At CAF we work closely with clients to shape their requirements in the mobile app space. We draw on our teams’ extensive experience of the app market and best practice examples often help us in our shaping discussions. However, we are primarily focused on what best fits our clients' needs to create excellent experiences for their users and we tailor our market research accordingly.
But what excites the app experts themselves? I was curious to know what my colleagues considered to be some of the best apps on the market. Apps that made their daily lives a little bit easier, richer, or simply solved a problem or beautifully plugged a gap in the market.
What would impress people whose job it is to critique apps?
Here are just a few of them:
Damian Stafford, Head of Software Engineering and Solutions Architect
Here are some essential apps that make a positive difference to my life. Travel, money and culture are the key themes of my mobile app usage.
The British Airways app is excellent. It smoothes my way through the airport and on to the ‘plane. Trainline EU (formerly Capitaine Train) is the equivalent of the BA app for European trains. On foot, I can't remember how I used to find my way around before Google Maps.
I use the First Direct app. The app itself is nothing to write home about, but it's the one my bank provides and doing my banking via a mobile app is the most convenient way to do it by a million miles. The latest version of the app is at least an improvement on the previous one.
Samsung Gear. This app connects my mobile to my Samsung Gear watch, and ensures that I receive irrelevant and intrusive prompts on my wrist such as "It's time to get moving" as I am sitting down on a 'plane or train journey. This makes me smile, and reminds me that software is never finished, that there are always improvements to be made.
I used to use the Amazon Kindle app a lot, but have over the last 12 months or so drifted back to reading books made out of paper. Gutenberg's invention really was a "killer app".
The most important app on my mobile is Google Play Music. To be able to summon and play virtually every recording ever made is something that my sons have grown up taking for granted. But, lest we forget, it is an amazing and wonderful thing to be able to do.
Bartek Nowojski, UX/UI Designer
Here are a few of the apps I really like. They’re mostly productivity tools, but there are some other great apps I use for fun:
Scanner Pro – An app for scanning documents. It is perfect for keeping all your documents in one place and the automatic Dropbox upload is a big plus
Inbox – The best Gmail client for iOS, it saves a lot of time (gestures) and keeps your inbox tidy;
Google sheets – A great standalone sheets app from Google;
Firefox - In my opinion best browser for iOS. It has really good interactions;
Asana – I love this app for keeping track of all my tasks (like Jira but much better);
Wikipedia – It’s beautiful and has a couple of cool features like ‘places’ - Wikipedia entries plotted on the map, as well as the explore feature;
Dojo – This app helps you keep up with what’s happening in London, and has really good recommendations;
VSCO – As a designer I love this filter app. The filters are beautiful and it has strong photo editing capabilities.
Downcast – In my opinion the best free podcast app, it has interesting UX and amazing features e.g. smart speed which shortens silences
Astrid Goussé, Product Owner
I love MSW (Magicseaweed) mobile app.
It provides surf forecasts for thousands of beaches across the globe. The forecast includes the surf size, swell height, period and direction, air temperature and many more other metrics that for my level of surfing don’t really matter, except the MSW star rating that tells me if it is going to be easy to catch waves or not.
Living in London, I don’t need the forecast every day. However, I visit the app frequently to access its media content. The picture of the day, the impressive videos and the very diverse surf related articles disconnects me from the busy London lifestyle.
The app itself is quite busy, not always intuitive but the free version has a limited number of ads and the content is amazing. Give it a go!
Rebecca Willis, Head of Operations & PMO
I’m currently completely hooked on Duolingo. In my youth I was a bit of a language collector and frequent travel and study abroad allowed me to practice my skills. Many years in London have resulted in my language synapses getting rusty. Enter Duolingo – whose take up spreads by word of mouth from its legions of fans.
Gone are the dull CDs and videos of the past endlessly working through ordering food, booking hotels and inexplicable conversations about ‘la plume de ma tante’. Here is an app that uses phenomenal AI to constantly adapt and learn your skill level.
It assesses your level to begin with, then works you through a series of snappy exercises and lesson plans which increases in difficulty and complexity. From basic vocabulary such as food and clothing to business language and philosophy and complex grammatical structures. Here a few reasons why I love it:
- The UX and UI is great – Engaging and completely intuitive it is a mixture of games, voice, typing, often using repetition but saving it from being boring. Each screen is different such as making you jump from translating a phrase into English or typing what you hear.
- It’s quick and easy - you can do a lesson in 5 mins or less. Absolutely perfect for commuting. I race to do as many lessons as I can in three languages on a 40 minute train journey – at the very least this is better brain training than Sudoku or crosswords.
- It’s funny: bizarre ‘That hamster is crazy’; macabre ‘Did you hear a scream’ it has existential crises ‘not being able to change myself, I change my clothes’. It is also amusingly culturally specific ‘She is drinking from a horn’ (German), beginner’s Spanish obsession with garlic, peppers and tomatoes, and let’s not even touch on the tragedy and melodrama of advanced Italian. It could put EastEnders scriptwriters to shame.
- It has many languages to choose from on both Desktop and App and a whole heap of goodies to support around the core lessons.
Now all I have to do is wait for High Valyrian to make it to the app version…