TIME apps

5 Can’t-Miss iPhone Apps You Should Download This Week

Woman using iPhone
Image Source/Getty Images

Check out Workflow, an app that lets you make cool new shortcuts

It seems like hundreds of new iPhone apps pop up every week, but which ones should you bother trying? We explored the App Store and found five apps actually worth downloading.


When you’re new to trading stocks, among the most daunting thoughts is not that you might lose money, but that you might have to pay commission on a trade that ends with you losing a ton of money. Robinhood is your way around this anxiety. Not only does it offer commission-free trading, but it quickly displays historical share prices and allows users to create a stock hit-list by swiping left or right on a given stock. Though you might not earn millions, Robinhood might just help you line your pockets with a little extra cash, if you know what you’re doing.

Robinhood is available free in the App Store.


When the Heartbleed fiasco earlier this year temporarily shut down productivity service IFTTT (which allowed users to make simple if-this-then-that macros on their mobile devices), it paved the way for different, though perhaps just as useful apps like Workflow. Workflow allows users to do simple things like creating an icon that makes calls to select people, to getting directions to the nearest coffee shop. The app essentially allows you to create your own apps based on dozens of interchangeable actions.

Workflow is available for $2.99 in the App Store.


I like to think that the meetings of the five families in The Godfather would have been much smoother with an app like Do. It creates a meeting itinerary, with ideas to bring up, alerts, points of interest, and the ability to send automatic summaries to participants. Did Bruno Tattaglia bring up the division of labor union contracts? Do would have put that in the shared notes. Did you suddenly remember not to trust Don Barzini on the import-export deal? Put that in the private notes. It makes the business of meeting with colleagues (or enemy mob bosses looking to have you killed) seamless, easy, and ruthlessly efficient.

Do is available free in the App Store.


The last thing anyone wants to do is open up a video in a text message. It might be a hilarious clip from one college friend of another falling down a small flight of stairs, but it’s a dangerous thing to open up a clip at the office and not know where it’s going. Gyf allows you to turn these treasured memories into easy-to-share GIF files. That video of your younger sibling accidentally blowing up a pressure cooker? Mom might not have time to watch a video, so send her the GIF version instead.

Gyf is available free in the App Store.

Zen Shopping

With the holidays right around the corner, the decision between saving a few bucks and doing what is easy might end up taking a turn for the more expensive. Zen Shopping is a brilliant little app that not only compares the best prices for the same item, but also finds coupons, as well as deals geared toward your interests. It also offers partial refunds for certain stores should an item drop below the price you paid, which can mean even greater, more unexpected savings. It really is a full service shopping app that ties everything up nicely with package tracking.

Zen Shopping is available free in the App Store.

TIME Smartphones

Here’s How to Fix Your Cracked iPhone Screen

Broken iPhone
Simone Becchetti—Getty Images

Advice from someone who has broken every model

With apologies to Sir Jony Ive, I have managed to break every version of Apple’s iPhone, in one way or another. From getting water in the original iPhone’s dock to dropping and shattering an iPhone 6 within one day of its release, I’ve done it all. Heck, my iPad even took a face-plant on the sidewalk once, resulting in shards of glass everywhere.

But to date*, I’ve paid $0 to get each device repaired. Now that’s pretty much because Apple’s Genius Bar staffers did me a solid, each and every time I got a case of the dropsies (a string of favors that I imagine will end with this story.)

Still, if you’ve got a broken iPhone screen — depending on the model — there is more than one way to get it fixed.

Original iPhone

Seriously? Just upgrade it. If you’re still lugging around a seven-year-old handset, you probably also have a seven-year-old cellular plan. Carriers will give you an iPhone 5C for free, and your plan will still be cheaper. And no, your original iPhone isn’t worth money — unless it’s sealed in the box, comes with another, opened box original iPhone, and a souvenir gift bag—all in mint condition.

iPhone 3G (and 3GS)

See above. But in case you were wondering, my iPhone 3G screen held up just fine — including when I put it in the washing machine.

iPhone 4 (and 4S)

Sadly, see above, again. But the real problem here isn’t that you can’t get these screens replaced, because you actually can. It’s just that these older phones are officially obsolete, unable to load the newest versions of iOS. And, in addition, it’s currently less expensive to buy an iPhone 5S ($99) than it is to fix a broken screen on these older models ($149 each, except for iPhone 4S, which costs $199). These repair prices were quoted by Apple, and tend to be higher than third party repair services or do-it-yourself options. But still, it’s less expensive to simply upgrade to a new handset.

