Thursday, 27 November 2014


5 Useful Apps For All Smartphone Owners
By Mark O'Neill,
Make Use Of, 27 November 2014.

There’s always something new and exciting for smartphone owners to install and look at. The smartphone market changes in the blink of an eye, and when one app disappears into the black hole of cyberspace never to be seen again, another ten apps pop up and take its place.

So what you need is a high quality tech website to help you find the gems among all the coals. That’s where Make Use Of comes in, and below are 5 smartphone apps and services which caught our eye recently.

1. Search Through The World’s Notifications With Batch


When you have a smartphone, notification apps are either extremely beneficial to you, or they are the bane of your life. Either way, they are not going anywhere, and in many cases, they can be used to great effect (such as PushBullet). They can also be used to send you breaking news (“cat rescued from tree!”) or to alert you when something you are monitoring on Amazon lowers in price.


Batch Insights is an interesting website which aims to track ALL smartphone notifications happening throughout the world and provide them in one central place to be searched through. You can follow certain notifications, either by searching for the app name, or by adding the iTunes/Google Play URL (soon you will be able to search by keyword). It’s a nice way to discover new sites, and also see how many notifications they send out on a daily basis.

2. Discover New Apps With #HomeScreen


Come on, admit it. When someone gets their phone out, don’t you have that overwhelming urge to take a look at their screen to see what they have installed? I do, because I love discovering and installing apps. I currently have so many in the “untested” folder that it is about to lodge a formal complaint with its union.

#Homescreen is a site where people upload their iPhone homescreens in high definition for you to see. This then gives you great ideas on what you are missing, as well as the wallpapers you should be downloading. Unfortunately the site doesn’t provide direct download links to iTunes, but that is a minor gripe. And if you are an Android user, you can still make use of this site, as many of the apps are probably also available in Google Play.

I can sense another downloading/installing binge coming on tonight…

3. Record Encounters With Law Enforcement Using Police Tape


There has been a series of unfortunate incidents this year in the US regarding police and civilians, and when there is a confrontation, proving it later comes down to a “he said, she said” situation. People also don’t fully know their legal rights and that is problematic if an officer makes something up on the spot - how do you prove them wrong if you don’t know any better?

But bad officers have been brought to account by either video footage or audio footage taken by the victim’s smartphone. And that is also what Police Tape does. It is an app (for both iOS and Android) which you can use to record an encounter with law enforcement, and then have it immediately uploaded (I couldn’t find out whether it is uploaded to YouTube or to the ACLU).

Once it’s uploaded, no-one can force you to delete it. And by taking the time to use this site to bone up on your legal knowledge, you can calmly and rationally discuss a situation with a police officer, knowing what is right and what is wrong.

4. Find Out How Good An App’s Privacy Levels Are With Privacy Grade


Privacy is the big buzzword these days. Edward Snowden has forced us all to be ultra-paranoid about who is watching us, where they are watching us from, and what information they are taking from us, without our permission. Of course, smartphone privacy also falls into this catch-all net. With the amount of apps an average person puts on their phone, there is a higher than average chance that some of them will have a back door to somewhere you don’t want it to go.

Privacy Grade is a site for Android apps only, but most of them will also have an iOS version, which won’t be that much different from its Android counterpart. It assigns a grade to each app depending on a multitude of factors, and since the research is done at Carnegie Mellon University, you can be assured that there is some credibility to these scores. It isn’t some spotty 10 year old kid in his bedroom randomly plucking grades out of the air.

You can search for a particular app, find related apps to the one you are looking at, and see a complete list of all the permissions a particular app requires in order to work on your phone.

5. Pay For Online Items Using Your Bitcoin Balance With Circle


It has had a shaky start, and it is the currency of choice for Darknet users (which means it is the constant focus of US Federal authorities). But Bitcoin is finally taking firmer baby steps to become a viable online currency. But what would make it easier to understand, handle, and perform online transfers, is a dedicated app for Bitcoin transactions. A bit like Paypal, where you can log in and see your balance, as well as a transaction history. Circle seems to fit that bill entirely.

I wasn’t able to test this app, because I don’t have any Bitcoins, but by all outward appearances, it seems to be a well designed, easy on the eyes, kind of app (unless you know differently, in which case the comments section is where you should give us the details).

As I said at the beginning, the smartphone market is ever changing, and by the time I have made a cup of tea in the next 5 minutes, more apps will have flooded into the app stores, desperate for you to download them and use them. Make Use Of will continue to filter out the good from the bad.

Top image credit: #Homescreen.

[Source: Make Use Of. Edited. Top image added.]

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