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These are the Android apps I can't live without

Galaxy S9
Galaxy S9 (Image credit: Hayato Huseman / Android Central)

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) (opens in new tab)

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) (opens in new tab)

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) (opens in new tab)

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 instant deposits or when using credit cards — but for all other times it's free, and the service has made it significantly easier to handle group payments with one card.

Download: Cash App (free) (opens in new tab)

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.

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

65 Comments
  • Bitwarden ( password manager) That's it.... I just looked on my phone I have a total of 7 apps that did not come with the phone. That I downloaded lol
  • Dolby Atmos and Waze.
  • Profile Manager, you have "profiles" set up you select and it puts your phone on vibrate but remembers to turn it off when the time is done. I find it easier to implement than the native "do not disturb" plus it will also do things like change your phone's brightness, turn off/on things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and auto-rotate. The "Media" profile turns auto-rotate and Bluetooth on, they then turn off when it's over. "Bed" silences everything & dims the screen--again, when the time passes, it resets it all back automatically.
  • Which profile manager app?
  • I've always used BlackBerry Password Keeper. Really easy to use, passwords stay local unless backed up.
  • I use Password Keeper too. The automatic encrypted backups to Google Drive are nice and it's really simple to use
  • Nova Launcher
    LastPass
    WhatsApp
    Clipboard Actions (multicopy, share, shortener, translate copied text)
    Universal Copy (copy text anywhere)
    Google Keep (crossplatform text and voice notes)
    Google news (thanks to AI saves a lot of time)
    Google contacts (easy to use)
    Gboard (learn faster than me, just use it for couple weeks and see the results)
    ES File Explorer Pro (network features, sharing and navigation are easy)
  • I know people like these posts or even app videos but I've noticed over the last year or so everybody always shows generic apps. Spotify, instagram, Facebook and so on and so forth. Nothing good anymore just generic crap.
  • Was thinking the same thing...always skim hoping to find a little-known gem or something useful, but it's rare. Not sure what that says about app development, but it makes me think back to the app struggles with BB10 and Windows Phone: it's not about how many apps are in the app store; it's about the right apps being there--which, if we exclude specific store or bank apps as well as games, probably amounts to less than a dozen for most people.
  • agreed!! thats y i miss my windows phone! was perfect OS granted missing some key apps like some bank apps and productivity apps, but not many. It had 3rd party IG app that was 10x better then the actual app! ughhh i blame it on snapchat and pokemon go lmao those were the apps ppl were crying for at the time...
  • Datavault
    Keyring
    Nova
    Volume Notification. (my volume button is hard to press now)
    PS Messages
    Textra
    Car Expense
  • +1 for Textra. It's the best fit for how I use SMS
  • I'm curious - why use Google Podcasts over Google Play Music? Is there a benefit? Mine:
    Lastpass
    Ibotta
    Agent
    Orbot
    Lookout
    Trigger
  • Google podcast basically lets you search for just about any podcast while GPM has limited podcast. For example, on the podcast app I have access to True Geordie which doesn't even show up on GPM.
  • Also, keep in mind you will eventually have to move to the Google podcast because they are slowly dissolving GPM. Going to move over to YouTube music and Google podcast
  • None of the above: Google Pay; Podcast Addict; B-Folders; Keep; ToMarket Pro and Note Everything Pro. The first apps installed on any new handset.
  • Nova Prime
    Discord
    Status
    1Weather
    KWGT(used to be zooper)
    Multiling Keyboard
    MX Player
    Steam
    And I just realized that I always install Dragon Quest 3 as part of the setup process of every phone I owned for a couple of years now. Guess its my safety blanket.
  • Microsoft Solitaire Collection is probably my most frequently used Android app. It's visually appealing with minimally invasive advertising and good playability. Out of Milk is a great shopping list generator since I can just scan my UPC before I throw the old container out. BlackBerry Password Keeper is my go-to for password storage. I can't say how it compares to others because it's never given me a reason to try any other apps. I use Amazon Music instead of Spotify because there's enough free music included with my Prime membership that I can't justify spending extra on another service to download for offline listening (signal problems on my commute)
