Rather than play games in your spare time, there are a few other things you could be doing with your iPhone, like catching up with your Pocket reading list, or keeping up with your favourite social network. But that’s not all your iPhone is good for.
From listening to bitesize radio shows to cleaning out your inbox, it might be worth thinking twice before firing up the latest app you can’t seem to stop playing.
Listen to Short Podcasts
Whether you save them for offline listening or have a massive data allowance to listen to online content, there’s a wealth of short five to ten minute podcasts that are perfect for whenever you have a short amount of time to kill. The great thing about these podcasts is that you also know exactly how much time you have before you have to turn your attention to something else.
For short-listen podcasts, there’s a huge variety of topics and genres from you to choose from in the iTunes store, on Stitcher, and any other apps you use to get your podcast fix. StoryCorps, for example, a podcast that likely needs no introduction, is full of short, five to ten minute episodes.
Bringing stories of “everyday people” from all over the US, there is no media personality, no journalist, and no professional doing the interviewing. Instead, two people who know each other well have a conversation about something meaningful. One of my favourite episodes, while incredibly depressing is, the powerful conversation between Lori Baker and her husband about the grueling work she does trying to identify the remains of people who have died trying to cross the border from Mexico into the US. You can subscribe to StoryCorps on iTunes here.
Other quick-paced podcasts include The Writers Almanac, which is great for history and poetry buffs; Slate’s Poetry Podcast, which as you can guess is dedicated to the reading of poetry; The Memory Palace, offers “surprising stories of the past,”; and The Five Minute Geek Show, a podcast specifically for developers.
Doodle & Draw
There are a few great drawing apps out there for the iPhone and iPad that actually make it a lot easier to come up with a final product that looks good, even if you don’t fancy yourself as much of an artist. For those of you who do have the talent and skill, these apps will just make those talents shine all the brighter.
Taysyui Sketches is one such app. It comes with four different brushes, but for another $1.99 you can add five more tools, and the ability to export your images. Another $1.99 will give you the ability to draw on multiple layers.
If you prefer a little more screen real estate, and want to take the sketching to your iPad, check out Paper by Fifty Three, a really slick sketching app with a variety of brushes (several of which come as individual paid upgrades).
Adobe also has a series of apps that will come in handy for the artistically inclined. You can use Adobe Color CC to come up with a gorgeous palette of colours for your next iPhone masterpiece or use Adobe Brush CC to create your own brushes for use in the feature heavy aptly named sketching app by Adobe, Sketch. Unfortunately in order to use Sketch, you’ll have to switch over to your iPad.
Decide What’s for Dinner
If you haven’t figured out what’s for dinner, you can use your iPhone to do just that. There’s a ton of great iPhone recipe and grocery apps to choose from. One nifty new, and beautifully designed, app that you can use is Handpick. What’s particularly special about this app is that, if you know what’s in your fridge or pantry, you can pick a few ingredients, and the app will offer up recipes that contain those ingredients.
Better than that, however, Handpick can really inspire you to think outside the box and try out a variety of recipes that are featured on the home page, curated from Instagram and food sites, complete with recipes.
Handpick is a newcomer in a pretty crowded space and there’s a lot of other apps worth taking a look at if you’re looking for more recipes. Epicurious is a solid choice with over 30,000 recipes to choose from. It’s just one of several iOS apps that are also great if you’re learning how to cook.
Yummly is another great free app that can suggest recipes based on your preferences, allows you to save recipes in the app, and best of all, can create a grocery list for any given recipe at the touch of a button.
Learn a Language
There is obviously a limit to how fluent you can get in a foreign language depending on iPhone apps to get you there. That said, it’s a great place to start. You can get a sense of the vocabulary, grammar rules, and even form some sentences to boot. One app that offers a bit of fun in the way that you progress through your lessons is Duolingo.
As pointed out in our review of Duolingo, the app gamifies language learning. This seems like a good exception to include in this list, since you’re getting something useful out of it.
Duolingo does have its drawbacks — the full sentences used in the app aren’t necessarily the most useful — but considering that it’s a totally free option when it comes to language learning, it really does offer a great launching pad for deciding whether or not learning that particular language is for you.
With just over 100 languages available in the app, Memrise is another great option for learning some basics in a foreign language. If you already have basic knowledge of a language, you can dive in to one of Memrise’s more advanced courses. The app uses a repetitive, image-based method to help you memorize vocabulary, grammar, the alphabet (for non-latin languages), and more.
You can even download lessons for learning offline, so you don’t always have to have a connection to keep up with your tuition.
Reach Inbox Zero
Trying to reach inbox zero is no easy task. But with apps like Mailbox, the process is made a lot easier, and being able to tackle the monumental task on your phone makes it easy to get it done a little bit at at time. In our review of Mailbox, Bakari points out that you can quickly make it through your inbox items by archiving, deleting, “snoozing” items for later, or adding them to a list, with a few simple swipes.
Mailbox does have its limitations – it’s only available for Gmail and iCloud accounts. If you’re using another email provider, you might want to check out one of our other top-rated iPhone email apps. Triage, for example, keeps things simple: swipe up to archive or delete a message, swipe down to keep it in your inbox.
The $1.99 app works with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, iCloud, and most email services that support IMAP. If you prefer similar features, but for free, checkout the aptly named Zero. If you’re using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook or iCloud, the mail feed on Zero will give you a brief summary of your email making it easy to quickly scan your inbox, and like Triage, you simply swipe up to archive, or tap the ‘Keep in inbox’ button.
You can also choose to move the emails to a specific folder at the tap of a button. Best of all – you can watch the number of emails in your inbox countdown at the top of the app. Whenever you have five minutes to spare, rather than fire up that game that you find yourself playing over and over again, open up your inbox, and start clearing things out.
How Do You Kill Time on Your iPhone?
It’s your turn. Let us know in the comments how you use your iPhone to kill time. Remember not to include games, but be sure to let us know of any other apps, or even sites that are iPhone friendly.
Image Credit: Free Images/Kerem Yucel