Artificial assistants in smart speakers can do some tasks for you to make your life easier but they are a long way off from turning you into a couch potato. Vinay Ram, a 30-year-old product manager, bought his Echo Dot (Rs4,499, Amazon.in) as soon as it was launched in India in November. “I’d seen an Echo a year ago when Alexa could only understand the American English accent, but mine is very responsive to Indian accents, switching seamlessly from Odia, Malayalam and north Indian English accents,” he says.
How smart speakers work in India
Ram who works for a Bengaluru-based smart-home automation company, Silvan, has set up the TV set-top box with Alexa and now asks the device to change the channels for him. Alexa also controls the air conditioner and room temperature and is automated to switch off all lights if the device hears “Good Night”.
Ram’s wife, Sapna who works from home, plays interactive games like Hangman with the smart speaker, and streams music from Saavn. Together, they give Alexa up to 50 commands in a day. Though he loves it, Ram reluctantly admits, “It’s a luxury rather than a necessity.”
According to data released in January by Amazon, Alexa smart speakers now offer integration with more than 12,000 skills tailor-made for Indians using its digital voice assistants, including the ability to play devotional songs, interactive games, services like Housejoy, Zomato, music apps like Saavn and informational apps like ESPNcricinfo—all of them free, without any subscriptions.
With clients across the world and in different time zones, Delhi-based chartered accountant Shitij Bahl, who runs his own taxing and accounting firm, needs to keep a lot of information handy on his phone when he’s travelling.
“You never know when I will get an urgent request from a client to see all their documents. The whole 30 MB of it,” says the 33-year-old. He relies on mobile apps to respond quickly and efficiently—Google Suite to organize team schedules and track projects; Zoho Invoice to send GST-integrated invoices quickly; and Dropbox, where he keeps all client data so it can be shared efficiently with just a link. If, like Bahl, you tend to travel on work, here are a few essential apps to keep handy.
If you wish to be involved with the process of your government, as any citizen should, you do not necessarily need to wait for the UMANG app. There are already many apps that allow you to ask questions, offer suggestions and get involved in government initiatives. Till the government comes out with UMANG, we suggest a few other apps you can try.
Participate in policymaking
Are you very vocal about government policies? If yes, head to MyGov (free on Google Play, Mygov.in), an online portal of the Union government where different departments seek suggestions and advice. Over the last year, the site saw discussion on ideas such as simultaneous elections and open data use licence and invited suggestions on a draft policy note on value capture finance. It also allows you to take part in logo-making and design competitions. If you want the Prime Minister to talk about an issue on his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ show, you can give your ideas on this site. So just log in and air your ideas.
Since its launch, the app has seen more than 500,000 downloads, though it is a bit slow to load and hasn’t been updated since 2015. The website offers the best experience.
Whether it’s finding a sports partner or places to play, your phone has it covered with smart sports apps. During college, Gururaj Upadhya was a badminton champion. But once he started working, he left sports behind. “After 10 years of work, I wanted to pursue badminton again,” says the 37-year-old chartered accountant from Bengaluru. Expensive club memberships would have been a waste, given that he was travelling a lot. This is when he came across Playo, an app that connects people who play sports. He not only found sports mates but also badminton courts he could book at an hourly rate. Upadhya now plays four times a week, hosts badminton matches and runs a 70-people badminton group within the app.
If, like Upadhya, you want to follow your passion for sports, here are some apps that can help you find a place and/or a partner.
New Year’s Eve brings with it stress. And last-minute parties to arrange. So we’ve put together a list of apps and sites you can use to get everything you need to prep for a party at the last minute, from venue to balloons. Sorry, last we checked, ordering an elephant and booze is still illegal in this country.
Here are some apps to help you remember everything—from billion-dollar ideas to baby-diaper changes
Constantly juggling meeting schedules, travel dates and hotel stays on business tours, Mumbai-based Rajesh Nambiar, a business-to-business tour operator, was beginning to lose track— so he started looking for a solution.
