Holidays can be a breeze

Do you break into a sweat at the thought of drawing up travel itineraries? Turn to these vacation-planner apps

It’s always the same story. Holidays should help you relax but sometimes organizing the minutest detail can be a nightmare. Tickets, hotels, what to do once there, what not to do, how to reach from point A to point B without getting lost, how to communicate—all these elements can turn trip planning into a headache. We suggest you outsource your holiday troubles to these helpful assistants and relax.


If you’re heading to the US this summer, don’t forget to pack in Kamino, a nifty app meant for people who love to hike and walk. The crowdsourced app has information on walks and hikes from bloggers, experts and locals of a particular city. Perfect for that authentic local experience in the city. “The idea is for users to discover and truly appreciate the culture and uniqueness of a city whether they are locals or tourists,’” says US-based Louis P. Huynh, co-founder and president, in an email. Each hike comes complete with a GPS-enabled map and includes personalized recommendations. Right now the hikes listed are limited to cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, but more are getting added as the community increases worldwide—from London, Paris and Florence to Cape Town, Hanoi and Taipei.; free on iTunes. The app is expected to be launched soon on Android.


Hate deciding where to go, what to do there, and how much it will cost you? Let Holidayen do the job for you. Created by three graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology, the app acts like a personal travel agent, lets you choose destinations and then plans what you should do once there, and where you should stay. You can customize the options and even book the things you would like to do from within the app. The database is curated, so you might not get all the choices, but the good thing is that if you have figured out an itinerary you like on the app, you can download it and keep it on your phone to access it offline. “Planning a trip is a cumbersome process, taking up to several days of online research, reading guides and asking several people,” says Utkala Mohanty, co-founder, Holidayen. “This app makes trip planning a breeze, where the user can plan a trip in seconds, while completely customizing it to her preferences.”; $0.99 (around Rs.60) on Google play. The app is expected to be launched soon on iOS.


Primarily meant as a travel assistant for business travellers, Trip38 helps you manage your itinerary. It does this by collating all your travel information and emails in one place, giving you updates through alerts, notifying you of when to check in, doling out details of baggage allowance, flight timings and the terminal….

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Build apps, the budget-friendly way

You don’t need to be a coding champion. With a little perseverance and the right tools, you can create an app sitting at home—these five options will help


If you want great design templates for your app, head to GoodBarber. The platform has a strong focus on app design and offers more than 50 colourful, highly customizable design templates to get you started. Its newer platform, Salvador, gives you six browsing modes to choose from. You can also add new content (articles, videos and photographs) from your GoodBarder app without needing an external source.
Platforms: iPhone, Android, HTML5
Price: Free 30-day trial; starting from €16 (around Rs.1,300) a month

Conduit Mobile (COMO)

To open up a small online shopping app for your business, Conduit Mobile is the best option. The app builder offers business-specific designs and a simple drag-and-drop interface. For example, there are special templates for restaurants through which they can offer discounts, list menus prettily and link up their social networks. The app’s e-commerce partnerships include Shopify, Etsy, eBay, etc.
Platforms: iPhone, Android and HTML5. It is expected soon on Windows Phone.
Price: Starting from $33 (around Rs.1,980) a month


ShoutEm’s interface offers customization options and integration with existing Web sources like WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud. The monetization options include e-commerce, in-app subscriptions, deals and coupons, and support for all major advertisement networks, like Google AdWords, etc.
Platforms: iOS, Android, HTML5
Price: Starting from $19 a month


Features in AppMakr include push notifications, HTML5 functionality, high-resolution photo galleries, navigation control, even monetization. The builder also helps you publish a test app to see how it will look in a user’s phone before publishing it to the app store. And it will give a rating to the app so that you know whether it’s likely to get rejected during Apple’s review process. Platforms: iPhone, Android, HTML5
Price: Free, with advertisements; starting from $1 a month for an advertisement-free version


GameSalad makes it possible to build a game with a simple drag-and-drop interface. It takes a while to understand the software, features and game elements, but once you’ve done that, the tool is quite easy.

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Putting a stop to mobile addiction

Can’t help pressing the mobile screen button every few seconds? Here are apps that will track your mobile use and help reduce phone dependency


In May, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) opened a first-of-its-kind clinic in the country—a centre to treat teenagers’ obsession with social networking, instant chatting apps, texting and mobile games. In other words, addiction to mobile phones.

Though there have not been any formal studies on how addicted we are to the little black device in our hands, most of us show symptoms of what some psychologists cautiously call mobile-phone overuse—checking the phone every few minutes, fidgeting with it in public spaces and parties, and becoming impatient or worried if we’ve left it at home. Don’t believe it? These apps will help you understand how addicted you are to your phone.

