My Favourite Apps 2016

This is a little off-piste compared to my usual blogs but I use a wide variety of tablet/smartphone apps (more than 150 at the last count) and I thought it might be of interest to share those I use most often or find most useful. This is not intended to be one of those ‘ten things that changed my life’ lists. If that is what you are looking for, try GQ’s 100 Best Things in the World Right Now. By contrast, I hope my short list contains at least one or two that you do not already know about that might potentially save you time or money or make your life a little easier. (I am not connected commercially with any of these organisations. I’m just a very satisfied customer).

Revolut
revolutRevolut is, quite literally, more than just an app and I am telling everyone about it. Combined with a pre-loadable MasterCard it provides a highly effective way to buy goods or access cash in a multitude of currencies and at highly competitive exchange rates. Just install the app, link the app to your bank account and then order the MasterCard. It will arrive in a few days and then you are ready to make purchases or get cash (usually without transaction charge) from an ATM wherever you travel. Preload as much or as little sterling as you wish and top up instantly at any time through the app. I have already used it in the Netherlands, Ibiza, Germany and South Africa without problems. You receive a text confirmation within seconds after every transaction and you can even block the card instantly through the app if you lose it (I have had cause to test that too!). As well as the convenience, I estimate that the very attractive exchange rates have already saved me between £100 and £200.

Citymapper

citymapperIf you need to find your way around London (or about 40 other cities), Citymapper will quickly show you all the available modes of travel. Start by telling it where you want to go (obviously, it already knows where you are) and it will rapidly calculate available options and display journey time and approximate cost. It is particularly useful if, like me, you prefer to use buses instead of the underground. In London, the choices are pedestrian, bicycle, bus, underground and taxi. If you have an Uber account (see below), it will offer you this option and click directly to the booking app. Once you have made your choice, you can see the route and number of stops as well as how long you need to wait for the next bus, train or tram.

Uber

uberOne of those organisations that polarises opinion, Uber seems to have adopted the ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’ mantra on a global scale that makes Ryanair look like amateurs. Love them or hate them, Uber have disrupted the taxi industry in a way that Amazon or Airbnb have reshaped their respective markets. I have been a ‘rider’ for nearly 4 years and love the convenience and transparency of the user experience, which has evolved significantly over the years. I have used the service in several cities in a number of countries and there is something quite reassuring about arriving at an unknown destination and opening a familiar app which summons a car with a driver whose name you already know. I have also just discovered that, if you are a new customer and you register here, we both get a discount!

Notability

notabilityI attend many conferences, seminars and webinars. I learn a lot of useful information but I am not very good at taking notes. Notability enables me to scribble notes, type them or even record the event. My preference is to type the notes but I also record events to listen again later. When I do this, I can jump to the relevant section of the audio recording by clicking on the note text I was typing at the time. I can also take photographs (of presentation slides, for instance) and embed them at the relevant stage of my notes.

Google Keep

google_keepThere are hundreds of note-taking apps and I use others (Evernote and Wunderlist) for specific purposes or situations. Where Google Keep really comes into its own is when you need to remember something at a specific location rather than at a given time. I use it mostly for shopping: to remind me to pick up the dry-cleaning or get some toothpaste but it’s equally useful to remember to do things as soon as I get to the office or return home in the evening. It’s really simple and can be used as a Google Chrome extension as well as the app.

Google Photos

google_photosYou may wonder why an iPhone/iPad/iPod user would have any need for Google Photos when iCloud integrates and synchronises the photo output from these devices so well. The answer is that I also have a digital camera! On a recent safari, I was able to take zoom photographs that far outclassed anything I could have taken with my iPhone. I upload these directly to Google Photos. I also synchronise my Google Photos account with my iCloud account so that I can see everything on any device. Digital photography allows us to be indiscriminate in what pictures we take so, like everybody else, I take far too many photographs and have to be quite ruthless when selecting what to keep. Deleting the ‘master’ image in Google Photos also deletes all Google/iCloud copies on other devices.

CamScanner+

camscannerI can still remember when a photocopier was one of the most essential tools in any office. In the days of pdfs and email, we just have a small multi-functional printer/scanner/fax machine that is a printer more than 95% of the time. More commonly, I scan documents with my smartphone using CamScanner+. It is quicker, easier and much more flexible. Simply take a photograph of the document, use the autocrop/alignment tool to ‘square it up’, auto adjust light or colour if necessary and then save as a pdf or jpg. Brilliant! You can then email or share the document directly from within the app. The ‘+’ version is chargeable but a free version (that watermarks documents) is also available.

I hope you have found something useful here that you did not know already. These are all based on my own experiences so, if you are more of a geek than me and can tell me how to make better use of these tools – or you want to suggest something else – please do.

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