We pick out some of the best Android apps to download on your new phone, including free apps, paid apps, popular Android apps and some apps you might not know.
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What is Unclouded?
Cloud storage services are great but it seems everyone’s got a favourite for storing and sending online files. That means, if you’re anything like me, you’ve had to sign up for everything from Dropbox to OneDrive at some point. Which leaves you with several accounts in desperate need of consolidation. Enter, Unclouded.
Put simply, the app allows you view and manage the files in all your cloud storage services. And that pretty much covers it. Simple – just how a good app should be.
Unclouded has all you would expect from an app offering to make life slightly easier, with its clean, Material Design-based interface and easy usability. In fact, it’s probably the best-looking cloud management app I’ve seen.
One nice little design feature is the file path visualisation which appears at the top of the screen whenever you are navigating between folders. There’s something satisfying about the way a new folder name will slide into view once you tap to open it, and of course, seeing exactly where you are in terms of files makes the whole thing much easier to use.
But there’s slightly more to it than great design. Unclouded allows you to easily identify which files or folders are taking up the most storage. As soon as you add an account from Google Drive or OneDrive etc. you’ll be given a breakdown of the files and folders within each service, which when clicked on, show you a list of the individual files with the largest at the top. Add a Google account, and you can see how much space your Drive, Email, and Photos files are taking up.
You can then ask Unclouded to find duplicate files, which it does incredibly quickly, and peruse the resulting list, deciding which files to delete and which to keep. It’s all very simple and intuitive, plus you can use the app offline which is a nice bonus.
If you want to add more than two accounts, you’ll need to upgrade to one of the premium packages. You can choose to add individual features, all of which cost 99p and include the ability to add password protection to Unclouded, add a dark theme, or add unlimited accounts. If you want them all you can pay £2.49, or if you want them all plus any future updates, it’s £3.49. It makes sense to offer individual upgrades, but at the same time it all seems a bit confusing at first. Surely they could have thrown the Dark Theme in with the free version?
Having all your cloud accounts in one place is very useful, especially when you can navigate between them as easily as this. Unclouded is the best-looking cloud account manager available and comes with a load of features that make it worth downloading. It’ll cost you to add more than two cloud services, but once you’ve used Unclouded, you’ll probably be tempted to do just that.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free (99p-£3.49 for premium versions) | In-app purchases? No | Download Unclouded
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What is Dark Sky?
Let’s face it, weather forecasts are pretty much pointless these days. Forecasters can never seem to get things right. Which might be why hyper-local weather app Dark Sky, with its accurate precipitation notifications, has managed to amass an almost cult-like following since it debuted on iOS. Now that the popular service has finally hit Android, we thought we’d give it a try.
You’re going to want to pay for the full version of Dark Sky, as it comes with all the best features. The main draw here is the precise precipitation notifications for your exact location. Dark Sky will tell you when the rain will start or stop using straightforward alerts such as: “Heavy rain starting in 15 minutes”. It’s very useful and surprisingly accurate. There’s also a Daily Summary, which sends a push notification detailing the day ahead with a temperature and weather summary.
In terms of its interface, Dark Sky arguably looks better on Android than on iOS. The design is the same, but the solid colours make for a cleaner looking app that retains its distinctive appearance while actually enhancing clarity.
The main page gives you a quick rundown of the temperature at your location, with several icons in a navigation bar at the bottom. Using these icons you can get a look at the week ahead, bring up a map view which will show patches of precipitation or a visualisation of temperature, and, if you sign up for the premium version, set various alerts for precipitation and summaries etc.
It’s all very simple and easy to use, and on the whole it’s pretty accurate, especially when being used to get updates on imminent weather changes. The accuracy obviously drops the further into the future you look, but overall Dark Sky does a good job of keeping you up to date.
If you sign up for the Premium version you’ll get two weeks free, after which the app costs a very reasonable £2.99 per year. For that price you’ll get the ability to add widgets, activate notifications, and the all-important rainfall updates.
For some reason, Dark Sky on iOS is a pay once app, whereas Android owners will have to sign up to a yearly subscription. The £2.99 price tag isn’t exactly going to break the bank, but it would have been nice to get the same deal as iOS users, especially considering the hyper-local rainfall updates are only available with the premium service.
There’s also a few small issues with the app itself. The map view can take some time to load, and precipitation patterns are similarly sluggish to appear.
This is arguably the best weather app available, and it’s finally made its way to Android. If you want an accurate and innovative weather service, Dark Sky is the app for you. It’s just a shame we Android users are expected to sign up for a subscription, where iOS users can just pay once. Still, you can try it free for two weeks, which we highly recommend you do.
Score: 8/10 | Price: Free (2.99 per year for Premium version) | In-app purchases? No | Download Dark Sky
World Around Me (WAM)
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What is it?
World Around Me, or WAM, is a tool for finding out about places of interest around you. Winner of the Google Play Awards ‘Early Adopter’ category, this app uses your phone’s camera to highlight local restaurants, parks, museums, cinemas, and other interesting places in your immediate area.
So what exactly is the ‘Early Adopter; award? Well, according to Google it rewards adopters of a nascent technology or platform – in this case the use of a very basic augmented reality. The main feature of WAM is the ability to point your phone’s camera at the surrounding area and see small cards appear next to places of interest. The cards will include the name of the place, a review rating, and the distance to that particular location.
In the top left of the screen there’s a small radar icon, with dots representing the location of nearby attractions. Point the camera in the direction of a dot, tap the card that appears on-screen, and you’ll get more information and options.
Taking the app for a spin in central London, I tapped on the card for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre for example, which would give me more information, the option to call the venue or visit its website, read reviews, or view the location on Google Maps.
And it works straight away. You just download the app, choose from a list of categories such as ‘Eat’, ‘Money’, ‘Enjoy’, and more, and the app will load up your camera viewfinder. That’s it, you’re ready to start finding interesting places around you. There’s also a list view for those that don’t want to use the camera, which will simply show a list of the nearest places of interest, and a map view.
One of the cool features is the real-time distance indicator that appears on the various cards and which decreases the closer you get to the location. The other great thing about WAM is the sheer amount of places you’re able to search for. Pretty much anything you can search for on Google Maps is searchable within the app.
There’s no question that there’s a novelty factor to WAM that some will find wears off fairly quickly. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat nearby, WAM isn’t going to offer any more suggestions than Google Maps.
It’s cool to see the augmented reality view in practice at first, and for many it might prove to be more usable. But it’s essentially the same functionality you get from any map app, just implemented in a more visually striking way.
You also have to pay if you want the Pro version, which gets rid of the ads and includes higher-quality photos of the many places of interest.
WAM is something a bit different. It’s no more useful than a decent map app when it comes to finding local services and places of interest, but it’s undeniably cool to see even this very basic form of augmented reality working, and may even prove to be a more intuitive way to discover local hot spots for many.
Score: 8/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download WAM
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What is it?
There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to mobile browsers, but Opera Mini might just be one of the most useful. This browser features a number of data-saving features which allow you to traverse the net without worrying about exceeding your data allowance. A recent update also added a nifty ad blocker to further improve the online experience.
Obviously, the standout feature of Opera Mini is the data-saving aspect. What’s really nice about this browser is that it gives you a certain level of control over how scaled-down you want each website to be. That means you can find the perfect balance between conserving your precious data and maintaining a decent web experience.
There’s essentially two data-saving modes to choose between. ‘High’ will keep the web experience looking similar to how it would without data-saving turned on, while still managing to save you a load of Megabytes. I regularly managed to get around a 55% saving, meaning the browser managed to load most sites by only receiving 45% of the megabytes needed to load it. ‘Extreme’ is for when you’re on your last bit of 4G. It severely limits the amount of data whichever website you’re visiting sends to your handset. Text will be displayed in a simple font and pictures will be compressed. I found that Extreme usually saved me an impressive 89% of the data needed to load a site.