My Mobile Day

Süleyman Kuzula, a 26-year-old Turkish engineer based in Germany, created My Mobile Day because he felt that people, especially children, were on the way to becoming “mobile phone zombies”. “My app can help people organize their mobile phone and control their own behaviour of mobile use,” says Kuzula.


Created by Mumbai- based app development company Mobifolio in January, BreakFree is the brainchild of Mrigaen Kapadia and his wife Nupur Kapadia. They realized that both of them, as well as their family and friends, were hooked to their smartphones. “We thought it would be nice to have something on the phone which could monitor how addicted you are to your phone and show the facts to you, and so BreakFree was born,” says Kapadia. BreakFree scores you on addiction, letting you track the time you spend on the phone and compete with friends and family to reduce phone dependency.

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Shield your Android

Is your ‘droid’ device protected against increasingly devious virus attacks? If not, here are some life-savers



Of all the new threats against mobile operating systems in the second half of 2013, 97% were targeted against Android, according to the “Threat Report” released by security research firm F Secure Labs in March. It doesn’t end there. According to the report, India tops the list in reporting Android malware.

Given that 93% of Indian mobile Internet users are on Android, according to research firm International Data Corp., that’s not surprising. “Android is the most popular and widely used operating system worldwide, with over a million new devices being activated every day,” says Ritesh Chopra, country manager (India) at software security firm Symantec Corp. “When it (Android) gave smartphone users more freedom to install software from outside their official marketplace, it also opened the doors to malware authors, who have spent years honing their techniques,” he adds.

In a February report, Symantec stated that on an average, 272 new malware variants and five new malware families targeting Android were discovered every month in 2013. “These threats can steal your personal and financial information, track you, send premium-rate SMS messages, and display intrusive adware,” says Chopra.

Android has been designed with multilayered security to anticipate and tackle malware attacks on it as well as attacks on third-party apps in its official marketplace. But what Google didn’t anticipate was the illegitimate marketplaces on the Internet.

“Today, it’s Android’s compromised versions of legitimate apps that have become a problem,” says Sriram Raghavan, security and forensics consultant, Secure Cyber Space, a firm that helps businesses secure their Web presence. These versions are available on unregulated third-party Android marketplaces, or free versions of paid apps that can be downloaded from anywhere and installed. They work exactly like the paid app but with a slight difference; they have an innocuous additional code inserted in them, a malware. Raghavan believes security apps might offer at best limited protection.

Once the malware is inside your system, it can do anything, from getting access to voicemail, call logs, notifications, user passwords for apps, or even sending SMSes. “You can update your software but some malwares are smart and update with the operating system,” says New Delhi-based cyber security expert Dominic K. The best protection against malware is to disable apps downloaded from unknown or unauthenticated sources.

“Trust only the Google play app store or the device manufacturer’s online store,” says Raghavan. Also, never connect to open or unknown Wi-Fi networks and remember to install an authenticated remote wipe or lock app in the unlikely event that the device is stolen or lost. Plus, always lock your screen when the device is inactive. And of course, choose one of the apps we list here to better protect your device.

McAfee Antivirus and Security

Other than scanning the apps you install and checking your phone constantly for malware, the 4.0 version of McAfee updated in March, can wipe off your data and restore it from a backup if the phone is stolen.

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7 silly things we do with smartphones

Among them, using abbreviations to send text messages, shooting videos incorrectly, and letting apps eat into battery life

Ever run around like a headless chicken in search of a socket, to plug in your dying smartphone? Or been told off for talking too loudly on the phone in a public place? The first brands you as someone who can’t stay away from those shiny little touch screens, even momentarily. The second is a dead giveaway that you are a recent digital immigrant. Here are seven ways to avoid being seen as a smartphone addict and being exposed as a smartphone newbie.

phonemain--621x414Keeping all the notifications on, always

There was a time when a ping meant only SMS. Now pings and push notifications can mean anything from a friend liking something on your social network, or an app pushing in weather information to you, an email, a new music update or a WhatsApp ping. That’s a lot of notifications, and checking and replying to them means that you actually are more glued to your phone’s screen than to life. Scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany recently developed an app to track the usage of smartphones among students. They found that on an average the students activated the phone more than 80 times a day, every 12 minutes. About 15% of this time was spent on WhatsApp, while Facebook took 9% and games 13%.

DO: Find out how addicted you are to your smartphone with Menthal (, free on Google play), an app developed by the University of Bonn scientists to measure cellphone use. The app runs in the background and records every time you unlock your phone, start an app, or receive a call—and tells you how much of your time is consumed by your phone. Oh, and switch off, or at least silence, all those annoying notifications.

Taking videos in the portrait mode

Unless you plan to play the video only on your phone or mean to share it on the app Vine (the only place where it might be acceptable), or share it with a person who has a head attached perpendicularly to her body, may we suggest you keep your phone in a landscape position every time you take a video? That is the long way instead of the tall way in phones. Most smartphones still don’t have the post-edit ability to rotate a video like a photograph. And most video browsers don’t come with the ability to play the video in its portrait mode. The ones which do, show thick black bars on both sides of a video, which can get slightly irritating. There’s an additional reason that all videos are wide rather than tall. We as humans are meant to see the world left to right rather than top to bottom.

