Underrated smartphone apps you didn’t know you needed

These useful smartphone apps can enhance your life or get you out of a jam

You always have your smartphone within reach, and it can serve your every whim regardless of where you are or what you’re up to. But sometimes circumstances arise when you wonder if there’s an app that can help. Chances are, there is. Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store host over 2 million apps each, and there’s bound to be something that suits every circumstance, no matter how specific or obscure.

We picked out some highly rated apps spanning both platforms that will help you through various situations and events. Most are free with ads, though some also have a pro version. That’s not enough? Have a look at our massive lists of best iOS apps and best Android apps for 2019.

GasBuddy

Gas prices are all over the lot. If you’re fanatical about getting the best price down to a fraction of a cent, then you’ll want to pull over to the curb to check GasBuddy before you pull into the nearest gas station. The app provides price hike alerts so you can fill up first before the price goes up, current deals from local convenience stores, and uses your phone’s motion detection to identify actions that may be bad for your fuel economy. The app quotes price information from users for the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

iOS Android

Duolingo

Learning a foreign language can be very challenging, but Duolingo makes the experience more pleasant and productive through very short, game-like lessons. The award-winning app facilitates practicing your speaking, reading, listening, and writing skills in a fun format. You boost your skills by responding to questions and doing lessons. The app starts you off with basic verbs, phrases, and sentences, and has you progress through new vocabulary words every day.

iOS  Android

Star Chart 

It’s 2 a.m. and you’re wide awake. Why not go outside and look up? Depending on where you are, there are twinkling little lights that humans have been staring at since the world began, and Star Chart helps you interpret what you are seeing. Assisted by your smartphone’s GPS and an accurate 3D universe, Star Chart calculates the current location of every star and planet visible from Earth and shows you where they are, even during the day.

If you want to know what that bright thing is, point your phone at it. View your immediate area or the other side of the world by pointing your phone down toward the ground. You can find out your star sign or use voice control to navigate outer space. The app displays all 88 constellations and 120,000 stars. A premium version for $5 tracks satellite positions, meteor showers, and includes Charles Messier’s catalog of exotic deep sky objects.

iOS  Android

Snapseed

Sure, the default image editing app on your iPhone or Android smartphone is serviceable enough to do some basic improvements on your pictures, but if you’d like something a bit more comprehensive and easy to use, Snapseed is your jam. The app features 29 tools and filters to enhance any image — such as healing, brush, structure, HDR, perspective, and more. It opens both JPEG and raw files, saves custom looks to use on different photos, and has a selective filter brush. All styles can be tweaked with precise controls. You can achieve double exposures to blend two photos, face enhancements to add eye focus, improved lighting and skin softening, and enhanced portrait posing.

iOS  Android

Spending Tracker

When you’re walking around town, it’s a cinch that your money is burning a hole in your pocket. A coffee here, a magazine or book there, a couple of bucks to someone in need — by the time you get home you have no idea where it all went. Keep better track of your money with Spending Tracker. You’ll still spend it all, but at least you’ll know on what. It features an intuitive interface that lets you enter and track expenses, adjust time periods, set budgets, view a summary, log income and expenses, create multiple accounts for personal and business expenses, get report charts, and back up everything to Dropbox. You’ll have to upgrade to get the syncing feature.

iOS  Android

RunPee

You’re at the movies and nature calls. But you can’t leave your seat as the suspense builds — or can you? RunPee is one of those apps you can’t believe really exist, but that actually serves a great purpose: It tells you at what part of the movie you can use the loo without missing anything. Seriously. The app’s timer vibrates to alert you when a good time for a pee break is coming so you don’t have to bother your companions or other moviegoers in the theater. Just enjoy the movie without stressing about when you can duck out. The database of 1,300 movies is updated weekly, whenever films open to wide distribution in theaters. It also provides a synopsis for your time out so you know what you missed. If you’re running late for the show, the app will catch you up on what you missed in the first three minutes.

