Five new Apps that may change your life (slightly) in 2017...

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Video chat for six people at a time, coding for kids, a memory-jogger for craft beer enthusiasts and more!


1. Airtime

(free on Android and iOS)

This is the app version of the short-lived web service of the same name by Napster founder Sean Parker. A group video chat application, it allows up to six users to create a virtual room, and have a private chinwag – as well as introduce any kind of media to the party, whether video or audio, or whatever, through partnerships with the likes of YouTube and Spotify.

The conversation can be opened up to 250 people in total, but the rest are included only as silent witnesses to the video chat. Useful for when family and friends are scattered and too numerous for one-to-one chats, when Facetime just won’t cut it.


2. Castro

(£2.99 on iOS)

This is great for getting to grips with the uncharted world of podcasts, and discovering new shows. Its trick is to suggest an ‘inbox’ of podcasts for your listening, which you can re-file and order (or ‘triage’) according to their appeal.

Basically, you swipe to dismiss incoming podcasts, archive for later, or queue them up alongside podcasts you’ve flagged as bankers. It works like a cross between your email inbox and your music queue, and makes the pursuit of new content more manageable.

You can also browse charts of the top podcasts by genre, and make, receive and share recommendations with friends – even if they don’t have the app. It’s a useful tool for a rich broadcast medium.


3. Swift Playgrounds

(free on iPad)

 Suddenly, the world of how-to-code applications and devices looks crowded. Technologist and toy makers are all at it – in an attempt to engage youngsters in new ways, and establish their brands, products and technologies even more firmly. This app, designed for iPads and available for free, is worth considering, however, coming as it does from Apple, the king of tech. It is characteristically well put together, and fun, and focuses on Swift, Apple’s own programming language for iOS, iPad and Mac applications.

The idea, as the name suggests, is like a school ‘playground’ for Swift code-writing, where students get to guide and play online characters in an immersive online world, solving puzzles and mastering challenges as they learn core coding concepts - commands, functions, loops, conditional code and variables.

As well as the course of coding lessons, which Apple populates as it goes, there is also a number of built-in templates to help aspiring developers express their creativity – and build their own apps from scratch that engage the iPad’s various components, such as its accelerometer, camera or Bluetooth connectivity. It’s a powerful proposition, from the company that almost single-handedly created the world of apps.


4. Untappd

(free on Android and iOS)

This calls itself a “social discovery network” for beer lovers. Basically, it lets you track and rate beer and beer-drinking establishments, pint by pint and bottle by bottle – so you have a sort-of diary of those lost hours, and a record of your favourite bars and brands.

But it goes much further, too. You can share that information with mates, either in the app or on the usual social networks, as well as a whole community of like-minded grog enthusiasts. The app integrates with Foursquare, so you can ‘check-in’ the beer in your hand, as well as the venue you’re in, and friends can toast and comment on your ‘check-ins’.

It also features recommended beers, and their nearest vendors, and a game-style function where you can earn ‘badges’ for your unremitting pursuit of rare craft beers. 


5. Weav Run

(free on iOS)

 

This running app creates a synth-and-beats soundtrack for your workout routine that matches your footfall, and, in theory, spurs you to exercise harder.

If you accelerate, the tempo of the music increases with your speed; if you slow your pace, so the music eases up.

It tracks tempo ranges from 100 to 240 beats per minute – and also allows you to manually control rhythm and intensity, should you wish the music to push you harder. This doesn’t mean, however, Leonard Cohen suddenly sounds like Lady Gaga when you go down a hill. The app’s makers have invited musicians to collaborate, and the music is created to ebb and flow, and sound correct across a range of tempos.

It is all electronic music, so crunching guitars and soaring orchestras are kept to textural flourishes, and vocals are absent. If you like your workouts to be scored by Ministry of Sound, and want those repetitive beats to fall with your steps, then this is for you.

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