Switching between the two settings is incredibly easy. You can just hit the Opera logo in the bottom right and tap the ‘Savings Mode’ section to make a quick change. If you want to make further tweaks you can head into settings, where there a few more options such as the ability to change the resolution of images.
It’s all very straightforward and a great way to save your data when you’re approaching your limit for the month. Even if you have unlimited data, Opera Mini is great for when you need to get online but your signal isn’t very strong.
And it’s not all about conserving data. Other features include the ability to receive Facebook notifications through the browser, and a handy Night Mode that filters out blue light to save your eyes before you sleep.
Not a lot really. Using Opera Mini, I never encountered any crashes, got to grips with the data-saving settings very quickly, and generally found it to be a useful and easy to use app. However, if you’re using Extreme settings, you may find some websites don’t load properly. Text and images will overlap and some websites are unreadable on this setting. It’s a rare occurrence, though.
Opera Mini is the perfect browser for those who often find themselves exceeding their monthly data allowance. Its various settings make it easy to tailor the data-saving features, and the clean interface is very easy to use. Give it a go if you’re looking to save some Gigabytes.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Opera Mini Browser
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What is it?
You don’t need years of experience in Photoshop or inDesign to create stylish, shareable and dare I say, sexy graphics. Word Swag does it all for you – well, sort of. All you need to do is choose a background, enter your text or maybe a quote, pick a font style and that’s it – you’ve created a great-looking graphic you can share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even your own website.
Word Swag uses what they call a Typomatic engine to generate the content. It’s basically a graphic designer in your pocket. You’re probably not going to use it to create professional billboard posters, but for blog posts, YouTube thumbnails, and sharing on social media, it’s incredibly handy to be able to create great-looking graphics in just a couple of minutes.
There are loads of templates to choose from, which you combine with images and text to create anything you like. At last count there’s more than 590,000 free backgrounds and 48 text styles. The developer, Oringe Inc, continues to update the app and add new content, but if you’d prefer to use your own, you can take pictures to use as a backgrounds. There’s a lot of potential to create varied and interesting designs, and it’s actually a lot of fun as well.
What’s Not So Good?
Although most of the backgrounds and styles are available from the start, some are locked unless you Like the Word Swag page on social media. It’s completely optional though, and much better than having to buy it with an in-app purchase.
You really can’t go wrong with Word Swag. If, like me, you sometimes struggle with being creative – you’re not sure which styles work with which backgrounds for example – Word Swag holds your hand the whole way and you’ll be surprised how cool the graphics can look.
Originally only available on the Apple App Store, Word Swag is now on Android too (albeit for 50p more). But it’s still good value considering the versatility of the tool and the way it allows you to quickly and easily create stylish graphics.
Score: 9/10 | Price: £3.49 | In-app purchases? No | Download Word Swag
Reviewed by Tom Honeyands
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What is Younity?
If you’re looking to access media stored on your computer through your smartphone, Younity might just be the app for you. Much like the popular Plex app, Younity turns your computer into a home media server, allowing you to stream movies, view photos, and listen to music through your handset without having to transfer all the files to your phone.
In order to use Younity, you’ll need to install the app on both your handset and your computer. The setup process on both is incredibly simple. You can download, install, and set up the app on both your computer and tablet or phone within 10 minutes. The Android app is available through the Play Store, and you can visit the Younity website to download the desktop version. You can also download Younity on as many devices as you like.
Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll be asked to sign in with a Facebook or Google account, or sign up using an email address. I opted for the latter. After you’ve clicked the right button in the standard verification email, Younity will immediately start scanning your computer for files.
Considering I have quite a large amount of music and pictures on my Macbook’s internal storage, the time it took for Younity to scan and index everything was remarkably quick. I was browsing and streaming photos and music on my phone within 2 or 3 minutes of setting the app up on my computer.
The interface is incredibly clean, while the material design elements make the whole experience distinctly familiar. Browsing through your various files is made easy with the inclusion of a menu that slides out from the side of the screen and breaks down your files into Music, Videos, Photos, and Files. You also have the option to search, which makes things a lot easier if you have a lot of files and can’t quite remember where they’re all stored.
Everything is just incredibly straight forward, which is exactly what you want from any app such as this. I had absolutely no problems during setup or use.
What’s more, the service is very secure. Nothing ever gets uploaded to the cloud, rather, a personal cloud is created using only the devices you sign up with, and the whole thing is encrypted. Younity also works with AirPlay, so you can stream media to your TV or stereo, plus you can upload photos to social media direct from your computer through your phone.
We’re struggling to find anything wrong with this one. Not only does it deliver on its promise to allow you access to your stored media from anywhere, the whole thing is completely free and there’s not an ad in sight. The one thing that would have been nice is Chromecast support, but according to the developers, that’s on its way.
A simple, easy to use service that does everything it promises. Airplay integration is great, and with Chromecast support on the way, plus the fact that the whole thing is completely free, Younity is a must-have app for anyone wanting on-the-go access to their stored files and media.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Younity
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What is Trello?
When it comes to organisation apps, you’re beyond spoilt for choice. It seems like new apps offering to help simplify your life appear on the Play Store every day. Among the hordes of organisation apps however, Trello stands out as a powerful yet simple tool for planning projects.
The whole thing is based around boards, on which you can make lists. You then populate these lists with cards. For instance, you might have a ‘to do’ list with several cards for each job, a ‘working on’ list for jobs you plan to work on that day, and a ‘done’ list for when you finish a job. You can then drag the cards between lists depending on their status.
Trello makes it incredibly easy to start using different boards. It works best in its full desktop browser setup, but the mobile app is just as useful, if slightly more difficult to use. If you have a Trello account, you can simply sign in when you download the app and your existing boards will be synced to your phone.
What’s great about Trello is that it can be used for so many things. If you want to use it simply as a ‘to do’ list with extra features, it’s great for that. If you want to use it to visualise a personal project it’s great for that too. And if you want to use it as a way of organising your team at work it’s range of collaborative working options make it the perfect tool.
Despite the fact that a smartphone screen somewhat detracts from the experience by limiting your view of a board, the mobile experience is still very fluid and accessible. Tap a board, tap a list to add a card, and tap and hold to drag a card between lists. Easy stuff.
You can do all the things that the desktop browser version offers, such as adding other members to a board, assigning them to cards, or tagging certain cards with colours. There’s also the option to attach files to cards from Google Drive or Dropbox. The app also encourages collaborative working by allowing you and other members to comment on specific cards. All of this is incredibly easy to do, and Trello has been designed in line with Google’s Material Design, so the user interface feels familiar.
I used Trello to organise my work tasks, personal ‘to do’ items, and plan projects and found it very easy to use. I was never looking through menus for a particular option or wishing I could do something that Trello doesn’t allow. It all just works well.
Not a lot really. Some reviewers have asked for better widgets, and it would certainly be nice to have a widget which shows you the status of a particular card you’ve assigned someone to. But on the whole Trello works incredibly well, and I have never encountered any issues other than when my phone has lost data connection.
Trello combines ease of use with a range of extra features, making it an adaptable tool which you can use to organise any type of project you want. With a clean and intuitive UI, plus the fact that the whole thing is entirely free, there’s no reason not to at least investigate it for yourself.
Score: 10/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Trello
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What is Launchify?
Any smartphone user knows that slight reductions in the amount of time it takes to carry out a task can make all the difference to the mobile experience. Launchify allows you to quickly launch your favourite apps without having to return to your homescreen or app menu.
A constant notification provides you with a line of your most used apps which you can set to change based on your location. And there’s also lock screen and home screen widgets, allowing you to get quick access to your favourite apps from anywhere. It’s a very simple but incredibly useful service.
