Last week, Erica wrote an ode to smartphones (and told you how to cut costs and get the one that works for you) – read about it! This week, she tell you what’s on her phone. Looking for streamlined apps to make your life easier? Read on: Erica’s must-haves are for Android, but most of them are available for iPhone, too…
A while back I was stuck at a conference because I couldn’t find my car. There were a bunch of different parking lots and it wasn’t in the lot I thought it was in. I knew my knees were not going to hold up if I had to search the lots, so while another conference-goer kindly offered to get his car so he could drive me around to look for my car, I called my daughter, the techie, to complain about my plight.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a smartphone app to find your car using the GPS inside it?” I said.
“Wow,” she said, “we could make a fortune if we came up with that app. Why don’t we look into it.”
I did look into it and we were a little late; there are already at least six apps for finding your car in a parking lot. Actually, there’s an app for everything you can think of. I haven’t downloaded one of the find-your-car apps yet because I have yet to research them. That’s one of the biggest problems with apps. They’re overwhelming.
Apps for Grownups
Many apps are designed for kids, with all kinds of video and graphic gewgaws that I have no use for. For instance, I was recently looking for an app so I could make wifi phone calls from my phone when i am connected to a wifi network. I live in the boonies where sometimes I’m out of cell range, so I need this app, but most of them either only call others with the same app or do too many things – make video calls like Skype, send photos, do fancy texting, contact all your friends and tell them you’re down for the party tonight and have altogether too many unnecessary functions.
Finally I found WiCall and downloaded it. It only makes calls – for 1c a minute. I used PayPal to put $5 in my WiCall account and I’m set. Whew! I haven’t actually used it yet because I haven’t been stuck without cell service, but I’m happy it’s there, just in case.
My Favorite Apps
What other apps are must-haves on my phone? I’m looking at it now, and here they are:
Accuweather This app’s home screen widget puts the time, current temperature and two-day forecast weather for next two days on my phone’s main screen so I can find out at a glance if I’m likely to make it home before we get hit with yet another major snowstorm.
Amazon When I’m out shopping, I use the Amazon app for comparison shopping and to read reviews. That’s how I chose a cheap, lightweight vacuum recently at Target. Do you have any idea how many vacuums there are at every price point? I got the one that Amazon reviewers rated highest.
Assistive Light This lifesaving app turns your phone into a flashlight. I’ve used it on numerous occasions when I needed to find my way in the dark which happens a lot, especially if you live in the boonies like I do. Also great for finding contact lenses. If you have an iPhone, try myLite.
Audible I listen to books on my phone all the time. I LOVE Audible.com. Look for a future column about audiobooks. (Requires subscription for download)
Battery doctor This supposedly cuts down on battery use. I wish. I never make it through the day on one charge anyway. I always carry a spare charged battery. I’ve got a couple of little chargers that plug into the wall and a few spares so I’m never stuck with a dead battery.
Kindle A real keeper. Download it onto all your devices so you can read the same book on your Kindle, your tablet and your phone. When I’m stuck on line with absolutely nothing to read, there’s always a good book on my phone. And, believe it or not, even if you enlarge the type there’s still enough text on the screen to make it readable.
CamScanner This is a really clever little app. You can use it to scan a document and email it from your phone.
Cleanmaster Cleans up your RAM and boosts memory. Wish I had one for my brain.
eBay With this app, I can keep track of an auction in a pinch. I wouldn’t use it for searching for items and bidding though, because even the full eBay site is confusing and hard to use. I don’t even want to try it on my phone.
Facebook I’m a Facebook junkie, so have to update my status and make comments. This is a pretty good app, fairly straightforward and simple. Facebook just came out with a new app called Paper, which right now is for the iPhone only. I took a look at it online and it seems typical of Mark Zuckerberg’s “if it ain’t broke fix it anyway” approach. It not only gives you your newsfeed, but all kinds of other content that clutters up the screen.
IMDB I use this app on my computer, and the phone app is just as good. If you put in your zip code it will tell you which movies are playing in your neighborhood and when they start. It shows you the reviews from Metacritic so you can decide which one is worth seeing.
Swiftkey Keyboard or Swype Keyboard These are must-have apps that a lot of people either don’t use or aren’t aware of, which is totally mystifying to me. Since I’m a fast touch typist, I go insane hunting and pecking on my phone to send emails. These apps allow you to swipe from one letter to another to type a word, which is infinitely faster and easier; plus they do a decent job of predicting words and completing the one you’re typing before you’re finished. Of the two apps, I prefer Swiftkey since it does a better job. Every time I tried to type “you” with Swype, I got “thou.” They must have had a Biblical scholar doing word prediction for them.
Voice Recorder This is a handy, simple, easy to use little app that makes recordings and stores them.
Zedge OK, so I’m not a total grownup. This is a fun, easy to use, free app that has thousands of pretty wallpapers and fun ringtones for your phone. My ringtone is currently Hava Nagila; it’s guaranteed that no one else in the restaurant has that one. I’m still looking for the hysterically funny one that came installed with my last phone, a loud male voice announcing, “Your phone is ringing, don’t answer your phone, it’s probably a wrong number.” It would crack everyone up who heard it.
I could go on. Apps are endless. I just found out there is one that will tell you when the bus is coming in New York City. A quick search came up with iNextBus. Wow! I’ll be sure to download that.
What are your must-have apps? Let me know which ones I should download next.
Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.
I use iNextBus all around Boston and it’s incredibly useful. I keep a GPS app called Waze in case my GPS acts up. Waze is brilliant (with crowd-sourced info like, “there’s a mattress in the middle of the road that fell off a car”), but it drains the juice. And I love my app called “Short Stories.”
Gotta try Waze and short stories.
I could use a Cleanmaster for my brain, too! Love it! And boy, I can relate to your feelings about some of these apps.
I’d add Relax Melodies for relaxation–nice to have that on a phone or tablet.