10 Mobile Apps that do – and do not make life easier

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First, when taking time to install new apps, we should be very conscientious about our personal security. In a time when world-wide hacks, constant loss of personal financial information (by multi-million dollar organizations promising security), and scammers are on the rise, it’s not just your finances that can be lost, but your personal identity, safety, and freedom. That said, as society pushes forward into a more technologically dependent era, we have both the privilege to move along with it and the responsibility to learn it. So, here are ten good and not so good, apps to think about:

1: Your calendar. This is the most basic app that comes with every phone. A calendar sets up to-do lists, appointments, scheduling, reminders, and if you take the time to learn how, can add contacts to the appointment list so you can keep others informed, too. The calendar is not a holiday reminder “toy”, but rather, it is a “set your own, personal priorities” productivity tool. Here are a few mistakes made by calendar users:

  1. Using the calendar as a finite method. Due dates are one thing, but when it comes to a personal goal or an informal plan, a “drop-dead” date is not always necessary. For instance, I can set on my calendar that I need to go to the store tomorrow to buy cheese. However, tomorrow may not go as planned. There may be meetings, conferences, personal and family matters, or other issues that delay my ability to go. Or, I may just not feel like going. Don’t ignore the calendar appointment or forget it. Just set a new, reasonable date and push it forward. Yes, your to-do list will grow, but you will be more likely to accomplish what you “need” and “want” when you give yourself some flexibility and freedom.
  2. Using the calendar as a “set it and forget it” tool. While it’s okay to be flexible with appointments, setting them is not enough. You have to learn to use this to-do list for what it’s intended to do – GIT ‘R DONE! That’s right – a to-do list is not a bucket list, it’s an actual list of things you want to accomplish. It doesn’t matter if you set it to do the dishes, learn to play the guitar, or file your car registration! If you want to use a to-do list right, you have to treat it like an alarm clock – WITHOUT a snooze button. It’s easy for teenagers and young folks to sleep through their alarm clocks or press that convenient snooze button and then realize 2 – 3 hours later that they missed an appointment. But, that’s not the path toward success. Success begins by setting a personal goal and achieving it. Wake up when your alarm clock buzzes at you for thirty days straight and by day 31, you’ll actually wake up!
  3. Not setting alarms correctly. Since we’re on the topic of snooze buttons – the calendar reminder is an invaluable tool. It gives you optimum flexibility for reminders about when appointments are coming up. Setting it too soon means you can skip it and accidentally forget. Setting it too close to the appointment time usually leads to crossing over other appointments and taking away flexible management options. Either set multiple alarms to ramp up to an event, or learn to pick a reasonable alert time so that you don’t miss those appointments!
  4. Setting appointments too far ahead! If graduation is on the 9th of June – don’t set the date in January! Otherwise, like all phone systems, there is more than a 99% chance that the appointment will be forgotten (by you OR the phone!)! Just like picking the right window of time for a calendar reminder, you need to set the right window of time for an appointment reminder. For example, if I get off work at 5 pm and set an alarm at 5 pm that I need to go to the store, chances are, I will be very busy at 5 pm as I am focused on getting out of work. But, if I set the alarm for 5:30 pm or 6:00 pm, I’m not too far behind, nor too far ahead, of a reasonable time to accomplish my tasks.
  5. Tones! This is the biggest excuse I hear from people who set calendar appointments. “I had my volume off“, or “I didn’t hear the ringtone.” Unless you changed the ringtone for calendar appointments, it is the same. Sure, the phone will make mistakes – but they’re getting a lot better at NOT doing that. And, if you make a habit of turning off your phone’s volume for church, movies, and meetings, you can make a habit of turning it back on! But, ringtones and calendar appointments are NOT infallible. Depending on how important an appointment is, you can also use your phone’s alarm clock and your own, internal sensors! In the meantime, keep your volume up and your ears open. Plus, if you add a family member or a friend to those extra important appointments and ask for an additional reminder, chances are, when their phone beeps at them, you’ll get a text or a phone call. So – no excuses!

2: The notepad! Here’s another “built-in phone app” that offers a LOT for very little. We live in a very busy world. We are very busy people – even when we’re trying to relax. So, why not take notes? Does it make sense not to? When an idea pops in your head, how often do you find yourself frustrated, later on, when you can’t remember it? The solution’s simple – write it down (this is what very successful people do – so learn from it)! You don’t need to carry around a pen and paper because chances are, you’re already tethered to a phone!

