In this young century, has there been any more pleasant surprise than the proliferation of millions of innovate, intuitive, help-you-out-in-a-pinch apps?
There’s a pocket-bound solution to every problem, it seems, but your smartphone is probably cluttered with digital applications you never use. With millions of apps available, it’s no wonder you have trouble knowing which new add-on is worth the download. We’re here to help by identifying the essential thumb-powered helpers available.
Entrepreneur Seth Porges, co-creator of the closet-organizing app Cloth, says, “The best apps are either fun or useful. The very best are both.” Great apps help you organize your time, streamline your business and make your life even more enjoyable. Ida Tin, co-founder of the women’s health app Clue, says the ideal app solves a problem you experience on a regular basis and provides value within only seconds.
“It needs to be fast, simple and intuitive,” she says. “Stripping something down to the basic elements is a lot more difficult than making something with more options.”
Porges agrees: “If an app feels like work, you might download it, but you’ll give up on it quickly.”
Now’s a good time to bring up cost. Some people are afraid to pay any money for smartphone widgets. But think about it this way: How often have you plunked down a few bucks for an app and truly regretted it? More often than not, the developers are charging money because they know they’ve created something really useful.
In a lot of cases, the apps you use and appreciate the most are the ones you shelled out a few bucks to purchase. And if you buy one that stinks, you’re probably out only a buck or two.
There are millions of apps to choose from; these are the 42 indispensable ones we don’t think you’ll be deleting anytime soon.
LogMeIn Pro ($99/year): Access your Mac or PC remotely and control it as if you are sitting right at your desk. Edit files, run applications or stream videos stored on your desktop.
TapeACall Pro ($9.99): Record important incoming and outgoing calls and then email the digital recordings. But be warned: Laws about recording phone calls vary by state, so to be safe, ask for permission before taping a conversation.
Hootsuite (Free): Manage up to three of your social media accounts in one place. Auto-schedule messages to post on your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts at a later time and monitor how many people clicked on your links.
Dropbox (Free): Store important documents, photos and videos in the Cloud and then access them from anywhere. Share private links to your files and get rid of bulky email attachments for good.
Dashlane (Free): Store all of your passwords, credit card information and corporate loyalty program numbers in one secure location. This digital wallet encrypts all of your data, auto-fills online forms and alerts you when there has been a breach of any of your accounts.
Evernote (Free): Become an organizational Zen master. Evernote holds your written and audio notes, scans business cards and receipts, and digitizes whiteboard presentations and Post-its. The most amazing part: You can search for text inside all of these images.
Fantastical 2 ($9.99): Dictate your to-dos to this elegant calendar app for iPhones, and it schedules your events and reminders for you.
Hotel Tonight (Free): Don’t get stuck out in the cold! Book a last-minute hotel room—at a bargain rate—nearly anywhere in the world. Read reviews written by fellow travelers and talk to live customer support 24/7.
Kayak (Free): Want to take a trip to London but pay less than $1,200 for flights? With Kayak, you can set your travel dates and price limit, and the app will alert you when a flight is available in your range.
Word Lens (Free): Using your phone’s video camera, this reality-bending app translates printed words in real time. Watch street signs instantly change from Mandarin, for example, to English, right on your screen.
Packing Pro ($2.99): Never again forget your toothbrush! Packing Pro builds customizable packing lists depending on your trip—anything from a boring weekend sales conference in Boise to a luxurious monthlong stay in Bordeaux—and reminds you of essentials to take.
GateGuru (Free): Become a layover pro with GateGuru. Navigate all of your airport terminal’s restaurants, shops and amenities while checking estimated security wait times and your flight’s status.
iTranslate (Free): Talk into your phone’s microphone and iTranslate converts your speech into text and then plays it back in any of 80-plus languages for instant communication on the fly.
Gas Buddy (Free): Locate your area’s cheapest gasoline, as reported by local drivers.
Uber (Free): Skip the taxi line and order a private chauffeur to pick you up. Now available in more than 30 countries, Uber locates you via GPS, accepts payment via PayPal or credit card, and emails you a receipt when you arrive at your destination.
Wi-Fi Finder (Free): See a map of all the free or paid public Wi-Fi hotspots in your area. This app also doubles as a Starbucks finder, because most of those coffee shops provide Internet service.
Waze (Free): This GPS driving app outsmarts your daily commute by automatically re-routing you as traffic or weather conditions change. Access community-generated data to avoid road construction, speed traps, accidents and more.
