Is This Thing On? There’s an App for That

The term application software is often shortened to software when referring to programs added to a computer. The nickname app (short for application) is most commonly used when referring to software added to a smartphone or tablet.

Apps are downloaded directly from the “store” on your smartphone or tablet. For example, if you own an iPad or iPhone, which is an Apple product, you visit the App Store to purchase an app.

If you have an Android (that is any non-Apple smartphone or tablet), you will visit the Play Store, which is owned by Google. Microsoft has an App Store too. Apps can be free or purchased for as little as 99 cents or as much as $999. I’m super frugal and very rarely pay for an app.

Whether you plan to make a purchase or not, you won’t be able to download or add any apps to your smartphone or tablet, even free ones, without filling in the credit card information requested.

There are apps for almost anything you can imagine, with more than 1 million available to date. Your smartphone and tablet will come with a dozen or so preinstalled, including a clock, camera, GPS, calendar, and weather app, to name a few.

After you’ve gotten comfortable with those, branch out and investigate the other apps available … apps for entertainment (Netflix, Hulu, TED), education (Lumosity, Duolingo), and apps that allow you to monitor the utilities in your home (TempStick).

Plus, there are apps for news (BBC, CNN, NPR), sports (ESPN, 365Scores), health (Sworkit, iFirstAid), and every hobby you could endeavor.

You can get a compass, flashlight, calorie counter (LoseIt, MyPlate), movie theater finder (Fandango, ShowTimes), tide chart, and games, games, games (CheckWord, Temple Run, Pokemon Go).

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Skype, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all available as free apps.

You might want to search your app store for good research apps, such as Google, Wikipedia, and Merriam-Webster.

For travel, there are international translator apps (iTranslate), flight trackers (Flight Gate, Flight), restaurant/hotel reviews (TripAdvisor, Yelp), and nearly every airline has an app that enables you to get your boarding pass on your smartphone or tablet.

Dragon is an app for your smartphone or tablet to take dictation and transcribe your words. Some other dictation apps are Dictadroid and Speech to Text.

There are some great music apps as well. Apple Music allows you to live-stream anything your heart desires from Apple’s 30-million-song library for a fee (at present, $14.99 a month). Spotify has a great free option to live-stream single tracks or entire albums.

Pandora provides personalized online radio. As you listen to music, you indicate your likes and dislikes, and Pandora will start to filter songs accordingly. It creates the equivalent of a radio station based on your favorite artists.

With Shazam, as you hear a song playing, hold up your phone, and the Shazam app will detect the song in a matter of seconds, giving you the title and lyrics, along with purchasing or streaming options.

Amazing, right? You name it, and there’s an app for it!

Ask your friends to recommend apps to add to your smartphone, and be sure to check out the list of 100 free recommended apps under “helpful guides” in the video tutorials drop-down menu on

Happy apping!

Abby Stokes, author of “Is This Thing On?” A Friendly Guide to Everything Digital for Newbies, Technophobes, and the Kicking & Screaming and its companion website,, is the Johnny Appleseed of Technology, singlehandedly helping more than 300,000 people cross the digital divide.


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