Keep ‘Appy

2014 has been a bumper year for us Apple fans. With the release of the iPhone 6, iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite comes a new age of app utility.

These are this year’s top-five useful iOS apps:

Bonus: Vivino Wine Scanner

                        Vivino Wine Scanner is amazing, but I cannot justify it as a productivity app. I am completely loath to leave it out and so our bonus useful app has to be the Vivino Wine Scanner. Any wine connoisseur out there with an iPhone in hand needs Wine Scanner. It’s a simple tool, you merely take a photo in app of the label of the bottle of wine that you’re drinking and it finds the relevant information. It collates reviews, average retail prices, it can tell you the grape, the press and it will even use the data collected from all the wines that you have snapped to create a taste profile. The taste profile demonstrates the type of wine palette you have, and the app will help make recommendations based on these. With 3 million different bottles of wine in its database, this free app can’t go wrong.


    5. Pennies

Pennies is a personal finance app that allows you to easily tot up your spending and deduct it from your income. The simple, easy to use, interface uses a high degree of colour coding (green, blue and red) to ensure you always know what’s going on with your finances. The app is excellent at showing you data in a simple understandable way, for example your monthly budget simply shows you how much money you have left, and how many days you have until your next pay day. It’s simple, clear and helpful. The app requires you to set budgets for lots of different things: holiday savings, Christmas savings, groceries, DIY projects etc., and once you have created a variety of budgets it will provide you with a daily breakdown spend—that’s how much per day you have to spend on whatever it says you can spend it on. It’s always in your pocket and it’s so easy to use that you’re not likely to find yourself struggling to get through the month with Pennies, pun intended. The only downside is that the app currently only displays currency in USD, we’re expecting that GBP functionality will eventually follow. But for a cheeky £1.49, you can’t go wrong with Pennies.

4. Sickweather

Sickweather is the perfect app for the sufferers of allergies—and it’s even good for colds and flu too. Sickweather is the first doppler radar for sickness. It uses social media and other users of the app to plot 24 illnesses in your local area. Unfortunately full functionality has yet to come to the UK, so at the moment we can only use the app to locate recent illness reports. However in the US, the app includes a five-day map that shows you colour coded weather-style local maps of recent outbreaks. Expect this functionality to come over the pond soon, and even if it doesn’t, nothing beats a free app.

3. Swype

With the introduction of iOS 8 to Apple’s gadgets, came increased functionality and personalizability. One thing that Apple has finally given us is the ability to download third-party keyboards. Swype is one such keyboard that adds the ingenious design of the Android’s swiping keyboard into your iOS device. You can type by simply dragging your finger from letter to letter, and the keyboard detects which letters you want. For those who can’t be bothered to lift a finger, 69p is a bargain for Swype.

2. Normal: Battery Analytics

Although this function was added to iOS 8 by Apple, the Battery Analytics that are built-in fall far short of the functionality of this app. Whilst your device can already tell you how much battery apps are currently using, Normal’s app will divide your apps into Active and Inactive hogs—moreover it shows you underneath how much time you can save by not running, or deleting, that app. It doesn’t just stop there though, if you select an app, Normal: Batter Analytics will have analysed the app and its history on your device to give you a short summary of its effect on your phone. It can tell you, using its database of other users, whether or not the app is normally a battery hog, or if it is simply due to an error in your configurations of the app. It will breakdown how much batter you can save by showing you how much time you’ll save if you close the app, versus how much time you can save by avoiding it, and finally it will show you how often it’s active on your device in relation to other’s. (So my Internet browser is active 93% of the time, and avoiding it could save me 3h 12m 22s!)

This little app will save you dashing into Starbucks to use the plug, and all for only 69p.


1. Notifyr

It is undeniable that the new feature, Continuity, introduced in iOS 8 and OS X 10.10 Yosemite is a breakthrough in home integration. It’s the perfect symbiosis between phone and computer that we’ve been waiting for. Unfortunately, Apple only included functionality for home apps such as Messages, Phone Calls and Reminders. Notifyr however adds the functionality to third-party apps like WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter. Unfortunately, Notifyr requires pairing via Bluetooth and the constant presence of a Bluetooth connection between computer and phone, which is a real battery drainer and buzz kill on the otherwise perfect addition to Continuity. We expect that Notifyr will become Wi-Fi enabled soon but for the grand price of zero pounds and zero pence, we’re not that bothered.