“All my time was being spent in checking my flights, informing clients and vendors on when I will be in their city and coordinating,” says the 42-year-old, who travels as frequently as eight times a month, both domestically and internationally, on tours, as well as for negotiations and business meetings. That’s when he came across WorldMate (freemium on iOS, Android and Windows phone), a travel app that automatically creates an itinerary after you feed it your flight and hotel details. All Nambiar had to do was forward his travel and hotel bookings to WorldMate’s email ID and get a chronological itinerary for the whole year.
“Now if someone asks me when I’m reaching Dubai, I just check my WorldMate and tell them. I can also access what time I’m travelling, where I’m staying, the address of the hotel, the PNR of my flight and other details one tends to forget, all with a single click,” he says, adding that he liked using apps for schedule reminders so much that he has synced his personal and office calendar with WorldMate updates using Google Calendar (free on Android and iOS). “The Google Calendar app has replaced the need for a personal secretary for me. All I have to do is open it and I know my meeting times, travel time, dates and all the things I have to do in a day,” he says. It gives him the feeling of having a few hours extra each day.
Something similar happened to Bengaluru-based Nimisha Bhadauria Shivam, a mother of two, who wanted to organize her life. She decided to use Feed Baby Pro (Rs.100 on Android, free on iOS), an app that tells her when it’s time to change her child’s diapers, feed her, track her weight and growth. “When my first child was born five years ago, I did the same thing in a diary, which was much more cumbersome. An app makes it simpler,” says the 37-year-old, adding that she has also installed Water Drink Reminder (freemium on Android), an app to remind her to drink water regularly. “My friends make fun of me, but with two children to manage, it’s hard to remember to do things for yourself,” she says. The self-confessed app addict also uses Google Calendar for bills and payment reminders and has recently been looking for a good money-tracking app. “It’s less stressful if you know what all is needed to be done in a day,” she adds.
Mumbai-based author Samit Basu likes to key his “billion-dollar book ideas” into his phone or laptop. He uses Evernote (free on iOS, Android, Windows phone and Web). “I just add in random ideas, article links, research points and reviews to my Evernote, which then syncs this information to all my devices,” he says. Every few months, he scans all his ideas to see which ones he would like to turn into a book. Except that he cannot decipher his own notes sometimes. “Now I’m waiting for a reminder app that will explain to me what I meant when I wrote the billion-dollar idea a few months ago and hopefully can also write the book,” he says with a smile.
While Basu waits, we have listed some apps for you to remember the things you need to do.
Multitasking on the go
Make checklists, add tasks and sync them across all devices, all with simple gestures of swipe and click. You can set alarms to tasks, share tasks and lists, choose to get time- or location-based reminders, set recurring tasks, attach notes or attachments to your tasks, even add a to-do by sending an email. You can print, export or share your lists and add in sound recordings or photos. There are many apps that offer these features. Choose from Any.do (Any.do), Wunderlist (Wunderlist.com), Todoist (Todoist.com) or Evernote (Evernote.com), most of which have apps for iOS, Android, Windows phone, Kindle Fire and the Web. The smartphone apps are free to download, with optional in-app, or additional feature, purchases.
Remember the toothbrush
Packing for a trip can be stressful—you will invariably forget something as important as a toothbrush. PackPoint (freemium on Android and iOS) makes an automatic checklist after you tell it where you’re going, and why. You can share this list with fellow travellers and help them out too. Apps like Tripcase (free on Android and iOS), Tripit (freemium on Android and iOS) and WorldMate make your itinerary automatically once you forward your hotel, flight, car rental and restaurant confirmation emails to them. You can view the itinerary, tweak it or even save it offline.
Never forget the pill
Take the stress out of daily medication with Medisafe (freemium on Android and iOS), which not only reminds you when you have to take medicines but also tells you which one to take when, and sends you a reminder if your parent or child has missed theirs. You can also track blood pressure, weight and other parameters and get reminders when you need to buy new medicines. Lady Pill Reminder (free on Android) can remind you to take birth-control pills. Install Aqualert (free on Android) or WaterMinder (free on iOS) to remind you to drink water. Then there are Clue (free on Android and iOS) and Glow (free on Android and iOS), which can keep track of menstrual cycles.
