Is your smartphone’s real estate looking dated? Or are you trying to overcome a Candy Crush addiction? To mark Apple’s App Store’s fifth birthday, B&T assembled a panel of digital experts to reveal their top five apps
TIM EVANS, DIGITAL STRATEGY DIRECTOR, DT
I’ve tried to avoid the obvious and the fringe, hopefully landing somewhere at the intersection of useful and interesting. Our phones are our most personally significant, and immediate, connective technology. The best apps use that speed and intimacy.
- 1. Grindr: A geo-location dating service focused on the LGBT community. The most-used app across three different locations at Cannes this year. While the tech is starting to date (first release 2009), you have to admire the Grindr community from an economic and evolutionary psychology perspective. The community uses Grindr to trade sex and drugs. Grindr is a good example of the instant personal significance that mobile apps should strive for.
- Heard: It records the past 12 seconds of your life. Heard records the audio around you into a self-destructing buffer, so only the last 12 seconds are accessible at any one time. If something fun happens, like babies’ first words, then boom – you caught it.
- Snapchat: Self-destructing video sharing. I dismissed this app as gimicky at first, until I noticed I was connecting with people in my second circle, those who I would seldom SMS, but would regularly Snapchat. There’s something irresistable about once only glimpses at your friend’s lives.
- Uber: Use private cars like taxis. Closed-loop payments. Hot UI. Accesible luxury. Game mechanics. Instant status. Today Uber delivers all of that, but it already has its sights set on so much more. “We like to think of Uber as the cross between lifestyle and logistics,” says CEO Kalanick.
- Shitchat: A Melbourne-made antidote to bad conversation. Download this prior to that coffee catch-up you wish you could cancel but you really have to go to this time.
- (5.1) Budge: A micro-donation platform. With charitable donations becoming more transparent, shame for donating small amounts started to creep in. A couple of Melbourne boys wanted to make donating fun using social game mechanics. “We want to educate people that it’s okay to give in small amounts,” says founder Hilan Klein.
STEVEN SKREKOVSKI, DIGITALCREATIVE DIRECTOR, DDB
- Readability: Over the course of the day, whether by referral or during research, I come across a range of links and articles online. Even though these links are interesting, they may not be what I’m looking for at that point in time. Readability is a handy app that integrates with my browser and lets me save these pages to read when I’m free later on my iPhone.
- Runkeeper: Runkeeper works because it keeps things simple. I’d listen to music through my iPhone while running, and to begin with Runkeeper was just to monitor the distance and time of my runs. The added benefit of mapping the run was nice, but the real benefit is the information it provides during the run. I get audio updates on distance, pace and how good/bad I’m performing compared to my target pace. It also has a social sharing ability, but I only find that useful when bragging about the 6am runs during winter.
- Flipboard: When I’m looking to kill some time, Flipboard is great. It gives a snapshot across articles on creative, technology and my social media. The layout is uncomplicated and section hero tiles are continually updated as content changes. Its integration with Readability means I can save things for later.
- Spotify: As a recent subscriber to Spotify, I installed it because I was tired of updating my iTunes library. Of course the Spotify catalogue eclipses my collection, but the benefit is having referrals to discover new music and seeing what friends are listening to. Spotify kind of socialises music again.
- Google Maps: Without a doubt this is one of my most useful apps. I like the way Google is continually improving the art of providing relevant information and I think the latest version of Google maps continues in the right direction, pun unintended.
JAMES KEELER, HEAD OF STRATEGY, THE WHITE AGENCY
iPhone 5 user
- Touchnote: To me, what makes an app great can be the content it delivers, its functionality or that it takes an existing behaviour and makes it easier. Touchnote is the latter. Remember last time you wanted to send a postcard? You had to find a postcard and stamps, write the card, then find a postbox. That’s a lot of steps when you’re trying to enjoy yourself. Touchnote makes it easy. It lets you use any photo on your phone to create a physical postcard. The cards are printed in Australia, UK, US and Western Europe, so they arrive to those places within three days and costs less than $1.50. Brilliant.
- TripIt: You know all of those things you need to remember when you go away? Flight booking numbers, flight times, hotel reservation numbers, car hire details, etc. Now you can use TripIt. Set up an account, email your confirmations through, and it sets up your itinerary for you. And if you don’t have accommodation booked, it will make suggestions based on the types of places you’ve stayed in before.
- Pocket Weather Australia: This app takes data from the Bureau of Meteorology and lets you access key weather information quickly and simply. I’ve set up the locations I travel to regularly so I can see the weather in these places as soon as the app opens. Nothing fancy, just useful content delivered well.
