Remember the mobile phone of the ’80s? The
equivalent of carrying a hardbound copy of “War and
Peace” in your pocket, those plastic bricks represented
the bright future of telecommunications.
And all you could do was talk on it—how cute.
Now, our miraculous mini-computers have access to thousands of applications, most of which have nothing to do with making calls. Instead, you can use your smart phone to check the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, schedule important meetings and fling angry little birds.
With the iPhone store reporting more than 300,000 apps, it’s easy to fill your phone with a variety of useless apps. To combat app overload, REFLECTIONS has assembled a team of reviewers to help you wade through the sea of $1.99 downloads. Whether you want to train for a marathon or kill time on a flight, these apps will help you get the most out of your gigabytes.
Admit it. The first thing downloaded on your new smart phone was a game. Or 5. But with thousands out there, which ones are worth your time? At 11 years old, junior member Zach Fleischman knows exactly what makes a fun video game, and he brought his considerable expertise on the subject to bear on these five popular gaming apps.
Fowl Weather Friends
Angry Birds (Android and iPhone)
Unless you’ve been living on an Amish colony, you’ve probably heard of this idiosyncratic bird-flinging puzzle game. Using a slingshot, players launch birds at pigs hiding in various structures. Zach likes the ongoing challenge of the gameplay.
“I like that there are a lot of levels. It kind of never ends,” he says.
From Russia with Fun
Tetris (Android and iPhone)
Yes, the addicting Russian puzzle game is available on your phone. Stack differentsized falling blocks into perfect rows to clear a level. It’s kind of like packing a moving van. Although the original Tetris predates Zach’s generation by almost two decades, he gave it a diplomatic review.
“I’m not the kind of person who likes these kind of games, but I can see how it would be fun,” he says.
Be the Blob
Slimeball Speedway (Android)
Navigate your little green ball of slime down a crowded street. Look out for cars and pedestrians. Or don’t.
“It’s fun because you start small and your blob keeps growing,” Zach says. “I like the long levels.”
Bloons Tower Defense (iPhone)
Zach’s favorite iPhone game: use your army of dart monkeys and armed towers to pop balloons before they get to your base.
“I like all the different levels and tower upgrades,” he says. “I like games where you can keep progressing.”
As former general manager of new technology at Microsoft and current early-stage technology investment CEO, Dan Rosen definitely keeps his finger on the pulse of new technology. Who better to talk about his favorite apps?
“First, it is impossible for me to separate my business and personal apps very well. Since the smart phone (currently an iPhone and iPad in my case) is an ideal vehicle to integrate personal and business, the apps tend to get used in multiple ways.”
Long Distance Logistics
Skype (Android, iPhone and iPad)
“If you travel outside the U.S., it is no surprise how expensive it is to make calls on your cell phone back to the U.S. With Skype (and a good headset; mine is the Plantronics Discovery 975), coupled with the Skype $2.95 per month calling plan and a Wi-Fi hotspot, you can call anywhere in the U.S. for free.”
Kindle (iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone 7)
“The Amazon Kindle app on the iPad and iPhone is my absolute favorite. I use it every day to read while on the elliptical trainer at the Club.”
Pass the Popcorn
Netflix (iPhone and iPad)
“The fact that you can now watch movies that stream live to your device is both amazing and breakthrough.”
WorldCard Mobile (Android, iPhone and iPad)
“This amazing app lets you use the camera on your phone to capture a business card and then transfer it to your Outlook contacts. Once someone hands you a card, you now have it available immediately.”
Power to the Consumer
RedLaser or Amazon (Android, iPhone and iPad)
“You are in a store and see an item you want to buy (yes, even business items). Are you getting a good price? Now just scan the barcode and voilá, you know what you can buy that product for online and go ahead and either purchase it from the store or online.”
GET SOCIAL (MEDIA)
Bellevue Club Communications Director Stacy Phillips Booth is an early adopter. Here are her recommendations for the must-have social media apps.
Itemize All the Time
Barcode Hero (iPhone)
“This is a fun way to share information with friends. Scan barcodes of products and see what others have said about that particular item. You can receive points for scans based on the type of item, rarity, etc., and can become the mayor or duke of certain kinds of products. While there might not be a ton of tips on certain kinds of items yet, if more people start to use this, it could become really helpful. In the meantime, it’s just a fun (but likely addicting) app.”
“Goodreads is a fun social networking site for readers. They have an iPhone app, but also have a decent mobile site if you have a different smart phone. Keep virtual bookshelves and rate what you’ve read. You can also see how your friends have rated books, as well as the Goodreads community at large. This is definitely something to check out if you are a reader.”
My TSA (iPhone)
“Also a mobile site, My TSA is handy if you travel. You can view security wait times at your chosen airport that others in line have posted—and report your own wait time. You can also check what is and is not allowed in your carryon or checked baggage, as well as get a general overview of how to successfully navigate through airport security.”
Facebook (Android and iPhone)
“If you’re one of the 500 million Facebook users in the world and you’d like to access your account on your smart phone, the official Facebook app is the best way to go.”
Become the Mayor
FourSquare (Android and iPhone)
“FourSquare lets you check in to businesses that you’re visiting, much like Facebook Places. If you check in more to a particular business than anyone else, you become the mayor. FourSquare can be fun because some places will have special perks for their mayor, or offer discounts if you show that you’ve checked in. Read or leave tips for the places you’re at, and unlock badges for various achievements, like being a regular at the gym or checking in at three places with a photo booth.”
FUTURE OF FITNESS
Although she can navigate a touchscreen as fast as the average 25-year-old, personal trainer Melanie Baker does not consider herself “techie.” However, she is wise beyond her years in the world of fitness and looks for intuitive apps that are easy for the average user.
Into the Wild
Backpacker GPS Trails (Android and iPhone)
Packed full of trails, reports and routes, this app is a must-have for the avid hiker. Catalog your hikes with photos and landmarks for future reference.
Melanie says: “It’s really nice to have GPS and distances so you don’t get lost.”
Beer Gut Fitness (Android)
This tongue-in-cheek calorie counter helps you balance alcoholic beverages consumed by letting you know your fitness penance. Keep your balance at zero and keep off those extra pounds.
Melanie says: “So many of us discount calories in alcoholic beverages, it’s nice to have an app that helps us offset them—especially on the weekend. I mean, it’s called beer gut for a reason.”
Yoga on the Go
Authentic Yoga with Deepak Chopra (iPhone)
With a variety of poses and routines, Authentic Yoga is like having a yoga instructor in your handbag.
Melanie says: “It’s really good for travelers, but you definitely want to have experience in yoga. The biggest thing would be to do it in front of a mirror to make sure you have correct alignment.”
Hit your Stride
RunKeeper Pro (iPhone)
This app tracks your distance, time, date, pace and much more using your phone’s built-in GPS. With a glut of fitness apps out there, the RunKeeper Pro’s simplicity (which helps during workouts) and effectiveness keeps it near the top of the list.
Melanie says: “This would be what I would use if I was training for a marathon.”
Head and Heart
Cardio Trainer Pro (Android)
Whether you want to set up a weight loss goal or simply record your workout, this in-depth app is easy to use and full of features. Hit start and it accurately records your steps and pace immediately. You can even choose the racing option and compete against your friends. One touch shares your workout on Facebook.
Melanie says: “I would love my clients to have this so I could check up on what they did. I love the specificity of it. It’s like having the details from a treadmill outside.”