The latest toothbrush from Oral-B is the world’s first smart toothbrush. Through Bluetooth, it syncs with your smartphone and, on the Oral-B app, shows you statistics about your brushing habits while pointing out which parts of your mouth you are neglecting to clean.
According to some estimates, by 2020, there will be six billion adults on the planet and five billion of them will be using smartphones. The effects of that are already around us to see. For starters, the smartphone is the centre of our lives. Already our cars, TVs, watches, toys, homes, and of course, our toothbrushes revolve around the smartphone. In a few years, everything will become smart and will be connected to the super computer in our pockets. But what makes that computer so super is the collection of apps on them.
When the first App Store launched in 2008 with the slogan ‘there is an app for that’, it was fun, it was exciting and it was a little exaggerated. Eight years later there is truly an app for everything. And in another eight years, our world will rotate around the smartphone and the apps.
It is when a technology becomes indispensable that it becomes mature. And as the app stores mature, there is a reckoning. Apps that are not very useful, that are frivolous and those not important enough will slowly fade out.
What will remain in the next few years will be the truly useful and entertaining. It is often said that every story has already been told. This year it looks like every app worth making has already been made. With no new exciting, ground-breaking apps forthcoming, it is time for your smartphone to settle down with these must-have apps.
Signal (Free, iOS/Android)
Edward Snowden’s favourite app, Signal, uses the most advanced end-to-end encryption to keep all your text messages, photos, videos and free calls safe from prying eyes. Further, unlike other apps such as WhatsApp, it is completely open-sourced, which means not only the app is completely free but there is also no chance of hidden back doors that could access your data.
Opera VPN (Free, iOS) & OpenVPN Connect (Free, Android)
One way to protect yourself from unsafe public WiFi networks is by routing your traffic through a trusted Virtual Private Network that sends your data traffic through anonymous, untraceable nodes. On the iPhone, makers of the popular Opera browser have come out with the Opera VPN that is not only the fastest and most reliable VPN service but also blocks ads and trackers for complete privacy. On the Android front, there is OpenVPN Connect, which is one of the very few completely free apps with good VPN services.
Airmail (Rs 300/ iOS and Mac) & WeMail (Free/Android)
Airmail is a fast, easy-to-use email client for the iPhone. What makes it stand out from other email apps is the integration with apps and services like Box and 1Writer so that you can process your email with a simple swipe. On the Android front, outside the Gmail app, WeMail is the best time-saver, primarily because it saves you ‘scrolls’ by using its smarts to group similar emails. Presenting the emails as cards, WeMail is also clever enough to organise emails into chat-like bubbles.
HERE Maps (Free, iOS/Android, Windows Phone)
It is hands down the best mapping service you can use both for driving directions and for exploring cities. Winner of the ‘best automotive app 2015’ award from Auto Bild, HERE Maps’ best feature is its ability to download both maps and directions for over 100 countries. This means saying goodbye to expensive data packages and use of turn-by-turn navigation with abandon, even when you are roaming outside your mobile network.
Camera360-Ultimate (Free, iOS/Android/Windows Phone)
All of today’s flagship phones come with great cameras built in, but are let down by the sub-standard camera apps that fail to take advantage of the big sensors. The answer then is to use Camera360. Boasting of its 500 million users worldwide, the makers of Camera360 describe the app as a ‘global trend-setter for mobile photography’ and the app has the tools to justify that title like filters which you can apply before you take the shot.
Netflix (Free, iOS/TV/Android/Web)
From popular Hollywood and Bollywood movies, TV shows to original contents like House of Cards and Daredevil, the world’s most popular video-streaming service is the number one reason for procrastination in the world. With prices starting at Rs 500 per month, it is equally entertaining on everything from an 80-inch screen connected to an TV to a 3.5-inch phone screen.
Foodgawker (Free, iOS)
The app shows you big, beautiful photos of food the moment you open the app. But delve a little deeper behind those photos and Foodgawker really delivers. Packed with great recipes from around the internet, the app lets you save your favourite for later and add notes to any recipe while keeping the photos front and centre.
Haptik Personal Assistant (Free, iOS/Android)
A personal assistant, this app uses real people behind the scenes to help you out with things that artificial personal assistants like Siri cannot. From something as mundane as waking you up to booking flight tickets, finding hotel rooms or ordering food, Haptik does everything that a real assistant would do but through a chat interface. While there are assistants like this available in other countries, Haptik is special in being completely free.
Taxy (Free, Android)
The taxi comparison app takes the experience of hailing a taxi a step further by getting rid of the hassle of finding the cheapest fare among different apps. It achieves that by aggregating data from all the top taxi-hailing services like Uber, Ola, TaxiForSure and MeruCabs. Available in more than 50 cities in India, Taxy will also show you coupon codes, offers and discounts for 16 big cities in the country.
