Appinions – Utility

Appinions banner

A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Polly Davis and Kexin Li

Polly DavisKexin Li

September 2022 – Utility

There is a palpable buzz around campus. Each year we welcome new students. But this will be the first cohort of freshers to arrive unrestricted since 2019.

For many this will be the first time living away from home, staying in shared accommodation and manging their own finances. Sadly, no-one has invented an app which can end an energy crisis or divert a recession (to my knowledge), but these utility apps could make your University journey a little easier.

Monzo

Monzo app icon

Monzo is my main form of payment in university, and I’ll tell you why. Each week, from my student bank account, I load a set amount onto my Monzo debit account to cover bills, grocery shopping, and socialising and this is facilitated by Monzo’s pots. These pots are where you can separate your money into different functions and withdraw money from them when needed, to help you save and budget if you’re like me and cannot stop tapping your card wherever you go. Even further, after each payment, you get to select what that spend was on to summarise in a weekly report- this visualisation of trends helps me organise my spending massively. Another feature which I am grateful for is the Coin Jar; provided by Paragon, this pot rounds up your payments to the nearest pound, and the money is saved into a pot. When money starts to get tight by the end of the week, you will find that these round-ups have amounted to a fair bit of extra money that can help you by.

When it comes to eating and drinking out with your friends, it can always get a bit awkward and tense splitting the bills and then chasing people for money. With Monzo’s ‘Split the bill’ feature, you can enter the total amount of the bill, add friends to the feature and set the amounts each will pay or split equally, and Monzo will let you know when it has all been covered- hassle free! Monzo currently have a joining offer with a free £5 spend when you make your first card payment in the first 30 days.

You may have heard of other bank accounts that have similar features. Starling Bank, rated at the same service level as Monzo, also provides visual saving spaces, categorised spending and ‘split the bill’ features. Nevertheless, Starling also provides you with a budget planner to help give an overview of your own finances. Once you have provided information of any income and transaction history, Starling Bank will calculate your average outgoings and what they are divided into. You can set your own saving and spending goals, and they will direct you to money management support if they detect that you are overspending.

During a cost-of-living crisis this year, this type of financial guidance can make you feel more in control as a student.

Reviewer: Polly Davis

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Acasa

Acasa app icon

Acasa is an app designed for shared households to set up, manage, and split the household bills in a streamlined way. This app can easily help students to keep track of all the expenses in your house such as utilities, internet, home maintenance, food and groceries, and record who should pay the bills and who has paid the bills. It is an effective helper for students to rent a house together, and it can eliminate the complicated process of paying various bills and effectively avoid misunderstanding and disputes related to paying bills. Acasa helps students automatically calculate their share of each bill, and they can pay off all their bill obligations only once a month. This app has a dashboard interface that clearly shows the income and expenditure between each other, making the complex and troublesome problem of paying common bills simple and clear.

Pros

  • Automatically help everyone in the house calculate their accounts payable
  • Avoid the embarrassment of debt collection
  • Other payments can be included in addition to household bills
  • This app is free for users

 Cons

  • Some users commented that this app is unorganised and hard to navigate
  • Customer service is appalling and inefficient
  • Costs may occur for additional services
  • The dashboard design may confuse the people who are splitting the bills, and incorrect calculations may occur

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Please be aware that hidden costs have been discovered in some bill-splitting apps.

As one door closes, another opens. On behalf of the Digital Education Office, I want to thank the outgoing Student Digital Champions: Leah Parker, Georgie Pitts, Kexin Li, Polly Davis, Olivia Muggleton and Amy Preston for writing wonderfully engaging Appinion reviews. If you are interested in applying to be a Student Digital Champion, subscribe to this blog so you always see the latest recruitment news.

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

There will be more Appinions in 2023

Appinions – Gaming

Appinions banner

A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Georgie Pitts, Kexin Li and Leah Parker: Student Digital Champions.

Georgie PittsKexin LiLeah Parker

August 2022- Gaming

The age-old battle for control of the gaming industry has been waged between console and PC. Improvements in mobile technology, 5G networks and AV/VR integration could see mobile gaming closing the gap.

Unlike their rivals, mobile game developers often adopt a freemium business model, where games are available for free (or very little cost) and users are encouraged to make in-game purchases known as microtransactions.

Powernode

Powernode icon

Powernode is a puzzle game which requires you to “combine numbers to create energy sources and feed the network”. Essentially, power stations are numbered, and when numbered nodes pop up, you need to sustain them using these power stations. For example, you can use two “3” power stations to sustain a “6” node.

However, if you connect a power station to multiple nodes, it becomes less efficient, so you need to consider how you’re organising your board!

When you open the app, there are two game play options: Zen or Rush. I believe Zen is a slower version, whilst Rush is more fast-paced (although this isn’t explained).

Pros

  • It’s a very aesthetically pleasing game
  • It is challenging, which can be a good thing if you enjoy a challenge
  • Requires you to multitask and plan ahead
  • There is a global leader board, and as its a relatively new game, there are only 2000 people on it, so you could work your way up quite quickly

Cons

  • I couldn’t locate the “How to Play” section. Whilst there was a brief introduction, this was not enough to fully teach the game rules, so it was hard to get the hang of it!
  • It is challenging, which can also be frustrating if you’re looking for an easy game
  • Whilst there are two different modes of game play, there are no levels, so the only way to track progress is using your score

The aesthetic of the game is great. It claims to be very “zen”, and I would agree.

It is not an easy game to get the hang of and was actually quite frustrating at first! However, once you get the hang of the game, it is fun and challenging.

It is definitely a game you could spend hours playing, and I do get better every time I play it. At first I was unsure, but now I would definitely recommend if you like to be challenged, and enjoy focusing on different things at once.

