It’s a New Year and that means new apps. Doubtless, 2017 will have some surprises in store for us – who expected Pokemon Go to be the success that it was? – and developers will keep coming out with new apps, but right now there are some innovative and interesting apps already available that look like making waves. What’s common to the best apps is not so much sheer technological innovation, but single-minded focus on addressing particular problems and finding a convenient and elegant solution – and then forcing the technology to do the necessary.
Moovit uses geolocation data to answer the question: How do I get there from here? It delivers the best route using public transport, and it has even worked out train timetables so that it can choose the train that arrives at the destination fastest, rather than the one which leaves first. Moovit is adding support for a new city every day, and now covers 60 countries.
Dormie repurposes old Android smartphones as baby monitors, which can be tracked on another smartphone. Maybe the technology isn’t cutting edge, but the sustainable ethos and smart thinking behind the app are praiseworthy.
Like Dormie, Unified Remote rethinks what a smartphone ought to be. It allows the smartphone to be used as a remote control for a PC or laptop – great if you want to listen to music or watch films on the PC while sitting comfortably on the sofa. Perhaps eventually Unified Remote will end up replacing all those multiple single-purpose remotes we have lying around our houses.
Google continues to develop interesting apps. Travellers will enjoy Google Trips, which can organise reservations as well as offer personalised suggestions for what to see. It also offers city guides to many major destinations. Better still, once information has been generated, it can be accessed offline – a great way to avoid expensive data bills from your phone provider.
Shyp takes a simple idea and does it well, trawling the web to compare shipping prices. There’s a huge amount of data behind the apparently simple interface. It lets the user print out labels and even handles pickup services. This app is a go-to for anyone selling on eBay.
Extending the capabilities of the smartphone, Camscanner Pro on iPhone allows users to take photos of documents and convert them to PDF. A business card can be scanned in and the email address sent straight to the contacts folder, for instance.
Fitness apps are an expanding area of the market and Couch25k is one of the leaders. It has a pre-programmed nine week plan, but adjusts its recommendations according to users’ input, and also uses biometric data to tell users to speed up or slow down during their run.
Sometimes apps have a way to go to catch up with the user-friendliness of boring old PC technology. Anyone who ever used MS Office or Libre Office’s autocorrect feature to define shortcuts for frequently used words or phrases will love Texpand, which lets users type shortcuts such as pl for please. The pro version allows users to define their own shortcuts – good news for bloggers and road warriors.
Many apps can help you get your to-do list done, but Gluru actually takes the work out of making the to-do list in the first place. It looks at emails and other applications to work out what are the priorities for the day, potentially catching items that would otherwise be forgotten (such as ‘pay the electricity bill’). It’s early days but this could develop into a major app. (It might even tell you to check your stock portfolio at CMC Markets.)
So many apps, so little time! With all the apps and entertainment now available, smartphone use can expand to take up all the time you have available. BreakFree deals with the issue; the app can be used to analyse smartphone behaviour, advise on ‘over-use’, and even set up blocks for limited periods to ensure a bit of distraction-free peace and quiet.