The Newest Trend in Mobile Apps: Which Ones You Shouldn’t Live Without (and Which Ones to Avoid)

For more and more individuals, their mobile phones ARE their phones. As of 2012, more than half of American households did not have or use a land line, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It’s not difficult to understand. In the twenty-first century, mobile phones surf the Internet, send and receive email, snap photos, stream videos, music and live broadcasts – and oh, yes, make and receive calls. The term Smartphone truly does apply to the computers that ride in our pockets, purses and backpacks.

The secret behind these amazing machines is the app. Apps are integrated software programs that perform a specific function within a piece of hardware – a tablet or mobile phone. The right apps can make a Smartphone positively brilliant, while the wrong apps can turn a tablet into an expensive paperweight. New apps are coming to the market all the time. The 11 apps below represent some of the best new apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices – and they’re all free.

youtubeYouTube Kids

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

YouTube is great, but admittedly, its content frequently NSFW (that’s Not Safe for Work for the uninitiated among the readership). YouTube Kids features an easy to use interface and kid-friendly content including Sesame Street episodes, the Mother Goose Club and Super Simple Songs. It’s also free for iOS and Android devices.

citymappergood CityMapper

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

If you live in or are visiting New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia, Mexico City, London, Manchester, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Milan, Rome, Berlin or Hamburg and want to get around independently, CityMapper is a must-have. If you don’t see a desired city on this list, hang on – more cities are slated for future updates. CityMapper is free for iOS and Android devices.

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natgeoviewNat Geo View

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

If you love National Geographic, the Nat Geo View app should definitely be on your download list. The app features picks from editors of the best photos and stories from the magazine. This user friendly app is compatible with iOS devices and best of all, free.

 USA-TODAYUSA Today Sports

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

Sports lovers will enjoy the USA Today Sports app. It features standings, trending sports news and game updates to keep sports fans in the know about their favorite teams. It’s free for iOS and Android devices.

 iAnnotateiAnnotate

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

iAnnotate is a business-savvy app that allows users to annotate DOC, PDF, PowerPoint and image files for sharing with colleagues. It can also be used outside the office to annotate and share files with friends. iAnnotate is free for iOS and Android devices.

doit“Do” Apps from IFTTT

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

The Do Button programs smart home appliances, the Do Note app integrates content with Evernote (a long-standing must-have app) and social media and Do Camera allows you to share your photos with social media. These Do apps are compatible with iOS and Android devices and all are totally free.

accuweathericonAccuWeather

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

With its vivid radar maps and GPS-driven forecasts, the AccuWeather app is tough to beat. You can modify the app to include flight delays and provide push notification. It’s free for iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices.

tuneinradioTuneIn Radio

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

TuneIn Radio allows users to, well, tune in to more than 100,000 radio stations worldwide. You read that right. Best of all, TuneIn Radio is compatible across a range of devices. It’s free for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry devices.

palabre-androidPalabre

Available On: Android
Price:Free

RSS is an acronym that stands for Really Simple Syndication. Unfortunately, many mobile RSS clients are not user-friendly. Palabre is the exception, with clean interface and easy integration with Feedly. It’s free and compatible with Android devices.

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navita-translator-large-iconNavita Translator

Available On: BlackBerry
Price:Free

The once-dominant BlackBerry is playing catch-up in the mobile device space, and that includes apps. The Navita Translator app doesn’t look as slick as some others out there, but works with more than 60 languages. It’s built specifically (and exclusively) for BlackBerry and backward compatible with older devices. Did we mention that it’s free?

GOOGLETRANSTranslator

Available On: iOS, Windows
Price:Free on Windows, 99 cents on iOS

Until recently Windows Phone world travelers have largely been left out from translation apps. The Translator app allows Windows Phone users to translate foreign words or phrases using the device’s cameras, keyboard or voice functions. Translator is free for Windows Phone users; an iOS compatible version of the app costs 99 cents.

Apps to Avoid

The list below includes four apps that you would be best to skip – unless you actually like using valuable memory within your mobile device for apps like Yo, which, wait for it, transmits a single verbal message: Yo. For the record, Yo is free and available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices. Sorry, BlackBerry fans.

hugmeHugMe

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

Have you ever just needed a hug? Nearly everyone has, and the HugMe app has you covered. Install the HugMe app and you can seek and give hugs to other app users anywhere in the world. Friends, complete strangers – there’s no distinction with the HugMe app. If the idea of giving and receiving completely random hugs appeals to you, the HugMe app is free for iOS and Android devices.

The ShakedownThe Shakedown

Available On: iOS, Android
Price:Free

Entertaining yourself with your Smartphone or tablet can be awesome. (Angry Birds, anyone?) But The Shakedown seems a bit mean spirited in addition to being a potential time suck. It works by shaking your phone to steal points from your friends that have the app installed. That’s it. The app is free for iOS and Android devices, with in-app purchases available to protect your points from being stolen. Temporarily.

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ScreenPop Lockscreen MessengerScreenPop Lockscreen Messenger

Available On: Android
Price:Free

Do you have the overwhelming urge to turn over your phone’s lock screen to another person? If so, then ScreenPop Lockscreen Messenger was made for you. The app allows users to snap photos and add emojis, doodles and text that appear whenever the targeted person (who also must have the app installed) checks his or her phone’s lock screen. If you have this app on your phone, a friend (or frenemy) could send you a hilarious, but totally NSFW photo or doodle and you would have absolutely no warning. If you’re feeling brave, ScreenPop Lockscreen Messenger is free for Android devices.

cloakCloak

Available On: iOS
Price:Free

The Cloak app pulls info from your contacts Instagram and Foursquare accounts to let you keep track of their whereabouts. The original purpose of the app was to allow users to avoid awkward encounters with exes or work colleagues. But it’s just as easy to set up the app to set up alerts to engineer “accidental” encounters with people that users DO want to see. It all seems a bit creepy, but if that’s your thing, Cloak is free for iPhone.