Still, if you like the challenge of doing it yourself, this guide by iFixit can help you field strip your iPhone like it was a wide-mouthed bass. But before you rip into it, grab a display replacement kit, which has all the tools and hardware you need and typically costs less than $20.

Alternatively, if, like me, you broke iPhone 4’s rear glass cover, you can easily swap it out, and get some pretty cool colored or brushed aluminum replacements in the process.

iPhone 5 (and 5S)

Apple’s out-of-warranty cost for replacing these handsets’ screens is $129, which again, begs the “why not upgrade” question. But in this instance, the answer to that might be because your iPhone 5 is still too new to toss — and I’d argue that even if you can upgrade, this phone is still plenty powerful and worth holding onto (at least as a backup).

Replacing the iPhone 5 on your own is also a little more involved than its predecessor, invoking the need for special suction tools, as iFixit demonstrates. For $59, the company provides everything you need to fix your broken iPhone 5 screen, but if you have a busted iPhone 5C or a smashed up iPhone 5S, make sure you get the proper kit — they aren’t all the same. (In fact, the replacements for the colored and Touch ID sensor phones cost $89.)

As the costs of replacement parts soar, it might be worth considering having someone else fix up your iPhone. A local third-party repair shops that I contacted recently quoted just over $100 to replace my shattered iPhone 5 screen. Yup — I’ve broken one of those, too. Well, my wife did, a month after I broke my brand new iPhone 6.

iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus)

Before I go into display replacement options for Apple’s newest iPhones, two pieces of advice. First, buy a case. The brushed aluminum backing on the new iPhones is smooth and particularly slick. With its wider form factor, the phone is more difficult to grip. I recommend Apple’s leather case, it’s the best protector I’ve ever had — and no, I didn’t have one when I dropped my iPhone 6 in the garage, 23 hours after I bought it.

Secondly, buy the AppleCare Plus warranty. In my 15 years as an Apple user, I have never bought one warranty, but if I could take a mulligan on this device, I would. Many people opt out of AppleCare Plus because the cost of replacing the newest iPhone’s display is an all-time-low $109 ($129 for the iPhone 6 Plus). But the $99, two-year plan is a good investment because it allows for two accidental incidents. (Meanwhile, AppleCare’s default plan lasts just six months and only covers manufacturer’s faults.) You’ll want these protections because even the non-plus-sized iPhone 6 is wider than you think, and you will drop it. I repeat, you will drop the iPhone 6.

Also, it’s entirely possible that iPhone 6’s screen replacement services are currently unavailable, because demand for the new phones are so high that replacement displays are hard to come by. This would mean that Apple could only replace your iPhone 6, a repair option that costs $299 for an iPhone 6, or $329 for iPhone 6 Plus. If you had AppleCare Plus, that would cost $0.

Given how new the iPhone 6 is, its replacement parts are still very expensive, and third-party repair shops are having a difficult time matching the Apple Genius Bar pricing. A call to a local shop just generated a $250 quote for an iPhone 6 screen replacement, and the iPhone 6 Plus’s screen costs $370 for them to fix.

And likewise, it’s still early for do-it-yourselfers to make their own repairs. This walk-through explains how to swap out a new screen for a broken one. They also sell replacement display parts, but starting at $166, you won’t save any money fixing your iPhone 6 on your own. Just do as I’ve done every time: bring it back to Apple, be very nice to the lovely people there, flash a smile, tell a funny story about how you destroyed the super-computer in your pocket, and know that it will all work out in the end.

*With my recently broken iPhone 5, this is likely to change soon.


How AT&T and Verizon’s Loss is Your Gain

A customer walks into a Verizon Wireless retail store in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014.
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Get ready for better promotions, lower prices, and more choices.

Change is afoot, and it’s been a long time coming. After T-Mobile T-MOBILE US INC TMUS 2.0841% officially kicked off its Un-Carrier campaign in early 2013, the domestic wireless industry was bound to change. CEO John Legere has spearheaded the company’s Un-Carrier strategy, launching a number of aggressive pricing plans and other offers. T-Mobile has since followed up with a string of other new promotions and initiatives, tempting potential switchers to take the plunge.

