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

By Tom Pritchard on at

Does anyone know when spider season is supposed to start? I'm sure it's not for a little while, but the little blighters seem to have started early around my way. They're webbing things up around what seems like my whole flat, and it's always in the middle of the night so I can't exactly hoover them up.

Sadly there are no apps for dealing with spiders, even though that would probably be the most successful app in the history of apps. Pokémon Go has nothing on arachnophobia. But until that day, these are the apps that we are able to share with you.

Android: Somni VR (Free/£4.99)

VR's been kicking off in a big way for a while now, so naturally people have been looking for ways to play virtual reality games without having to cough up at least half a grand for the privilege. There are already plenty of apps out there that let you experience VR gaming using a phone and mobile headset, and Somni VR is throwing itself out there.

Once you've got the app and the PC server up and running, it will convert any of the games running on your PC into something akin to VR-ready 3D. It's not quite the same as the immersive games that are made for VR, but it means you can enjoy playing all your games on a headset rather than your TV. They don't have to be games either, meaning you can enjoy video content in a headset. Though, obviously, it's not able to magically turn the latest episode of Robot Wars into a 360-degree video.

Connection is primarily done via Wi-Fi, though you can connect via USB if you're willing to have an extra wire. The upsides of USB connectivity mean that there will be a lot less lag, and your phone is far less likely to run out of power mid-game. There's also headtracking if you turn on Somni's mouse control, meaning you can look around your games by moving, rather than purely relying on the controller.

Somni does have a free version, though that limits you to 30 minutes of use everyday. Think of that as a demo version, so you can make sure everything is to your liking before you cough up £5 for the full app.

You should also try:

Spotify (Update): Spotify just launched its new feature 'Release Radar', and every Friday it'll give you a round-up of the newest singles from your favourite artists and bands. [Free]

Isotope: One for exploring the periodic table in great detail, with high quality images, animations, and no ads. [Free]

Apple Music (Update): Apple's Music app is now finally out of beta on Android. So, erm, yay I guess? It's also added an equaliser, which is quite nice of them. [Free - with subscription]

iPhone: Sidekix (Free)

Apps that are designed to get you outside have been around for a while, even if Pokémon Go has popped up and shaken things up a bit. Sidekix is another one designed to get you out exploring the real world, but rather then having you aimlessly chase digital monsters it plans out routes to help you discover things in your local area. It also has some of the world's biggest cities built in as default, in case you don't like having to hand over your location data.

Opening up the app you get to choose what kind of things you want to find on your route, including things like landmarks, local nightlife, eateries, Pokémon Go's Poké Stops, and more. Pick one (or one of the many sub-categories), then choose a route based on where you end up when you're done and you're good to go. It's pretty simple, and that means you can travel off the beaten path, so to speak, and find things you wouldn't normally see. It's also handy if you find yourself in a new area and what to see what's on offer.

The downside here is that unless you live in a big, well-known area, Sidekix won't be able to do much for you. Using my location it wasn't able to find a damn thing of value, even though there's a reasonable amount of relevant stuff within close proximity. If it can't find anything it asks you to help out, which is easy enough, though it feels to be a little bit counter-productive. The idea of the app is that it shows you what's about, not the other way around. If that's also the case with you, then you have a choice: save the app for a time when you are in an area with things it can see, or take it upon yourself to add things.

Really this is one that's going to be incredibly useful for people going on holiday, since there are a hell of a lot of the world's biggest cities already loaded in. There's still a month of summer left, so if you're jetting off somewhere then you might want this one on your phone. Depending on your foreign data allowance, that is.

You should also try:

Apple TV Remote (Update): If you have a 4th gen Apple TV (the latest one), then some features are now available to you in the remote app. It now has Siri support, the option to use the phone's keyboard for on-screen searches, and the ability to use your phone's guts to play games on-screen. [Free]

Potterize: Create your very own Harry Potter-style newspaper, complete with custom moving pictures. Well I say moving pictures, I really mean a video clip of your choice. [Free]

Prava: A travel app designed to make it easier to plan and collaborate with friend before, during, and after your trip. Plan everything before you go, keep track while you're there, then share memories (like photos) when you get back.
[Free]

iPad: White Noise (Update) (Free)

Ambient noise isn't great when you're trying to sleep, particularly when it's sudden noise that starts getting on your nerves. White noise generators are designed to drown that out with something constant, regular, and soothing, and naturally this is what the app does. Forty apps are included, but you can always download hundreds more from a separate app.

There's more to the app that slapping on a soundtrack to help yourself sleep. That's what most of it is about, but there are a few extra features hidden in there too. The main one is that you can create your own mixes, featuring the app's different soundtracks. They're totally custom, with the option of adding up to five different soundtracks into each one. Not all of them work together, but that's up for you to work out what works. You can also record your own sounds, in case there's something you're used to sleeping along to and won't be around for a while.

The free app doesn't let you play the soundtracks in the background, so you're going to need to keep your device unlocked and open to feel the full effect. There is a timer feature, though, so you can make sure it gets switched after you've had enough time to fall asleep. On top of that there's an alarm clock that will play a pre-set soundtrack or mix to wake you up in the morning, with a fade-in to ensure it's not just a huge shock to your system like most alarms.

So if you want some soothing sound for bedtime, this is one to check out.

You should also try:

Astropad Drawing Tablet (Update): The app that lets you use your iPad as a graphics tablet for stuff like Photoshop got a big update. Now it's much faster, has reduced pixelation, uses fewer system resources (saving battery life in the process), and compatibility with more software. [£22.99]

Photomyne Album Scanner: Digitise all your photo albums easily and quickly. It's not just individual shots either, it's capable of dealing with multiple photos at the same time. [£3.99]

Ulysses (Update): The distraction-free word processor just got a huge update, bringing along Wordpress publishing, Dropbox syncing, an typewriter mode, and a bunch more smaller tweaks. [£18.99]

Windows Mobile: Starbucks (Free)

If you're big on your daily coffee, and tend to gravitate towards the high-street chains, this is an app for you. Shockingly it's only just arrived on Windows 10. You'll need a Starbucks account and card, naturally, but you won't need to have it on you if the app is on your person.

It's pretty simple, this takes the place of your rewards card. Get the barista to scan the code on screen every time you buy a drink, and you'll earn stars that can be redeemed towards free drinks and perks. You can also add money to your Starbucks account and pay for drinks with the app, so you provided you have ample balance you don't even need to get your wallet out. There's not much to it, but given how big a brand Starbucks is it's an important edition to Windows 10.

On top of that you can find one of the 700 (is that all?) Starbucks stores in the UK, as well as buying and send gift cards to friends or family.

You should also try:

1Password (Update): The password manager is adding a subscription service, and if you sign up now you get six months free. Normally it's $3/£2.30 a month. [Free]

Twitter (Update): Twitter for Windows 10 is now updated with the latest features Twitter has to offer: quoting tweets and retweeting yourself. [Free]

MyTube! Beta (Update): The third-party YouTube app got a big update, but the main feature is that it's now capable of playing music in the background. That's a rare feature, so take advantage while you can. [Free]