Are you still using your smart phone just for texting friends and updating your Facebook status? Start putting it to work for you by downloading apps that can help you make the most of your jam-packed life. We’ve found five of the most practical — and free! — mobile apps out there, all tested and recommended by busy women.
Gilt on the Go (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry)
Why fight the mall crowds? Gilt gives you sale alerts for hot brands so you can buy a great new necklace or blouse with your phone, then track the order as it makes its way to your home.
“After a long day in front of the computer working, I don’t want to stay in my office to shop online, so I’ll check it as a way to wind down at night — or when I’m in line at the grocery store,” says Beth O’Keefe, a writer in Chicago. “They once had an amazing sale on my favorite flip-flops when I was on a trip without my computer. Thanks to the Gilt app, I didn’t have to miss out.”
Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List (iPhone, Android)
Search for the perfect enchilada or chicken noodle soup recipe from this foodie site’s database — which features over 30,000 recipes — and then watch as it creates an aisle-by-aisle ingredients list. Back at home, follow the recipe right from your phone. (No more stained cookbook pages!)
“Sometimes I search for a recipe by the main ingredient, depending on whatever is in the fridge, or by fun categories like party menus or fancy cocktails,” says Monica Gilmore, a communications consultant in Hoodsport, Wash. “It also allows me to send the shopping list to my husband if he’s already out — that saves me a ton of trips into town.”
When you’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you may not have the patience to drive around in search of a gas station or takeout joint. Instead, pull up this app, which will find the closest bank, post office, restaurant, grocery store and more. Then browse to choose the one you want and you’ll get a map with the business’ phone number and directions to get you there ASAP. “AroundMe is one of my most useful apps,” says Natalie Gingerich Mackenzie, a writer in Syracuse, N.Y. “It’s like a phone book, map and GPS — all in one.
TripIt (iPhone, Android)
Gone are the days of printing out every flight, cruise, and hotel and dinner reservation confirmation. This app compiles all your itineraries so you can look them up with a touch. Plus, many airlines now let you scan your phone as your boarding pass.
“I love how all my trips are now paperless — it’s better for the environment, and I don’t have to worry about stuffing my purse full of papers,” says Linda Gregory, a teacher in Battle Creek, Mich.
Dropbox (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry)
This file-sharing app acts as a go-between for your phone and computers. Save your cell’s videos and photos to Dropbox to access them from your computer later, and open documents, presentations and spreadsheets you stored there from your desktop.
“I used to email myself photos or important information to have that data on my phone, but not anymore,” says Crispin Young, a graphic designer in Hood River, Ore. “Dropbox works like a hard drive, so I can access files I saved from home or work — no matter where I am.”