In the land of mobile computing (a fancy way of describing something you do on your phone – or tablet) apps are king. The variety of apps makes your phone as versatile as it is – without them we would still be sending shorthand text messages.
For most users of modern touchscreen phones there are default apps that we all have installed. These include #Facebook, #Whatsapp, #Messenger, #Instagram, #Skype and #Twitter. Add a few niche apps like #Flipboard, #Pages, #Tumblr, #LinkedIn, #Soundhound, #Dropbox, perhaps even #Word, #Excel or a browser like #Chrome.
These are pretty standard installations and often top the “Best Apps for your Mobile Phone” articles.
Instead of those I’ve already listed, I scratched through my phone and picked the top five apps that I actually use. These are apps that I use every day (or the most regularly of all the apps installed on my phone). Of this list, perhaps there are a few you find useful.
While I make use of an iPhone, four of these apps are available for Android as well. I’ll start with the one iOS-only app.
This is a #gps (global positioning system) app, but not used for the reasons you might initially think. GPX Master records your location and allows you to export the resultant file to Dropbox. When the Dropbox file is linked in the photo editing program Lightroom (it may be supported by other editing programs, but this is one I specifically use) you are then able to #geotag your photos to indicate precisely where they were taken. This saves on buying a dedicated gps module for your camera. Since it is using the gps abilities of your device it does have an impact on your phone’s battery life, but it is a significant saving by comparison to a unit specific to your camera. One thing to remember is that your camera’s date and time must be accurate for this system to work.
The advert-supported version is here.
The paid version is available here.
While on the subject of GPS apps, let’s go to one used for more conventional reasons.
This is a navigation tool I use on a regular basis. No maps to download, nothing to pay, and it is most useful because the information comes direct from other road users – the users sharing the same road as you.
Waze is best researched by visiting their own website which links to Android, iOS and even a Windows mobile version. In a nutshell, the system makes use of realtime information from your device and the device of every other user to provide current road condition information while also allowing you and the other users to send alerts indicating accidents, road hazards, congestion, roadworks and even the presence of speed traps. If new roads are constructed you are able to “pave” that new road on the system and other road users are immediately aware of it – no waiting for map updates.
Additionally, since you don’t have to download maps, it means that Waze works wherever you happen to have a data connection. The downside is, of course, that no data connection means the system won’t work for you.
I’ve successfully used Waze in every city in South Africa I’ve visited and also while travelling abroad (just with a data sim for that particular part of the world). This is definitely worth taking a look at and it doesn’t make a big impact on your data plan.
Visit the Waze website here.
Next on my list of apps is one for bringing out the best in your images.
Snapseed (linked YouTube account for instructional videos)
We use mobile devices to grab photos more and more often. This where Snapseed allows you to edit those images, cropping, enhancing and adding photo effects so you can come up with a myriad of interpretations of the images on your phone. The results can then be saved and shared as you see fit.
It takes a bit of learning to figure out the intricacies of Snapseed, but the effort is well-spent and it is a competent photo editor for your phone – or even tablet.
Snapseed for your Android is available here.
If you are an iPhone user, use this link.
This next app is something I find increasingly useful, but might be a bit niche for many users.
For people who have some background in computer programming, the use of an “if” statement will make sense. “If this happens, then do that”. Basically when one set of conditions are met, it triggers a specific response.
What that means for mobile users is that you can create a “recipe” which does something based on your set of conditions.
In my case, I use IF to post to Twitter if I post to Instagram. This is a very simplistic task, but it does make cross-posting to social networks simpler.
IF can perform functions based on your geographic location, the apps you use, the home automation you have installed and a host of other things. Here are a few examples, just to illustrate.
- arrive home and your outside lights turn on automatically
- you take a photo with your phone and it is automatically uploaded to Dropbox
- add a new phone contact and have it saved to a Google spreadsheet of your contacts
- get a notification on your phone if your local weather indicates it will rain
- add a CDC (Centre for Disease Control) notification that will alert you instantly if there is a zombie outbreak – this is a personal favourite
Visit the IF website to discover what recipes are available (and create your own).
My last app for this list is one for the security conscious.
Authenticator (link should help making installation for your accounts a bit simpler)
If you’ve heard the term “two-step” authentication then you’ll have some idea of what Authenticator does for you. For those online accounts which support it, you can add an additional layer of security by adding Authenticator to your online presence.
You visit the particular site, enter your password as usual and will then be prompted for a six-digit code. This code is generated by Authenticator and is valid for 30 seconds. Once this code expires the app immediately generates a brand new random code. Unless you have your mobile device in your hand to input that code, you are simply not going to get into that particular account.
This level of security makes you that little bit safer online and makes thinking up new passwords or regularly changing passwords just a little less demanding. The value of this app is hard to calculate and something I definitely recommend for anyone with an online presence. While it is not infallible, it is much better than having nothing but a single password for your accounts.
I personally use Authenticator my Gmail account, my personal e-mail, Tumblr, IF, Facebook, WordPress and Hootsuite.
Authenticator is the on the Play store here.
For iOS users visit the App store here.
That’s my top five list, I’m sure you have your own favourites, you’re welcome to share those by leaving a comment.