Meanwhile, Sprint SPRINT NEXTEL CORP. S 1.9608% has been struggling, and the No. 3 carrier is counting on its new leadership to turn the tide. Now, the two top dogs, AT&T AT&T INC. T 0.0895% and Verizon VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC. VZ -0.0638% , are starting to feel some competitive pressure as they lose their duopolistic grip on the U.S. wireless industry — and just this week, both companies tempered investor expectations for the current quarter.

Verizon sticks to the high-end

Verizon kicked things off with a news release on Monday that indicated demand for 4G smartphones remains “very strong,” and the carrier continues to see momentum in this department. On top of that, Big Red saw 75% of smartphone upgrades qualify as high quality.

Then came the bad news. Verizon is spending heavily on promotional offers, which is helping drive volumes this quarter. These promotional expenses are expected to pressure its wireless segment EBITDA and will put a dent in profitability. At the same time, the No. 1 carrier also acknowledged that retail postpaid disconnects are on the rise due to intense competition and promotions from rivals. Translation: Verizon is spending big on promotions but continues to lose customers.

AT&T is also feeling the burn of churn

Just a day later, AT&T CFO John Stephens spoke at an investing conference, similarly indicating that the company expects postpaid churn to increase in the fourth quarter. Though Ma Bell will close out 2014 with “one of [its] best years ever” in terms of full-year postpaid churn, this could be the beginning of a troubling trend.

Stephens explained this is the first year that the new Apple iPhones were launched simultaneously on all four carriers, and because AT&T has the largest install base of iPhone users, it similarly faces higher competition targeting iPhone users. However, this is actually incorrect, as the iPhone 5s launched on all four carriers in 2013.

The CFO also dodged a question about whether or not 2015 will see full-year postpaid churn levels rise compared to 2014 — competition is only going to continue escalating.

Can you hear me now?

None of this is to suggest that AT&T or Verizon are seeing a mass exodus of subscribers that will cripple their respective businesses — far from it. Rather, small cracks are starting to appear in the armor of the top two players. Both companies continue to have the largest subscriber bases in the U.S. and have been relatively resilient to pricing pressures, in part because of public perceptions around rivals’ networks.

Carrier Total Retail Subscribers (MRQ)
Verizon 106.2 million
AT&T 86.3 million
Sprint 45.9 million
T-Mobile 42.0 million

Source: SEC filings. MRQ = most recent quarter. Figures do not include wholesale connections or connected devices.

That’s especially true for T-Mobile, which has long suffered from these negative connotations. But T-Mobile has made impressive progress modernizing its 4G LTE network during the past 12 to 18 months. I personally switched from AT&T to T-Mobile recently and saw my cellular data speeds soar by five times in my area (Denver).

T-Mobile is absolutely catching up in terms of network quality and, over time, it will dispel the perception that its network is inferior — the primary goal of its current Test Drive offer. Once that is achieved, price will be the determining factor, and T-Mobile has shown its willingness to go straight for the jugular when it comes to pricing.

Sprint’s fortunes are a little less clear. The carrier stagnated under Dan Hesse and paid dearly for technological missteps including its original choice of WiMAX over LTE. Meanwhile, the company’s heavy debt load — even after the SoftBank capital infusion — limits its ability to invest heavily in network infrastructure upgrades that are extremely capital intensive.

To be fair, Verizon also has a massive debt load after buying out Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Wireless, but the company’s network is already quite mature, so its capital needs are less intense.

You’re the real winner of competition

Competition is only going to pick up in the coming years. T-Mobile has made it quite clear that it has no intention of letting up anytime soon, and it will continue to push against its larger rivals. The Un-Carrier even believes it can overtake Sprint in total customers by year’s end.

The net result of all of this is that you, the consumer, will benefit in the form of better promotions, lower prices, and more choices.


MONEY cell phones

Americans Spend More on Mobile Service Than the Rest of the World

Person using iPhone at night
Yiu Yu Hoi—Getty Images

We're not only spending more, unlike most countries', our wireless bills aren't going down.

Americans are spending more for wireless services than users in 17 other countries, according to a new report from a UK regulator.

The 2014 International Market Communications Report, published by the UK’s Office of Communications (known as Ofcom), measured the average monthly revenue per mobile connection in 18 different countries across six continents. The report shows that last year, the average mobile customer in the United States paid roughly $47 (£30, in the chart below) per connection, more than cell users in any other nation surveyed.

