The stress and upheaval of 2020 has sent all of us searching for different ways to cope. And while there is merit in seeking therapy, or striving to get outside more, or taking up a new hobby, many of have also turned to our devices to help ease the pressure.
While recognising the enormous privilege involved in suggesting that a computer program on a pricey smartphone can solve any of your problems, these are the apps that made our lives just a little bit…well, less bad over the past 12 months. We’d love to know which ones you recommend, too.
1 Second Everyday
The pandemic has made every day of 2020 feel like part of an amorphous time-blob, but 1 Second Everyday reminds me that different things did happen, even when we were only doing the same things. Inspired by artist Cesar Kuriyama’s project to document a year of his life in one-second daily bursts, the app makes it easy to assemble clips from your camera roll into a memorable montage. It’s especially good for parents; I love selecting just the right clip of the weird things my kids did or said on a particular day, moments that would otherwise be lost to the mists of memory (and among the 5,000 videos on my camera roll).
I am a cheapskate when it comes to paid apps; I’ll exploit a free trial and dump the app when it ends or find a free (if crappier) alternative, if one exists. But though the free iteration of this one works pretty well, I gladly pony up the annual fee for the Pro version, which allows you to adjust the length of your video snippets or choose as many as you want for a given day (more accurately, my video is more like “3-5 Seconds Everyday”), add music, collaborate on your project with others, and more. — Joel Cunningham, managing editor
Nuzzel turns your Twitter feed into a useful briefing tool, creating a ranked news feed based on what people are reading and talking about. It works especially well if you group your follows by topic or interest with Twitter’s lists function, like for movies or sports. You’ll see less chatter, but uncover interesting articles or news stories that would normally get lost in a sea of tweets. — Mike Winters, personal finance writer
If you get breaking-news notifications on your phone, you’ll often find you disagree with what Apple about what constitutes news. Instead, you can turn use news aggregation app Nuzzel, which can notify you when a certain number of your Twitter friends link to the same URL, no matter the source.Read more
I’ve always taken video of some of my lifts so I can analyse them later (or show them off on the ‘gram, I’m not too proud to admit it). But now that I’m working with my coach remotely rather than going into the gym, I record everything. Mideo lets me take a million videos during my workouts without having to constantly pause and unpause my music. I just open the app and the music keeps playing; then I trim the video in the normal photo app. The resulting videos may have snippets of Clutch or Meat Loaf playing in the background, but that’s just a bonus for whoever’s watching them. — Beth Skwarecki, senior health editor
There are many great podcasting apps; this is my favourite, and we have spent an incredible amount of time together. It’s my go-to whenever I’m driving, and it’s been one of my favourite ways to unwind during all things pandemic. Also, it’s not Spotify; I’d rather support an independent developer. — David Murphy, senior technology editor
Almost everyone loves listening to podcasts. Nobody, however, loves picking out an app to be their podcast listening hub. Since we last got the lay of the podcast-app land in 2015, digital audio has become way more popular and, as a result, there are more podcast managers than ever out...Read more
Twenty-twenty isn’t the year my husband and I began using 1Password (I think that was 2019), but it’s the year I finally embraced it. The truth is, I do still hate entering that extremely complicated master password all time (ok, it’s not all the time but it’s frequently enough to be annoying), but I’ve been using it long enough now that I can’t believe I spent so many years so unsafely using a few simple variations on the same password all over the place. 1Password isn’t always the most intuitive of apps, but it’s easy enough to use that I have been recommending it to folks. — Meghan Walbert, parenting editor
Using a password manager is basically internet security 101 these days, but that doesn’t make them any less intimidating. If you’ve never used a password manager, they’re annoying, cumbersome to use, and baffling at a glance. 1Password is one of the easiest to use options around, but that doesn’t mean...Read more
My favourite app of the year is also a free one that likely comes preinstalled in whatever smartphone you own, and that’s the basic voice memo app. It’s so perfect that it’s taken for granted — or, at least, I took it for granted long before utilising its simple wonders. Not only do I send myself simple voice memos all the time to keep from forgetting things when I don’t have the time to write them down, but the sound quality is also good enough for recording podcasts. — Jordan Calhoun, deputy editor
For whatever reason, the iPhone has tons of different voice recording apps, but very few of them do anything more than Apple’s free Voice Memos app. We like Just Press Record because it manages to make itself worth its asking price by offering a different experience and feature set than...Read more
I don’t know if this qualifies as my favourite app of the year, but it’s definitely the most 2020 app I used this year. Cardiio measures your heart rate, and I’m worried to announce that I’ve used it every day of the last several months — usually more than once a day. You may feel, as I do, that this has been the kind of year that sets anxious hearts racing and even jumpstarts a panic attack or three. When my heart feels like it’s bursting out of my chest, I find it helpful to get a reality check (ok, 78 is higher than my normal but not “high” in a “let’s go to the ER” sense) while taking a break from whatever is stressing me out.
It’s sad that checking my pulse has become my relaxation technique, but let’s face it — much of this year has been sad. You can upgrade to find out details like “potential life expectancy” based on your average heart rate, but that seems like sheer hubris at this point. — Alice Bradley, editor-in-chief