Apps are more than just tools on our phone. They are collectibles, a type of daily currency that has extended our mobile into irreplaceable life support systems. Their diversity and rate of change mean we’re forever hungry for more. There’s always plenty of app league tables suggesting favourite apps, so I thought I’d venture into the fray with ten of my own favourites that I use regularly. Regularly means a minimum of once a week, but some here are tapped daily from my screens.
The selection criteria here is simple: longevity and frequency. The sad truth is, our app stores are heavily padded with a large volume of dross that you may download and abandon after a month. But if you’ve not paid anything for it, as in the majority of apps available to us, you’ve perhaps got nothing to lose.
So here’s 10 apps, some you’ll know, some you won’t. All are used on either my HTC One Android or iPhone 5 phones, and listed in no particular order:
I’m somewhat addicted to the traffic app Waze. Its gamification element, in which you rack up points for clocking up miles and notifying other road users of delays, has me hooked. It’s a simple badge scheme which rewards frequency and the amount of content you provide.
The interface is very easy to use and once you’ve learnt where everything is, not too distracting when driving. Its accuracy is superb too, far quicker to report an incident than the UK’s RDS-led TMC channel, which transmits traffic information to in-car sat nav via radio signals. The latter can’t compete with Waze, probably one reason Google purchased the company and integrated their data into Google Maps.
It’s only downsides are that it absolutely drinks your battery, and makes my HTC very warm too. Because the device gets hot, I can’t charge it up while on the go as this makes the phone even hotter (unless it’s a very cold day). But I promise you’ll be running it all the time to pick up those crucial points.
2. BBC Sport
Another great invention by the BBC team. Their Sport app, which compliments a wider suite of news, weather and TV apps, is very simple. It’s effectively a wrapper to their website, but none the worst for it. Wherever I am, the performance is very good and it’s a must when trying to discreetly keep track of scores when out and about.
It’s so good in this respect, I use my phone to check the latest ahead of the TV or tablet, something that in my hands would be unthinkable a year or two ago.
No list would be complete without a few novelty items. There are free versions of this app, but for £2.00, you can get the full fat variant which is fun and useful. Sure, it helps if you have an interest in aviation, but if you’re outside one day and catch a view of a plane, you can use the AR feature of the app to see what it is and where it’s going.
So yes, it is a novelty, but as the tracking is so accurate, if you happen to waiting for loved ones or tracking their progress, you can’t do any better.
Whatsapp is a piece of pure and simple genius. It’s success, confirmed by Facebook’s recent purchase, is simply the ability to message friends and family via the internet, using a contacts system not unlike a normal phone.
You can send pictures, video and audio too. When travelling abroad, it gets even better. Just scavenge a bit of Wi-Fi, as we all do, and you can forget about the pricey SMS and call costs, roaming charges and even the charges to receive calls.
It’s free for the first year but after that you have to pay a paltry 69p to renew annually. With text messages costing around 8p on most contracts, you’ll get your money back after 9 texts. Everyone should have it.
I’m a bit of a late starter to Skype. Fans of it may be reading this and wondering why I’m crowing on about Whatsapp so much, only to have neglected one of the best established video calling apps around.
Skype began life on desktops and has made a very big home on mobile devices now. Again, when travelling it’s a boon. While away from my family at CES earlier this year in the US, I could stay in touch with my wife and two boys very easily. Indeed, my wife said that using Skype meant that I was just that little bit closer to home.
What I have discovered however is that even with a good Wi-Fi connection, the lower-quality video cameras are best. In the past, my HTC and iPad struggled to maintain a connection, but the cheap webcam on my HP laptop worked perfectly. Lower quality means lower bandwidth, regardless of Skype’s settings, so bear this in mind when you use it next.
Is there any point writing anything about this? The app is even installed by default via the mobile carriers. Must just add that my Android version is my favourite. Really struggling with performance from the Facebook app on iPad.
I’m a huge fan of Glympse. It works by transmitting your position in real time to individuals, friends or family, or even the whole world, giving your current speed, direction and estimated time of arrival to a destination.
True, Waze also does this but Glympse makes lighter work of it in my view and certainly doesn’t heat up my phone when in use unlike Waze does. The app ends those endless questions such as “when do you think you’ll arrive?” or “how long are you going to be”, and definitely means an end to potentially dangerous calls while driving.
You set a destination, a duration to broadcast for, a message and a medium which can be anything connected your phone; SMS, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, email etc. Your recipients get a URL, and if they already have Glympse installed, it opens the app and shows your position and ETA. Brilliant for lone drivers or overly-worried parents, which is perhaps one reason why Glympse have struck deals with car manufacturers to embed their tech into the latest models.
I love introducing newbies to Glympse too. Once you’ve become aquainted with the app, and when you’re next visiting someone who doesn’t use it, just send them a Glympse. They’ll open the URL out of curiousity and all will become clear.
For passing the time away, little can beat the Rio edition of Angry Birds. I’ve gone for this one principally because it’s free. When playing it, switch your phone to Airplane mode beforehand and you won’t be disturbed by any ads.
Angry Birds is a large, well-deserved brand in its own right now and the cutesy graphics and gameplay won’t fail to entertain. But it’s saved me on a long flight on more than one occasion too.
Again, needs no introduction like Facebook, but still one I use everyday. The evolving interface annoys many but the developers are continuing to explore its usage and I don’t think they’re done yet.
Instagram has changed the way we think about photography. A couple of years back, my wife and I visited Rome and my Dad was in shock when I told him I wasn’t taking a camera. The shock turned to confusion when I explained I would be using my phone instead.
Instagram’s filters are perfect posterity fodder. Yes, they will give your friends and followers a warm, often nostalgic glow when sharing your images, but by customising your photography in this way you can leave an emotional mark against them.
There almost didn’t seem to be room in the market for this type of player, but with the 200 million user mark passed this March, there’s little doubting its influence.