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What to look for in a mobile utility app

Utility apps are rarely top-of-mind until you need them. For instance, a flashlight app when the power goes out. Or you're outdoors, it's raining, and your native weather app didn't warn you. Or you have to figure out your share of the dinner bill (tax and tip as well) but can't do the math in your head. Or your email password was just hacked, and you need help managing and changing the accounts tied to that email. When it comes to utility apps, there are a number of important factors to consider.


Mobile utilities & operating systems FAQs

  • Any unique features?
    A good third-party utility app has to be able to do many things all at once, or do one thing exceptionally well, to justify using it over the device's pre-installed option. So when shopping for utility apps, read the descriptions closely to make sure that they actually improve on what you already have.
  • Is it well-designed?
    Utility apps, such as file managers, data transfer software, etc. tend to not excite users; they're more about function than form. But if that calendar or keyboard app, for example, has beautiful graphics or sensible navigation, then downloading it becomes a more attractive proposition.
  • How easy is it to use?
    If you're turning to a utility app to automate a process, i.e. IFTTT (Android, iOS), then the app needs to make the setup process more intuitive and reliable than other methods. Setting up automation shouldn't be more difficult than just doing it by hand.
  • Is it worth the $?
    Most people don't want to pay for a utility app when they can just use the native one or another free alternative. That's why a paid utility app really has to stand out with unique features or presentation to be worth the money.

Best mobile utility apps

IFTTT

IFTTT

IFTTT brings your favorite services together to create new experiences.

Gboard

Gboard

Gboard has all the things you would expect from a great keyboard -- GIFs, emojis, and Glide Typing -- plus Google Search built in.

Joshua Rotter is a copy editor for Download.com and covers iOS.