Launchify begins working as soon as you download it and tap the app icon. Once you’ve given Launchify access to your apps, you’ll be taken to the home screen where you can start customising. As mentioned, a constant notification, featuring your most-used apps, will appear in your notifications shade. You can customise this notification very easily by tapping on ‘custom apps’ from the Launchify’s home screen and selecting the apps you want to appear.
Alternatively you can set a Home and Work address which allows Launchify to change the line up of apps in the notification based upon where you are and which apps you mostly use in those locations. It can also tell when you’re driving and recommend apps you might need, such as Google Maps. Simple but clever.
And it works well. I found that Launchify did a good job of anticipating the apps I needed, although you’ll need to use it for a few days before the location service learns your habits properly. And even though the time it takes to go to one of your home screens and tap an app wasn’t ever a huge problem, the small reduction does make a difference. Swiping down from the top and then tapping an app feels intuitive and speedy.
The constant notification is slightly irritating. Every now and then you’ll think you have a message, only to realise you’ve got Launchify turned on. It’s a small issue though, and you can always use the app’s lock screen and home screen widgets instead.
If you want to add more than six apps to the notification, you’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version, which also allows you to manually add contacts to the notification. It’ll cost you £1.50, so it’s not the most expensive upgrade, but you might find that six apps is all you need anyway, making the upgrade somewhat unnecessary.
Launchify is easy to use and allows you to access your favourite apps from anywhere. Its interface is also simple enough that you’ll be using Launchify confidently within minutes of downloading it. It’s not going to revolutionise the smartphone experience, but it’s a handy tool for anyone looking for quick access to their favourite apps.
Score: 8/10 | Price: Free (£1.50 for Pro version) | In-app purchases? No | Download Launchify
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What is BeyondPod?
BeyondPod is a podcast player and manager with some cool extra features such as the ability to integrate with Feedly. The app contains content from both small and big publishers so you should be able to find pretty much any podcast you search for. It’s been around for a while now, but has seen a number of improvements which make it one of the best podcast apps you’ll find on the Play Store.
Like any good app, BeyondPod makes it easy to get set up. Once you open it for the first time you’ll be asked to choose your favourite categories, from Comedy to News, and the app will suggest some feeds to start following.
Within minutes of downloading it, I found several of my favourite podcasts and was downloading new episodes. In fact, there wasn’t any podcast which BeyondPod failed to find, from Serial to WTF.
The app also creates ‘smart playlists’ based on your listening habits, although I found it easier to just navigate through my downloaded content myself. You can also easily create playlists by tapping the ‘plus’ symbol below each podcast episode, which I found more useful than trusting BeyondPod to guess my listening schedule.
BeyondPod is also compatible with Android Auto and comes with playback features such as volume boost and the ability to adjust playback speed. You can also use the configurable skip buttons to quickly go back 10 or 30 seconds, or whatever you choose as the standard skip options. This is a very useful feature as the timeline indicator can often be difficult to use on a small phone screen and I found myself using the custom skip buttons a lot instead of trying to manually go back to re-hear something I missed.
With the Pro version you also get Chromecast support, so you can cast video and audio content from the app direct to your TV or speaker system. When you first download the app you will be given seven days of the Pro version as a trial. That means you’ll get the Chromecast support, device synchronisation (which means you can pick up where you left off across multiple devices), and automatic downloads where BeyondPod will download new episodes overnight.
After the seven day trial you’ll have to pay a pretty hefty £5.56 for an unlock key if you do decide to go Pro. There’s no obligation to do so, but considering there are other podcast apps which supply some of the Pro features as standard the price seems quite high. Still, many will find the price reasonable having got used to BeyondPod’s simple and easy playback interface and extra features.
A recent update caused controversy among Play Store reviewers who say BeyondPod was easier to use before the update rolled out. The app does seem to have a lot of extra settings hidden away in various menus and at first it’s unclear whether the suggested feeds that result from your category preferences are feeds you are subscribed to or are simply there as recommendations.
BeyondPod is a great way to manage and listen to podcasts. The player is simple and easy to use, there’s tonnes of content, and the extra features are genuinely useful. While the price for the Pro version is fairly steep and the home screen layout could be a little clearer, BeyondPod will not disappoint anyone looking for a comprehensive podcast manager.
Score: 8/10 | Price: Free (£5.56 for Pro version) | In-app purchases? No | Download BeyondPod
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What is AirDroid?
For those Android users feeling left out by Apple’s Continuity feature, which allows you to integrate your iPhone with your tablet and Mac, AirDroid has the answer. It’s more than just a wireless file transfer and notification tool. AirDroid also allows you to share your phone’s screen with your laptop, create a Wi-Fi hotspot, clear out RAM space, and access your phone via a desktop web browser. Basically, the developers have provided you with every type of sharing and maintenance facility you need.
As mentioned, AirDroid packs in a load of features beyond the usual sharing tools. Rather than making it feel overloaded, the extra stuff, such as the virus scanner and RAM optimisation, are nice features which don’t clutter the home menu and make AirDroid feel like a well-thought out and comprehensive tool.
When it comes to the main features, such as file sharing and notifications, AirDroid is incredibly easy to use, as all good apps should be. You can log in using Facebook, Google, or Twitter, or create an account in seconds by adding your email address and a password. Once I’d signed up on my phone, it was simply a case of downloading the desktop version of the app on my laptop and logging in using the email and password I’d set up through my phone.
As soon as I’d done that, my handset was detected by the desktop AirDroid app and I was sharing files and receiving notifications on my laptop instantly. There was almost no lag between notifications popping up on my phone and them appearing on my desktop and you also have the option to reply to messages and calls through your computer.
There’s versions of AirDroid for Windows, Mac and a web extension, so there’s no limitations depending on which platform you prefer. And you can add friends who also use AirDroid to quickly transfer files.
The obvious drawback with any wireless sharing platform is that, depending on how speedy your Wi-Fi is, it’s not going to be as fast as plugging a cable in and transferring files that way. But that’s not a specific criticism of AirDroid and I had no issues with files not transferring or notifications not showing. Still, if I wanted to transfer a lot of larger files, I would still go for the cable method.
Other than that there’s a couple of ads included by way of extra icons on the homescreen and you have to upgrade to the premium version to get extra features such as bigger file transfers and the ability to link more than two devices. From what I can tell, upgrading to the premium edition is done by sharing the app with your friends, as I couldn’t find any way to pay for the upgrade.
AirDroid is a polished and easy to use file transfer app with a range of extra features that are actually useful. The fact that both Windows and Mac are catered for, plus the ability to use the web extension, allowing you to sync your phone with pretty much any computer you use, also makes it incredibly versatile. AirDroid almost feels like it should be an official standard Android feature.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download AirDroid
Adobe Premiere Clip
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What is Adobe Premiere Clip?
Adobe has provided Android users with an easy to use yet fairly in-depth video editor in the form of Adobe Premiere Clip. The app allows you to create video edits easily and quickly while providing a range of editing options that other video editors for smartphones don’t have. What’s more, you can open any project you make using Clip in Adobe’s full desktop video editor Premiere Pro.
Premiere Clip makes good on its promise of easy usability. The layout is simple enough to figure out intuitively, with a Google-like ‘plus’ icon in the bottom right for making a new edit.
Once you hit the plus you can choose to import video from your device, the Creative Cloud, or shoot new video or photos. After selecting the clips you want to use, Premiere Clip will give you the option to make your own edit or create a random one with the ‘Automatic’ feature. This option will cut your video together by matching the beats of whichever soundtrack you choose. It works well, and adds a nice feature for those looking to create a quick montage edit without delving into the deeper customisation options.
When it comes to the ‘Freeform’ option, things are similarly straightforward. You get a simple layout showing your imported clips, which acts as the final edit timeline, with a video display at the top to check your full edit. The interface makes it easy to add effects, play with the exposure, highlights, and shadows of your clips, and add music.
