App(n): a self-contained program or piece of software designed to fulfil a particular purpose; an application, especially as downloaded by a user to a mobile device
Long, long ago, in a faraway land called California there used to be a king. Being a very good king, he made an exquisite, magical piece of glass for his people. His people were very happy and took the glass home only to find out that the glass, magical as it was, did not do anything that they really wanted. When the King found out that his people are unhappy, he told them that they can make magical charms that can be put in the glass to do the things they wanted. Now the piece of glass started doing whatever the people wanted. Some made pictures and shared them with friends. Some threw angry birds at their pigs. Over time, those charms came to be called Apps.
Fairy tales aside, there is nothing else that has truly revolutionised today’s world more than an app. And there is no other word that became so embedded in the collective consciousness in such a short span like the word app. Apps or applications, as they are called by old-timers, have been around for as long as computers have been. But they got a life of their own only when they went mobile. Today it is hard to believe a mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet without apps. Today companies are made or broken depending on how many people they can attract to make apps for them. And taking a cue from the mobile devices, even the Windows and OSXs of this world are opening up their own app stores. With today’s app stores resembling Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar with millions of apps strewn everywhere, you need a guide to navigate them. Happy shopping!
Flipboard calls itself a social magazine. And what a magazine it is. By pulling in information from all the sources you care about and arranging them into boards that you literally flip, Flipboard is the most beautiful, most useful app ever designed for a mobile device. And the information you can add to it seems unlimited. Feeds from social networks like Twitter, news from sources like The New York Times and Guardian, posts from websites like Engadget, videos from YouTube, photos from Instagram, the list is endless. Each board comes with one click sharing and saving options.
So you have this file on your computer. But you also want it on your tablet for bed-time reading. Or on your phone to read on the way home. So you e-mail it to yourself right? Yes, if you are living in the 19th century. Else you download Dropbox which puts a folder on your Mac or Windows PC and an app on all your mobile devices. Now your photos, documents and videos on one device are automatically synced onto all your devices and even on the Dropbox website. You can share links for those files with anyone or use public folders for collaboration on projects. Simple.
If you are under 25, you probably already use Whatsapp. If you are over 25, you need to get Whatsapp. This increasingly ubiquitous app replaces SMS by letting you send free, unlimited, instant messages to other users, anywhere in the world over 3G or WiFi connections. By being available on everything from Android to Symbian, Whatsapp is the ultimate messaging application. Add group chat, the ability to send video, photos and voice notes to the mix and chatting with your cousin in Ethiopia is now as easy as sending an SMS. Time to say ‘what’s up?’
Forget the social networks. Path is a personal network that lets you connect with a maximum of 150 friends and family. The beautifully designed app gives you a bevy of filters to apply to your photos which along with HD video can be shared with your network, lets you share thoughts, check into places, and lets you see what your friends are doing at any given time. Since it also lets you log everything you do, from going to sleep and waking up to having dinner, the Path is also a great digital journal that lets you go back in time and lets you see what you were doing on any given day. Integration with public networks like Twitter is a bonus.
If there is one app that truly makes you forget about the ‘phone’ function in your phone that would be Skype. Installable on everything from smartphones, tablets, personal computers to gaming stations and smart TV’s, it gives you free, unlimited Skype-to-Skype calls, video chats and instant messages to any Skype user in the world. You can also send files, share screens and do a lot more for free. If you are ready to pay a little fee you can truly replace your phone with the ability to call and send SMS to landlines and mobiles, voice mail and group chats. A true phone-killer.
Wolframalpha (iOS/$1.99, Android/Rs.220)
To describe WolframAlpha as the grand-daddy of Google would be unfair on WolframAlpha. Unlike Google, it is an answer engine. When you ask it a question, it won’t throw up some webpages at you. What it throws up are answers. While some of it’s answers and aspects are used in Apple’s Siri, to get the full package you need to pony up some money and get this app. Mathematics, physics, astronomy, weather, biology ask it anything and it will come back with a definite answer. Don’t ask it ‘Am I God?’, though. Actually, do.
