The 50 Best apps

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From games for killing time to travel tips and indispensable tools for busy lives, Rhodri Marsden selects the programs you don’t want to be without

Location:

Google Maps

Free, iOS/Android

Google Maps has become a must-download and a must-install for new iPhone users. Android users can feel deservedly smug with their more feature-rich version.

M8

Free, iOS/Android/Blackberry

Touch A sat nav-like experience; it gives users a 3D eye level viewpoint and a rich database of local information. Tape it to your dashboard.

National Rail Enquiries

Free, iOS/Android

Only the brave would dare to use Britain’s railway network without this app. A neat layout and interface brings the information you need in a speedy, efficient fashion

Glympse

Free, iOS/Android/Windows Phone/Blackberry

Share your location for a limited time with specific people, who can then plot your journey. Perfect for letting people know you are en route to them.

Prey

Free, iOS/Android

Prey lets you keep track of your laptop, phone and tablet via a web-accessed control panel, and perform actions such as triggering an alarm or erasing sensitive data.

 

Sport & Fitness:

Fotmob

Free, iOS/Android/Windows Phone/Blackberry

Fotmob offers an instant check on live football scores. It covers leagues from Venezuela to Austria, including England and Scotland of course.

ESPN Cricinfo

Free, iOS/Android/Windows Phone

This app delivers live cricket scores, news and full access to terrifyingly comprehensive statistics. The interface is slightly irritating.

Zombies, Run!

£2.49, iOS/Android (£2.79)/Windows Phone (£1.49)

Zombies, Run! is a running aid and an audio adventure combined, an ingenious and brilliantly executed way of prising you off the sofa.

BBC Sport

Free, iOS/(Android soon)

Almost two million people downloaded the BBC Olympics app. The new BBC Sport app is a hybrid affair that pulls in content from the BBC website along with live audio streams.

F1 2013 Timing App

£23.99, iOS/Android/Blackberry

This app provides 3D maps with real-time track positions for each driver, live timings, race statistics, tyre data, live pausing and replays.

 

Entertainment:

Vimeo

Free, iOS/Android/Windows Phone

Vimeo has found its niche as a curator of quality short films. From timelapsed cityscapes to origami animation, it’s a great collection of ingenuity and upcoming talent.

Numberlys

£3.99, iOS

You may not imagine Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi classic Metropolis as an inspiration for a kids’ alphabet app, but Numberlys is the impressive result. It’s an adventure, a mystery, a game and a story.

Air Video

£1.99, iOS

Air Video liberates movie files from your computer hard drive and allows you to stream them to your phone or tablet. And, if you have an Apple TV, it can act as a bridge between your computer and the telly.

BBC iPlayer

Free, iOS/Android/Blackberry

Search for programmes, add them to your favourites list (so they all appear in one tab as they’re broadcast) and download them to your phone to keep for 30 days and watch them on the move.

The Sonnets

£9.99, iPad

Widely acclaimed as a triumph, Faber’s iPad version of Shakespeare’s sonnets is densely layered without being distracting, pulling together audio, video, explanatory notes and, of course, the text.

TuneIn Radio

Free, iOS/Android/Windows Phone/Blackberry

The ultimate radio app, TuneIn is a gateway to more than 70,000 radio stations from across the globe. It also has masses of podcasts.

Tubebox

£0.69, iOS

With an interface that takes its cues from Apple’s Newstand app, Tubebox lets you save and categorise your YouTube favourites for trouble-free viewing without wifi.

Nasa app

Free, iOS/Android

Nasa’s mobile app provides images and video of past space missions and up-to-theminute content, including sighting opportunities for the International Space Station.

Buzzfeed

Free, iOS/Android

With viral content spinning about the web in a maelstrom of unhinged lunacy, Buzzfeed restores order to proceedings with diverting collections of quick-hit content.

Geocaching

£6.99, iOS/Android/Windows Phone

Use this app to guide you through urban or rural terrain, locating and logging geocaches as you go. It’s like treasure hunt with a smartphone.

 

Images:

Snapseed

Free, iOS/Android

Select a picture or part of a picture, then rotate, crop, filter, brighten or desaturate – and better still, you’re not obliged to share your creation on social media.

Fuzel

Free, iOS

Fuzel lets you combine multiple pictures into a single image, using a layout of your choice and with extensive control over each section of that image.

Camera Awesome

Free, iOS

Camera Awesome gives easy access to image stabilisation, fast and slow burst, timers, filters and sharing; the only drawback is use of the word “awesomeize”. Ugh.

Vignette

£1.60, Android

Vignette is a fully featured alternative to Google’s standard camera app. Before you take your snap you can adjust white balance, exposure and focus distance.

Image Blender

£1.99, iOS

Anyone who’s used layers in Photoshop will be familiar with the concept of Image Blender. Stack one photo on another, then combine the two using the various modes.

