Have Practical Apps Been Candycrushed?

Antony Peart Bio Pic

By 2017, it is predicted that we will have downloaded 187 billion apps to our smartphones and mobile devices.

But – distracted by the never-ending onslaught of addictive games and talking animals – I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that, as well as entertaining us, apps can play a very useful, practical role in our lives.

Recent research from IDC illustrates the issue. One of the most useful things consumers would like to be able to do from their smartphones is to print out tickets – for the train, for the theatre, for the cinema. Online flight check-ins, for example, can be more of a hassle when you can’t print your boarding pass.

Mobile printing has in fact been around for some years, and is quick and easy to do through a wide range of freely available apps. Yet 51 per cent of the European adults surveyed by IDC were unaware they could print from their phone, and one in four thought it would be too difficult.

In a world where you can do almost anything from your smartphone – even cooking your dinner remotely – why was awareness of such a basic, and useful, function so low?

My view is that those surveyed – like so many of us in this technology-led age – were in ‘app overload’, overwhelmed by the dazzling array of apps on offer and unable to pinpoint those that could actually make their lives easier. Candycrush and cute kittens have taken over and we’ve forgotten that apps can be useful as well as fun.

Apple’s recent move into the healthcare space is a timely reminder of the serious – even life-saving – power of apps. Linking apps to wearable technology, Apple has opened the door to a brave new world of mobile healthcare – with consumers able to track their vital signs and provide real-time data to clinicians at the click of a button.

At a more down-to-earth level, there are a host of apps that can make every aspect of our daily lives that little bit easier. Here are my top five really useful apps that should have a place on your smartphone.

Five apps that deserve a place in your smartphone

Google Maps – how did we survive without it? Whether you’re walking, driving or taking public transport, this is a quick and easy way to work out your best route and travel times.

Hotel tonight – another consistently rated essential for travellers, allowing you to find last-minute hotel rooms and rates at the touch of a button.  Extensive coverage in the US, Europe and South America.

Patient Access – feeling a bit fluey on the way into work? This easy-to-use app gives you GP-authored information and advice.  You can also use it to book and cancel GP appointments and order repeat medication.  UK only. http://www.patient.co.uk/accessapp

Wi-fi finder – no need for costly data charges on your smartphone with this really useful free app.  It allows you to find free public wi-fi hot spots anywhere in the world, and works on and offline.

AA parking – consistently rated as one of the most useful and accurate apps to help you find that elusive – and affordable – parking space.  Covers the UK and Ireland.

This is a guest post written by Antony Peart from Brother.

The Tech Oven editorial team, scouring the Interwebs for hot news and gadgets..