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

Google play icon. Link to appapp store link

Brawl Stars

Brawl stars app icon

Brawl Stars is a mobile e-sports game from Supercell. The game is a multiplayer shooter where players battle each other in multiple competitive modes with different goals, from being the last brawler to collecting the most diamonds. Brawl Stars will display many different events as the player’s experience value increases such as Bounty, Gem Grab, Heist, and showdown, Brawl Ball, and Boss Fight. Brawl Stars’ gameplay takes the basic logic of MOBA games and cuts it down to the bare minimum — there’s no equipment, no pre-development time, and mostly you’re just waiting for wave after wave of group battles. The match time of about three minutes is also in line with the characteristics of mobile games. It makes full use of people’s fragmented time. Even if you lose the match, the frustration will become very small because of the short match time.

Pros

  • You can team up with friends for game battles
  • No advertisement
  • The game takes very little time, allowing players to start a game anytime, anywhere
  • Compared to other competitive games, the game is low in difficulty and very friendly to newcomers
  • The game design and the characters are very cute

Cons

  • Communication between teammates is difficult and can only be communicated through emojis
  • You need to pay for gems to buy boxes, skins and other things from the shop
  • Some players reported bugs in the game

I personally like this game very much, it makes me feel very relaxed and fun. It doesn’t require me to have any game skills, and I can adapt to the game very quickly. I often play this game in groups with my friends, and we discuss strategy or chat together during the game, which makes the game more interesting. My favorite event is the Showdown, its logic is the same as PUBG, which is to get the final victory by shooting the enemy, but this game is very easy to play, and I don’t need to spend a long time to finish a game. Besides, the game’s characters(Brawlers) are very cute that I’m tempted to spend more time in the game to collect them.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Luminosity

luminosity app logoBrain training app aimed to improve your cognitive skills including memory, attention, reasoning, flexibility, processing speed and problem-solving, using a variety of exercises. Lumosity claims it takes research from labs and has converted this into over 50 fun minigame-type exercises, using your performance score form to provide you with feedback on how your mind works.

Lumosity sets you a daily brain workout, consisting of multiple tasks that aim to improve your performance in one the training modules mentioned. If completed daily, this feature will allow you to track your progress on these exercises over time, providing you with information about your game strengths and weaknesses. Analysis of your game play is used to help understand your cognitive patterns and set up braining training habits, and subsequently used to curate a programme personally tailored to the individual.

Pros

  • Basic version is free on iOS and Android
  • Easy to navigate around the app
  • Unique and fun minigames

Cons

  • The free version only allows for three minigames in three training modules each day, meaning you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version to get extra features.
  • Insights, including game progress report and game strength profile, remain locked on the free version.
  • Subscription only, cannot buy game outright.

Overall, I liked the features of Lumosity and found it quite fun to do the daily fitness workout games and see how I was improving over time. However, with the free version you are fairly limited in what you can do on the app. A lot of the cool features I was excited about, including progress reports and all the games, can only be accessed on the premium version of the app. As such I did the premium free trial, and I would definitely say the premium features make the experience a lot better and more exciting, so the quality of brain training may depend on your subscription. All in all, the free version is still fun and challenging as modules and games are alternated each day, so it is an app I am definitely going to continue using.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Bad North: Jotunn Edition

Bad north app iconBad North is a strategy game in which you and your troops defend islands, travelling along the map and avoiding defeat.

You open the app and begin a campaign (you’re able to have 5 at once on different accounts), choosing your commanders and deciding on an “easy”, “normal” or “hard” option. Then, the game begins and you’re deployed to an island. The enemy approaches on boats, and if you defeat them, you get coins.

Your troops are replenished when the next level begins if they died on the previous island, but if your commanders (and all your troops) die, then it’s game over for that campaign, and you must restart it again from the beginning. However, you can recruit new troops if you win a battle on an island they already live on.

If your troops are low health, you can replenish them in a house on the island, but be careful if there are enemies approaching as you’ll need to fight them.

You can even upgrade your troops with different classes, skills, items and traits. For example, equipping them with bows and arrows and developing that skill until they’re veterans.

Pros

  • Option to restart the level midway through or flee if the battle seems lost
  • It is very simple to understand the rules
  • You can unlock different achievements which is great way to track progress and keeps you engaged
  • Easy, medium and hard options for the campaign
  • Good variety within the map in terms of islands you defend
  • Can have 5 campaigns going on at once

Cons

  • It is a bit frustrating that once your commanders die, it is game over and the campaign is lost
  • I didn’t realise that the shadow gradually covering the map was Vikings taking over the islands, and accidentally allowed them to take over mine, meaning it was game over
  • It is £3.49

I really enjoyed this game. It is different to the puzzle games I normally play, and requires different skills. However, it was really simple to understand the basics, although some elements required trial and error to get right.

I really enjoy the look and feel of the game; it has a minimalist feel which is effective and feels modern. It appears to be a rather simple strategy game that looks easy, but does require you to plan ahead and can be challenging. Like any good game though, you get better every time you play. The little troops are fun and easy to move around, and it’s easy to gather coins to upgrade them as the game goes on.

You’ll need to be good at planning and strategizing, thinking ahead and multitasking!

After beginning on the “normal” mode, I’d probably recommend starting on “easy”, unless you’re accustomed to games like this!

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Stumble Guys

Stumble Guys app icon Stumble Guys is a knockout game where players can use different methods on different maps to pass levels. This game consists of 32 players competing against each other on random maps, either individually or in teams until a champion is determined. During this process, players need to pay attention to the traps in the level. If you accidentally drop a trap of the level, you will probably be left behind by other players. Each time has three levels and only one player can win the final game. This game is very similar to the current popular game Fall Guys, no matter the game name or the game design, but this is the version of the mobile game, so players can play the game anytime, anywhere. This game is very interesting and challenging, and players need to try repeatedly to get a certain level of winning skills.

