There’s so much to say about the most addictive of technological tools, those ever-so-helpful yet oh-so-distracting phone apps. They’re fast, they’re fun, they’re useful, they’re cheap (or free), they’re portable and they’re always there to help you beat the humdrum monotony of the daily grind. They come in all price points, speeds, preferences and functions, and work on a variety of today’s enviable handheld devices—iPod Touches, BlackBerry Smartphones, iPads, Androids and iPhones. But what exactly is an app? Why buy an app or download one of the several free ones? What’s the big deal about these little programming wizards anyhow and why is everyone so smitten with them?
As of late 2009, more than 100,000 apps were available for download from the Apple App Store, the largest store for apps in the world and, at that point in time, over 10,000 apps were downloaded per day. Since then, the number of available apps has only continued to increase, due to a startlingly high demand. “The rate of App Store downloads continues to accelerate, with users downloading a staggering two billion apps in just over a year, including more than half a billion apps this quarter alone,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, in a recent press release. “The App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it.” That’s not to mention the thousands of apps available for download from other stores like Android Market and BlackBerry App World.
With everything from weight loss apps, to X-ray apps, to home organizing apps, to bird watching apps, to personal finance apps, the app’s utility ranges far and wide. With more than 100,000 to sift through (and that’s just within one app store), it’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin or how to separate the all-stars from the duds. So, we’ve chosen a few of our personal favorites that aren’t only helpful as happy distractions, but as reliable tools for your life.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s mixture of charm and skill has buoyed him to culinary success through a series of cookbooks and television shows. Now you can carry personable Oliver’s influence with you everywhere you go. Watch 90 minutes worth of cooking lessons and advice, browse through 60 decadent (yet simple) recipes and have the app automatically create a shopping list for you based on the recipe you choose to make that day. This app makes eating well an easy and effective endeavor.
Perfect for the health-conscious consumer or the dieter, simply take a photo of a product’s barcode with your phone and nutrition facts will pop up on the screen. You will have the option of adding “I ate this” for each product. At the end of the day, your app will have a complete list of that day’s intake with an itemized list of nutrients, calories, salts and fats.
If you’re one of those self-proclaimed “storm chasers,” this app will come in handy any time you have the urge to surf satellite maps on the web—when you should be busy preparing for your next patient. Read through quick, up-to-date tornado, hurricane and severe thunderstorm warnings; look at local weather maps (updated approximately every five or 10 minutes) and access the weather patterns of more than 25,000 cities. Now, when you call friends and family members with updated storm stats, you’ll be able to tell them what’s going on with much more authority.
Creator: Base Velocity, LLC
Unleash your inner artist in between patient visits with an app that lets you add accents to any photograph you choose. Import your latest vacation photos into your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch library, and the app will immediately transfer images from color to black and white. Release your creative genius by adding splashes of color to your favorite memories.
Creator: Pocket Pixels Inc.
This ap utilizes the best attributes of MapQuest and takes them on the go by giving you a fast-paced personal GPS. Track exactly where you are in the world and where you’re going. Audio directions, detailed maps, traffic conditions and directions are all available with a simple click. Get aerial maps, interactive maps and a handy “My Places” function that allows you to save maps and directions to your favorite destinations. If you don’t have the address handy, the app will even help you locate a spot based on the company or restaurant name. Plus, when you use the version for Mobile iPhone with your iPod, MQ4Mobile will turn down the music as it speaks directions. You’ll never have an excuse to get lost again!
Stay in the know and get the news as it happens with this mobile extension of The New York Times. New articles appear as they are posted online with sections like popular, saved and latest to help you navigate the information. Unlike the website of the award-winning newspaper, this app allows you to save articles after leaving a Wi-Fi site for a later viewing.
Creator: The New York Times Company
This helpful tool creates radio stations based completely on your personal preferences. Type in your favorite artist and the app will find similar artists you may like. Veto the suggestions or give them a thumbs up depending on your reaction to the music. You can be as sporadic or as steadfast as you’d like with the station, and the great thing is, the app will keep readjusting to find the music that will best suit you! Mix an R&B artist with your favorite country crooner, then throw in some old Buddy Holly to your station settings. What you’ll find are multiple open doors to a world of music you may have never known otherwise.
Creator: Pandora Media, Inc.
Long waits in the airport or on the way to work just got a lot more interesting with Audible’s app for Android. Download the latest bestseller you’ve been meaning to pick up and listen to books on tape everywhere you go. Not feeling a full-length novel or memoir? Audible offers access to hundreds of podcasts, radio shows, speeches, comedy acts and magazine articles as well.
Creator: Audible, Inc.
We are a social-network-crazed society. So much so, that the people from Flipboard Inc. have found a way for us to access Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and our other favorite sites without having to think about it. Your log-in info from various social networking sites come together with your all-time favorite news sites, celebrity sites and anything else you typically read to form a magazine catered specifically to your needs. Friend posts and late breaking news are constantly updated to your unique “social magazine” for a convenient, entertaining collection of reading material that is specific to your own tastes.
