Technology is a huge part of all of our lives. It allows us to stay connected to friends and family, order shopping online and access workouts from home. The limits of what we can achieve with technology are endless, and no matter what you want to do – chances are there’ll be an app or a website to help you do it!
The biggest challenge for most of us can often be identifying the genuinely useful tools, from the millions of other apps out there. To help, we’ve been asking for peoples favourite apps and have identified these 20 fun and useful apps that will hopefully add value to your life.
Science and Nature
Free basic version available, or upgrade to the premium version for a fee
With PlantSnap, you can identify more than 600,000 plant species from around the world at the click of a button. Take a photo of a flower, leaf, mushroom, cacti or succulent and the PlantSnap identifier will find information about it. You can keep a collection of your favourite plants for easy access and explore other people’s snaps from around the world.
Free basic account, or upgrade for £29.99/year (or £59.99 for three years)
Get access to more than 100,000 nature trails across the UK to help you explore with confidence. Whether walking, running or cycling is your thing, AllTrails will help you make every adventure unique. Just type in the name of the area you’re looking to explore and you’ll have instant access to some beautiful routes nearby. With a free account, you can keep track of your favourite trails, record and share your activity, create and share custom maps, and become part of the community!
One off payment of £3.99
This app allows you to identify birds by their sound. Record birdsong for 12 seconds using the app’s identifier, and it will suggest top matches based on the sound type and your GPS location. It’s a great tool for anyone who is curious about the birds around them! It also works without a network connection, so you can use it wherever you are without having to worry about the strength of your signal.
The ISS Detector can help you work out when you’re most likely to see the international space station fly by. You can also find planets, comets, Hubble and much more. When you get a notification, you’ll have a few minutes to get outside, before the satellites fly by! The ISS Detector will also check if the weather conditions are right for a viewing, so that you won’t be disappointed.
Free, or upgrade for the full ad free version for £2.99
Star Walk 2 is the go-to app if you want to see stunning 3D models of constellations and other sky objects. It’s as simple as downloading the app and pointing your device to the sky! The app uses your device’s GPS and sensors to work out the exact position of stars, planets, star clusters and much more. You’ll also be able to keep up to date with the latest news from the world of space and astronomy.
If you’re interested in astronomy, you might enjoy our Introduction to stargazing, plus our other articles on what to look out for in the night sky throughout the year – which you can find on the learning section of our site.
Trading 212 is simple to use, making it easy for experts and beginners. You can trade and invest in stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with zero commission, fees or limits. There is a handy practise mode where you can trade up to £50,000 of virtual money to get to grips with stock trading. You can also get one free share worth real money when you sign up with a referral from a friend or family member – so it’s worth seeing if you know anyone who’s already trading. The app has a very user-friendly interface and gives a broad overview as well as detailed economic updates, and is FCA approved.
If you’re looking to make a saving, then Chip helps you to do it subtly – so that you won’t notice your bank balance dropping too much. Chip (which is FCA regulated) connects to your bank account, analyses your transactions and calculates roughly how much you can afford to put aside. It then transfers savings into your Chip account every few days. You can still move money manually whenever you want, and you’ll have the option to cancel an automatic savings transfer before it goes ahead. Chip won’t ever push you into your overdraft or cause you to miss any of your direct debits – and you can withdraw your saved money anytime you need to.
If you’re looking to break bad habits and adopt positive ones, then this science-based app could be for you. It uses behavioural economics to help you identify where you’re getting stuck, so you can take steps to unlock your full potential. Fabulous is designed to help you lead a happier, healthier life; which all starts with you and the choices that you make, day to day. It starts by taking you through a short questionnaire so that it can identify areas for improvement.
Free basic account, or upgrade for £4/month
This app tracks you as you exercise through GPS on your smartphone, so that you can keep track of your progress as you walk, run or cycle. You can also give permission to the app to link phone contacts, facebook contacts and other social media friends to join you on Strava. Once linked you can share your routes, progress, times and achievements as well as seeing other friends’ activity. This feature helps provide motivation and is a great way to promote healthy exercise among groups.
Currently free until further notice, due to the pandemic
Track the quantity and quality of your sleep with this handy app. Sleep Cycle tracks your sleep patterns and aims to wake you up during light sleep, so that you wake up feeling refreshed – as though you have woken naturally, without an alarm clock. If you’re someone who struggles with getting out of bed in the morning, then this could be for you! If you struggle with insomnia, you can also find useful tips in our article Can’t sleep? Try these 8 tips…
Free account for note taking, or upgrade to organise everything for £4.99/month
Evernote offers you a single place to keep all your ideas, lists, notes and reminders so that nothing falls through the cracks. You can use it at home, at work and everywhere in between! Perhaps you’ve got a ticket that you’re afraid you’ll lose, or you need somewhere to store your receipts in preparation for completing your tax return. Whatever it is that you want to save and be able to find again – Evernote can help you do it! You can also sync files stored in your Evernote account, so that you can access them across all your devices.