Pros

  • Players can get skins, gems, and tokens by watching advertisements
  • This game is very simple and suitable for all game players
  • You can team up with friends to play this game and compete together for the championship
  • Each game is short and doesn’t take a lot of time.
  • This game takes up a relatively small amount of phone memory, only 512MB

Cons

  • The maps will not be updated regularly, so players may get tired of playing a map quickly, resulting in low game stickiness.
  • Players are often paired with robots in order to quickly fill rooms or levels
  • The lack of changes and new features in this game compared to the Fall Guys has raised questions about plagiarism.

This game was very challenging for me, I played for half a month and only got the final victory once. I need to play a map many times before I get used to the tricks. This game is friendly to Apple users. Fall Guys is a platform battle royal game, available on Steam and can only be downloaded by Windows users. Stumble Guys can be downloaded by both Android and Apple users, so this game satisfies my curiosity about Fall Guys to some extent. However, I’m not very satisfied that you need to watch ads to get extra skins. Players have four chances to watch advertisements for lottery draws every day, but these advertisements take a long time, which worsens my overall impression of the game. In addition, this game will not unlock new maps (like they do in Brawl Stars). I always play the same scene over and over again, which makes me less eager to keep playing.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

Elevate

elevate app iconElevate is a brain training program designed to help you speak more articulately and concisely, improve your writing abilities, increase your reading speed, process written information more quickly, improve your focus while reading and listening, perform day-to-day math equations, and more.

Elevate’s games are supported by research and designed in collaboration with experts. Each day, you are provided with a personalized training program that adjusts over time to maximise your brain training results. Upon completion, you are able to measure your performance on these exercises and compare them across the skill groups.

Pros

  • Basic version is free on iOS and Android
  • Enjoyable and fun minigames
  • Weekly performance reports and content reviews available on free version

Cons

  • Need to upgrade to Elevate membership to access all features
  • Game play instructions quite vague

Similarly to Lumosity, I really enjoyed my daily workout, as I was able to play a variety of different minigames which were both fun and mentally stimulating. The app was easy to navigate and being able to my own detailed performance report which tracked my progress did motivate me to keep playing each day. The app was very easy to navigate but occasionally game instructions, and games themselves, were a bit vague. Again, like Lumosity, with the free version I was limited to what I could achieve on the app. Despite this however, I will definitely keep using the app as I did find the games challenging and motivating. I would recommend it to anyone looking for subtle ways to improve their reading and writing skills.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google Play linkapp store link

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

Next month: Utility

Appinions – Security

Appinions banner

A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Leah Parker, Georgie Pitts: Student Digital Champions.

Leah Parker Picture of Georgie

July 2022: Security

Cyber security could be viewed as being an overly complicated topic, and understanding where to start can be daunting. Yet all you really need to know to protect your device, is there are three essential types of app every student should be using: A password manager, Find my phone and Multi-factor authentication (MFA). Our Student Digital Champions are on hand to help you choose which app is right for you.

Insecure passwords can expose your personal details to fraud. Even your University of Bristol password needs to be secure. Authenticator apps provide an additional factor for security above passwords, so even if your secure password gets compromised this will provide a safety net. Staff already use MFA and this will be turned on for all students at the start of the upcoming academic year.

Microsoft Authenticator

Microsoft authenticator app icon

Microsoft Authenticator provides an easy, secure sign-ins for all your online accounts using multi-factor authentication, password-less, or password autofill. You also have additional account management options for your Microsoft personal, work or school accounts.

The multi factor authentication (MFA) feature provides a second layer of security. When enabled, during login after entering your password, you’ll be asked for an additional way to prove it’s really you. Either approve the push notification sent to the Microsoft Authenticator app, or enter the one-time password (OTP) generated by the app. The OTP codes are time-based, so are only valid for 30 seconds. The timer aspect means the same one-time password is never used twice. You can also add multiple accounts to your app, including non-Microsoft accounts like Facebook, Amazon, Google etc.

Microsoft Authenticator supports cert-based. This means the app will let your work or school organization know that the sign-in request is coming from a trusted device and help you to securely access additional Microsoft apps and services without needing to log into each time.

Pros

  • Straightforward, quick and easy set-up process.
  • Scan add both Microsoft and non-Microsoft accounts.
  • Allows cloud back-up, unlike Google Authenticator, which is useful if you lose access to your device and still need access to your accounts.
  • Recognises trusted devices and browsers, minimising the amount of log-in attempts requiring MFA.

Cons

  • No way to organise codes into folders or tags.

This is my personal favourite MFA app. I believe it provides multitudes of features that allow users to authenticate in many different ways and allows for more than just two steps in verifying your identity—providing for an even more secure experience. This is extremely important to me as with my school and work accounts I am looking for that extra security. I think as an iPhone user I like the ability as well to lock the app with touch ID, face ID or my passcode, for an extra layer of security. I also like how the app recognises when you’re accessing your account from a new or trusted device and, as such, adjusting the amount of MFA required. Overall, I think it’s a great app, easy to use and I’ve never had any problems with it and would definitely recommend it to those wanting extra security on their school, work and personal accounts.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

Google play iconapp store link

Norton Password Manager 

App icon for Norton password managerThis is a password manager app, designed to store your passwords in a secure location. You can sign in with Apple or Google, or create a new account (I chose to create a new account using my University of Bristol email). The main area of the app is called the “Vault”, which is where your passwords are stored, and you can even choose to store credit cards or bank account details here too.

Saving a new password is simple. You click “Logins”, and the “+” sign in the bottom right corner. You can name the website, paste the URL and add the password. You can also add a note to accompany it and choose whether to sign in automatically next time you need to log into that account. It autofills the email as the same one you use for the Norton app, but you can change this if different websites use different email addresses.

