Kagoo recently started supporting smartphones on the site, offering comprehensive details on a whole range of quality smartphones. You can browse all the latest Smartphones in our Smartphone Hub & view the best deals on our Smartphone Deals Page. To celebrate their arrival, we’re looking in depth at smartphone features - today we’ll be finishing off the Kagoo App Starter Kit by looking at a mix of useful personal apps.
The ability to listen to music anywhere is one of the best reasons to have a smartphone, making long journeys and exercise much more pleasant! While you can usually transfer mp3 files directly to your phone, streaming audio is far more convenient - allowing you to listen to anything you want, whenever you want! Here is a selection of great streaming apps for your listening pleasure!
Spotify has been around for a hot minute - the Swedish company was founded in 2009, back when streaming media was still very much a new thing. They immediately saw massive success, and have continued growing at a massive rate: as of last year they had around 133 million premium subscribers, and far far greater number of free users. Spotify is a great app for streaming: a simple user interface with a massive selection of music covering every genre imaginable. You can use the app for free, but there are substantial limitations - lower quality, adverts between songs and a limited control of the music you listen to (you can only use shuffle mode). In order to get the full experience, you’ll need to pay for a monthly subscription. Given Spotify’s wide support for devices, and their extensive catalogue, it’s a small price to pay.
(iOS & Android - £9.99/month subscription)
Apple launched their streaming music system in 2015 as a direct competitor to Spotify (the two companies have a history of antagonising each other) on the iPhone. While it found a lukewarm reception at launch, it has been significantly improved over the last few years. If you’ve got an iPhone, then it’s an excellent choice - offering a large catalogue of music that can be augmented with your personal iTunes library. As you’d expect, Apple Music is designed primarily for Apple’s devices - offering seamless streaming across iPhones, iPads, Macs and Homepods. However - rather surprisingly - Apple Music is also available for Android with reasonably solid integration with non-Apple tech. The catalogue may not approach the levels of Spotify, but there is far stronger curation, with a very strong ‘discovery’ feature that learns from your listening history.
Tidal originally made waves when it was bought and relaunched in 2015 by Jay-Z, which caused many people to view it as a vanity project. While it’s true Tidal has seen nowhere near the success of Spotify or the other streaming apps, it does have a couple of tricks up its sleeve. Designed for audiophiles, Tidal concentrates on offering the highest possible audio quality for your listening pleasure. While other services use lower quality audio to allow for faster streaming and less data use, Tidal uses ‘lossless audio’, an extremely high quality format that compresses data as little as possible - to preserve as much of the original sound. This allows Tidal’s streaming to sound much better, though at a cost - data usage for Tidal will be much more than Spotify or Apple Music. Their catalogue is also far smaller, though it has grown from the original offering of primarily hip-hop and pop albums. Tidal’s concentration on quality may be lost on many casual listeners, but for those who need the best audio quality going, it’s the one to beat.
There’s nothing worse than heading out for the day, only to have the heavens open 10 minutes after you leave the house. To combat this, a good weather app is crucial - they can show you the current temperature, give a long-range forecast and warn you of incoming storms. Here are a selection of apps to keep you dry.
(iOS only - £4.99)
Dark Sky made their name with ‘hyperlocal weather’ - concentrating on high precision for your immediate time & area, letting you know exactly when rain would arrive, down to the minute. They have been largely successful with this boast - Dark Sky is an extremely accurate weather app that is easy to use and well designed. If you’re looking for a good weather app for the iPhone, this is a great choice. Unfortunately, due to Apple acquiring Dark Sky last year, the app is no longer available for Android. Which is a great shame - though there are alternatives on the market.
One such alternative is Weather Underground, a forecast app available for both iOS and Android. Not to be confused with the radical left military group of the 60s & 70s, the Weather Underground app offers a high degree of accuracy and up-to-the-minute reports on local conditions. The design is not as sleek as Dark Sky, but it offers a wealth of data including detailed radar maps, heat maps, details on local flu outbreaks and high-res satellite imagery. It can be used for free, but has rather intrusive ads. A subscription removes these adverts, and adds several other functions.
