The Week's Top Android, iPhone, iPad, and Windows Phone Apps

By Tom Pritchard on at

It's bank holiday time again, a day for us all to do... whatever. Hopefully the weather is nice so you can actually go out and enjoy it. Or not, so you can sit inside and do inside things. But, good weather or bad, bank holidays mean BBQs. Nothing beats delicious barbecued meat, even if you have to cook it while holding an umbrella.

It's also Monday, which means it's apps day. Let's take a look at this week's batch.

Android: Press Reader (Free)

These days news is hardly a local thing. The internet means we can get hold of news from all over the world instantly. The problem is that each publication has its own app or website. What if you could get it all in one place. No, I don't mean Google. Thanks to Press Reader, you can get quick and easy access to thousands of newspapers and magazines from all across the world. All in one place.

We're not just talking big-league publications either. Do you want to read Notitarde from Venezuela? No problem. What about the official newspaper of the Church of England? Right here. The Scottish Highlands edition of the Press and Journal? This app has your back. It doesn't matter where you are (unless, maybe, that country strictly censors the net), as long as you have internet you've got access to your favourite publications.

Now, all this isn't free. Sad, I know, but you'll still have to pay for your reading material just like everyone else. You have a choice of buying individual issues as and when you want to read them, or you can opt to pay £20 a month and gain unlimited access to everything in Press Reader's catalogue. That might seem like a lot, but given that the app charges £0.69-£0.89 for each daily paper, and £4 for each magazine issue, those of you who read a lot will actually end up saving money this way. Plus, if you have unlimited access you can try things without having to cough up any extra cash. There are also a number of free newspapers and magazines offered, in case you can't justify paying for new things.

Final points of note are that you can toggle the app to automatically download new issues of your favourite publications as soon as they arrive, there's a map for finding sponsored Wi-Fi hotspots that will let you access Press Reader, and finally you can create your own channel to voice your views on opinions about different stories.

Some say print is dead, but while apps like this continue to exist that's definitely not the case. Even if it's not actually printed on physical paper.

You should also try:

Random Flix: No idea what to watch on Netflix? This will sort you out, by playing you a random episode of a random show. [Free]

Office Lens (Update): Microsoft's scanning tool has had an update, and with it comes handwritten text OCR, which can be exported to OneNote and searched through like regular text. [Free]

App Volume Control: A handy tool that will let you customise the volume of your phone on an app-by-app basis. No more fiddling around as you switch between them, then. [Free]

iPhone: Secret Calculator Plus (Free)

So this app looks like your bog-standard calculator app, right? Wrong! It may look like a calculator, but in reality it's a secret hiding place for storing photos. Finally you have a place to store those naked selfies without the risk of nosey bastards finding them deliberately-by-accident.

On the homescreen this is modelled as a calculator that's superior to the one Apple bundled in with iOS (because it has a '+' at the end of the name). Because who thinks to go looking at the calculator when they're snooping around someone's phone? Other than people who know about this app, of course. Opening it up for the first time has you recording a passcode, without which the app merely functions as a slightly rubbish calculator. Once that is set, any time you want to access your 'vault' you type it in and hit '%'. Simple, right?

Once you're in, you'll see that the app does undersell itself. It's not just for safely storing photos. It also lets you take down notes, store files, and browse the internet without leaving your fingerprints all over Safari (or whatever it is you use). So this is ideal for 'shopping for your partner's birthday present' on your phone. Photos can be pulled in from your image gallery, or directly from the camera, files have to be synced via Wi-Fi with your main PC, and notes have to be typed up in app. Sadly, there's no way to import your notes from another app - unless you're willing to copy+paste them all manually. Leave the app and everything locks up again, requiring you to re-enter your passcode.

One problem I have with this is that opening up the app brings up an advert for the pro version and its extra features. Normally this kind of thing wouldn't be so bad, but if someone is snooping around your phone it kind of gives the game away. Now they know you have something hidden. Thankfully you will have picked a passcode that they can't guess. Seriously. Don't use 12345. Save the pro version adverts for after you successfully open up the vault, and the problem is solved.

You should also try:

Ummo: One for practising your public speaking, Ummo detects where your speech fluctuates (with ums and ers) and analyses everything to help you improve. [£2.49]

Bar Roulette: One for the drinkers, helping you plan a pub crawl without having to put in any effort. Bar Roulette chooses the places in your area, and sends an Uber car to get you there. [Free]

GIPHY: Maker sure you have a reaction GIF for every occasion, with GIPHY's massive library of GIFs readily available in its own native app. [Free]

iPad: A Game of Thrones: Get Into the Books (Free)

Game of Thrones is back on TV and want to get reading the source material? It can be a little tricky to get into the books, especially if you can't remember the names of all the characters. Do you remember what Littlefinger's real name is? Do you know which one is Rickon? If you want to step up your game, this app is here to help.

It's got 40 extracts from the books to help you get used to the writing of George RR Martin, and his fetish for indiscriminate character death. The first thing you need to do (after logging in, which is a bit of a pain), is tell the app how many seasons you've seen, so it can gauge what constitutes a spoiler to you. Then it asks you which books you've read, which is (presumably) very few if you're downloading this app.

The app itself is pretty simple. You pick extracts of the book based on one of the five seasons that have finished being broadcast (no Season 6 yet, for obvious reasons), or based on different themes. Each extract comes with a brief synopsis, a quote, a visual key of which of the main families are involved (Stark, Lannister, etc), a small map showing where everything takes place, along with an indicator of the TV episode this bit happened in. Moving onto the extract itself and you see where it occurs in which book, as well as how long it should take you to read. The text itself is, well, text. There's no way you can do anything to spice that up.

The app also directs you to iBooks so you can buy the full text for yourself. It's a handy little way to get into the books in case you haven't paid masses of attention to the show's little details, or you've never seen it before.

You should also try:

Hemingboard: A keyboard tool that will add a little bit of flair to your work, giving you quick access to puns, rhymes, and a thesaurus as you type away. [£1.49]

The Infinite Arcade: One for designing your own games, either from scratch or working on an existing title. There are many different things to create, and once you're done you can play them and share them with friends. [£2.29]

Videorama: A video editor focussing on simplicity, letting you play with videos and photos without having to use fancy desktop software. [Free]

Windows Mobile: Video to Photo (Free)

Getting a screenshot of a video isn't always that easy, not unless you've got some fancy software. Luckily this is just the fancy software you need, and it doesn't cost a penny. The basics of it are that you pull a video from your phone's storage, and goes through it frame-by-frame to get the perfect picture.

It's pretty simple. You find the video, and then you can use the app's interface to gradually scroll through the video until you find the perfect shot. You can choose whether to tap through each frame manually, scroll through using a scroll-wheel-type thing, or tap at the video preview. Once you've found it, tap the camera button and it'll save to your photo gallery.

Really the most awkward thing about this is that it takes a bit more time than taking a photo or snapping a screenshot.

You should also try:

BBC Store: Watch all the best BBC television has to offer, right there on your phone. Just be prepared to pay for access to each series. [Free]

SHAREit (Update): The long-lasting file-sharing app has had an update, and now you can connect your devices quickly with generated QR codes. [Free]