The Top Apps And Games To Get You Started With Your Smartphone This ...
The wrapping paper is strewn across the floor, the shrink-wrap is but a memory, the packaging has been burst open, and your new Christmas smartphone is finally in your hand. Once the SIM card is in, you've logged onto the internet, and tested all the built-in apps, what happens next? It's time to get your smartphone really flying, and head off to the App Store for some applications! But which ones?
There's a huge amount of choice in the various stores, no matter the smartphone platform you've picked up. If you need a little bit of advice, here are some App Store picks for iOS, Windows Phone, and Android, to get you started on your merry way. Even though each platforms has a different focus, the third-party app scene has many common releases over the ecosystems, and there are some titles that are almost 'must-haves'.
Consider these recommendations a starter pack before you set out to explore the stores on your own.
First up, lets check that you've got your social media tools either installed or up to date. While some of the built-in apps on your smartphone integrate with the social networks (and in the case of Windows Phone, integrate especially well), to make the most of your online activity you'll want to grab the official clients for Facebook ( iOS, Android, Windows Phone), Twitter ( iOS, Android, Windows Phone), Instagram ( iOS, Android, Windows Phone), and Tumblr ( iOS, Android, Windows Phone). That should cover the majority of your online interactions on Christmas Day. Other social networks are available, and a quick search in the App Stores for Linked In, 500px, Flickr, WordPress, and Foursquare should round out your online world.
Gaming is a major part of the modern smartphone, and it's here that Windows phone has the daddy of them all. Halo: Spartan Assault is a Windows Phone exclusive that take the sprawling and expansive world of Halo from the first person perspective on the home consoles into an isometric-like top down twin stick shooter for Windows Phone. It's graphically impressive, fast, challenging, and shows Microsoft's mobile platform at its best.
The Infinity Blade trilogy of fighting games from Chair Entertainment show of the gaming prowess of iOS devices to an amazing degree. There's just enough RPG elements to keep things interesting for the player between rounds of combat that mix strategy and skill with luck and sharp reactions. You might as well start with Infinity Blade 3, released in September 2013.
Racing fans might want to check out Electronic Arts Real Racing 3 ( iOS and Android) which has some stunning 3D graphics, pin-sharp controls, and allows you a lot of scope to tweak your car's performance as well as building up a significant fleet of cars. It is a freemium title, and a lot of people have raised their eyebrows at how aggressive it can be in trying to get you to spend money, but as a free download it still provides a decent amount of action before you need to think about reaching for your digital wallet. Windows Phone users will have to make do with Real Racing 2, a paid-for download without any freemium elements and a generation behind, but it's actually a very satisfying standalone racer.
For the more casual games that are suited to snackable play on mobile I'd recommend Betaworks' Dots, Terry Cavanagh's Super Hexagon, and the infinite running sensation of Kiloo's Subway Surfers.
You probably don't want to be thinking too much about your work over the holidays, so let's put aside the fun of MS Exchange integration, intranet access, and VPNs until you can ask the IT department in the New Year for their advice.
There's still some useful utilities that you can look at which help you do work on your smartphone. Dropbox is approaching the point of being such a ubiquitous service that it's the default cloud storage service for many. Dropbox clients are available for iOS and Android (and Samsung will bundle Dropbox with extra storage on a number of their Galaxy devices). While Windows Phone is not officially on that list, Microsoft's own cloud service called SkyDrive is just as capable, and integrates with the camera and personal apps on Windows Phone to back up files, but to interact with the cloud you'll need to download Microsoft's own SklyDrive client ( iOS and Android SkyDrives are also available).
If you're looking for something more connected to capture shorter ideas and moments of inspiration, turn to Evernote. As well as desk-bound utilities, the note-taking and archive service also have clients for the three major mobile platforms available via their website.
Depending on your workflow, BlackBerry's Messenger has recently been made available on iOS and Android, so if you've left BlackBerry behind you don't need to lose touch with your Messenger buddies.
You'll find a huge number of apps to help measures your fitness and give you goals to reach. Once you get past the drive that your New Year resolution to 'get fit' provides you, your smartphone can help you carry on the regime. The team behind the fitness encouragement app ' Zombies, Run!' has come up with ' The Walk ' in conjunction with the NHS in the United Kingdom. Rather than being a full-blown exercise tracker, this is a step-counter with a mix of storytelling and ARG elements that will help you enjoying walking 500 miles (while building up your own fitness levels each day).
As you wander through the app store, you'll find that, inexplicably, one of the busiest and most competitive genres of apps are those for telling the weather. You have many choices, and half the fun of a mobile platform is trying out all the weather apps and deciding which one is for you. I've settled on the BBC Weather application ( iOS and Android) with its mix of geo-location services and bookmarking of favourite locations.
Over to you now, where would you recommend someone starts in the App Store? Which app did you start with on your new smartphone? And which missing titles 'obviously' need to be included? Let me know in the comments.
30 Under 30: Games & Apps