App Advisor

App Advisor

PHOTO: If you like apps as much as we do, your phone might look something like this, with games, productivity, and utility apps all making daily life just a little easier – or at least more fun.  Of the 50 or so downloaded to this phone, not one wasn’t free.

By Eugénie Bisulco

So, you managed to break into modern times and get a smart phone or a tablet.  Congratulations!  We thought you might like some tried-and-true advice on what apps to put on that fancy new device.

Since it’s the holiday season, you might be looking to shop.  If that’s the case, virtually any of your favorite stores, from Walmart to Macy’s, offer free apps compatible with iPhones, Androids, and everything in between.  Hardly a week goes by when we’re not trolling Amazon for something and adding it to our in-app public or private wish list.  Amazon’s app also lets you scan a UPC – say, while you’re using your neighbor’s bathroom and coveting her liquid hand soap – to see if the product is available. RedLaser is another gem of an app, with a scanning capability that has to be envied by NASA scientists.  It takes about one second for RedLaser to read a UPC code, and then the app gives you the best local purchasing options and/or available online coupons.

Many of these such apps offer extra incentives for first-time app purchases and app-only sales.  Sephora and Starbucks also give away free songs and other downloadable apps weekly.  A recent gift from Starbucks was an app called mGifts, normally $3 in the app store.

Flixster is a user-friendly (free) app that links local theater information with current movies and Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

Flixster is a user-friendly (free) app that links local theater information with current movies and Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

mGifts is a handy little organizational app that allows year-round gift planning for anyone on your list, with the ability to classify gifts by the particular stores that sell them, by the budget you are keeping, or merely by a description.

Gift giving is just one area of many that apps exist to make easier for you.  You can get free apps to keep track of your diet and exercise habits, or to catalog your wine preferences or your children’s artwork.  Productivity apps are (less than) a dime a dozen, each offering something else that others don’t.   At the top of our list is Genius Scan (free) and Genius Scan+, $6.99, both of which allow you to photograph a document or photograph, turn it into a JPEG or PDF file, and export it.  The upgrade gives you more export options. You will be surprised how often you need this app.  If you have an HP computer, download the free HP Print app and you’ll be able to print directly from your phone.  Google Maps, which no longer comes with your phone, is a must-do for directions and route planning, as is NYC Subway’s transit app.

For less than productive activities, try Flixster, which tells you which theaters are closest, what’s playing, and syncs with reviews on current movies from the ever-popular site Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster has an attractive, easy-to-use interface and also gives you trailers and details on current movies.  But if you’re a real movie buff, download IMDB’s app and you’ll never need to google what year Godfather III came out again.  (It was 1990, in case you’re wondering.)

And remember Words with Friends, the Scrabble knock-off game you can play against other smartphone users or people at stationary computers alike?  The app has only gotten better with time, and as diversions go, it’s one that – especially now, with an integrated dictionary – will also engage your mind.

For more information on helpful apps, or to share your own recommendations, email


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