The best apps to download on your new smartphone

·Weekend Editor
·8-min read
Elisaveta Ivanova via Getty Images

You just got your hands on a new phone. Naturally, your first inclination is to head to the App Store or the Google Play Store to download your favorite apps to your shiny new device. While the Engadget team tries to keep our phones relatively unencumbered, there are some apps we can't live without because they make our work and daily lives easier. Below you'll find a dozen of the best we think you should try.

1Password

1Password for iOS
1Password for iOS

If you only take one piece of advice away from this article, it's that you should download a password manager. It doesn't have to be the one we recommend here. However, we like 1Password for a handful of reasons. Not only will it let you generate strong passwords for all your online accounts, but it also has built-in support for two-factor authentication. That means you don't need to download a separate app like Authy to make your logins as secure as possible. If you have access to a Fastmail account, you can also use 1Password to generate random emails for your logins, giving you another way to protect your privacy. It's also just a well-designed app that's a pleasure to use.

FireFox

Firefox
Firefox

If it's been a few years since you last used Firefox, now is a great time to revisit it. Partway through last year, Mozilla overhauled the Android version of its browser to bring over many of its best desktop features to mobile. That release saw Mozilla add more robust support for third-party add-ons. It also brought over its Enhanced Tracking Protection feature, which stops trackers from misusing your browsing data. Separately, with Apple allowing you to change your default browser since the release of iOS 14, there's never been a better time for iPhone users to liberate themselves from Safari.

Headspace

Headspace
Headspace

I subscribed to Headspace at the start of the pandemic. Since then, it's become one of the few apps I use every day. Yes, Headspace is a meditation and mindfulness app, but it's also so much more than that. You'll find it also has a mix of music designed to help you focus and workouts for unwinding at the end of a long day. Across the board, everything it offers is excellent, and you'll find yourself turning to it for more than just peace of mind.

Hopper

Hopper app
Hopper app

If you plan to fly somewhere soon, install Hopper on your phone. While it has grown over the years to include a variety of features, at its core, Hopper is one of the best ways to save money on plane tickets. Once you tell the app where and when you want to fly, it’ll tell you whether you should book your flight now or wait. In the latter case, it’ll notify you when it estimates you'll get the best deal. The beauty of Hopper is it will save you from constantly checking websites like Google Flights and Kayak.

Libby

Libby
Libby

If you want to do more reading in 2022, forget about buying books through Amazon and download Libby instead. If you're not familiar with the app, it allows you to borrow ebooks, digital magazines and graphic novels from your local library. All you need is a library card, which most systems across the US offer for free. Sometimes you have to wait to borrow the books you want to read most, but you'll find Libby will dramatically expand your reading list.

Open Table

Open Table
Open Table

With restaurants reopening in cities throughout the US and the rest of the world, there's a good chance you plan to eat out sometime soon — and so does nearly everyone else. That means you'll likely need a reservation to dine at some of the most popular spots in your city. In North America, the closest you'll find to a single platform that nearly every restaurant uses is Open Table. For that reason alone, it's a must-download if you eat out a lot. It's also a handy tool for discovering new spots to visit since you can filter by cuisine and area.

Transit

Transit app
Transit app

There's nothing worse than waiting for a bus on a cold winter’s day or watching three go by one after another. Avoid both situations with one of the best public transit planning apps on Android and iOS. Transit excels where other apps in the category fail thanks to its clean, easy-to-use interface that highlights all the options near you. It also has one of the better algorithms for predicting departure times, so you'll know exactly when you need to run out of your house or apartment to catch the next bus, train or streetcar.

Paprika

Paprika recipe app
Paprika recipe app

Paprika is the best $5 you can spend to make feeding yourself even easier. At its core, it allows you to download recipes from your favorite websites and make them accessible on all your devices. You can also use it to scale the size of the meal you're about to cook and convert between metric and imperial measurements. Add to that a meal planner, shopping lists and a tool for tracking the ingredients in your pantry, and you have an indispensable app for home cooks.

Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts app
Pocket Casts app

With podcasts becoming ever more popular with each passing year, there's a good chance you already have a handful of favorite shows you listen to every week. As much as Spotify would like to convince you it has the best podcast app, that distinction goes to Pocket Casts. We like it because it offers a consistently great experience across every system it supports. And if you use a mix of platforms from Apple, Google and Microsoft, you don't have to worry about syncing, either. It’s also nice to use software that doesn’t feel caught between two worlds in the way that Spotify does. Pocket Casts isn’t trying to be anything more than an app for listening to podcasts. That’s not something you can say of Spotify, and it’s often a source of frustration for those who turn to it for music.

Pocket

Pocket app
Pocket app

Another way to read more in 2022 is to download Pocket. It's among the most popular read-it-later apps out there, allowing you to save articles you find online. Much like Pocket Casts, what makes this app compelling is that it offers a consistently excellent device-agnostic experience, making it a great option for those who haven't gone all-in on one ecosystem. Whether you use Chrome, Safari or Edge, you can install a browser extension to save articles you stumble upon. You can then read them later without distractions on your phone or tablet. Just don't forget to make a dent in your Pocket reading list occasionally.

Telegram / Signal

Telegram app
Telegram app

We understand, asking your friends and family to install another messaging app on their phone can sometimes feel like a Sisyphean task, but the effort has also never been more worth it. In Telegram and Signal, you'll find two of the most secure chat apps on the market. We especially like Telegram here at Engadget because of how complete it feels from a feature standpoint. For example, it includes an edit feature that comes in handy when you make a typo, and a Secret Chat tool for when you want messages to disappear. If you do make the switch to Telegram or Signal, you'll also free yourself of the Meta ecosystem. That might not seem like much, but when Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went down earlier this year, it left many people without a way to communicate with their friends and loved ones.

Tunnelbear

Tunnelbear for Android
Tunnelbear for Android

After a Password manager, one of the best tools you can use to safeguard your online privacy is a VPN. Again, there are many options out there, but we like TunnelBear for its simplicity and whimsical ursine theme. A VPN isn't as essential as a password manager, but you'll want to get one if you frequently find yourself traveling or using the public WiFi at places like cafes and libraries. Using a VPN in those contexts will ensure your connection is protected with encryption so that any information you send over remains safe and private.

Snapseed

Snapseed
Snapseed

Most recent phones come with great cameras. Still, even with the latest iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel, almost every photo can benefit from an edit before you share it. The options you have for photo editing apps are nearly endless, but if you want something that works well, look no further than Snapseed. It's an old favorite that offers a comprehensive suite of editing options but never gets bogged down in too many sliders and dials. Best of all, it makes it easy to save edits to your camera roll and upload them to apps like Instagram.

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