iOS   Android

Flush

Go ahead, laugh. But just wait until you’re stuck somewhere, need to use the bathroom, and have no idea where public toilets are located. Then you will be happy to have this useful app. Flush uses geolocation technology to alert you of where a public toilet is closest to you. It’s serviceable if not perfect. The app has over 190,000 bathrooms in its database and you can search even while offline. It tells you which ones offer disabled access, charge a fee, or require a key, and gives directions on how to locate them. You can also add a toilet to augment the crowdsourced list of toilets and rate or report a toilet by swiping left on a specific toilet in the list.

iOS  Android

CamScanner

With your smartphone as a de facto record keeper, scanning is quickly becoming extinct. CamScanner reclaims that skill somewhat by giving you a nicely centered document in proper proportion and in PDF format instead of a poorly captured one. The app lets you digitize business and personal documents, optimize scan quality for professional rendition, share documents through the usual channels or print them, edit, annotate, or watermark, password protect, and search. OCR features to extract text from images are available in the premium version for $5 per month or $50 per year. You must register to sync documents across platforms.

iOS  Android

Home Theater

Ditto lets you watch up to four sources of video at once on an Apple TV

Apple TV's screen mirroring feature is very handy, but also very limited. You can only mirror Apple devices and only one at a time. A new version of Squirrel's Ditto app for tvOS eliminates these restrictions.
Computing

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips and tricks

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Deals

Amazon’s deal nets you the Fitbit Versa smartwatch for 15% less

If you're hesitant to get the Fitbit Versa smartwatch at its standard price of $200, then check out Amazon's deal that gives it to you for 15% less. Cash in $170 for a cool wearable and walk away with $30 in savings.
Home Theater

How to know if you’re actually getting Dolby Atmos sound

Dolby Atmos surround sound has become the holy grail for home theater lovers who want the best possible sound from their systems. But getting it isn't as easy as you might think. Here's how to know if you're getting Dolby Atmos.
Mobile

These fraudulent Android apps were downloaded 8 million times

According to a new report from security research firm Trend Micro, a hefty 85 Android apps have been caught serving fraudulent ads that take over the user's screen -- and those apps have been downloaded 8 million times.
Deals

Score this Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus with a huge $101 discount at Amazon

If you're thinking about upgrading your phone and not willing to expend over $800 on the S10, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a great option. It's discounted by $101 at Amazon, dropping its price from $700 to only $599.
Social Media

Spice up your Instagram videos by adding your top tunes to the soundtrack

Have you ever taken a beautiful video, only to have it ruined by some jerk in the background yelling curse words? Here's a list of apps you can use to add your own music to Instagram posts as well as your Story.
Deals

Grab the terrific Samsung Galaxy A50 phone for $126 less on Amazon

Samsung is mostly known for its premium Galaxy S and Note Series phones, but it also manufactures cheaper phones through the A-Series. An example is the Samsung Galaxy A50 which not only looks great but also boasts a lot of features.
Mobile

Best alternatives to Google’s preinstalled Android apps

Want to get away from Google's preinstalled Android apps, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Maps? These are the best alternatives to the apps that come with your phone, which are pretty great, but not for everybody.
Computing

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what do you do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether via an email client or Windows 10.
Mobile

Looking for love or just some fun? Cozy up with the best dating apps of 2019

Everyone knows online dating can be stressful, time-consuming, and downright awful. Check out our top picks for the best dating apps, so you can streamline the process and find the right date, whatever you're looking for.
Mobile

Small companies may differ, but all need good, reasonably priced cell service

There's no single cell phone plan that will suit every small company, but with numerous high quality plans from a variety of major carriers, you will find one that suits your needs. We pick some plans and outline what you need to know.
Product Review

Here's what we think after a weekend with Samsung's giant Galaxy Note 10 Plus

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 Plus is here, and it’s the biggest and best Samsung phone ever. Its key feature is its looks, as it has an attractive rear design, highlighted by the new Aura Glow color, but little else has changed.
Mobile

Fitbit Versa 2 will reportedly roll out September 15 with OLED display, Alexa

Leaked images confirm that the Fitbit Versa 2 will come with an OLED display and Alexa integration, with more than four days of battery life. A source claims that the Fitbit Versa successor will be released on September 15.