Technology is modern magic—at least that’s how I see it. How can we exist without it as it permeates our lives? We definitely have moved on from the Betamax era (oh my gosh, remember that?), which seems like prehistoric times. We need to get with the program and remain up-to-date, because keeping up with technology is keeping up with life.
Life adjusts somehow, some way, always. When we were living in our personal caves during the pandemic, tech innovations flourished—at least the practical use of it. All of sudden, we needed to learn how to pay our bills online, do cashless purchases, and learn new practical “things.”
There were ways to entertain ourselves, from watching movies and series in streaming networks, to virtual games. Not to sound like Jasmin in Aladdin, but there was “a whole new world” being created in front of our eyes—and we ran with it.
For me, it was painful at first. My brain held steadfast to my old ways, but there was no choice but to adapt. Neuroplasticity aside, I am glad that I did. Now, I can’t live without technology, specifically apps on my cellphone. It has become my oxygen that’s very hard to live without it.
Apps have just made life so much more convenient, efficient, and even fun. It also has made me impatient because nowadays, you can get things done in a matter of minutes, even seconds.
Full disclosure, though: I am not the most tech-savvy person—but I try. You can call me a trying-hard techie. Nevertheless, here is my list of the best apps that work for me, and can work for you, too.
Banking and Finance
It is a rare appearance when I make a trip to the bank. These banking apps are a godsend. I can instantly pay my bills (utilities like Meralco and Manila Water); send and transfer money; load e-wallets like GCash; load cellphones; even buy and sell dollars. Investments can also be monitored. There is so much more that these bank apps can do, all paperless.
I can’t imagine settling my bills pre-pandemic style where I receive a paper bill, then I write a check and have a messenger pay in “bayad” centers. That seems “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”
I have been in cities abroad where cash is hardly seen anymore. Aside from credit or debit cards, digital cash is used, such as e-wallets. These are pre-paid apps where one can store money for purchases, or for sending to others. Payments to establishments or to other people can be made using QR codes or mobile numbers. Here, popular e-wallets include GCash and Maya.
I mostly use GCash, and Paypal for online shopping. Before, I would be insecure to leave the house without cash and a credit card. What if I had to buy something or pay for a meal? I will not wash dishes! However, I am slowly weaning myself from this, and moving towards e-wallets.
Who has not binged on Netflix watching movies, documentaries, shows, series, and in my case, K-Dramas? There are too many videos that I have watched and re-watched on Netflix to mention. The latest binge was Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, a fascinating documentary.
Other worthwhile subscription-based streaming apps include Disney+, and on that site I am currently obsessed with Moving, a K-Drama about spies with extra-special powers starring super crush Jo In-sung.
I also watch a lot of Korean content on Viu, with its many variety shows. On HBO Go, I watch And Just Like That…, with the Sex and the City girls, who are now older, but still navigating life with flair.
Of course, all social media apps should be readily available on your mobile, from Facebook, to Instagram, to X (formerly Twitter). There is also Threads which was successfully launched a couple of months back.
Oh, I forgot TikTok. I have them all, and that could be a good or bad thing. I consider myself a moderate user and poster, so no harm there, I think. There is also LinkedIn, which is great for professionals.
Music and Podcasts
I only use two music-streaming apps, and these are Spotify and Apple Music. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod in 2001, I was so amazed that I could carry as many as 1,000 songs on a small device. You had to download each song then, and categorize them.
Then, a couple of years back, I discovered Spotify. There was an un-ending (it seemed ) choice of songs and artists. No downloading needed. Playlists were also fun like “Songs to Walk into a Room To,” or “Feel Good Friday.” Apple Music is the same.
There are lots of interesting podcasts too, if that’s your thing. Spotify recently introduced its personalized AI DJ. The “DJ” speaks to you and plays your favorite tunes, and recommends music based on your preferences. Like, wow!