Creator: Flipboard Inc.
Ah, the old clearance sale conundrum. When you see a 30 percent off sign for a designer label, do you immediately feel the urge to splurge? This app helps you rationalize how much you’re actually paying with an on-the-spot conversion tool. Simply type in the regular price, the percent of sale and the sales tax, then see how much the total bill is in a cinch. Find out how much you’re saving when an item is marked down 30 percent and limit your purchases to the best bargains instead of your usual “If it’s on sale, I’m saving money” mantra.
Creator: Pablo Verd Gallego
Feel agitated about all of your fantasy leagues when you can’t seem to catch the scores? That’s no longer a problem. ESPN’s app allows you to check on all of the latest scores for all of your favorite teams. The app gives you instantaneous data from more than 500 sports leagues worldwide.
Become part of the cultural phenomenon and download the game that everyone is talking about. At the time of print, this game topped the list of apps as the highest downloaded app in several countries, including the U.S. The premise of the game is that you shoot cute, angry birds from a slingshot at several bright green pigs. The end result? A game that is utterly addictive.
Try out a few of these apps next time you’ve got some time to kill. Be careful not to get too absorbed in these apps though … time tends to get lost when you’re busy doing nothing.
Pick from 54 different molds—dog, cat, gecko, star—and make a funky, Jell-O friend. Fill him up with Gummy Worms or bananas (or 64 other fillings), add a picture of the finished product to your photo album, then deflate your mold and bounce it around the screen before slurping it up with a straw.
Creator: Shoe The Goose
Simulate the sound and motion of a real whip without the threat of physical harm or a restraining order. It’s great for cowboys and cowgirls of all ages.
Creator: Fabian Heuwieser
Revert to your pre-school days with an app that lets you finger paint across the screen of your phone. Choose to make your finger larger or smaller, pick your paints, and then let the splattering begin. It’s perfect for frustrated artists and small children.
Creator: Delta Faucet Company
Own your very own animated cat. Pet him, slap him, make him talk, pull his tail, give him a dish of milk. Relish in being a bad pet owner, or a very good one.
Apps aren’t just for kicks, they can help you grow your practice too. Take inspiration from these applications and start developing one of your own.
Life University has just debuted an app of its very own. The first ever vitalism-based application, it lets the user determine his/her wellness score within Life’s Wellness Portfolio, then allows users to improve on that score. An additional myKnowledge tab provides access to vitalistic-based news, while a myProducts section provides a helpful list of natural and holistic products. Users can also search for DCs in their area.
Creator: Life University
View appointments, contact info, doctor referrals, payments and patient histories while you’re away from the office through this interface to MacPractice software.
Price: $800 with a $200 annual service charge.
TCL recently polled its editorial board and staff for their favorite phone applications. Here’s what we’re addicted to:
“With as much time as I spend commuting and traveling, I love always having a great current book on tap. Audible is free but the service costs a small monthly fee which allows me to download directly to my phone and to my computer for about one quarter of the cost of normal audio books,” says Mary Flannery, TCL editorial board member.
“This American Life: This inexpensive app allows me to stream my favorite NPR show of all time, and it not only streams the latest episode, it allows complete access to the full library,” says Flannery. “The best part is I never get stuck in my driveway listening to the end of the program on the car radio, because it’s portable! I listen to this when I work out all the time!”
“I love Fruit Ninja: Why? The tagline: ‘All ninjas hate fruit’ says it all,” says Flannery. “This game allows me to get out my aggression while slicing juicy fruit. And, it’s Zen.”
“I like “Shotgun” because I’m able to transfer my unenviable hostility into a fabulous free app that uses the iPhone accelerometer to mimic not only the sound of a shotgun but also the pump action,” says Vitalism Signs columnist Rebecca Koch. “It’s embarrassing so I don’t share it with just anyone. Well, until now!”
You’ll find Koch perusing apps that keep her socially connected—Facebook—and entertained. Her favorites in the amusement category include Live Moon, which allows you to check the phases of the moon, Spider Solitaire, “a very fun way to kill time waiting for an oil change” and Whack Pack, an app to spark your creativity. Her favorite movie-related apps include IMdB, Flixster and Phone Flicks.
“I also like Battery Magic. It makes up for the lack of a real battery meter on the iPhone,” says Koch. “It lets me know how much the battery has charged and how long it’ll last for a variety of tasks, like web browsing, games and so on.”
“Finally, it’s been great that the App Store has added the capacity to gift apps to other people. It’s a nice way to let someone know that you’re thinking about them,” says Koch. “If you find a cool app and know that a friend would enjoy it, you can just include their e-mail and the App Store will send them a message—letting them know of the gift and how to download it.”