5 Apps to try in July

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Discover the history of the Somme... send selfies as postcards... do science on your Smartphone – and more nifty, new screen-based activities

Somme 100

Free on Android and iOS

Published by the Royal British Legion as part of its centenary commemoration of the Battle of the Somme – the first day of which remains the bloodiest day of conflict in the history of the British Army, leading to the largest battle on the Western Front during World War 1 – this app has been written by television historian Dan Snow, and provides a rich supply of multimedia content about the episode and its wider context. All in, there are 250 items to explore, including first-hand audio accounts from the time, diary excerpts from the frontline, film and photo archives and animated battle maps which track the battle as it progressed.


Free on Android and iOS with £6.99 subscription

Not another music streaming app? Well, yes, except this one is for classical music lovers exclusively, and provides a good combination of popular and lesser-known works, plenty of supplementary background information on the recordings, as well as their composers and players, and a number of ways to listen to them. Ambitious weekly themed collections – or playlists, in pop parlance – bring together five classical works, alongside artist interviews, guest playlists and editorial features. Part of its appeal is that it gets how serious music fans – of any genre – like to have the liner notes, as well as the music, and much of what is good here is in the presentation. Subscribers can choose to listen (in CD quality) to the collections as radio programmes, or switch off the voiceover and focus on the music. Links to purchase content outright are handy; those to share it among fellow-enthusiasts make it social. For £6.99 per month, it works pretty hard to provide a comprehensive package for both connoisseurs and newcomers.

Press reader

£20p/m on Android, iOS and Windows Mobile

Not cheap, if you take the full pass, but the app provides access to digital versions of just about every news publication and magazine on the planet. It’s rather like visiting a massive virtual newsagent, on the planet’s street corner, with a very attentive and well-read shopkeeper flicking through print and online magazines, pointing to articles and looking to engage you in conversation. Indeed, beyond access to a myriad of digital publications, its ‘news community’, where people share and discuss editorial content, is its chief draw. It also allows you to build your own publications, drawing content in from standalone sites according to your tastes, interests and viewpoints. The marketing brains behind the operation have also signed up a bunch (8,400) of sponsored Wi-Fi hot hotspots that allow free access, and created a map tool to locate your nearest one. Otherwise, you have to pay £20 per month, or pay for individual issues.

Science Journal

Free on Android

This app from Google allows budding scientists and serious academics to use a smartphone’s in-built sensors to measure the environment. It’s also useful if you’re concerned about, say, noise or light pollution. Basically, it allows you to use such functions as the accelerometer and gyroscope on your smartphone, as well as various external sensors available from Google's Making & Science website, to record such things as motion, light and sound, and chart your findings in a notebook on your phone, and produce illustrative graphics to chart them. Google lists a number of activities and experiments, for ages 10 and up, to guide you through experiments in motion, sound and light, and provide the basis for research of your own.


Free on Android and iOS

A simple, but ingenious little app from The Royal Mail, which lets you print and send smartphone photos as postcards for 85p a time. There isn’t much more to it, except The Royal Mail should have done it yonks ago. It allows you to personalise photos with messages and filters, and send them to anyone in the UK, even if you only know their phone number. Clever stuff. The only complaint – and it is a pain – is you are required to log-in with Facebook to access it. 

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