DoWhistle (Free, iOS/Android)
By letting users post anything that they need and also anything that they can provide, DoWhistle makes sure that you get notified the moment someone who has something you need comes near you, so you can call or message them. While the makers behind the app say services can range anything from retail, social or personal, DoWhistle has found a niche among blood donors, bringing them to needy patients.
Townista (Free, iOS/Android)
If you live in Bengaluru, Mumbai or Delhi NCR and are stuck on what to do this and every weekend, Townista helps you find local events and things to do in any of these cities, and even lets you book them on the go. Whether it is places to visit, weekend getaways, awesome parties or outdoor adventures, Townista has curated lists put together by experts to help you out.
Airtime (Free, iOS/Android)
The new app from Napster co-founder Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake in the film Social Network) allows you to group-chat with friends and family. With integration of services like YouTube, Spotify and the capability for up to six people to video-chat at the same time, Airtime is poised to change the messaging landscape.
Spaces from Google (Free, iOS/Android)
After the demise of Google+, the company has been siphoning off parts of the social network to different services, and Spaces is the latest entry that gets to do small group sharing. Open for anyone with a Gmail account, Spaces lets you invite small groups of people to conversations about any topic. With Google Search, Photos and YouTube built into the app, you can have conversations right beside any shared content.
Flatchat (Free, Android/iOS)
For everyone looking to rent a house, rent out their house or searching for flatmates, Flatchat is a must-have app. Flatchat will match you with the right person based on your requirements with whom you can chat and find out if they are the match for you. While it has no brokerage fees, and has the ability to share photos and maps, another great feature of the app is the ‘Flatchat Assistant’ that will help you with all your queries between 10am and 7pm.
Franz (Free, Windows/Mac/Linux)
There are simply too many messaging apps in the world. Jumping between them on mobile is hard. Jumping between them on a computer is downright irritating. Franz solves that by bringing almost all the major messaging apps onto one single interface. So whether you are chatting with co-workers on Slack or family on Skype, all you need to do is launch Franz. From Skype and WeChat to Telegram and Facebook Messenger, Franz handles them all.
TrueMessenger (Free, Android)
From the makers of TrueCaller comes TrueMessenger, promising to do the same to spam messages that it did to unwanted callers. With TrueMessenger installed, you can avoid unwanted strangers in your inbox. You can block them both by number, name and even series of the phone number. And any spam messages from dodgy companies go straight into the spam folder so that you don’t even need to look at them.
Health & Fitness
HealthifyMe (Free, Android)
Watching your calorie intake is one of the most important parts of losing weight. But if you are an Indian, maintaining a deficit is not an easy job particularly because calorie-counting apps made in Western countries have no idea what gulab jamun is. HealthifyMe is an Indian app that comes with a database of more than 20,000 Indian foods and the ability to count calories from all of them.
UP (Free, iOS/Android)
The popular fitness app from Jawbone tracks your sleep, activities and diet. The built-in smart coach function works as an intelligent guide to give you personalised tips to get fit. The beauty of the app is in not requiring you to buy and wear a Jawbone accessory, even though doing that will invariably give you better results with the app.
7-Minute Workout (Free, iOS/Android)
This app exactly does what it says on the tin. It lets you get a very good, intense workout within seven minutes, in a day. Using 12 high-intensity body weight exercises of 30 second each, 7-Minute Workout provides you with a free workout plan that will help with weight loss and keeping fit without having to spend a fortune at the gym.
Fitstar Personal Trainer (Free, iOS/Android)
Fitstar Personal Trainer is another app that helps you get fit without expensive equipment. But it does that by breaking down workouts into four colour-coded categories, “get lean”, “get strong”, “daily dose” and “freestyle”. And the dynamic fitness program of the app is designed to listen to your feedback and change the regimen according to your goals and capabilities. And if you get stuck, the featured HD videos will show you the moves so that you are always motivated.
Simple Steps (Free, iOS/Android)
Going for a morning walk is easy. But watching what you eat and counting calories is too daunting a task for most of the people. Simple Steps wants to help them and turns eating better into a game that you can play with your friends. Based on scientific research, it focuses on building one simple habit at a time and before you know it you will be eating healthy.
Exclusives on platforms
Android Greenify (Free)
Greenify, an Android exclusive app, wants to fight abysmal battery lives and phones that feel like molasses after a few months. After you instal the app, Greenify goes to work, identifying all the apps that are eating your battery and slowing your phone down before stopping them and not letting them perform until you give them explicit permission.
iOS Tweetbot 4 (Rs 620)
Tweetbot 4 is hands down the best Twitter client available on any platform. This iPhone-exclusive app does not come cheap at Rs 620 but is worth every penny you spend on it because of its beautiful design and the packed feature set that includes such gems as the daily global activity graph.