  1. While the audio on my phone has yet to determine whether I’m saying the word “hello” or “octopus”, I can type short, brief notes that keep the amount of typing down, and my productivity, up! So, you don’t need to type in every detail about a meeting, or a thought you had about how the increase in shaving cats will cause a rise in availability of unhappy cats, just write, “shave cat, unhappy!” Bet you that you’re already thinking that was a weird thing to read, right? But, it’s also probably not going to leave your head anytime soon! So – it works!
  2. Use it often! Notes take up very little to no room on the phones, so write, talk, scribble, and do whatever it takes to keep the ideas flowing. It’s like the Pensieve from Harry Potter – you don’t forget it, but you get that immediate worry out of your head and off to the side to leave room to deal with the millions of other factors life is throwing at you (at that moment).
  3. Consolidate and follow through! Writing notes is great. It means you’ll have lots of notes. But, what do you do with those? If you’re writing notes for a meeting, grocery shopping, or as reminders to tell someone an important message, delete them when you’re done – or you’ll have a cluttered desk. Don’t be afraid to look to your phone and read off of it. Why? If I could remember everything – I wouldn’t have to write it down. But, that’s why I write everything down – so I don’t have to remember it! Don’t build up a cluttered desk. Keep it clean and organized. Label your notes so you’ll remember what they are and you can quickly reference back to them! Plus, clearing them off, especially if you use vocal recordings (which is sometimes easier than trying to write – especially on the road!!), keeps your phone system memory clear.
  4. Write it all down, the good, bad, and the ugly! Notes are not just for … notes! Maybe you thought of a funny joke or a political topic that you needed to get out. Write it down. Grocery lists, to-do lists, and brilliant ideas can all be written down. Maybe you want to vent: write it down. Perhaps you thought of a song lyric or have one stuck in your head that you want to look up later: write it down! Thought of a quote from a movie – or a movie you wanted to see? Guess what? That’s right! Write it down!

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3: The camera! Sure, maybe it sounds silly to say this – but frankly, the cell phone camera has become something of a phenomenon. I’m not talking about the selfie abusing bashers who need a reality check; I’m talking about people who have learned the awesomeness of just carrying a camera around to capture those cool moments that quite often come along.

  1. Just remember, your camera app doesn’t need access to your contacts!
  2. Getting proficient at snapping a quick photo with your phone doesn’t mean high quality. In fact, most phone cams are pretty low quality. However, it’s more the act of conscientiously and intentionally remembering you have that opportunity. You’ll be surprised how much more you pay attention to what’s going on around you! (So, the camera can be a useful tool for self improvement, too)!
  3. Use the images writing tool feature, if you have it (or download one if you can), to “virtually” write on the back of the photo, any details about the day, time, or event. That makes it more fun and it’s easier to organize and prioritize! Photos take up a lot of space and you’ll probably need to clear them from time to time … to time!
  4. USE those added features. Try them out. Fast action motion! Or 3D spin around. Sure … they’re worthless if you want to use them on your computer, but in the moment, they’re not too bad (and if you want to use them on your pc – start writing the manufacturers by the millions and threaten to stop buying their overpriced phones if they don’t build a computer app!). This not only gets you more proficient with your camera, but it can inspire and sometimes, healthy inspiration at just the right time is an excellent booster toward personal success.
  5. Writing everything down can be tedious at times, but a picture’s worth a 1000 words, 3 paragraphs, 400 sentences, and several punctuation marks!

4: Zillow and “Price” Shopping – an automation nightmare.

  1. If you’re a home seller, this app is great because it tracks how many times your listing has been viewed, the prices around your home, and even gives you rankings. Of course, you’re better off relying on your real estate agent for an “actual” and realistic accounting of how your listing is performing. But, seeing your listing as number one sure is a positive reinforcement (and other than the harm it causes, that’s about all it’s good for).
  2. It’s apps like Zillow that give good real estate a bad name. Rentals, homes for sale, and property values are listed based on the grotesquely unrealistic expectations of property owners and has been a key contributor to problematic real estate. So – be careful.

5: Time Wasters: All I have to say about games that are time wasters can be read at the first post, located right here: http://www.angrybirdsnest.com/forums/topic/reassessing-my-life-omg-what-have-i-done/. If the name of that post doesn’t say it all … then just read it for yourself. Time wasters have their place … but anything automated is dangerous (just read my post, here).

