The Bogota Post takes a look at the best apps of 2014
Flipboard is a very popular newsreader app that lets you organise the information that you want from news sources, social media posts, RSS feeds and more and then flip through it as if it were magazine content. Just choose your favourite topics from an extensive list and the app will start building your personalised magazine. Tap on a story and lo, it appears, beautifully presented like an angel hailing the arrival of some messiah or other. If time is not on your side you can send it to Instapaper or Pocket to read offline. Create custom magazines from sources that you like the most, share your magazines with others, or even browse through user-created magazines that you’re interested in. A fantastic app for keeping up to date with all that’s going on in the world.
One of my personal favourites, Evernote is so much more than a note taker and organisational app. You can use it for everything, and I mean everything: bookmarks, notes, recipes, photos, recording reference material… Plus web syncing, some of the best searches outside of Google, reminders, audio recording, business card storage and capturing the serial numbers of your purchases. The more you use Evernote, the more useful it becomes. Before you know it, you will have all your information indexed and searchable across every platform you use!
Honorable mention: Google Keep
Hola is a simple VPN (Virtual Private Network) that fools the websites you visit into thinking that you are accessing them from a different location. This allows you to access sites that may be blocked in your region, like Netflix, Hulu or Pandora, regardless of where you live. If you are paranoid about internet privacy, you can use this app to hide your IP address and browse the web anonymously. Most importantly, for all you football fans out there, when used with BBC iPlayer, you can get Match Of The Day streaming live onto your screen. Essential!
Good alternative: Hotspot Shield VPN
Tasker (Android only $2.99)
Whether you just like to change the look of your device, or are an Android ‘power user’, this is the app for you. Tasker lets you control virtually every aspect of your phone by programming basic ‘rules’ – for example: automatically listen to Spotify whenever you plug in your headphones, dim the screen brightness and phone volumes when you reach a certain time at night, turn on bluetooth file sharing whenever you sit beside your computer, set up an assistant to read out caller ID and text, and then dictate your response – Tasker has you covered. But be prepared – its only negative point is a pretty steep learning curve. If you prefer not to get your hands dirty, this app may not be for you, but that aside the possibilities are endless. After a while you’ll wonder how you ever coped without. It’s been around for a while, but is still my top app of the year!
Horizon camera app is a bit of a one trick pony, but what a trick it is. How many times have you seen vertically shot videos on YouTube and wished you could have punched the camera operator for being so stupid? Well now, with Horizon, never again will you have to be so insulted. The app basically uses your phone’s gyroscope to auto-level videos and photos, keeping a horizontal focus on the action in front of you. If you tilt your phone, the app automatically adjusts the frame to maintain aspect ratio (it supports 1:1, 16:9 and 4:3). So no matter how many jitters you have from last night’s hangover, you can rest assured that your photos and videos will now feel that little bit more professional. The app comes with some extra features such as tilt to zoom, filters, and slow motion recording, but it is the horizon feature that is its main selling point. A must for anyone who uses their camera a lot.
Music streaming at its best, Spotify recently had to up it’s game to stay ahead of competition from the likes of Google Music and Napster. The new interface, mirrored across all versions of the app, gives you access to its 20 million+ catalogue of songs and lets you build your own playlists – keeping a record of all your favourite songs, albums and artists. With the new ‘Spotify Connect’, you can control your music from different wireless sources and play them through different wifi-enabled speakers throughout your home.
The integrated social features make it easy to share your music on Facebook without having to sign up for any additional services. The catch to all this greatness, is that the free app forces you to listen to advertisements and only allows you to skip a certain number of songs each day (currently 5). To remove these irritations, and to enable additional features like downloading music to your device, the well-worth-the-money yearly subscription is $9.99
Say goodbye to making connections through a chance meeting in a supermarket or bar, and say hello to romance in the 21st century. Tinder is like the Twitter of dating [or the EasyTaxi of sex – ed]; with brief, fleeting moments of instant gratification, feeding the caveman part of your brain as you swipe left or right, flicking through what can feel like nothing more than a catalogue of images. But, as one review said, it’s “the app that’s changing the way singletons meet and fall in love”. Free to download, link it into your Facebook account and get swiping. But be prepared to have tough skin when the internet decides that you aren’t beautiful and nobody responds after 48 hours. Love it or hate it, the sheer number of people using it means it is here to stay.
CamDictionary ($1.99 for a limited time – In app purchases)
One for all the monolingual readers out there. CamDictionary is a simple but effective ‘real-time translator’ which uses your phone’s camera and some clever programming to give you translations in 36 languages. It can even speak the word or phrase out loud if needed. Just point your camera at the word or phrase and it will automatically detect the language and translate the selected item. A ‘sentence mode’ can be enabled to translate longer phrases. CamDictionary is perfect for the traveller who is on the move, or hasn’t had time to pick up some of the local lingo. Never get caracoles when you wanted cangrejo again!
Augmented Reality (AR) apps are nothing new and there are many poor attempts out there, but Wikitude takes things to a different level. As it says on the developers’ website, “Wikitude allows you to see more than your eyes only could capture”. Basically, if you point your camera at anything around you – from landscapes to printed media – the app will then overlay location-based information about nearby attractions, accommodation, places to eat, AR games and links to related videos and articles. It takes its information from a range of sources including Wikipedia, Twitter and Youtube. Like all AR apps, it is not without its flaws but the sheer amount of information available on screen is impressive – a bit like having a virtual tour guide in your pocket.
Nearly everyone has predictive text on their keyboards, but it’s far from perfect, with often hilarious, and sometimes embarrassing results. SwiftKey aims to change that by learning from your typing patterns, and (if you allow it), your emails, text messages and social networks. It is then able to auto-fill names, addresses, favourite words and much more. It is the features that really set it apart – multiple options for keyboard layout and sizes, various themes and personalisation options, cloud syncing for your custom dictionary; gesture typing and swipe-to-type, which lets you type entire sentences without lifting a finger… the list goes on. SwitfKey is a big step up from your standard keyboard, and it’s free so there’s no reason not to try it!
Duolingo is a free language-learning text translation platform. It offers five language courses for English speakers, as well as a variety of others for speakers of other languages. Once you’ve signed up, you progress through a sort of ‘skill tree’ where you have to complete various activities – translating, quizzes, grammar exercises – and as you finish each one, your progress is tracked so you can see your improvements as you go. The app is quite addictive and can also be used on your PC when you are at home which is better for the trickier exercises. While Duolingo is without a doubt one of the best free services for learning a language, it is probably best used along with another resource, as it may be a little difficult for those starting off from scratch.
If you don’t know about WhatsApp by now, you probably shouldn’t have a smartphone. It’s almost ubiquitous, especially here in Colombia where you’re practically expected to have it or risk never understanding a conversation fully again. WhatsApp Messenger lets users send instant and multimedia messages to other users via an internet connection. Easy to set up, it has a simple interface and good customisation. It’s an excellent choice for sending free texts across platforms, even overseas.
Similar apps: Viber, Facebook Messenger, Line, Kik Messenger, WeChat
Honorable Mentions –
Iconical (iOS only) – iPhone customization
TransmiSitp – maps/routes/timetables for Transmilenio and SIPT buses
Pocket – read it later app
Netflix – tv/movie streaming service
Dropbox – file syncing app
Kindle – book reader
Ted – popular talks/discussion/presentation forum goes mobile
Opera Web Browser – an excellent alternative to the big 3 browsers
Tapsi and Easi Taxi – reliable and safe taxi reservations
ES File Explorer (Android Only) – turn your Andriod phone into a desktop experience
All apps are free to download and cross – platform unless stated differently.
By Mike O’Brien