The following is presented for informational purposes only. Money Management International is not affiliated with any of the products referenced.
To say that phones have evolved in the last 20 years is an almost ludicrous understatement. Today’s smartphones bear only a passing resemblance to early mobile phones. Back then, most phones were tasked with one, singular function – to make phone calls. By contrast, today you can purchase a monthly cell phone plan that doesn’t include the ability to make phone calls at all.
Even if you are still inclined to make the occasional phone call or two, smartphones almost demand to be used for more. They are essentially, after all, pocket-sized computers. The key to unlocking your smartphone's true potential is in the apps you choose to install.
There are literally thousands upon thousands of apps out there, available for iPhones, Androids, and Windows phones. If you’ve only been using apps to check your Twitter feed or play Candy Crush, you’re missing out. With an eye towards maximizing the transformative power of your smartphone, here are 17 lesser known apps you should know about.
GasBuddy – Ever buy a tankful of gas only to find that the very next gas station you pass has substantially cheaper gas? GasBuddy gives you the current price of gas at each gas station in your area. It even includes a trip calculator, which factors the fuel economy of your car with the price of gas along your route to determine how much you’ll likely spend to get from here to there.
Cerberus – The more you’ve invested in your phone, the more appealing it will be to thieves. Which is all the more reason why you should get an anti-theft app like Cerberus. This Android-only app allows you to lock and track your phone remotely. You can make your stolen phone sound an alarm (even if it’s in silent mode). It also takes a picture every time your passcode is entered incorrectly and has a multitude of other security features.
Glympse – Do you find yourself texting the words “I’ll be there in 10 minutes” with regularity? Glympse basically lets your friends and loved ones track you (with your permission) for short periods of time. If you’re driving to Mom’s house, she can see your progress in real time. If you’re meeting up with friends, you can how close or far away from you they are. It’s a great way to cut down on everyone’s stress level.
Sleep Cycle – If your sleep isn’t what you’d like it to be, try the Sleep Cycle app. It can tell how deeply asleep you are based on your movements (you need to keep your phone under your pillow) and then wakes you during a period of light sleep (within a predetermined 30 minute window – you still need to get up in time for work). Waking you up during light sleep helps you feel rested and alert, as opposed to waking during heavy sleep, which leaves you groggy.
Free Prints Now – This app is pretty much what it says it is – free picture prints. You do have to pay for shipping (which is between $1.99 and $9.99 depending on the size of your order) and you can only get 4X6 prints for free (other sizes are available, but aren’t free), but if you’d like to share your pictures with your less tech-savvy family members, or simply like to have physical copies available, you can get up to 85 prints each month for free.
Flic – This (iPhone-only) app makes it easy to quickly scan and delete the enormous amount of photos stored on your phone. Pictures scroll through like a slideshow – swipe left to delete, swipe right to keep. Fast, simple, and free.
CamScanner – Turn your phone into a scanner. That’s more or less the premise of CamScanner. It allows you to use your phone to scan documents, which the app can then turn into pdfs. That’s a pretty handy feature if you need to exchange signed documents, share huge blocks of text, or work as a part-time spy.
Llama – This is an Android-only app which allows you to create location-based profiles, which trigger changes to your phone’s settings based on where you are. If you tend to forget to set your phone on silent when you get to work, this app can do that for you automatically, and then switch back when you leave for home at the end of the day.
PushBullet – We’re all reliant on multiple devices now, so why not connect those devices to create a more seamless digital experience? PushBullet links your smartphone to your computer, to your tablet, and back around to your smartphone. You can get your phone notifications (like text messages and phone calls) on your computer (or tablet), share files instantly between devices, and deliver links directly to your devices in a single step.
Textra – If you text frequently, Textra may be for you. It’s a highly customizable text messaging service with loads of extra features. And even if you don’t care about the extra features, it’s at least better looking than your default texting app.
Google Translate – Available for Android and iPhone, the Google Translate app comes with the same translation capabilities that the Google Translate website provides, including audio of words and phrases, but includes a very cool extra feature. Thanks to the integration of the popular app Word Lens, Google Translate can actually translate documents directly through your phone’s camera, literally rewriting the language in front of you.
Unified Remote – If you use your computer to watch TV and movies, you may want to try Unified Remote. It allows you to remotely control certain functions and programs on your computer or laptop. It can also be handy in a pinch if the battery in your wireless mouse dies.
Bodbot – If you can’t afford a personal trainer, Bodbot is a solid alternative. You can input your goals and the app will provide workout schedules and dietary recommendations, showing you what exercises and foods will get you where you want to go.
Sworkit – If you have a hard time working exercise into your daily life, Sworkit may be able to help. You choose what you want to work on and how much time you have and it will show you a variety of exercises and stretches to meet your needs. The app comes with instructional videos and none of the workouts require specialized equipment. Sworkit also includes guidance with Pilates and yoga.
Buddhify – After you’ve worked on your body, don’t neglect to work on your mind. Buddhify includes a huge number of guided meditations that you can access at any spare moment. It’s a great way to clear your mind of clutter and refocus throughout the day.
Happier – The Happier app is all about cultivating your awareness of the positive little moments that fill your life. The app allows you to share your unique moments of joy with a wider community, or keep a private journal of that happiness. Happier also includes short courses on building your sense of happiness, gratitude, and appreciation.
Google Opinion Rewards – If you’re an Android user and you find yourself making frequent purchases in the Play Store, try Google Opinion Rewards. The idea is pretty straightforward – you complete surveys and earn money, which is then added to your Google account. There is no guarantee on when or how often you will receive surveys, or even how much each survey will earn you. Additionally, survey creators routinely add questions to verify that you’re paying attention and answering honestly. If you aren’t, eventually they’ll stop sending you surveys altogether (they want valid data). You won’t get rich by any means, but it’s an easy way to defray the cost of future app store purchases.
Those are just a few great apps. What are some of your favorites?