  • I have the must-have apps I keep using them on all phones I ever owned
    Flipboard , colordict , greader , acr call recorder , bbc news ,lynket and pushbullet
  • Password Manager - lately I have been using 1Password which seems like a mature app, stable but rather expensive. LastPass is cheaper but has been buggy on my phone and my wife's. SafeInCloud is my backup go to app. Maps - Google maps is king here, Waze is second (both have superior routing and traffic on them) - but both can be an issue outside of cell tower range too. I always have an offline map program like HereWeGo as a backup. 3rd party launcher - I am so used to Nova Prime it's hard to let go. Microsoft Launcher is my alternative - Microsoft has done an excellent job on their Launcher for Android. Messenger - right now I'm using the stock Android Messenger, Textra and Pulse are on the list. Music - Google Music or Spotify. Weather / Radar - WeatherBug or Weather Underground. Both have pollen and additional information plus their own weather maps. PYKL3 or RadarScope for radar. Car dock etc. - Android Auto (although it doesn't read my SMS messages correctly), Car dashdroid. SMS and Call Announcer Pro, SMS my Car and Me - stand alone apps - for announcing who is sending me a text and the text message if I so choose that option.
  • Enpass
    OneNote
    Blackberry Hub
    DTEK
    Notable
    Audible
    Amazon Music
    Onedrive
    Outlook
    Edge
    Wunderlist
    Blackberry Launcher
    BBC News
    BBC Weather
    BBC Sport
    Sofascore
    Sygic
    MS News
    MS Money
  • Cash App? With Fees? NO THANKS. Venmo does the same (and better) and doesn't charge a thing unless you use a credit card to pay someone (as all apps do). And yes, it does check splitting automagically. LastPass I agree, it's awesome. Can't live without it now thanks to the cross-device sync for free :)
  • Cash App charges a fee for instant transfers, and for credit cards, which is no different than Venmo, otherwise no fee.
  • Not sure what the author is referring to. Unless you use CC or recipient wants instant access to the cash, there are no fees. 24hr transfer for free. None of the social BS of Venmo, simpler interface. IMO a far superior app.
  • In terms of being able to split things easily with friends, I like to get splitwise and then it can connect to venmo for people to settle balances owed to each other.
  • -Pebble quietly running behind the scene.
    -Android Central but only for the numerous ads and playstation spam, then once in a while they'll annoyingly throw in an article or two related to Android separating said ads.
    -Textra and BBM
    -Edge
    And a few games.
  • Smart Launcher (now at "5")
    Chomp SMS (for customization and pop-up reply capability)
    Express VPN
    Find Device
    Inoreader
    Podcast Addict
    Standard Notes (password management)
    Evernote
  • Textra
    Weather Underground
    Waze
    Clash Royale
    Google Photos
    Pics Art
  • Whatsapp, greader, reddit, tapatalk, Google Assistant.
  • For me, having a Note 8
    1.Evernote - note taking, to dos, journaling are super easy with Note 8
    2. SwiftKey keyboard - with sPen is a killer combo
    3. LastPass
    4. Spotify
    5. Netflix
    6. Mint
    7. Paypal
    8.Android Messages - replaced Textra Premium
    9. Nova Launcher
    10. Slickdeals
  • I love Nova Launcher and use it on all of my Android devices. I use Keeper for my password manager, the paid version. I helped a friend set up Last Pass on her phone so was able to get familiar with it; definitely wasn't for me. I've had no issues with Keeper. Also, SwiftKey. Looove it, swear by it, try to get others to use it too lol. And finally, an oldie but goodie, Napster (formerly Rhapsody, & before that Real Player). It never leaves me hanging, and I can find all of my favorite music on it. I have Spotify as a deal with an NYT subscription, but I find it to be just ok, so I hardly have use it.
  • Fleeflix hq, with it I don't need Netflix or anything else and Spotify, I'm good with both of those. Oh and Evie launcher and Password safe.
  • I tried searching for that, but couldn't find it?
  • Podcast Republic
    SwiftKey
    Google Rewards
    MapSnap
  • Why use cash app if they charge a fee if Google pay is free?
  • There is no fee unless you use CC or want instant access to funds, which is pretty much the same as all apps. I find cash to be the simplest app, which is why I like it.
  • I could have used the cash app years ago when I got burned big time for dinner. I was the presenter in Washington DC for a rollout of a new OS for Apple, and we went to dinner to celebrate. I had my wife and kid, so two meals and a kid's meal. Everyone else was getting steaks and booze, and they decided to split it evenly, so I wound up paying about a hundred bucks. Anyway, I have 141 apps so I'm not going to list them, but I do use Passwords Plus which syncs with my desktop and my wife's phone. Among the more offbeat ones are Floor Plan Creator, HanDBase database manager, NFC Tools Pro, Mobile SSH Pro, and PicSay Pro. I've never felt the need to "fix" any photos with PicSay, but it is great for special effects and editing. I'm going to be using it more with the clases I'm in, and I have to say that I'm really glad that I have LCD instead of AMOLED for editing.
