We are all very familiar with smartphone TV ads by now, especially by TV ad campaigns from tech giants like Apple and Samsung and their flagship products: the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy respectively. The ads are very good at highlighting the benefits of owning one of their expensive offerings, making a compelling case why their products can improve your lives, but not for the sake of intellectual, spiritual or even health benefits, but rather to make our lives more colourful and “fun.” If there is one thing people who are critics on those of us who own a high-end smartphones, arguably with some good reason, is that they view the usage of smartphones as something trivial. Perhaps, those exposures to trivial posts on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or Twitter in the interest of gossip, sharing sexually explicit content and other meaningless conversations. Perhaps the fault relies on the ability for the Internet to allow the world to express themselves with perhaps less than appealing trends, some are expressed very well by Internet memes or through some YouTube video channels. What some of those smartphone critics dismiss is that, like anything in life, there is a flip side to this too. Smartphones can be used towards a positive goal, actually very well so. This is why I have decided to list just 7 ways I have found a smartphone can improve our lives. As I am a iOS user, I will be limiting my app choices to this OS.

1. Make your morning the start of a great day: 

A lot of us use our smartphones to replace our watches. In fact, this new reality is being picked up by tech giants as they are competing to create a smart watch which will serve as an extension of our phones. Many us use the clock app on our smartphones and set it to wake us in the mornings. Since we get exposed to the same reality, that is of needing to use an alarm, and list to the same tune, it only makes sense we see a way to make the best of it. The Smart Alarm app for iOS is more than alarm, it is a sleep control center. The app not only wakes you up, but also monitors your sleep patterns and records your sleep cycles and phases proving you detailed statistics. Since the app monitors your sleeping patterns, it will then use the data collected to wake up at the most appropriate time during you sleep phase. Combined with a selection of free downloadable libraries of relaxing tunes like nature sounds the alarm will make your awakening time a more pleasant experience. The long term of use of these alarm, I can attest, does have an overall impact on your entire day, an extended use signifies days where you are more energized and better mood. This is indeed a smart alarm.

2. Make working out a simple, yet easy, part of your life:

I have tried this not too long ago and I can tell that if you do this just one day, you will be able to see how doing a couple of minutes of workout everyday can improve your state of being immediately. It is not about having a healthier physique, it is also about improving your mood, your mental state. There are several studies which prove that a couple of minutes of daily exercise is beneficial for a number of reasons, perhaps one of the most noticeable ones is mental health, because it is very easy to see if you try it. Like the Smart Alarm app, I will recommend the Fit in 7 min app by Sportcom the makers of the Smart Alarm app. The app has 4 difference routines, so you do need to repeat the same 7 minute routine every day, these include: BASE (which is basic), LIGHT (speaks for itself), PLUS (a harder routine) and NEW (an extra routine).

3. Get around the city easier through public transit:

If you live in a big city like Toronto or New York, you sometimes depend on public transit, then it only make sense you find yourself a good transit app. Thankfully, in Toronto, we have a few to choose from, but from all the ones I have tested RocketMan Transit app is perhaps the best. If you are not in Toronto, you would want to find an app that offers you up-to-date information about bus (or in the case of Toronto) streetcar arrivals, geo location bus stops with live information on arrivals. One thing, I find very useful is that the RocketMan Transit app will also show you the location of the bus in real-time on the map. So, you not only need to rely on the approximate time the bus will arrive, but also you can see whether it is being held up by traffic somewhere. You can also see the bus routes on the map, this is useful because often there are several bus with the same number but different letter. Another useful feature is that you can select different timers for a specific bus, so you can be reminded before you leave your location.

4. Get a better good idea on where to spend time on trips:

Wherever you want to go in and around the world, the TripAdvisor app has you covered. The TripAdvisor app, which connects to the long time database of reviews and tips on places to visit, is perhaps one of the best reasons why the Internet so great. Due to a collective review and scoring points of interests, restaurants, hotels etc received from people like you and I, you get a pretty descent idea of what to expect. Not only this, but because there is a rating system, the points of attraction are presented accordingly, so you can be sure to do or visit the things that are most likely the best in the area you are in. This proves most useful, when you decide on last minute trips, where you have little to no time to plan an itinerary. The app also lets you favourite places and also lets you pin point each location as it directly will send the address to the Google Maps app and guide you to it via GPS.

 5. Explore the amazing world of Twitter with ease:

I am not saying use a Twitter app, or just use Twitter, because I am making the assumption you at least have an unquenched curiosity to see what Twitter is all about. I will not write about Twitter, but rather tell you that whether or not you are a user the Tweetbot app is by far the best Twitter app outside the default Twitter app. The main reason why Tweetbot is the best is because it has the easiest GUI, to allow you to navigate through mentions, save hashtags, searches, users, tweets and lists. The Tweetbot app is certainly the one to introduce you to the world of Twitter, furthermost the app synchronizes nicely with the Twitter allowing you manage your Twitter profile to change your bio, profile photo and even your cover photo. The Tweetbot app is so easy to use it adds to the already appeal of using Twitter. Perhaps the best part about the app is that it the GUI makes it easy to manage multiple Twitter accounts.

 6. Never get lost again:

The battle for map apps is over. The Apple Maps app lost the battle to the Google Maps app. Google Maps is by far the better app, simply because it is the most reliable app and the one with the best GUI and also the best voice. If you haven’t notice the voice for Apple Maps, it is rather robotic, as it is actually the voice of Siri. The Google Maps app has a more realistic voice. To top it all of, transit directions in Google Maps is actually embedded in the app, whereas Apple Maps app needs a third party app for it. Finally, the Google Maps app has the best GPS system, it can even guide you through bicycle friendly paths, if you use it while on a bike, though a warning on this mode to use with caution.

 7. Become a more learned individual:

Although there are those who enjoy reading ebooks in their phone, for some who uses iPhones, it is rather hard to read ebooks in the small screen. Listening to either audiobooks or podcasts is a rather more engaging and more appropriate thing to do, if you are someone who want to use every time you have idling as you are in the subway, riding you bike or driving your car. Why not use those moments to learn and educate yourself in an infinity of topics. A lot of best selling books are available in audiobooks, but also there audiobook series like The Great Courses, which offer hundreds and hundreds of courses. There is a lot to learn from podcasts took, in which ever discipline you interested to, there are many podcast to satisfy whatever you interest. Podcast are mostly free, however there will be a cost to audiobooks. Right now, one of the most economical ways to have audiobook is through Audible. Audible is an Amazon.com company, therefore the benefit is you get an assortment of audiobooks which could be found on Amazon.com, that means there is quite an offering. For as a low as $14.95 you get up to 1 audiobook credit per month.  What should do next is to download the Audible app, which will synchronize with your account and have your audiobooks you purchased ready to listen to. Nice thing Audible uses a feature called whispersync, which allows you to listen an audiobook version of book you might be reading in ebook format and pick up where you left off in whatever format. Say you felt like reading the ebook version on an ereader, you can then continue in the audiobook format. For this to work, however, you need to have purchases both audiobook and ebook formats of the same book through Amazon.com using the same Amazon account in both scenerios.

Of course, I have only covered the tip of the iceberg here, it really all comes down to what you choose to do with whichever tool there is. Therefore, if your impetus is to improve yourself, or at least partly, then it will be only natural you will start to find ways for the tool to facilitate this endeavour. Smartphones are no exemption. Therefore this is not to say it becomes tempting to use your smartphones for leisure of things that are really not driving you to anything good, such as gaming. If you have a drive to improve your life, whether it will for health or to become more knowledgable, a smartphone can be a great tool for you.

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