Gizmodo Smartphone Buying Guide 2014: Our Favourite Phone Apps, Tools And Toys

We all have favourite apps; they're the ones that we use every day, the ones that we think look great, and the ones that fill a useful niche. Sometimes these apps control household tools or virtual reality gaming toys, too -- there's a lot that you can do with your phone these days.

Here are a few of the Gizmodo Australia team's favourite apps, toys and the other tools that we've been using with our smartphones.

Pocket

Luke Hopewell, Gizmodo: There are so many great things to read these days online. Articles, sites, books, excerpts: you name it, it demands to be read. So much stuff whizzes by on my Twitter feed everyday that sounds interesting, but because of the time constraints of running a site like Gizmodo, I don’t get time to read what I want in a day. Pocket, formerly known as Read It Later, is an app that lets you dump stuff you want into a reader you can access later on any device, be it a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Also, it’s a multi-platform app with a built-in web clipper. It means you can right click and dump stuff into Pocket from your favourite web browser or even your email client.

[Free download: iOS | Android]

Apple EarPods

Luke Hopewell, Gizmodo: I am by no means an audiophile. I just need something that plugs into my head to give me tunes I can nod my head to. I know, I know: saying that EarPods are an essential gadget is a bit naff, but I love them. They’re portable, cheap, listenable and incredibly resilient. Seriously, my pair of EarPods have been through the washing machine about four times. Also, because I have weird-shaped ears, the EarPods actually suit my quite nicely.

[Apple Store]

Spotify

Campbell Simpson, Gizmodo: I used to be a big fan of Rdio (and I still am), but recently I've been trying out Spotify and by and large I really like its approach to desktop and mobile music streaming. I pay a single flat-rate subscription per month and have access to pretty much any song or soundtrack that I could ever want or need, and I can sync music in extremely high quality for offline listening.

[Free download: iOS | Android | Windows Phone]

Philips Hue

Campbell Simpson, Gizmodo: I'm a sucker for some good LED lights. Not only are they more efficient than their incandescent and halogen ancestors, but the Hue (and other Wi-Fi light bulbs like LIFX) have red, green and blue LEDs inside that can be adjusted and tailored to create a specific mood in your room or entire house,

[Free download: iOS | Android]

This American Life

Alison Rice, Popsugar: The This American Life app has changed my life. It's a full bank of all of its radio documentaries, dating back to the program’s very first broadcast in 1995. Maybe (it totally is) just Ira Glass’s voice, but my commute to work or a long drive in the car has become a feast for the ears. There was one so good, that upon arriving home, my husband and I sat out the front of our house in the car an extra 30 minutes just to hear the end. Captivating.

[Download: iOS | Android]

Instagram

Luke Hopewell, Gizmodo: 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 | Windows Phone]

Sandisk Ultra Dual USB Drive

Angus Kidman, Lifehacker: I’m a big fan of my plug-in SanDisk USB drive -- 64GB of storage which I can plug into my phone or my laptop. Very handy for moving photos around and general backup tasks.

Using the SanDisk Ultra Dual USB Drive, you can easily move files from your Android smartphone or tablet to your computer, freeing up space for music, photos, or HD videos. The drive has a micro-USB connector on one end and a USB 2.0 connector on the other, making file transfers a breeze, and it can store up to 64GB of data. The SanDisk Memory Zone app, available through Google Play, allows you to manage, organize, and back up files.

[Sandisk]

Beastmaker

Mark Serrels, Kotaku: Hangboarding is a tendon destroying method of training for climbing. Basically it involves hanging on a series of small holds on a 'hangboard' specifically designed to train the different types of grip positions you deal with whilst climbing. The 'Beastmaker' is probably the most popular style of hangboard, and the Beastmaker app comes programmed with fully usable timed training regimes for the Beastmaker. It tells you what positions to take and how long to hang for, when to rest, etc. Takes all the thinking and planning out of my training. Amazing.

[Free download: iOS | Android]

Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition

Luke Hopewell, Gizmodo: 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]

Zite

Danny Allen, Gizmodo: Zite is an intelligent magazine that helps you discover interesting things to read. It helps me organise the articles and features that I want to read, and automatically suggests content that it knows I'll want but might not have seen yet.

Your Zite is as unique as you are. Zite learns what you like and gets smarter as you use it. Zite analyzes millions of articles each day and brings you the best of your favorite magazines, newspapers, authors, and blogs.

[Free download: iOS | Android]

Aviate

Paul Colgan, Business Insider: I swear by Aviate, the Android home screen interface. It automatically organises apps and content intuitively based on the time of day and where you are.

Yahoo Aviate is a launcher for your Android that will simplify how you use your phone. It removes clutter, automatically organizes your apps and knows when to show you the information you need, at the time it’s useful for you. For example: Traffic conditions on your morning commute; intelligent calendar features at work; music apps and widgets when you plug in your headphones - plus your most-used apps on your center screen so you never have to hunt for them again.

[Free download: Android]


Bonus: Organise Your Phone's Home Screen

When you have a lot of apps on your smartphone, you want them catalogued in a way that is easy to comprehend, right? Do you even care? A quick look around the Gizmodo office reveals some widely different approaches to phone screen organisation. Here are some of the interesting and useful ways you can set up your phone's main screen.

Bonus: Remote Control Apps

Campbell Simpson: This is a bit of a catch-all category, but ever since I upgraded to a smartphone with an integrated infrared blaster -- first the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, then the Galaxy S5, then most recently the LG G3 -- I've loved having the ability to power on my TV and Blu-ray player while lying back on my bed. I also use the Oppo Remote Control app for my BDP-103 player, since it's designed specifically to control a bunch of specific commands like subtitles and direct menu navigation.

[Free download: iOS | Android]