  • Google Inbox,
    YouTube/Music,
    Instagram,
    Google Photos... LastPass is good app, but saving passwords with chrome always comes handy when you install respective applications on mobile it will auto fill passwords for you while singing in.
  • BlackPlayer EX, Google Podcasts and Chime are my goto apps with an eventual honorable mention to Blackberry Hub (the fact it works w/ other android phones is a godsend!!)
  • Also Google Keep (managing lists have never been more easy)
  • As mentioned, Nova and Textra. Others, Adguard. Single best purchase next to the two apps above. Simple Social Pro. Better Facebook without the battery murdering crap. FOTO
    Power Amp
    VSCO
    AutomaTag
    Snapseed IKE and Keep, to keep myself organized.
  • - Nova Prime
    - VLC to read any and all movie, off the SD, LAN, dlna; and for the audio-only-movie mode
    - Firefox w/ uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger
    - PowerAmp to read music off my SD's folders
    - MortPlayer Audio Books
    - Asus File Manager to navigate my LAN
    - Google Keep
    - Outlook, my favorite email client on Android
    - AndrBelote, Mini Metro and 2048 'coz you never know when you'll be stuck and offline
    - FBReader
    - Skype, that's what my family is on
    - Google, MS and Blizzard 2FA authentificators
  • OneNote and Instagram are probably my first to download, I dont find myself needing much beyond the stock apps to get by. Facebook, facebook messenger, my bank app, and a few others end up on a new phone within a week of set up.
  • Spotify. Enpass, Tapatalk, Aqua Mail Pro, Nova Launcher Prime, Feedly.
  • Here are my go to apps:
    CalenGoo (Best Calendar)
    Bold Beast (Phone Recorder)
    TypeApp (Email)
    Message + (Verizon SMS)
    Bills Organizer (reminders)
  • Android Central
    YouTube TV
    Weatherbug Elite
    Dark Sky
    Amazon
  • I could live without all of these. Seems to be an eclectic set of apps anyway.
  • Android Central
  • I won't give a tedious list but I always get Android Central. I always pay the yearly fee for no ads though. The app works far more smoothly that way. I always get the Google wallpaper app but I'm getting tired of whats on offer. Time for a refresh or a different app.
  • Evernote. If you're not using it, why not?
    ToDoist, which isn't a perfect to-do list, but it's the best I've found.
  • N7 Player
    Tachiyomi
    AnkiDroid
    NewPipe
    Fantasty Football Manager(For FPL)
    PayPal
    Discord
    Reddit is Fun
    Memrise
    Tapatalk
    HelloTalk
    OneNote
    Crunchyroll
    Fite TV
  • First and foremost, Android Central app ha!
    Color note - greatest thing since sliced bread.
    Samsung Pay
    Domino's pizza
    I have 156 apps total, above is just a few favs.
  • Nova, I always try the stock launcher but with no home screen rotation or gestures I'm out.
    Rocket player
    Isyncr
    Pocketcasts
    Smart AudioBook Player
    Google voice
    Wemo
    Google photos
    Google duo
    Google play books
    ES file explorer pro
    Speed pass
    PayPal
    Gboard
    Good lock
    Rewards
    Google send
    Proton mail
  • Bubble Cloud widgets - most intuitive app / folder / contacts / bookmarks / smart-light contol homescreen widget. Everybody must try this! Nova Launcher - no contest the best App Dialer - App-drawer replacement with T9 search for apps BeyondPod - podcast player with smartplay automated playlist. Nothing comes close Safe in Cloud - password manager without monthly fee
  • Good Morning, My apps I can not live with out is as follows:
    Zelle-my split the bill or send me money app, no charges what so ever.
    Pandora/Google Music for my music app
    Ibotta App- cash back on food, shopping and online orders! Just link your account or scan a receipt!
  • CamScanner
    Turns your phone into a scanner, and then you can save as PDF and transfer to Dropbox, which I also use. The scan quality is pretty good, too! (Galaxy S8... I imagine the scan quality will ultimately be as good as your phone's camera.)
  • These are some of my favorite but I'm definitely taking a look at some of those. WeatherUnderground ( weather app) ColorNote (note taking / notepad app) Google Opinion Rewards ( get paid by Google for VERY small surveys) Battery Notifier BT Free ( let's you customize how and when you want to be alerted on battery status) Waze (GPS/Map app) Then there's a developer on the Play Store called Simple Mobile Tools everything is FREE and and very simple and easy to use. no ads whatsoever and looks very professional.