Pocket which was formerly called Read It Later is, as the name suggests, a service that lets you save articles, videos or any kind of web content for reading later. While there are many apps that offer this service, Pocket is different. For one, it can be accessed on any iOS or Android device, or in any browser. And, unlike many other services, Pocket presents the saved articles in a beautiful magazine-like manner. The button to save the article itself can be installed on any browser and 300 different apps like Twitter and Flipboard.
Evernote lets you remember things. Anything from simple notes, audio clips, clipped websites, photos, you name it, you can save using Evernote. And since it is available for everything from your grandfathers old computer to the latest iPad, all your saved notes stay synced over all your devices so that you can access them anywhere. Since you can gather information in many forms into one place, it increases your productivity by keeping everything at your fingertips. Excellent sharing features make sure that you can collaborate with friends and colleagues on projects.
Alfred (Mac OSX/Free)
Alfred is the most productivity inducing app for a Mac. With Alfred, you never have to leave your keyboard and go for a mouse or a trackpad. First and foremost, Alfred is a fast application launcher that remembers your preferences. With one keystroke you can launch applications, search the web, do calculations, check spellings, open files, control iTunes and you can set up your own custom tasks like posting to Twitter.
CrashPlan (Windows/Mac OSX/Linux/Free)
Whichever computer you use, it is important that you have a backup plan in case some catastrophe sets fire to your data. CrashPlan is the perfect app for backing up your data. In the free version you can back up your data to local drives or to remote computers so that your data is backed up in different locations. And since it uses 128-bit encryption, all your data is safe wherever you back it up. If you are paranoid, you can even back up to CrashPlan’s cloud storage for a small fee.
Angry Birds Space (iPhone/$0.99, iPad/$2.99, Android/Free)
“After a giant claw kidnaps their eggs, the Angry Birds chase it into a wormhole…” thus begins the next chapter in the Angry Birds saga, set this time in the space. When the original Angry Birds launched, it was a phenomenon. It was a game that used touch screens perfectly and could be played by everyone everywhere. The Space saga 130 interstellar levels on planets and in zero gravity thereby reversing many of our bird flinging assumptions on their heads. The latest update adds a level on Mars to celebrate the Curiosity rover’s landing.
Words with Friends (iOS/Free, Android/Free)
Words with Friends is so addictive that actor Alec Baldwin once got booted out of a plane because he would not stop playing for take off. Words with Friends is scramble at it’s digital best. Because of its turn-based structure, you can play at your leisure and with 20 people at the same time. Deep Facebook integration, ability to live chat with opponent make it one of the most social games. You can play with your friends or if you feel like you can let the game pick a random opponent. I once played with a Nigerian and got the word ‘S.C.A.M’.
Infinity Blade 2 (iOS/$6.99)
Infinity Blade 2 is a game that everyone with an iPhone or iPad should own. It is a game that people should go and buy an iPad to play. Infinity Blade shows us how powerful our mobile devices have gotten. It shows us that a small smartphone can compete with a game console in game play. Powered by the Unreal technology, the game serves you up a robust 3D world in which you have to sword fight a bevy of villains by using loads of weapons, armour, and spells. If you are to play it on the latest iPad’s retina display, it won’t be your mistake if you think you are part of an ancient world.
Cut the Rope Experiments (iPhone/$0.99, iPad/$1.99, Android/Rs.54.42)
If there is anything that smartphones and tablets have popularised, it is anytime anywhere gaming in general and physics-based games in particular. For people bored with flinging birds, the next best thing is feeding candy to the green monster ‘Om Nom’. While the original iteration Cut the Rope was fun, ‘Experiments’ adds a mad scientist to the mix and the fun starts. Apart from just cutting the rope, you get to use rope guns, suction cups, rockets, water, and robo arms to feed the monster. If you feel like you can even find the professor’s hidden photo album and share it on Facebook and Twitter.