One drawback I found was when adding filters or effects to individual clips, the app would apply it to all the clips in my timeline, which was disappointing. But that was a minor drawback to what is a nice and clean editing interface. The options at the top of the screen make it incredibly easy to tweak the clips and add standard effects such as crossfades and fade-ins.
Once you’re finished with the edit, you can share or publish the video in a variety of ways, including exporting to the Creative Cloud, direct to YouTube, or saving the exported video to your device’s memory. You can also save the project to be opened in Premiere Pro, which is a nice feature to include, allowing for further and more advanced editing on the desktop programme.
All in all, the experience is startlingly pain-free, and I was able to figure out how to use the various features and start editing in minutes.
Unfortunately, the app will upload your created video timelines to the Adobe Creative Cloud automatically when you’re connected to Wi-Fi. There doesn’t seem to be any way to turn the feature off, and you don’t even have to have shared or published the video in order for the cloud to start syncing your projects.
It also seems that Adobe doesn’t want you exporting clips with any higher resolution than 720p. The app will scale down higher-res shots to 720p before publishing your video edits, which for the casual user won’t matter too much, but for those looking to make and upload high-quality videos, this could pose a problem.
What’s more, I often encountered an issue with importing my own tracks to use as backing music. The app crashed several times and would often just not load the music. This is something that needs to be fixed urgently.
Adobe’s video editor for handheld devices manages to combine an array of features with a refined and easy to use interface. Despite the syncing and downgrading issues, most will find all they need in Adobe Premiere Clip. A further update to address the music importing issue will make this one of, if not the best video editor for Android devices.
Score: 8/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Adobe Premiere Clip
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What is Pintasking?
An app for power users, Pintasking allows you to switch between various apps with ease. It’s essentially a replacement for the ALT-TAB shortcut on Windows computers and allows you to pin apps to the side of your screen for easy switching between them. It also adds the ability to quickly go back to the last app you were using with some intuitive swipe controls.
Pintasking makes things extremely easy for those of us who use multiple apps at the same time. Its main feature is the ability to pin apps/tasks/documents to the side of the screen for quick access. You do this by tapping the constant notification that appears in your notification bar when you swipe down from the top of your screen. The app icons then appear in floating circles on the right side of the screen (you can adjust the size, appearance, and position of these circles with the Pro version which will cost you £2.99).
You can also tinker with the pins’ behaviour quite a bit using the app’s comprehensive settings options. For example, you can make the pinned icon disappear when you’re in its app or have it stay in place and act as a button to take you back to the previous app you were using.
The free version of Pintasking allows you to pin two apps, while the Pro version will allow you to pin an unlimited number. The developers have also made it as easy to get rid of the pinned apps as it is to add them. Just drag them into the centre of the screen and then down to the ‘trash’ icon.
It all works seamlessly and it seems the developers have thought of everything. The settings menu allows you to tweak any aspect you can think of, giving you the feeling that Pintasking went through extensive testing before it was released.
They’ve also made it so that you can turn swiping on, which allows you to pin apps and switch between the current task and your previous one by simply swiping down from the top of your screen. And don’t worry, you can customise how much of the top of the screen reacts to swiping so it won’t interfere with you trying to bring up the notifications bar. It really does seem like the developers have thought of everything.
Not a lot. The sheer amount of settings (most of which only come with the Pro version) mean that any irritations you’re likely to encounter have been pre-empted. The free version clears your pinned apps when you turn the screen off, which can be slightly annoying, but the Pro version is more than worth the £2.99 price.
It can also feel a little overwhelming when you first open the settings menu but there are explanations attached to most settings which will guide you through the process of customising the app’s performance. Other than that, this thing really does work well.
Pintasking combines simplicity with depth. It is simple to use while providing you with fairly extensive customisation options. If you regularly use multiple apps on your tablet or phone, then Pintasking is a great way to streamline your work.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free (£2.99 for the Pro version) | In-app purchases? No | Download Pintasking
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What is Sleep Partner?
Sleep assistance apps seem to be springing up in bewildering abundance recently, while stories about the effects of ‘blue light’ on sleep cycles become similarly ubiquitous. From apps that wake you up at the right point in a sleep cycle, to those that play white noise to aid your slumber, app developers seem to really care about the many different ways in which you can hit the sack.
Enter Sleep Partner. Currently in beta mode, the sleep management app helps you to get to bed at your target time by using several features including filtering out blue light and reminding you to get to bed in a particularly novel way involving cartoon sheep. It also includes an alarm feature, which uses the sounds of birds chirping to help rouse you in as gentle a way as possible.
Sleep Partner is simplicity defined. The app opens with a screen where you set your desired bed and wake-up time. Once you set your target bedtime, the app will filter out 83% of the blue light from your screen three hours before you are due to hit the hay. It basically makes your screen take on a kind of sepia tone, but actually feels quite nice to reduce the glare as the day winds down.
Amazon has just released a new software upgrade which does the same for its Amazon Fire tablet range, and experts have long been warning against the effects of staring at a screen blasting blue light at you before going to sleep. Sleep Partner makes it incredibly easy to ensure you remember to turn your blue light filter on by doing it automatically based on your target bedtime.
It’s also quite nice to wake up to an alarm that doesn’t use one of the stock alarm tones which come with your phone. The standard options seem to always be based on lively and vaguely ethnic-sounding music, which aren’t exactly conducive to a gentle awakening in the mornings. Thankfully, Sleep Partner will stir you with the mellifluous sounds of chirping birds – a nice change from SAMBA_MADNESS_01.
Cartoon sheep will also appear on-screen if you miss your target bedtime, and what’s more, they change depending on how good you are at sticking to your targets. Miss a few bedtimes in a row and they will increase in number. It’s clever, if a bit annoying.
The app also gives you the ability to tweak the various features, from blue screen filter tone to alarm volume.
As mentioned, if you stay up past your target bedtime, the screen will start filling with sheep to stop you using your phone. This is intended as a reminder to get you to turn off Facebook and go to bed, but it’s pretty annoying really. You can fix it really easily though, by just going into the app and turning target bedtime off. It would also be nice to have a white noise feature, as this would mean all aspects of sleep aid would be contained within Sleep Partner.
Sleep Partner is as easy to use as it is good for your health. It contains genuinely useful tools for helping you sleep and if it had a white noise option it would have everything you need for a good night’s rest. As it is, it’s still worth trying to see if you feel better after a week of no blue light in the evenings.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Sleep Partner
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What is ClickMe?
Sometimes the best apps are the most simple. For those who rely on reminders to organise themselves in these busy times, ease-of-use and simplicity are the main considerations with any reminder/organisation app. ClickMe aims to make setting reminders as painless as possible by allowing you to do so in as little as two taps of the screen. In its simplicity, it manages to really stand out as a useful piece of software.
There are numerous features which come with the app, including the ability to set reminders based on screenshots or pictures, contacts in your contact book, or voice recordings. But essentially, ClickMe tries to streamline setting reminders by giving you one single page where you can type the reminder information and then select the time you want it to pop up.
According to the app’s Google Play Store page, ClickMe “enables you to capture any reminder in a matter of seconds. Click#1: Capture the content. Click#2: Select a time frame. It’s that simple!” This is a fairly accurate description of the app’s core function. It’s as straightforward as opening the app, either selecting a piece of content such as a screenshot or typing out a note, then hitting one of the circles with a time frame in.
You can also select a contact from your contact book as your piece of content so that when the reminder pops up, e.g. to remind you to call someone, you can simply choose the call option from the ClickMe pop-up.
In terms of extra features the app will also provide you with a pop-up after you receive a call. Clicking on it will then allow you to set a reminder to call that person back at a later time. You can even sync ClickMe with the calendar app you already use, or any online calendars you have linked to an email account. Any reminders you have already set in these other calendars will be ported over to the new app.
It all works smoothly and the simple interface certainly helps in accomplishing the goal of making reminder-setting more efficient.
