There are so many apps available in the Android and iOS app stores that it’s just about impossible to know about all of the good ones. (That’s true even if you generally are the first among your friends to adopt the latest and greatest hardware and software, and even if you check the app store religiously for new releases and editors’ picks.) In the never-ending quest for the most interesting new apps, most people gravitate toward the flashy new apps that offer new features.
But what most people miss out on are the apps that make it easier for you to accomplish the tasks that you already use your phone for everyday. Ahead, check out our eight favorite categories of apps that you probably aren’t using, but should. They’ll make everything you do on your phone faster and easier — which may just free up some more time for you to check out the best new games and fun apps in the app store.
1. Task-management apps
You can certainly create a to-do list in the notes app that came preinstalled on your phone. But you might find it easier to actually complete the tasks on your to-do list and stay productive all day if you switch to a smart task management app instead. Task management apps can help you prioritize your to-dos, remind you of tasks that you’ve put off, and even help you keep all of the information that you need in one place. Once you switch to a task management app, you’ll never go back to your simple notes app (or the scrap of paper jammed in your pocket) again. Some favorites to try out include Any.do, Todoist, Wunderlist, Moo.do, and Checkmark.
2. Full-featured notes apps
Another important upgrade if you’re relying on a basic notes app on the go? A a note-taking app with a wider range of useful features. A smart notes app will enable you to keep separate notebooks for separate projects, make it easier to search the reminders you’ve written down, and even make it easier to create interactive checklists or add media to your notes. Consider Evernote if you need a powerful app that’ll help you stay organized across your devices, or pick Day One if you want an app that’s a better journal than your standard notes app. A couple of other favorites to check out? How about Drafts, Daedalus Touch, or Letterspace.
3. Apps that make you more financially literate
Most people know how to check their account balances, deposit a check, or even pay a bill or two from their smartphones. But did you know that you can download apps that help you learn valuable new skills for managing your money? From apps that enable you to set and manage a budget to those that help you invest your spare change, there are plenty of apps that should be keeping your lone banking app company. Mint is a popular favorite, since it makes your budget and your money easy to understand. Acorns enables you to automatically invest your spare change. Or, try Robinhood for free stock trading right from your phone, or open an account with Chime if you’re tired of a traditional bank account.
4. More secure messaging apps
You probably know all about Snapchat and WhatsApp, and may even use them to communicate with your friends. But there are plenty of messaging apps that can do more than just add an element of fun to your conversations. Many messaging apps promise strong encryption to protect your privacy and assure your peace of mind, even if you’re having sensitive conversations via text. And others even let you choose to have your messages self-destruct after they’ve been read or expire after a given period of time. A few favorites to try if the idea of a more secure messaging platform appeals to you include Sicher, Signal, and Telegram.
5. Sophisticated weather apps
If all you need to know is the projected high and low for the day, then the weather app that came preinstalled on your smartphone may be fine. But if you want something that’s a little more capable, it’s time to find a better weather app. From apps that can tell you exactly when it’s going to start raining at your current location to those that make it easier to figure out exactly what you should be wearing out of the house, an advanced weather app will make your life easier — and won’t take any longer to check than the weather app you’ve been using. Download Dark Sky for hyperlocal weather alerts, Fresh Air for gorgeous visualizations, CARROT Weather for a bit of humor, and Bright Weather for a useful weather map.
6. Apps that help you take control of your smartphone’s camera
We’ve already talked about how to get great results from your iPhone camera. And while they may not be the most critical part of the equation, great camera apps are a pretty important consideration for mobile photographers. A great camera app can help you customize the exposure, nail the focus, and perfect the white balance in each photo that you take. That means that whether you’re taking a quick group photo, snapping a photo of your dog, or trying to get the perfect latte shot, you’ll be more in control of your camera — which means better photos. Manual, for instance, gives you full control over the shutter, ISO, white balance, focus, and exposure compensation, and Camera FV-5 adds DSLR-like controls to your Android phone’s camera. Manual Camera gives you full manual controls and the ability to shoot RAW files, while VSCO is another favorite that gives you an easy way to shoot, edit, and publish great images.
7. Navigation apps specifically for public transportation
Both Google Maps and Apple Maps will help you find your way on public transportation, whether you’re in your own city or exploring an unfamiliar one. But neither app is really the most useful option if you’re a regular user of public transit systems. An app that’s designed specifically for public transportation users will be much better at telling you which train to catch or keeping you updated on delays than an app that’s focused more on providing driving directions. And a great public transit app will make it easy to find alternate routes and plan your trip in real time, just in case the commute you planned ahead of time isn’t going to work. Some great apps to try are Citymapper, Transit, and Moovit.
8. Apps that enable you to automate anything
One of the best ways to save time on the tasks you complete on your smartphone is to automate them. Rather than relying on a single app or utility and its capabilities, you can link together the apps and features you use on your phone with an app like Workflow, which makes it easy to combine the functions of your device into automated sequences. You can even create your own “apps” to make it easy to launch specific actions right from your home screen, or create extensions to use directly in other apps. Another favorite is IFTTT, short for “if this, then that,” which enables you to connect all of your favorite apps and devices in automated routines.