Essential mobile apps you shouldn’t go without

Monday 15 August 2016, 09:00 AM

Michael Briers
Journalist , Freelance

  • Apps-Blog-Large

There’s a wealth of pint-sized companions lining the digital shelves of the App Store, but which applications are worthy of your attention and, in some cases, hard-earned cash?

The smartphone. Once considered a luxury piece of technology reserved for the one percent of the one percent, those pocket-sized PCs are now ubiquitous. So much so that Ofcom now considers mainland Europe to be a smartphone society, with close to 43 million users in the UK alone. That’s up from 21 million in 2011, and a 200 percent spike in only five years really drives home the point that, yes, smartphones are here to stay. 

And so, as technology continues to develop and evolve at an exponential rate, we can readily expect smartphones to become even more advanced as time wears on — the technical Swiss army knife, if you will. 

But what’s a fancy toolbox without the requisite tools? Navigating the App Store can be tricky business; scores and scores of apps are introduced each and every day, and finding one best suited to your needs can be difficult amid a wall of white noise. 

Of course, there are the essentials; your Twitters, your Instagrams, your Facebooks — but what about those applications that stray from the beaten path to offer something truly unique? It’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Rock Clock

Cost: Free

Available: Android, iOS

You may know Dwayne Johnson from his time as the People’s Champ in the World Wrestling Federation, but since his humble debut as Rocky Maivia in ’96, Johnson has gone on to become a man of many, many talents. From film producer to Hollywood A-lister, the wrestler-turned-superstar is pretty much omnipresent, and has amassed a loyal following in the process. 

Famed for his 4:00am starts and eye-watering training regime, Johnson recently launched Rock Clock, a motivational alarm clock designed to get your “candy ass” out of bed and into the gym. It’s potential stretches beyond fitness, too, with users able to log their own goals — from learning a new language to simply eating healthier — and check in with their progress as they go. In a rut? Each morning, Dwayne Johnson would post a personal message to rally his supporters, and it’s this daily vignette that really lends Rock Clock its unique selling point. 

No limitations. No excuses. And oh, there’s no snooze button either.


Pokémon Go

Cost: Free

Available: Android, iOS

Wait, hear us out. Unless you’ve been living under a rock far, far from the nearest PokéStop, you’ll have likely come across Pokémon Go in some variation — whether it’s a bunch of teenagers scouring the streets with their phones held aloft, or co-workers and friends talking excitedly about their proudest catch. 

Even before its UK launch late last month, Pokémon Go had already cemented its status as a bona fide phenomenon. Is it the greatest mobile gaming experience of our time? Far from it. But beyond glitchy interfaces and other technical issues, Niantic’s location-based title is a great addition to the world of augmented reality. That is, an experience that layers an interface over the real-world environment around you, meaning you’ll find those elusive Pocket Monsters lurking around your nearest bus stop, local gym and everywhere in between. 

Besides, it’s also free-to-play, and the developer continues to add new features for users to enjoy. The only question now is, are you prepared to catch ‘em all? 

Pocket Casts

Cost: £2.99

Available: Android, iOS

Practically every smartphone nowadays comes packing an application to house your collection of podcasts but truth be told, they’re often not very good. Apple’s Podcasts app in particular left much to be desired when it got an overhaul back in the summer of 2015, and on Android, it’s slim pickings. 

Enter Pocket Casts. £2.99 may seem relatively expensive when compared to the vast array of freemium applications scattered across both Android and iOS, but Pocket Casts stands tall above the competition with a simple, elegant interface that neatly organises your digital media files as you see fit. 

Those who choose to sign up also have the freedom to sync episode progress and favorites across compatible devices, meaning you can pick up on your shows anywhere and everywhere. 


Cost: Free

Available: Android, iOS

It’s billed as the “gym membership for your mind.” Headspace is a free and nifty application that comes packing proven meditation techniques to help you get a grapple on your mental health. Even if you’re a total newcomer to meditating, the Take10 initiation process schools you on the deft art of taking time for yourself, creating an audio haven designed to offer a much-needed break away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. 

Don’t believe us? Headspace offers a ten-day trial period that opens up a range of features, including the true standout of the bunch: one-off singles. Stressed at the thought of flying? The application has a meditation specifically tailored to ease your pre-flight jitters, and no matter what weight is pressing on your shoulders, Headspace has the ability to untangle many a mental knot with its calming, serene audio.


Cost: Free

Available: Android, iOS

We’ve all been there; you descend on a foreign city, enthused and ready to explore, only to find that you’ve lost your way — caught up in the flustered excitement that goes hand-in-hand with holidaying abroad. 

Thankfully, the brains behind Citymapper know a thing or two about the stress of travelling. It’s an acclaimed navigation app built to accommodate your urban journey, be that a one-off trip to a foreign landmark or commuting back from the ol’ 9-to-5. 

Only a handful of cities are currently featured — London, Manchester and Birmingham are among the UK selection — and though Google Maps continues to be everyone’s go-to GPS, Citymapper’s raison d'etre is its ability to relay real-time transport updates as they happen, and you can even set up push notifications so that you’re notified of any last-minute disruptions instantaneously. It’s a true feat, and it’s little wonder why Citymapper has garnered critical acclaim across the board. 


Cost: Free

Available: Android, iOS

Photo editing apps are a dime a dozen on the App Store and on Instagram alone you’ll find scores upon scores of filters, photo effects and other editing tools. That means it takes something truly unique to stand head and shoulders above the competition, and though it’s still finding its feet, Prisma is the new kid on the block that has raised eyebrows with its stylish, impressionistic filters.  

Yes, if you’ve spotted a portrait on Facebook that looks as though it was painted by Vincent van Gogh himself, chances are that you’re already familiar with Prisma’s artistic format. 

Transforming your photographs in the blink of an eye, it’s designed to bring out the photographer in us all, and has already proven to be one of, if not the hottest apps of the summer. Plus, with the promise of video support in the not-so-distant future, now is the time to get on the ground floor. 

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