The Dawning of the App

Social media phone
Source: Pixabay

About a decade ago, if you mentioned the word ‘app’ to someone, they might have thought you were talking about some kind of food group, or an item of clothing. The birth of smartphones and tablets, however, gave rise to the phenomenon that would eventually change the world as we know it. Contrary to the popular urban legend that ‘app’ is short for ‘Apple’, given that they first became a thing on iOS devices like iPhones, the word is indeed simply a shortening of ‘application’ which is exactly what they are. Functioning in much the same way as programs on a computer, apps can either be downloaded and run offline, or may require an Internet connection, depending on its type. And speaking of types of apps, well, there are hundreds.

If you’re an owner of an iOS or Android device – chances are, you’re reading this very blog on one – then you probably already have some of the world’s biggest and most popular apps downloaded, be they Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp. Over the years, these apps – along with Twitter and a few others – have become stock standard, and have changed the way we interact. Friends and family can keep track of our activities and experiences by means of photos shared on social media, while apps like WhatsApp prove to be far superior to standard SMS messages, thanks to the affordability and ubiquity of Wi-Fi and mobile data, which the apps run on. Nowadays, no matter what you want or need, there’s an app for that. Be it online shopping, booking appointments, keeping track of your diet, you name it!

Of course, not all apps are created equal, but in this blog we explore some of the apps you’ll certainly be glad you downloaded – including the most well-known ones that you’re likely to have, as well as some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your app experiences.

Instagram

Probably the world’s most popular app – yes, even more so than Facebook – Instagram has gone from being a simple photo-sharing app to a global phenomenon, used for personal reasons and businesses alike. Adding pretty filters to your snaps of pets or family is only one aspect of the app, with a built-in messaging service that allows for even voice recording to be sent between accounts. It’s an excellent networking tool, and allows for searches by means of hashtags. While it can be easy to get caught up in the number of followers you have or the number of ‘likes’ a certain photo of yours gets, as with anything, how much you choose to invest in the app is up to you – though a recently added function sets time limits, and will let you know if you’ve been perusing those cat memes for longer than you’d like.

Facebook

As the world’s most popular social media platform, which was once only accessible via an Internet browser, Facebook is an obvious choice. While you’ll have to download the separate Messenger app to communicate with other people, the app allows quick access to your profile timeline and feed, and offers a quick and convenient means of keeping up to date with friends, loved ones and even news events. It’s an excellent way to organise gatherings and parties, and find out what’s hot in your local area.

YouTube

YouTube is undoubtedly the video-playback app of choice, with a catalogue boasting millions of videos, with more added every day. Movie trailers, music videos, documentaries, news, live streams of popular events and games like Fortnite – everything is here. Waiting for the bus? Watch a video! Naturally, video streaming is heavy on data, so make sure your cellular plan allows for uninterrupted entertainment, or wait until you’re in a Wi-Fi zone before you tune in. You can even create your own channel and share your ‘vlogs’ (video blogs) with the world.

WhatsApp

No blog about apps would be complete without mentioning WhatsApp. While messages between certain makes of phone may at times be free of charge, so long as both parties have an Internet connection, WhatsApp allows for minimal charges across all devices with which it’s compatible. Have an iPhone but bae has a Samsung? No worries, WhatsApp doesn’t discriminate.

social media app
Source: Pixabay

Google Maps

While some operating systems come with built-in map apps (i.e. Apple Maps), Google Maps runs on pretty much any device, and has shown somewhat superior features, especially in terms of how updated it is. If you’re tooting off to visit your friend in their brand new place, chances are it will be available on Google Maps before any other. You can use voice navigation as well, ensuring you don’t need to look at your screen while driving.

Duolingo

Learning a language has never been easier, thanks to gamification and apps like Duolingo. Community contributions keep the app free, and while all the most popular languages like Spanish, French and Italian are there, you can also learn Russian, Swahili, Japanese and plenty of others, with new ones being added to the mix all the time.

MyFitnessPal

This exceptional app has garnered worldwide praise, thanks to its ease of use and ability to help you keep track of how many calories you’ve taken in and how many you’ve burned, based on the exercises you log. With personalised eating plans and training programs, it’s like a personal trainer in your pocket.

Headspace

With mindfulness coming into focus these days, more and more people are trying the ancient art of meditation. It’s not easy, shutting off the mind and living in the moment, but Headspace is a delightful app that offers a variety of guided meditations to get you through various situations, and it’s free to download with a basic package. If you love it, like we do, you can enjoy a number of subscription plans.

Tinder

No blog about apps would be complete without Tinder. Once solely a means of finding a match by swiping either left (not interested) or right (interested) across a massive catalogue of nearby suitors, Tinder has also become a means by which to connect with likeminded people nearby, be it for friendship or networking. Just be clear about what it is you’re looking for on your profile, because most people using the app are more than likely interest in more than just friends.

Pinterest

While saving photos you like directly off the web and onto your phone is easy, Pinterest is a means by which you can share your muses and ideas with others, as well as draw inspiration from their collections. Think of Pinterest as something of an idea-board in your pocket, where all of your favourite décor inspirations and fan art, photos of cats and clothes can be ‘pinned’ and shared. Excellent for would-be creatives.

The Best vs. The Rest

Nowadays, creating an app is simple enough, and you can surely find anything and everything that suits a particular purpose. Of course, just as there are good apps, there are bad apps as well. Some may look incredibly appealing, but charge exorbitant amounts to use or subscribe to, while others may struggle to run what with all of the built-in ads (which, of course, you can pay to remove). Some apps may use more battery life than others (i.e. games and streaming services) while others may be so reliant on data that your funds are depleted just by booting them up. A good way to distinguish the best from the rest is simple: read online reviews, as well as customer reviews in your respective app store. Be just as mindful of disclosing your personal or financial information on an app as you would be in any online environment, and pay attention to any terms and conditions, if there are any. After all is said and done, though, if you like an app, you keep it. If not, delete it. Easy as that.