It's December, and you know what that means? Christmas. Well, it's been Christmas on our high streets since a minute after Halloween, but now it's full onslaught time. I'm sure you all know what Christmas comes with, right? Christmas music. F***ing Christmas music.
It wouldn't be so bad if it got mixed up a bit, but it's always the same songs that we've heard thousands of times already. I am convinced this is why portable music players were invented. Also, why does nobody make decent new Christmas-related songs? I know they'd be terrible, but why stick to the same old rubbish?
Anyway, while I contemplate the horrors of the universe here's this week's batch of new and exciting apps with which to pimp out your portable communication device.
Android: Doze (Free)
When Google launched Android Marshmallow it made a big deal about the OS's new battery saving features that'll make sure your phone doesn't die at the most inopportune times. But Android being Android, a lot of people out there don't have access to a Marshmallow upgrade yet. You don't have to miss out on those features, though, and it's all thanks to Doze.
As long as your phone runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) or above, Doze should do the trick. It works by setting up a VPN of sorts, but instead of opening up a connection like your bog-standard VPN system, it blocks them off. This prevents apps from using data while your phone's screen is switched off, saving you precious battery power in the process.
But it's not just a blanket ban on data usage, and Doze does offer an awful lot of customisation options so you can set it up for your phone. For starters it's possible to whitelist apps so that they aren't deprived of internet access. That's incredibly useful for apps that you need keep on top of, like email, VoIP, and whatnot. It's worth pointing out that it's not just for apps you've downloaded, the whitelist has a list of every little piece of software on your phone – including the cap you normally don't care about.
Other settings are more focussed on when the app is running. Those include an 'Aggressive mode' that blocks data usage even when your screen is on, settings that will let you automatically disable the VPN if you're on Wi-Fi or if your phone is charging. The last setting turns off a little pop-up that flashes at the bottom of your screen when you turn your phone back on. It's meant as a reminder that Doze is still running, but if you find that annoying you can easily get rid of it.
Nice and simple, really. One click sets the whole thing up, and another switches it off. No messy calibration is required, and all you have to do is personalise a few settings to match how you use your phone.
You should also try:
AppBlock: Nice and simple, this app lets you deny yourself access to certain apps for a certain period of time. Perfect for making yourself get work done. [Free]
AppComparison: Thinking about switching to Windows Phone? This app looks at all your apps and tries to find them, or their equivalents, on the Windows Phone app store. [Free]
Snap - Widget Drawer: Widgets are incredibly useful, but they're not so great for quick access since you have to navigate to the homescreen to get at them. Snap lets you add widgets to your notification bar, similar to the way iOS does it, so that you can get what you need just by flicking at the screen. [Free]
iPhone: Mallzee (Free)
Christmas is coming, and that always comes with the dreaded task of buying people presents. But shops are going to get busy, and to call having to go out in public a chore would be a serious understatement. The internet comes to the rescue, and one of the things to make shopping on your phone easier is Mallzee.
It's a clothes shopping app designed to help you get your hands on great brand-name stuff more easily. You need an account to get things going, which has you choosing what gender of clothes you want to search for. Don't worry, though, because you can change that later.
The app's main screen is a timeline of sorts that shows off different sales, retail outlets, and clothing styles that you can select if they catch your eye. Once you get there you end up with the Tinder-style interface that has you swiping right if you like what you see and vice versa. Thankfully the clothes don't have to like you back before you can buy them. Liking them adds them to your 'saved' menu where you get the chance to buy them for yourself. Alternatively you can just buy them from the original menu, but it's better to check out what else on offer first, right?
On top of this there is a 'trending' menu with the most popular deals and brands, an alphabetical list of brand names that are available, and the option to make your own custom shops.
The custom shops thing is interesting, and particularly useful in that it lets you select what kind of clothing (and jewellery) you're most interested in, along with preferred colour, branding, and your price range. Once that's done it's added to your homescreen timeline and you can sort through everything as normal.
You should also try:
Teleport: A handy little app that lets you book an Uber for friends or family and have them brought to your door. They don't even need the app, either. [Free]
HabitBull: A habit tracking app that pulls in a bunch of different habit-building tips and tricks into one fine-looking cross platform interface. [Free]
Cathode: An advanced terminal app that models its visuals after the computers of old. It's the closest you'll get to typing into the Matrix on your phone. [£3.99]
iPad: Morpholio Trace (Free)
A lot of apps focus on creating new images from scratch, but Morpholio Trace is different. It's an app that let's you trace over imported images, making it an incredibly useful tool for any creative types that need to work within real-world boundaries. Architects, interior designers, photographers, and so on.
It's really quite a simple app to work with. There are three tabs to deal with, one for drawing, one for importing imagery, and the final one for switching between your different projects. All you need to do to get started is pull in an image from your camera, the cloud, or your image library. Then you add layers of tracing paper on top and, if need be, you alter the transparency of each sheet and you're good to go.
The free version is fairly limited in that it only has three different two pens, three colours (red, white, and black) to draw in, and an eraser. The different colour palettes you can buy are set around recommended use, (architecture, automotive, body art, etc) and will cost you £0.79 or £1.49 to unlock. The pro drawing tools cost £0.79 each or £2.29 for all six.
Morpholio Trace is very basic, but it has everything you would need if layered tracing is something you could find useful. Obviously buying the new colours and drawing tools unlock more potential, but for the fundamentals the free version does its job quite nicely. If you want to add annotations, sketches, or whatever else onto an image while still making the original easily accessible, this is a handy little tool to use.
You should also try:
ITV Hub: ITV's brand new catchup app, where you can keep up to date on all the programmes you missed on ITV's many channels. [Free]
Reeder 3: (Update) The popular RSS reader app has been updated, and now has all the iOS 9 features befitting use on the iPad. [£3.99]
Windows Phone: SHAREit (Free)
This one is a multiplatform app designed to make file sharing between your devices easy and quick. In that respect it's similar to services like Pushbullet, but the reality of it is that those services are built around sharing links, text, and other small files. SHAREit is more focused on bigger things like photos, videos, and audio.
It is remarkably simple to use, though. All you need to do is tell the app whether you want to send or receive a file and you're brought to a radar-like screen that brings up other devices running SHAREit in the local area. Then all it takes is a single to get everything going. Obviously if you're sending then you're going to have to decide which files you want to be transferred before you make a connection.
Making a connection isn't quite as simple as some transfer apps, and while it declares that you can transfer your files from anywhere anytime it seems as though they need to be in fairly close proximity. By that I mean connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Cross-platform seems to work a little bit differently, and trying to connect requires the receiving end to make a connection using it's Wi-Fi hotspot feature.
You should also try:
GoPro: (Update) The official app for controlling your GoPro camera from your phone, now updated to function with the HERO4 Session. [Free]
Meme Generator Suite: The internet loves a good meme, and this app means you can create all your favourites out on the road. [Free]
Memorize it!: A handy little app to help you memorise important things using a combination of anagrams, visual clues, and more. [Free]