Did you get a new phone or tablet this Holiday Season? Are you wondering what apps you should install? Wonder no more! We’re here with a list of all the best programs to help keep you both entertained and productive in the New Year!
Over the years the Facebook app has fallen victim to some serious feature bloat, which can lead to it causing some devices to suffer from a performance hit. Luckily, they also make this version of the app which strips out many of the extraneous, and some would say unnecessary additions, leaving you with the simplest, least resource-intensive version of the service.
Maybe you’re tired of Facebook altogether? Given that many of our feeds have become cluttered with fake news and conspiracy theories, we wouldn’t blame you. It’s far easier to avoid that kind of content on the company’s sister service, Instagram. Here you are far more likely to see pictures of people enjoying their lives, be it on vacations to exotic locales, at fine dining establishments, or just playing with their pets. It’s a whole lot easier to come away from Instagram wearing a smile than it seems to be on Facebook these days.
This service is perhaps overdue for an update, but it’s still the best way to keep track of all the books you’ve read and a great place to share your thoughts and opinions. In addition, it’s a fun way to see what your friends are reading, get book suggestions, and even see what your favorite authors are up to.
Others may try, but there is still no better reading app out there than Amazon’s. In addition to having the largest selection of books to buy (Android only, you’ll have to visit Amazon.com in your browser on Apple devices), it has the cleanest interface and works with the most devices, making it easy to pick up where you left off no matter where you are.
LIBBY, BY OVERDRIVE
Of course, you don’t need to buy books on Amazon when you have access to thousands of free titles with your library card on Libby. This updated version of the Overdrive service has been dramatically simplified and even gives Kindle a run for their money for the best e-reading experience.
Your library card also gives you access to Hoopla, which offers a large selection of eBooks, eAudiobooks, music, TV shows, movies, and even some of the latest comic books. Even better, unlike on Libby there is never any waiting for a title.
Do you love foreign and independent cinema? Than use your library card to sign up for Kanopy and enjoy your choice of 10 free movies each month. There is a wide selection to choose from and the app is available on most major streaming devices, making it easy to get the films onto your TV.
The service that kicked off the streaming video revolution is still possibly the best. In recent years they have lost access to a lot of more traditional mainstream hits, as those studios roll out their own services, but the company smartly invested in producing tons of its own content and has since turned into an entertainment powerhouse, with more buzzed about shows and movies than almost everyone else.
Of course, there are still lots of great shows being released via the more traditional channels, and the best app to keep up with all of them is Hulu. There are several different tiers to meet a variety of use cases and budgets, with the cheapest, ad-supported, on-demand only package running around $6/month and the top of the line package with commercial-free on-demand and 60+ live TV channels being just over $50/month.
THE CRITERION CHANNEL
Cinephiles have long been fans of The Criterion Collection’s top-notch home video releases of many of film’s most important works. The company’s streaming service makes accessing the collection along with a rotating selection of other significant movies easier than ever, and is surprisingly inexpensive.
If you are particularly fond of the horror genre, AMC Networks’ Shudder app is sure to be one of your favorites. This curated streaming service features a wide variety of horror movies and series from cult classics to Hollywood hits to modern film-festival darlings. They have also had some recent success with original content, like the buzzy Creepshow anthology series.
With countless streaming services fighting it out for the rights to your favorite movies and shows, it can be a challenge to figure out where you can watch what you want. That’s where this app comes in. Just enter the title you’re looking for and JustWatch lets you know exactly where you can find it.
Streaming is great, but some movies demand to be seen on the big screen. Make the movie ticket buying experience as painless as possible with Fandango. You can check your local showtimes and then buy your tickets all in one place.
If you’ve ever found yourself stuck trying to remember the name of an actor or actress in a movie, then this is the app for you. The Internet Movie Database has all the information you could need on nearly every movie ever made.
There are a lot of music streaming services to choose from, but Spotify remains number 1 for a reason. With instantaneous access to virtually all of the world’s recorded music, a large selection of podcasts, and compatibility with every major tech platform, it’s the easiest way to bring music with you wherever you go.
It can be incredibly frustrating to be out and about and hear a song that you like but can’t figure out the name of. Thanks to apps like Shazam those days are over. Just hold your phone near the source of the music and within seconds, Shazam will tell you what it is, and even add it to your favorite playlist for you.
Democratize the music at your next party with this fun app. Link it up with your Spotify, Soundcloud, or Apple Music account and then share the link with your guests. Everyone can add music to the queue and even upvote songs to make them play sooner.
This app is a great way to both discover and support new and emerging acts. Browse genres to find a performer you like, listen to samples and full tracks for free, then purchase the entire album in both physical and digital formats.
FIX MUSIC REWARDS
Earn rewards for listening to music. Just link Fix up to your preferred streaming service and start racking up points which can be exchanged for real-world gear like t-shirts and records.
BLUETOOTH VOLUME MANAGER
Our phones have become our default music playing devices, especially with the ubiquity of speakers that link up via Bluetooth. Of course, we don’t always want our phone to output the same volume to our headphones that we want it to send to our car. This app allows you to create different profiles for each of your favorite devices, and then automatically adjusts the phone’s volume when you connect to them.
NEW YORK TIMES
They are still the paper of record for America, featuring breaking news and in-depth reporting across a variety of topics. Their app is also one of the best designed for any newspaper, making reading on a mobile device a pleasant experience.
NEW YORK TIMES CROSSWORD
While we’re on the topic of the Times, their daily crosswords are second to none, and this well-designed app makes accessing them on the go a breeze.