Kindle is the ultimate digital tool that revolutionised book reading. The Kindle app takes the idea of electronic book reading further and makes for a strong argument to throw away those paper books. Since the free app is available for everything from iPhone, iPad and Android to Windows or a Mac, you get access to your book anywhere anytime. Amazon’s Whispersync technology syncs your books over all your devices. So start reading on your Kindle, continue on your phone for the commute and jump to your tablet for the bedside. With the ability to offer newspapers, magazines, textbooks, an easy to use dictionary and sharable highlighting features, the Kindle app is the ultimate reading app.
Nowadays every photo, every app and every video seems to be HD, While it is good, it does not leave you much room on your device storage. If you still want access to upwards of 350,000 songs, all you need is a data connection and Dhingana. With Dhingana, you can stream songs from 35 Indian languages and genres. While the app simplifies your life by providing top albums, top songs, popular playlists, and new releases, you can also search for the songs you care about and make your own playlists. Music can be played in the background, playlists and music can be shared with friends on social networks, or even using SMS. Or you can just lay back, press the Radio button and let Dhingana do it’s thing.
Get Running (iOS/$2.99, Android/Rs.174.66)
There is no dearth of get fit apps. But the only one that really takes you from the couch to the 5K is Get Running. It achieves it by understanding one simple thing. That you don’t want to run. So by coaching you like a human, it gives you encouragement prompts. ‘Just ten more seconds’ is a personal favourite. With just three simple workouts a week, it increases your ability to run so much that by the ninth week you will be running continuously for half an hour. Has all the common sharing options.
Movies by Flixster, with Rotten Tomatoes (iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Blackberry/Free)
The guy who lost his mind after he watched Eddie Murphy’s A Thousand Words would have avoided that fate if he had this app. The app lets you browse top box office and new DVD releases, watch high quality trailers, create your own ‘want to see’ list. The party trick though is Rotten Tomatoes on which you can get critic reviews and see if the movie you want to see is rotten or fresh. Like the A Thousand Words’s 0% rating.
Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe (iPad/$6.99)
Any sentence with the words app, kids, education, iPad and wow is not complete without the inclusion of ‘Wonders of the Universe’. The app is basically a 3D tour of the Universe in mind-blowing detail with Professor Brian Cox as your guide. While you can go from the smallest particle to the edge of the know universe in great 3D detail, you can also read 200 interactive articles by Brian about stars and watch two-and-a-half hours of BBC video of the series.
There are thousands of apps for kids, but none more beautiful, more intuitive, more useful and more value for money. Aimed at children between ages 1 and 4, it is a collection of 10 mini-toys to play with. The kids get to meet ten animals drawn as lovable characters in original artwork. But it is much more than a game, as to interact with the animals the kids need to complete tasks like matching shapes and colors. Through parental control settings, you can decide the amount of time your child plays and can download wallpapers of the characters.
Toy Story Read-Along (iPad/Free)
One of the best uses of a touch-based tablet like iPad for kids is as an interactive book. Toy Story Read-along is a great way to introduce young children to reading with interactive characters from the legendary Pixar movie they know and love. Along with animations that mimic real page turns, the app comes with a ton of stuff like games, movie clips, coloring pages, sing-along tunes, and a special surprise on every page. Along with kids reading at their own pace, they can even let the app read for them or record in parents own reading voice.
Kids Numbers and Math Lite (iOS, Android/Free)
This one is for those parents who can’t bear to see their preschoolers having fun without preparing for the IIT entrance exam. The app teaches numbers and basic arithmetic skills to the kids while they think they are playing a game. Using large, easily readable numbers, bright color palette, and kid-friendly backgrounds like hot-air balloons, the kids have fun. The pleasant sounding teacher ‘guides, encourages and congratulates’ children while teaching them skills like counting, recognising and comparing numbers, matching and learning additions and subtractions so the parents can rest assured about that IIT seat.
