Since the age of smart phones began, people’s time has been significantly drained. Humans spend so much time scrolling on their phones, and it seldom adds to their overall or even immediate happiness. I didn’t get a phone until I was 18, and I have been hyperaware of this. I don’t want this tool to take time away from things I love doing. I refuse to let it drain my energy, and while I’m not perfect about this, I think I have a very healthy relationship with my phone. I don’t feel dependent on it, and the one thing I use on it everyday is my camera.
That all said, there are some other apps on my phone that have improved my life. I truly believe that if everyone put more thought into what they downloaded, their phones would also be a benefit, rather than a detractor from their lives. Before you download anything, pause to think if it’s just going to clutter up your time. Consider these apps that have made my life better:
As a photographer, I prefer this app to Instagram. It’s just as visual, but without the excessive social part of it. The filters and tools to edit photographs are advanced, and it’s a place where artists get to share their work without the business of Instagram. You can add captions, but viewers have to click on the image to read it, and it can’t be too long. Viewers can share your work, and it saves in what is essentially an album for them to glean inspiration from. On top of that, I love that VSCO doesn’t crop my images. It was the first app I ever used, and it hasn’t gone through all the capitalist changes that other social apps have. This is ideal for any visual artist, or those who want to be inspired (it’s my go-to for painting inspiration).
This app was created by the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic, and it’s the best species identifying app out there. It’s accurate, and it works to log species in bioregions, essentially turning users into citizen scientists. I use it all the time when I go foraging, and I appreciate the different features it offers, such as whether or not plants are edible and the cultural history of them. It’s fascinating, and I’ve learned a lot while using it. I think it’s one of the few apps that can help users to become more engaged in their lives.
I’ve used this app before it was an app—back when my elementary school teachers would assign 30 minutes using the website for homework. It’s essential a trivia platform, allowing users to pick categories they want to get quizzed in. The best part though, is that for every right answer, money is donated to the World Food Programme (WFP)—symbolized by grains of rice on the screen as you answer. 100% of the money donated goes to WFP, with nothing skimmed off the top. It’s a great app to build your knowledge base, support the largest humanitarian organization, and directly contribute to feeding people in need. It’s the best trivia app thanks to its humanitarian focus.
This is another app focused on education. It’s a trusted platform that democratizes knowledge by making it available for free. Users can pick categories, and take free courses on incredible subjects. They come at varying levels, and have some amazing college level courses. My favorites are the art history lessons. I have a degree in the subject, and while I paid to get that knowledge, this app makes it available for free. I am so inspired by the idea that people can learn at a college level without going into debt. I can’t recommend it enough.
I have so many favorites when it comes to flight apps, but this is my favorite. I think the map is the most intuitive, and I’ve gotten the best deals on flights through it. It consistently is the cheapest, and I appreciate that it makes travel more achievable for people. As a seasoned travel writer, I am convinced that travel makes people empathetic, and that empathy can save the world. This app has helped me to travel when I’m not doing paid travel work, and I think it’s incredible that it makes exploration so accessible.
This is the only commerce site that I would say adds value to life. Capitalism is the antithesis of our happiness as a society, and well-being as a species, so this is the only consumer app I would ever recommend. It supports small makers, and is a great place to find inspiration if you like to create. I go on it often to support fellow artists and craftspeople, and I’m a big believer in checking this app first before going elsewhere for your purchases.
The app that brings languages to all. I love this app, and it’s the only one I’ve ever paid for. I love the plethora of languages offered, and the way that communication is centered in this platform’s philosophy. I get on it daily to practice my Scandinavian languages, Swahili, and brush up on my Italian. It’s helped me to befriend people around the world, and it’s opened up my opportunities globally.
I am a big book lover, and this app is gold. It allows you to make lists of books you’ve read, want to read, or recommend. You can organize them by topic, and create reading guides. You can also access a free library, review books, and research. It’s one of my favorite apps of all time, and I think everyone should download it, even if they aren’t big into reading. This app will inspire you to change that.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Emily Iris Degn