I had a small problem with the keyboard. When you start typing a new reminder, the keyboard covers the lower half of the screen and the only way to get rid of it is by hitting the dedicated ‘back’ button on your phone. It would very slightly increase the usability of the app if you could hit anywhere on the screen to get rid of the keyboard. However, if the comments on Google Play Store page for ClickMe are anything to go by, the developers are planning to fix this soon, and say they will also make the screen scroll up when the keyboard appears to make things easier.
If you are the type of person that constantly uses reminders on your device this app really will save you a lot of time. The developers also seem invested in improving ClickMe in the future, providing advice to numerous reviewers on the Google Play Store page and promising future tweaks to make the app even more useful. With that in mind, ClickMe is one of the most simple but useful apps I have used, and looks like it’s only going to get better.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download ClickMe
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What is CloudCal?
Pselis, the company behind calendar and organisation app CloudCal, has tried to make life simpler when it comes to organisation. CloudCal, if you haven’t already guessed, is a calendar app with built-in organisational tools and a novel approach to representing your schedule. Its ‘magic circles’ turn each day into a clock face which is filled up depending on which tasks you schedule, allowing you to get a quick idea of how busy your day is looking.
You can swipe left from your main calendar to get a close up view of the day you’re on, or right to get a weekly overview. The app also allows you to order an Uber directly from the appointment page if you have the Uber app installed and syncs with a range of other organisation services. If you upgrade to the Pro version you can share attachments such as photos and recordings, and use Google Maps within the app itself.
The main selling point of CloudCal is the ‘magic circles’, a feature which Pselis claims allow you to see which hours in the day you are free by just glancing at the calendar. Each day on the monthly view of the calendar is represented by a circle, or clock face, which then fills up with different colours for each task that you’ve scheduled for that day. The idea is that you can look at a day and see when you’re free without tapping on it and looking at each individual appointment.
The magic circles are a nice addition. They might not add up to what Pselis sell as a ‘beautiful visual representation of the hours you’re free’, but with a quick glance you can kind of see how free your week or is looking. They turn otherwise relatively useless monthly overviews, which usually don’t indicate how full individual days are very well, into useful tools for seeing what’s coming up. And depending on how busy a person you are it will either reaffirm your ‘in-demand’ status as a social king or serve as a devastating visual representation of how little you have going on.
Aside from magic circles, the app functions in much the same way as most calendar apps. What was nice about CloudCal was that it imported all my events from both my Google accounts, as well as those I had entered on my phone’s default calendar app. As soon as I launched CloudCal it already had my appointments scheduled in.
The calendar syncs with Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Exchange, and Outlook so any users of these services can expect a similarly pain-free transfer to CloudCal. If you schedule a task using the app, there is a choice of which calendar to add it to and the whole process of integrating other services and using them within CloudCal is beyond easy.
When viewing an individual day, the magic circle is represented in the top right corner alongside an hourly agenda on the left. It would have been nice to have a large representation of the circle that you can interact with, perhaps with labels on each section of the circle for your events. Overall the magic circles are a novel idea but seem under-utilised and when viewed alongside an hour-by-hour agenda seem superfluous.
Aside from this, there is very little holding CloudCal back.
If you’re looking for a slight upgrade from your device’s standard calendar app, CloudCal may just be the way to go. It works well, integrates with services you probably already use, and it’s ‘magic circle’ feature, although not as well implemented as it could have been, does bring something to the monthly and weekly overviews in terms of giving you a rough idea of how busy you are in the coming days.
Score: 8/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? Yes | Download CloudCal
KWGT Kustom Widget Maker
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What is KWGT Kustom Widget Maker?
Kustom Widget Maker does exactly what the name implies, giving you the ability to design customised widgets for use on your home or lock screen. Everything from battery meters and and clocks to music players and astronomy widgets can be created and customised using the app’s editor, allowing for a truly personalised smartphone.
Kustom industries’ WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor aims to make widget design easy enough for new users while providing enough depth for those who really want to get creative.
Although there is a somewhat steep learning curve for the advanced stuff (we recommend looking at the tutorials), once you’ve got the basics down you will realise just how endless the possibilities are. The app lets you control everything from the design and size of the widget and its various elements to the functionality.
Even with the wide range of customisation options, the app’s editor is fairly easy to get to grips with on first use, with its use of Photoshop-style layers and clearly marked menus. The best way to get acquainted with the ins-and-outs of the editor is by loading one of the many pre-made widgets that come already installed and tinkering with the various elements of it.
In the editor, swipeable menus appear below the widget you’re working on. These are clearly labelled, making it easy to understand which element of your creation you are editing, and the interface is intuitive, if a bit daunting at first. Want to change what happens when you tap the widget? Just swipe to the ‘Touch’ menu and choose from a drop-down list of actions including opening a link to a website, launching an app, and custom actions.
The app can be upgraded by paying for the KWGT Kustom Widget Pro Key, which costs £2.49 and unlocks various extras including removal of ads, the ability to recover presets and, as the developer notes in the app description, saving the world from an alien invasion. Average users probably won’t require any of the extras, with the free app providing more than enough customisation options and pre-made featured widgets.
Your battery won’t suffer much for using the app either, a common gripe with other custom widget maker apps.
Despite the intuitive interface, the sheer amount of potential tweaks that can be made to your designs could put the average user off. But it’s only once you start delving deeper into the customisation options that the app can seem slightly overwhelming.
There’s some coding language that’s used to add dates and times, but it’s already typed out for you within the app when you go to modify it so it’s not too daunting a task to play around with the text.
Complexity aside, the range of customisation options, intuitive interface, and the fact that it won’t kill your battery add up to make this app the best option available for making customised widgets. If you have the time to spend learning the intricacies of Kustom Widget Maker, and like personalising your phone or tablet, then this is a must-have tool. Even if you’re just looking for some basic control over your widgets such as tweaking the colour or size of your clock, it’s worth trying.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? Yes | Download Kustom Widget Maker
Hit the ‘Next’ arrow to see more of the best Android apps.
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What is QualityTime?
With always-on, always-accessible smartphones having usurped laptops as our go-to devices of choice, most of us are only ever a pocket rummage away from our favourite apps, pictures and sites. As such, it’s easier than ever to become addicted to the wonders of the virtual world.
By monitoring, recording and breaking down your smartphone use, QualityTime is designed to help you cut down the time you spend on your mobile.
QualityTime monitors your ‘digital diet’, tracking how long you use your phone and certain apps for, as well as the number of times you unlock your screen. You can choose to receive reports on an hourly, daily or weekly basis, and then explore them in depth. For example, you can view a timeline of what you’ve got up to throughout the day, or tap a specific app to see your usage history.
What’s more, the special ‘Take a break’ and ‘Scheduled breaks’ features allow QualityTime to lock your phone down during a pre-determined period of time. You can either set up breaks on an ad hoc basis or schedule them to repeat at certain times on certain days. If, for instance, you don’t want to be disturbed by anything but phone calls while you’re at work, you can block all other apps between 9am and 5.30pm on weekdays.
Missed notifications from blacklisted apps will become available as soon as your break’s over. However, if you really need to access an app you’re not meant to be using, QualityTime punishes you by forcing you to wait at least 30 seconds before restoring full functionality to your phone.
The app takes a little getting used to, mainly due to the sheer amount of information on offer at any one time. It presents the data in as tidy a manner as it can, but it’s still a lot to take in.
The only other negative surrounds the fact that QualityTime is essentially a digital version of your mum or dad sending you to the naughty corner. Sadly, it seems that that could be the most effective plan of action for many of us.
Like a cross between an attentive parent and the micromanagement-obsessed boss from hell, QualityTime is an essential download if most of your time is spent staring at a pocket-sized screen.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download QualityTime
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What is Travelex Money?
One of the more straightforward entries in this round-up, Travelex Money is an app that lets you quickly order foreign currency through your phone.