DO: Want to correct something you have already shot in the portrait position? Download Video Swivel (iTunes, free) or the VLC media player on the desktop (, free) and straighten it up before you share.

Thinking it is clean

Touching your phone just before you eat might not be such a great idea. ‘Which?’, a technology daily magazine based in the UK, did a study in September and found that smartphones had a whopping 140 ‘Staphylococcus aureaus’, a bacteria that causes severe stomach pain, while the toilet seats they tested had less than 20 of the creatures. And did we add that tablets had a whopping 600 of them? DO: Unplug your devices, switch them off and wipe them clean with a damp, lint-free cloth.

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Manage the cloud

Finding it difficult to remember if your presentation was uploaded on Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive? Here are apps to consolidate your free cloud storage

Our lives are scattered in the cloud, distributed across online storage accounts. A few gigabytes on Dropbox, a few more on Microsoft’s OneDrive and a few gigs on Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud. One can manage three, two, or even four, but with new services offering 50 GB free for data storing online (see “More than 10 GB”), it is becoming difficult to remember what is stored where, and almost impossible to use what you’ve uploaded. Which is where you can opt for one of these consolidation services. These let you search, view, edit and transfer data from one cloud service to another seamlessly, through a Web or mobile app. Time to live in the cloud!


Want to move your files from one storage space to another? That’s where Mover comes in. The app lets you copy, merge and transfer files between each cloud storage service you use, easily. The transfer from one cloud to another is especially pain-free and fast, working in the background and sending you an email once it’s done. So if you’ve heard the bad news that the free storage service you have been using forever is shutting down, like Ubuntu One, use Mover to shift the data stored there to a new cloud storage service. Available on desktop. Personal plans from $15, or around Rs.900, a month allow five scheduled moves. Free for one move.


Jared Preston, co-owner of cloudGOO, decided to work on an aggregating cloud service after he found that he and his friends and colleagues in Seattle, US, were struggling to consolidate and aggregate their storage space online. CloudGOO launched its Android version in March, following it up with an iOS version launch in April. The app supports Google Drive, SkyDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive, Dropbox, SugarSync and iCloud (on iPhone) and the service offers just a basic view-only platform, something Preston hopes to change with updates. But there are some cool features that make the app worthwhile, including the fact that you can ask cloudGOO to automatically upload your pictures, videos and documents from your device to the cloud. It’s smart enough to see which of your cloud storage platforms has the space and upload the content there.


Launched in January 2012, Otixo is an old horse still going strong. Aimed at small businesses and collaboration on the cloud without boundaries, the app offers strong features for personal use, including collating all your files in the cloud, transferring files from one cloud to another with a simple drag-and-drop, and creating projects called “Spaces” to collaborate, share files and folders across any cloud. Headquartered in Boulder, US, the service supports a whopping 29 platforms in its ecosystem, including online storage services, social networks like Facebook and document-management platforms like Alfresco.
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Apps that mean business

Travelling for work? Download these apps to keep you on track

Are you the incessant air-mile collector like George Clooney in the 2009 Hollywood film Up In The Air? The kind of business traveller who’s more at home at airports across the world rather than back at home? If yes, these apps might help you reduce your stress and get some more work done on the go.


Want to chat and video chat on the go with your team? Head to HipChat, a group chat platform for teams. Other than allowing voice and video chats in groups, it also lets you screen-share, share files through a simple drag-and-drop interface and share code and ideas with your teams. You can have a one-to-one with a co-worker from the team at any point. If there’s a meeting on HipChat that you weren’t able to attend, you can see the chat history and continue conversations right where you left them. All communication through HipChat is encrypted so it’s safe for meetings. The best part? It runs on almost every platform.; free on iTunes, Google Play, Linux, Windows, Mac and the Web. In-app (or additional) purchase of the video-calling service costs $2 (or around Rs.120) a month


Mynd is a smart calendar which manages your time efficiently. Updated in July, the app syncs your existing calendars and then uses its adaptive machine learning to help you like a virtual assistant, getting smarter with every choice you make. The aim is to save you time, manage your goals, prepare you for meetings and get you from point A to B. You can dial-in to conference calls with one click; the calendar also coordinates a group’s meeting by proposing multiple meeting times. Every morning it will warn you of how long it will take you to reach work. It also syncs with your LinkedIn account and automatically discovers and displays information about the people you’re going to meet.; free on iPhone