Do you remember what you did last summer? Now you can relive your past, one photograph at a time, with these apps
Take a deep breath and try to recollect what you did last year—which flower you photographed, how a mundane Saturday became beautiful because you sighted a sparrow, or that dessert you ate at the restaurant whose name you don’t recall. Now you can relive your past, one photograph at a time, with these apps.
Free on iTunes and Google Play
Delve into digital nostalgia with Timehop, which shows you what you were doing this day, exactly a year ago. Once you’ve downloaded the app and connected it to your social networks, Timehop plods through your past photos, status updates, tweets, check-ins and posts. Every morning, you wake up to a new photograph or memory from a year ago that you can also share on your social networks.
Windows Phone users can also try the Time Travel ! app, which is the same, though not so sleekly designed.
Rs.133 on iTunes
Collect is about recording one moment every day. So you feed it one photo of yourself, your children, your garden, pet, anything really, daily. You can have multiple folders, but can only upload one photo per folder. The app allows you to include a detailed note along with the photograph and save it with tags. You can import a photo from your camera roll or take it from within the app. A month later, it creates an automatic, hi-resolution collage of those 30 days, one that you can share with friends and family.
Automatic backup to iCloud is available, but costs Rs.190 extra.
Free on iTunes
Memoir displays your earlier photos when you revisit the same place or meet the same friend. It almost seems serendipitous, though it uses the data you have collected through your smartphone—when you click a photo, check in at a restaurant or update your social network. Once you’ve downloaded it, you connect Memoir to your phone and social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Dropbox, and then let it do its job.
Memoir tracks the photos on your phone, connected social networks, status updates as well as location check-ins and then notifies you about these old memories on the basis of where you are, what you’re doing or who you’re with. If you’re having adosa, for example, it might tell you the last time you had one, and who you were with at that time. Or show photos of the same hotel you were at years ago, or the people you were with. You can annotate the old memories by adding new ones—like adding a new photograph with a note.
Free on Google Play and iTunes
Attending a party and want to see it from every angle? Ask your friends to download Flashgap. Once everyone has created a profile, you can create a shared photo album in which you can all upload photographs using the app. No one will be able to see, modify or delete the uploaded photos while the party is on. As soon as you take a photograph, it will show in the app for 3 seconds before disappearing. All this “evidence” becomes visible in the app at noon the following day, when you’re probably dealing with the hangover of the night before. Once the shared album is available, you and your friends can chat about the evening, relive the moments, laugh out loud at all the unfiltered visual documentary you’ve collected, comment on photographs, even delete the ones you don’t like.
Free on Google Play, iTunes and Web
In August, Google Photos rolled out a walk-down-memory-lane feature. Now it’s reached a phase where it automatically feeds you enhanced photographs, collages from the past, and videos of a day from your past. All the images come as cards within the Google Photos app and list the people and places you’ve visited. You can choose to share through email or on social network, or show it to the person next to you.
ON THIS DAY
Free on Facebook
Built by Facebook, On This Day sends notifications to your Facebook timeline about what you were up to on a specific day, a year or a few years ago. Memories include posts, other posts you’re tagged in, major life events or when you became friends with someone on Facebook.
Had a break-up and don’t want to see the memories with your ex? You can control that by going to the app page. Click on Preferences, choose the Edit option next to the People tag and enter the name of the person whose memory you don’t want to see. The app also lets you filter by date—which days you don’t want to be reminded of and which ones you wouldn’t mind.
Free on Android and iTunes
Imagine, you and your friends go for a brunch and each of you ends up clicking a lot of pictures through the day, with multiple devices and smartphones. At the end of the day, when you go home, you want the pictures that your friends have clicked of you on their smartphones. Instead of asking them individually, you can download and install Moments.