Some other functions include:

  • Password Generator to provide you with more secure passwords
  • Secure Browser to protect you against online threats
  • Auto-fill, which automatically types passwords for you
  • Ability to save different addresses (home address, work etc), if a website requires you to enter an address

Pros

  • Many other password manager apps I looked at required a monthly subscription, but this one is free
  • Can search passwords by keywords, making it easy to locate the ones you need
  • Has a “notes” section, so you can add any notes you might need in regard to passwords
  • Offers a Tutorial Guide
  • Able to ‘favourite’ certain passwords that you need quickly and often

Cons

  • Logging back in after closing the app was difficult. There are two separate logins: one for the app, and the other for the password Vault specifically.
    • I was able to log into the app fine, but I hadn’t set up a PIN or password for the Vault yet, so couldn’t enter one to log back into it.
    • After deleting the app and redownloading, after logging in on the app, I was able to activate Face ID to access the Vault.

I would probably use this password manager. I like that it was free, especially in comparison to other ones which require a monthly subscription. This is significant, I think, because Google and phones themselves already save passwords for you, so paying for an app to do the same thing (although in a more secure fashion) is not particularly necessary.

I like the layout; it is very simple and easy to navigate, and you can search your saved passwords using keywords or favourite specific ones which would be helpful if you had a lot saved.

The only issue I ran into was logging back into the Vault after creating my account and closing down the app. Having checked the reviews, it seems this has happened to others! Deleting it and activating Face ID seems to have done the trick!

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

app store link

Google Authenticator

App icon for google authenticatorGoogle Authenticator generated 2-Step Verification codes on your phone for your Google Account to provide an additional layer of security when signing in. With 2-Step Verification, signing into your account will require both your password and a verification code you can generate with this app. Once configured, you can get verification codes without network or cellular connection. Features of Google Authenticator, to name a few, include: automatic setup via a QR code, use across multiple accounts, time-based and counter-based code generation and transfer of accounts between devices through a generated QR code.

Pros

  •  This app does not back up to the cloud, which from a security perspective is actually what you would want from a multi-step authenticator app.
  •  Relatively simple and straightforward to set up and use.
  •  Useful if you have multiple google accounts which required another layer of security.
  •  New feature means you have ability to transfer 2FA codes when upgrading to a new phone

Cons

  •  No cloud back up means losing access unexpectedly to the phone you set the authenticator app up on means you lose access to the 2-factor authenticator codes. This could possibly lock you out of your accounts if you are unable to log back into the original phone.

Personally I quite like the Google Authenticator app, it’s a simple app to use and it fulfils its intended purpose. I have set up Google Authenticator to multiple Google accounts and never had an issues with it. I find it is an app I can truly trust. That being said, I could see how this app may cause problems if I was to lose access to my phone. No question that cloud backup is extremely convenient but there is often a trade-off between convenience and security and this is a great example of that. This app is for those who choose a bit of extra security (codes only stored on the device) over the convenience of having their codes stored both on the device and in the cloud. I would say it just depends on the person whether you prefer to use an app with no cloud back up and extra security, or cloud back up and less security such as Microsoft Authenticator.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

app store link

Find My iPhone

App icon for Find My app

This app allows you to track your Apple devices and notes the last time at which they were used/active. It uses Apple Maps to display your device location and is compatible with: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple watch, Mac, AirPods and AirTag. It includes Lost Mode, a noise alert for nearby devices and you only need your Apple ID to log in!

This is a very useful app! My favourite feature is how detailed the map is. Rather than it being vague, you can see the exact time and location the device was last used. Another favourite feature is the Lost Mode. By locking your device, no one can access your personal information, giving you an added level of security if you were to misplace your phone. Whilst this app does allow you to track your friends and family, it is not created for that purpose, and is more targeted to keeping track of your devices.

The fact it is compatible with other apple devices is really useful, particularly AirPods! We’ve all lost our headphones, so to be able to locate them easily is very useful!

Pros

  • Free! It comes with the phone
  • Has a setting which allows your devices to make a noise to alert you to where they are
  • You can put your devices in Lost Mode, which tracks its location; protects your data and even presents a message for whoever may find your device
  • You can even track your friends’ devices and vice versa, which can be turned off if you wish

Cons

  • Only available on Apple devices so Android users cannot download this app
  • If you lose your phone, you need a secondary device to locate it (a MacBook, for example), so if you don’t have one of these, then you cannot access the app remotely

I definitely recommend this app. It comes with the iPhone, and whilst I would be tempted to delete it to save storage space, I actually recommend keeping it around and tagging all of your Apple devices in case you need it in the future!

Reviewer: Georgie Pitts

Download links:

app store link Google play icon

*App Store link above opens iCloud to sign-in with your Apple ID, because the app is inbuilt. The Google Play link opens an Android equivalent called Google Find My Device. There are other available Android apps which share this functionality.

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

Next month: Gaming

Appinions – Travel

Appinions banner

A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Polly Davis, Leah Parker, and Kexin Li: Student Digital Champions.

Polly Davis  Leah Parker  Kexin Li

June 2022: Travel

The travel industry has taken a battering over the last few years. Staffing cuts in aviation have led to recent flight cancellations, whilst providing proof of negative covid tests have once again been dashing plans at the last minute. However we intend to spend our well deserved time off, somebody has inevitably found a way to enhance the experience using a mobile app. But are they any good?

Step: Your world

app icon Step is a new travel app based on a public, interactive map where everyone can pin their favourite places of culture, drink, health, shopping, stay, and food. With Step, you create your own profile with your own specific tags of places where you are from and where you mostly visit- this does not limit where you can pin, the map covers the world! By simply searching a place you have visited, you can create a recommendation by pinning this on the map. Scrolling around, you will be able to see so many recommendations around you which really helps to get a feel for the culture and life of the community of the place you are in. Even more so, following your favourite Culture Creators and accounts allows you to see their own personal recommendations. This has been extremely helpful whenever I have been in London visiting friends and we are lost as to where to go- each pin is attached with pictures, the website of the business, opening hours, address, and phone number, with additional comments from users. I have found so many places around me that I would not have taken a second look at if I was using Google or even my own eyes.

