[2014 Wrap-up] Apps.

[This post is part of the Gabriel’s Countdown to 2015 series.]

Just as I am an avid gamer collector of games, I’m really good at hoarding incredible amounts of apps, grabbing every new, hyped one or whatever decent thing is temporarily discounted.

Unlike my games list, however, my best-of apps list for 2014 doesn’t feature many apps released this year. It’s probably because, unlike with games, many apps share similar core functionalities and using one often means foregoing another (who, for example, needs three different Twitter apps for a single account?).

So, rather than fill up a list with new apps that I haven’t used all that much (and ultimately decided were inferior to my original choices), my wrap-up will feature the apps, regardless of release date, that I’ve used the most this year, all neatly categorised for your reading pleasure.


Instant Messengers: Whatsapp

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Regardless of features and polish, an instant messaging app is only as good as its userbase and in terms of sheer numbers and adoption rate, nothing else in Singapore comes remotely close to the Whatsapp juggernaut.

Thankfully, Whatsapp isn’t just a mediocre app that lots of people happen to use. Sure, it could be improved on but the current user experience is already plenty good. It looks great, feels fast, has a whole host of chatting and sharing options, and is stable most of the time.

Runner-up: I only use this with very few people and it’s super buggy and laggy but Google Hangouts’ multi-platform chatting is fantastic.


Social Media: Instagram 

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While social media is actually a pretty large umbrella, this is the only one that I religiously return to several times a day an hour. The visual medium is really the most powerful, engaging one and given the sheer number of users on this app, there is something for everyone. In my case, at least, there are many things.

Runners-up: Tweetbot (iOS only) and Falcon Pro (Android only) are both better experiences than the actual Twitter app and come with a whole host of fantastic features and pretty interfaces. They would give Instagram a harder run for its money but I’ve gone off Twitter somewhat, only logging in once in a while to catch up on the never-ending backlog of 140 character spurts.


Photography: VSCOCam

While I do all my photo ogling on Instagram, I don’t actually do my photo editing there because the filters aren’t very good anymore and the editing options aren’t comprehensive. This category of apps is the one that I experiment in the most and time and again I’ve returned to VSCOCam. The editing options are finetuned to my tastes (for most photos, I use at least a combination of exposure, contrast and sharpen adjustments and this app has given me consistently the best results across these settings) and the filters are the nicest I’ve come across.

Runners-up: Afterlight is another option that I sometimes turn to, with even more available settings to play around with than VSCOCam but personally I just don’t feel that the edits turn out that great and the scrollbars are terrible to work on smaller screens. Fuzel Collage (for, erm, collages), Path On (for placing typography in customizable shapes) and Squaready (for enveloping pictures in the necessary white borders for Instagram) are all great at what they do but they’re too circumstance-specific for me to put them over VSCOCam.


Health/fitness: Fitbit 

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Every since I got the Fitbit, I’ve been quite conscious about how much activity I get every day (even if it’s just how many pitters I get to patter). I don’t think walking counts as much exercise (especially compared to jogging or swimming) but it sure helps to have a daily target to meet. Who knew hitting an arbitrary amount of steps each day could feel so fulfilling?

Plus, I use the Fitbit water counter to keep track of how much I’ve hydrated myself over the course of the day, which is turning out to be much more helpful (and enforcing) than I expected.

Runners-up: MyFitnessPal is more of a sidekick than a runner-up, going hand in hand with Fitbit to provide me with a rough overview of the day’s nutrition and general health. My only gripe with it is that there are many foods I eat each day that aren’t on the database (which is actually already really comprehensive, considering I’m not dining in the States).


Expense tracker: Toshl

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I have to be honest – Toshl isn’t that great. It looks terribly dated, the interface lacks refinement (entering a simple entry takes so many more presses than it has to!) and it just doesn’t have that many features compared to the rest. The only thing it really has going for it (and the one thing that keeps me stuck on it) is its cross-platform synchrony. Other expense trackers might look much better or pack in many more features but none seem to let me track my money across iOS, Android and the PC.

Runner-up: one of those apps is Spendee. It’s a lot more beautiful and has many options. The only thing that forced me away from it was the fact that I basically had to restart every time I changed phones, which is often.


Writing/notes: Evernote

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Over the course of the year, I’ve really expanded my use of Evernote. It now holds several of my lists (I like that I have the option to create several lists within a single note, something the actual list apps don’t seem to offer), much of my writing and a whole chunk of my notes for school. Evernote isn’t just a note app for me – it’s a repository of everything I need to take down and reference.

Runners-up: the iPhone Notes app (iOS) and Google Keep (Android) play the same function for me – quick notes that I just need for temporary or one-time use that I don’t want to clutter my Evernote with because goodness knows it can get messay in there. Still, in terms of sheer note-hoarding power Evernote is king.


Keyboards: Swiftkey

For the longest time, Swiftkey was the sole reason why I kept hankering after Android phones. Its word prediction ability (which gets better and better over time as it learns from various sources that you write in) is unparalleled by any other app I’ve tried and the addition of the Swype-style input has only made my fingers so much happier.

Swiftkey for iOS is far from perfect, suffering from an insane amount of crashes and bugs that its Android brother doesn’t seem to have, but still does the job so well that no other keyboard I’ve tried has even come close.


Listening: Pocket Casts

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This choice might be more due to my preference for the medium rather than the app itself but when it comes to playing podcasts, Pocketcasts is the best option I’ve used so far. It looks fantastic, syncs across several platforms (although it’s just the list of podcasts rather than actual episodes so far), and comes with various playback options. 

Runners-up: Spotify is my app of choice for actual, non-spoken music but ever since I signed up for my new mobile line (which saw my free monthly data plunge to literally a quarter of what it used to be), I don’t dare to stream anymore, and paying S$10 a month for offline play seems a waste since there are so many great free listens around (see: podcasts). Audible was also burning up my phone usage for quite a while but audiobooks aren’t the cheapest and again, see: free listens > paid ones.


Reading: Pocket

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Like many, I use the Feedly+Pocket combination to trawl through my RSS feeds and stockpile the posts I want to read. Out of the several read-it-later apps I’ve used, Pocket wins hands down for its design, its ubiquity in iOS and Android menus, and its ability to load sites, display pictures and play videos in-line. I’m also not a fan of reading apps offering a selection of curated suggestions. After all, why read something I potentially might find interesting when I could be reading something I know would be interesting?

That’s about it for the most frequent apps I’ve used this year. Well, except for Clock, which probably gets the most consistent screen time but isn’t glamourous enough for the list.

Dear reader, what apps did you use this year?

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