It’s simple, easy to navigate, and does exactly what it says on the tin. If you know exactly how much money you want to exchange, the entire process takes around five minutes. All you need to do is pick a destination and cash amount, enter your name, contact information and card details, and choose whether you want to collect your holiday money from a Travelex store or have it delivered straight to your door. You’ll need to pay a £3.95 delivery fee unless you exchange £500 or more, though you can still make a tidy little saving as the app offers Travelex’ best rates.
If, like me, you have an embarrassing history of either taking too much or not enough cash with you on your travels, Travelex Money offers some guidance. The ‘How much do you need?’ feature takes into account how many days you’ll be abroad for and lets you specify whether you consider yourself a light, average or heavy spender, before calculating how much you should exchange. However, bear in mind that you should set aside additional cash for accommodation and tickets to various attractions.
While certainly helpful, we wouldn’t place complete faith in the ‘How much do you need?’ feature at this stage, as it’s simply not as sophisticated as it ideally should be. Rather than relying on a clever algorithm, calculations are based on the experiences of just 2,000 British travellers. Not the most precise of systems.
Going on holiday? Download this.
Price: Free | In-app purchases? Yes | Download Travelex Money
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What is Hooks?
Hooks is a nifty little app designed to keep you up-to-date with the things that you care about, whether that may be the release of a new movie, upcoming football fixtures or a new tweet from somebody you’re following. If you’ve ever used Google Alerts or IF (aka IFTTT) before, you’ll get to grips with Hooks in no time.
You can set up alerts for a hell of a lot of different things, and the process is really straightforward. Simply tap the big red button and choose from a lengthy list of categories, including TV shows, events and weather.
Want to know when the next episode of Game of Thrones will air? Easy. Keen to find out about any upcoming free events in London? Sorted. Need to be the first person to find out when a website goes down? You get the drift.
If you’re short on inspiration, you can always zip across to the Popular and Suggested hooks lists too. What’s more, the Hooks development team has hinted at possible future integration with IF, which lets you link a range of internet-connected tools and platforms and automate a bunch of different tasks.
The only thing standing between Hooks and a top rating is its erratic delivery of push notifications. The app needs to seriously up its game in this regard, and fast. We keep having to actually open the app to check our alerts, as notifications are pushed so infrequently. Some users appear to have had better luck than us, while the situation’s a little worse for others.
An extremely promising app, especially if you have a lot of different interests. However, the basics need fine-tuning.
Price: Free | In-app purchases? Yes | Download Hooks
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What is Office Lens?
Office Lens is a new app that transforms your smartphone camera into a full-blown scanner. Created by Microsoft, it’s designed to work best with the company’s productivity programs, such as the Office 365 suite, OneDrive and OneNote.
You can use Office Lens to digitise almost anything you’d like to, including whiteboard notes, receipts, business cards and documents. It automatically identifies the object you’d like to capture, surrounding it with a bold white line. When you press the camera button, it cuts out anything lying outside that virtual border.
Office Lens also offers you a broad range of options. You can make use of Whiteboard, Document and Picture modes, and save your scans as PDF, PowerPoint and Word files. Whiteboard and Document are the most useful settings. The former lets you quickly create digital versions of the physical notes you might jot down in a meeting, while the latter automatically recognises printed text with optical character recognition (OCR).
This essentially means that you have the power to edit physical documents on your mobile or laptop, as well as copy text and search for words in them.
Pictures are sometimes dramatically over-processed in Whiteboard mode, leading to the odd bizarre-looking image dotted with bright blue and red. While impressive, OCR also needs a little work, as Lens misreads characters from time to time.
Office Lens is a genuinely handy app, especially for those of you who don’t have regular access to a scanner.
Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Office Lens
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What is MailWise?
MailWise is a free app that lets you manage multiple email accounts from a single base. In principle, it could hardly be simpler. If you struggle to juggle the messages from your various inboxes, MailWise is here to help.
It’s really convenient and does what it says on the tin. You can add a wide range of addresses from different email providers, including Gmail, Outlook, AOL and Yahoo, and the process is straightforward and quick. You can also add different email signatures for different accounts.
The UI is clean and slick too, feeling similar in use to the Gmail app. Different emails from the same conversation threads are automatically grouped together for less clutter, and swipes work as they should. For example, dragging your finger down from the top of the screen prompts a refresh, while swiping individual messages brings up options like archive, star and delete.
Our biggest gripe is that MailWise doesn’t always check for new mail constantly, but at regular intervals. The option is there for Hotmail, but for Gmail the best you get is a scan that happens every minute. This doesn’t sound like much of a delay, but it could be a problem in those situations when every second matters.
It’s also not immediately obvious to identify which address some emails are actually from. You can set different colour schemes for different email addresses, but these only appear as small tags on right edge of the screen, which are easy to hide with your thumb as you scroll.
MailWise is simple to use and cuts out the faff involved with keeping on top of your various inboxes. It’s worth using alongside the stock Android Email app for a while, which performs many of the same tasks but isn’t quite as slick.
In-app purchases? No
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What is IF?
IF (formerly known as IFTTT) is an app that lets you link a range of internet-connected tools and platforms, in order to make your life a little bit easier. ‘If this, then that’ is the name of the game. For example, if you like to post the pictures you upload to Instagram on Twitter, IF can automate that for you. Similarly, if you want the lights in your house to turn on when you get close, that’s possible too.
There are few things more satisfying than saving time by cutting out boring, mindless tasks. IF enables you to do exactly that. There’s loads of so-called ‘recipes’ to choose from too, so it’s relatively easy to get started. There are dedicated sections for different types of people too, such as small business owners, online shoppers and parents.
IF is particularly useful when combined with smart tech like smart thermostats and lighting systems, for example, and the number of services and apps that support IF means there’s a huge amount of potential.
IF is powerful, but it could be more user friendly – it’s the kind of service that you need to put some time into to get the desired results. There’s a lot to take in for novice users, too, as key concepts such as recipes aren’t explained all that well. We also had some issues with notifications not working correctly, which is irritating considering they play such a large part in the experience.
There are some issues to iron out since the recent update, but IF is a powerful app and service that’s worth trying out.
In-app purchases? No
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Lets you save articles and videos for later perusal; Syncs across your devices
Organisation of things you’ve saved could be improved
Pocket is a wonderful example of a simple solution to an everyday problem. The app enables you to save all sorts of content, including articles and videos, for your perusal later.
What makes it so handy is that you don’t need an internet connection to view the bits and bobs you’ve saved, which makes tube, train and plane journeys a lot more bearable.
In-app purchases? Yes
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What is Google Photos?
Launched at I/O 2015, Photos is the new Google app designed to take care of all your precious images and videos. It’s been ripped out of failing social network Google Plus, and will serve as the company’s answer to Apple’s iCloud service.
It provides free unlimited storage, as long as you opt for the High Quality option, which is recommended for images produced by a smartphone with a 16-megapixel camera or less. We’ll get to the other storage model in the dreaded ‘What’s bad?’ section. Since Photos backs up your pictures and videos to the cloud, it enables you to clear up space in your device, so you no longer have to think about clogging up your memory or storage card. Particularly handy for users of smartphones without a microSD card slot.
You’re no longer limited to browsing your files by date either, thanks to Google’s nifty organisational tools. It automatically groups images by people, places and themes, such as food, skylines, beaches and cars. What’s more, you can search for specific terms, including colours and objects. As you’d expect from Google, search accuracy is impressive, though it’s not quite perfect. A cool new feature allows you to quickly create stories, animations and collages from your snaps, and then share them via WhatsApp, email, Facebook and a wide range of other major platforms.
If you take your photography seriously, using a DSLR or a smartphone with a 16-megapixel sensor or higher, Google Photos might not do it for you. The Original storage model doesn’t downscale your images, but it does limit you to 15GB of free storage, which is shared with Google Drive and Gmail. Need more? You’re going to have to dip into your pocket.