 

Pros

  • Interactive map with the ability to comment
  • Create your own profile
  • Follow other creators
  • Can add photos
  • Can build up a following

Cons

  • Relatively new app so pins are fairly limited to popular places
  • Cannot specify what type of establishment you are looking for, such as filtering by the nationality of the food
  • Pins are not reviewed by any critics, therefore recommendations are subjective
  • Not available to download via Google Play

Reviewer: Polly Davis

Download link:

app store link

My Travel Tracker

app icon

I love travelling, and I have always been tempted to make a travel blog- but I have also always been quite intimidated by that large and scary environment. My Travel Tracker is a way to document your travels into categorised trips that are displayed on your own personal map. Each trip can be pinned with photographs and geolocations and descriptions to give an in-depth feel to your itinerary. These trips can be viewed by others as it is also a social networking app where you can take inspiration from other travellers and interact by commenting, liking posts, and sharing. Like Instagram, there is a community page where you can view recent travel posts from other creators and view their own Bucket Lists. Even more, there is a section where you can post short films of different places around the world- this is especially helpful if you are stuck on what place to travel next to, get a grasp of the environment, or to simply reminisce on your own time there. Some travellers decide to categorise their posts by the best places to eat, drink, visit or stay in an area which can be searched for in the community section if you need guidance when you are visiting an area!
This app creates a safe and friendly community full of creators with the same passions of adventure and curiosity about the world!

 

Pros

  • Can create a profile area with a colour map that highlights the countries you have visited
  • You are free to post in whatever format you would like, whether it be a blog, tip list or just pictures
  • Can follow other travellers and interact with their posts which will appear on your timeline

Cons

  • Not every place in the world has been posted so popular tourist locations have more posts attached with them
  • The community page is ordered in terms of popularity of a post or profile
  • All communication with other creators is public

Reviewer: Polly Davis

Download link:

app store link

 

Bristol Guide

Bristol guide app icon

This app provides a distinctive guide to Bristol, pointing new visitors wanting to explore the city to an exciting array of attractions, or perhaps even helping residents discover new places they were not previously aware of. This app aims to encompass a full Bristolian experience to the user.

This app allows you to locate the nearest attractions and sites around you for you to go and  visit. Or, if you prefer, you are able to look at places to visit in a specific category you are interested in. These categories include events and festivals, parks and greenspaces, pubs and bars, and restaurants and sport, to name a few. By pressing on the event you are interested in, it provides a brief overview of the site, including contact and website details if you would like to learn more, and its exact location.

Pros

  • Free
  • Simple to use
  • Range of categories containing a wide variety of sites and events, including popular and lesser known ones.

Cons

  • Some categories lack essential information – e.g. the events and festivals tab has no information on the dates and times
  • Would be nice to see some reviews of the places shown
  • Includes some pictures but would say it definitely needs more!
  • Not available to download via Google Play

 

Overall, I really like the idea of the app! I think it includes a wide range of sites and attractions to visit, which would be useful for not only first-time visitors, but also residents wanting to explore more of the unknown parts of the city. Through using the app, I was able to discover lots of green spaces I did not know existed just right near me which was amazing. However, I would say it’s clear this app needs an update, as there is some information lacking which would be useful, such as dates of festivals and events. I also think more pictures would really benefit the app, as it only contains a single image for each listing, which does not always truly represent the beautiful appearance of these sites. Overall, I do like the app and would definitely recommend it to those living in Bristol over the summer so they can go and explore the city.

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download link:

app store link

Voi

Voi app icon

Voi is a new, innovative way of travelling round the city. This app provides a new mode of transport, aiming to cut down our emissions while still getting to places quickly. Voi scooters are bright red, and operate simply through twisting the handle to accelerate, and pressing down bike-like brakes at the front to stop. They are now equipped with indicators as well, which you can use to signal when you are turning left or right.

The way it works is you first download the app, and set up your Voi account on the app by scanning your driver’s license. The app then allows you to find your nearest Voi parking spot, where you can also see the number of Vois available. You simply scan the QR code on the Voi and once you’re ready you can unlock it and begin voing! When you’ve reached your destination, you then park your Voi in the closest parking spot and are asked to take a picture upon completion.

Voi offers regular users the opportunity to buy Voi passes, whether this be just for the day, or a month. There are designated parking spots, discounted parking spots, and also marked slow zones and no Voi zones. Voi scooters also stop working past a certain time and have installed a software aimed to test your reaction skills to promote safe use.

 

Pros

  • Passes are relatively cheap.
  • Quite fun way of getting round.
  • Especially round Bristol, quite easy to find and locate Voi parking spots.
  • The app allows you to locate Voi parking spots and places you can find Vois
  • Voi prevents you riding on the pavements, ensuring the safety of pedestrians

Cons

  • Have to find a designated parking spot to put your Voi in – If travelling to a new destination it may be difficult to determine where exactly to find these.
  • Potentially scary particularly if you are not a licenced driver, or the weather conditions are harsh.
  • The Voi may run out of battery in particularly inconvenient locations.
  • Only accessible in certain cities.

 

Overall, I love the idea of Voi as a way of travelling, especially in a busy city such as Bristol, where bringing your cars may not be feasible due to the lack of car park spaces, or if you’re like me and you just can’t drive! I find it particularly useful when the buses may be unreliable or I need to get somewhere quite quickly if I am running late. Yet, I will admit, I have suffered a fair few scary instances with Voi, and so I personally do not use them often unless I am on quiet, residential roads. I would definitely recommend learning your road rules before attempting to ride a Voi, and definitely practice before heading to the main roads. I think with a careful and responsible user, Vois can be quite fun and provide a cost effective way of travelling to places, and not to mention they are much more environmentally friendly than other modes of transport. I would definitely recommend using Vois opposed to a car when you can, but just as with any mode of transport, make sure you do your research before riding them and learn your road rules!