Location and Tracking
When used correctly, and with good intention, I think location and tracking apps are brilliant. Life360 allows you to track and communicate with family members, especially young children, for family safety. It shares the real-time locations of each and can alert you when family members come and go.
Speaking of location, the availability of Apple AirTags has opened up a world of knowing the whereabouts of my stuff. Using the Find Me app, you can track the location of your AirTags which you can put in your luggage, bags, on a pet collar, in a vehicle, on your husband (joke!). Another good one is Tile, for tracking almost anything.
My go-to app to translate foreign languages is Papago which includes French, German, Korean, Japanese, traditional and simplified Chinese, and a few more. Papago goes further than the usual apps that translate only written phrases.
There’s voice translation where you or the person who needs to be translated speaks into its microphone, and it’s instantly translated in your chosen spoken (you choose a voice) or written language. You can also focus your mobile camera on a sign or a label, and it will be translated. This is precious, say, in a Japanese drug or convenience store, where you are unsure of what you are buying. Lastly, you can translate an image you snapped in a foreign language.
Retouching, Beautifying and More
It is so common for people to retouch themselves in selfies and other photos. Sometimes, it gets so extreme that the retouched photos already looks like a cartoon, and the person doesn’t even realize it. Face and body dysmorphia aside, apps like B612, Facetune, Pitu and Perfect 365 can wipe away years from your face. They can also make you slimmer and even taller with longer legs. Believe me, the sexy bodies in those thirst-trap photos are always retouched (am I just jealous?).
The apps can even put makeup on you, change your eye and hair color, add earrings and other accessories. There are AI filters that can simulate falling snowflakes, stars twinkling, make you into a Chinese empress, and other amazing effects. I had one of me with tears rolling down my cheeks, no ugly crying.
There’s also Videoleap, which is an AI video editor. It can create a mini-video of you with your instructions. I inserted my photo and typed in that I want to be in a long flowing gown in a forest, and voila, my wish was its command.
Where were you today last year, two years ago, 10 years ago? The Timehop app is one of my favorites. Every morning, I open it and photos pop up of where I was, what I was doing, who I was with, in the past years. It gives me nostalgic feels. I get sentimental when I see the good times frozen in photos. It also shows me how far I’ve gone, and reminds me that moments are fleeting and life moves forward, not backward.
My journey with meditation started with an app, and continues to this day. I’ve tried to meditate throughout the years, but I always failed. My mind would go around the world, to space, and back. I then realized that what worked for me was guided meditation which the Headspace app provided.
Every meditation has a nugget of wisdom. There’s a wake-up message, walking meditations, courses from happiness to anxiety, and podcasts.
pAnother similar app is called Calm. A part of wellness, I believe, is gratitude. The Gratitude app has me list down what I am grateful for and even include photos. It’s a wonderful way to end the day.
Health and Fitness
There is the Health app on my iPhone that I use as a pedometer and more. I try to walk six kilometers at least twice a week. Yes, I could do better. This app measures my steps, walking distance, speed, flights climbed, and other pertinent information. It can give information on my sleep patterns and set up my medication schedule. For cognitive health and brain training, there is Lumosity. It has interactive exercises and games for memory, speed, flexibility and problem-solving.
Shopping and Food
And then, of course, there is shopping. Most brands now have their own apps. They’re similar to their websites, but easier to shop via a mobile phone platform. Amazon, Lazada, Shopee have everything in the universe. You name it!
They are my essential apps when I need to buy something from the ordinary to the absurd. I also use the Grab app for food deliveries, to deliver packages, buy some grocery and convenient store items. It is also great for transportation.
I read many of the articles in the New York Times, which is why I have their app. More than the news (which tends to make me nervous), I focus on the arts and human interest stories. They also have games, should you be inclined, like Spelling Bee, Wordle, Tiles, Sudoku, and a mini version of their famous crossword puzzle. And of course, there is the Philippine STAR app, which contains digital versions of the newspaper you can read on your cellphone. Very convenient.