By Omar Vilchez
It seems as though everyone is tremendously busy nowadays, and as 2018 comes to an end, we want to help you be more productive this coming year. Here are 5 mobile apps that can save you time and make your digital life much easier to manage.
Have you ever found an article that you thought was interesting but didn’t have time to read it, and then when you did find the time, you couldn’t find it? Well, Pocket is a handy app that ensures you never miss out again. When you find a particular article that catches your attention, simply save the article to Pocket and read it whenever you want. Pocket isn’t only an application you can install on your computer or smartphone, it’s also a browser extension that makes it easy to save articles when viewing them on desktop web browsers like Safari and Google Chrome.
Blue arrow: Pocket Safari extension. Red arrow: Article saved to Pocket library.
Say for example, you find an article on Classic Chicago that appeals to you, but you know you’re running short on time. If you’re on your computer and you have the Pocket extension, simply open the article and click on the Pocket icon. Now the article is saved to your Pocket library, and you can return to it at your leisure on your smartphone or tablet, assuming you have the app installed. (Hint: You definitely should.)
Reader view with the dark theme on Pocket mobile app.
Other perks of using Pocket include customizing your articles right from the application and subscribing to Pocket Hits. When reading an article within the app it defaults to a reading view that cuts out all ads to maximize your reading experience, and you can choose a dark mode to make it even easier to read from a mobile device. Pocket Hits also makes sure you never run out of news to read by suggesting top articles based on your interests if you decide to opt-in. The best part? It’s free!
If you think Pocket is guaranteed to save you time in the near future, the next app won’t only save you time, it will also save you several headaches. How many times have tried to log in to an account, but had to reset your password because you couldn’t remember it? It happens to all of us, and it can be frustrating. 1Password is a password manager that saves all your passwords in a secure vault, and to access them you only need to remember your master password. (One password, get it?) Like Pocket, you can also install 1Password as a mobile and desktop application, as well as a browser extension.
Autofill option for Twitter on smartphone app. Source: Android Police
When you forget a password, log in to 1Password with your master password to reveal the key you couldn’t remember. Did you forget that your Twitter password was your cat’s name again? Don’t worry, 1Password can autofill your passwords when you log in to websites or applications. Also, to avoid passwords anyone can hack like your birthday or “I love Mr. Mittens,” 1Password will let you know when your password is too weak and generate a stronger password for you. Usually, these automated passwords are very complex and impossible to remember, but you don’t have to worry about that if the app will fill them in for you. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that no one can guess your password. (Sorry Mr. Mittens, I’m sure you’re still loved.)
In terms of security, 1Password says everything you save is end-to-end encrypted, so no matter what service you use to sync your data, (i.e. Dropbox or iCloud) it’s impossible for anyone to intercept your data.
3. Google Photos
Everyone uses some sort of cloud storage these days. Whether you went out of your way to set up a Dropbox account, or use built-in services like iCloud on Apple devices or Google Drive on Google’s services, chances are you are using some sort of cloud program without even realizing it. That’s probably the smart move because that way your data is backed up in case your device crashes. In terms of backing up your photos, however, Google Photos is hands down the best service you can use.
Option to free-up space on the smartphone app.
What’s so great about it? Two key features: unlimited and free. You can save as many pictures as you want to Google Photos at absolutely no cost. Whether it be on iOS, Android, or online on the Google Photos website, you’ll be able to access your photos anywhere. Additionally, the app can automatically sync your pictures so that you never lose any of them. With free unlimited storage and automatic backups, what’s the catch? Google Photos offers free storage on photos because your pictures don’t save at full resolution, however, your pictures still save at high quality. In real-world usage though, photos and videos still look great, and the app is smart enough to back up all the photos on your smartphone to the cloud and delete them from your device to free up space.
Zelle is a digital payments network that powers money transfers for major U.S. banks like Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citibank. If you already have the mobile application for your respective bank on your phone, then all you need is the other person’s linked email address or phone number to transfer money to their account, regardless of what bank they have. When you send money to a friend, the funds are available in seconds. The next time you need to send money to a friend, don’t ask what service you need to send them money through, just ask for their email or pull up their phone number on your phone. If you do have the other person as a contact, the process is even easier as the service can show you your contacts list and enable you to send money with just a few taps.
Zelle service on Bank of America mobile app. Source: Bank of America
If you’re worried about security, the service requires authentication before sending money, so it will send you a code via email or text to verify it’s actually you trying to make the transfer. The idea here is that if you already trust your bank to do mobile banking, then you don’t have to worry about putting your trust in some third-party application or service, you can do all your money transfers directly from your bank.
5. Google Assistant / Siri
How often do you use the digital assistant on your smartphone? I’m here to tell you that using a digital assistant is the best and easiest way to set reminders and calendar events. If you still prefer to use a traditional planner or calendar, I don’t blame you, they still work great. But when you’re on the go and don’t have a pen or marker on you, your assistant can help.
Simply activate your assistant and say “remind me to pick up milk on the way home.” Assistants are smart enough to recognize what time that would be based on your usage, and it will send you a notification when the time comes. If the assistant isn’t correct, you can customize the time and even set the reminder to activate the notification based on a specific location. That way, if you know you’re going to the grocery store, you can tell your assistant to remind you to get milk once you’re at the store. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your phone in public, you can now type your request as if you were texting your assistant.
Setting a reminder via Google Assistant on a smartphone.
Personally, I still find a physical planner and calendar much more effective and quite frankly, much more pleasing to use. Digital assistants seem like something futuristic that will still take some time to improve and for more people to adopt. But in situations when I was in a hurry and I needed to make sure I remembered something, my Google Assistant got the job done, and all I did was type in my request. When you look at it through that perspective, writing reminders on your hand with a Sharpie really does seem like a thing of the past.
We hope you enjoy these amazing utilities and that you find them helpful. If you have time over the holidays, it would probably be a good time to check these tools out while you have spare time and are in the company of others who might be able to help you out. Here’s to a wonderful season filled with tech, and a happy new year with fewer frustrations.