Gizmodo Smartphone Buying Guide: Our Favourite Phone Apps, Tools & Toys

We all have our favourite apps and gadgets — they’re the ones we use more often than others, that we find especially cool, and that we think deserve your hard-earned dollars. These are the apps, tools and toys that the Australian Gizmodo, Lifehacker and Kotaku teams swear by.

Main brain image: Shutterstock

This is the latest instalment in Gizmodo Australia's big Smartphone Buying Guide rolling-out Mondays and Wednesdays in October.

Left to right: Chris Jager, Elly Hart, Angus Kidman, Luke Hopewell, Mark Serrels


Luke Hopewell: It seems obvious given the popularity of the "new social network", but my favourite app is Instagram. This job, as cool as it is, doesn't leave you with a lot of free time, so old hobbies like photography can suffer. Instagram means that I can be creative with friends in as much time as it takes me to send a tweet! Really awesome app. Other great photography apps I recommend are Snapseed, Cropic and PicFrame for perfect Instagram snaps.

[Free download: iOS | Android | Hipstamatic For Windows Phone]

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Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition

Luke Hopewell: Since the brothers Wright took to the skies, man has sought better and cheaper ways to stick their heads into the clouds. Unmanned drones are perfect for that, and the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 is the democratisation of the mass-market quadcopter. Plus, the Power Edition comes with two new high-density batteries for longer-lasting flight. As Barack Obama will tell you: there's nothing a drone can't fix.

[Free download: iOS | Android]

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Campbell Simpson: Rdio is one of the best streaming music services I’ve used. It’s got a massive library of new, old and niche music, you can store albums and playlists offline, and the app looks great. At $12.99/month you get unlimited streaming on mobile and through a Web browser. I listen to a lot of music in a lot of places, and Rdio suits me perfectly.

[Free download: iOS | Android | Windows Phone | BlackBerry]

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Logitech Harmony Smart Control App

Campbell Simpson: Logitech’s Harmony app is pricy, since it requires a compatible Logitech Harmony remote, but it’s still awesome - it lets you use your smartphone to control pretty much any device in your home entertainment cabinet, including your TV, receiver, Blu-ray player or games console. It’s helped me get rid of half a dozen bulky remote controls.

[Free download: iOS | Android]

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Elly Hart: Pocketbook is the Australian take on the personal finance management service Mint. I'm usually terrible with money, but this app has made budgeting and managing my finances simple and fun.

[Free download: iOS | Android]

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Philips Hue

Elly Hart: The Philips Hue is a home automation dream come true. I can create and control my own mood lighting, set timers, and turn lights on and off from anywhere. It's all done from the Philips Hue app.

[Free download: iOS | Android]

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Plants vs. Zombies

Angus Kidman: Tragic admission for a productivity freak: I'm still a sucker for the original Plants vs Zombies. I rock the Column Like You See 'Em mini-game like no-one's business. Great for between-getting-things-done bouts.

[Free download: iOS | Android | Windows Phone]

MX Player

Mark Serrels: I honestly don't use apps that often! If I had to choose one it would probably be something as dumb and simple as MX Player on my Nexus 7. It's a simple way to watch video content on Android. I tend to watch a lot of weird stuff: documentaries, MMA fights, movies, anime, TV shows, climbing videos. I love having a player that plays absolutely everything I throw at it with minimal fuss. It's also very well designed and accessible.

[Free download: Android]


Mark Serrels: This is a weird one to explain. I love climbing. I climb/train three to four days a week and I often train with something called a hangboard. A hangboard is a piece of wooden or plastic equipment that replicates different types of holds. You 'hang' on the 'board' to build finger strength and contact strength to help improve your climbing. The Beastmaker app is designed for world's best hangboard, the Beastmaker. It tells you which positions to hold onto for how long. It puts together just about the best, most complete hangboard workout possible for different strength levels. Dear Beastmaker app, thank you for my fat, strong, sexy fingers!

[Free download: iOS | Android]


Angus Kidman: I prefer my apps to control the real world, so I'm a huge fan of Clipp — the app that lets you manage your bar tab directly from your phone.

[Free download: iOS | Android | BlackBerry]

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Google Maps

Chris Jager: I don't know if I'd call it my 'favourite' app, but Google Maps is definitely the most used/indispensable. As a journalist, I'm constantly getting sent to unfamiliar places armed with nothing but a street address. I also have a crappy sense of direction, so it helps in that regard too.

[Free download: iOS | Android]

Xbox SmartGlass

Chris Jager: Does Xbox SmartGlass count? This is a gaming utility that turns your Android or iOS device into a second screen for Xbox 360 and soon, the Xbox One. I've seen some of the stuff it will be able to do with next-gen video games, and the concepts got me pretty excited. Otherwise, I'll plump for the A.R. Drone, simply because it brings out the kid in me.

[Free download: iOS | Android | Windows Phone]

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