I switched from Android to an iPhone back in 2012 and I have never ever contemplated switching back to Android since then. I won’t go into all of the reasons why but I guess one of the main ones is that the iPhone works really well and the apps are fantastic.

Since my first iPhone 4S back in 2012, I have had a further three models and I am now on the iPhone 7 which I am extremely happy with. I install and test literally dozens of apps every single week, but there is always a core group of apps which I rely on every day and never uninstall.

If you are coming to the iPhone for the first time, here is what you should be installing and using.

Gmail

The best thing you can do from the point of view of email on the iPhone is to avoid the hideous and unusable Apple Mail app. Outlook is marginally better but the Gmail app is still light years ahead. As well as Gmail, it supports multiple other email services.

I am seriously considering switching to Protonmail for my email but until they improve the features and increase the amount of space in an account, I’ll stick with Gmail for now.

There are obviously Gmail desktop features which are not available on the smartphone app (such as my favourite “Canned Replies”) but most other desktop features are slowly creeping their way into the app.

Instagram

Out of all the social media apps available for the smartphone, the best one to have is Instagram. Not only are there less trolls, politics, and other crap on there, but Instagram was built for the smartphone. Why do you think you can’t upload pictures on the Instagram website?

The best thing you can ever do is not have Facebook or Twitter on your phone. That will result in a significantly less amount of stress and your blood pressure will thank you for it.

Firefox

After being a long-time Chrome user, and then briefly flirting on the Dark Side with the Edge browser, I went back to Firefox.

Firefox is faster, Bookmark Sync has markedly improved, and Mozilla cares deeply about your privacy. This is amply shown with features such as a pop-up blocker, strict tracking protection, DuckDuckGo as the search engine, and you can also use TouchID to open the browser (stopping snoopers from viewing your web browsing history).

Signal

Although I am still stuck with WhatsApp, due to my family and friends refusing to stop using it, I am having gradual luck getting people to switch over to Signal.

I have been a huge cheerleader of Signal right from the very start. I am very paranoid about the thought of anyone listening into my conversations, which is why I use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype VERY sparingly.

WhatsApp has been hacked, Facebook Messenger is owned by Facebook (enough said there), and Skype conversations are listened to by Microsoft contractors.

Signal on the other hand is heavily encrypted and no logs are kept whatsoever for law enforcement to seize.

Apple Wallet

Thanks to the built-in Apple Wallet, I am rarely carrying my actual physical wallet around anymore.

It took a long time for Apple Wallet to reach Germany but now that it has, I have scanned my bank card into the app and now pay for everything by contact-less payment.

Apple Wallet also supports a great deal more apps such as airlines (so you can have your boarding passes on your iPhone screen), the iOS App Store, Starbucks, and other travel apps such as trains and hire cars.

Sync

Although I still keep Dropbox on my phone, I am more or less reliant on Sync for my cloud storage needs. Not only is it much cheaper than Dropbox but it is also an encrypted form of cloud storage.

At a fraction of the price, it has a lot of the features that Dropbox has – just more secure. Camera Upload ensures your iOS photo albums are always backed up, files can be exported from Sync to your iOS device, and a passcode lock stops anyone from looking in your Sync folder behind your back.

MiniKeePass

A password manager should always be a big must for anyone using the Internet. It also becomes even more invaluable when you are inputting passwords on a smartphone. Anyone with big fingers like mine find it frustrating to type in passwords on an iOS screen so MiniKeePass makes it a whole lot easier.

MiniKeePass is the smartphone version of KeePass so you need to have a KeePass database set up with your passwords inside. Then perhaps keep the database in cloud storage and use MiniKeePass to access the database that way.

Then all you need to do is access MiniKeePass, tap the entry you need, and the password is automatically copied to the iOS clipboard. Paste in the password field and bingo, you’re in.

Maps.Me

It’s a standing joke in my family that I could get lost at a map convention. I have no internal navigation to speak of. If I see a landmark, great. But otherwise, streets look alien to me and I am wandering about my own hometown like a drunk tourist.

Google Maps was my choice of mapping app for quite some time, then I tried Apple Maps. But then Apple Maps got me lost (honestly!), so on a friend’s recommendation, I tried Maps.me and was really impressed.

The maps are more detailed, the offline capabilities are better than Google, and when you’re walking, it’ll even tell you if the route is uphill or downhill!

Shazam

I am not a huge music fanatic but when I hear something good on the car radio, I want to know who it is for later. Even though all the radio plays these days is Ed Sheeran, you can check out who’s singing what with Shazam.

If you are not familiar with Shazam, you place it against the source of the music and let it listen to it. Within 5-10 seconds, Shazam has identified the song and singer for you like magic, and stores it for you on your Shazam app for later.

It can even sync up with your Spotify account and make a playlist of all your “Shazam-ed” songs. But since Shazam is now owned by Apple, there is now much closer integration with Apple Music.

Scannable

Finally, we end with a scanning app which all self-respecting smartphone users should have on their phones. If you look in the App Store, there are countless possibilities but my favourite is Scannable, made by Evernote.

There are lots of scenarios where a scanner app would be invaluable – if you are a student, you can scan notes and snap pictures of whiteboards. If you are in a library, you can scan pages. You can scan photos, letters, receipts…..the possibilities are endless.

If what you are scanning are sensitive documents, make sure they are secured somewhere – maybe in the Sync app which I talked about earlier?