- Tour de France Tour Tracker: Unfortunately most of the exciting action during the race happens at about 2am Sydney time, and I don’t have the stamina to stay up most nights. So every morning during the Tour I go to the app and check out what happened the night before, who the jersey holders are, what the next stage holds.
- Zinio: For the last one, I asked my wife for her favourite app and she immediately said ‘Zinio’. It lets her access her favourite Spanish gossip magazine. If she had to subscribe to the physical magazine it would cost $450+ a year, and each issue would arrive two weeks late. With the app she downloads the latest issue as soon as it comes out/whenever she wants it, for $3. This is what the internet is about – accessing content that would otherwise be hard to get.
AISHA HILLARY, COMMERCIAL AND STRATEGIC DIRECTOR, TIGERSPIKE
- Google Maps: If you need assistance with mapping, navigation, public transport or finding a nearby eatery, in an app that is reliable, then Google Maps is a must. Simple to use and an essential for your everyday it has lots of additional features that add value if you want even more.
- Uber: With nice user experiences and clear utility, which you don’t mind paying a premium for, Uber is a simple and easy to use car hire service. You set up an account, pre-register a credit card, select the type of car (black, luxury or regular taxis), with an estimated pick up time, live tracking and a seamless, cashless payment experience at drop off.
- Flixster with Rotten Tomatoes: I love films. When I finally have the time to watch a movie, I want to make sure I am not disappointed. Flixster allows you to search for films in cinema or on DVD, upcoming or old, review film details including trailers, synopsis, directors, cast, photos and more. The best part is the critics and user percentage reviews highlighting if it was a success or rotten tomato. It has saved hours and love exploring cast and director biographies.
- Tripadvisor: I have a passion for travel, unique experiences and good food, so before I plan any holiday Tripadvisor is my first point of call. The app enables you to search all the latest reviews and information about any destination. Search hotels, restaurants, things to do, flights, maps, directions and even streetview so you can explore before you even get there.
- TED: The TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) app has a tagline, ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’, which definitely holds true for the app’s content. Educational and entertaining, TED provides video talks around different subject matters from TED conferences. You can listen or view, search for areas of interest, or get inspired with the ‘inspire me’ feature. The content is brilliant for inspiration on the go.
I am sure everyone knows about the following but I wanted to share just in case:
Every day apps: LinkedIn, Synchronize, WhatsApp, Viber, Oz Weather, Twitter, TuneIn Radio, Skyscanner and have to say two of ours, Woolworths and SBS on Demand.
Recreational: Instagram, Facebook, Shazam, Etsy, Hotels.com, Airbnb, Ticketek, TimeOut, Urbanspoon, eBay, MapMyRun and Lonely Planet.
STEVE NASH, SENIOR MOBILE DESIGNER, BIG MOBILE
Nexus 4 user
- Google Currents: This app pulls content on load from subscriptions to create an easy to read magazine-style feed. Google hopes to enhance the reading experience through a single user interface that pulls content from a variety of content sources. Users are able to find and subscribe to categorised content sources that interest them. Subscriptions sync across devices on both iOS and Android.
- Foursquare: Foursquare has been around since the advent of smartphones but has slowly built utility through progressive feature additions and a focus on engaging user experiences. As a foodie, I find Foursquare to be the perfect companion to finding the crowd-sourced, must-order dish anywhere I eat. Foursquare’s Explore function helps you find venues based on location and crowd sourced feedback. It’s rare to find a Sydney venue that’s not on Foursquare with photos, tips and a mayor to de-throne.
- Google+: The Google+ app has evolved significantly since its launch in 2011. It’s moved from a Facebook clone to something different and unique. The stream consolidates content from people, sites and communities into a blog-style feed. Building up content circles is easy and enjoyable. The crowd sourced ‘What’s Hot’ feed is a great place to start and find interesting content outside of the normal publishers. With more active users than Twitter, Google+ is slowly becoming an integral part of social content strategies.
- Vine: This is the new app in town making waves for its simplicity and creativity. A Vine is a six-second video composed of a number of scenes that loops endlessly. The simple touch to record, release to pause mechanic is easy to learn. It’s interesting to explore the Vine world through hashtags and lose yourself in creative loops of other people’s lives.
- Tasker: Tasker lets you put your phone to work. Using a series of actions (sometimes called ‘recipes’) you can tell your phone to do things. For example, you can set your phone to turn off data between 10pm and 6am to prevent disruptive work emails. Or set your phone to silent and turn vibrate off during meetings scheduled on your calendar. The possibilities really are endless and completely personal. The interface and logic is quite technical but if you have a spare half an hour it’s a good little project to bring some device-based automation to life. Tasker is only available on Android.