You know why the phrase “there’s an app for that” has become cliché? Because there really is an app for pretty much anything and everything.
Within five years of the launch of Apple’s App Store, mobile applications became a primary tool for people to communicate, shop, play, work and organize their lives, according to IndustryWeek. Today, about 2.2 million apps are available in the store, while Google Play for Android phones has 2.8 million, and the number of mobile app downloads worldwide is expected to hit 352 billion by 2021, according to the BusinessofApps.com — the same year the global app economy is expected to be worth $6.3 trillion, up from $1.3 trillion in 2016 an App Annie report states.
By now, most of us are familiar with gaming apps such as Angry Birds, which has been downloaded at least 3 billion times, and social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram. But there are plenty of apps out there that can make life not just more fun, but a little easier. Here’s a look at 14 apps to help you meet your goals of living healthier, parenting from afar, keeping better track your finances and taking control of your home.
It’s March, and that means many of us have given up on our New Year’s resolutions to get or stay in shape. Luckily, we can jump back on the bandwagon at any time, and Studio SWEAT onDemand (studiosweatondemand.com) can help heave us up. Watch instructors from an actual class at Studio SWEAT in San Diego work on six areas — abs and core, mind and body, sculpt, spin, TRX, and floor exercises. Get unlimited access for $19.99 per month or download a single class for $7.88.
Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app (myfitnesspal.com) is free to download and offers a calorie counter that taps a database of more than 5 million foods to let you know just how many calories you’re putting in. It can also tell you how many calories you’re burning off when you perform certain exercises.
Additionally, if you want to know what chemicals are in a food you’re thinking about eating, check out Healthy Living from the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org/apps). Search for a product by name, scan a bar code or just browse the database’s more than 120,000 food and personal care products.
Personally, we like to spend a few minutes playing Candy Crush when we need a breather, but meditation works, too. The Headspace app (headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app) has more than 10 million users, including notables such as Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington. The app provides guided meditation, which studies have shown can reduce stress, increase focus and promote sleep. Meditation sessions range from a few minutes to one hour, and the app recently added a Sleep Sounds function for when you need help nodding off. It’s free to download, and subscriptions cost $12.99 per month or $94.99 per year.
Simplify money management with the Mint app (mint.com), which PC Magazine named the best mobile finance app of 2017. It connects to accounts directly and offers a web version for those times when tiny screens won’t cut it. The app provides a big-picture view of all your finances while also tracking each transaction that posts to your accounts. It also offers budgeting tools and bill reminders, so you won’t have to worry about late fees.
You don’t have to be a helicopter parent or tiger mom or whatever the name of the day is to want your children to be safe. Androids and iPhones have Find My Friends apps, but there’s also Family Tracker (myfamilytracker.com). This app, which costs $3.99 in the Apple App Store, lets you not only find friends and family — who must accept a tracking request first — but send and receive notifications of safe arrivals. Users can also see where their loved ones have been in the past few days and send a ping to another device to get that owner’s attention. A subscription is $1.99 per month, $5.99 for three months, $9.99 for six months or $19.99 per year.
It’s not just physical safety we parents need to think about these days. We need look no further than the latest information breach report to understand how crucial cyber safety is, or the latest headline about cyber bullying, sexting and other online dangers. Not to mention the fact that with kids more glued to their devices than ever, parents struggle to find a healthy balance between letting them live in the virtual world as opposed to the real world. The Qustodio app (qustodio.com) gives caregivers a dashboard that lets them see at a glance all recent mobile activity for any connection device. Users can set time limits on devices or specific game usage, track texts and block inappropriate sites. Bonus: You can also track your children’s location and they can send you panic alerts in an emergency. Three subscription plans are available from $54.95 per year for up to five devices to $137.95 per year for up to 15 devices.
The free First Aid by American Red Cross app (redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/mobile-apps) quickly provides information on how to handle a medical emergency, such as anaphylaxis, burns, choking and poisoning, or prepare for natural disasters, earthquakes, flooding or winter weather. The app also explains how to perform CPR and offers quizzes so you can test your knowledge. Additionally, you can type your location into a query field to get results on the locations of the nearest hospitals.
Those of us in the D.C. area know the pain of searching for parking only to have to pay ungodly sums for a tiny spot on the bottom level of a garage. The free Parking Panda app (parkingpanda.com) lets you check the availability of spots and reserve them, sometimes at a discounted rate. It has details on more than 2,500 lots and garages in more than 40 cities, including the District, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco. SpotHero.com also helps you book parking at over 5,000 garages, lots and valets in major U.S. cities, including D.C.
Control Your Home
Apps bring new meaning to the term “remote control.” Ever settle into a theater seat only to be seized by the thought that you left the stove on? Or arrive at your vacation destination and wrack your brain trying to remember if you set the house alarm before you left? Apps such as SmartThings (smartthings.com) can put you at ease. A $300 kit comes with a SmartThings hub and sensors that you connect to devices in your home. Once they’re set up, you can control and monitor them from your smartphone, and while you’re out, the app will alert you to problems such as unexpected activity or a water leak. But you don’t have to wait to be away from the house to make your newly smart home useful. You can turn on lights, adjust the thermostat and start the coffeemaker in the morning or turn on the stereo before you get home from work.
OK, so this one isn’t a life-changer, but it could be lots of fun. Philips Hue (meethue.com) is a personal wireless lighting system that lets you set the tone, contrast and color of light to create the right ambience for the moment. Starter kits are available for $34.99 to $199.99. Depending on the package, they come with white and colored lightbulbs and a bridge. Once set up, you can control the lights through your smartphone. Friends of Hue are devices that work with the Philips Hue system, and they include the Amazon Echo, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant.
So rarely do we hear someone say, “Oh, I just love packing for trips.” Usually, it’s a job left to the last minute, completed in a rush and followed by stress over what was forgotten. Enter the PackPoint (packpnt.com) app to the rescue. Program in your destination, departure date, length of stay and trip type — business or leisure — and this free app will tell you what you need in your suitcase(s). You can customize the list, too, by adding or removing items and repeating basics if you’re willing to wear the same thing twice. If you plan to do certain activities while you’re away, such as snow sports or sunning, tell the app and it will adjust the list. Plus, PackPoint can tell you what the weather will be while you’re there so you won’t forget a sweater, poncho or sunscreen.
Using public restrooms isn’t the most fun thing ever, but the free Sit or Squat (sitorsquat.com) app from Charmin (yes, the toilet paper maker) can help you pinpoint the cleanest bathrooms near you. It’s loaded with more than 100,000 public restrooms and rates them with a “sit” if it’s clean or “squat” if it’s, well, not. Users can rate the bathrooms, too, and add new ones to the database. Search using criteria such as location, rating, extras such as baby changing tables and cost, meaning is it inside a restaurant that expects you to buy something in exchange for use of its facilities. A map displays the nearby bathrooms with red (squat) or green (sit) toilet paper rolls. Clicking one brings up the name and address of the place, and the option of getting driving, walking, biking or bus directions.
Save money while you shop with the Ebates (ebates.com) app. Free to download, this app gives you cash back for purchases you make at your favorite stores. To do it, you search for the store and click “shop now.” It routes you to the store’s website, where you proceed as you normally would. Ebates tracks your spending and cuts you a check periodically for a portion of your total. Stores include Bloomingdale’s, Amazon, Saks Fifth Avenue and Gap. Check for extra deals such as double cash back days. Clicking on a store will also bring up a list of specials the shop is running.
About the Author
Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.