My Top Mobile Apps of 2017

Posted on December 19, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, iOS, Android with 16 Comments

My Top Mobile Apps of 2017

In the 1990’s, Apple had an ad campaign called “What’s on your PowerBook?” that I always liked. In fact, it was probably the inspiration for the “What I Use” articles that I’ve been writing since the SuperSite days.

In that same vein, here is a look at the mobile apps that I use most frequently and enjoy the most. This isn’t an exhaustive list, per se: With the amount of storage available on today’s devices, I often load them up with apps I rarely use, too. But these are the apps that matter to me most, on my phones (both Android and iPhone) and my iPads.

A quick word about home screens

This is only partially-related, but Android two huge big advantages over iOS when it comes to home screen configuration. First, you can arbitrarily place app icons anywhere you want; on iOS, the icons have to fill in from the top left. And second, Android supports an all apps view so that you only need to place your favorite apps on the home screens; in iOS, you need to use folders to hide infrequently-used apps.

My iPhone X home screens

These differences impact how I access my favorite apps on each platform. On Android, for example, I tend to keep a small set of favorite apps on the bottom half of each home screen so that they can be easily accessed one-handed. On the iPhone, I tend to fill the screen with icons, and put the most-frequently-used apps on the bottom half, again for easier access.

My iPad home screens

I also experiment a lot with different layouts, especially on iOS, because I just hate how limited the customization is there. On the iPhone X, I’m using multiple home screens, each with a theme of sorts, but in the past, I’ve stuck to one or two screens with folders for organization. Both kind of suck, frankly.

My Pixel 2 XL home screens

Anyway, because of these differences, my Android phone is, perhaps, a better indicator of what apps really matter most to me. Because those apps are in the app shelf (app dock on iOS) and/or on the first home screen.

My top apps (phone)

On that note, I have Firefox (web browser), Phone, Messaging, and Camera in the app shelf/dock on both Android and iOS; because my Google Pixel 2 XL supports placing 5 icons there, I add Google Maps.

But my top productivity and sharing apps also make the first home screen on all of my phones. These include Google Inbox (email), Google Calendar, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google Photos, and Skype. Additionally, Duolingo—which I use every single day—and Google Play Store/Apple App Store are on the first home screen as well.

My top apps (tablet)

I use an iPad almost primarily for reading, and, when traveling, to watch movies and TV shows. So the layout of these devices is tied to this kind of usage.

I pin the Apple App Store, the iTunes Store, Firefox, Amazon Kindle, Pocket, and NYTimes (newspaper) to the dock. On the first home screen, you will find Settings, Clock, Duolingo, Google Inbox, Google Calendar, Google Photos, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google News, Kindle Store (a web shortcut), and a few others.

Reading apps (phone)

Reading is a primary function on the tablet (above), but it’s secondary on my phones: I have NYTimes, Pocket, Google News, and Kindle on the second home screen on my phone.

Media apps

I use Audible (audiobooks), Pocket Casts (podcasts), and Google Play Music (music) regularly on my phones. These are on the second home screen.

I tend to use video apps on the iPad more often: TV (Apple’s terrible new video player), Google Play Video, and YouTube most frequently, but also Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Hulu. These are also on the second home screen.

Work and other apps

I have airline apps, Uber, expense reporting, and other work-related apps on my phone’s second home screen. And I sometimes use other productivity apps, like Cortana, Microsoft Edge, and few others. I use Fitbit to sync my wearable and Philips Hue to control my smart lights.

I also find myself in Google Home occasionally, to set up Chromecasts, and in Google Wifi to monitor or manage my home network. I use Microsoft Authenticator and Android’s built-in authentication for 2FA, but because these things display prompts, I don’t need to pin shortcuts anywhere. Both of these methods work great.

Photo apps

I back up my phone photos to both Google Photos and OneDrive, only via Wi-Fi. I don’t use any special photo viewing or editing apps, just what’s built-in.

So what’s on your PowerBook? By which I mean mobile device.


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Comments (16)

16 responses to “My Top Mobile Apps of 2017”

  1. Nicholas Kathrein

    I pretty much use all the Google Apps on my Pixel 2 XL. Then I search for the "best twitter app for android" or whatever it is I'm looking for and see what the top sites say and look at the reviews

  2. wolters

    Love these kinds of articles because I'm always looking for tips on home screen productivity. On my Pixel XL 2, I actually load up on widgets first, with my home screen showing my To-Do list, calendar and step count through Google Fit. My second screen contain my media app widgets (Google Play Music, Pocket Casts, Audible) and then I use my third screen for App Folders. I also use a Note 8 and I put my App Folders on the edge screen, leaving home screens just for widgets. This is a pretty good use of the Edge Screens feature of the Note series.

  3. jbinaz

    Paul, you just made me reevaluate something. I use Android with the Microsoft Launcher. I have some of my more used icons up at the top, because when I started laying things out I thought about what I used most and started from the top left and worked my way down. Logical, but not user-friendly. I think I need to rearrange things so that that the more used are near the bottom.

    Why didn't I think about this before? And will I be able to handle the change I'm about to inflict on myself?

  4. ben55124

    Paul must not like android widgets. Best thing since WP live tiles.

  5. dcdevito

    Thanks Paul. When should we expect the Thurrott app? :)

    All it needs is premium video clips of you and Brad.

  6. kcarson97404

    The 5 apps on my app shelf on my Pixel are:

    1. Phone
    2. Messenging
    3. Outlook
    4. Edge
    5. Camera
  7. Brazbit

    I use Launcher8 so that I have a Windows Phone tile based launcher. Messaging, A large clock and Twitter across the top. A giant phone tile taking up the middle-left of the phone for easy calling without looking. Gallery and camera. A folder tile with the Microsoft Office apps, Skype and Remote desktop. Another folder tile with my reading apps Nook, Kindle and Comixology. Alarm clock and file manager. A folder tile with my video apps Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube and other GO apps. Another folder tile with my music apps Podcast Addict, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music and such. Another large tile for Edge and my games folder tile with Dragon Soul, Microsoft Solitaire, Trivia Crack, Dragon's Lair and so on.

    Swipe to the right and a Windows Phone style apps list is available for anything not on the main screen.

  8. robincapper

    It's old now but seems to still work fine, Nokia's Z launcher has made me love Android almost as much as (still missed) Windows Mobile UI. Forget about folders and all that rubbish, pin you most 4 used icons to the base and get to any other item, app, contact or web search in a few inked characters. The list you see flexes based on what you use, and when you used it

  9. jimchamplin

    My iOS homes on both iPad and iPhone are kept in as close as lockstep as I can. They change with what I’m using, but the docks don’t change.. my iPhone has Messages, Chrome, Mail, and Spotify. My iPad mini has Messages, Chrome, Mail, Photos, and Spotify.

  10. skramer49

    I don't see a Password app like 1Password or LastPass. Do you use one? If so, which? If not, why not?


  11. toshdellapenna

    I've only had my new devices for a few days so my home screen is fairly bare, which I actually prefer, but the primary apps that I need are Skype, Outlook, OneNote, OneDrive, Groove and Edge. I use MyTube because it has dial/Chromecast support on board as well.

  12. Michael

    it is ironic Paul that I am unable to save your premium articles to Pocket. Is there a way?

  13. wosully

    Paul, where did you obtain that case on the Pixel in the picture? Google does not have that color.

  14. sandeepm

    Andy's OS is nothing but a joke, not sure why it gets a hard you on

    I bought two Alcatel Idol 4S's and one HP Elite X3 and lapdock for Christmas... enough fun till they get something new in a couple of years... or get a new chief.