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download link:

app store link

 

Google Translate

Google translate icon

One of the biggest problems you may face while travelling is probably the language barrier. Google Translate will be your best aid for basic daily communication in most countries! Google Translate is a free translation service, which provides instant translation between 133 languages, and supports the translation of words, sentences, and web pages between any two languages. The interface of the app is very concise, with only three pages: Home, Saved, and Settings. In addition to inputting text for translation, you can also directly translate the text in the photo through the camera. For tourists, the instant translation of conversations and the transcription function provide great convenience. You can record your voice directly, and Google Translate will automatically translate it into the target language and read it aloud.

Pros

  • All features are free
  • The translation speed is fast, and the communication can be translated instantly
  • Very simple and convenient to use

Cons

  • There may be translation errors leading to misunderstandings, and grammar and structure errors occur frequently
  • The choice of languages is limited. “Conversation mode” is available in 71 languages; “Transcription mode” is only available in 10 languages
  • Accents may lead to inaccurate voice input

 

I personally think Google Translate is the most frequently used and helpful app for travellers, and it helped me immensely when I travelled to Turkey last week. When I was communicating with my Turkish host, we used Google Translate the entire time, making our conversation smooth and pleasant. Google Translate solves all the problems related to language barriers to the greatest extent possible with simple functions, which I think is amazing. Although there may be grammatical errors due to machine translation, I think it has no impact on the communication between tourists and local people, so it is a very excellent app for me in general.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download link:

app store link

 

App in the Air

App in the air icon

If you have frequent flight needs and are easily troubled by problems such as flight information changes, App in the Air can effectively help with air-related problems to ensure you travel smoothly! The main function of App in the Air is to help you manage your hotel and flight reservation and give timely notifications and relevant information so you can optimize your travel experience. Different from other OTA (online travel agency) apps, App in the Air is more like a personal travel assistant, because you can not only book air tickets and hotels from this app, but also manually import your flight number and hotel reservation, and it will give you all relevant information and suggestions. Beyond that, it acts as a memoir by collecting statistics on all the flights you’ve ever taken and competing on the global leader board. You can also invite your friends and compete on the friend list for flight stats.

Pros

  • Convenient and easy to use. The app design is very concise and straightforward
  • Helping you record flight statistics and keeping track of your accomplishments during your trips
  • You can add your loyalty programmes to track status and bonuses
  • Providing very detailed information and tips for travellers

Cons

  • There is a fee for membership, and regular users only have a 14-day free trial
    • £9.99/year for Basic.
    • £29.49/year for Pro.
    • £44.99/lifetime
  • The functions of this app are not unique, and most of them can be replaced by other free apps
  • Users have complained about bugs in the app and incorrect flight information being provided
  • Hotel and flight information booked on other platforms require manual input

 

I personally think this app is more useful for regular travellers, but it is not very attractive to me as a student. It can effectively help travellers to manage all reservations and plan your trip, and its notification function can greatly help you to avoid missed flights and other problems during the trip. However, as far as I am concerned, all this travel information can be found on free platforms, and I do not need to spend extra money to obtain such information. This app can only provide flight information, but not bus or train related information, so the frequency of use for me is very low. Also, all the hotel and flight information I booked from other platforms have to be entered manually rather than displayed automatically, which makes the function of recording travel statistics a little troublesome.

Reviewer: Kexin Li

Download link:

app store link

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

Next month: Security

Appinions – Productivity

Appinions banner

A great app will keep you glued to your device. Whether it’s lifestyle, social media, utility, gaming, productivity or news; apps are an essential part of student life.
Each month we challenge our Student Digital Champions to delve into a new category, delivering fresh perspectives and making proclamations for essential applications. Which features are dumb? What should be at the tip of your thumb?

Written by Olivia Muggleton, Polly Davis, Amy Preston and Leah Parker, Student Digital Champions.
Olivia MuggletonPolly DavisAmy PrestonLeah Parker

May 2022: Productivity

As summer exams begin; mobile devices can both help and hinder your preparation. How do you avoid this distraction when you revise? Some students turn it off, others use airplane mode. However, there are a number of apps which have been designed to encourage you to embrace your phone or tablet. But are they any good?

Forest
Forest app icon

Forest primarily functions as a Pomodoro timer, where you set the number of minutes, from 10-120, and ‘plant a tree’ to start the timer. This earns coins in the app, which you can save up to spend on planting a real tree (the app is partnered with ‘Trees for the Future’). There is another option to use stopwatch mode, where you don’t set the time beforehand and just press end when you are finished with your session. There are also a few useful settings you can change, including whether to switch on ‘Deep Focus’ mode, which kills the tree if you leave the app (with a warning first). You can also choose whether to count the exceeded time, and choose whether to plant with a friend, if they also have the app. If you want to keep track of what tasks you are doing and for how long, you can change the colour and name of the task you are doing each time you plant a tree, and the app automatically tracks how much time ‘focused’ you spend each day and on what task.

Pros

  • Option to use stopwatch mode as well as classic set timer
  • Deep focus mode is useful if you find yourself going on your phone too much while studying
  • Aesthetic and easy to use
  • Pomodoro technique is effective, especially when you can choose the length of the timer
  • Tracks and saves your focus time so you can see how much you have worked
  • Plants real trees!

Cons

  • Cost – £1.99 to buy on IOS (although free on Android and chrome extension) with more features that can only be unlocked by buying them
  • Deep focus mode doesn’t stop notifications from coming in, so you can accidently click on them and kill your tree

I really like Forest! I use it a lot when I am in the lab reading papers or analysing data. Using it as a Pomodoro timer gives me a strict working period with an end goal (a break after the timer is up). I find the stopwatch is a good way to get into a task I am reluctant to do, because I can start the timer with the aim of working for as long as I can. Even if I only make it to 10 minutes, that is still progress. However, I often find it easier to carry on once I’ve started like this. The basic features of the app are great, and you don’t really need any of the extras unlocked with money, although that’s up to the user. The best thing about it in my opinion is that you can plant real trees – it’s really motivating to know you are working towards a tiny bit less CO2 in the world!

