It’s hard to get excited about the iPhone. It’s a transformative piece of technology and arguably Apple’s most successful device.

But it has reached something of a ceiling when it comes to innovation. The chip that powers the iPhone will continue to get faster, the notch will gradually disappear and the camera will continue to defy physics.

But it’ll remain a smartphone. A brilliant smartphone, but a smartphone.

I tried ditching my iPhone for a month and genuinely enjoyed the Android-only experience offered by the superb Google Pixel 4a during that time, but it wasn’t enough to tempt a wholesale switch to Android.

For me, iOS delivers the perfect user experience and, more importantly, the best examples of apps I rely on daily to run my business.

Here are the five apps which never, ever leave my iPhone (but always get installed first).

1. Spark

I went through a period a few years ago where I switched email clients more regularly than I changed my trousers. I’ve therefore experienced most of the third-party options out there.

It’s important to preface this with the fact that I love email; I’m not one of those people who laments its existence or who says, “don’t bother emailing me, I rarely check my inbox”.

Sure, it’s taken me longer than it should have to work out how to use email properly, but I couldn’t run my business without it.

There are two reasons Spark has remained my email client of choice. Firstly, it has the easiest single sign-on option I’ve found if you use multiple email addresses (simply sign in with one account after installing Spark and it’ll automatically add the rest and all of your synced settings). Secondly, its Smart Inbox feature is the best I’ve found for grouping emails by ‘people’, ‘newsletters’ and ‘notifications’ – particularly on the iPhone’s relatively small screen.

Email isn’t complicated, and neither is Spark. I like that.

2. Things

I’ve got the worst memory in the world. Seriously – I regularly leave things near the front door, right next to my car keys to ensure I don’t forget them.

And I still forget them.

If I carried this ineptitude into my daily work, I’d have to sack myself. That’s why my daily to-do list is so important.

Recently, I made the jump from long-term Omnifocus user to Things returnee. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

This is largely thanks to the iOS version of Things, which is absolutely superb. And this isn’t because of the numerous smart features and UI choices made by Cultured Code, the team behind Things. Indeed, like so many apps, I barely skim the surface of what Things is capable of.

What I love dearly about Things is the ultra simplicity with which I can rattle through my to-do list each day, one-handed. With just a couple of taps and swipes, I can check what’s outstanding for today, and what’s coming up for the rest of the week. Adding new to-dos is about as simple as it gets, and checking off each task is so satisfying.

There are many to-do list apps out there, but I have a feeling I’m in it for the long haul with Things.

3. Notion

We’ve learned today that my memory is absolutely useless. Things helps this, big time, but my business simply couldn’t run without Notion.

Like many YouTubers, I stumbled across Notion when it was mentioned in passing by another YouTuber. It plays a massive role among that crowd, and it’s not hard to see why.

Describing Notion succinctly isn’t easy (I’m not convinced I’d want to help them market it), but that’s part of its brilliance. Notion is, to all intents and purposes, a database app. You can use it as a Kanban-style project planner, detailed budgeting tool, a repository for your lesson plans or as a full-blown CRM for your sales team. And that’s just a tiny example of how Notion can be customised.

I primarily use Notion on the Mac, but it’s incredibly useful to have it on my iPhone, too. In fact, when I first installed the iOS version, I felt like I was doing it simply because I could – I didn’t expect to use it as much as I do.

I plan and administer my entire reviews brand through Notion. The ability to check in on the blogs and videos I have planned for the forthcoming week without heading to a Mac is a massive time-saver, and so too is the ease with which I can capture ideas while out walking the dog.

This happens all of the time. I’ll think of an idea for a piece of content that, prior to Notion, would have been recorded in Apple Notes and likely forgotten about. Now, all I need to do is retrieve my iPhone from my pocket, open Notion and add the idea directly into the part of my content pipeline to which it relates. I’m confident many of the pieces I’ve published in the last few months wouldn’t have made it without Notion on the iPhone – it’s that important.

4. Outlook (no, really)

I have a contract that requires me to use Microsoft Office services on a daily basis.

This has led to a surprising discovery.

The latest version of Outlook is a brilliant email client. In fact, it’s an incredibly close call between that and Spark; the only reason I use both is that I want to keep the contract in question separate to the rest of my business (it’s a mental thing, and helps me compartmentalise my work).

If you’ve dismissed Outlook on iOS “because it’s Microsoft Office”, don’t; give it a go. The team behind it clearly love iOS and have evidently put an awful lot of time into making it far more than a reluctant release on Microsoft’s part (think the macOS versions of Word and Excel).

It’s clean, super easy to navigate and looks better than even Apple’s own Mail app. A serious return to form for Microsoft – and I never thought I’d say that.

5. Day One

I’m pretty terrible at journaling. It’s something I’ll get heavily into it for a while but then abandon for no good reason.

This is a shame, because those daily entries are actually pretty useful. I know this, because earlier today, I looked back at the journal I kept during the early stages of the YouTube channel. It’s fascinating, and reveals how far I’ve come – there are even one or two entries that feature ideas I need to revisit.

Although I’ve experimented with traditional journaling via pen and paper, I keep returning to Day One. This is a brilliant journalling app that lets you quickly add thoughts via text, video, voice recordings or doodles. You can also easily add photos to your entries and have it automatically capture details like your activity, social media output and weather conditions.

If you’re a semi-journaler like me or someone who loves capturing their daily thoughts and would rather do so digitally, Day One is the app for you.

What’s the first app you install on your iPhone?

The five apps above are installed before anything else on any new iPhone that lands on my desk. But if I could only choose one, it’d be Things. As noted, it’s the glue that holds my entire day together and having my to-do list in the palm of my hand, no matter where I am, is invaluable.

What about you? What’s the first app you install on your iPhone and which you simply couldn’t live without? Let me know in the comments!