This app automatically groups your photos with the people who are in them, either by event or day. So, for example, if you went to a wedding and all of you clicked pictures, Moments will make a Wedding folder for you to share, suggesting the friends you should share it with. All you need to do is add some photos the app might have missed and send those to your friends. It will work the same way for your friends too. Once you see all the photos taken by everyone, you can tap on the ones you want to save on your phone. Your friends need to have the app to be able to share and download too.
Tired of updating your social media accounts individually? These apps will do the work for you
You wake up in the morning with a tweet-worthy topic. But it’s still early and no one will be checking their Twitter accounts for a few hours. So your spectacular construction of 140 characters could get lost in inane tweets of sentiments equalling: “I’m up, world!” or “Off to the loo”. You worry about it, rushing to office, trying to hold on to your sentence construction for a few more hours. And after you post it on Twitter, you worry about reposting it on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts. Before you know it, half the day has gone by.
Fret not. Here’s a collection of apps that can do the menial work for you. Just sit back, think up brilliantly constructed posts and schedule them at the right time to showcase to your audience.
Short for IF This Then That, IFTTT offers a delightful range of possibilities for those who want to create connections between their social media accounts, connected devices, gadgets, smart-home devices, even cars. For example, if Curiosity Rover, US space agency Nasa’s Mars mission Twitter account (@MarsCuriosity), posts a photo, you can automate your app to send an email to your astronomy group. Or if you post a tweet about milk, you can set up an action-reaction trigger to send a notification to your spouse’s smartwatch and remind him/her to get milk.
The possibilities are endless, for IFTTT offers a whopping 306 types of online accounts to work with: Message your roommate when you reach a grocery store; save your favourite tweets on Evernote, or share Facebook status updates on Tumblr and LinkedIn. Even post videos you like on YouTube or your blog. These action-reaction relationships are called Recipes in the IFTTT world. You can create your own recipe of action-reaction or use what others have created.
Our favourite is the one IFTTT recently put up on its blog—it automatically updates your Twitter profile image whenever you post a new Facebook profile picture. In case a person wants different profile photos on Twitter and Facebook, s/he can simply choose to not use this Recipe.
Free for up to three social media accounts; $8.99 (around Rs.600) a month for more accounts; available on Android, iOS and Web
Be it for an individual, a start-up or a company, Hootsuite automates social media, making it easy to share photographs or posts across multiple social media accounts. It shortens links and photos using the ow.ly service and gives you a preview of your post across all social media. You can schedule multiple posts, and set the time and day when you want a post to be released.
Hootsuite also allows you to see feeds of multiple accounts in the same window and reply to comments or tweets. You can also track a particular hashtag, and reply or comment on it, from within this app. No more toggling between Twitter and Facebook to see who’s saying what in response to your post. The Analytics tab shows which tweets are getting the maximum clicks.
Hootsuite has launched Hootlet (www.hootlet.com), a plug-in for the Chrome browser, to share links, photos and geo-location tags from your browser to your social media accounts seamlessly.
Free for up to 10 scheduled posts; plans of $10 a month for more posts; available on iOS, Android and Web
This is the app to use if you want to schedule posts tailored to a particular audience. You can select which social media account you want your post released on, be it an image, a video or an animated GIF. You can also schedule certain posts to repeat weekly or monthly.
Buffer allows you to choose from 50,000-plus royalty-free images to post on your social media, or create collages of exactly the right size for a Facebook profile or cover photo, add watermarks and post an image. In addition, Buffer has a Chrome browser extension that makes it easy to read and share links, funnelling them through your Buffer account so they can be posted online at the right time. Currently, Buffer works for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest.
For active Twitter users, TweetDeck might be an efficient way of going about things. A smart social automation app, which began as a start-up and was acquired by Twitter, TweetDeck lets you join and track multiple Twitter accounts from the same window. You can organize tweets according to topics, interests, conversations or real-time events or hashtags. You can track any account and actively see the tweets of that account. You can see your own notifications, the activities of other Twitter users, the messages you get in all the connected accounts, the retweets, what’s trending, collections (lists of Twitter accounts that you would like to follow), as well as mentions of your account. If it’s a start-up’s account, TweetDeck gives access to team members without forcing them to share passwords.
