A simple fact: Our smartphones have more processing power than the computers that put Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon. That doesn’t mean that we can jet-propel ourselves into space by pressing an icon on an iPhone screen. But many of us do not begin to take advantage of the magic of smartphones.
Sure, you can use your HTC One or Galaxy S4 to call your friends and text your kids. But what really makes our phones fun — and productive —are the apps. Yes, I really do have 108 apps on my iPhone, most of which I don’t use. (I can be such a geek, but that’s another story.) There are several apps, though, that make me more productive and more creative, provide a virtual security blanket, or bring a smile to my face.
Here are three apps I think every woman over 50 needs on her phone.
Platform: right now only iPhone and iPad
What it does: I could say, “it’s a weather app,” but that’s like calling a Chanel pocketbook a “bag.” Using GPS, Dark Sky pinpoints the next hour’s weather for your exact location and gives you a snazzy enhanced radar picture along with a forecast you can read.
Why I love it: Last summer I was at a conference in Savannah, about to take the Juliet Lowe ferry across the river for a seafood dinner. Suddenly the clouds overhead turned black and my ears popped as the barometric pressure dropped. I checked my Dark Sky app and saw that what amounted to a monsoon would arrive in seven minutes. Just as we made it back to the hotel lobby, the skies opened up. More accurate down-to-the-minute than apps from The Weather Channel or Accu Weather, Dark Sky can make sure you get to shelter before a big storm — rain or snow — hits.
Platform: iPad, iPhone. The Android app will be out soon. You can get on a waiting list by going to the Google Play store.
What it does: Basically Buy Me a Pie is a grocery list — but it’s easier to use and has some cooler features than any other shopping app I’ve tried. Name your list, and you can add items that the app will “auto-type” for you. Check them off as you shop, and they disappear. If someone in your family has an iPhone with the app, you can sync your lists by bumping your phones together. This app has probably forestalled many a marital spat of the “you forgot to buy coffee beans” ilk.
Why I love it: You can use this app for all kinds of lists, such as items you need to make sure you pack for your vacation. I usually have more than one list going: My grocery list for my New York City home and another one for my weekend house. (Yup, I’m over 50, and sometimes I can’t keep straight what I need where.) I also use this app as a “to-do” list, and right now on Buy Me a Pie I’m tracking the chores that need to get done before my daughter’s wedding.
Platform: iPhone, Android, Windows
What it does: Ever been in a movie theater and, you know, you just have to, well, pee? But you don’t want to miss anything important? The people behind RunPee watch every movie that is released in theaters and select one to four times when you can actually run to the ladies room without worrying you’ll miss the important scene or the funniest line. You can even set the app to keep track of how long you have before the potty break (because there’s no pause button in the movie theater!). As long as you’re at the movies … well they’ve added links to RottenTomatoes.com and IMDb.com so you can get the scoop on reviews and info about all the actors and actresses. RunPee also lets you know if there’s anything “extra” coming after the credits, just in case you were waiting until the last moment to run pee.
Why I love it: Knock on wood. I can still hold it. But many people who’ve passed the big 50 really need frequent toilet breaks. RunPee makes date nights (yes, we still do those) easier. AND, suddenly we’re finding ourselves Finding Nemo or loving Despicable Me because grandnieces and nephews along with (dare I say it) grandchildren are popping into the picture. Little kids, they always need to run pee.
One small addendum here: many great apps are free. These three all cost a small amount. True, those pennies add up, but you only pay once. I’m sure I’ve gotten my money’s worth from the $7.97 pennies I spent on these three.
Want to know more about great apps for your smartphone? Join me in a Google Hangout on July 16, 2013 at 3 p.m. EDT. Click here to sign up.