My life has become app centered. In fact, I probably spend more time on my smartphone testing apps than most 20-somethings. I ask my friends, I ask the Internet, I ask my Twitter followers ... and I download, tap and swipe away. All in the service of this blog.
I must admit, I download a lot of toads before I find a prince. So I offer these suggestions for my favorite apps of 2012 after extensive personal research. What apps did you use most this year? Tell me in the comments - I need review suggestions!
Here are my criteria:
- An app must entertain, help or inform my "boomer" peers, as well as our older friends and family. Since the mobile app market is expanding exponentially, I think it's important to look for apps that will enhance our lives through technology.
- The app must be easy to read, easy to use and easy to navigate. Admittedly, some apps work better and read better on tablets, so I try recommending apps that are available on both devices. After all that app testing, I figure if I don't understand the app, our readers won't either.
- The app needs to have a good customer support service. I'm not interested in a great app that doesn't offer help quickly if something goes wrong. I've only strayed from this once when I recommended Dropbox, which is fabulous for storing documents in the cloud, but has lousy customer service. I waited for a week for an email to respond to my question. I didn't like it, but the usefulness of the app supersedes the poor customer feedback. Hopefully, that will change soon.
So, here is my list of my top 10 apps for 2012. I've tried to include apps that cross a multitude of interests and some that haven't made it to mainstream conversation. In other words, you may be the first one of your friends to share the app, making you a real tech leader. I think the kids call that an "early adopter."
- Medcoach is a medication adherence app available on Apple and Android. I think this is the best app in the medication reminder category. It's seamless. It's easy to follow your medication and vitamin schedule as prescribed by your doctor. It delivers friendly reminder messages to your phone. It can even connect you to your pharmacy for prescription refills. And there is a live person on the support desk. This app is my husband's ultimate favorite.
- Emergencylink allows you to store your important contacts and copies of all your crucial records in one location. In an emergency, this information can be easily accessed by your loved ones. In case you are in an accident, the first responders can access your information by calling the 24-hour live support emergency hotline. They'll be able to access an emergency contact number and any other information you think they should know. They also offer key rings and wallet cards with users account numbers. So far it's available for iPad, iPhone, and Android users.
- Zite is a personalized magazine designed to deliver stories from across the globe in categories users select. The more you read, the better it gets. There are other curated news sites out there that I've tested, but this one just seems to flow better. It's easy on the eyes, and offers the widest range of worldwide magazines. It's a great app to use in doctors' waiting rooms. It's available for Apple and Android.
- Lumosity is a series of brain training games that you can play to enhance your brain's speed, memory, attention, problem solving and flexibility. Users pick the area of their brain they want to train. They get harder as you progress, and easier if you struggle. Newcomers are treated to a free trial; then it is a subscription-based app. It's only available on Apple mobile devices, but the brain training games can be done on any computer.
- LoseIt is the app I use more than any other on my mobile phone. It allows me to track my daily intake of food and exercise. It has a huge database of food, and allows users to scan and store bar codes from packages. It even develops a personalized database of foods you've eaten so you don't have to search for them every time you want to make an entry. And if you're like me, I eat the same breakfast every day. LoseIt stores the meal under the Previous Meals section - all I have to do is tap it to make the entry. It also syncs with Fitbit. It's available on iPhone and Android.
- AARP, which I promise I'm not just listing because I blog for AARP. It is a great app and available for iPhone and Android. If you want a quick rundown of all news affecting boomers, seniors and caregivers, this app is spot on. From legislative news, to budgeting, to coping skills, this app has everything front and center. It takes the highlights from all if its publications and publishes them on this one app. As one would expect, it's easy to read, easy to navigate and has relevant content for its audience. My favorite section is the Benefits section where I find great discounts at stores I frequent. On more than one occasion, I've been in a store and looked it up in the benefits section - only to find a discount code. I just showed my phone at checkout and received the discount.
- Ocean House Media is an app store that publishes educational and inspirational book apps for children. It publishes more than 265 mobile and desktop apps for all Apple products, Android, Nook tablets, Kindle Fire, HP TouchPad and all Windows 8 devices. This group recently unveiled Dr. Seuss books, in which users can record their own voice reading the book and share it with others. It's a great find for grandparents who want to connect with their grandchildren.
- Karma is a free app, available on iPhone, Android and through Facebook, that lets users send instant gifts to people without knowing the recipient's mailing address. After selecting from a large array of interesting and unusual gifts, the app sends an instant message to your recipient by text or email. Then the receiver is responsible for supplying the shipping address. And in case your recipient doesn't want or need the particular gift you selected, he or she can exchange it before it's sent. This is a great way to gift your 20- or 30-something relatives, friends or business associates. It removes the hassle of shopping and shipping, and they can be happy with the selection. And it's instant.
- Kayak is the only app you need when you travel. You can find hotels, flights and cars. You can keep everything about your trip - your agenda, your flight tracker, even airport information - all in one location. It even has a packing checklist. Another plus: you can input your information on your computer if you wish, and it syncs with your app. Plus, it's free.
- TV Guide is a popular app for a good reason. Now that we are blessed with so many channel selections thanks to cable and satellite television, it can take quite a while to scroll through the television menu searching for a program to watch. The TV Guide app puts the whole listing in the palm of your hand. Another great feature: it uses a GPS to determine your location, so if you're traveling and want to watch a favorite show you can easily locate it. Great for nights in hotels.
All of these may not be for you, but try the ones that sound interesting.
Oh, and please do let me know which apps you used over and over again in 2012. I need more to try!
If you're looking for great books to guide you through using your new iPad, or setting up your Facebook privacy settings, check out our Bookstore at bookstore.aarp.org for lots of great choices.