Free for 100 tasks a month. Plans start at $20 a month
With Zapier, you can create a connection between two sites and ask it to act automatically, pushing your content from one place to another. The app automates tasks within a particular network (reposting the photograph you posted on your Facebook timeline on a Facebook Page) or between different ones.
The app lets you choose an avatar for your personal assistant. It gives you news, and lets you search for specific terms and phrases on Google, find locations through Yelp, open the calculator, ask general knowledge questions and get answers from Wikipedia, make calls, send texts and emails and update the calendar and tasks list. If you want some entertainment, it can update your Facebook and Twitter pages, and play music and videos too. In addition, it can also navigate, translate and open other apps installed in the phone, and can be customized as well.
Holler “Ok Google” into the microphone of your phone and the voice search feature will find what you’re looking for. This includes quick translation to other languages, searching for an item or nearby places, calculations, weather information, flights, songs, navigation, asking general knowledge questions, setting reminders, and more. It also lets you track packages, and book event and flight tickets. If you ask for a restaurant’s location and then wish to see the menu, the assistant will show you the same restaurant’s menu. The Now feature provides information such as traffic conditions on the route to your office, weather updates, and meetings and news you might be interested in.
Siri converses with you through voice to send messages and emails, schedule meetings, make phone calls, and analyse your requests to open other apps. It can wake you up, play your favourite song, tell you the scores of matches or the prices of stocks you are following, and give you directions and reminders. It can take dictations in English and Hindi and post notes, emails or social media updates. If you say something like, “Tell my husband I’m running late”, Siri will send him a message. Apple is working actively with car manufacturers to integrate Siri into their car’s infotainment systems.
Can’t wake up on time to exercise or get to work? Here are some apps that don’t stop ringing till you are up and about
It’s March and you have done little about your new year resolution to wake up early and exercise or reach office on time. You can’t seem to wake up because you snooze through the conventional alarm by your bedside. Until someone creates a clock that mechanically hits you on the head, may we suggest a few apps?
Free on Android(Ingyomate.egloos.com)
As the name suggests, the Shake-It Alarm needs you to play with your phone in ways that you predefine. “To wake up, you need to either shake the cellphone, shout at it or touch it by tapping the screen continuously, and hard,” says Jintae Lim, director and designer, Team IngYo, the company which designed the app. If you want to be really hard on yourself, the app can also send a message to a set number of friends, who will call you to wake you up. The app has been downloaded more than 400,000 times and is available in 16 languages, including Hindi, Korean, Chinese and English.
Free on Android; Rs.120 on iOS
With a subtitle that says “Sleep If U Can”, Alarmy means business. It keeps ringing—and the volume gets louder and louder—till you get up and take a particular predetermined picture of a bathroom sink, a coffee pot or, if you’re feeling adventurous, the letter box outside your home. “That’s not all,” says Korea-based Jaemyung Shin, chief executive officer at Delight Room, the creator of the app. “We have other tricky alarm-off methods for you to choose from, including the shaking and math problem modes.” The shake mode requires you to shake your phone to switch off the alarm, while the math problem mode needs you to solve some fairly complex arithmetic calculations. Next up, Shin and his team plan to add support for the Windows Phone.
Free on Android; in-app purchases
starting from Rs.40 (www.agens.no)
This app forces you to wake up by refusing to stop the alarm, which keeps getting louder and louder, unless you scan a bar code of an item specified by you. We suggest a toothpaste bar code to make sure you get out of bed and head to the bathroom. You can also set up the app to open a music app or a news website. “The app just wants to be a tool to help you wake up and set your plan into action,” says Håvard Christensen, Android developer at Agens, an app developer company based in Oslo, Norway. You can also make a sequence for your daytime routine, where each step starts with an alarm and can have its own snooze. The app is ready for Internet of Things connectivity with other compatible gadgets, such as controlling light fixtures made by Philips Hue.