For some people, a smartphone is effectively little more than a standard phone with a bigger screen and a lot of icons that they ignore. For others, however, the smartphone is a treasure trove of capabilities that will keep them not only in contact with their family, friends, and co-workers; it can also provide them with non-stop entertainment and more useful tools than they can imagine.

This article is by no means a comprehensive listing of interesting apps. It would take a huge tome to even begin to hold such a monumental reference work. Instead, we will provide descriptions of a few apps – some well known, others more obscure – to spark your interest and help you envision other apps you’d like to see. If you look long enough, you are likely to discover that your dreamed-about app is already out there, just waiting for you to download it.

Photo editing

Smartphone cameras have improved dramatically in the last couple of years, to the point where they have become most people’s primary or only camera. But despite the increase in resolution and improvement in lenses, the photographs you take with your smartphone frequently leave a lot to be desired. Enter Snapseed, a photo editing and optimisation app that offers features once limited to desktop computers. From auto equalisation and enhancement to fine adjustments and effects filters, this app could well become your go-to photo editor.

Fitness

One app that has been enthusiastically received by runners and cyclists is Strava. The app lets you set your time and distance goals, track your performance, and keep a log of your progress. Users are encouraged to share their routes, so it could be said that this is both a personal fitness and a social networking app.

Secret agent stuff

Whether you are one of those people who just appreciates your privacy or are thoroughly convinced that someone is snooping around and looking for dirt on you, you will like RedPhone and its sister app, TextSecure. As its name implies, RedPhone is an encryption / decryption service that turns your very unsecure mobile phone conversations into a Bond-worthy secure communication with anyone who also has RedPhone installed on their smartphone.

Sister app TextSecure encrypts your text messages, so that they can only be read by others who also have the app installed. The app will also encrypt the messages that reside on your phone, so that even if hackers managed to gain access, your text messages would be unreadable to them. One caveat with both these apps is that if MI6 were looking at you, the fact that you choose to encrypt your communications might serve to pique their interest.

File sharing

We all like to show off the pictures we take on vacation, or of our newborn niece or nephew, but there are a few drawbacks to doing so. First of all, it can get cumbersome inserting a bunch of pics in an email message, then having to send that message repeatedly as more people ask to see them. Not only are we using up expensive mobile bandwidth by resending the same large files over and over, we are probably irritating some recipients by bogging down their mail with large messages. This is especially true for those people who were just being polite when they said they would love to see another ugly newborn, or worse still, a pic of you wearing a pair of 1950s-era Bermunda shorts.

The primarily business-oriented Dropbox app may well be just the thing to simplify sharing those pics and keeping your friends as friends. Once you’ve installed the app and created an account, you can upload whatever files you want to share into a specific album on the Dropbox server. Then, when you want to share the files, you send the recipient a link to the folder, and they can download and view the pictures (or not) at will.

There are probably apps available for virtually anything you might want to do with your phone, as well as some apps for things you would be better advised to avoid doing, on the phone or anywhere else. You need to use common sense when downloading, first and foremost by only downloading apps from a trusted source. For most people, that means limiting your ad shopping to the Google Play App Store, where all the above apps can be found. You can also find objective reviews of many new and not-so-new but still useful apps at the TechAdvisor or Cnet websites. You might even find yourself spending hours poring over the many apps that are tested and reviewed.

Be forewarned: don’t go mad installing every app you can think of, as you will inevitably slow your phone down, and might even exceed its capacity. While capacity can usually be expanded with the use of a removable media card, many apps keep elements running in the background, even after they are closed. Check the available storage capacity on your current phone. And compare the specifications on any replacement phones you are considering for purchase, not only for internal and external storage capacities, but for the operating system, as well. Some apps require the latest iteration of the Android OS, while some older apps might not function as well on the newer releases. The list of apps you find useful and/or entertaining will likely grow longer, the more time you spend reading developers’ promotions and tech experts’ reviews.

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