Only Japanese customers paid close to that amount in 2013, while users in most countries had monthly bills of less than $31 for their service. Mobile users in China, Brazil, Russia, Nigeria, Poland, and India paid less than $16 per month.

Screenshot 2014-12-15 10.30.17

Why are Americans paying so much more for wireless service? One reason is that we tend to use more data than people in other nations. According to data from Cisco, U.S. mobile customers used an average of 1.3 gigabytes of data per month in 2013. In comparison, Europeans used 700 megabytes of data per month—roughly half the American average—and mobile customers in the Middle East and Africa used just 185 megabytes.

But while increased data usage might explain the higher prices overall, it’s less clear why America is one of the few countries where the cost of wireless service isn’t declining. Despite global growth in data use, the United States is one of just five countries Ofcom analyzed (the others are the Netherlands, Sweden, Brazil, Russia, and the U.S.) where revenue per connection isn’t declining. Between 2008 and 2013, the average American customer saw wireless bills rise almost 1% per connection. Countries like France, Spain, and Italy saw cost reductions between 7.5% and 10% during that same time period.

TIME apps

These iPhone Apps on Sale This Weekend Are Crazy Good Deals

iPhone Apps
A man uses his iPhone on July 16, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. Atsushi Tomura—Getty Images

Get your life in order with Checkmark 2

Looking to download a few great iPhone apps while saving some money this weekend? Check out these five, all on sale or free for the new few days.


Combining strategy, physics, design, and man’s indefatigable ambition to soar among the stars, SimpleRockets puts you in the shoes of a rocket engineer. In the game, players design rockets by choosing engines and other parts, and then seeing if the vessel can sustain flight in a variety of extraterrestrial environments.

SimpleRockets is temporarily free in the App Store.


Perhaps more people would appreciate the romance of stargazing if they had any clue what they were looking at. In cities, it’s even harder to tell one small blip from another. Starglobe displays a realtime mural of the night sky on your phone so you can know which stars are above you at any given moment. Simply by pointing your phone to the sky, Starglobe will tell you (even in daylight or in the obscured sky of a city at night) which starts are in front of you.

Starglobe is temporarily free in the App Store.


There’s a reason why Scanbot is one of the highest-rated document scanners available for iOS: it not only allows you to scan documents of multiple pages and upload them to the cloud, but it also optimizes your documents so you can zoom in on them, and recognizes text so you can copy or search your PDF scans. It’s technology every computer or PDF reader should have. Until then, you can use Scanbot.

Scanbot is temporarily free in the App Store.

Checkmark 2

It’s been proven time and again that writing out a list of tasks in your iPhone Notes app in no way acts as a reminder to do anything or assures that any of your tasks will ever get completed. Checkmark 2 allows you to compartmentalize different tasks depending on where you are—tasks for work are kept under a different header than your grocery store list. It’s a simple way to avoid getting overwhelmed, and an even easier way to make sure things get done when and where they’re supposed to. The app comes with location and date specific reminders.

Checkmark 2 is on sale for $2.99 in the App Store.

Frontline: The Longest Day

Frontline is a mobile-friendly strategy game and a history lesson in a single app. The game allows users to command allied troops in different missions from Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy that included D-Day. Storm the beaches without the Saving Private Ryan gore and overpower enemy forces by using different specialized attack units.

Frontline: The Longest Day is on sale for $2.99 in the App Store.

TIME Smartphones

9 Steps to Make Your Smartphone Totally Hacker-Proof

Getty Images

Don't use public Wi-Fi networks that aren't password protected, for instance

If you use an iPhone, your days of lording its security features over Android users are numbered.

When it comes to the seemingly endless head-to-head showdowns between the two operating systems used by 94% of Americans, Android’s major selling point is also its Achilles heel. Its customizability means Android users can download apps from anywhere, increasing the risk of infection via malware that can skim sensitive info, send spam messages, or freeze the phone until the owner coughs up a ransom.

Spyware is still far more prevalent for Android devices than iPhones due to Apple’s tight vetting of apps before they make it onto the App Store. Android’s greater market share has a lot to do with it, too, as cyber-criminals can attack more Android phones with a single infusion of malicious code.

But a recently discovered piece of malware called WireLurker attacked iOS devices through a compromised computer, indicating that not only are malware creators increasingly focusing on mobile, but that Apple may soon represent as good a piece of game as Android.

