Simon Says: Download These Apps - 5 Favourites You Should Try Before 2012


As 2012 approaches I thought I would write a nice post.

I hate the clichéd "prediction" articles you tend to get at this time of the year as peoples predictions tend to be either biased hopes (which never happen) such as me wishing for a hoverboard just because Back To The Future said they would happen. Or really really easy extrapolations of what's happening right now. The industry moves fast and predictions change hourly, so that's not what this post is about.

Here are my 5 favorite iPhone apps of 2011. And why I think you should get them for 2012. I've specifically avoided the usual suspects (Twitter, Facebook, FML etc). In no particular order...

1) Oink

Everybody knows you can check into businesses and give them reviews. When I go travelling this information is invaluable and I am a firm believer in crowdsourcing, which is why Oink excites me.

Oink let's you review the products at a business. This means not only do I get to know where to go in a new city (or even just discovering somewhere interesting in London) but now I know what products are the best when I get to that business. You can share your review on Twitter / Facebook and take a photo of the product so that you can see it before you buy it (not unlike FoodSpotting).

The main reason I would say 'get Oink' is because crowdsourcing only works when enough people take part. But that’s a bit of a weak reason. Oink is not only a well designed and stable application but it has an amazing "discovery" feature that allows you to find the best waffles (for example) within 1, 5, 10 or 20 miles of where you are right now. It’s worth a free download to play your little part in something big.

2) Spotify

Spotify is a great little "start-up". It has seen explosive growth this year and I guarantee next year will be the same. Spotify comes under a lot of criticism for its payment structure (both charging and how it pays artists) but I am going to save why you’re completely wrong to moan about these issues. For now I am looking at why it’s worth paying ten pounds a month for this service.

Firstly it gives you instant access to a large back catalogue of artists on the move. If, like me, you often forget an album before a trip or just have a spontaneous night out, having access to a large database of tunes is invaluable.

The iPhone app itself is stupidly easily to use and since the latest update you’re able to browse your (Facebook) friends listening habits on the move. If they could just edit the way you view all of the albums you’ve saved to the phone it would be perfect… At the moment you can save albums / singles to Playlists, but you can't view all albums or artists like you can on iTunes, which can make browsing a bore.

3) Instagram

For my first 3 months on Instagram I simply took and uploaded photos, mainly to my Instagram profile and links to Twitter. I couldn’t see how this simple service was going to become more "social" or a "discovery" tool. Then they released the latest update.

There was more emphasis on finding and Following your friends as well as discovering the brands / artists you love and Following them.

The "most popular" tab is one of my personal favorite ways of killing time on a bus. As soon as they introduce an easy way to find photos around you, or even an augmented reality part of the app that allows you to discover photos that have been geo-tagged just by holding up your phone, I’ll be overly impressed.

This kind of app is great. It offered a very simple service (adding filters to photos) and has made sharing fun moments a real-time and really fun activity. This explains it's popularity and rapid growth.

In 2012 I expect they’ll add more filters and features after raising over 7 million in funds a few months ago. Additionally I am really enjoying the 3rd party apps that take advantage of the API.

4) Path

I hate Facebook. I’ve written about it before. I am not one of these people who says this because they can’t stand change and have an issue with the redesign. I say it because they have become something so complex and annoying I don’t want to use it (beyond work). For my day job, the platform is amazing. As a tool to market to a mass amount of people, and build relationships with people and brands the service is the best one that has ever existed.

Path allows you to share "moments" in your life with the "people who matter". This is what I like about the start-up. Path became well-known as the "unsocial network" because it limited you to 50 friends. I’ve been on the app for just over a month and I am struggling to find 50 people I actually want to share the intimate moments with. Truth be told, I had a clear out of friends (much like I frequently do on Facebook) and now I have 0 friends on Path. Because I realized I was using it wrong. I just imported all my Facebook friends who had downloaded the app.

For people who live interesting and fun lives Path is a perfect way to share all those great moments in a Timeline which looks a thousand times better than Facebook's. I’d recommend trying it, just for a couple of weeks. Someone once said to me "Facebook isn’t the place you share your life, it’s the place you share the life you want others to think you’re living", for me Path is the place you can share your actual life.

5) Etsy

I love a good "unique" product. I get fed up of buying the same flannel shirt as 6 other people in the office. Etsy is a handcrafted start up that allows users to sell their custom creations to the public. The app is beautiful – for me design is high on the priority list when looking for an app.

The front page changes all the time and browsing for a gift has proven a little bit of a "dream" for someone like me who hates the Christmas shopping rush and the sheer number of people in shops at this time of the year.

Why should you get it? This isn’t the kind of service that is going to go away. It’s so easy to set up a store that it puts Shopify to shame. You don’t need to create front end, because all the "stores" look the same. All you need to do is take a photo of what you want to sell and upload the details to the website.

Mobile shopping is going to explode next year. We all have far too much free time on buses and between appointments for it not to. If you want a way of discovering unique products on the move, Etsy is the best app for that.

Runner up prizes go to…

Task rabbit

A lesser-known app in the UK, mainly because the service is only available in the US (at the moment). Basically you sign up, have a small background check, then you can list little tasks you’re unable to get time to perform. Then other people in your area (who have also had a background check) can bid what they’ll charge to perform that task. So simple, yet so effective. Also the app is a thing of beauty – although I can’t use it, I keep it on my iPhone just to look at from time to time.


A very swish cross-platform device that lets you take and save notes in almost any format, very quickly. It’s free to try (with no time limit on the trial) so it’s worth a download. They’ve just released two new apps which allow you to make notes about people and food which I am yet to try, but based on how well the Evernote app has worked so far, they’ll be on my Christmas "apps to try" list.

Grub hub

Another service that’s only available in the US (at the moment). But with the rapid expansion of start-ups and investment in independent apps around silicon roundabout I would be surprised if they (or a similar service) didn’t launch over here in 2012.

To put it simply, you order your food from restaurants that do not have a take-away service. The employees of the app go and pick it up and deliver it to your door. An amazingly simple idea that offers real value to hundreds of restaurants in the US and allows you to order quality food rather than a greasy pizza.

I know I've missed off quite a few apps... but I didn't want to list everything that impressed me this year. Which apps have impressed you this year? And which ones should I download?


Thanks for sharing the apps.

Thanks for sharing the apps. I will give them all ago. Its nice to get other people reviewing these apps, as sometimes you may never discover them for yourself.  


You're welcome. Hoping to do more review-posts in 2012.

An app that just missed the list is Chomp. An app search engine which works a million times better than the App Store from Apple.

Has a beautiful front page now which allows you to "discover" the "on sale" apps (which are now listed as free or price lowered). Worth a download.

Evernote Should be Higher!

Good choices in the main, but I think Evernote should be higher. It's gone viral round our office. I started using it in earnest about a year ago, now pretty much everyone else has started dabbling, too.

And for another one - the Skype app, although not particularly exciting has evolved and improved this year. Aside from making my phone warm enough to cook sausages, it's come in particularly useful.

And my fave app of the year is Bus Checker - if you're a Londoner needing to time your arrival at a bus stop to minimise exposure to the Winter cold, it's fantastic.