Want someone to make an itinerary for you? Head to WorldMate. All you have to do is forward your flight and hotel confirmation emails to and the app converts it into an itinerary. Once your itinerary is made, the app will send flight alerts and if it perceives you’re going to miss it, WorldMate sends details of alternative flights to the same destination. You can share the itinerary, add more to the schedule and get a map view of your travels. Updated in July, the app also recommends hotels based on your past trips and personal preferences. The best feature is its LinkedIn integration, which alerts you if any of your colleagues are nearby for an impromptu meeting or dinner.; free on Google Play, iTunes and Windows Phone


Meant for managers who don’t want to keep decisions pending while they’re travelling, DocuSign lets you sign documents electronically and send them in just minutes to your team. Built on digital transaction management technology, which is a category of secure cloud-based software to digitally manage business transactions, DocuSign electronic signatures are valid and legally binding across the world…


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Looking to pay through your mobile?

Try these apps Turn your smartphone into a wallet. Here are some apps you can try

Pay for petrol, buy lunch, shop for groceries—without taking out your wallet. All you need to do is tap or click on your smartphone. In a country where many users are going online through mobile, digital wallets could well be the next big thing.

Also called electronic wallets or e-wallets, this technology allows you to make financial transactions with a smartphone. This could include paying for stuff when you’re at a shop with just a tap of your phone, transferring money to a friend, or paying for movie tickets, cabs, home bills, travel, without taking out your credit or debit card, or cash.

Start-ups and companies are hopping on to the bandwagon with options ranging from Near-Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth and even money transfer to a phone number without details of the other person’s bank account.

Internationally too, companies like Apple, Google and Amazon have gotten into the space with their own e-wallets, exploring this nascent technology. In India, however, regulations and policies make the process of implementation a little different. To protect consumers, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) mandates that each online transaction in the country go through two-factor authentication. Step 1 is the CVV number and step 2, a one-time-password (OTP). This process, which is not required in other countries, has proved to be a slight hiccup for companies like Uber, a US-based ride-sharing service, in accepting cash-free payments from customers. In August, the RBI rapped Uber when it started routing its payments through international gateways to automatically bill its Indian consumers and avoid the cumbersome two-step authentication.

Uber was not alone. Other e-merchants had been doing it too. The RBI issued a circular later that month, making it mandatory for all companies to settle payments within the country with two-factor authentication by October. “If someone has violated the rules, they should be pulled up,” says Saurabh Tripathi, partner and director at Boston Consulting Group, a strategy and general management consulting firm. He believes, however, that the current mobile payment regulations can be eased a bit. “For example, RBI could change it to a single-factor authentication for small payments of, say, up to Rs.1,000,” he says. This will give a push to the new technology and make mobile payments more common.

Some Indian start-ups are trying to figure out ways to work with the guidelines. “The extra step of second authentication adds friction, making the dropout rate higher,” says Nitin Gupta, chief executive officer (CEO) of PayU India, an online payment processor company. To deal with it, Gupta acquired Eashmart, a mobile-based payment app, in October to add a single nifty feature to his app: “When you start a transaction, we request the bank to send you a One-Time Password, which our app automatically reads and shows you. All you do is say yes.”

Looking to pay through your mobile? Then try out some of these apps in the market right now.


Launched in October, KayPay is a simple way to transfer money to any of your Facebook friends. To begin, you have to log into KayPay’s site with your Facebook ID, allow it to use your Facebook profile information, and then add your bank details. Once that’s done, simply select the Facebook friend you want to send money to, put in the amount and the OTP sent to your phone. Your friend gets a notification about the money in her Facebook account and can log in within 48 hours into KayPay’s site to retrieve it. If she doesn’t, the money comes back to your account. Your bank account details stay with Kotak Mahindra Bank, the creators of the app, but it is not necessary to have an account with Kotak to use this app. Charges undisclosed. Currently works with 27 banks.

MobiKwik wallet

MobiKwik is a prepaid wallet. Once you fill it up, you can use it to recharge your phone, pay your bills, transfer money and buy from e-merchants. Money can be transferred into the MobiKwik wallet through cards, cash and netbanking, and it supports payment to major e-merchants like BookMyShow, Dominos, redBus, etc. “MobiKwik now processes about 200,000 transactions a day,” says Bipin Preet Singh, founder and CEO, MobiKwik. “Forty per cent of them come from movie and bus ticket bookings, purchases on e-commerce sites and bill payments, and 60% via phone recharges.” Now it is working on adding an e-KYC process so that users can increase the maximum wallet limit from Rs.10,000 to Rs.50,000. Free on Web, Android, Windows, iOS and BlackBerry.


Launched in October, HotRemit allows you to transfer money to another HotRemit account, or to a Facebook, mobile or BBM contact, without the other person’s bank account details. Other than transferring money, you can also use the app to pay e-merchants. Currently, the app makers are working on launching their Android and iOS apps and convincing merchants to adopt NFC payments, where you just tap your phone to make the payment. …

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