Reviewer: Amy Preston

Download links:

App store download link to Forest app Google play download link to forest app

Rainy Mood

Rainy mood app icon If you’re anything like me, you cannot study or revise without some form of white noise or relaxing sounds playing in the background- silence becomes too loud! To overcome this, I have had to resort to YouTube where I have searched endlessly to find the perfect rainy playlist that, a) is long enough that I will not have to rewind the recording ; b) does not include advertisements every 15 minutes; c) does not include some random loud clash of thunder. The app Rainy Mood Lite satisfies all of these! Free from the App Store and Google Play, Rainy Mood Lite allows you to continuously listen to your own customisable sound of all rain, thunder, and birds at different degrees using an interactive scale. This application can also be played in the background if you wish to use your device for other purposes. I enjoy how this is a separate app to YouTube as I can sometimes get quite tempted by the promotion of other videos and tabs whilst Rainy Mood remains isolated from any distractions.

Pros

  • Free from the App Store
  • Can be played in the background whilst using other applications
  • Can be used to create sound mixes with your own music
  • Does not include advertisements or any disturbances
  • Sounds can be played for how long the app is open
  • Can set a sleep timer if you do not wish for the sounds to be played for the full night

Cons

  • It is limited to only rain sounds with thunder and birds
  • This is the Lite version, the paid version for £2.49 offers sounds of the ocean, the countryside and a café called Rainy Mood

The only downside to this app is that it is limited to rain, thunder, and bird sounds- it requires the paid version ‘Rainy Mood’, for £2.49, to unlock other calming sounds. For the sounds of the ocean, you can customise the volume of rain, the surf and shoreline, and the realistic nature of seagulls. For the countryside, the only difference from the Rainy Mood Lite is the replacement of birds for cricket sounds, whereas the café setting offers customisable degrees of rain, chatter, patio talk and barista sounds. There is quite a wide range of control in this application which saves time finding the perfect video on YouTube.

Even better, Rainy Mood Lite and Rainy Mood offers you to create your own sound mix with your music by just keeping the app open whilst launching your music app! I would personally use this feature as there are some songs of mine that would pair well with a rainy aesthetic that have not been uploaded to YouTube yet (personal revision recommendation is rain + anything by Tom Odell!).

Reviewer: Polly Davis

Download links:

App store download link for rainy mood Google play download link Rainy Mood

Habitica

Habitica app icon Habitica is a unique productivity app that gamifies your tasks using retro RPG elements. By creating an avatar, customising its look and name, you can receive coins and credits for completing more of your tasks which you can separate into ‘Dailies’, ‘To-Do’, and ‘Habits’, that become colour coded once you develop a streak from repeatedly completing your goals. This completion becomes rewarded using a levelling system to see your progress, with coins that can be used in the ‘Shop’ to ‘purchase’ items and gear to use in the game. The customisation of the avatar is relatively inclusive with a range of different skin-tones, hair styles and wheelchairs, adding a more personal connection with the avatar. The app offers you to socialise with other people’s avatars in challenges and quests in a ‘Party’. However, the longer you leave your avatar with uncompleted tasks, the more your avatar’s health will decline- this encourages you to keep track of your goals and return to the app. If you feel like you need a break, you can pop in to the ‘Tavern’ where the game can be paused and there will be no effect upon the health of your avatar.

Pros

  • Organisation and productivity disguised as an arcade game
  • Create your own avatar
  • Achieve points and gain levels by completing more tasks
  • Purchase bonus features using coins gained by completing tasks
  • Socialise with other avatars
  • Free to download

Cons

  • The idea of an arcade game can become quite distracting, though encouraging
  • Avatar customisation is low quality, more ‘retro’
  • Offers in-app purchases to gain more coins via monthly subscriptions

I personally enjoy this mode of productivity compared to other apps which make your lists of ‘to-dos’ seem less appealing- by disguising it in a game-format, I feel encouraged to return to the app and complete my goals to level-up in the app. Nevertheless, I can see myself becoming more occupied with the features of the app and the chat rooms rather than focusing on my actual work-at-hand, so maybe this app is not suited for those who are easily distracted or those who are trying to avoid other gaming apps on their devices!

Reviewer: Polly Davis

Download links:

App store download link Habitica Google play download link Habitica

Alarmy

Alarmy app icon

Morning Mission tasks you with a certain challenge to complete when the alarm goes off and the alarm will not stop until it is completed. This feature is really what sets the app apart from any other alarm you may find on your phone or a different app. The tasks vary from mathematical problems to memory tests or physical missions such as squats and step goals, all of which are very customisable in terms of difficulty and time limit. ‘Sleep music’ provides a range of relaxing sounds to help you get to sleep. ‘Today’s panel’ contains today’s news, horoscope and the weather forecast. There are fully customisable themes and wallpaper. ‘Max snoozes’ can put an end to one’s prolific snoozing habits. Gradually increase volume/vibrate features to make your awakening gentle and a bed time reminder which can be set at any time. A great feature for those who are looking to establish an overall improved sleeping routine.

