People love apps. Almost half the population — or 3.4bn people — spent a total of 1.6tn hours on different smartphone and tablet apps in 2016, according to App Annie, the market research group. A back of the envelope calculation suggests that in total, the average app user spends nearly three solid weeks a year scrolling through different games, social networks, maps and myriad other services on their smartphones. This extraordinary number is only set to increase.
You would think, considering this level of interest, that there are apps for everyone. But for many, the sheer choice is more confusing than it is illuminating. It is difficult, without endless hours to waste in a phone vortex, to know which apps might actually be worth downloading.
So the Next Act has chosen five for you to investigate:
You’ve probably heard of it, but have you tried it? The streaming service hosts music from dozens of different record labels and producers that you can browse and listen to either free (with adverts) or for a monthly fee. The app’s tagline is “music for everyone” and its algorithm is capable of suggesting tracks that you are bound to like, delivered via a personalised “Discover Weekly” playlist. Spotify has come to represent the millennial zeitgeist, but it doesn’t only offer music from this century. If you’ve forgotten what you used to like listening to back in the day, you can search by genre and the app will suggest famous names. The premium version costs £14.99 per month for a family subscription that gives you multiple accounts. iOS; Android
Words With Friends
Scientific research has thrown cold water on brain training apps that claim to improve your cognitive functioning with puzzles that you can do on your own. But it’s always fun to play games with friends. Designed by the well-known gaming company Zynga, Words With Friends is a good way to keep up with family and friends by playing remote word games on an online grid, similar to a well-known board game. Games can carry on over weeks and players have rankings so you can track who is top of their game. This app is especially good if you love word games and want to play with a child, grandchild or friend who has moved abroad. iOS; Android
If you want to keep fit, but a session at the gym feels like too much, you can do meditation and yoga from your home through a variety of apps. Daily Yoga is particularly good. It offers video tutorials targeted at users with different needs, such as strengthening your back or sleeping better. The idea is that anyone can practice yoga wherever they are, without the embarrassing (and expensive) need to assume the downward facing dog pose in front of a roomful of people. There are more than a hundred free classes and users can sign up for unlimited classes at a set monthly cost. iOS; Android
TV Guide UK
The plethora of TV channels in the UK mean that TV listings magazines have bucked the general decline in print media, which is why not many have launched apps worth using. But one that offers a useful (and free) way to track your favourite shows and make sure you don’t miss episodes is TV Guide UK, which brings together listings from all terrestrial channels plus Sky in the UK. The app is integrated with Wikipedia so you can read up about new programmes. Worth a try, if only to reduce time spent channel hopping. iOS; Android
If you have opened too many bank accounts and investment portfolios over your lifetime and are no good at spreadsheets, this app offers a useful way to oversee your finances. The premium option, which uses the UK’s recent Open Banking reforms to pull information from your bank accounts, costs £14.99 per year or £1.49 per month. By tracking your bank accounts, the app can analyse exactly how much you have — and how much you’re spending. You can set goals to help you budget; if you’re forgetful, alerts will remind you about payments. For retirees, the app also offers links to financial advisers — you can send them your data, and, for a fee, they will help you devise a plan. iOS; Android
What are the apps you cannot do without? Nominate your suggestions in the comment field below, and we will mention the best ones on the next FT Live video scheduled for Friday July 13.