Apps are a dime a dozen these days, but certain apps are just so useful that they’ve become necessary tools in the lives of many people around the world. And by now, we probably all know about the biggest, most popular apps. But what about the lesser-known apps? They’re usually equally useful, but just haven’t had their time in the spotlight just yet — so let’s give them a shot. Here are a few of our choices for the most essential lesser-known apps that we think everyone should try.
If you’re a music nerd, just identifying songs with Shazam or Soundhound won’t do. WhoSampled lets you check the service’s wide database of relationship between songs, like what samples they may contain.
Apple’s Siri can tell you a fair amount of what goes on above your head, but if you want to geek out about this type of thing, the paid version of Flightradar24 is for you. With it, you can take pictures of planes above your head and get to know what flight it is.
This one’s for the daring among us: An alarm clock that lets you wake up to a call from a random person who’s volunteered to wake someone up. The calls are anonymous and time limited to 60 seconds, which limits the awkwardness a little bit. If this is your thing, you can opt so get notifications on your phone when someone needs waking.
Be My Eyes lets you help a stranger, but on a more serious note than Wakie. The service connects blind people with smartphones so seeing persons for quick assistance when needed. Examples of frequent situations include looking at the expiration date on the milk or find the right thing to eat in the fridge.
By now, you’ve surely heard about it. The business model of free Internet services is based on surveillance and profiling. So, take that into account when you use advertising funded products like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Why worry if you’re not a criminal? Well, for starters, assume that the insurance industry is interested in stuff like your most intimate health problems. Without elaborating further, just consider getting a mobile messenger app you can use for real conversations with a relative assumption of privacy. I recommend the Swiss made app Threema. Although Threema is not open source, the service’s documentation and a third party audit imply a significantly more robust architecture than the dangerously clumsy, home cooked crypto of the increasingly popular Telegram messenger.
IFTTT (If This Then That) lets you do some of those things sci-fi assumed computers would bring us: automating stuff. In this day and age, our data lives in silos around the internet, and you sometimes have to click around or tap around a lot to repeat regular tasks. IFTTT lets you identify triggers for common tasks and repeat them. Take a look at the screenshot because it gives clear examples: if you’re posting a pic on Instagram with a certain hashtag, save that pic to Dropbox. Or check out what you can do with those cool Philips Hue smart LED lights: Turn on the lights at certain times of day, flash a light if you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook. With the age of home automation upon us, this is service lets your imagination run wild.
There are plenty of podcast apps, but this one might be the best one for iOS thanks to its intelligent signal processing. It can boost audio for noisy environments, speed things up without having everyone sound like a chipmunk. It can also cut away silence that sometimes eats a lot of space in spoken word content. The only catch is that it doesn’t support streaming due to its signal processing power.
8.1Password and 9.LastPass
Human cognition is nowhere close to being suited for remembering good, random passwords. Passwords should also be unique for the perhaps hundreds of user accounts we might accumulate at work and for our personal lives. It sucks and it seems most people deal with it by giving up and using really, really crappy passwords that put their entire identities and financial security at risk.
Some people love to brag about their systems of remembering unique passwords. Some of them practice as they preach, but having a fair amount of IT work experience I’m going to pull a Dr. House: “Everybody lies”. Mostly people who even try remember a few passwords and make at best slight variations of those. This sucks. But being an adult means finding ways to cope with things that suck. And like we have ways for keeping keys in chains and plastic, metallic and paper currency in wallets, there is a sane way to deal with passwords: Saving them in an encrypted form with a strong master password. Please use a password manager. I’m going to go ahead and recommend that if you can remember one strong password, buy something like 1Password and LastPass.
Will you be giving these lesser-known apps a try? Tell us in the comments below, and feel free to share your own favorite apps that aren’t part of the popular group yet.