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Top Apps of the Month - January 2016



Well, there can be no doubt about it now, we've moved into the second half of the 2010s (tenties? Tentacles? Whatever). App culture isn't perhaps as prevalent as it used to be, the novelty has worn off and people are getting used to knowing exactly which ones they need, and which ones they can do without.

The thing is though, in development terms, things haven't slowed down at all. The envelope is still being pushed and new, fascinating apps are being released every day. Here are some of our favourite picks from the first month of 2016, which, as an added bonus, are all completely free this time around.


Mimicker Alarm

Free - Android

After all the festivities that come with the end of the year, getting back into the working habit can be more than a little upsetting. It's still cold, dark and January tends to be a month of belt tightening and general social inactivity. 

The Next Web
With all that in mind, it can be hard to find a reason to get up in the morning, but Microsoft's Mimicker Alarm is here to offer you one. The 'do a thing to make the alarm stop' format is nothing new, but Mimicker Alarm makes you do one of three things: take a selfie of yourself exhibiting a particular emotion, find and photograph an object of a certain colour, or repeat a tongue twister.

The idea is that, by the time you've completed the task in hand, your brain will have been kicked into gear and any desire to fall back into bed will be long gone. You can still set multiple alarms though, just in case you're really, really not a morning person.



Swing

Free (In-App Purchases) - Android/iOS

Ketchapp have been around for a while now, and they have a solid record for producing very simple, but enjoyable games. The Pit probably remains their strongest, deepest title, but now we've got Swing, it's more limited in scope, but the basic mechanic works so well that it'll have you playing for hours.

You're a kind of cubist, stunted little Robin Hood character, armed only with a length of rope, and you have to swing between ledges. You have to wait until the rope is the right length to carry you to the next ledge, and then tap the screen. Sound easy? You'd be surprised.

iTunes
As the ledges decrease in size, you find yourself doing a lot of mental arithmetic before each jump, and if you've hit that stage, you're already addicted. There are unlockable characters, just to add a progressive element to the whole thing, but really you'll just want to keep playing for the challenge.



MyState Smart Calls & Contacts

Free - Android/iOS

Knowing when it's most convenient to call someone can be extremely useful, but sadly there's no messenger activity status for life. Unless you're completely up on somebody else's schedule, you're simply not going to know if they're in a meeting, driving, in the cinema, being pursued by a bear, or whatever else

TechCrunch
With MyState, you can see the availability of the person you're about to call before you do so. On both versions you can change your status manually, and the app displays who is on or offline, but on the Android version you can see if your contacts have their phone on silent, if it has a low battery or if they're taking another call.

MyState themselves recently received another $6.5 milllion in funding from US and Israeli investors (they're based in Tel-Aviv), so it's fair to suggest that the capability of the app is only going to increase from here. 



Guides by Lonely Planet

Free - Android/iOS


If you're ever been travelling, chances are you'll have picked up a Lonely Planet guide to help prepare yourself. The first guide was about travelling through Asia and Australia on a budget, it came out in 1972 and quickly became one of the most popular travel guides of the time. Now, Lonely Planet are the biggest travel guide company in the world, so it only makes sense that they should transition their material to the app world.

The app is broken up into guides for 37 different major cities across the planet, with the promise of more to come as the app continues to update. The guides are downloadable, so that you can use them offline, which is extremely handy if you're trying to avoid using data roaming. Each guide contains a currency converter, an overview of activities based on your budget and a map marked with places to visit.

Categories can be filtered through according to price and location. Lonely Planet uses international cultural experts and seasoned travelers to create its guides, so you can be sure that the information is sound, and it's presented in a clean, intuitive way.



London's Secret WWII

Free - Android/iOS

Called 'Spooks, Spies and Videotape: London's Secret War' on iOS for reasons that are somewhat unclear, London's Secret WWII is a fascinating app which gathers together information from history archives and contributions from veteran's to build an interactive database of London's wartime history.

ITV
Using this information, the app shows you which buildings were used by spies during the war, combining video and audio interviews, old photographs, documents and geolocation mapping. All the buildings performed different, but vital functions in the operation of spies across the city.

It was developed in conjuction with the 70th anniversary of the disbanding of the Second Operations Executive (SOE), otherwise known as Churchill's Secret Army, the inspiration for every WWII spy film, show and book you care to name, from The Guns of Navarone to Foyle's War.



Waggle-It

Free - Android

Social polling, to my mind, has nothing to do with bees. Despite this, the developers behind Waggle-It decided to theme their app around them, naming it after the 'waggle dance' they use to communicate the location of pollen, and peppering in words like nectar and hive just to get the point across further. 

I guess the link is that it's a social app and bees are colony animals, but anyway, this neat little app enables you to either put troubling decisions to a vote, or conduct your own guerrilla market research. The polling is anonymous, taking no personal info from you at any point, and the answers appear in real time. Questions can appear either as photos or text and you can post 'results' in either form too, or video. 

iTunes
It's probably best not to lean on this for decisions better left to friends, or professionals, lest you end up turning into the kind of person that turns to Yahoo Answers to find out whether it's safe to throw your hair in the trash, how long you can take a shower whilst pregnant before you drown your baby or how to print GIFs properly. I didn't make any of those up. 



Pocket Mortys

Free (In-App Purchases) - Android/iOS


Aside from being one of the best animated shows currently running, if not the best (bite me, Family Guy fans), Rick and Morty has enjoyed some of the best online promotion of any TV show. Their Instagram account is a work of utter genius, but this is even beyond that. How do you make Rick and Morty more awesome? Combine it with Pokemon.

In this surprisingly deep game, you play as Rick (or one of them, anyway), travelling between dimensions collecting and battling different Mortys to win badges. Just like the game's inspiration, you can level your Mortys, teach them new moves, send them to daycare and try to get all 70. There are also item crafting mechanics, side quests and encounters with notable characters from the show.

It would be easy for this game to rely too heavily on its premise and slip into mediocrity, but it shines. The gameplay is tight, the learning curve is smooth and the humor is almost as side-splitting as the source material.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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Top Apps of the Month - January 2016 Reviewed by Callum Davies on Wednesday, February 03, 2016 Rating: 5

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