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 Hannah Harrison, Emma Yi Kwan Lau, Bibiana Lebersorger, Katie Stoker, Nia Burkinshaw and Conor Macdonald.
May 2023 – News and current affairs
News has a profound impact on our lives in various ways. It keeps us informed about the latest developments in our fields of interest, saves us from spending hours stuck in traffic on the M32, reminds us to carry an umbrella even on seemingly sunny days, lifts our spirits when our team score a last minute winner, and most importantly, it shapes our understanding of the world.
However, we live in a time where misinformation, sensationalism and divisive narratives are widespread. It can be challenging to discern which sources to trust amidst the competition for attention and the struggle to maintain ethical principles and values.
In print, online and in a custom-made app, Epigram is the University of Bristol’s award winning independent student newspaper. Discover the latest news and culture at Bristol University via engaging and well-presented content, featuring breaking news, reviews, opinion pieces and even seasonal recipes. Run for students, by students, and with a combined readership of over 20,000, Epigram’s content is not controlled by the University or the Students Union and strives to remain politically neutral.
- Completely free
- Student made and student focussed
- New articles added every day
- Simple layout and easy to use on a small screen
- Articles organised by topic, author and section
- ‘For you’ tab which recommends articles based on your interests
- Searchable content so you can find a specific story
- Multiple sharing options
- Not compatible with all devices
- Few options for customisation
The epigram app has a sleek layout, eye-catching visuals, and with recent articles on topics ranging from the latest sporting news to fashion advice to film reviews, there really is something for everyone. The app is completely searchable, making it easy to find articles on a specific topic, and sharing options make it easy to share what you have read with friends. Epigram is a great way to learn about the latest news and culture of the university, and it is really inspiring to see such amazing content produced by fellow students!
Reviewer: Hannah Harrison
Bristol Live is a website and app providing daily updates on news around Bristol and the wider South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, and Northeast Somerset area. It was launched by the Bristol Post news agency in April 2018. It offers students instant access to news around the greater Bristolian’s community. If you live quite far away from campus, you may want to keep an eye on the news! They often provide live updates on the traffic if accidents occur or in circumstances where bus services are postponed. As a veterinary student, I have lectures/practical on the Langford campus three times weekly. There was one occasion earlier this academic term where there was severe traffic diversion around Bristol Airport due to a traffic accident. However, there were no updates on Firstbus app or from the university regarding the diversion. Fortunately, Bristol Live have a live blog updating me on the traffic situations around the area, allowing me to plan my journey ahead to attend my lecture on time. The live news is undoubtedly my favourite aspect of Bristol Live. However, no apps or websites are completely perfect, same applies to Bristol Live.
- You can follow area-specific information once logged in.
- News includes recommendations to restaurants from locals, enabling students to find their right place to eat out/ have a takeaway from.
- “Food and drink” tag includes articles with cooking tips and recommendations which are perfect for students who are new to cooking.
- “Traffic and travel” tag includes live updates on road diversions.
- Readers can comment on an article that can be viewed by other users.
- “News” column in the app always displays an error and no articles can be found under this section.
- Not all tags can be navigated under the “Discover” tab.
- Need to create an account and log in to fully access the app.
- No frequently asked questions and assisting tool for the app.
- Difficult to create a username as the app does not allow the same display name to be used by different users.
Overall, I would recommend downloading this app to raise our awareness to things happening around the community. There are undoubtedly aspects that I think the app can improve in. However, in terms of general usage, the layout is clean and neat, making it user-friendly. Commenting function is another plus point to the app. Not only would we like to know the information, but we also want to know how other people perceive the topic. Personally, I do not create comments but reading others’ comments help to grasp a deeper understanding of the wider situation.
Reviewer: Emma Yi Kwan Lau
We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve left the house to bright skies but come back drenched, after being caught in an unexpected shower: this is where the Met Office weather app comes in! This interactive weather app allows you to have personal, accurate forecasts for your favourite locations, with options to switch between hourly and daily forecasts. Another key feature is the interactive rainfall map that shows the next 5 days of planned rainfall, so you know exactly when to bring your raincoat with you to work/uni.
Under the ‘Warnings’ tab, you can see real time ‘UK National Severe Weather Warnings’ for your saved locations, including snow, ice, fog and rain, with the option of turning on instant notifications. Other key features include actual and ‘feels like temperature’, pollen and air pollution forecasts (with the option of turning on pollen push notifications) and UV index, so you can plan for eventualities come rain or shine.
- Free to download.
- World-leading weather forecasts direct from the Met Office experts.
- Local weather forecasts for unlimited locations.
- Option to have notifications for weather warnings/pollen count.
- Includes probability of precipitation (rain, sleet, snow, hail and drizzle).
- Opportunity to switch between hourly and daily forecasts.
- Winner of two awards in the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) International Weather App Awards 2020.
- The app is supported by ads but includes a £2.99 in-app purchase to remove all advertising.
- App is designed to work on iOS 14/ Android 8.0 only.
- No option for forecast past 7 days.