  • Mine are action launcher, no matter what phone I use/change or upgrade to I just save and transfer the backup and the layout is the same always (no matter the phone). I also use business calendar to help maintain all calenders personal and business easier. And lastly I use BXActions, this app is great for Galaxy 8 and 9 users because it remaps that terrible Bixby button to whatever I want, (currently Google Assistant)
  • Nova Launcher
    Minuum Keyboard (nothing makes better sense of my sloppy typing)
    Evernote (can't live without it any more)
    Sesame Shortcuts (pops up with a gesture and quick access to all my apps, contacts, favorite playlists, etc.)
    Flipboard
    Pocket
    Amazon Kindle
    Google Newsstand
    Beyondpod (no other app comes close with all the features)
    Google Play Music (family subscription)
    Acalendar+ (& the widget app)
    Accuweather
    Keyring
  • Nobody seems to root anymore, so I'm the black sheep. Titanium is the Mother of all rooters. Does everything. On the non-root side, I'll side with Nova like the rest of the guys. After a launcher, the next mostly used app for me is HD Camera, since taking photos is the most important task of my phone.
  • What does LastPass have that Google's built-in password manager doesn't, apart from generating random strings? Just wanna know as I want to find out which one should I trust with my info?
  • Enpass is my goto password keeper. Aside from all the usual heavy-hitter apps, my must-haves are also:
    RSA Token
    VPNSecure
    Sigfig
    Wunderlist
    OneDrive
    Piktures
    Appy Geek
    MyRadar
    Textra
  • The apps that I download as soon as I upgrade my device are Zedge. Download ringtones, wallpaper, and icons (provided you are not a Samsung user. Secondly i download HD Widgets, this app allows you to customize your clock and weather widget. From small to full screen. Inbox by Gmail is the last must have. I've been using it for years. Allows simple viewing and custom setup to view your Gmail account, without running the battery draining Gmail app.
  • I have tons of apps on my phone so I'll just list the ones I use the very most:
    Keep... Use it daily to store crochet patterns, Amazon Kindle ebook recommendations, etc.! Love it!
    Amazon... Also used daily. Best prices on lots of items, plus download free Kindle ebooks constantly.
    Zelle... Very easy way to transfer funds with family members who use same bank.
    YouTube... I'd be lost without it! Lol
    Gmail... What's to say? Love it!
    Overdrive... Love, love, love it, to check out Kindle ebooks from my local library... Have read a great many series for free instead of having to buy them.
    BookFunnel ... Favorite way to transfer mobi ebook files to Kindle from smartphone.
    feedly... Favorite RSS reader.
    SnapBizCard... Easy way to store business cards on mobile phone.
    TinyScanner... Small scanner that has a tiny footprint, yet does a great job of scanning docs, etc. into mobile phone.
    Google Maps... Use constantly to help me navigate my city using their GPS. Love it.
    Netflix... Use mobile app to check out what's available... Then actually use my Kindle or Win10 laptop to view the offerings.
    Pinterest... Use primarily to find crochet patterns, but get sidetracked looking at everything else!
    OK, that's a list that's largely generic, I know, but I truly like the generics I use; hopefully, there are a couple of apps that prove of interest. I'm definitely going to check out many of the great apps others have recommended!!
  • I have tons of apps on my phone so I'll just list the ones I use the very most:
    ... Keep: Use it daily to store crochet patterns, Amazon Kindle ebook recommendations, etc.! Love it!
    ... Amazon: Also used daily. Best prices on lots of items, plus download free Kindle ebooks constantly.
    ... Zelle: Very easy way to transfer funds with family members who use same bank.
    ... YouTube: I'd be lost without it! Lol
    ... Gmail: What's to say? Love it!
    ... Overdrive: Love, love, love it, to check out Kindle ebooks from my local library... Have read a great many series for free instead of having to buy them.
    ... BookFunnel: Favorite way to transfer mobi ebook files to Kindle from smartphone.
    ... feedly: Favorite RSS reader.
    ... SnapBizCard: Easy way to store business cards on mobile phone.
    ... TinyScanner: Small scanner that has a tiny footprint, yet does a great job of scanning docs, etc. into mobile phone.
    ... Google Maps: Use constantly to help me navigate my city using their GPS. Love it.
    ... Netflix: Use mobile app to check out what's available... Then actually use my Kindle or Win10 laptop to view the offerings.
    ... Pinterest: Use primarily to find crochet patterns, but get sidetracked looking at everything else! OK, that's a list that's largely generic, I know, but I truly like the generics I use; hopefully, there are a couple of apps that prove of interest. I'm definitely going to check out many of the great apps others have recommended!! Thanks to everyone!!!