Everything you need to know about apps

The birth of the internet and rise of social media has completely transformed the way we live our lives. Smartphones have officially taken over – can you even imagine life without one? However, as much as we love them, there’s no denying that ‘apps’ are the driving force behind their success. But what exactly is an app, and how did they come about?

What is an app?

Short for ‘application’, apps are a computer program or software designed to be downloaded and run on a mobile device. Apps started out as mostly games – Cut the Rope was the greatest thing to happen to 2010 – however they are now primarily designed to make life easier, or at least more entertaining. Need to talk to someone? There’s an app for that. Need some food? There’s an app for that, too. Want to Photoshop your eyes blue? App for that. With an app for just about everything, and more being created every day, apps have steadily become engrained in our lives, meaning looking into the best ones can make your days more productive, organised or fun, depending on which ones you download.

Before the iPhone, the closest thing to an ‘app’ throughout the 80s and 90s was the nostalgic Snake game everyone played on their Nokia 6110. Then, in June 2007, Apple completely changed the game with the release of the first ever iPhone. The phone came pre-loaded with a range of apps such as Maps, Photos, Weather and Calendar, just to name a few. However, it wasn’t until just over a year later in 2008 when Apple opened its online doors to the ‘App Store’, allowing third party apps to enter the market, and that’s when things really began to kick off. Apple debuted 552 downloadable apps (135 being free), and within a week there were over 10 million apps downloaded from the App Store. It didn’t take too long for other brands to follow suit, such as the introduction of ‘Google Play’ for the Android user.

For those of you who are yet to take the plunge into apps, or those of you who rely on someone else to download and operate your apps, or even those of you who are genuinely just a lil’ lost, this is for you.

  • Decide on an app store: To begin, you will need to access the correct app store. Where you get your apps from depends on what brand of device you are using. All three have different stores: Apple Store for iOS, Google Play for Android, and Microsoft Store for Windows users.
  • Create an account: Once you’re in the app store (which is a pre-downloaded app you can find on your phone – told you apps are handy) you will need to sign up for an account. This is done so that your account is connected with the device you are using, making it personalised to what you use your phone for. They also may ask you to enter in credit card details, which you can do if you wish – some apps cost money, but there’s also a lot of free apps out there.
  • Search for an app: Congrats, you’re in. Now you’re free to explore the app store for something you may want to download. Here you’ll also see reviews from other users, as well as how many times it’s been downloaded. It’s worth keeping an eye out for these, as they may be the difference between downloading the app you want or a cheap knock-off.
  • Install it: Once you’ve decided what you want to install, simply click ‘Install’. If you’re on the Apple Store they will ask you to click the home button to activate Touch ID. If you are on Microsoft or Google Play, just follow the prompts (it usually involves entering your account password) to verify that it’s actually you, and to make sure you actually want to download and install the app.
  • Launch: Wait until your app has finished downloading to your device, then launch and use!

    What are the best apps to download?

    It’s all about personal preference and what you think will be the most useful to your life (or what you think just looks the most fun!). If you’re stuck, there are ‘top charts’ available in the app stores which, just like music charts, display the most popular and most downloaded apps at the moment. There is a chart for ‘top paid’ and ‘top free’ as well as other small categories such as ‘Entertainment’, ‘Productivity’ and ‘Kids’ – there is literally something for everything!

How you can view all your downloaded and pre-installed apps will depend on what type of phone you have got, and the operating system it’s using. Generally though, on the home screen, you’ll see something called ‘Apps’ where, once you select it, will show you all the apps currently on your phone or tablet. Similarly, you can also go to ‘settings’, and find your apps from there, as well as more information about each app, such as how much storage space it’s taking up, which can be handy if your phone is slowly filling up. You can also create folders on your home screen, allowing you to organise your apps and create easy shortcuts to access them.

What are pre-installed apps and why do I have them?

When you get a new phone, you’ll often find it comes equipped with a bunch of pre-installed apps, such as messaging, weather and calendar apps, but why is this? These were initially created to help smartphone users easily integrate with the new technology (who doesn’t love checking the weather app instead of looking outside?), although phone brands were criticized by users when the pre-installed apps were unable to be deleted. However, Apple have since allowed users to delete pre-installed apps off their phones, but only on models running iOS 10 or above.

While apps are (generally) designed to make things easier for us, constant alerts and notifications can be annoying, especially if you don’t use the app itself that much. For the iPhone, to turn off notifications, simply launch the ‘settings’ app on your phone and scroll down to ‘notifications’, where you’ll be directed to a list of every app you have on your phone (both pre-installed and personally installed).

From here, click on the app you want to alter, and you will be directed to a page where you can choose to switch off ‘allow notifications’ – which will turn off notifications for that app completely. You can also choose to limit the notifications and the form in which you receive them on the same page, such as whether you prefer a sound, buzz or light to notify you. If you still want to receive notifications in day-to-day life but want to limit the notifications you receive at a certain time, you can simply slide up on the home screen and active ‘do not disturb’ (the moon button) which will still send you notifications but without the buzz or flash popping up.

For Android, the process is similar – the notification section of your setting app will direct you to a list of apps, where you can customise your notifications. The ‘do not disturb’ is also accessible from the pull-down menu.

Deleting or uninstalling an app on your mobile device can be done a few ones. You can either take the long road by going into ‘settings’, clicking on which app you want to get rid of and scroll down to the ‘uninstall’ option, where the app and all of its information will be deleted off your device. Or you can go the quick and easy route, where you can simply press and hold on the app you want to delete, where it will begin to shake or move, giving you the option to uninstall right there and then. For Apple users, a small ‘x’ will appear on the top left of the app, while for Android users a small bubble will pop up, giving you the option to uninstall.

How do I manually update an app?

Both Apple and Android operating systems automatically update apps (generally when you’re sleeping, or during times when you’re not using your phone much), but you can always do it yourself if you need the latest update ASAP.

For Apple users, launch the App Store and go to the menu at the bottom of the screen. Click ‘Updates’ – this will show you all the recent updates made to your apps, as well as the pending updates which are queued to be downloaded. Here, you can choose to click ‘update’ next to the app you want to update manually, and it will begin downloading, so long as you have an internet connection. Similarly, if you’re an Android user, you will need to open Google Play Store, click ‘Menu’ and then ‘My apps & games’. Much like in Apple, apps that need updating will be labeled ‘update’ and once you click this they will begin manually updating. If you’re looking to manually update a few apps in one sitting, it may be best to connect to wifi rather than use your own data, as you may get a shock on your next bill if you’re not careful!

With the phone, tablet and laptop markets all becoming a bit murky, with each new release looking more like a hybrid of all three than a standalone phone or tablet, can you use apps on more than just your phone? Technically yes, you can use apps on your computer, although there’s a bit of work involved, and it will depend again on what phone you have, the operating system, and what computer you’re looking to put your apps on. If you’re keen on getting apps on your computer, be prepared to set aside a bit of time as well, as there will be a bit of research needed to make sure you’re transferring your apps safely (and legally) between devices.


Photo Credit: progressman/, natmac stock/,  NicoElNino/


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