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February 14, 2012 by Dean Quinn
Apps. Little tiles of functionality nestling right there on your swipeable screen, helping you out with your day in all manner of ways. How did we ever get on without them eh? We’ve reached a point now whereby the notion of a bus or train journey without the comforting squawk and twang of elastic emanating from our handsets is unimaginable, and our nose for a bargain has gone off the scale as a result of no longer having to cut coupons out of magazines and visit stores before the ‘for a limited period only’ element of an offer elapses.
However, since we’ve all become so accustomed to being helped to go about our daily business by tiny, neatly packaged chunks of the internet, there comes a point when we spend more time (and money) on finding apps than actually using them to save time (and money). For those of you that do find yourself unable to function without the aid of lifestyle enhancing apps, but are increasingly spending a hefty chunk of your hard-earned cash on the things, we’ve come up with some handy alternatives to the big well known ones. So without app-rehension, let’s have a look at some virtual functionality squares (as we like to call them) that do the same jobs as their more established cousins but for no cost at all.
(Hipstamatic alternative – available for iOS)
With the modern day prevalence of smartphones, pretty much everyone has a half-decent camera on them and this is something that has led to the current trend of photo-sharing via social media, none so evident with the rise of apps such as Hipstarmatic. Now the aforementioned app might well be the choice of the clued-up, tech-savvy photographists out there, but rather ironically, hipsters tend to opt for almost-exactly-the-same free app Instagram. Both apps offer similar functions, mainly in the form of cool lo-fi filters that make your snaps look washed out, dreamy and generally abstract. However, the freeware option has the added bonus of sharing via its own social network in which quite a community of users has built up. Another plus point for the freebie app is that it reportedly has 15 million users, trouncing Hipstamatic‘s 4 million. Rather fittingly, both apps are currently only available for the cooler-than-thou iPhone, although an version of Instagram is said to be making its way to the Android Market pretty soon.
(Actually paying for texts alternative - available for iOS, Android, Symbian, and BlackBerry)
As mobile devices have gradually morphed from your common or garden keypad-sporting chunk of plastic to the almost sentient mini-PCs smartphones are, the practice of texting has become outmoded. Of course, user still employ their phones for their primary function of communicating, but the fact that everyone these days is continually connected to the web has seen folk get clever about how they ping messages to one another. The emergence of services such as BlackBerry’s BBM has kind of replaced texting and eliminated pesky charges by allowing text-based instant messaging to happen as part of your data allowance. Ok, so you’re still actually paying for that (and indeed your Wi-Fi package at home if you’re connected to that), but using stuff like this means that your texts are saved for when you really need them. For ages,BlackBerry users were really smug about BBM, and it was a feature that made the now ailing manufacturer stand out from the crowd. However, a ton of third-party developers soon got with the program and magiked up their own similar apps, one of the most popular being Whats App. Available for Android, Symbian, iOS and even BlackBerry, this cross-platform messenger lets you chat to other folks with Whats App installed, as well send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages.
(Tweetbot or other paid-for Twitter client alternative – available for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone)
If somebody had said to you a couple of years ago that one day we’d be able to tell the world what we’d been up to, monitor breaking news stories, interact with our favourite celebrities and share links to daft pictures of cats wearing sunglasses, all the time, and in 140 characters, you’d have laughed them out of the place. Fast forward to the smartphone-toting twentytens (or whatever this decade is currently being referred to as) and it’s become the norm. Avid Tweeterists tend to like Twitter clients such as Hootsuite and Tweetbot to enable their incessant tweets, thanks mainly to the extra functionality they offer when compared to the bog-standard efforts that come pre-installed with their smartblowers (HTC Peep anyone?). Extra functionality that comes in the form of links that are actually clickable (HTC Peep again anyone?), jazzy user interfaces and a wealth of options such as easily accessible @mentions and the ability to see conversations just by swiping to the side of the screen. As you’d expect though, these souped-up versions cost money, but don’t worry if you’re a bit on the stingy side because Twitter’s own official app has been given a makeover so that it does all of the above and looks the business too. Why shell out when you can get what many regard as the best Twitter app, for free?
(Siri alternative – available for iOS, Android, Symbian, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone)
As if Apple fan boys didn’t have enough to carp on about, Camp Cupertino only went and jazzed up the latest iPhone with a digital assistant that not only does your bidding, but will even talk back to you. Yes, it may be true that Android had a similar thing in the form of Google’s Voice Actions way before Siri burst onto the scene, but it’s the Apple creation that’s brought this new kind of functionality to the mainstream and got everyone buzzing. That’s quite a knack Apple has got you see. Since Siri blew up massive, countless imitations of varying quality have cropped up, and there’s even been efforts to knock up similar things for different operating systems. To save you trawling through your respective platforms app stores to find a decent Siri substitute, we’ll give you this piece of advice; download Vlingo. Available for Android and iOS (which is quite useful for owners of older i-devices wanting a voice-activated virtual assistant fix), Vlingo lets you do pretty much all the stuff that Siri does – such as looking up destinations, placing calls and dictate emails and texts – as well as the added bonus of being able to interact with your social networks and update them by voice command alone. It does struggle with things such as setting alarms and instructions that involve talking to native apps (for example, if you ask it to “play Midnight City by M83″, it’ll misunderstand and just search the web for that song or band), and it doesn’t talk to you unless reading out texts or emails, but aside from that, it’s ace. And free.
(Actually paying for stuff alternative – available for iOS)
We’re not sure about you, but we reckon that one of best things about iOS is the stringently controlled App Store which, because whilst it mightn’t have the myraid of quirky apps concocted by bedroom developers, it certainly has a wealth of high-quality apps to chose from. Unfortunately for the thrifty, the majority of the top apps are ones that you have to get your wallet out for. If only there was some way of monitoring price drops and alerting you when you might be able to get your hands on a top-notch app for a knock down price? Well there is, and it’s call App Shopper. This handy creation lets iPhone and iPad users keep on top of what’s new in the app store, monitors updates, features reviews by other subscribers and perhaps most importantly, notifies users of price drops via email. The ‘Wish List’ function is similar to that offered by online retailer Amazon in that it’ll let you create a most-wanted list of apps and then ping an alert your way if a price change has happened, meaning you can scoot off and buy whatever it is at its optimum price, or hold off if you think it’ll get any cheaper. Androiders might be ruing the fact that this is an Apple-centric service, but the likes ofAppBrain do a similar thing if you happen to worship at the church of the little green robot.
Android Ice Cream Sandwich
Android Jelly Bean
HTC One X
Samsung Galaxy Note
Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Galaxy S III
Tips 'n' Tricks
Windows Phone 7
Windows Phone 8
WP Cumulus Flash tag cloud by Roy Tanck requires Flash Player 9 or better.
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