 

News & Reference:

Readability

Free, iOS/Android

Reading apps allow you to save a long online article for later to sync reading lists between devices. Readability pips Instapaper, mainly down to its beautiful typography, which is particularly easy on the eye.

Flipboard

Free, iOS/Android/Kindle Fire

Flipboard pulls information from Facebook friends, people you’re following on Twitter and so on. Whether your news should be filtered through friends is a question Flipboard answers with grace.

London: City Through Time

£9.99, iPad

A stunning portrait of a city. It has the complete text of the London Encyclopedia, rare prints and works of art and zoomable panoramas. Ideally every city would have one.

Tweetbot

£1.99, iOS

You may wince at a Twitter app being in the news and reference section, but Twitter never fails to break news. Tweetbot is beautifully laid out, flexible, intuitive and with a cheeky character of its own.

Plume

Free, Android

For Twitterholics on Android. Stable performance, great attention to detail, easy handling of common Twitter tasks, and a decent range of customisation options to make you feel at home.

The Independent

Free, iOS/Android/Blackberry/Kindle

We couldn’t look at news apps in The Independent without this. Launch the app, download an entire paper in under a minute and browse offline.

Wolfram Alpha

£1.99, iOS/Android(£1.86)/Kindle Fire

A “computational knowledge engine” that analyses queries and computes the answers rather than guessing. Finds info other engines wouldn’t.

Star Walk

£1.99, iOS

Star Walk has that OMG factor that makes people shake their heads in disbelief. On a starry night, point your iPhone to the heavens and let it show you which stars you’re looking at.

Circa News

Free, iOS

Many apps filter the news, but Circa’s approach involves a team of editors who gather the most important stories and break them down into bullet points for easy digestion.

Terminology

£1.49, iOS

A nicely designed offline app combining a dictionary, a thesaurus and links to external sites such as Wiktionary. With customisable fonts and a pleasantly readable interface.

 

Games:

Amazing Alex

Free, iOS/Android

The Mousetrap board game for the 21st century: build a contraption to put a ball in a basket, pop a balloon and so on. Placing items in sequence has never been so much fun.

Clash Of Clans

Free, iOS

If you’ve ever felt the urge to build a village, form an army and battle against neighbouring tribes on a screen two inches high, this fits the bill. One of the best free iOS games.

Angry Birds Star Wars

Free, iOS (£0.69)/Android

It has made pinging pixelated birds out of catapults morally acceptable and distracted innumerable people from more important tasks. More Angry Birds than Star Wars.

Fieldrunners 2

£0.69, iOS

A modern spin on the “tower defence” genre: build a maze of traps to stop invaders. Cute graphics and compelling gameplay. One of the most absorbing games on iOS.

Dead Trigger

Free, iOS/Android

“The world we know is gone”, begins the intro sequence to this hugely popular firstperson shooter game. Combines fantastic graphics and an ingenious interface.

 

Music:

iKaosillator

£13.99, iOS

An app version of the standalone Kaossilator, made by Korg. One of the best musical instruments on a smartphone. Loop and layer the day away, losing yourself in a world of beats and squelchy synths.

Soundhound

Free, iOS,/Android/Windows Phone

Shazam-style music identification in app form, Soundhound is probably the best of the bunch, with Spotify integration and the ability to identify tunes from humming.

Spotify

From free, iOS/Android/Windows Phone

Transform your handheld device into a digital jukebox. It’s nothing short of astounding. And it’s well worth a £10-a-month subscription to use this app to its fullest.

Ampkit

Free, iOS

Life used to be disappointing for bedroom electric guitar strummers. Ampkit changes everything: plug your guitar into the iPhone for a convincing simulacrum of powerful amps, speakers and effects.

Whosampled

£1.99, iOS

We live in a world where the magpie-like swiping of hooks, licks and samples from other songs is widespread. This is a fantastic hopping off point for musical discovery; preview songs within the app.

 

Lifestyle & Shopping:

eBay

Free, iOS/Android/Windows Phone/Blackberry

A must-download if you use eBay even sporadically. Alerts tell you when you’ve been outbid or when your item is attracting interest.

WhatsApp

Free, iOS (£0.69)/Android/Windows Phone/Blackberry

One of the best-known apps that allow us to get around the SMS rip off, carrying more than two billion messages a day across the internet, free.

Ovoto

Free, iOS/Android

Unable to make a decision? Take a photo of the two things you can’t choose between and Ovoto will turn it into a poll for Twitter and Facebook pals to vote on. Problem solved.

Seatguru

Free, iOS/Android

Includes information about the comfort (or otherwise) of seats on aircraft worldwide. It covers more than 700 airlines, and also doubles as a flight status checker.

Triposo

Free, iOS/Android

What to see, what to eat and where to stay. With downloads of information and maps for more than 8,000 destinations worldwide. An essential travel companion.

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