mobile apps that you’d expect everyone to have, like Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook. Instead I’m going for the exact opposite. I chose only those mobile apps I don’t believe everyone uses, yet for me, they’re irreplaceable.
So, here are the six mobile apps on my phone that I am never deleting and what they do for me.
1. Money Lover
Money Lover is a finance management app that helps you set budgets, track expenses and, through it, save money. For someone who every once in awhile ends up staring at his empty wallet thinking ‘what the hell did I spend all my money on’, this one is essential. It helps me track my spending and allows me to sort it in different categories, like Utilities, Food and Transportation. What I love most about it is the graphic breakdown of expenses that has me thinking how I should really take it easy on beer.
On a technical side, the app is flawless. A spend tracking app needs to be lighting fast and intuitive — you’ll probably pull it up at a cashier, while paying for things, with your hands taken by bags and different goods. You need to be able to pull it up on your screen fast, add your expenses and their categories even faster, and be done with it. Money Lover is a fast app, with an amazingly intuitive user interface (UI), and predefined categories that will probably be just right for the majority of users.
It also comes with a bunch of advanced features, like connecting with banks, scanning receipts and recurring transactions, which come very handy to advanced users and people looking to seriously tighten up on spending. I wouldn’t be able to imagine my smartphone without Money Lover any more.
Every diehard soccer fan has an app that helps them track their favorite teams across different competitions, and my choice for years now has been the FotMob app. I’ve seen it grow from a tiny app that only supported a handful of leagues and competitions, to a huge platform offering virtually every league in the world. The upgrades and new features it has brought in the past few versions have all been spot on, improving the interface, adding new features and eventually making my experience with the app that much better.
It tracks soccer results in real time, with written commentary for some games (one of my favorite features), and fully customizable notifications (goals, fouls, half time, full time, etc.). It also allows users to track leagues, teams and individuals for news (I simply adore this one as I love reading everything about Jurgen Klopp). To top it off, It offers detailed statistics, including top scorers, or fouls committed. It has a very long list of future fixtures, allowing you to plan your days and not forget to watch a derby or two. Everything a diehard soccer fan needs in an app can be found in FotMob, making this one of those apps I’d never delete on my own free will.
3. Quality Time
Another tracking app that I can’t imagine my day without is Quality Time. This simple app tracks your smartphone usage and tells you exactly how much time you spend during the day on different mobile apps. I’m a guy that can easily get hooked on things like puzzle games, Facebook or Snapchat. I’m also the kind of guy that will get a guilty conscience if I waste too much time during the day doing meaningless stuff like going through some celebrity pet’s Instagram profile. Essentially, this app motivates me to do productive, meaningful things, by showing me how lazy I’ve been and by triggering that guilty conscience.
What I particularly love about this app is that it can work with the user doing almost nothing. Just install it, and it starts tracking! As you’d expect from a tracking app, the stats are organized through charts and graphics, making understanding the number breakdown simple and easy. Its interface is clean and the design is minimalist, which are the things I really like in this type of mobile apps. This type of design improves on the app’s usability, as consuming its information becomes a breeze.
For the junkies, there are advanced features like notifications when you’ve overdone it, or organized breaks and app blocks. For example, you can get notified when you’ve used your device for more than two hours in a day, or when you’ve unlocked your phone 50 times in the last 24 hours. By creating profiles, users can tell Quality Time which apps’ notifications should be blocked at certain times during the day. It works as something of a highly customizable Do Not Disturb mode, which I think is necessary in today’s “always on” world.
I’m a writer, and a musician — a suicidal combination that requires insane amounts of creativity to stay relevant and earn a living. The irony with creativity is that it can’t be forced, and relying on creativity to make a living means that when it strikes, you need to be ready to go. Melodies or lyrics, article ideas and arguments, when my brain starts suggesting things, I need to be ready to write them down (or record them) immediately. If I don’t, I’ll forget them faster than an amnesiac with Alzheimer’s that hasn’t gotten good sleep in a week.
Evernote is a lifesaver, but not because it allows me to record my thoughts and ideas in a speedy manner. It’s a lifesaver because of the user-friendly, intuitive way it sorts and organizes my files. A creative professional’s mind is a mess, and without an awesome way to sort all the handwritings, recordings, typing and whatnot — you’re better not writing them down in the first place.
Organizing through notebooks, sorting by dates, titles or size, the ability to easily share and even set up work chat — those are the killer features for me. My experience working with Evernote has been nothing but joy. This app evolved our notetaking and brought it into the 21st century.
Another killer feature I enjoy using is its widget. It allows me to pull up the notepad, or an audio recorder right from my smartphone’s home screen and start writing (or recording) in literal milliseconds. It’s fast, it’s simple, it’s highly useful. I honestly wouldn’t be able to imagine my work without it.
5. Dream Lab
I’ve never felt better about having a single app on my smartphone in my life. Dream Lab is probably the single most important app you can have on your phone. For the uninitiated, it lends your smartphone’s computing power to researchers looking for solutions for various types of cancer. The idea is noble, simple and effortless in execution. When you go to sleep, you plug your phone in. During charging, while you sleep, the app receives a tiny piece of the cancer puzzle to solve, and uses the smartphone’s processor to solve it. Once it’s done, it uploads the results back. It’s like having a network of thousands of computers working on a single goal — finding a cure for cancer. Commenting on the progress, the app’s developers have recently said: “Collectively DreamLab users have already completed 10.2% of the cancer research project in half the time it would have taken the researchers.”
From the usability side, I like the app’s onboarding strategy. In just a few swipes and taps, the app explains how it works, allows users to choose which types of cancer they’d love to help research, and offers clear instructions and limitations to mobile data usage.
For someone who’s lost close family members to cancer, and for someone who’d very much love to see this disease eradicated, Dream Lab is an extremely important app, one which I’d never delete.
For a musician, but also for pretty much any music lover, Shazam is one of those mobile apps that you might not use that often, but as soon as you delete it, you regret it. The app allows you to identify songs you hear on the radio or in the club or even in the hotel elevator. The way it works is simple, genius, almost magical — you tell the app to literally listen to the song. After hearing a few notes, it scans its enormous database and tells you which song it is.
But perhaps even more importantly — it’s strikingly accurate. On top of it all, it offers a bit extra with music videos, lyrics and charts, giving every music lover a complete experience. I’ve changed a dozen phones, and restored every one to factory settings, at least once. Shazam has always found its way back to my devices, even though it’s not the one I have to use on a daily basis.
We download hundreds of mobile apps. Many don’t make it through the first 24 hours and get deleted straight away, for various reasons. Those that remain, have a few things in common. They’re making our lives better. They’re good problem solvers. They’re fast. And they’re customizable. Hopefully, this article will spark some thoughts about your irreplaceable mobile apps. Which one are they, and why do you hold on to them? Let us know!