Wednesday, March 25, 2020

My Top 10 Obscure, But Rather Helpful, Smart Apps

If you've ever seen me in real life, you've probably seen me with my attention fully placed on my cell phone screen. Yeah, I'm a tech guy who loves his gadgets, but that doesn't mean you can't take advantage of the same things I do. What follows are some of my favorite apps, outside of the usual social media and internet ones used by everyone already. While most of these are simple and easy to use, there may be a few that lean toward the more nerdy users. There's even one that does require you to buy a small accessory, so be aware of this before looking to get the full use of all these apps. You can still use these to leverage your phone to ease your everyday life, to gain a deeper insight into the things you do anyway, or to kill time while you... um... "take care of business", since you're on your phone in there anyway.

Dash - Drive Smart   

Dash is great if you're interested in more than just how far you're going. You can get every stat on your car in real-time, keep track of your gas mileage, and best of all, get an overall score based on your safe driving. That score can then be shared with friends and family. Now, remember when I said one app needs additional accessories? You have to buy a Bluetooth OBDII device to plug into your car, either through the app or Amazon. I bought a cheap one on Amazon that works fine, it just needs reset as it drops connection every so often.

myCarfax Car Care    

Formerly myCarfax, now Carfax Car Care, is a great way to keep track of your car's maitenence schedule. See exactly when was your last oil change, tune up, coolant check, tire rotation, registration , and many more. Get info about garages nearby, their reliability, and customer ratings so you know where to go for your next fix. And if you input exactly how much gas you get at the pump every fill up, it will track your exact gas milage for your.

IFTTT   

"If This Then That", IFTTT for short, is the easiest way to help anyone automate their phone and life. It does just what the name implies. You select the catalyst such as a specific phrase said to Google Assistant, a time of day, the weather, a text received contained a trigger word or phrase, or many other choices. Then you choose how to respond. You can automate a response text, send a tweet, post to Facebook, send an email, get a reminder, or literally dozens of other options.

Tasker  

Tasker is Android only and is like IFTTT but has many more features and plugins. This requires at least a basic knowledge of programming, but if you know what you're doing you can pick this up easy. It even has a plugin to simulate screen presses, so you can automate apps that don't directly work with Tasker or IFTTT.

Mint   

While most people only have a checking and savings account, you probably still have multiple credit cards, a mortgage, a car, or other major assets. Mint helps you keep track of all of that in one place instead of having several bank or credit card apps. Mint also imports data from Zillow and Kelly Blue Book, so just give it your address and car info and it'll tell you how much that's all worth. And for Android users you can use the handy widget so all the info you want is ready when you want it right there on your screen without having to log in to the app.

Venmo   

Chances are you already use this, but in case you don't Venmo makes it easy to pay your friends and family. Splitting the check, owe for that big gift you all went in on, or paying the commissioner for fantasy football? Venmo it and be done. And if someone send you money, either keep it in your Venmo account for future use or deposit it directly to your bank account. It's that easy.

Folder Organizer  

Another Android only one, Folder Organizer helps me keep all my apps right where I can find them. Instead of scrolling endlessly through the entire app drawer looking for what you want, or having to remember if you put that new app in a folder you created, just use this app. It will tell you which apps aren't in folders, which folders they're in, and then put those folders on your screen as widgets. The biggest feature, and the reason I got this app, is you can use custom images or icons for your folders, instead of the default folder view that is created. There's a Lite version that is free (linked above), or you can pay to unlock all the advanced settings and features.

Plex   

Plex is one of my favorite apps, and I use it almost daily. Now in order to get the full benefit, you do need to set up the software on your home PC. What Plex does then is scan for all your movies, videos, pictures, and music and let's you share it with any other computer, phone, tablet, etc you're on and signed in to. Everything is free to set up and use, but if you pay for the subscription you get the best feature, offline syncing. That way if the kids are in the car, you're on a plane, or just somewhere with slow or even no internet, as long as you synced your media to your phone beforehand you can use it offline. This is great for movie and TV buffs like me, as I can watch my stuff whenever and wherever instead of being tied to a TV with a DVR or player. If you pay for the service, you can also share your content with your friends, and they can see whatever you allow them to of yours.

Google Authenticator   

Online security is a big concern, as it should be. You don't want people getting in to your online accounts, bank accounts, or even your private social media! So a great way to make yourself even more secure is by using 2-step authentication. That way even if someone steals your password, they can't get in without the 6-digit token generated once a minute by this app. It may take an extra couple seconds to log in to your Twitter, but it's well worth the piece of mind.

BitWarden   

Whether you do or do not use 2-step authentication, a strong unique password for every site is the first step in online security. But who can come up with and keep track of all those passwords you'll eventually need? Not to worry if you use Bitwarden. Not only on your phone, but as a browser plugin too. So no matter where you are online, Bitwarden will help you generate unique, complex passwords, and store then for you in a secure environment. On Android and in Chrome online it will fill in your username and password for all your saved sites on you authenticate yourself to Bitwarden. So that means you really only need to remember one password. Bitwarden can also hold credit card information, and personal information, like social security numbers for all your family, so you have it without needing to memorize all those numbers or carry it around with you at all times.

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