The Met Office app really came in handy when planning for my recent trip to Naples. I’d been told to pack t-shirts, shorts and sun cream as this area of Italy is usually super sunny in mid-May, however, having checked the app a few days before I flew, I knew to expect rain and thundery showers. Using the 7-day forecast and probability of precipitation feature, I knew to pack appropriately for heavy rain which was a true life saver! I’d really recommend this app for anyone planning their next trip away, or simply to keep up to date on the local forecast 😊
Reviewer: Bibiana Lebersorger
Keeping up with your favourite sport can be difficult when busy with daily commitments. That’s why Sofascore is a great app for following scores, fixtures, and results in a simple and convenient space. The app is super easy to use, allowing you to follow multiple sports simultaneously!
Sofascore has a massive range of sports including football, tennis, rugby, and snooker to name a few. For each sport you can check the schedule, including upcoming and live games, and catch the featured match too.
You can also create a Sofascore profile where you can follow your favourite events, teams, leagues or players. Switch on notifications and you only need to glance at your phone to check the latest score…
- A range of sports are available on Sofascore, great if you follow more than one sport
- Simple and easy to use
- Option to customise the app so that you can follow your favourite teams, players etc
- Real-time updates
- The app has betting advertisements. You need to pay £4.99 a year to remove these
- Not all leagues of each sport are shown
- While the app follows a good number of sports, there is room for the addition of a few more!
Overall, Sofascore is a simple app which offers information about a whole range of different sports. The app is super easy to navigate and can be nicely tailored to your own personalised experience. The option to turn on notifications for specific matches makes keeping up to date with your favourite games quick and trouble-free. I would definitely recommend giving Sofascore a go!
Reviewer: Katie Stoker
Finimize is a financial newsletter updated daily with the latest news on investments and stock analysis, alongside more educational material.
Daily Briefing is a three minute article (which is also available in audio form) which gives the top investment news of the day, while delivering a summary which is quick and easy to read. It then points you in the direction of two more in-depth related articles. I really liked how succinct the summary was, but at the same time gave you enough knowledge to go and find out more. However, this is a premium only feature.
Like the Daily Briefing, the Analysis Insights articles are premium only. They vary in length from 2-minute reads to 15, depending on the size of the topic, such as looking at Microsoft earning reports to a longer analysis of “commercial real estate is on shaky ground.”
The app also features general news articles, which are less analytical and look to provide a wider economic context to the more specific analysis of individual companies. These are generally short reads, often looking at the bigger picture.
Educational guides cover a wide range of topics, from an introduction to robo-advisors, understanding different industries such as biotech, to basic guides on how to get into investing. These were very insightful and explained everything incredibly well, offering definitions for keywords. The guides are kept light with a little bit of humour. Furthermore, it was nice to be able to cement your knowledge with a quiz at the end.
Markets is a feature which allows users to easily check key stock metrics such as value (comparing PE ratio with the rest of the market, free cash flow yield, enterprise value to sale) alongside risk factors.
- All of the articles can be read on audio
- If you choose to, the app can send you a daily reminder to check the news at a time that is convenient to you (eg. While travelling)
- The articles have suggested read times so you know how long it will take
- The app covers such a broad range of knowledge from basic introduction to investing to compiling key stock data alongside in depth analysis of this data and how this relates to the economy on a larger scale
- Despite being fairly expensive, there is a 7-day free trial for premium, and Finimize claim to offer a student discount if you email firstname.lastname@example.org
- There are only a few features available if you don’t have premium (news articles and the educational guides)
- Premium costs £59.99 a year or £7.99 per month
- The news and analysis articles catered towards those who have a keen interest and an understanding of finance, and possibly not suitable for someone with only introductory knowledge.
Overall, the app seems great for those heavily interested in stocks and finance, to further their wider economic knowledge and to easily keep up with current trends, with the possible view to investing. However, as someone who has slightly less knowledge in those areas, I felt that I did not get the most out of some of the app’s features such as Markets and some of the Analysis Insights, which took me a while to understand. Having said that, the educational guides were great for someone with my level of understanding, and I felt like I learnt a lot in a relatively short space of time.
Reviewer: Nia Burkinshaw
Whilst it’s often a good thing to stay informed, doom scrolling on Twitter or watching the 24/7 news cycle can be exhausting. Also, it’s probably not great for our mental health. This is where Good News comes in. The app aims to hand-pick what it calls “solution-oriented stories” that offer optimism and new perspectives. It aggregates around 7-8 stories daily from news sources from across the world and offers a bite-sized summary.
The app takes some design cues from Instagram’s Stories features by having users navigate to each new story through simple swipes. This certainly makes it easy to incorporate the app into your daily routine.
If the daily selection isn’t enough for you, Good News allows users to view past editions too. This extends to all past editions, so you’re unlikely to run out of stories.
Categories are another feature of the app. With this, users can choose topics which particularly interest them such as “Conservation and Animal Rights” and “Circular Economy and Sustainability”.
- Intuitive design akin to that of Instagram’s Stories feature
- Daily frequency, giving something for you to go back to each day
- Categorisation lets you see the good news that you’re interested in
- Doesn’t set itself apart that much from its competitors
- No original content
- There may be too few stories a day for some
The app essentially succeeds in what it sets out to do, which is to provide good news. But it could set itself out even more. Organisations such as the BBC already have a section dedicated to good news (see their Uplifting stories section). Perhaps the team at Good News could create original content to make their offering more appealing.
Whilst you may be able to find good news elsewhere, the ease of use of the app coupled with the frequency it updates its stories puts it on par with its rivals. Good News could offer an uplifting moment or two throughout your day, and that’s reason enough to download it.
Reviewer: Conor Macdonald
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.