Photos’ editing suite also feels like it could do with a little more work. You can apply a range of effects and tinker with settings, but it feels rather basic right now.
Great for smartphone users with limited onboard storage, good for the rest of us.
Price: Free | In-app purchases? Yes | Download Google Photos
Magisto Video Editor
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What is Magisto?
Magisto is the app you’ll wish you’d have known about earlier. It creates short, slick movie clips by splicing together your video footage and pictures, which can then be overlaid with a music track. If you’re not happy with your video, you can choose to tweak it by going back and playing around with the various elements.
The entire uploading and editing process only takes a couple of minutes from start to finish, and produces slick, highly entertaining results. These clips are also easy to share on a multitude of platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp, so you’ll be able to amuse and embarrass your friends and family with very little hassle. There’s loads of different themes and filters available in Magisto too, such as birthdays, love and ‘Throwback’, so there’s plenty of room for experimentation.
Magisto’s greatest strength is also a weakness. Since it takes over the entire editing process, it leaves you with very little control over which part of which clips are included. Yes, this makes it completely stress-free and straightforward, but it’s also rather limiting.
Unfortunately, the app doesn’t have too many strings to its bow as far as music is concerned. You won’t ever have heard of any of the tracks it offers, though the option to select a song you already own is available. You’re also limited by the length of movie you want to create. Nothing between 15 and 30 seconds is available, and you’ll have to upgrade to the premium version of Magisto to make a video any longer than 1.15.
It’s a great option for users who want to have some fun creating videos, since the movies it creates will bring a smile to your face. However, we wouldn’t recommend it to people with actual editing experience, since Magisto doesn’t let you get your hands dirty.
In-app purchases? Yes
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What is Duolingo?
There are a lot of options out there for people wanting to learn a new language, but most of them are either costly, gruelling, or both. Duolingo is as convenient an education tool as we’ve come across, and it somehow costs absolutely nothing.
While it’s got a couple of shortcomings, it’s still a must-have app as far as we’re concerned. You’ll fall in love with it in no time, especially if you’re a keen traveller or just want to pick up something new.
It might make you feel like a child with a CGP science book again, but everything in the Duolingo app is split into bite-sized, easily digestible chunks. You can set your daily learning targets too, and the entire experience is gamified, which we like.
There are also loads of different languages available through Duolingo, including all of the usual suspects and some less mainstream options, such as Dutch, Irish and Swedish. Completely free, too.
Our biggest peeve is that there’s no option for offline use, which is a pain because this is an app that’s otherwise perfectly-suited for using on the go. You might also struggle to use it on a consistent basis, since it doesn’t deliver daily reminders, despite making you set your learning timetable.
A final criticism is that there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground, with lessons flitting between overly easy and bafflingly difficult seemingly at random. On closer inspection, we think this has something to do with the fact that it doesn’t tend to explain the technical details, such as why certain forms of verbs are used in some cases and not others.
In-app purchases? No
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What is YOU-app?
YOU-app (with Jamie Oliver) is a wellness-focused social network, built around the premise that making minor changes to your everyday life will bring about a much larger positive impact. It encourages you to complete one small task each day, called a micro-action, and share the results with the wider YOU community through a picture.
Many people perpetually intend to improve their lifestyles, but find the entire process too overwhelming to actually make any lasting progress. By getting you to carry out a simple micro-action on a daily basis, YOU-app gently chips away at your laziness and slowly gets you to adopt better habits. The micro-actions relate to four separate categories: food (where Jamie Oliver does his bit), movement, mindfulness and the things we love.
It works too. As a result of using the app, I’ve improved my posture, my bedroom’s got a little tidier, and I’ve consciously taken a touch more time out of my day just for reflection (I did this beforehand anyway). You don’t ever feel like you’re being nagged, and the pictures you share are always received in a positive manner (likes and comments) by fellow users. Rather than competition, it uses encouragement to push you on. You’ll find yourself checking the app every day for something new to do, and if you miss an action out, you can always scroll back to find out what it was and then complete it. What’s more, the app itself is slick, attractive and easy to navigate.
Some might find its approach a bit too touchy-feely and pretentious, and its upbeat tone sometimes borders on sickly territory. A lot of actions are signed off with ‘love’ or kisses, which isn’t to everybody’s taste. However, none of this detracts from the app itself.
Quite simply, it makes you feel good, and there isn’t a lot of technology out there that can claim to do this.
Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download YOU-app
Nike Plus Running
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What is Nike Plus Running?
One of the most popular apps of its kind, Nike Plus Running is loved by fitness freaks and cautious beginners alike. It’s designed to be used by runners of all standards, and uses a strong set of social features to push you that little bit further.
For many people, the biggest struggle with running is that it can be seriously boring – there’s only so much drive you can squeeze out of the Rocky soundtrack. Nike Plus Running tries to counter this with regular audio updates and by encouraging you to interact and compete with your friends through the app, whether that’s through head-to-head Challenges or leaderboards.
It also records maps of your runs complete with annotations, and congratulates you when you hit new personal records or succeed in keeping up a regular exercise routine. Nike Plus Coach is particularly good for motivation, providing step-by-step training instructions to help you hit your targets.
The app uses the GPS and accelerometer in your phone to monitor outdoor and indoor runs as precisely as possible, but they sometimes come up short, especially in built-up areas. The screengrabs above show two identical workouts, though one’s registered as being almost half a mile longer than the other. It also seriously struggles to track sprint exercises accurately, meaning that intense training like shuttle runs are often not picked up at all, which is maddening.
A few of the features offered by Nike Plus Running could do with some extra development too. For example, the digital cheers feel little more than childish, and the ‘Where did you run?’ section only offers road, trail, track and beach as options. Where’s grass?
Nike Plus Running is a great app for runners at all levels, as long as you stick to a fairly steady pace and open route. Sprinters, however, might find it more frustrating than useful.
Price: Free | In-app purchases? No
Download Nike Plus Running
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What is Solid Explorer?
There was a time when ES File Explorer was the go-to third-party file manager for Android devices. But times have changed, and while ES is still a formidable app when it comes to file explorers, there are now several other top-notch alternatives. One of which is Solid Explorer File Manager. Like any decent app of its type, Solid allows you to manage both your internal storage and cloud storage through one app. But it’s also got a lot more going for it…
The developers have paid attention to Google’s Material design guidelines here. Solid Explorer is incredibly easy to use with its clean interface and familiar layout. Somehow the app manages to pack in a load of features while maintaining a clutter-free interface.
But it’s not just about looks. The app comes with some seriously useful functionality on top of the usual file browsing, such as the ability to use two independent panels to browse and drag files between them. One nice feature, if you’re using an SD card as well as internal storage, is that you can simply swipe left and right to switch between a list of files in the two.
There’s also support for ZIP and RAR extraction, some impressive customisation options including icon sets and the ability to change colours and themes, and the integrated cloud storage support. Yes, you can use Solid Explorer with all-manner of cloud service, including Dropbox, OneDrive, and Google Drive among others. Plus, there’s an indexed search function and root explorer mode.
Of course, all this functionality and sleek design doesn’t come entirely free. You can use the app free for 2 weeks, but you’ll have to pay £1.49 to keep it going after that, and there’s a load of extra optional add-ons like icon packs which you’ll have to shell out for if you want to download. Although it would be nice to have a free version of Solid Explorer, you can at least rest assured that the app doesn’t come with any adware.
Solid Explorer is just that: a solid choice when it comes to file explorers, that melds material design with a load of useful features. You may have to pay for it, but we think it’s worth every penny.
Score: 9/10 | Price: Free (£1.49 for full version) | In-app purchases? No | Download Solid Explorer
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What is Skyscanner?
