Transform Your Apps Into Your Super Tools

Photo by Johan Larsson via Flickr


Run through a mental inventory of the apps on your phone. How many are for entertainment only? Or even worse, how many are old apps you never even use? If you are like most smartphone users, your time is divided between checking status updates and playing Angry Birds. But while screen-swiping games might be a great way to wait in line, your apps can be far more productive. If you want to turn your phone into a work tool, a social connection, an innovation machine, or a useful travel companion, check out these practical apps for everyday life. Each is available for Android and iPhone devices.

1. Evernote: Evernote is a type of note-taking app, but makes most notetakers look dull in comparison. You can make photo and audio notes as well as text, or even attach web pages and images to your notes to help jog your memory. Handy synchronization keeps notes updated across all your devices, and a search function allows you to quickly remember what you wanted to remember. If you like Evernote, there are a number of more specific versions, such as Evernote Clearly and Evernote Peek. Evernote is a free download, although Premium has a monthly cost.

2. QuickOffice: QuickOffice is a general document management device. Not only does it let you create, edit, and view Word/Excel/PowerPoint/PDF docs, but it also lets you integrate them with file sharing services like MobileMe, Dropbox,, and Google Docs (all available in app form as well). Basically this gives your mobile device most of the features you need to do your job on the go…especially if your business uses the Microsoft Suite. Note that QuickOffice is one of the most expensive apps, at $14.99.

3. GroupMe: Group messages are nice, but coordinating across social networks is annoying. GroupMe solves the problem by simply drawing in names from your contact list and letting you create a forum-like message for all of them (or at least for your own designated list). You can also send photos to a chosen group or let your friends know your current location. Think of it as a highly personal social network. GroupMe is free.

4. Google Translate: This free translation app is ideal for all sorts of foreign language dilemmas. You can translate foreign websites directly, look up foreign words, read dialects in strange scripts, and access on-the-go translation with the text-to-speech and voice input options. Few other translator apps have so many different uses – at least if you have an Android or iPhone. Features drop for Blackberry and Nokia versions of the app.

5. Yammer: If GroupMe is a personal social network, then Yammer is the business version of the same concept. It is an enterprise app that lets you and your coworkers microblog together, building profiles and sharing information about tasks, projects, and clients as needed. It combines some properties of Facebook and some properties of Twitter, but actually increases productivity instead of wasting time. The basic package is free with a couple premium options.

6. Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary: Everyone has wished they had an instant dictionary at some point. This dictionary app is available on both Android and iPhone models, and gives you definitions, synonyms, antonyms, and sentences. Best of all, it includes a voice search option if are not sure about spelling. It costs $2.99 for now.

7. Lookout Mobile Security: Mobile devices are difficult to protect from hacks and breaches because of the way data is transferred. Help increase your security with this app, which screens other apps for potential security issues and helps you backup data. Other handy tools, like a phone-finder for when you lose your device, are also includes. A premium option adds more tools for a couple dollars per month.

8. GasBuddy: GasBuddy is a free and easy app that finds the lowest gas prices in your immediate area. You can also join a community and report gas prices to help earn prize points. This app is better for cities than it is for rural areas with few gas options.

9. Google Goggles: Google Goggles allows you to search for information on a certain object by snapping a photo of it. It may not always work, but it can be a quick and easy tool for answering a question about a landmark, logo, book, movie, plant, food, or animal, so the applications are diverse. Goggles also acts as a QR reader for those QR codes that keep popping up on today’s products.

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Curious about more possibilities? Look through more reviews to find productive apps that fit your lifestyle. Don’t let that smartphone go to waste!

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