Skip to Content
Kim's column

10 must-have apps for your phone

A new app is like candy: It’s fun, bite-sized and gives you a rush. Whether you prefer the iTunes App Store or Google Play, you’ll find an all-you-can-download buffet of mindblowing software for your mobile device.

People are always asking me what apps they should get. The answer depends, of course, on many things. What are your pastimes? What do you need help with? Some people subsist on Tinder. Others are obsessed with Google Translate, Pokémon Go or Pandora. We each have our unique preferences.

But certain apps rise above the rest. They’re powerful, fun and incredibly useful. They’re top in their category, and almost every user ends up exclaiming, “Wow, I can’t believe how cool this thing is!” Here are 10 of those must-have apps.

Waze

What would happen if you combined the geography of Google Maps with the mentality of Twitter? It’d probably look something like Waze, a navigational tool that also uses crowdsourced data. The little map will show you fellow Waze users along the roadways, and they routinely report accidents and speed traps to make your trip smoother.

Adobe Photoshop Fix

For casual phone photographers, Adobe Photoshop is overkill. There’s no need to rasterize a photo, add layers or “lasso” pieces of an image. Most people just want to fiddle with the contrast and retouch the photo a bit. Now you can do that from your phone, thanks to Adobe’s Photoshop Fix. You can also automatically add color and remove entire chunks of a photo, such as an unsightly tattoo, with a few finger swabs — no graphic design degree required.

Buffer

Social media is fun, but it can also be a lot of work. You can spend hours crafting the right tweet, then the right Facebook post, then an Instagram photo, then … well, you know. Buffer allows you to orchestrate all of these social media releases from the same dashboard, and you can even schedule the date and time your posts are sent. For campaign managers and businesspeople, Buffer is an incredible luxury, aggregating such disparate services as Pinterest and Tumblr.

Pact

Whether you’ve gained a few pounds or your doctor has given you a frightening prognosis, you want to get exercise and feel healthier, but what you need is motivation. That’s where Pact comes in. You set health goals on the app, and when you don’t reach them, you have to pay other Pact members money. Like, real money. But when you do reach your goals, other people pay you. It’s kind of like gambling, except you always win as long as you reach your benchmarks. Pact may sound like a crazy gimmick, but it has inspired 11.8 million workouts to date, claiming a 92% success rate.

Sleep Cycle

We all know about our “circadian rhythm,” or sleep cycles. Over the course of 90 minutes, typical sleepers enter different phases of sleep, from light to the dreamy REM phase and back. It’d be nice to harness that cycle to our benefit, but how? Sleep Cycle takes data on your sleep patterns, then figures out the right time to wake you up. This might sound unsettling at first, but Sleep Cycle has helped millions find their perfect “wake-up” phase. The app also takes irregular sleep into account, and the “intelligent snooze” feature is tailored to your unique waking habits.

Google Trips

Travel is wonderful for the soul, but it can be a very cluttered experience. You’ve got plane tickets, handbooks, printed itineraries, car-rental details, hotel addresses scrawled on napkins, camera gear, backup batteries and a million doodads stuffed into your pockets. Google Trips takes your travel information and aggregates it. You can list all your booking information, your itineraries, and information about local eateries and monuments in one app. Can’t get reception in the middle of Mongolia? Google Trips works fluidly offline, as well.

Dark Sky

“They said it would be sunny!” exclaimed the frustrated fisherman as rain poured over his boat. If the TV weatherpeople have lost your trust and you’re skeptical of the free weather app on your phone, consider Dark Sky. Billed as a “hyper-local” weather forecaster, this app is designed to predict the weather in your exact location. This can be especially handy in mountainous regions, where every little valley experiences its own weather, or in the Great Plains, where storms sweep past at a moment’s notice. Detailed maps show you exactly what weather is brewing, and you can receive notifications as frequently as you’d like.

Mint

For many of us, managing money is kind of like keeping a tidy house. It’d be great to keep pristine spreadsheets, scan our receipts and integrate all our account information into a single platform. Well, Mint makes that easy. Not only can you keep track of earnings, expenses and tax information, but you can automatically pay bills and draft budgets right on your mobile device. What’s more, you can check your credit score at a glance with no third-party service required. Remember, it’s never too late for a New Year’s resolution.

Magisto

Yes, you could hire a videographer to cast, shoot and edit your online commercial. Then you get a bill for $40,000. Is there a cheaper way? True to its name, Magisto has the magical ability to transform amateur photos and footage into breathtaking short videos. Ready-to-use templates help you produce feisty, professional-looking spots, and there’s a whole library of royalty-free music to fit any mood. Whether you’re a hobbyist hoping to move up from iMovie or a business owner making a professional advertorial, Magisto will make it happen.

Bonus: My free app

If you’ve read this far, you know you want to learn more. My free Komando.com App links you to my security alerts, tips, podcasts and videos. You’ll get special updates and insider insights about the latest in consumer tech. You can check weather and traffic reports without having to leave the app.

Komando.com App background

Check out the free Komando.com App!

Get the latest tech updates and breaking news on the go, straight to your phone, with the Komando.com App, available in the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

Download Now