CIO.com reviewer James A. Martin takes a look back at the many apps he reviewed since the start of 2015 and spotlights his seven favorites, including apps for security, document scanning and navigation.
It’s nearly April, and that’s no joke. The year 2015 is flying by, and it’s been a good one for mobile apps. I reviewed a lot of different apps since Jan. 1, but the following seven downloads (listed in alphabetical order) are the ones that still live happily on my Android and iOS devices. Best of all, they’re all free.
There are lots of ways to kill time while waiting for a bus or standing in a grocery line. Audvisor helps put idle time to good use, with its collection of three-minute-or-less audio inspirations from business leaders. The app is easy to browse and use, and thanks to its more than 1,000 clips, organized by topics and speakers, you’re bound to find inspiration.
Citymaps (Android, iOS)
Citymaps is ideal for business travelers and others who are interested in finding and sharing cool places to go in cities. You can build “playlists” of restaurants, local sites, stores and other attractions, and share them with colleagues and other Citymappers. It’s not a unique concept, but it’s well executed and worth checking out before your next trip.
Hopper isn’t a replacement for Kayak, Google Flight Search, or other online tools for hunting down the best airfares. However, it deserves a place on your iOS device because it provides an easy, graphical view of flight and rate options. A “fever” bar, for example, displays a range of airfares, from cheapest to most expensive, for given destinations. One caveat: The airfares are only for coach, so big shots need to look elsewhere.
IFTTT ‘Do’ Apps (Android, iOS)
If This Then That (IFTTT) is a free cloud service that connects two other cloud services to cause a desired action. Using an IFTTT “recipe,” for instance, I can automatically send sleep data from my Fitbit to a Google Drive spreadsheet.
The three IFTTT “Do” apps make using similar recipes a push-button affair on your mobile device. The best of the three is the Do Button app, which creates widgets for your home screen. Using a Do Button widget, you can cause your smartphone to ring, so you can pretend you have an urgent call to take when you want to tactfully get out of a meeting or an awkward situation. Talk about an exit strategy.
Nokia Here (Android, iOS)
I’m still waiting for the perfect (or even near perfect) GPS navigation app. (See “How [and Why] GPS Directions Lead You Astray.“) I’m finally warming to Google Maps, but there’s also a lot to like about Nokia Here. The directions I received thus far have made sense; the interface is nicely streamlined; you can get walking and transit directions; and perhaps best of all, you can download maps for offline use.
Scannable (iOS only)
The mobile app world is lousy with scanning software. Evernote’s Scannable is my favorite because it makes just about any piece of paper easy to scan. The app can also convert words in paper documents into searchable text via optical character recognition (OCR). It’s easy to scan multiple pages into a single document, and scan quality is usually good, though the more light you have, the better the results. One complaint: The app frequently crashes during multi-page scanning.
360 Security (Android)
Securing your mobile device is only going to be more important in the coming years. The 360 Security app is a standout, as it makes it easy to scan your Android device for viruses and malware. You can also use 360 Security to clean out system junk files, clear your app cache, delete unwanted apps, and “boost” your device memory to increase performance and battery life.
James A. Martin is a seasoned tech journalist and blogger based in San Francisco and winner of the 2014 ASBPE National Gold award for his CIO.com blog. He writes CIO.com's Living the Tech Life blog and is also a content marketing consultant.