The best apps you’ve never heard of

Browse the charts of any smartphone app store and you’re likely to see the same ‘essentials’ listed — Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter.

Sure these apps are great, but they can be quite limiting in what they can do.

Delve deeper into the app store, however, and you’ll find ones you’ve never even heard of — for a good reason, in many cases. And yet, there are actually some truly revolutionary apps, despite the lesser-known status.

Here, we’ve scoured the various stores to find, install and (on numerous occasions) delete unusual apps until we found the ones that were actually useful. In some instances, they’ve even become apps we can no longer live without.

You’ll find the resulting list contains tools that are useful for a range of tasks — whether it’s music listening, improved productivity, even for discovering new and interesting content.


Snapseed

Platform: iOS, Android
Price: Free
From: Snapseed

Snapseed_1As the camera built into your smartphones gets better, so too does the apps available to edit and enhance them.

While an endless number simply let you apply pretty filters, this app does so much more.

Acquired by Google in 2012, Snapseed is one of the most powerful photo editing apps that’s completely free.

For beginners, basic adjustments can be made to things like brightness, saturation and sharpness. More advanced features include a brush tool — letting you apply effects to different areas of a photo, while filters such as lens blur, grunge, vintage and noir can be added instantly.

One recently introduced feature is stacks, which lets you quickly see all the effects and filters you’ve applied to an image — making it easy to undo changes, and apply the same effects to other photos.


Musixmatch

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Price: Free with IAP
From: Musixmatch

Musixmatch_1No party is complete without some good old (alcohol-induced) karaoke.

Musixmatch claims to have the largest collection of song lyrics in the world — helping you confidently belt out the words to almost any tune — whether it’s Kylie Minogue’s Locomotion or the truly powerful Blue (Da Ba De) by Eiffel 65.

Lyrics can be searched from your personal music library or Spotify; as well as by title, artist, even a specific line from that particular toe-tapper.

One extremely innovative feature is the lyrics that are presented in real-time as the song plays.

The app even features Shazam-like technology — with your phone’s mic used to identify music playing around you in order to provide the words in sync.


Reeder 3

Platform: Mac, iOS
Price: $7.99
From: Reeder

Reeder 3_iconDespite a supposed demise of RSS thanks to the closure of services like Google Reader, it continues to live on, offering easy access to interesting content from the web — whether that’s entertainment, news or lifestyle.

Now in its third iteration, Reeder 3 continues to be our go-to for browsing RSS feeds; available as a standalone reader along with offering support and syncing with services.

Using simple gestures, stories can be browsed, read and starred with minimal effort, along with be shared to a range of third-party apps including Pocket, Evernote and Facebook.

Multiple themes are available including a dark mode for reading at night, while content or advertisement-heavy articles can be stripped down to mere text and images.


Hooks

Platform: iOS, Android
Price: Free
From: Hooks

Hooks_1Remaining current in today’s permanently connected world is crucial when attempting to achieve what the cool kids call ‘street cred’. Thus, it’s vital you’re aware when things important to you happen.

Hooks is a monitoring service that notifies you the minute something occurs that is of interest to you.

Featuring over 100 different ‘channels’ ranging from weather, news, finance, sports and music, you can choose to be alerted when an earthquake occurs nearby, Taylor Swift releases a new song, or when a new film comes out with a good rating.

Included is a list of pre-made recipes to help get you started.


RunPee

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Price: Free; $0.99
From: RunPee

Runpee_1No trip to the cinema is complete without the barrel-sized drink from the candy bar; neither is the feeling of your bladder screaming for relief halfway through the movie.

Too many times I’ve done the mad dash from my seat only to return to discover the apparent death of Dumbledore. This problem seems only to be getting worse as films grow in duration (cough, Lord of The Rings).

Rather than madly search the web for spoiler-filled synopses, download Runpee.

With films both old and new, you can see the best times to relieve yourself during a movie, with the app providing an overview of what you missed.

Also useful is the ability to set a timer to receive discreet vibratory alerts notifying you when it’s best to go.


Duet Display

Platform: iOS
Price: $14.99
From: Duet

Duet Display_iconOf course laptops, smartphones and tablets are fantastic sources of productivity in their own right, but combine them and they become truly powerful tools.

Duet Display makes your iPad or iPhone a second screen for your Mac or PC.

Setup is quick and easy — simply download the computer app and connect your device using a lightning cable.

Without any need to mess with firewalls or network settings, the app will simply begin to work its magic — providing an additional lag-free display to check emails, browse Twitter feeds and watch endless cat videos on YouTube.


Authy

Platform: iOS, Android
Price: Free
From: Authy

Authy_12015 was a year that saw countless companies such as the highly reputable Ashley Madison fall prey to the hands of hackers, with the private and personal data of many users becoming compromised.

The most obvious line of attack is a good password, but there’s still the chance hackers could gain access using complex password breaking technology.

It’s for this reason that many companies now offer support for two-factor authentication.

Authy assists in this by storing the six-digit codes required in addition to your traditional username and password for logging into services. The app offers support for multiple devices along with 24/7 offline access to codes.


Dataman Next

Platform: iOS
Price: $2.99
From: XVision

Dataman_1There’s nothing worse than receiving a dreaded text message from your phone provider to say you’ve maxed out your data on endless cat videos.

Dataman helps by monitoring your Internet usage for both Wi-Fi and cellular.

Simply enter the details of your plan along with the date your cycle starts and ends, at which point the app will begin tracking your consumption in real-time.

Custom alerts can be set for when you reach a certain level of usage, while a smart forecast feature helps predict whether you’ll stay
within your limit based on the amount you’re currently using/wasting.

Past billing cycles can also be reviewed to help determine whether it might be time to up plan.


Accomplish

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows
Price: Free with IAP
From: Accomplish

Accomplish_iconHaving an endless number of tasks needed to be performed can quickly become quite stress-inducing.

Sure, there’s a number of well-known to-do list apps around, but Accomplish is unique in that it integrates with your Google Calendar to help schedule a time that you’ll actually complete jobs.

Featuring a highly minimalist interface, simply add the tasks needed to be performed, followed by dragging and dropping those to-dos into your daily schedule — indicating when and for you how long you wish to spend on them.

Also included is a widget that allows you to see upcoming things to do from the comfort of your home screen.


Slash Keyboard

Platform: iOS, Android
Price: Free
From: Slash

Slash_2With every iteration of the Apple and Android operating systems comes exciting new abilities and functionality. However, little focus has been placed on one of the most relied upon features — the keyboard.

Slash Keyboard is unique in that it integrates with a number of third-party services to provide instant access to the web without leaving your current app.

Simply enter the forward slash key to search for contacts, videos, maps, even GIFs; with the keyboard linking to services like Google, YouTube, Twitter or Spotify — allowing you to add useful information to the contents of your message.

The keyboard will also provide useful search suggestions.


Workflow

Platform: iOS
Price: $4.49
From: Workflow

Workflow_1With the rise of smartphones came a rethink of what’s possible in terms of productivity. It’s the notion of efficiency that’s only further enhanced with this app.

Available for both iPhone and iPad, Workflow is a kind of programming app that allows you to perform a series of tasks or activities at the mere touch of a button.

Using a drag-and-drop interface, recipes can be created to complete what were previously complex and time-consuming tasks like creating a GIF from your photos, sending a text to a friend of your ETA, even uploading your last photo to Dropbox.

Included is a gallery of example workflows you can use as your own, with activities able to be launched from within the app, today widget, homescreen icon or app extension.