Lastly, if you want your weather with a bit of… character, then Carrot Weather might be the app for you. Carrot Weather is an offshoot of ‘Carrot’, a to-do program with a comically psychopathic ‘AI’ built into it. This glowing blue eye was designed to provide antagonism and personality to otherwise-boring apps - it worked, and the devs brought out several other ‘Carrot’ apps. Carrot Weather is powered by Dark Sky’s hyperlocal weather data, but adds some charming visuals, bad jokes and a mountain of extra features - customisable notifications for different weather triggers, scavenger hunts across the radar map, achievements and more. It’s a bit silly, but it’s miles better than most of the boring weather apps available.
In these stay-at-home, lockdown times it’s very easy to sit around for the majority of the day - the movement from work chair to dining table to couch won’t help keep you in shape. Therefore a good exercise app is important - they can accommodate a variety of exercises and give tracking, encouragement and tips.
(iOS & Android - Free)
The NHS is behind the popular ‘Couch to 5k’ fitness regime, which has a very good smartphone app alongside it. The idea is simple - the app takes you through a series of runs over the course of 9 weeks, gradually increasing the time and length you’ll be running, until finally you’re able to conquer a full 5k run without stopping. The apps are completely free, and form a great introduction to running for beginners. However it’s only aimed at beginners - once you’ve worked through the course, it doesn’t have much more to offer you, and you’re best moving on to a more professional running app.
Strava is an app designed to track running and cycling - it will effortlessly track every element of your daily exercise, including distance, speed, calorie burn and more. A high degree of accuracy makes this a very useful app for anyone looking to track their running or cycling. It’s especially geared towards those who have a competitive streak - allowing you to challenge others to beat your times, and track your improvements against other people. The free version of the app is generous, allowing you access to everything you need to track exercise. The premium version has more in-depth metrics for tracking your improvements, as well as community features like being able to share and discover the best routes from the community. If you’ve got the running bug from completing Couch To 5k, this is a great app to bring things up to the next level.
(iOS only - £4.99)
Streaks is a different type of app from the others - it specialises in short bursts of daily exercises to help keep you fit. You select from a large range of exercises (push ups, planks, squats, etc) and for each session the app randomly picks 5-7 of them, alternating between reps so as to keep you on your toes. It’s a very useful app - lots of flexibility as to your chosen exercises, and can run off Apple Watch or Apple TV, so you don't have to keep looking at your phone while you exercise. However there isn’t an Android version unfortunately - Streaks is iOS only.
Meditation is an eastern practice of focused thought, designed to help bring about calm, heighten awareness and improve mental health. While the practice has existed for hundreds of years, the advent of smartphones and the growing popularity of Mindfulness has created a large market of meditation apps, aiming to aid and improve your meditations.
Calm is one of the most popular meditation apps on the market right now. It offers a mix of guided meditations, breathing exercises and ‘sleep stories’ - bedtime stories designed to lull you to a peaceful night’s sleep. While some sections of the app are free, the majority are gated behind a premium subscription. If you do shell out for premium, you get a massive library of guided meditations and substantial lessons on how to improve your meditation.
(iOS & Android - Free)
Insight Timer is a free app concentrating on teaching people about meditation, and improving their everyday practice. There are several courses from the absolute basics, through to advanced lessons. You also have access to a freeform meditation timer, with customisable sounds and background noise, sleep aids and yoga tutorials. While not as extensive as Calm, it pushes you to sign up for a subscription far less, and I find it a less cluttered interface (ironically I don’t find Calm’s UI calming!). Paying for the premium version unlocks some more lessons and guided meditations, but the app is fully functional without paying.
Another popular meditation app, Headspace focuses primarily on helping people meditate better, with a large amount of guided meditations & courses covering just about any subject you could want. The app is well designed and easy to use, though maybe leans a bit too much on cartoon characters. While extremely popular, there unfortunately isn’t a proper free version - you have to shell out a subscription to access anything more than the intro ‘basics’ course. While this is frustrating, the courses on offer are extremely high quality, narrated primarily by a former Buddhist Monk. The app also offers ‘soundscapes’ - collections of white noise that are designed to help you relax, zone out, sleep better or concentrate on work.