What about Windows Phone and BlackBerry, which make up just 5.9% of US smartphone users combined? “These haven’t attracted the same kind of attention from malware authors that Android has,” says Jeremy Linden, Senior Security Product Manager at Lookout security firm.

However, as our smartphones become our go-to devices for everything from shopping to business, it’s likely that the tiny computer in your hand – no matter which operating system it runs – will increasingly become a target for cybercriminals.

Here are nine things you can do to ensure the security of your device now:

1. Log out after banking and shopping

Using online banking on your smartphone browser should be as safe as using it with a desktop browser, assuming the bank implements the appropriate security measures, says Linden.

Just make sure you log out when you’re done. Signing out from your account prevents cyber-offenders from viewing your personal financial data if your smartphone is hacked. The same goes for shopping sites, where your credit card info may be visible to anyone snooping on the transaction.

Or use your bank’s official app. “Banking apps are set up to be encrypted and protect your information even if the network you’re using has been compromised,” Linden says. Ensure you’ve downloaded the real app and not a malicious copy. Earlier this year, Lookout found a clone of the app for Israel-based Mizrahi Bank, designed to steal customers’ login credentials.

2. Only use public Wi-Fi hotspots that require passwords

Use public Wi-Fi only on secure networks requiring a password to access, ideally only from providers you trust such as the coffee shop you’re at, a city’s official Wi-Fi or a telecommunications operator. Unsecured networks allow hackers to view all web traffic over the network, including passwords and even the contents of unencrypted email (that is, most people’s email).

If you’re planning to connect to public Wi-Fi a lot — for example, while traveling abroad — use an encryption app such as Freedome (Android or iOS) that can secure your connection to any Wi-Fi network so that your data is unreadable. The app also blocks tracking while you’re surfing the web.

3. Set a password on your lock screen

The humble password can prevent an even more insidious crime: allowing someone you know to install spyware onto your device.

Last year, Lookout found that 0.24% of the Android phones it scanned in the United States included spyware designed to target a specific person. That’s tens of thousands of people whose calls, messages and photos were being monitored by someone close enough to access their phones.

No matter what type of smartphone you use, a good password is also your first line of defense against the most basic security issue: losing your phone. As long as you don’t pick an easily guessed combo like 1111, a password can hold off a would-be thief long enough for you to locate and remote-erase your device via the Android Device Manager, Find My iPhone or Windows Phone sites. (BlackBerry users need to have previously downloaded the BlackBerry Protect app, unless the device uses the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.)

4. Check permissions requested by new apps

According to Lookout, adware is the most common security risk with apps. While ads help app makers turn revenue, some contain adware that may collect personal details or usage habits without your consent, send messages with links to buy fake products or force your device to send premium-rate SMS text messages.

Before downloading an app, read through what permissions it requests from you. If a Flappy Bird clone wants access to your contacts and call history, for example, it’s probably best to cancel that download.

If you suspect you’ve already downloaded adware (based on symptoms such as a deluge of pop-up ads or in-app messages asking you to click on a link), uninstall the app that is delivering the aggressive advertising.

5. Get a security app

If you don’t know which app is the culprit or if you simply want to check your phone’s bill of health, a free security app such as Lookout (Android or iOS) or Avast Free Mobile Security (Android or iOS) can scan the apps on your phone for malware including adware, spyware and viruses. If malware is detected, the security app will remove it.

These apps can also locate your device if you lose it, sound an alarm or message it in case someone has found it, back up your contacts online and remote-erase everything if all hope of getting your phone back is lost.

Check out our comparison of free and paid security apps for more information.

6. Review your download habits

“Non-jailbroken iOS devices are less likely to download malware,” says Linden. (The same goes for Windows and BlackBerry phones.) But if you’ve performed tech surgery to rid your iPhone of its limitations or if you use an Android phone, Linden recommends avoiding downloads from third-party app stores, where malware is much more prevalent. Install a security app that can alert you to suspected malware.

Even if apps are on the official app market, only download from trusted developers, and check the reviews for complaints.

7. Disable app downloads from unknown sources (Android only)

Lookout recently identified a piece of malware called NotCompatible.C that allows your phone to be used without your permission. For example, ticket scalpers could use the malware to route bulk ticket purchases through a group of infected phones, thus hiding their identity and location.

NotCompatible is downloaded secretly onto Android phones from sites harboring it; links to such sites have been found in phishing emails. To avoid similar sneaky malware downloads, disable app downloads from unknown sources, found in the Settings/Security menu.