Do you find it harder to sleep after you’ve been staring at your phone or working late on your laptop? This is likely to be the result of exposure to blue light too close to bedtime. Electronic devices like laptops, smartphones and TVs emit blue light; a short wavelength which stimulates sensors in the eyes to send signals to your brain’s internal clock. These signals keep you feeling alert because they suppress the natural production of melatonin – the hormone which helps you to sleep. Whilst it’s not possible for most of us to stop using smart devices altogether, apps like Bluelight Filter can reduce the amount of exposure we have to it.
It adjusts your screen’s natural colour – shifting it to night mode – to help your eyes feel more at ease when reading, protect you from eye strain and help you to get a better night’s sleep. It’s easy to use and will also help your phone to preserve it’s battery life.
The Blue Light Filter app is only available for Android smartphones. iOS users already have this feature built into their settings. Under ‘Display & Brightness’ you should be able to switch on your blue light filter by selecting ‘Night Shift’ and choosing the hours that you’d like to use it.
Ever hear a song and spend ages wracking your brain trying to remember who sings it? Or searching the internet trying to find out what it’s called, with no luck? Shazam will save you the effort. When you hear a song and want to know what it’s called or who’s singing it, simply open the app, hit the big orange button – and it will have an answer for you in seconds. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at home, in your car or having a drink at a bar; Shazam will make it easy to discover the music around you.
Playing brain games is a great way to keep your memory sharp and increase your brain’s processing speed. Activities on the app include recalling how many times you’ve been shown an image, and spotting differences between images of the same object. There are multiple levels, giving you the chance to really challenge yourself – and the better you perform, the more brains you will be rewarded with.
Free basic account, or upgrade to a premium account for £9.99/month
If you’re a music lover then Spotify is a must-have app. It’s a digital music service that will give you access to millions of songs. Spotify has lots of curated playlists to help you find the right style of music for your mood or activity, for example ‘Mood Booster’ and ‘Running UK’. You can also discover plenty of new music by listening to their ‘Discover weekly’ playlist. Or if none of that takes your fancy, you can simply create your own playlists of all your favourite tunes. You can get unlimited hours of free listening with a basic account, but if you hate adverts or want to be able to skip past as many songs as you like, then you could consider upgrading to a premium account.
Free, or upgrade to Duolingo Plus for a fee
Have you ever thought about learning a new language, but been completely overwhelmed by the idea? If so, then it’s worth checking out Duolingo. The app boasts 30+ different languages for you to choose from, which are all taught using fun, interactive games and quizzes. Duolingo allows language learning to fit around your life – you can access it anytime, anywhere, for just a few minutes a day. Studies suggest that by spending 34 hours on Duolingo, you can learn the equivalent of what you would in a whole term at university!
You can read about some of the benefits of learning a language on the learning section of our site.
Free for two weeks, then £49.99 for a full year
If you’re looking to introduce more peace and relaxation into your life, then consider learning how to be mindful, using the Headspace app. In a nutshell, this app will act as your pocket guide to meditation. A soothing voice will talk to you while you do everyday activities like cooking, preparing to sleep or going for a walk. It will encourage you to pay attention to your surroundings, so you can learn how to focus only on the present moment. If you experience racing thoughts and find it difficult to quiet your mind, then learning how to bring your mind back to the present, can help you to feel calmer.
For those that regularly commute by train, the National Rail app can be a really convenient way to stay up to date with the latest travel news and updates. The app will allow you to plan your train journeys ahead of time, so you know what time to catch your train and from what platform. It will also let you know if there are delays or cancellations, and suggest alternative routes. There’s nothing worse than leaving home to catch your train, only to get there and find that there’s a long delay. With the National Rail app you can avoid waiting times, and make your train journeys much smoother.
Moovit allows you to keep all your public transport options in one place, and help you get from A to B in the easiest and most efficient way. Whether you want to catch the bus, train, tube, ferry or ride-share using Uber – Moovit will give you access to live arrival times and maps, so that you can plan your journey with confidence. It is used by 720 million users worldwide in over 3000 cities.
What are your favourite apps?
We’ve selected a few of the apps that we think could be fun or helpful day to day. But we’re always looking for new ones to add to the list. If you have an app that has given you hours of endless fun, or one that you simply couldn’t live without – then please let us know! Join the conversation on the Rest Less community forum, or leave a comment below.