What makes this app stand out is that it offers access to the CBS News 24-hour streaming TV network. This channel runs through the day’s biggest stories without all of the arguing one finds on the 24-hour cable networks.
You can stream any NPR station from across the country with this app, but even better is the access to all of NPR’s excellent programming on-demand. Never miss another episode of Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! again!
THE WEATHER CHANNEL
There are a lot of different weather apps to choose from, both free and paid, and while the Weather Channel occasionally makes some annoying decisions with how this one works, it is still the best of the bunch.
SEASTORM HURRICANE TRACKER
Living on the coast means that there is always a risk of a hurricane or tropical storm coming along and wreaking havoc. This app gives you access to a lot of the same maps and models that the weather forecasters use making it easy for you to keep track of any approaching storms.
You won’t necessarily want to create any Word documents on your phone, the screen is a bit small for that to be totally convenient. But it’s still nice to be able to open one up as needed and make edits on the fly, rather than waiting until you can access a computer again, and there is still no better solution for this than Microsoft’s.
Google is giving Microsoft a run for their money on the Office front with their suite of products. You won’t find every feature here that you can in Word, but unlike that one, this service is completely free, which makes it a good option for those who are unlikely to deal with Word documents very often.
MICROSOFT OFFICE LENS
Add scanners to the list of devices that have been made obsolete by smartphones. Using this app, just take a snapshot of the document you want to scan and it can save it as a PDF, Word document, JPG, and more.
If you ever find yourself stuck on a math problem just open this app and take a photo of it. Within moments you will have your answer, and it will even “show the work” to help you understand the proper procedures to arrive at it.
Some of us take an incredibly large number of photos on our phones. If you are one of them you have likely experienced a message telling you that you are out of storage at some point. This service automatically backs up all of your pictures to the cloud and provides a simple method for removing backed up images from your phone, allowing you to free up space while retaining access to the pictures. Even better is that it is completely free for an unlimited number of standard resolution images.
Adobe has long made stripped down versions of their photo-editing software available on mobile devices, but this year saw the debut of their (nearly) full-featured flagship Photoshop program make it onto iPads and iPhones. It does require a monthly subscription to use, is probably better with an Apple Pen, and is still missing some features, but for anyone who relies on it this is absolutely essential, and improving rapidly.
This app uses Google’s speech recognition technology to translate spoken words into readable text on the fly. Perfect for dictation, creating an event transcription, or aiding the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
LASTPASS PASSWORD MANAGER
It is strongly recommended that you use a unique password for each of the different services and sites that you use. Of course, keeping track of all of these passwords can be a major pain. LastPass allows you to keep them all securely stored in one safe place. Everything is kept encrypted for extra security, and the service will autofill your passwords for you for convenience.
PRISM MOBILE BILLPAY
Sync this service up with all of your financial accounts and ongoing subscriptions and it will keep track of when all of your payments are due for you. In addition, you can pay all of your bills inside the app to keep everything centralized in one place.
Since an increasingly large number of people don’t carry cash anymore, paying each other back for small things like a split lunch or gas money can be a challenge. Most of the major US banks and credit unions have worked together to create this service that allows you to transfer money to your friends and family nearly instantly to alleviate that problem. You may even already have access to it inside your bank’s official app, in which case you don’t need to install this one.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft related crimes is to keep an eye on your credit score. This completely free service makes it easy to do that by sending you notifications the moment there is any change. In addition they offer helpful suggestions for improving your score and a variety of other (also free) services like online tax filing.
This app works in conjuction with the variety of Tile devices available for sale, and if you are the sort that is prone to misplacing things, you absolutely need one. Just attach the Tile device to whatever you want to keep track of, link it up with the app, and never worry about losing your keys again!
The keyboard that comes with your phone is probably fine, but once you use this one you’ll never go back. It allows for significant cosmetic customization, helping you to make your phone just that little bit more personalized, but most importantly, it has the best predictive text out there right now. There are times I have managed to type out whole sentences just using the words it thought I would want.
YOUR PHONE COMPANION
Put this Microsoft-made app on your Android phone and you can link it up to your PC, allowing notifications to appear on your desktop. You can even send and receive texts without taking your phone out of your pocket, and more functionality is on the way.
Keep track of all of your favorite recipes across all of your devices with this handy program. You can import recipes directly from many of the most popular websites or enter your own by hand. Additionally, it allows for easy conversion for different sizes and lets you add your ingredients to a shopping list with a simple tap.
Do you love trying different wines but find it hard to remember which ones you’ve already had or what you thought of them? You can use this app like your personal wine diary, follow any of your friends who also use it, and even order your favorites and have them shipped to your door.
Easily find out which restaurants near you have availability and book a table with a click. You can also preview the menu beforehand, see photos of the decor and the food, and read user reviews that tend to feel a bit more accurate than those found on other sites.
See all of the biggest sales, discounts, and coupon deals available across the internet at any given time. A great way to make sure you are always getting the best price, just try not to buy too many things just because they’re on sale…
SID MEIER’S CIVILIZATION VI
Make sure to leave yourself plenty of free time before you begin playing this incredibly addicting turn-based strategy game. You control a civilization from the dawn of man up into the near-future, with several different paths to victory. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself still awake into the wee hours of the night, muttering, “Just one more turn…”
ALPHABEAR: WORDS ACROSS TIME
This fun word game requires you to clear tiles by creating words out of adjoining letters. Every time you make a word, some cute cartoon bears appear on screen, and at the end of each round the words you found are slotted into sentences à la Mad Libs.
A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style text-based game that sees you trying to circumnavigate the globe in a balloon. A fun twist on a classic story.