I'm a sucker for "Best of" lists, and a New Year sees my social feeds full of "Best X of 2019". Best Movies, Best TV Shows, Best Gadgets, Best Spatula... no, I'm not joking, and yes, I did read it. Anyway, during one of our meetings, James (the boss) started showing off a new Google Maps feature he had found very useful while travelling. This naturally started a flurry of conversation about our favourite apps. So, with that I decided it was time to compile a list of my own. To be fair, this will not be a Best of 2019 list as the bulk of these apps have been around for some time, but it is certainly a list of some of our favourite apps from the Sentrian Team!
Boring, but useful.
If you must keep track of your work-related expenses, this is a great way to do it. Incredibly simple to setup, and to use. With "one-click" receipt scanning, the smarts built into the app will filter through the pertinent details of the receipt, categorise it, and send it off to your accounts team to arrange reimbursement. You can even have automations setup so that certain purchases (parking under $20 for example) are automatically approved, while others can go to a manager for review. Sure, it doesn't have the buzz of TikTok, but it is a great time saver.
Similar to Expensify but focused on logging your car travel. Brilliantly simple to use, clean and elegant interface, and possibly most important, it's ATO compliant. The app can be set to automatically log all your trips, or you can start and stop recording as you like. Forgot to record a trip? No problem, you can add it after. Simply tell it your start and end points, and it will generate several of the logical routes so you can choose the one you took. If you need to keep a logbook, this is definitely worth a look.
Sadly, a requirement these days!
Password managers are becoming vital in this day and age. If you don't know what one is, perhaps jump over to here before continuing. All up to speed now? Good! So, LastPass isn't only a necessity for your mobile device, it's actually pretty great to use. With phones usually having quick unlock features such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning, using a password manager on your mobile device has never been easier. Stop using the same password across all your accounts, stop using your kid's birth date to access your banking (adding an exclamation mark at the end does not make it secure) ... It's 2020, and it's (past) time to start taking this seriously. I just sounded like my mum.
Craft Beer Hipster?
It appears we can't do anything these days without sharing it for the world to see. "Just smashed out a huge gym sesh... feeling it... #nevermisslegday..." . Heaven forbid you forget to post it?? What was even the point of going??
Well why stop at letting the world know about your smashed avo when you can let them know about the delicious Pumpkin Ale you just spilled down your neck beard?
Seriously though, Untappd is a great way to share the different beers you have tried. Check in, photograph your beer, rate it, and share it with your friends. It's a great way to discover new beers, or to be warned about those to avoid. Unlock achievements by trying new beers, and finally get a little something back from your otherwise expensive drinking habit. Seriously though, drink responsibly.
Travel, travel, travel!
This one is a monster. A blog like this can't really do it justice, so if you aren't already familiar with it, it's worth looking into. Tripit acts a bit like a PA when you're travelling. It becomes a single location where you can see all your travel related documents...flight details, hotel bookings, car rentals. It will give you reminders of where you need to be and when. It will make suggestions of nearby locations that you might want to check out such as restaurants or tourist attractions. Easy access to airport maps, suggested ways to get from A to B, even a Safety Score for the area you're in. Getting a low score? Tripit should be able to find your nearest hospital and police station too!
Who remembers having a TomTom, or a NavMan mounted on their dash? Can you believe we used to pay for "map updates"? Now we see an increase in popularity for Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay where you leverage your phone but utilise your car's screen. With the recent changes to laws around touching your phone while driving, this has never been more important.
So, while Google and Apple Maps are hugely popular, Waze is just something a little different. Sure, it's a GPS that will get you from A to B, and even C on weekends (tip of the hat to The Simpsons), but it has a few things that the other guys don't have. Waze utilises crowd sourced data really effectively. Users of Waze are generally eager to report accidents, or roadworks, and this data updates your maps almost instantly and will suggest alternate routes.
If you were to search for a petrol station on your route, you will get information on surrounding service stations, and even get to see their most recently reported petrol prices. Sometimes it might be 3 days old, so not always ideal, but worth a look.
Certain destinations will also suggest the nearest carpark allowing you to update your destination to there instead.
The interface of Waze is kind of fun and cartoonish which some people find appealing. It's a little like playing Pokemon Go while driving... Don't do that by the way. But do take a look at Waze.
All things Google!
Google need no introduction, so I will move on. These apps however may have snuck under your radar. Be prepared though... some of this may look like witchcraft so grab your flaming torches and gather your angry mob... your mind is about to be blown!
Google Lens is an image recognition tool used to bring up relevant information of whatever you point it at. I just pointed it at my computer mouse, and it presented me with the exact model number almost immediately. I brought up the menu of a favourite local restaurant (Pause in Samford, you're welcome), pointed my phone at it and was able to click on any word I didn't recognise. I was quickly presented with a picture of the item and a brief description of what it is. I didn't get as far as having it help me pronounce said fancy food, but still, I could now safely point at it on the menu and know what to expect.
But, this is too easy I thought... so I brought up a Japanese menu... IN JAPANESE! Before my very eyes I watched as the Japanese characters magically transformed into English! BURN IT I first thought, but instead of doing that, I just got hungry. Mmmm... mentaiko. Next, I pondered the possibilities. Imagine travelling and simply pointing your phone at the street sign you can't read, or the information board at the train station. This is a game changer and I recommend having a play to see what else it can do.
Finally, the feature that started this entire blog... the feature that James mentioned to us after his time in Japan. Live view is a great implementation of increasingly popular augmented reality. Live view overlays directions on your screen as you point it at your surroundings. Live View will recognise where you are based on things like buildings and street signs, and then generate the route accordingly. Another brilliant tool to use when you're exploring an unfamiliar city or running for that police station in your low safety scoring travel spot.
Don your "I heart NY" shirt, pop on your "Route 66" cap, and start looking even more like a tourist by walking around, holding your phone out in front of you like a teen struggling to take the perfect selfie. Be warned though, Live View is a bit of a battery hog so use it sparingly.
So that's it. A bit of a light-hearted look at some of the apps that get a good run in and around our office. If you've got a great app you think we might not know about, please leave a comment below so we can all check it out.