Tops App Suggestions

Tech Tip
A co-worker recently asked me for some suggestions of apps to install on her smartphone. Her phone is relatively new and she was getting up-to-speed on it after moving up from a plain cell phone, which seems to be the case with a lot of people who are moving over to smartphones as their old phones die or their contract comes up for renewal. For those of you going through such a transition, here are the suggestions I made in regards to useful apps that every user should consider adding to their smartphone.

News apps. The CNN and NBC News apps are great for quick headlines with little to no commentary. The wide variety of topics makes it easy to check the news in one app, as you can get the latest world news, sports or entertainment. If you prefer international news, BBC is your best bet for staying in the know. For local news, the new CBS Local app lets you pick one of 24 US cities to follow, including New York or Philadelphia. In addition to the local news, you get the local weather and traffic reports as well, plus you can always switch cities so it is handy if you do a lot of travel and want to know what is going on at your destination.

AccuWeather. I am a weather geek and like this one the best out of all the weather apps. It is the easiest to use, has the best radar and now they do MinuteCast, which has been scary accurate - it will give you an estimate on the expected conditions, like it will start raining in 8 minutes or snow should end in 62 minutes. There are also alerts for conditions expected later in the week, not just the issued warnings and watches, but alerts that highlight an expected windy, hot, rainy or snowy day.

All Recipes (Dinner Spinner). This app lets you access the All Recipes website by looking up recipes by keyword or ingredient. It also lets you create shopping lists and save recipes to your recipe box if you sign up for a free account. The phone version has the Dinner Spinner, which lets you can enter a set of ingredients, hit spin and get suggested recipes, which is handy at the supermarket when you see something on sale and think, I wonder what I could make with that? Another good feature is it lets you enter the number of servings you want and also any food allergy considerations (gluten, sugar, low fat, etc.) and it will adjust the recipe as needed.

QR Code Reader. Last month this blog ran an article on QR codes and that post explains why it is necessary to have a good QR code reader on your phone. QR codes are popping up everywhere and the free reader apps let you scan them so you can access the online information they direct you to, which could be product specifications, nutritional information, directions or any other details related to what they are stuck on.

Shazam is a must for music fans or anyone who wants to find out “what that song is.” Turn on the app and hit tag and it will listen for "musical DNA" in its online database, then report the results to you. It will tell you the song, artist and album and keep that information in its history so you can refer to it later.

Social media apps have evolved to make it easier to access the sites on a phone, so download the ones for sites you already use. The standards all have apps, so you can find free smartphone versions of Facebook, twitter, Instagram and almost any other social site. Most have mobile use highlighted, so on Facebook, for example, you can find the check-in option with the tap of a button.

Flashlight. If you phone does not already have one, find the best rated free flashlight app in the store and download it. You will be glad you did the next time you are searching for your keys or trying to find something in the dark. The flashlight apps work by turning on the camera flash until you hit the stop button in the app.

Library apps. MCLS has a few apps that let you use our services on the go. Download BookMyne for checking your account or searching our catalog. OverDrive Media Console and hoopla let you use our digital media collections, like eBooks and streaming video, on the phone without having to connect to a computer and transfer any files.

iHeart Radio. This music app will let you listen to any iHeart Radio station or free concert from around the country. In addition to local stations, you can surf the airwaves of Los Angeles or Dallas for endless hours of free tunes.

Services you use on a tablet or computer. Spotify, Netflix, Skype, and Groupon are examples of services you may be using on a desktop or laptop, but that you can also take with you on the go by downloading the app for your phone, so be sure to check the service’s website or the app store to see if an app is available for your device.

Apps for entertainment. If you are a sports or entertainment fan and attend frequent games or shows, there are apps that can help you get the most out of your experience. For sports, check the league website or look in the app store for officially licensed apps for use in the stadium. Baseball and football both have apps that can help manage tickets, order food or look up stats during the game. For Broadway fans, apps like TodayTix let you grab tickets in a hurry or enter lotteries for hard-to-get shows. As for movies, try Flixster and also look for an app for the theater chain you visit the most, as they all include show times and the ability to buy tickets online (Flixster also has Rotten Tomatoes). One even has a break feature that lets you know when you can step out for snacks or the bathroom without missing any key plot points.

Productivity apps. Do not forget to download apps like Adobe Reader or Office if you think you will be using your phone to open attachments from e-mail or brush up documents while on the go. Also look into apps like Evernote or One Note if you want to add notes to your phone, like shopping lists or things you want to remember once you get home. If you have an Android device, do remember to download an antivirus app to keep the device safe. The open source nature of the Android software make it easier to hack with a virus.

For fun. Games can be a good diversion if you are stuck in a line or waiting room. Even if you do not like to play action games, there are plenty of puzzle games out there so you can have crossword puzzles, Sudoku or even jigsaw puzzles with you all the time.

Finally, do keep tabs on what is popular. All the app stores have charts that show the top paid and top free apps, as well as the top new apps. Some break these lists down by category so you can find the top apps by genre.

-Laura N.

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