Windows 10 Media Player Gold (Rs 379)
This beautifully designed Windows-optimised exclusive app can play literally any file that you throw at it. With support for over 200 different video formats and over 100 audio formats, Media Player Gold includes a packed feature set that includes a powerful search bar using which you can search for music on Soundcloud and for videos on YouTube.
Mac OSX Quitter (Free)
To help you with reducing clutter on the Mac and work distraction-free, Quitter is a small, simple utility tool that either hides or altogether quits program after a period of inactivity. This easy-to-use automation tool sits in your menu bar and lets you dictate exactly what you want to do with your open apps and lets you decide after how long a period of inactivity.
Music & Podcasts
Apple Music (Free, iOS/Android)
A pple’s new music player is the first app available on Android. While the Beats 1 global radio and the algorithm recommending new music depending on your tastes is great, the best-selling point is the curation of playlists by editors. With the first three months free, subscription starts at Rs 120/month.
Guvera (Free, iOS/Android)
If you are bored with the Saavns and the Gaanas of the world, there is a new music streaming kid on the block. Guvera is an app from Australia with a 30-million-strong library. While the ad-infested version is free, it will cost you Rs 250 per month on the iPhone and Rs 199 on Android to get rid of those pop-ups.
Overcast (Free, iOS)
Overcast comes with many incredible features that make listening to even the most boring podcasts a pleasure. A beautiful interface combined with power features like ‘smart speed’ that intelligently removes pauses, and ‘voice boost’, even long and not well-recorded podcasts can be made pleasant to listen.
Poweramp (Free, Android)
If you are not a great fan of music streaming, Poweramp is your perfect companion. It has all the basic features of a regular music player but also a 10-band optimised graphic equaliser, and features like gapless and dynamic queue that only music nerds care about.
CarTunes (Rs 300, iOS)
The app gets around the problems of other music players by relying entirely on quick gestures to control it. From tapping anywhere to play and pause the music to sliding to change the volume, CarTunes makes it easy to control the music in your car.
Magzter (Free, iOS/Android)
With a catalogue of over 7,500 magazines and top news stories of the day presented in a beautiful fashion, Magzter is a must-have app for news junkies. All the magazines are beautifully formatted for the screen you are reading it on and Magzter claims to be the first app that lets you create playlists of articles whatever your interests are. With categories ranging from news, politics and technology to travel, fashion and photography, Magzter has it all. You get the first 30 days free and after that you have to pay Rs 370 a month for Magzter Gold subscription.
Yahoo News Digest (Free, iOS/Android)
What Inshorts does to Indian news, Yahoo News Digest does it on a larger scale. Twice a day, the app delivers summaries of the day’s news without missing any key information. Each summary is created not from one but multiple sources.
Nuzzel (Free, iOS/Android)
Nuzzel is the best way to discover all the news being shared on Twitter by the people you follow. The news items are also accompanied by comments by the people who shared them. Once you are done doing that, it will let you explore the day’s top news and send you personalised news items.
Snapchat (Free, iOS/Android)
Snapchat’s Discover features have news organisations ranging from NYT and CNN to Buzzfeed and Vice as partners to give news updates. With the organisations finding new ways to make content on it, Snapchat is a fun way to get your news.
Government & Society
Government of India’s citizen engagement app crowdsources ideas from the common man and lets them send opinions and suggestions to the ministries directly.
One stop shop for applying for an Indian passport that helps users locate nearest application centre and lets them track the status after application.
It gives details of application forms, lets users join groups to discuss the initiatives, and gets them talk to RTI activists.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan
Designed to complement the PM’s cleanliness campaign, it gives details of the initiative and lets users invite friends to join the drive.
Get all the information regarding Aadhaar Card applications, book appointments and download your e-Aadhaar card.
You are watching the latest Captain America movie but need to pee. If you don’t want to miss out on it, you need this app that will tell you the most optimum time to go pee and get back.
Drunk Dial No
One of the most pressing problems now is calling our exes when we are drunk. The app solves it by stopping us from dialling.
This pirate-themed car location app is for those times when you forget where you parked your car. When you find the car, the app shouts ‘Carrr Matey’.
You give the app your crush’s details. When their relationship breaks and your crush changes the status on Facebook, you get notified.
Ultimate Fireplace HD
Turn on the virtual fireplace in this app. Sit beside your Apple TV and the fireplace on it in a swivel chair, and read some Wodehouse.
You know that feeling when a well-dressed stranger asks you for your phone to make a call. Now you can get out of that by using Fake Battery and showing them empty battery.
The makers of this app call it the ‘social beard network’ since it connects people with beards with potential partners and friends who like facial hair.
With timers, tips and a 3D-animated guide of a human mouth, the app teaches you how to brush better.