Technology moves fast. So fast, in fact, that great apps often get left in the dust if they don’t come out of the gates full-featured and ready for primetime. With that in mind, here are a few apps that all but disappeared from our radar, but still offer a great feature-set.
Nowadays, there’s thousands of apps that do thousands of things. Here’s our ode to some of the cooler apps we forgot existed, even though you might still use them every day.
Google Goggles is one of those apps that seems incredibly cool on paper, but is easy to forget about because you’re not going to use it every day. With Google Goggles, you can take pictures of text and translate it, shoot landmarks to get information, and even photograph artwork to find an artist. Amazingly it can also solve Soduku puzzles, digitize business cards, and even help you track down cool wallpapers. Will you use Google Goggles every day? Probably not, but it’s still helpful to keep around.
Countless apps exist to monitor your GPS movements while running or biking, but Google’s own My Tracks for Android is one of the most full featured of the bunch. It had a rocky start, but now it’s one of the better ways to record your outdoor excursions, annotate your path, and export all that data to places as varied as Google Docs, or even spreadsheets. It’s not exactly as as hyper-focused as a standalone running app, but the newest update to Google Tracks makes it substantially more interesting than it was at launch.
Bump was one of the first apps that blew everyone’s minds. As long as you had two smartphones with Bump installed, you could instantly share contact information. Nowadays, you can also share photos, social network connections, and more. Although the music sharing feature is gone, Bump is still a suprisingly useful app to keep around if you’re the type that needs to quickly trade contact information or photos with people.
Word Lens is the instant translation tool that uses your camera to translate signs right in front of you. When it first launched it was an exceptionally neat tech demo, but it just didn’t work that well. Over time Word Lens has gotten better, and while the aforementioned Google Goggles is a much better translation tool, Word Lens still has its place for anyone needing to translate large signs on the go.
We bring up Red Laser pretty much every year around Black Friday because it’s a great way to quickly scan a barcode and get a price comparison for both local and online retailers. That said, it’s easy to forget about it during any other time of the year. Scanning barcodes to gather information is one of those things that, like QR Codes, caught on but never really went further than the initial purpose. Red Laser hasn’t changed much over the years, but on top of doing instant price comparison it now also offers allergen alerts for food, and it’ll show you local prices so you can decide if it’s worth it to drive up the street for a better deal.
Apple’s Remote app was one of the first apps in the iTunes App Store, and initially it only allowed controlled your iTunes music by allowing you to pause, fast forward, rewind, or skip tracks. Nowadays it can be used to control iTunes, Apple TV, create playlists, control AirPlay, change speaker volume, and even as a keyboard for Apple TV. It’s not perfect, and it could still be executed better, but it’s one of those apps that has grown increasingly useful over time if you have a lot of Apple hardware in your house.
The WolframAlpha app initially launched at $50, and subsequently it didn’t see a lot of use out of the gates. Now the app is down to $3.99, and if you’re a data nut it’s an essential addition to your homescreen. Pretty much anything you can do on the main WolframAlpha site works on mobile, including finding Scrabble words, calorie burn, and more.
Unless your job requires that you scan documents, you probably have no use for a scanner for 90% of the year. That bulky desktop scanner is useless for most of us, but apps like CamScanner for Android and JotNot Scanner for iPhone make it so you can easily scan the few documents you need to, and then email or fax them off. They’re both the type of app you discover when you need them, then instantly forget about them.
Mark the Spot
AT&T’s mobile coverage has improved over the years a little, but at least in my part of town it’s still just as horrible as ever (or maybe even worse). Back when AT&T was getting beaten up in the press for their coverage, they launched the Mark the Spot app for iPhone and Android so you could inform AT&T where their coverage is terrible. It’s still around, and if you (like me) still have bad coverage through AT&T, then the Mark the Spot app is a satisfying way to passively complain to AT&T without trying to make a phone call.