Finding cheap flights is something everyone has had to do at some point. Although there’s always been comparison websites for that sort of thing, a truly simple and easy to use mobile offering was always going to be popular among smartphone users. And Skyscanner might just be that app.
Ease of use is the name of the game here. Simply load up the app, type in the location you want to travel to, enter the dates, and the app immediately compares millions of flights, collating prices and presenting them to you in a list. The cheapest are at the top, but you have the option to sort by duration, rating, and take off and landing times.
On a basic level, that’s really all there is to it. That’s the app’s strength: it makes finding flights incredibly easy. For those that prefer using a desktop browser for planning and research tasks such as this, Skyscanner does a great job of making the whole process feel straightforward on mobile. What’s more, you can set alerts for when prices change, making Skyscanner a handy tool for keeping an eye on prices while you’re out and about.
And there’s a lot more to the app too. The devs have paid attention to Google’s Material Design requirements, making everything seem intuitive and familiar. All the information you need on the flights themselves is presented clearly within the interface itself, with stopovers and schedules displayed in an easy to read timeline.
A nice feature which I found helpful was, once you type in a location, before loading a list of individual flights, the app will show you a quick breakdown of when flights are at their cheapest and most expensive by month. The red, yellow, and green bars against each month make it easy to see the best time to fly and it all adds to simplifying the booking process.
Booking flights is done through the individual airlines’ websites, but you can simply tap the ‘go to site’ button from within the app and go straight there. Other features include the ability to keep track of individual flights and any price changes you might want to know about, and the app saves recent searches to the home screen for easy access later.
There’s also a widget, an ‘Everywhere’ search that will suggest destinations, and the app is available in more than 30 languages.
Not a whole lot really. It’s hard to pick out any major drawbacks. Some have decried the latest update for complicating the interface too much, but in my experience it was incredibly easy to use. Perhaps adding the ability to sort results by airline would add something to the experience, but even then you can use the filter option to filter by specific airlines. I had no issues with Skyscanner crashing or freezing either.
This is one of, if not the easiest way to keep track of flight prices on your mobile. Easy to use, cleanly presented, and packed with features, Skyscanner is a must-have for any frequent traveller.
Score: 10 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Skyscanner
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What is Expense IQ?
This app, from developer Handy Apps, tries to make managing your expenses and personal finance easy. With a clean layout and several useful features, Expense IQ will have you planning budgets and staying on top of your spending in no time.
Firstly, Handy Apps has used Material Design guidelines for the layout, so everything feels familiar and cleanly implemented. The main menu slides in from the left and is where you’ll access the various sections. Each section is clearly marked, which is helpful in an app that could easily become confusing, what with all the financial information and various features.
So what about those features? Expense IQ’s main components are the expense manager and budget manager. The former allows you to quickly enter any expenses you incur throughout your day by tapping the small plus symbol in the bottom right of the Overview screen – the default screen that appears when the app opens.
All you have to do is set up your account information, which involves simply telling the app how much you have in the bank and how much you have in cash. Any expenses you enter are then taken off the total amount.
The Smart Overview page makes it easy to see how much you have left in total, when you spent money, how much you spent, as well as any bills which are due. It’s also populated with helpful graphs and visualisations of your spending.
For those that want to stick to a financial plan, the app allows you to set a budget for specific categories. Say you want to only spend £200 on entertainment, you can set that amount as a budget for the entertainment category, then whenever you enter an amount for entertainment expense, as long as you categorise it, the money will be taken off your budget for entertainment as well as the total in your account.
It’s all very intuitive and takes minutes to get the hang of. Other features include bill reminders, which allows you to easily set alerts for when bills are due, the ability to backup and restore offline, a home screen widget, the ability to store photos of your bills and receipts and attach them to specific expenses, and much more.
While the interface is, overall, easy to get to grips with, I found it took a few minutes to figure out adding expenses and setting up accounts. It’s not a major drawback, as there’s more going on here than with other apps that concern themselves with less complicated tasks than managing your entire finances. But you might find it takes a little while to get the hang of things at first.
And, like most apps these days, Expense IQ also has a Premium version which will cost you. Going Premium costs £1.41 per month or you can pay a strangely specific price of £41.06 for a lifetime subscription. Signing up for Premium removes ads, gets you unlimited accounts and budgets, multi-currency transfers, cloud syncing, and a host of extra features. While the app is certainly worth a look, only those serious enough about keeping track of their expenditure will want to pay the monthly charge.
A well-presented and comprehensive app, Expense IQ is a no brainer for those interested in a mobile money management solution.
Score: 9 | Price: Free (Premium version £1.41 per month/$41.06 lifetime) | In-app purchases? No | Download Expense IQ
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APP OF THE WEEK: Citymapper
Commute with ease using Citymapper.
What is Citymapper?
If you live in a city and haven’t used Citymapper yet, you’ve probably been nagged by friends who are convinced it’s the best way to plan a journey. Such a task can usually involve a bewildering amount of apps, from National Rail, to Uber, and although Google Maps offers a great way of collating all the available travel options, Citymapper might just have it beat in that department.
Right now, in the UK, the app covers London, Birmingham, and Manchester, but there are numerous cities around the world with Citymapper coverage, and new locations are being added all the time. If you are a city-dweller yet to try the app, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Why is Citymapper becoming so popular among city-based travellers? Put simply, it makes getting around really really easy. As soon as the app loads it presents you with a search field, helpfully titled ‘Get Me Somewhere’. Below that, you’ve got ‘Get Me Home’ and ‘Get Me to Work’, which, once you’ve saved both destinations in the app, will provide quick options for getting to either place. What’s more, the app will send you push notifications each morning before you leave for work, telling you the best route. These notifications update as you move, and can be incredibly useful.
Once you tell the app where you want to go, it will present you with all-manner of travel options, listed by type. Starting with suggested routes, the list then breaks down your options by bus only, tube/rail only, rain safe, and a Citymapper labs sections which combines cabs with public transport to cut your journey time down.
It’s all easy and fast and works just as you’d expect, with the Material Design layout making the interface intuitive and simple to get to grips with.
And that’s just the beginning. You can swipe right from the home screen to bring up an overview of the city’s transport, showing you the status of the available transit options. In London you can get a quick look at the status of each tube line, rail delays, river boats, trams, and updates from the TfL twitter accounts. Very useful!
And if you want a quick update on nearby transport you can swipe left from the home screen to see the nearest bus stops, tube stations, and rail stations. It’s all designed to keep you as informed as possible.
The app does a fantastic job of collating all the relevant information, eliminating the need to switch between seven different apps just to plan one journey across the city. It also works with Android Wear just in case you were worried it wasn’t useful enough already.
Want more features? How about the ability to quickly tell people where to meet you with the ‘Meet Me Somewhere’ functionality, a basic calorie counter, step by step updates as you move through your journey which mean you don’t have to keep switching back to the app itself, real-time updates on travel delays, the ability to save places easily, and the fact that the whole thing is completely free.
The developers are also adding new locations all the time. Overseas you’ll get Citymapper coverage for an ever-increasing list of cities. Here’s all the locations covered by the app at the time of writing: Brussels, Paris, Randstad, Hamburg, Lyon, Berlin, Milan, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Lisbon, ?????-?????????, Montréal, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto, DC – Baltimore, Chicago, Vancouver, Seattle, SF Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seoul, México DF, São Paulo, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney.
You might run into problems if your bus is on a diversion, and the app is obviously only designed to work in big cities. Turning off the notifications is a bit confusing at first too. You have to go into the actual smart commute section and tap on the notification button on your preferred route, rather than there being an overall Settings option in the main menu. But other than that, there’s nothing negative to say about Citymapper. It’s no wonder the app has won numerous awards.
Free, incredibly useful, well-designed, and expanding into new cities all the time, Citymapper might just replace Google Maps as your go-to journey planner, if it hasn’t already.
Score: 9 | Price: Free | In-app purchases? No | Download Citymapper