Plus Virtual Reality Netflix, turn your old photos into perfect digital scans and more new Apps to improve your life this spring
1. Battery Aid 2 (free on Android)
This well designed, if fairly simplistic, app helps save battery life on your phone by switching off certain functions when they are not in use.
Essentially, it allows you to put a timer, of between five and 15 minutes, on your Wi-Fi, data, and Bluetooth connections, so they are switched off after they have been idle for a period.
You can switch these off in your settings, of course, but this automates the process, and lets you configure each individually – in the event you want only mobile data to run constantly, for social media updates, for instance.
It issues hints and options for other battery-saving measures too, and gives you a running total on the battery life it has saved you, which may or may not be accurate.
Either way, it does seem to prolong battery life – and who doesn’t need that?
2. The Happiness Planner (free on iOS)
A calendar and to-do list app that helps you reflect and look forward.
At the outset, it attempts to determine your ‘happiness roadmap’ by asking a series of questions about your state of mind and your future goals – your strengths and weaknesses, for example, and where you see yourself in five or 10 years.
It is a stake in the ground, which can be shifted with your growing self-awareness, and from which you can measure your development. The main diary function provides a menu of options for each day – you can fill in a schedule, a to-do list, a record of your diet and exercise, a list of reasons to be cheerful. You also get a monthly view of your goals and reflections, and all the inspirational quotes you have ‘liked’.
It’s very much of a type, but if you’re in to motivational self-help, and simply wish to create some personal order from the chaos of life, then this is recommended. The basic calendar and scheduling functions are ‘gratis’, and you get two weeks’ free access to its premium features, after which you are charged $2.99 per month.
3. Netflix VR (free on Android)
Netflix has followed in the steps of the likes of HBO and Hulu to make its content available as virtual reality (VR).
It’s VR content is accessed through a standalone app, distinct from the standard Netflix interface. It also requires a Google Daydream View headset, which usurps the old cardboard goggle set-up in favour of a cloth finish. That will change as other hardware makes build their own headsets from the Daydream blueprints – just as the number of compatible devices has expanded beyond Google’s Pixel smartphones to also include a couple of Motorola numbers.
Most devices running Android’s latest Nougat OS will work with it, in short course, but it’s worth checking compatibility before diving in.
4. Photoscan (free on Android and iOS)
A Google creation; this one lets you scan and digitise old prints – without the process of consulting Snappy Snaps, or the sketchy results from taking a photo of the image with a camera.
This works by first capturing a reference shot of the original photo, and then layering in more information as you move your phone around the image. It also allows you to crop each image, whether to mimic or improve on the original.
Google calls it ‘multi-angle scanning tech’; its aim is to produce a high-quality scan, which eliminates glare, and is good for social sharing, at least – for reliable prints, Snappy Snaps or better might still be worth the effort.
5. Trusted Contacts (free on Android)
Yet another Google app, this one helps to keep you safe, when you’re in trouble, or you feel vulnerable – whether you’re in a disaster zone, or turning down a dark alley on the way home.
It allows you to share your GPS location instantly with your closest friends and family – as trusted contacts. It also allows them to request your location at any time, should they be worried.
The request can be denied if everything’s fine, and the location can be shared if there’s no response. It even works when the phone is offline, or out of battery. It’s clever, and potentially life-saving. Only available on Android.