In her Aging With Geekitude series, self-professed “recovering technophobe” Erica Manfred writes about her adventures with technology and shares what she’s learned as she navigates the not-so-scary waters.
“There’s an app for that” may be a jokey phrase coined by the smartphone generation, but it’s also true! I am constantly amazed by the apps that keep popping up to solve practically every one of life’s problems, large and small. Here are my latest discoveries – amazing apps that can do everything from finding stuff to saving time and saving money – even stimulating creativity.
All you need is a smartphone or, in some cases, a tablet.
Did you know you can….
Avoid Speeding Tickets
I don’t make a habit of speeding, but I do cringe every time I see a cop car on the road. Radar Beep works with all mobile phone GPS navigators to detect radar while it uses the GPS to get you to your destination, but you can also use the app without the navigator. Radar detectors have been around for a long time – now your smartphone will warn you of cops lurking behind bushes.
Scan and Send Your Documents
I had tried using apps to scan documents, but they were so complicated I couldn’t figure them out, and there were no instructions or tutorials. Luckily I found Scanbot, which is supremely simple. Just put the document on the table, wait until the “document” circle is filled in, press it to take a pic of the doc and hit the “share” icon at the top (which looks something like a crab claw), and pick one of the options to email, share or upload to Dropbox – or whatever you want to do with it. It does a nice job of taking clear pictures of documents.
Fix a Parking Ticket
If they’d had this app when I lived in NYC I might not have left. I was the parking ticket queen. The Fixed mobile app helps hapless motorists in New York and San Francisco contest – and if denied, pay – their parking tickets. You can upload your ticket and any evidence that it was unwarranted, and Fixed’s team of parking experts will take it from there. Aside from a flat $1.95 fee for credit card processing, Fixed only charges users if their tickets are successfully contested – at 35% of the fine. Here are some helpful FAQ’s.
Sign up on the site, then you can download Fixed for iOS or Android.
Maximize Your Credit Card Rewards
Odds are, at least one of your credit cards has some kind of rewards program, be it cash back, miles, or points. But it’s a hassle remembering which ones to use and where. Enter Wallaby, an app designed to maximize your credit card rewards. You just tell Wallaby the type of Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards you carry; when you shop in a store or online, it will show you which card to use.
Download Wallaby for your iPhone or Android mobile phone.
Find your keys
The Tile app works in conjunction with actual tiles, and while the little gizmos that aren’t cheap, they can be a lifesaver – the last time I lost my keys, I missed a flight. The tiles connect to the app, which uses your phone’s Bluetooth to find lost keys and just about anything else. Attach a tile to an object that you often lose, and when you get within 50 to 150 feet of that object, the app will play a sound to tell you the direction you need to go to find it. If you’re out of range, it will use every phone with the Tile app installed to search for your Tile tag. If someone else’s phone finds it, you’ll be notified of its location. One reviewer on Amazon actually found his stolen bike this way.
$20.00 per tile at Amazon. A four pack is $70.00
Find Your Car
I have wandered around frantically searching for my car in huge parking lots too many times to count. MyCar Locator uses your GPS to remember where you parked with the push of just one button and then guides you back to it. It’s also great for remembering the location of your hotel, camping spot, trail head, boat ramp, bus stop or any other location you would like to easily return to later.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
There are all kinds of apps that will turn your phone’s ringer and notifications on and off depending on different variables but they’re all hideously complicated. It’s very hard to find an app that just does one thing, is easy to use and accomplishes what you need it to accomplish. I was constantly forgetting to turn my phone off at bedtime, so it rang at ungodly hours. Silent Time sets your phone to be quiet for the same time period every day. I set it for silent from midnight to 10am, and now I don’t have to worry about getting woken up anymore.
Stay Out of the Rain
MinuteCast, an app by AccuWeather, tells you the weather at the moment and for the very near future exactly where you are right now (not for your whole city). MinuteCast is especially useful during storms. Right now it says it’s going to rain in 109 minutes. Better take my umbrella to the store.
It won’t translate the Klingon language, like on Star Trek, but it will help with French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and more languages are in the works. This major update to Google Translate for Android and iOS interprets cross-language conversations on the fly and instantly translates foreign road signs and restaurant menus. Users can now conduct an entire conversation in two different languages and have it translated instantly, without needing to press any buttons on their phone or tablet.
Play With Sand
If you like to doodle and want to see something extraordinary appear on your screen, try this app. Thisissand allows you to sprinkle different colors of virtual sand and make all kinds of patterns on your computer or mobile device. Start pouring away to experience this special sand piling on your screen!
$1.99 to get tools to make multicolored sandscapes.
Avoid waiting on hold
Constantly stuck in customer service hell? Fast Customer promises to rescue you. With a single tap, it navigates the phone tree to whichever department you need – tech support or billing, for example – then calls your phone when it has an agent on the line. This app got a huge amount of positive press from the media, so hopefully it will live up to its hype. I just downloaded it and have my fingers crossed.
Got a favorite app to share? That’s what the comments section is for!