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PhilSTAR L!fe recommends: The most useful apps to install on your smartphone

By PhilSTAR L!fe Published Jan 16, 2021 3:02 am

 Guess how many apps are installed on an average smartphone? Would you believe it’s  80+ apps? That’s about four page swipes on an iPhone screen.

People aren't using all of them every day, of course. According to, an average person uses nine mobile apps per day and 30 apps per month.

There are also two schools of thought on arranging them: some people put them in folders; others don’t, even if they have to keep swiping right to get to that one app they use once a year.

Meet the editorial staff of PhilSTAR L!fe, who are sharing their fave apps for our first of PhilSTAR L!fe Recommends. Some apps you didn’t know you needed in your life, some you probably already have on your phone.

Here’s a very diverse list that offers a wide array of uses for every lifestyle—from a simple currency converter for travelers, to an app for editing photos for graphic artists, and apps to help athletes stay fit. And one to help you find  love online.

Tanya Lara, features head

XE Currency: On a trip many years ago to London when apps didn’t exist yet, I kept converting sterling pound to peso in my head wrongly. Throughout my trip I was overspending by 30 percent—so you can imagine my shock when my credit card billed me. Let’s not even go to currencies set at 0 decimal place, like Indonesian rupiah or Vietnamese dong, both of which make you an instant millionaire but a cup of coffee will cost you about 100,000. With XE, you can put up to 10 currencies to convert easily. It also tells you when to buy foreign currency for a trip because it’s real-time foreign exchange rates.

Skyscanner: Some people watch movies to kill time or watch ASMR vids to sleep. Me, I go to Skyscanner. Pre-pandemic, I would wonder, between editing and layout, how much would it cost to fly to Paris in the spring. To Istanbul for yet another New Year’s Eve or to Munich at Easter? During this pandemic, Skyscanner has become even more useful with its Live Map, which shows you which countries are open to you based on where you reside, which are partially open but with restrictions and exceptions, and where your ass is totally banned. 

Bim Santos, news head

Strava: Staying fit, especially during this lockdown, remains a big challenge and Strava is one tool to help you stay the course. It is an app that lets you log your physical activities such as running, cycling, and swimming among others. It keeps track of your personal records and shows you areas where you can further improve, thereby egging you constantly to push. Also, it is a social app that lets you keep track of your friends’ physical activities. If I am feeling demotivated, one look at my Strava feed to browse the recent activities of my friends could quickly give me a much-needed push as it fires up a dose of encouragement and healthy envy. 

Duolingo: Countless studies have said that learning a new language is best during one’s teens, and gets more substantially difficult as one approaches middle age. But fuck that. Last year I finally started learning a language that has fascinated me for quite some time and which I think would be a key tool to discern and read the tea leaves of the past and future—Mandarin. Duolingo is a highly social tool that keeps me in check daily to continue the daily grind and even gamifies the learning aspect.

Camille Santiago, associate editor

Headspace: After a really stressful day or on nights when I can’t sleep I find Headspace to be helpful. It’s a mindfulness and meditation app that helps you with stress, sleep, focus, and so much more! Luckily, it has a series of videos on Netflix now for beginners.

Classpass: If you’re someone like me who doesn’t like sticking to one fitness routine, then you’ll like Classpass. It’s a subscription-based fitness app that allows members to book different classes in different studios that are available in your city! But since many gyms and studios are closed due to COVID, they now offer access to your favorite fitness studio’s virtual classes! Classpass is a good way to mix up your workout routine and try different things.

Justine Punzalan, associate editor

Glucose Buddy: For diabetics like me, keeping our blood sugar on track is top priority. Luckily, I found the Glucose Buddy app that helps me log my daily and evening blood sugar test results in a jiffy. Its simple interface enables you to record your glucose levels, medicine intake, and meals in one entry easily. The app is also built with an automatic step counter and a feature called "Meal IQ," which helps you analyze your calorie intake simply by taking a photo of your food. The best part, you can use it for free even without wi-fi.

Maya: Many of us women get into a panic whenever "Aunt flow" catches us unprepared. To help you gear up for the discomfort brought on by menstruation, I recommend using the Maya My Period Tracker. Just log the start and end dates of your current period—with the option to include your mood, weight, and other symptoms--and the app automatically predicts the start of your cycle in the coming months. It calendars days when you'll be fertile and shares trivia to help you manage your red days. 

Chuck Smith, senior writer

Genshin Impact: It’s s an action role-playing game that features an open-world adventure and an action battle system. It’s available for free on mobile, PC and Playstation 4. Genshin Impact is a gacha game, a mechanic where players spend in-game currency to receive virtual items. You spend in-game currency—which could be purchased using real money—for the chance to get new, stronger characters you can use in the game.

It’s interesting to look at Genshin Impact as a sign of how the entertainment industry has changed because of COVID-19. In 2020, video games earned more money than movies and sports combined. Genshin Impact is a drop in the bucket in the gaming industry’s estimated $179 billion earnings last year. But it is also doing very well, reportedly earning more than $400 million in its first two months and around $6 million a day since its launch—despite being free.

Pinky Icamen, content producer

Elevate: Got about 10 minutes a day to spare? Elevate encourages brain training through its more than 40 mini-games that are designed to boost a variety of cognitive skills. It involves completion of five mini-games daily that are focused on writing, listening, speaking, reading and math. There are also “Study” options that one can take up to review for the next exercises.

OkCupid: No pandemic should hamper one’s desire to find love and be loved. Dating while social distancing is still possible with apps like OkCupid. Though some dating apps are a dime a dozen nowadays, OkCupid stands out because it believes that people getting in it are more than just a selfie. Just look at the numerous profile prompts and match questions in the app that could lead you to finally finding the “one.”

Brooke Villanueva, content producer

Focus Plant: I consider Focus Plant as my work best friend. It helps me focus on an assignment for a certain time and finish it early. Here's how it works: when you want to accomplish a task, plant a tree. If you don't close the app, it will grow. If you do, it will die. It's just satisfying to see my own forest grow—the "fruits" of my hard work!

Gratitude: I've been using the Gratitude app for over a year now. Before I start my day, I list down ten things I'm grateful for. It has significantly helped me wake up every morning with a purpose and nurture a positive disposition throughout the day.

Red Dimaandal, social media manager

Snapseed: If you only want to download one photography app in your phone, make it Snapseed! This photo editor takes care of almost all my image editing needs. It’s great for everyday photo editing and advanced editing alike.

Viki: Just think of Viki as the Netflix of K-dramas. Regardless of what K-drama genre is your favorite, this app brims not just the latest ones, but it also features classic ones. Here, you can also actually chat with other users as you watch, which is a great way to connect with other K-drama fans!

Danicah Faith Lagman, social media producer

Bluecoins: It’s Filipino-made app that tracks your expenses and finances easily. It comes in handy as it links your bank accounts, e-wallets, credit cards, and checks all in one. It records your transactions down to the last centavo, shows a pie chart and graphs of your earnings and spending, and converts everything into an excel file.

Flo: A tracker app for women for “red days.” Aside from the calendar, it gives tips on how to take care of oneself during the time of menstruation, gives reminders of do’s and don’ts to ease the pain during period, and allows to log details of experiences during the cycle to keep the body stable and healthy.

Download these apps on Google Play and App Store.