Top 10 apps for smartphone noobs

    Photo by AleksGrynis on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons

    It’s difficult to think of life before smartphones, when Facebook was only accessible by computer and tips were calculated by hand, but technology and application developers have come a long way since the advent of the iPhone four years ago. With Amazon offering Angry Birds Rio for free this week, here are the top 10 most useful and entertaining Apple iPhone and Motorola Droid apps you need now.

    10. BAC Calculator Apps

    For those curious about how many drinks will make the difference between feeling woozy and being completely wasted, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Calculator app, free on both the iPhone and Droid, serves as the perfect reference for how many appletinis are too many. Just input your gender, how many beers, glasses of wine or shots you took, how long you’ve been drinking for and your weight, and the application will calculate how much alcohol is actually in your system. It’s a useful and practical tool — that is, if you’re still sober enough to use it — and can help prevent a fiasco involving either the fuzz or the floor.

    9. Flashlight Apps

    For those who can still stand upright after calculating their BAC and want to avoid stepping on passed-out partiers, there are a variety of flashlight apps for both the iPhone and Droid. The $0.99 Flashlight+ by More Blu Sky for the iPhone has an adjustable light that can be dimmed and set to turn on whenever the app’s icon is tapped. The Droid also offers a free Color Flashlight app which allows you to adjust the color or pick from a range of effects including the hypnotic “Spiral” and flame-free “Candle.” Like the Flashlight+, it also features a strobe light, so if you decide that you didn’t get your fill of bad dance moves for the evening, just flick on the function, and disco or jive the night away.

    8. Pandora

    Need some music for your one-man dance party? Well then look no further than the free Pandora app available for both the iPhone and Droid. No longer will your bag be a mess of cords and cables for your iPod, iPad or MacBook. All you need now to listen to your favorite music is this free app, which accesses your Pandora account’s stations and lets you listen to them on the go.

    7. Ocarina

    Or if you feel dancing to Lady Gaga or Robyn is below you, make your own music with the iPhone’s $0.99 Ocarina app. An ancient flute-like instrument popularized by “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” video game, the ocarina is played by placing your fingers upon onscreen “holes” while blowing into the built-in microphone. It’s probably second to only the musical jug as the easiest instrument to play and is perfect for those without the time or patience to master an actual instrument. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to impress any Zelda buff with your smooth renditions of the theme song.

    6. Phone Locater Apps

    If your phone happens to fall out of your pocket while you’re sporadically dancing to your newly-discovered disco light function or demonstrating your musical ability, you can always use the Find My Phone application for the iPhone to locate it. If Find My Phone is installed, you can use another iOS device to locate it. The app allows users to see where their phone is on a map and can even display messages onscreen, remotely set a passcode lock and permanently erase all personal data from the device. Droids have a similar app called Where’s My Droid that can have your phone ring or vibrate when a special word is texted to the phone, in addition to providing GPS locations and enabling passcode protections. The best part is that both apps are free, which sure beats paying $600 for a brand new smartphone.

    5. Fooducate

    Gone on too many late night BK runs? Then use Fooducate, a free iPhone app, to help shed those extra pounds and eat smarter. Developed by dieticians, Fooducate lets users scan product barcodes and provides product highlights, comparisons to other foods and better alternatives to eat. It helps users see the little things that are hidden in between the Potassium Sorbates and Sodium Acid Pyrophosphates, and decode the labels to see if the product contains excessive sugars, trans fats or additives. However, Fooducate doesn’t have every single food product yet, so if you come across a food it doesn’t recognize, just send the photo to the app developers who will add it to the database. A great tool for anyone from health food nuts to compulsive dieters, Fooducate can help shed those excess pounds and combat those chocolate chip cookie cravings.

    4. Kindle

    Always wanted an e-reader but thought $200 was a little steep compared to the bargain book bin? Then download Amazon’s free Kindle app, available for both the iPhone and Droid, now with a much improved interface. This app gives users access to over 750,000 books in the Kindle Store, including current bestsellers, newspapers and magazines. Most titles go for $9.99, but if that seems too pricey, there are also thousands of free e-books available for viewing. The convenience that comes from the portability of a phone versus a hefty hardcover is well worth the price though, and means that all you need to enjoy the latest New York Times Bestseller is a cozy couch to curl up on and your smartphone.

    3. Photo Apps

    Capture all those hilarious high BAC-induced moments and give the Cobrasnake or Annie Leibovitz a run for their money with the Instagram app for the iPhone. Instagram is an easy tool that allows users to edit photos they take with their phone by applying over a dozen filters, which can turn them into anything from super-saturated shots to funky, faded photos. A similar application called Camera 360 is available for the Droid and lets people add various effects to their photos. And while users can also add funny backgrounds and things like a fisheye lens effect to their photos, the only downside is the lack of a crop tool within the app itself. However, you can still directly upload and share your photos on sites like Facebook or Flickr, where crop tools are readily available. Both apps are free and provide such great fodder for future Facebook profile pictures that you’ll want to return that clunky, old point-and-shoot and take phone camera candids instead.

    Photo by chadlewis76 on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons

    2. ROM Gripper

    Left your GameBoy Color or your Super Nintendo system at home? Well for all you old school video game geeks out there, the ROM Gripper app gives Droid users access to literally thousands of games from the likes of Atari and Sega Genesis. It’s organized by gaming system and also offers screenshots that let you see what you’re downloading. You’ll find almost every type of game, from Grand Theft Auto to The Legend of Zelda to a multitude of Pokemon games. ROM Gripper is a great free app for nostalgic gamers and cash-strapped students alike. It will satisfy any desires for sword-swinging or Pokebattle action.

    1. Google Goggles

    Currently available only for the Droid, Goggles, Google’s free visual search tool, allows users to snap photos of objects like artwork, business cards and food packaging and get search results. The photo is analyzed after being taken and the user is then given a list of things identified in the picture, which can vary from the company logo to the type of font used on the packaging. If things like phone numbers are also included, users can call it directly or just save it to their contacts. It is also a useful tool for identifying artwork and landmarks, or for translating text on something like a menu or sign. It’s not perfect and can’t identify clothes or animals, but Goggles is still a powerful tool for those who want to know everything from the chemical makeup of cake to the entire Depeche Mode discography.


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