Zipcar (Free): Become a Zipcar member and rent a private car near you for just a few hours. View available cars on a map, unlock the vehicle with a virtual key fob, and be on your way.
TED (Free): Listen to inspirational and educational speeches from the popular TED Talks series. Access the entire TED library and download talks from leading minds in hundreds of fields to listen to even when you’re offline.
Yelp (Free): Search for nearby restaurants and read reviews written by local foodies.
Movies by Flixster (Free): Watch movie trailers, read critics’ reviews curated by RottenTomatoes.com and search for show times at nearby theaters.
Shazam (Free): Using your phone’s microphone, Shazam can listen to and identify what song is playing on the radio within seconds. The app then gives you the option to download the song on iTunes.
Pandora (Free): Discover new music with Pandora Internet radio. Input the name of your favorite artist, song or composer, and Pandora curates customized stations to fit your taste profile.
MyFitnessPal (Free): Track your exercise and nutrition to help you lose weight and get healthier. The app’s database includes calorie counts for more than 3 million foods.
Doctor on Demand (Free): If you have a non-emergency health issue such as allergies and don’t have time to visit a clinic, call Doctor on Demand. Video-chat with a U.S.-licensed physician ($40 per 15-minute call) who can give you a referral or prescription.
Run with Map My Run (Free): Track your running or walking pace, distance and route. Organize your workouts on charts and graphs to track progress as you near your goals.
UltimEyes ($5.99): Designed by a neuroscientist, this app uses games to improve your vision. One scientific study suggests that users of the app could attain vision far better than 20/20, with most users reporting an improvement in their ability to read in dim lighting after just three weeks.
Sleep Time+ ($1.99): Using the your phone’s accelerometer (a built-in motion detector), this app detects your movements during the night. Sleep Time analyzes your sleep patterns and phases, and sets your alarm for the optimal wake-up time to avoid grogginess.
Viber (Free): Communicate worldwide for free—really! With Viber, you can use Wi-Fi to call or text any other Viber users in the world without paying a dime.
Contacts+ (Free): Sync contacts seamlessly using an Android phone. The app brings together your phone books, email accounts and Google contacts, and also supplies a history of recent conversations with each contact, making it easy to pick up where you left off.
Credit Karma (Free): Keep track of your credit score in real time for free. Credit Karma gives you a “credit report card” based on your percentage of on-time payments and average age of open credit lines, and alerts you to any major increases or decreases in credit account balances.
XE Currency (Free): Get real-time currency conversions at your fingertips and watch how currencies perform over time. This thorough app converts every world currency and precious metals to U.S. dollar values or any other currency.
Mint Personal Finance (Free): Link Mint to your bank and credit accounts to track your overall cash flow and spending habits. Set budgets for yourself—such as $100 per week on gas—and receive alerts when you exceed your spending goals.
Timera (Free): Blend your present-day photos with ancient photographs taken at the same location. These mesmerizing mash-ups are a peek into your place in history.
SkyView ($1.99): Point your phone’s camera to the sky to identify stars, constellations, planets, galaxies and even passing satellites such as the International Space Station. Using augmented reality, this app can identify celestial bodies during the day or night. Plus, you don’t have to be online to use it, so you can even point it through an airplane window (when the flight attendant isn’t looking).
TapHunter (Free): Find out what craft beers are on tap near you. Save a brew to your “want list” and receive an alert when it becomes available at a nearby bar or brewery.
Cloth (Free): Organize your wardrobe and keep track of your favorite outfits so you never again have to stress about what to wear. Cloth recommends clothes depending on the weather outside (chilly? raining?) and what you’re up to (vacation? business dinner?).
Red Laser (Free): Scan a product barcode and compare its price to other retail locations locally and online. Find the best deal and save it in your history so you always remember which store sells the cheapest paper towels.
Pzizz Sleep ($5): With more than 100 billion sound effects and inspirational chants, you’ll never fall asleep to the same music again. Many users report a decrease in insomnia when using this soothing app.
Litely (Free): Created by a photographer whose work appeared in National Geographic, this photo-editing app adds subtle filters to your images, bringing out your work’s natural beauty. Adjust exposure, composition and sharpness without destroying the original picture.
Reeder 2 ($4.99): Save all of your news feeds and reading lists in one place. Reeder’s clean interface makes catching up on articles and blogs a delight.
TuneIn Radio (Free): Listen to more than 100,000 live radio stations and some 4 million podcasts from across the world. Plus catch local sports and talk shows anywhere.