10 apps and gadgets that make life better

Apps

1 Forest

Free with in-app purchases (Android), $2.98 (iOS)

Glued to the smartphone all day? Forest offers a solution to phone addiction. The app plants a seed that grows into a virtual tree when the user refrains from using the phone within a designated time period (from 10 to 120 minutes). Otherwise, the tree withers. Each successful planting earns virtual coins that can be used to unlock different plants, such as cherry blossoms and cacti. Over multiple sessions, users can grow an entire forest and share their status with friends.

The developer says it has partnered non-profit Trees for the Future to plant real trees in Africa for users who have earned sufficient virtual coins. However, this option requires an upgrade to the paid version, which also removes ads. Forest is also available as an add-on to the Chrome browser on the computer.

2 Out Of Milk

Free (iOS and Android)

With the Out Of Milk app, users are not only able to create a grocery shopping list, but also a pantry list to track the items at home and their expiry dates.

The days of crumpled, handwritten grocery shopping lists are over. While there are many list-managing apps out there, few have been around for as long as the seven-year-old Out Of Milk.

This app literally ticks all the boxes. It can create multiple lists, group items by categories, calculate the cost, share lists with family members and more.

And it is not just about grocery shopping: Create to-do lists and set reminders; or create a pantry list to track the items at home (and their expiry dates).

Lists from the Out Of Milk website include ones for new mums and for what to pack for a vacation.

For fans of personal voice assistants such as Amazon's Alexa, they can link their accounts with both Alexa and Google Assistant so that voice commands can be used to add and delete items. 

3 Kitchen Stories 

Free (iOS and Android) 

Cooking one's own meals can help one to eat healthily and save money. Kitchen Stories offers recipe ideas and culinary tips on a clean user interface.

Recipes are organised into useful lists, such as 20-minute dishes, low carb or one-pot meals. Each recipe is accompanied by a short video, as well as step-by-step photo instructions that can be viewed on a phone or tablet in the kitchen. Enable the Cooking Mode so that the device's screen does not turn off by itself.

The app lists cooking time, amount of ingredients and a breakdown of the nutritional value of each recipe. Adjust the serving size and the amount of ingredients will change accordingly. Add the ingredients to a shopping list, which can then be shared with others via e-mail or messaging apps.

4 Files Go 

Free (Android) 

Running out of storage on the Android device for photos and videos? Free up space by using Google's Files Go app.

It scans the phone to locate files - for instance, photos from chat apps or downloaded documents - so the user can pick the ones he wants to remove. It also points out infrequently used apps that one may have forgotten about. Files are organised automatically such that the user can see at a glance all the videos, images and other common file types.

As with Apple's AirDrop, files can be sent securely to nearby Files Go users directly without using any mobile data. Files can also be saved to cloud storage providers. Google says transfers are fast and encrypted.

Another neat feature - it adds a Storage tile (that looks like a pie chart) in the Quick Settings panel that shows the remaining free space in the device. Clicking on this tile opens the Files Go app.

5 Grammarly Keyboard 

Free (iOS and Android) 

Typos and bad grammar can make a person appear sloppy. Use the Grammarly Keyboard app to correct these errors before hitting the send button. It comes in the form of an extension for Web browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari are supported). Since last year, it has also been available as an app for Android and Apple mobile devices.

Grammarly Keyboard does more than a basic spell-check and grammar-check. It analyses the context of sentences to identify correctly spelt words that have been used wrongly. Premium users can get suggestions on style and vocabulary, as well as a plagiarism detector that claims to check more than eight billion Web pages. As this is a cloud-based service, its more advanced features are unavailable without an Internet connection. The keyboard also does not support swipe typing at the moment. 

Vincent Chang


Fitness tools

6 Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro 

$268 

For those who want a fitness tracker that does it all, the Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro (above) is a good choice.

Packed with features, this sleek and highly accurate fitness tracker has a curved Oled screen that also tells the time. It tracks daily physical activities automatically and monitors a user's sleep too. Having a built-in GPS means it can track runs accurately. In addition, the Fit2 Pro is one of the few fitness trackers in the market that can track swims.

7 Apple Watch Series 3

From $498

iPhone owners may want to get the Apple Watch Series 3 (above) to track their physical activities, runs and swims. The watch will also urge them, daily, to complete the three aspects - Move, Exercise and Stand - of the Activity app. Each aspect is represented by a different colour ring that grows to form a closed loop as its goal is being met. To help users "close" these rings, the watch will nudge them to stand up, move around or go for a brisk walk.

A built-in GPS lets users go for runs with the smartwatch without the iPhone and still get an accurate gauge of the distance covered. Plus, with its 50m water resistance, it can track swims as well.

8 Under Armour Recovery Sleepwear 

From $66.75 

A person can exercise all he wants. But if he does not have good post-exercise recovery, he might be doing his body more harm than good. With sleep an important aspect of recovery, Under Armour has come up with a line of recovery sleepwear.

Made of a soft, thin material, the Under Armour Recovery Sleepwear (above) contains bio-ceramic particles that are said to improve blood circulation by activating the body's natural heat and reflecting it back to the body. This helps increase blood flow and is said to speed up recovery. It is also said to promote better sleep, reduce inflammation and regulate cell metabolism.

Singapore Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling has said that he falls asleep faster when using the recovery sleepwear.

Trevor Tan


Mouse & keyboard

9 Razer Blackwidow X Tournament Edition Chroma 

$229.90 

This is for the office desk that is too cramped for a good keyboard. The Razer Blackwidow X Tournament Chroma has a tenkeyless, compact design.

As a gaming keyboard, its responsiveness and speed are invaluable. The clickety tactile feedback of its mechanical key switches not only gives users a satisfying click every time they tap on them, but the keys are also supposed to be very durable with a lifespan of up to 80 million key-strokes.

Not to mention users can set the keyboard's backlight to whatever colour they want, from a palette of 16.8 million colour options.

10 Logitech MX Master 2S 

$149 

The Logitech MX Master 2S is probably one of the most comfortable mice this reviewer has ever used. Its ergonomic shape and large thumb rest support the wrist in a natural position. It has eight buttons, including the back and forward buttons, a thumb rest, which is also a gesture button, and a thumb-scroll wheel for horizontal scrolling.

It can be paired to three computers, via Bluetooth or the bundled USB dongle. The best part is that it supports Logitech's Flow function that lets the user move the mouse cursor from one computer to another, as well as copy and paste documents across connected computers. For those who have two computers on their work desk, this will greatly improve workflow. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2018, with the headline '10 apps and gadgets that make life better'. Print Edition | Subscribe