Out of millions of smartphone apps, how do you pick 10 that should be on everyone’s phone? Well, that’s clearly a judgment call, and after years of trial and error, here are some of our must-haves.
ICE – In Case of Emergency – SOS QR from Humetrix – Anyone can have an accident or suffer a medical emergency. This app allows you to store important medical and personal contact data that can be read by an Emergency Medical Technician with a QR code scanner. Once someone accesses the QR code on the lock page of your phone, your emergency contacts will automatically be notified and provided with the location of your emergency. It also has an SOS button that will call an emergency contact and send emails to your other contacts. If you are traveling overseas, it automatically translates your information into the local language. It’s available for both iOS and Android, and will also run on Apple Watch. The basic app is free, while premium services cost $10.
Closest Emergency Medical Facilities – EMNet findER – A medical emergency can happen anywhere. It’s always frightening, especially if you are away from home. There are a host of geographically based hospital locators out there. One of the most comprehensive national directories is put together by Massachusetts General Hospital. EMNet FindER is available for both Android and iOS and it’s free.
Medical Issues – iTriage – As we age, lots of things can start going wrong. Sometimes they are minor, at other times serious. iTriage is a comprehensive app that’s free for both iOS and Android that will give you an idea of what might be wrong based on your symptoms and what you might want to do about it. It’s not quite like having a doctor in your pocket, but it will point you in the right direction, including to doctors and care facilities.
Two-way Voice and Video Calling – Skype – There’s no question that Skype is the most popular app for multi-generational calling. It’s available in separate versions for the iPhone, iPad, and Android phones and tablets. And it’s free. Skype makes it easy to stay in touch, and it’s usually pretty reliable. The app is free, though depending on your type of call, you may have to pay for usage.
Maps – Google Maps – This one is pretty much a no brainer. Google Maps is free and it’s terrific. Want to find an address? A point of interest? It’s all there. Going by car, public transportation, walking, or biking? It will lay out the best route with alternatives. We’ve used it on four continents and love it. Available free for both iOS and Android.
Navigation – Waze Traffic – Getting there is not half as fun if you’re stuck in traffic. Waze will help you find ways around it. Owned by Google, it does a great job of informing you about current traffic conditions and alternate routes. We’ve found it more timely and accurate than the information often provided by the live traffic feeds offered by the in-car navigation systems. That’s because it gathers data from people who are stuck in traffic in real time. It’s free and available for both iOS and Android.
Magnifying Glass/Flashlight – Magnifying Flashlight from Bzing – As we age, it can be increasingly tough to read a menu in a dimly lit restaurant or even to read labels or cooking directions on packaged foods. There are a number of apps that give you both a magnifier and a flashlight all together. Among the most highly rated is the Magnifying Flashlight from Bzing. We’ve been using the iPhone version for a couple of years and find it quite reliable, though the free version does come with pop-up ads.
Places and Services Locator – AroundMe – The great thing about the Internet is that it offers you the value of perfect information, but only if you know where to look for it. AroundMe does the work for you, letting you find the closest gas stations, coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, ATMs, and other services with the tap of an app. It’s free and available for both iOS and Android.
Fitness Tracking – Runtastic – Staying in shape has become important for many of us, and quantifying your workout is the best way to keep score. While there are a raft of fitness apps on the market, we’re partial to Runtastic. You can use it to track almost all of your favorite activities – walking, running, biking, etc. It will measure your calories, your distance, your elevation, and a variety of other parameters. It works with the GPS function on your phone to keep track of where you are and what you’ve covered. And it’s just plain easy to use. Free on both iOS and Android platforms.
Shopping – ShopSavvy – Wondering if you’re getting the best price on anything from a can of beans to a television? There are a number of shopping apps out there that will scan product barcodes and QR codes. ShopSavvy gets consistently strong reviews for its ability to scan a product and compare pricing. It’s free and runs on both iOS and Android.