In general, it’s best to avoid clicking on links in emails from unknown senders or, according to Lookout, clicking on shortened URLs like bit.ly, since you can’t see the domain it leads to.

8. Don’t grant apps administrator access (Android only)

Back in July, an intimidating type of Android malware made the rounds. The so-called FBI ransomware froze infected phones, popping up a message that the FBI had locked the phone because the owner had violated federal law by visiting illegal sites including child pornography websites. To access the phone (and its data), victims were asked to pay several hundred dollars.

Ransomware may also request administrator rights at installation, giving the wayward app the ability to lock the phone, read notifications and remote-wipe your data. Once given, you may never be able to retract the access, as in the case of the trojan Obad.a, which hid itself and set to work scraping users’ info, spamming contacts and downloading more malware.

“When ransomware is downloaded to a phone from a malicious website, it takes the form of an APK (Android application package), often disguised as an anti-virus app,” Linden says. “Or it may in some way trick you into launching the app. To avoid this, do not grant applications administrator access unless the app is reputable.”

If you must travel off the beaten path for apps, only download non-app store apps from trusted third parties.

9. Install OS and app updates

Finally, the obvious but biggest way to protect your smartphone security: Download software updates for your phone and its apps whenever they’re available. Updates are designed to patch bugs and vulnerabilities.

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

Researchers Develop a Smartphone Screen that Corrects for Vision Problems
Amazon Now Lets You “Make an Offer”
1.2M Smartphones Stolen in 2013, Thefts Down in 2014
Colleges Using Big Data to Track At-Risk Students


5 Awesome Things You Didn’t Realize You Could Do With iPhone’s Touch ID

Apple iPhone Touch ID
An employee holds an Apple Inc. iPhone with the "check out" section of a demonstration bank payment web page using the Zapp money transfer and payment system in this arranged photograph at the company's offices in London, U.K., on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Like most of Apple’s new technologies and modern conveniences, Touch ID is something you didn’t know you needed until you got it. As a fingerprint-authorized security sensor embedded in your iPhone 5S-or-newer handset (and on the newest iPads), this innovation lets you securely unlock your phone with a simple touch and make wallet-less purchases using the company’s Apple Pay service.

But that’s only where this technology begins. Here are five more ways you can use Touch ID to lock down your digital life:

Authenticate Your Apps

As great as Touch ID is, it will only keep people from monkeying with your Apple device. If someone knows the password to your web-based accounts like Facebook or Gmail, they can just log in on other hardware. Two-factor authentication, the process of using more than just a password to log into a service, doubles up your security, and apps like Authy can give you that added layer by providing you with a “token,” or a code that changes every 20 seconds.

This technology isn’t new, but Authy (which is free) allows users to lock app with Touch ID, giving it three levels of authentication — one of which being your fingerprint — making your accounts as secure as can be.

Unlock Your Computer

Once you start using Touch ID to secure your iPhone or iPad, you’ll start wondering why you still have to peck a password into your computer. Well, you can get around that with FingerKey, a $1.99 iOS app (with a complementary Mac program) that uses the fingerprint sensor embedded in your mobile device’s home button to autofill your computer’s passkey.

By pairing the phone to your computer via Bluetooth, the software duo forms a secure connection, waking the computer and entering your password. Right now, the solution is only available for Apple computers, but Linux and Windows versions are already in the works.

Secure Your Phone Records

Using Google Voice is a great way to trim back on your cellular service, but you can also take your number with you, roaming-free, when you travel worldwide. There are many ways to access the service on an iPhone, but one way to keep the app under wraps is by using GV Connect. This $2.99 app not only bundles together all of Google Voice’s great features, like voicemail transcription and text messaging, but it also lets users lock down the app using Touch ID, ensuring that all your records, texts, and voicemails stay private.

Protect Your Personal Journal

Remember when you were a kid, and your little sister Cindy read your diary? Oh wait, you’re not Marsha Brady. But then again, who writes diaries anymore? Instead, they log extensive journals on great apps like DayOne, a 2014 Apple Design Award winner that allows users to capture all the details of their lives using smartphone tools, from what song was playing when you first met her, to what the weather was like on the day he was born.

And with Touch ID security, now those details are locked away as safely — or moreso, perhaps — as if they were in your mind. So rest assured, your deepest thoughts and biggest secrets can indeed be committed to text while being completely shielded from prying eyes.

