A beginner's guide to the smartphone apps that can make cooking, reading, and keeping fit so much easier.

 

Even if you think you can’t live without the convenience of your mobile phone, you might not be getting the absolute most out of this super-smart device.

What your smartphone can do depends very much on what phone apps you download.  A app, or application, is simply a software program you download to your phone or tablet from online platforms such as the App Store or the Android Market.

Many phones will come with apps already installed for Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps and other popular players, but there are some other great ones you might not have heard of yet.

Cooking

OK, so they won’t do slicing and dicing for you, but at least the hard part of working out what to have for dinner is sorted with these apps.

There are a huge number of recipe apps available – Taste and BigOven are two well-known ones – that not only offer more recipes than you can ever imagine, but great ideas and reader reviews and tips. It’s also handy when out shopping to be able to check them to ensure you have the ingredients you need.

Health

Fitness apps are all the craze, but you don’t need a wearable fitness tracker to use them; your phone can do the job just fine.

If you have seen joggers getting around with a large band on their arm with their phone in it, they’re likely tracking their run on one of those apps. But you don’t need to be a top-level athlete to use them – they’re great for walking or tracking any type of exercise. Strava, Runtastic Pedometer and Moves are good ones to start with.

Heart-rate monitors can detect your pulse rate from your fingertips. Some are free, like Instant Heart Rate Monitor, but others that you pay for can record your blood pressure, resting heart rate and weight, so you can track them over time.

Meanwhile, sometimes the hardest part of taking medication is remembering when to do it. But there are handy apps such as Medisafe Pill Reminder, My Pillbox and Mr Pillster that can remind you what to take and when.

Reading

For a different reading experience, Flipboard will turn your social media accounts into a magazine-style viewing experience, so you can flip through the pages with ease.

You can keep track of the books you own through apps such as iBookshelf, My Library, Bookify, and Book Crawler, so you don’t double-buy because you’ve forgotten what’s in your collection. Goodreads lets you collate a list of what you are reading now, what you have already read and what you have on your wish list, as well as offering reader reviews with ratings on books.

Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iBooks are some of the popular sites that allow you to download books to read at your leisure.

If font size is an issue for you when it comes to reading, try Smart Magnifier, Magnifier Pro or Magnifying Glass Flashlight. They offer functions such as turning your phone into a magnifying glass to help you read better, and turning on the phone light to brighten the text. Some apps also allow changing contrast for easier viewing and large button navigation.

If you’d rather just let your phone do the work for you, there are a large variety of audiobooks available online – Audible being far and away the most popular.

Writing

Dragon Dictation takes anything you say and puts it into an email message. It can record reminders and post on Facebook or Twitter for you.

Keep track of all your messages and memos through Evernote. It’s a great filing tool that allows you to keep all sorts of information, such as text files, images, audio and video, so it’s at your fingertips when you’re on the go.

Music

You can listen to pretty much any song anywhere and anytime when you have a smartphone.

There are numerous radio broadcast and streaming apps devoted to music. Popular options are Spotify, Soundcloud, Pandora, TuneIn Radio and myTuner Radio Australia.

If you hear a song in public and want identify it, Shazam and Soundhound can both let you know in seconds. 

But watch how much data broadcast and streaming apps can use. You might be playing a radio station for free but it could cost you in data if you’re not connected to Wi-Fi.

Fun

There are lots of apps called ‘brain trainers’ that can help keep the brain alert and come in the form of range of quizzes and games. Lumosity, Peak and Blackbox are some of the popular brain-training apps.

If you’re after more traditional types of games, pretty much any board game you can think of, or a variation of it, is now available to download on your phone. And you don’t even need to find someone to play with because with some of them you play against the computer, while others offer other enthusiasts around the world who’re keen to play. Popular games include Scrabble, Candy Crush, Words with Friends, Word Feud, Word Chums, Pure Sudoku, and Kami 2.

Communication

There are loads of apps that enable you to communicate with people around the world without the high cost of international calls. Most offer more than just a phone call to – you can text, instant message and even make a face-to-face call through video conferencing.

Many people will already be familiar with Skype and Facebook Messenger, but other WhatsApp and Viber are equally effective ways to communicate without using phone credit.

Are there any phone apps you couldn’t live without? Share your suggestions in the comments below!

Comments

In this feature