8 apps that will change your life

Of the millions from which to choose, these are among the most useful, recommended and interesting.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 14, 2012 6:08PM

smartphone userBy Michelle Price, The Wall Street Journal 

Microsoft Word and Excel are both applications, but these rather staid and well-established pieces of software are not what modern-day tech enthusiasts mean when they talk about "apps."

The emergence of Web or "cloud"-based IT services and super-smart mobile phone and tablet technology, as embodied by the iPhone and the iPad, has given birth to a universe of weird and wonderful pieces of software brimming with all sorts of information and tools.

Apps combine the unique features of the new wave of super-clever hardware -- including a camera, a global positioning system, a high-resolution screen and Wi-Fi capability -- with a bottomless pit of Web-based information and data to deliver some truly innovative and mind-boggling gizmos.

Presented here are eight of the most useful, most recommended and most interesting.


This is an application for anyone who has ever heard a song or tune they love on an advert or in a shop but have not been able to identify it. Self-styled as a "music discovery engine," Shazam is a smartphone application boasting a simple but revelatory function: Hold up the phone to the music -- whether the tune is being broadcast from a speaker in a shop, on the TV or in the gym -- and the Shazam application will identify the song and the artist.

Users can also view related YouTube videos. Shazam is primarily a smartphone application but it can also be downloaded onto the iPad.


Always forgetting to pick up your dry cleaning? OmniFocus has the answer. Developed by productivity application specialist the Omni Group, OmniFocus is a location-based task manager founded on the principle that certain tasks are performed in certain contexts. OmniFocus uses the GPS and Wi-Fi positioning capability of the iPhone to organize the user's list of chores according to their location.

For example, if the user has a number of chores to perform in a morning, the OmniFocus app will remind him or her of the tasks when they are in the relevant contexts, such as passing the dry cleaners. OmniFocus also has a sister iPad app.

DataVault Password Manager

As more and more applications and IT services are delivered via the Web, consumers are expected to memorize an ever-bewildering array of passwords with an ever-expanding number of characters. Designed by California company Ascendo, DataVault Password Manager offers a handy and intuitive way to store a range of passwords, PINs, credit-card details and other vital personal information, which is protected with strong encryption technology.

The application allows users to have all their vital password information safely to hand at all times, although a desktop version is also available.

Find My Car!

Wondering around helplessly trying to find your parked car is a common recurring mid-life frustration dream, but it need never again be a reality with this inspired application. Developed by French mobile application specialist Presselite, Find My Car puts an end to the ignominy of misplacing your car.

Using the iPhone location capability, the application allows the user to locate the position of the car and fix it on the iPhone's map function. For those who have trouble following maps, the application also has the facility to record visual information as a helpful prompt using the phone's camera. Once the user's excursion is over, he or she simply follows the map back to the vehicle.

Layar Reality Browser

Produced by Dutch company Layar, Layar Reality Browser is one of hundreds of applications that use a technology known as augmented reality to provide additional information about the user's surroundings.

Augmented reality overlays images, Web links and data on top of the image displayed by the phone's camera in order to provide useful context-specific information. Hold up the iPhone's camera to capture the surrounding area and Layar displays a wealth of additional information onto the smartphone's field of vision, such as the most popular bars nearby or apartments to rent in the area.


Whatever happened to the boy who played Oliver in the 1968 film musical? What year was the first Alien film released? The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has all the answers. As the world's largest collection of TV and film trivia with a database of some 1.5 million films and TV shows, IMDb can satisfy a vast majority of obscure film-related questions.

This app is for any household incapable of finishing a film without squabbling over the name of the supporting actor and other films he has starred in.


A good music-streaming application is a must-have for anyone who loves music, whether the app is downloaded onto a desktop, tablet or smartphone. Music-streaming apps allow users to listen to their favorite music on-demand via the Web, without the irritation of endless commercials.

There are a number of good streaming applications out there, but Spotify continues to improve and is available on desktops, a number of smartphones and the iPad. In addition to providing online music streaming, Spotify allows users to play back tunes when offline, and the mobile app offers smooth syncing with the desktop app.

Word Lens

One of the most celebrated apps to be released in recent months, Word Lens instantly translates printed words in one language into another using the phone's built-in video camera.

For example, the user is traveling abroad and cannot understand what a sign says. He or she points the iPhone or iPad camera at the sign, and the English translation will immediately appear on the screen overlaying the initial image using augmented reality. At the moment the application only provides translation between English and Spanish, but the application's creators -- augmented-reality app development firm Quest Visual -- promises more European languages in due course.

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Dec 16, 2012 10:40AM
I need 8 Apps to change my life as a business traveler:

1. Where's the App that can identify the airplane passenger who keeps ripping farts during the flight!?!
2. Where's the App that measures the IQ of the people around you so you know if you want to talk to them?
3. I need the App that shows which rooms in a hotel are the most quiet?
4. How about an App that shows where the hotel shuttle is and it's ETA to pick you up from the airport?
5. Could use an App that shows all the A/C power outlets in an airport terminal on a map?
6. How about a TSA App that shows real-time the wait time per security line at an airport?
7. How about an App that shows which airport mens' bathroom stinks the least?
8. And finally, an App that tells everyone else on their App to not talk to me (DND).

Can you tell I'm a burned out biz traveler? :)

Dec 17, 2012 12:34PM
Who needs this stuff?  Use your brain...you don't need everything instantly.
Dec 17, 2012 4:59PM

The only app I thought was even remotely useful on this list was Word Lens.  I speak english exclusively, but travel overseas relatively frequently and that could be a very useful tool.


The rest is just stupid junk people use to amuse themselves.

Dec 21, 2012 5:15PM
Dec 25, 2012 12:39AM
Wow, I never realized that high tech was defined by software apps that helped forgetful people remember what and where they put the cars or dirty laundry or help them remember their passwords and tunes. That's certainly amazing that a $300 piece of automated plastic can make meaningless lives have meaning. I wonder what the iPhone 6 or 7 will be able to help you do?  No wonder the country going down the tubes with Apple.
Apr 9, 2013 5:50PM
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