Sign Sensitive Documents

In 2005, Iraqi voters produced images of what they call the “electoral stain,” an ink-covered finger of people who just made their mark. If you can vote with a fingerprint, imagine if you could sign a contract with one too. SignEasy lets iPhone and iPad users do this through its handy app, linking the secure fingerprint sensor with e-signatures to authorize documents via mobile devices.

More secure than just scrawling your name on the touchpad, this free app makes the process more secure than before, when a four-digit pin code was required to make your mark. Get that — a pin code. How quaint! You might as well just use a pen.

TIME apps

7 iPhone Apps to Get You In the Holiday Spirit

iPhone Holidays
iPhone Holidays Chris Cross—Getty Images/Caiaimage

May your touchscreens be merry and bright

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas—trees on every app. So when you’re sifting through the App Store, how do you pick out the sugarplums from the coal?

It’s tough to say, but these seven-apps-a-swiping are pretty much guaranteed to get you and your iPhone in the holiday spirit.

Christmas Stories: Hans Christian Andersen’s Tin Solder HD

In the age of the iPhone, it seems all the old fashioned holiday amusements have been remade electronically — from Advent calendars to jigsaw puzzles. But this game developed by Big Fish Studios, which specializes in colorful, graphic-rich, and kid-friendly apps, doesn’t just rehash the old hidden object picture book, it turns it into an adventure, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale.

Free to play, but with in-app purchases, the title is full of snowy scenes to explore. (And tapping is a great way to keep kids from unwrapping.) Or, for hidden object games that stick more closely to the original tales, the company also offers downloads based on A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.

Christmas Stories: Hans Christian Andersen’s Tin Solder HD is available for free on the App Store.

Fireplace HD+

Okay, purists, I know nothing beats a Yule log, but while you’re sitting there denigrating this digital fire app, ask yourself where your chestnuts are. That’s right — traditions are what you make of them, and if you want the ambiance of a glowing fireplace without glowing embers smoldering on your carpet, this app is where it’s at.

Whether its on your iPhone, iPad, or streamed via Airplay to your Apple TV (a trick I’d recommend), this five-scene fire-scape is easy on the eyes and makes some great ambiance. And as a bonus, it’s not particularly holiday-oriented, so it’s good year round. The video is complete with crackling sounds, but if you’d like to put some music to it, there are piano medleys and radio station searches available. And if you’re enjoying some spiked egg nog along with the fire, the app has a sleep timer so you you don’t have to worry about it burning through the night. The only problem I can see with this app is figuring out how Santa will come down your digital chimney.

Fireplace HD+ is available for $.99 on the App Store.

NORAD Tracks Santa

Children, when your parents were little boys and girls, they used to stay up late on Christmas Eve to watch the news, so the weatherman could tell them where Santa had been spotted in his annual trek across the globe. But then they grinched out and cut their cable, so now they have to track Jolly Old Saint Nick on their smartphones.

The official sleigh-monitoring app, NORAD Tracks Santa puts those meteorologists’ tools in the palm of your hand. But before all the sightings begin, the app has a few gifts leading up to the big day. Before Christmas eve, the app displays a countdown and has all sorts of historic information about how the government (NORAD, not the NSA) has been tracking the airborne sleigh for decades. It even has a cute little game called “Thin Ice” to make the time until Christmas move even faster.

NORAD Tracks Santa is available for free on the App Store.

PopOut! The Night Before Christmas

Since we’re on the topic of old-timey tech like televisions, before there were iPads, we had paper-clad tablets called “books.” And on the night before Christmas, I’ll bet you can guess what we read. (Answer: The Night Before Christmas.)

This Parents’ Choice award-winning pop-up book app takes little and big readers alike on an interactive, yet authentic retelling of the classic holiday tale. Using all the familiar paper mechanics like pull-tabs and spin wheels (and they don’t ever rip!), this app has feel of a genuine pop-up book, but nearly every graphical element is loaded with a surprise, so kids who grew up using touch computers will stay stimulated and engaged. Meanwhile a great score of piano-based holiday music helps turn it into a soothing holiday experience. On Donder and Blitzen!

PopOut! The Night Before Christmas is available for $3.99 on the App Store.

