There were 178 billion app downloads in 2017, and that’s expected to grow to 205 billion in 2019.
With millions and millions of apps in the iOS and Android app stores, this creates a problem — it’s tough enough getting all your important things done in the time that you have.
It’s even more difficult when you’re distracted trying to figure out which app to use, or when you get distracted by some shiny new object.
Fortunately, we test out a lot of mobile apps here at AE so you don’t have to. We’ve narrowed down our favorites, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Traditionally we’ve made a list of Essential iPad apps, but this time we are going to also feature apps for the phone. Almost half the AE team uses Android devices, so we are going to feature cross-platform apps, or list Android or iOS alternatives where possible.
With all that said, here are our Top 10 mobile apps, not in any particular order.
(Note, we left off task managers, calendar apps, and things like Evernote and Slack since people talk about those all the time!)
Mind mapping is a great way to capture, break down, and think through ideas.
MindNode is a beautiful mind mapping tool on iPhone, iPad, and the Mac, and syncs flawlessly between the three platforms. It also has great export features, so you can create a mind map and easily turn it into Markdown for writing or export it to OmniFocus or Things to take action.
MindNode is iOS only, but if you use Android, Mindmeister is a popular alternative.
Spark is an email client for iOS, Mac, and Android. You can manage your email on all your devices, and you can export messages to your task manager or capture them to your file system or reference systems like Evernote or OneNote.
They have a “Smart Inbox” feature to try to make it easier for you to focus on the emails that matter. A nice design doesn’t hurt, either.
If you use email in teams, Spark has collaboration features whereby team members can comment on and assign emails to each other. This is a much more organized way to deal with team emails instead of huge forwarding chains.
A few years ago, we made a family trip that involved 9 flights in 14 days. Tripit, which is a trip-management app for iOS and Android, was unbelievably helpful.
With Tripit, you can forward all your trip confirmation and itinerary emails to a special email address. It parses them and organizes them for you so you can see where you need to be when.
It also alerts you of any delays or changes to your trip. Sometimes you know before the gate agents do.
There are airport maps, so when you are rushing to make your connection in an unfamiliar airport, you can see where you need to go.
Typically I do carry-on and rarely check my bag, but when I do, I love how Tripit tells you what your baggage carousel will be right when you land.
We mentioned Tripit in our podcast about essential travel tips.
If you do intermittent fasting (or any other type of fasting), Zero is an app for iOS and Android that will help you track your fasts. You can add notes and check out the complete history of your fasts.
It’s simple to use and is well designed, which almost makes up for your lack of food.
When you have an idea, an action item, an inspiration, or a challenge that pops into your mind, you need to get it down and out of your head as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
You can debate whether paper or digital is better for this, but if you fall on the digital side of the fence, Drafts is the best app for quick capture. It makes it fast and easy to capture text on iOS, Mac, or Apple Watch. You can then easily send it to a task manager, a note app, or apply automation to do… almost anything with it.
Drafts is iOS/Mac only, but Google Keep is a popular app for Android.
If you get one or two packages a month delivered, you probably won’t get much out of this app. However, if you are constantly getting packages delivered, it’s amazing.
Deliveries is an iOS and Mac app that lets you track packages. Tracking packages isn’t exactly rocket science, but it has some nice touches:
- It has Share sheet integration, so you can select a tracking number, hit Share, and send it straight to Deliveries
- It can detect a surprising number of shippers based on the tracking code/Amazon link. It’s rare that you even need to select the shipping company.
- It can sync to all your devices, so you can see, add, and get notified about package status wherever you want
- It has (optional) web access, so you can have an assistant or someone else add packages on your behalf
While Deliveries is iOS/Mac only, there is an Android app called… Deliveries. As far as I can tell it is not by the same authors, but it has similar features and is popular.
Calm is an iOS and Android app for meditation and sleep. There are more than 100 guided meditations, but I don’t use any of those. The last thing I need in my life is to have to decide which meditation to do.
I like the Daily Calm, which gives you a new short guided meditation every day, and I like the Sleep Stories, which I don’t use very often, but when I need them, they are very effective.
(Aberystwyth By Train knocks me out every time. I have no idea what happens once he gets to the Welsh coast.)
Scanbot is a document scanning app for iOS and Android. It does a great job capturing paper and turning it into a high-quality scan, but where it shines is its post-scan Workflows. With one tap you can rename the scan and save it to a specific location or cloud service. This is great for receipts that you need to send to an accounting system or Dropbox or Box folder.
We talked about ScanBot in our 5 Things You Need For Your Personal Productivity System podcast episode.
There are some books you want to own and cherish forever, and there are some books that you want to read but don’t necessarily need to buy.
Or maybe you want to read these amazing productivity books but don’t quite have the funds to buy them all just now.
Your local public library to the rescue!
OverDrive is an iOS and Android app that lets you use your library card to “check out” ebooks and audiobooks. You can read the book on your tablet or phone, and then return it when finished.
Save your money for the really impactful books. For everything else, there’s OverDrive.
Some may consider this cheating because we mentioned 1Password in our recent Top 10 Productivity Apps on Desktop article, but it is so foundational that it deserves a second mention.
1Password is a password manager — you securely store your passwords in it, and then:
- Your passwords are safe, and you don’t need to try to remember them and risk reusing passwords, and
- You can save time and hassle by using it to automatically fill in your name and password when logging in.
Many people think of 1Password as a desktop app, but it shines on mobile. There’s a version for iOS and Android.
Is there an alternative to the apps we’ve mentioned that you think is better? Did we drop the ball and forget a killer app? Let us know in the comments or on social.