It’s easy to forget just how far smartphones have come in the last few years. From being limited to taking calls and texts on a black and white Nokia 3210 in 1999, we’re now spoilt for choice when it comes to apps that can help us stay in touch with each other in simpler ways than ever before.
Gone are the days when you wondered if a text message had sent or how you had to sit down with a pen and paper and laboriously transfer address contacts from phone to phone.
Here, we’ve listed seven apps that should make you smartphone experience even better, saving you time, giving you a laugh and enhancing your social life. Even better, most of them are free or under £1.
This app is everything that Apple’s own Mail isn’t. Instead of the rather sterile interface offered in Mail, Sparrow uses a UI similar to Twitter and Facebook, and is incredibly intuitive and easy-to-use. In fact, it’s a wonderfully sleek app.
The main screens use bold colours and the swipe function is all you need to access every function quickly and easily. It’s effortlessly simple to cycle through your inbox and star or delete messages. Even adding Ccs and Bccs is so easy and elegant that you’ll be playing with the app for a long time. When you compose a new email the separate menus collapse, giving you more screen space and your most frequent contacts are accessible at the top.
All of your contact images get pulled through from Contacts and Facebook, so you can identify people at a glance and send emails to them just like you would writing on a friend’s wall. Sparrow also supports Gmail, iCloud, MobileMe, Yahoo and AOL email accounts, as well as Exchange accounts with IMAP enabled.
If you frequent a number of forums online, it can be frustrating when you try to load them on smartphones because they’re so large and memory intensive. Tapatalk deals with these speed issues by making forum browsing super fast. Navigation between threads becomes really easy, even on a small screen, and you can various forums to the app, allowing you to browse straight away in one click instead of various steps through search engines. Another useful feature integrated into the app is the ability to make text bigger, so even if you are viewing lots of text on a small screen, it doesn’t become tiresome or awkward.
Chances are that if you own an iPhone, Android or other smartphone, you’ll be using a Twitter client. While the native app is good enough for keeping up-to-date, there’s so much more you can do with others apps. We think the best is Tweetbot. A long list of features set it apart from the rest, but the single best one has to be multiple timelines, making it easy to command want you want to see at any point.
You can check nearby tweets to your location and post links that shorten automatically. Much like Safari, it offers Favorite and Read Later support on all those interesting articles you can enjoy later on. It’s easy to see tweet conversations with a quick swipe and smart gestures such as the triple-tap function make it quicker to retweet and favourite followers. Add this to a slick UI with nice contrasting text and fun sounds and it’s easy to see why this is called the Twitter client ‘with personality’. At £1.99, it’s a bit of a steal and the app is constantly updated with new functionality and integration, which recently includes Droplr and Storify.
As with most things, the best apps are often the simplest, and for having a laugh when you’re bored, you could do worse than Fake-A-Message. A free app, it allows you to completely script a fake conversation and fool your friends into thinking you’re talking to someone famous. It’s easy to use too - just enter the text from both people, send it on, and you’ll get a text back from whoever you specified. The free version is all you’ll need to let your creative juices flow and set up that coveted message from Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian appear on your lock screen.
If there’s an easier way to stay in contact with your friends than WhatsApp, we’ve yet to see it. Forget SMS, WhatsApp is a much more accomplished alternative and offers everything you need to communicate between friends.
The app lets you send messages, images, videos and voice notes to contacts for free. What’s more, it remains free even if your friends are abroad, so costly international charges become a thing of the past. It automatically picks up all of your phone’s contacts so there’s no need to add in numbers and details all over again either.
Perhaps the best feature is the group message. Simply add contacts into a new group, and they’ll all receive your message at the same time, effectively making it an open forum without limits and at no extra cost. There’s no need to log in every time you launch it and it will save messages you received when offline and push them to your phone when you next have 3G or Wifi signal.
You can now download WhatsApp for free for the first year, and it’s just 99p a year thereafter – brilliant value considering one text abroad can cost you upwards of 50p.
Find My Friends
Apple’s own apps are still some of the best you can get to enhance your iPhone. Similar to Find My iPhone – an app that I’ve used on many occasions to track down a lost handset, even if it has only been wedged down the car seat – the app is a location-cum-social tool for pinpointing your friends’ and family’s whereabouts. Though it sounds a bit intrusive, the app is actually very useful for peace of mind. Think of how much time you’ve waited at the cinema or in concerts, waiting for friends who are lost somewhere in the crowd. With this app, you can find them an get in touch straight away.
Available free on devices running iOS 5, you simply need to sign in with your iCloud account and send out friend requests to people you want to track. Then, when they accept, their location is pinpointed on a Google map in seconds and you can find directions to them or send them an iMessage. It’s simple but effective, saving you a lot of wasted time wandering around looking for people. It’s also remarkably accurate.
Before Bump came to be, sharing contact details and photos was unnecessarily time-consuming. You either had to send them via picture messages – which still cost 20p or more if you’re not using alternatives like WhatsApp – or email them. That all changed when Bump offered an alternative as simple as lightly ‘bumping’ two smartphones together to transfer contacts and photos instantly. Your details are kept secure over an encrypted server and the information you can transfer doesn’t stop there - you can now share apps music, messages and calendar entries.
One of the best apps ever to be available on your smartphone, it’s been around for a while and even became the App Store’s billionth download in 2009. Even better, the app keeps upgrading and now offers phone-to-computer sharing through bu.mp. Simply visit the website, start the app on your phone then choose a photo to transfer. Tap the phone on your spacebar and the photo will appear on your computer screen instantly without the need for wires or new software, leaving you with more time to share the pictures with friends online.