These days, it’s easy to forget that smartphones didn’t always have vast app stores and ecosystems; just over a decade ago, the apps that came on your phone were the apps you were stuck with. These days, we’re spoiled by the enormous selection of apps and services at our disposal that fill our phones with endless potential.

Among the millions of apps out there, most people have narrowed down their needs and found the apps that work for their lifestyle. Apps that feel like absolute necessities, without which your phone would feel almost useless. These are some of the apps that I use on a daily basis, ignoring the basics like banking, social, and work apps that are practically mandates for smartphone owners.

Spotify

Whether I’m driving across town listening to my car stereo, pacing around my gate at the airport with my noise-canceling headphones, or sitting at my desk writing this article with my studio monitors cranked, I’m almost always listening to music. That’s why Spotify is one of the first apps I install on every new phone I set up, and it gets more use than almost any other service on my devices.

There are plenty of great music services out there, from YouTube Music to Apple Music, Soundcloud, and even specialty services like Tidal, but Spotify has been my streaming app of choice for over half a decade. It’s not lossless quality, but the high-quality streaming sounds plenty good to my ears, and I absolutely love the end-of-year analysis Spotify provides to explore your most frequented genres and artists.

Download: Spotify (free)

LastPass

Say it with me: everybody needs a password manager. No matter who you are or how careful you try to be online, you’re always vulnerable to data breaches, and if you use the same password across multiple sites — we’ve all done it — you’re practically handing your digital life away to anyone that gets ahold of it. Password managers are a great way to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I started using LastPass about a year ago, and it’s since made my life easier and more secure — you don’t usually get both. I don’t even know any of my passwords anymore; I just let LastPass generate a random string of numbers, letters, and symbols, and it automatically fills login pages with my info. LastPass also handles my codes for sites that support two-factor authentication, which is another absolute must. There are other options like 1Password and Dashlane that probably do an equally great job, so play around with each of them until you find one that works — which service you use doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re using a password manager at all.

Download: LastPass (free)

Google Podcasts

This one’s more recent than the rest, and I’m still not sure if I prefer Google Podcasts over my previous pick, Pocketcasts, but I just like having some way of listening to podcasts when I’m not listening to music and want to hear from my coworkers or learn about new camera techniques. Regardless, Google Podcasts has been working great for me over the last few weeks, and I love that it syncs with my Google Home so that I can move between my house and my car without losing my place in each episode.

Admittedly, I don’t listen to as many podcasts as I used to, but I still at the very least catch up to a few shows every week, and it’s one of my favorite ways to kill time on a flight — well, it’s between that and sleeping.

Download: Google Podcasts (free)

Cash App

I love going on road trips with friends, but that usually means making a stop for fast food along the way. You can’t exactly split the bill at most drive-throughs, so I always find myself getting caught in the cycle of covering everyone’s meal and hoping they remember to buy my food on the next round. Sometimes it works … more often than not, it doesn’t. I downloaded Cash App a few months back, and it’s definitely made this dilemma a little easier.

I resisted using Cash App for the longest time, but I’m honestly not sure why anymore. The interface is simple and money transfers happen almost instantly, withdrawing or depositing directly into your bank account. If my friend and I go through the same bank, I still prefer using that bank’s app to handle money transfers — Square charges a small fee for every Cash App transaction, after all — but for all other times, this has made it significantly easier to handle group payments with one card.

Download: Cash App (free)

What are your must-have apps?

You’ve seen what I use, now it’s your turn. What are some of the first apps you install on every new phone, the apps that you open multiple times a day and can’t imagine not having? Let us know in the comments below.

« »