Sing! Karaoke by Smule

“The best way to spread christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear,” Buddy the Elf famously said, and we certainly agree. This popular karaoke app is typically great for bellowing out the hottest current hits, but its Holiday music tab has a little bit of everything, from the season’s staples like “Auld Lang Syne” (admit it, you have no idea what the words are) to Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

The app is free, and unfortunately designed around users paying for access to songs — Charlie Brown was right, Christmas is a commercial racket! — but you can sing most tracks for without paying if you join in a duet with someone who’s already sung the track online. And when you think about it that way, helping to spread good tidings and cheer over the web, there actually is quite a bit of holiday spirit in this app after all.

Sing! Karaoke by Smule is available for free on the App Store.

Gift It

Forgive the little ones for thinking that Christmas is about presents — but they’re sort of right. It’s the season of giving, and this well thought out app is definitely on Santa’s smartphone, helping him to plan out how to get every good little boy and girl what they want. A pass-code lockable list where gifts can be listed by recipient and budgets can be mastered and adhered to, this tool is a convenient way to make sure the stockings get stuffed and everyone gets the perfect present — without spoilers.

Gift It is available for free on the App Store.

Ideas for Elves

Oh the Elf on the Shelf — the little imp that kids love to hate. It seems that parents are starting to make frenemies with this imaginary babysitter too, as they’re running out of ever-more creative ways to stage his hijinks (as well as the energy to keep the antics up). But with this official app, parents can team up and share ideas on how they’ve kept this creepy — or rather, quaint — tradition going strong.

Each idea comes with a list of materials and instructions needed for the Christmassy caper. And even better, the app’s nightly alert reminds parents stretched thin by the holidays to give their little helper a new perch for the next day.

Ideas for Elves is available for free on the App Store.


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TIME Video Games

The 5 Best iPhone Games You Should Play This Week

Apple iPhone
An Apple iPhone 6 Plus gold, is shown here at a Verizon store on September 18, 2014 in Orem, Utah. George Frey—Getty Images

Try Noda, a super-addictive puzzle game

Had enough Candy Crush and looking for something new to play on your iPhone? We rounded up some favorites worth a download this week. Have fun!

Game of Thrones

Although perhaps not the gore- and sex-filled video game one might expect of a Game of Thrones iPhone app, this game series is fascinating nonetheless. Take the helm of a posh Westeros family in the throes of war and decide the fate of your clan. Interact with characters from the show as you try to sort our family business. No, it isn’t season 5, but it might just be involved enough to tide you over until next spring.

Game of Thrones is available for $4.99 in the App Store.

Bean Dreams

A game with a title this banal shouldn’t be so much fun to play. Bean Dreams combines the simple ambitions of video games of yesteryear like Super Mario with the graphic component of an iOS game. Bounce your sombrero-wearing bean through almost 50 levels—an excellent way to keep you busy on a long plane ride. As you pounce on enemies to destroy them, it’s easy to realize this game would have quickly become a darling of the Game Boy era.

Bean Dreams is available for $2.99 in the App Store.


Few games can be as as infuriating and as absorbing as Noda. The rules take about a full hour to understand, but it is perhaps one of the finest puzzle games released for iOS. The goal is to swipe numbered dots to form matching numbers. Your attempt to clear a stage in the fewest moves possible will be completely undercut by the game’s challenging rules, one of which is that two dots cannot be combined if their sum is greater than nine. But for all the hours this timesuck has stolen, it’s sleek enough to make you forget how long you’ve spent playing it. Worth a download for every puzzle aficionado.

Noda is available free in the App Store.

Clarence’s Amazing Day Out

Fans of Cartoon Network’s game packages will enjoy Clarence’s adventure through a series of minigames. Follow Clarence, of the new, eponymous CN game, as he goes about his day, running into all sorts of nonsense adventures, like piñata smashing or watermelon bowling. In the end, it feels a lot more like a cartoon than an iPhone game, and in an excellent way it pulls you out of the 9-5 world and into one of uninhibited childhood inanity.

Clarence’s Amazing Day Out is available free in the App Store.

Ancient Legacy

Back in a time when RPG games were more about strategy than fire-bearing swords and armor dyes, games like Ancient Legacy taught us to prioritize strategy and economy over slashing maneuvers. Ancient Legacy really is a game from a simpler time, or one in which sophisticated games didn’t exist. Develop different players, each with their own abilities. Explore weapon classes, win battles by rolling dice, and beat bosses with good old fashioned nerdy number crunching — and praying the dice will roll in your favor.

Ancient Legacy is available for $1.99 in the App Store.

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