MUST HAVE APPS
iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch)
1. AppsGoneFree Shows you all the apps that have gone free on any given day.
2. BBC News The definitive guide for news from around the world.
3. Instagram No better way to apply filters and share photos.
4. Pages Best word processor for your iDevice. Keeps the documents synced with iCloud.
5. Chrome Get the Google Chrome goodness on your iDevice. Keep your open tabs, bookmarks synced.
6. Adobe Photoshop Express Photo editing software does not get any better than this.
7. Find my iPhone Locates, rings, a sends a message to your iDevice when it goes missing.
8. Paper Inspired by Microsoft’s never-was ‘Courier’, this is the best note book for the iPad.
9. Sygic & MapMyIndia Get voice guided GPS navigation in India with maps that are constantly updated.
10. Zomato For the Indian foodie. Recommends local restaurants in 10 major cities.
1. Go Launcher EX Give an extreme makeover to your phone with new themes and home screens.
2. Ringdroid Create ringtones from your music library.
3. Pulse Your own highly personalised magazine from the sources you add.
4. SwiftKey 3 Keyboard The best keyboard for Android that makes typing really easy by predicting your next word.
5. Endomondo The best all-round get fit app for Android.
6. Indian Rail Info Know everything you need to know about your journey from PNR status to train running status.
7. Free SMS India Send unlimited free SMS with a GPRS connection.
8. Saavn Music Listen to Hindi, Tamil, Telugu songs, free, anywhere anytime.
9. NewsHunt Read newspapers in every Indian language.
10. HD Widgets Get some high definition widgets for the likes of weather.
1. SkyDrive Microsoft’s cloud service lets you access files anywhere anytime.
2. Vimeo Who wants YouTube when you have a beautifully designed app for another video sharing site.
3. WP Shortcut Tiles Create tiles to perform tasks with a push of a button.
4. Video Player for VLC Stream video from your VLC media player.
5. Clearer A super sleek To-Do app.
6. Indian Rail Get all the information you need to make a rail journey in India.
7. Tetris The legendary vintage game re-modeled for the Lumia generation.
8. Fuel Price India Get the latest fuel price for your city.
9. Weave Best and beautiful RSS reader for Windows Phone.
10. Photo Lock Keep your photos and videos private.
Fun and Games for Cats (iPad/$1.99)
You know it is time to gas everyone and reset the world when we start making apps for cats. Yes, as if competition for the iPad from your son, wife and dad was not enough, you now have to share your iPad with a cat. The developers call it, the ULTIMATE iPad game. Your cat can catch mouse, goldfish, or spiders. Digital of course, not the real ones. Or it can paint like a ‘Picatso’, or play cat music, what ever it is. But if you have a cat and are worried that you don’t have an iPad, don’t worry. It is cheaper to get rid of the cat.
Bowel Mover Pro (iOS/$2.99)
Now that you have got apps for entertainment, for cooking, for playing and even for making you sleep, there is one app you really need. Bowel Mover Pro. As the name suggests, it tracks your bowel movements. The makers put it a little more sophisticatedly and say it will ‘track your digestion and health habits’, apparently because tracking patterns of what gets your bowels moving is good for your health. You can track things like, ahem, ‘Bowel texture’, make graphs and do a lot of other things. You can even share it with others if you are such a kind of person.
Mosquito Killer (Android/Free)
What is the biggest problem we have here in India? OK, apart from bad roads, an ancient power grid, non-existent drainage, corrupt government and a thousand others. Mosquitoes. What 11 five year plans and billions of rupees could not do one Android app will do. The Mosquito Killer will allegedly use high frequency ultra sound to get rid of mosquitoes and other insects. All you have to do now is launch the app, choose the ‘frequency that is most effective against insects of the place where you are (14/16/20KHz). Wait, what?
The Perfect Egg Timer (iOS/$0.99/Android/Rs.110)
The number one bestselling Lifestyle app in many a country has one job and one job alone. Making sure that your eggs are boiled just right. Not too hard, not too soft. The developer claims a lot of scientific research went into the making of this app which calculates the exact cooking time of an egg depending on the egg size, altitude and temperature. All you need to do is check the egg size using the scale given in the app, let the app find out the altitude you are at, follow the instructions and you got the perfect egg that was ever boiled. To keep you occupied while the egg is boiling, there is a simulation that shows the changes inside the boiling egg. Good boiling.