There are well over a million apps on the App Store now, so never before has the phrase “there’s an app for that” been so true. But, most of the time you probably don’t know what apps are out there that could improve your life in some way, shape or form. That’s why it’s always convenient to learn about a few apps that have been tried, tested and reviewed, so you can make that download decision a little easier. So without further ado, here is a fresh selection of the top 5 useful apps that may enrich your life, as much as they have for me over the past year.
1. Headspace – FREE or premium
If you’ve ever tried meditation, you’ll know that it isn’t an easy exercise at first. Who would have thought that clearing your thoughts would be so hard? But you shouldn’t have to make it harder by doing it alone. That’s where Headspace comes in. Put simply, it’s guided meditation in your pocket. This free meditation app includes 10 unique Headspace programmes – guiding you through a step-by-step training programme for the mind. If you’re committed, then you can purchase an annual subscription for $79.90. That might sound like a lot, but it’s justified when you consider attending a meditation class could cost you anywhere between $10 – $20 per session. That’s quickly recouped with the Headspace app. Plus, with the Headspace annual subscription you gain access to a new guided meditation for every day of the year. Whether the focus is on calming the mind, increasing creativity or improving relationships, you’ll find it on the Headspace app.
Find your manly zen with Headspace.
2. Afterlight – $1.29 + in-app purchases
This is by far my favourite photo-editing app I’ve ever used. It’s easy to use. It’s slick. It’s got all the features you need to make your photo look 10x better before posting it to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and more. This snappy little app boasts 15 adjustment tools, 59 filters, 66 textures and 77 different simplistic and adjustable frames. In fact, the only trouble you’ll have with this app is figuring out what mixture of filters, textures or frame you want to use.
Many well-respected photographers use this app to make their shots look more professional on social platforms, and for such a small price, why not give it a shot yourself? Here’s a few of my favourite shots edited using the Afterlight app and posted to my Instagram: @gregbeazley.
Available on iPhone
3. Luminosity – FREE or premium
Sure, you can go to the gym and flex those “charms” (i.e. chest and arms), but when do you ever flex that brain of yours? Exercising the brain is something we rarely practice on a daily basis. Lumosity is like the Fitness First for your brain. It’s designed by neuroscientists to train memory, attention, speed, flexibility and problem solving. With foundations in the study of neuroplasticity, Lumosity provides a wide range of games that have improved working core cognitive abilities in several studies. As you play, the games offer a scorecard of your performance and let you follow changes in performance over time, so you can see if you’re getting better. You also have the option to choose what skills you want to improve.
The freemium version of the app is somewhat limited, but it does offer a decent selection of games that should keep you entertained and sharp-witted. If you need more, the annual subscription is only $49.95 but comes with a number of key benefits, such as personalised training, access to over 40 games and the ability to track your performance against other Lumosity members.
Your biceps might help to meet a girl, but remembering her name is where Lumosity can help.
Available on iPhone.
4. Pandora Radio – FREE or premium
Pandora Radio is like the effortless, no-frills version of Spotify. An online radio of sorts, with a premise based on discovering new music. Register your details, select a genre, artist or song, and Pandora will scour it’s extensive music library to play you similar songs at random. ‘Like’ or ‘Dislike’ the song for Pandora to learn your music tastes, so it can optimise your listening experience. You can create personalised stations, purchase or bookmark your favourite songs, and share and publish what you’re listening to on Facebook and Twitter, and even set an alarm. I’ve used Pandora for quite some time now and it has certainly helped me discover new music that I consequently went on to purchase.
The free version of the app will meet the needs of most. It will play sponsored advertisements between groups of songs and you get a limited number of song skips per day. The only real benefit of subscribing for $4.99 USD per month is to remove the ads and to get higher quality audio. Unfortunately, the free or paid version doesn’t allow you to repeat your favourite songs at will, which begs the question why would you want to pay for a subscription or why not just use Spotify instead.
Pandora is best used for those times when you’re not too fussed about what you listen to, but are keen to hear a few songs you’re familiar with, mixed with a few you’re not.
If you’re looking for a Spotify-alternative, then give Pandora a go.
5. PayPal – FREE
Most people are familiar with PayPal and how easy it is to make online purchases using the service. Now there’s PayPal for mobile. The beauty of this app is you now have the ability to use your mobile to pay at restaurants, stores, cafes, and more. Not only that, but you can use the PayPal app to order ahead. It truly is your new digital wallet.
Did a mate just shout you lunch? Need to chip in for a group gift for your mate’s Bucks party? No problem. Use the PayPal app to transfer money between friends instantly. And of course, you can always use the app to check your balance, see your transactions, etc.
Paying for everyday items using your phone is still somewhat uncommon, but the PayPal app is a driving force to change that. Once you get used to the idea (and remember that you have an app for that) then there’s no reason why the PayPal app wouldn’t become one of your most utilised apps on your smartphone.
Give it a try. It might just make your life a little more efficient.