  1. Angry birds … ARGH – read the post in the link above. Not to mention the infiltration and personal space violation of this app. So many free games are NOT FREE! READ the fine print – the cost is huge … really huge. Time wasters are fine ONLY if you take privacy and security seriously!
  2. Virtual “anything” is STUPID. (Notice, I’m not saying it’s not fun – just stupid). Virtual pets aren’t real, nor does it offer anything satisfying except to teach you how to lie to yourself when you can assure yourself that you’ve accomplished something Virtual farming is a sign that your introversion has taken over your life. Move on!
  3. Scrabble, cribbage, pool, bubble poppers, and the like are okay if you find yourself, on those ultra-rare occasions, a little stressed, needing to shut down mentally, and avoiding the garbage on television. But – that’s it. If you’re sneaking off to go play instead of working (not that I, um, *ahem* would ever do anything like that …. o.0), then STOP NOW! Save yourself, little Pinocchio – SWIM FOR SHORE!

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6: Facebook is a bad, bad thing. Whether it’s the death of teenagers or the outrageous and outlandish behavior of its “normal” users, Facebook has been nothing but a bane on humanity.

  1. But I get to see pictures of my family.” True. Very true. They’re not your pictures or their pictures because once posted, they’re “Facebook’s” legal property. But, you do get to see the indentured servants you call family. Sound weird? Yeah, it does. Nothing should operate like that and if it does – you should REALLY work hard to distance yourself from it.
  2. But it’s fun to post updates as to what I’m doing.” Sure … sure it is. For whom? It’s your life. Nobody cares if you’re petting your dog or going to Costa Rica. Well … except for the authorities. They monitor Facebook very closely. Why? Because of idiots that post illegal activities or improper behaviors that raise red flags – even if they’re innocent. Maybe you’re not worried about that … but think of it like this: If you were reading a book, and I came behind you, a very ominous, foreboding, and large stranger whom you didn’t know and rested my head on your shoulder, staring at your face while you read … would you just keep on going … or would you probably want it to stop? If you’re okay with it – get help – really – right now. Stop reading this and go call a therapist. If you’re the latter, you have a healthy level of personal boundaries. Why should it be different on-line? Facebook violates personal boundaries and is a generally unhealthy addiction. Why participate in something unhealthy? Sure – it’s fun. So, find something else or start your own … after all … Mark Zuckerberg did! The point is, self-indulgent and self-important behaviors like amassing friends and posting your life like some celebrity is not a good thing. Think about it: even celebrities don’t like the paparazzi, and THEY GET PAID for it!
  3. But I have friends on Facebook.” No … no you don’t. If you don’t understand that … please … for all that is good … go outside, walk next door, and go make a friend. See the difference? Yeah …. the animosity on Facebook, not to mention the commercialism, is terrifying – not “friendly”.
  4. ALL THAT SAID – Facebook is “almost” … and I mean “ALMOST” a good place for networking. It offers access to businesses to build web pages, people to post comments, and events to be listed. What a great tool for finding out what’s going on in your neighborhood or sharing reasonable ideas and coming together as a group! Unfortunately … you have to be “registered” … which is why I say, “almost”.

7: Imgur Hell! Yes – this is a terrible app. It’s just a social media app for people to post anything they want and let the flaming barrage begin. And, while even I have found myself spending time laughing hysterically while reading through the posts, for teenagers, it’s a black hole.

  1. Not only does Imgur give everyone the freedom of expression – it gives EVERYONE the freedom of expression. And, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Not everyone should be expressing themselves. For example, I’m pretty sure that Imgur killed funny. No, really. Somewhere, in some part of the world, at least 2 – 3 clowns die everyday because of just how bad the comedy often is on Imgur. Teenagers MUST be banned from Imgur because their senses of humor are destroyed.
  2. On the other hand, in all fairness to this app – this post changed my life! I now run industrial levels of power in my own home and never have to pay a bill. So … yay … there’s something to be said for that! (and … a few other positives on Imgur – but the bad of social media outweighs the good by far!).

8: Youtube … *sigh*. I don’t know much else to say about this except it’s like Imgur – not everyone should be making videos.