Pros

  • Most of the features are completely free to use (these include the most important alarm functions and even the sleep music
  • You can set as many alarms as you like and the format is basically the same as you would find on your phone’s clock app so it’s really easy to navigate
  • The variety of morning mission tasks are quite impressive and really offer something for everyone whether you want to be more active or work on your mental arithmetic and memory.
  • There are quite a few alarm sounds to choose from and there is even the option to use a specific song from your iTunes library
  • The app conveniently offers all the functions which you may use in aiding your sleep routine, all in one place (although its arguable that finding a sleeping playlist, setting an alarm and checking the news are not too demanding for today’s smartphone users)

Cons

  • Some of the most interesting features are available only with a subscription, these include;
    • The ability to record your own alarm sound (not sure that this is vital but could perhaps be handy if you need a reminder announced to you on a certain morning)
    • The alarm ‘power ups’ which allow you to choose whether the alarm reads out the current time (very helpful for those who snooze carelessly)
    • ‘wake up check’ which consists of a pop up prompt asking whether you’re still awake – if you don’t respond within a chosen timeframe the alarm will go off again and your will have to repeat your morning mission
    • The Squat and step morning missions – these are arguably one of the best features of the app and what makes it really stand out so its unfortunate that they come at a premium
  • The subscription price is not extortionate but at £59.99 a year it is not cheap for an app which is essentially no more than a demanding alarm clock – But, depending on how much motivation you need in the morning it may be the best thing to establish a solid and consistent morning routine.
  • There are only 11 different sleep sounds and they are pretty stereotypical of what you would expect. A quick Spotify search would bring up a massive array of sounds which may suit you better but for the purposes of convenience, what the Alarmy app has to offer is enough for me personally.
  • Other than the morning missions, most of the features of Alarmy can be found either in your phone’s alarm or with iPhone’s ‘sleep’ feature which allows you to set up a sleep schedule and actually alters your notification and display settings so as to better enable you to wind down and switch off

This is a really slick and user friendly app and personally I find the morning missions quite helpful in establishing a morning routine and I really liked that you can choose a mission that best suits you. The only reason I may be wary of using it is that it makes my phone the first thing I use in the morning and can lead to a rabbit hole which can be problematic for people who struggle with staying off their phone. Also, if you choose the morning routine function, be careful to choose a task which is realistically achievable – It’s incredibly frustrating when the maths questions are too difficult and there is an alarm going off until you get them right, even if you are a morning person! 😴

Reviewer: Olivia Muggleton

Download links:

app store download link for alarmy google play link to alarmy

Habit-Bull

Habit-Bull icon

Habit-Bull is a habit tracking app which aims to motivate you to stay on track and maintain good habitats which last. You are able to add up to 5 habits on the premium version within a range of categories such as: Health & Fitness or Self Improvement. You are able to select one of their pre-made habits, or create an entirely new one personalise to your own goals. You are able to customise the habit colour, how often you want to do the habit and the target date. 

 Over time, you can track the progress of your habit over the week or over the month, including what days you were successful and the days you missed out. The app also supplies you with a range of statistics to better track your progress, and allows you to share your results with others on the app. You can also add notes daily to your habits, if you wanted to record something in particular about that day’s progress. 

Pros

  • The free version is still very useful and sufficient for habit tracking,
  • Very easy to use and can visually track your progress
  • The design and layout of the app is visually appealing

Cons

  • Only 5 habitats allowed on the free version.  
  • Cost – $20/year for the premium version. 

Overall, I loved Habit-Bull and thought it was extremely easy to use and navigate, which was refreshing to see. I did not purchase the premium version, but found the free version was enough for me as I wanted to focus on starting only a few habits at a time. If you wanted more, you could always get creative with how you create goals/habits if they overlap slightly and make the most of the 5 allowed in the free version. I loved that I could edit and update my goals, and the app also allowed a lot of flexibility for me in case I wanted to take the weekends off for some of my goals, which was easiest set up and mange. I have tried a lot of habit tracking apps, also using pen and paper, planners etc. but I found using this app was the easiest and most efficient at helping me achieve some of the habits I wanted to implement. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to break out of bad habits and set in new ones, especially with exam season coming up. 

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

app store download link for habit-bull google play link to habit-bull

Clockwork Tomato (iOS version: Flat Tomato)

Flat tomato iconThe app is based off the Pomodoro technique which is designed to help you focus on a specific task for a given amount of time.  

 The app opens with a tomato and you can begin the timer by holding it down. You are able to set the duration of how long you want to dedicate to the task, and organise when you want to set break time and their duration. The app notifies you when it’s time for your break and at what point you need to resume your work. You are able to add and record your distractions, for example if you exited the app or had a phone call, through double tapping the clock.  

Through clicking the icon in the bottom right corner you can view your task list and plan list. It has several pre-made options, but you have the ability to add your own personalised tasks or plans. There is also an option to put repeats on daily tasks. The layout of the app, including colour, sounds, and theme can also be tailored to depending on the person. 

Pros

  • It’s free!
  • Can be very tailored to the person and which tasks they want to complete.
  • Fully configurable: timers, behaviour, colours, sounds, style, and more than 50 options.
  • Useful for people who like using the Pomodoro technique for focus.
  • Once I was able to navigate the app, it was relatively straightforward to use.
  • Points system, makes you feel more incentivized to work and stay focused.

Cons

  • There’s no tutorial upon downloading it, so you have to work out how to navigate it yourself. 
  • Different features had similar short-cuts. E.g. Double tap, hold, single tap each encoded a different action. May make it confusing and hard to get used to. 

Overall I do like Clockwork Tomato and think it is a nice, simple app which was effective for helping you focus, particularly as I like using the Pomodoro technique for studying. Once I personalised it to the tasks I wanted to complete, it was effective in improving my productivity and making sure I got them done. The fact is also free was a big bonus to me as well, especially as a student. However, it took me some time to understand the difference between stop, finish and distraction features which made it hard to get used. I do find apps such as Forest and Flora more motivating and simple to use as they allow me to almost visualise my time easily through planting trees. That being said, I thought the points system is also really cool, as the prizes are nice and welldesigned which did help me stay on track and I feel like I accomplished something each time because it gives you a reward system which really helped me stay motivated. Overall, I would recommend this app especially if you’re a Pomodoro technique person like me! 

Reviewer: Leah Parker

Download links:

app store download link for clockwork tomato google play link to clockwork tomato

These apps aren’t supported or managed by the University of Bristol. Don’t forget to think about what data you are adding to these apps if you decide to download and use them. Our Online Identity video highlights some of the factors you may want to think about when you are online.

Next month: Travel