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App addiction

January 2018

Rather against my normal instincts, I have found myself using my phone more and more for daily tasks; it’s very seductive.  My name is Matthew and I am becoming addicted to using my phone - but not for making phone calls.

It’s only smartphones that have this siren quality, the ones with screens, so if you have an older one you are safe.  However, if you do have a smartphone, becoming hooked is very easy.

My downward spiral started when I began using my phone to pay for small things in shops.  You load the appropriate Application (‘App’) onto your phone and then link it to your payment cards.

You then use your phone like a contactless card.   At the till, you wake up your phone and wave it at the payment terminal; some electronic magic takes place and the money is transferred.  Once you get the idea it is faster than using a card or paying by cash, and your phone retains a nice list of the payments you have made.

At present most retailers apply a £30 limit, but I expect that to change. Tesco has already developed their own App which allows payments up to £250. 

So that’s how it all started, for me; then I added RingGo which allows me to pay for car parking before I get out of the car, and a weather App which gives me weather forecasts for anywhere in the world.  I also have Apps that allow me to check my bank account, find the latest cricket scores worldwide, buy railway tickets and see why the train is delayed.  I even have an App that converts my phone into a baby alarm for when our grandson comes to stay.

I have a podcast player so that I can listen to good stuff while walking the dog or driving the car.  I have the App for the accounting system I use on which I can record purchases and pictures of receipts, and an App from my stockbroker which allows me to see my assets dwindling in front of my eyes.  I even have an App that lets me see how the electricity the country is using at the time is being generated.  I have Apps for my email and diary; I have a maps App, an App for recording my mileage and an App for listening to music.

I even, for December only, have an Advent Calendar App.

In September this year there were almost 3.5 million Apps available to download for the Android system and about 2.5 million on Apple’s list (many Apps appear on both lists, of course).

Why do people bother to produce Apps?  Most App creators are hoping to make money; whilst many Apps are free, there is often the option to pay a small amount (usually only a pound or two) for a better version, or to remove the advertising.  The most profitable ones charge a subscription, or receive commission for purchases made using the App.

There is certainly money to be made; in 2016 over 16% of Android App developers generated over $5,000 per month in revenue.

In my view, however, we may be close to peak App; most are unused or no good, and need culling.  I’m sure that only the highly practical and useful will survive (banking, accessing information, music, travel) as well as perhaps short-life Apps for specific events (Proms, Art exhibitions).  I am also sure that there will be growth in ‘aggregator’ Apps, which gather publicly available data from multiple sources and present them in a clear and coherent way.

The evolution of the App has a long way to go.  I just hope that my Advent Calendar survives.

My favourite Apps

These are the top few Apps I find myself using now; It turns out I lead a rather prosaic and predictable life.

Remember I do not use an iPhone, but one that uses the Android system (like 85% of the world).  Mine is made by Google, but all Samsung phones use the same system – and any App I recommend almost certainly exists in a form designed to work on iPhones as well.

To add an App to your phone, you simply find the “Play Store” symbol on your phone and search for the title of the App. Many are free, some cost a little.  One word of warning: many Apps, especially free ones, come with the ability to make what they call “In App Purchases”; be careful not to be sucked in to spending money you would rather keep.

Topical Apps

Big Ben Chimes Again – Mobi Ben

99p, but will turn your phone into a pocket Big Ben whilst the real thing is silent.  It is made from recordings of the real thing.

Advent Calendar

Hard to recommend one, as I can’t look behind the windows!  However, if you search the Google Play Store for “Advent Calendar” you’ll be presented with many options, most ghastly and riven with elves and the like.  However, most are free, so download a few and ditch the duds.   I am pinning my hopes on “Musical Advent Calendar 2” by Naxos

My regular Apps:

BBC Radio Player

This allows me to download almost all recent BBC radio programmes and podcasts and listen to them when I want, or, if I have a strong enough signal, listen to them without downloading.  I set it to keep an eye out for new episodes and podcasts on subjects I enjoy.

Pocket Casts

A bit like the BBC player, but can collect any podcast from any broadcaster, public and private, not just BBC stuff.  I listen to the Oldie podcast on this, as well as podcasts from other respectable publishers, and some less respectable ones.

Android Pay

Once set up, this replaces contactless credit cards; and you get a nice list of the amounts you have spent.  Also, Tesco Pay+ which allows me to spend up to £250 in Tesco each time, and credits the Clubcard points for you.

BBC Weather

Does what is says on the tin, highly localised


You almost certainly have this one built-in – a clock, stopwatch, timer and alarm all in one.

UK Energy Watch

Find out where the electricity we are using nationally is being generated – wind, coal, nuclear, imported or what?


Music; either listen to it as a live steam, or download a playlist.  I am gradually adding all my old LPs to my account, and I listen to it in the car, as well as the kitchen.  Alongside this is Shazam – which listens to music on the radio and tells you what it is.  Magical.

RingGo and Dash

Two apps that allow me to pay for car parking without getting out of the car, in most car parks.


A crucial part of maintaining links with the family – acts as a message service and noticeboard.  Then young people actually read it, too – the never seem to look at their emails.


The App issued by the accounting package I use – it makes recording expenses and income much easier and faster.

Your own bank’s App

Your clearing bank will have an App which allows you to manhandle your account, check what’s happening and make payments.