  1. People like “Markiplier” may appeal to the youth, but that’s some pretty dumb stuff.
  2. While I really used to enjoy much of Matthew Santaro’s work, he has begun to seriously lack in performance.
  3. Still, some of the channels like Cinemasins and HISHE bring much needed joy to a cynical person’s life!
  4. On the other hand, Youtube’s sudden and apparent need to raise capital by interjecting endless commercials into their channel while offering little in return, has begun to make it a real turnoff and nothing more than another tool to manipulate the end consumer.
  5. All that said, using Youtube the “correct” way can have huge benefits. For example, if you’re learning to cook – pull up ‘ol Gordon Ramsay and follow along. He talks fast, moves quick, and is hard to follow, but Youtube is a great way to be able to rewind, re-watch – and learn! Just remember – it’s the internet. Knowledge is fragile – do your own work and keep to cooking, playing instruments, etc. – from the pros!

9: Social Gaming. Now, for anyone who has read through my work, you’d know by now that I hate, and I hate, and I HATE social gaming … on consoles. In fact, I hate it on cell phones, too. But there is a grey area in there …

  1. Social gaming with friends and family isn’t so bad. When you’re separated from someone, Words With Friends, for all its cheating, manipulation, and mass advertising, offers a long-term, slow-paced, fun interaction in which you can demonstrate to the world that your parents will always score triple letter, 18 billion point words, and I will never get anything more than the word, “it”, for -50 points!! Still … it’s fun if you don’t think about it.
  2. Social gaming with strangers. Think of it like this, you go out to a restaurant, pick a table with 1 open seat, and interject yourself into the conversation and life of four other strangers who were already sitting at that table together. Sure, if they don’t try to kill you or ask you to leave, eventually, you may be welcomed. HAHAHAHA – WRONG! If you believe that … GET HELP. So, unless you’re one of the Impractical Jokers, Social gaming is, for the most part, based on the way people made it, just not a healthy place to be.
  3. Social “war” gaming is even more stupid. That’s all there is to say. It’s not strategy, skill, or luck. It’s about whomever has the most coins to buy the best stuff to trample around on strangers and fill that empty, low-self-esteem void in their life by some empty, self-justified conquest. So, um, yeah – dumb. (Although I have seen it used well as a time-waster game ….).

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And, finally, number 10: Convenience apps. These include apps like Geico’s mobile insurance, banking apps, and “all-in-ones”. For some people these are great – for others – they have no business using these apps (for their own safety, that is).

  1. Security is compromised on these apps. All of them … even the “secured” banking apps, do NOT offer, guarantee, or promise you security. Read the fine print (which is usually spread among 4 – 5 websites with about 10 sub sites and all super long in the hopes you won’t read it). There is NO security. If you’re cool with that – than bully for you. If you’re part of a recent NSA-based virus attack … then life sucks.
  2. Convenience and automation is dangerous – read my article if you care to learn more. Convenience apps from McDonald’s? Yeah … that’s not such a good idea.
  3. And, folks, wake up. There is NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH (TINSTAAFL). It’s a long-standing business acronym and it’s the truth. Convenience is not convenient. Either you’ll pay for it because rates will keep going up for everyone, or because someday, it will backfire. You’ll lose your phone, break it, or something will happen that let’s you set yourself up for a fall. Don’t. It only takes a few extra seconds to sign in via the browser (if you’re smart enough not to keep your history recorded), and add one small, extra layer of security. After all – you lock your front door at night – so why leave the key in it? Think about that.
  4. However, if you look at an App like Fandango, for convenience, it’s easy to store only you’re zip code in there so the app can tell you what’s playing at your favorite theater without giving it any other information!

Having tools is great – if you use them. Otherwise, it’s the proverbial “more-power” man that has a garage loaded with every type of power tool, wood-working tool, and other specialty tool you can think of … that never uses it. Eventually, he’ll have to clear out the garage. Sadly, we don’t buy phones just to make phone calls anymore (as odd as that may sound). In fact, a $500 – $700 phone BETTER do more than make phone calls! But, it’s on us to be responsible with how we use them.

  1. Read the app privileges. Does it want access to your contacts, bank accounts, social security numbers, children, and every other personal facet of your life? Does it need that? Mine don’t. I refuse to give them that because – for other reasons I won’t get into here – but, mainly, that information BELONGS to me and is frankly no one else’s business.
  2. Read the app update privileges. Does it conveniently forget that you asked it to stop calling your friends and telling them that because of you, they now get annoying sales calls all day? If so – you’ll have to be diligent and that requires a little extra time and a little extra work.
  3. Fortunately – built in apps are far more easily controlled than third party apps – so keep that in mind!

And, no matter what you do, enjoy it. Otherwise … why else do it?

Can you think of any additions to this list?

Thanks for reading!


Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.” – Steven Spielberg (the man!!)

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