Even though Celltel, the first cellular network in Sri Lanka, was established on June 18, 1989, it wasn’t until 1994 that we had our own cellular phone. That year, my father purchased a brand-new Motorola DynaTac 8000X. Due to its large size, about half the size of a brick, the Motorola DynaTac 8000X earned the nickname “The Brick.” It had a tall antenna protruding from it. It had a talk time of 30 minutes, but it required a long 10 hours to fully charge. Its functionality was limited to making and receiving calls, and there was no option for sending SMS messages since that technology wasn’t available at the time. It didn’t have a SIM slot like modern phones because the Subscriber Identity Module was built directly into it. Despite its high price, the phone had only basic features. To be honest, back then, the only real advantage of the DynaTac 8000X over a fixed-line phone was its portability.
Looking ahead to 2023, we now have a wide range of options when it comes to smartphones, including the Apple iPhone and various Android-driven smartphones. These devices have become incredibly powerful, offering substantial processing capabilities and ample storage space. They can also handle multitasking with ease. Calling them “mobile phones” hardly does them justice anymore. Yet, I am convinced that even the iPhone 14 or the Google Pixel 7a, despite their advancements, would be rendered useless without the AppStore and the Google Play Store. Without apps, a smartphone is merely a basic phone with limited functionality. It’s the wide array of apps available that truly transform these devices into digital Swiss Army Knives. So, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to the six smartphone apps that I cannot imagine living without today.
Let me share my password habits—I maintain an average password length of 38 characters, as I am a security-conscious IT enthusiast. I use LastPass Free on both my MacBook Air and Oppo A12. Recently, GoTo announced a restriction for freeloaders like me, limiting usage to either smartphones or desktops. Opting for the Desktop, I encountered a problem: entering lengthy passwords on a smartphone was impractical. Fortunately, I discovered Alt-C, a life-saving tool that allows easy copy-pasting between my MacBook Air and Oppo A12. Alt-C works on Windows, macOS, and Android, but, unfortunately, no iOS version is available yet. I doubt whether an app for iOS is even necessary because macOS and iOS support clipboard sharing by design. Nevertheless, Alt-C proves invaluable for seamless text transfer across devices, streamlining my workflow and maintaining my high-security standards (Alt-C encrypts data in transmission by default).
Microsoft Authenticator is a security application that provides two-factor authentication and passwordless logins for Microsoft Services like Hotmail and OneDrive. Previously, I used Google Authenticator, but I switched to Authenticator by Microsoft due to a significant issue. Google Authenticator crashed, causing me to lose all my one-time passwords (OTPs) permanently. This incident led me to look for a more reliable two-factor authentication app capable of securely backing up my codes to the Cloud and easily restoring them with just one tap. For a while, I tried Authy, but I eventually realized that Microsoft Authenticator not only supports two-factor authentication for various online services but also seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Services. This made it the perfect choice for me as it combined convenience and security for all my authentication needs.
I’m an avid note-taker, and when it comes to note-taking apps, Evernote is my top choice. Although the free version limits me to only 2 devices and the search function isn’t perfect, it still delivers on its promises. It’s incredibly versatile and useful in many situations. For instance, I rely on Evernote to securely store important information, like the PIN for a password-protected office door. It also comes in handy when I need to share a prescription with a pharmacist; I just snap a photo and store it in Evernote for easy access at the counter. During meetings, I use its built-in audio recorder to capture accurate minutes. Evernote impresses me with its ability to handle notes in various formats and makes sharing notes with others effortless, regardless of whether they use Evernote or not. It’s worth noting that anything I put into the app is encrypted, ensuring security. However, I strongly advise against using it for storing passwords, even though you technically could.
While this app holds the third spot on my list, it has proven to be the most crucial one I’ve ever used. It’s a true life-saver, especially for my mother, who requires regular medication. In my hometown, getting prescriptions often involves visiting multiple pharmacists, leading to higher costs and potentially substandard medications. The situation worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, Healthnet came to our rescue. Installing the app, creating an account, and uploading a photo of the prescription is all it takes. The Healthnet Team handles the rest. The app impresses with its flexibility, interactive interface, and rich features while remaining simple enough for even your grandmother to use for ordering meds. Payment options are diverse, allowing users to link credit or debit cards, transfer funds online, or pay cash upon delivery. I find the pre-linked credit card option convenient. For any inquiries, the website’s FAQ section might be helpful, although it might be slightly outdated. Nonetheless, it should address most of your questions.
As I mentioned earlier, I switched from Dropbox to OneDrive on my MacBook Air, and you can find the reasons for that in my previous explanation. I also made the same decision for my smartphone because having OneDrive installed allows me to access all my Office 365 documents and PDF files on the go. This app eliminates the need for a separate Office App and a PDF reader, streamlining my mobile experience. Another benefit is the ease of file transfer between my devices, making it a breeze to manage my files. While the built-in document scanning functionality could use some improvement, OneDrive remains at the top of my most-wanted app list. It excels in everything else and grants me effortless access to my 2TB cloud storage space. This convenience and functionality make it an indispensable tool for my daily tasks and document management.
While some may argue that there are more powerful To-Do list apps like Remember the Milk, I prefer the simplicity of Microsoft’s “To Do” app. It offers a straightforward approach: add tasks, set deadlines, and create reminders for each item on your list and forget about it. From there, Microsoft To Do is in charge of your To-Do list handling everything efficiently. The app’s designers have carefully considered the user experience, allowing you to customize it to receive notifications even when your device is in Do Not Disturb Mode. Another great feature is its seamless syncing across all your devices, providing excellent flexibility. To get started with To Do, all you need is a free Microsoft Account, which can be created using Hotmail, Outlook, Live, or a Microsoft 365 Family or Personal Account. The app’s ease of use and compatibility across various devices makes it an excellent choice for anyone seeking a simple and effective task management solution.
In conclusion, as we reflect on the evolution of mobile phones from the bulky and limited Motorola DynaTac 8000X to the powerful smartphones of today, it becomes evident that the true magic lies in the multitude of apps available. These apps have transformed our devices into indispensable digital Swiss Army Knives. Among the vast array of apps, I have come to rely on six essential ones that have significantly improved my productivity and daily life. Alt-C stands out as a life-saving tool that simplifies text transfer between devices, ensuring easy access to complex and secure passwords. Microsoft Authenticator provides a robust two-factor authentication solution, seamlessly integrating with various online services.
Evernote has become my go-to note-taking app, facilitating secure storage and effortless sharing of important information. Healthnet emerges as a crucial app, particularly during the pandemic, streamlining prescription management and enhancing healthcare accessibility. Lastly, OneDrive empowers me with seamless access to Office 365 documents and PDF files across all my devices. These six apps have revolutionized the way I work, communicate, and organize my life, making them indispensable companions I cannot imagine living without in today’s mobile-driven world.
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