Helpful Apps for Expats

 | Thu 23 May 2013 14:04 ICT

CityNews – Apps have become a part of every day life for many people. With smartphones, just a few simple swipes of a screen or click of a button can give you access to all kinds of information right at your fingertips. There are hundreds of thousands of apps available for almost any purpose, many of them free and easy to use, and last year over 60 billion phone apps were downloaded worldwide.

The current top 100 worldwide apps in the Apple iPhone App Store include games such as the addictive chart topper ‘Candy Crush Saga’ and ‘The Simpsons: Tapped Out’, news apps such as ‘Sky’ and ‘BBC News’, communication apps such as ‘WhatsApp’ and ‘Skype’, and photo apps like ‘Instagram’ and ‘Facetune’.

If you’re not familiar with phone apps, then the above will sound like a load of nonsense. But phone apps are simple to attain and easy to use and as an expat living in Chiang Mai, there are countless apps that could benefit your daily life.

For example, the Amazon ‘Kindle App’ is free to download and gains the user access to over one and a half million books, priced at £3.99 (179 baht) and below (and many are free). Farang often moan that there is a distinct lack of decently stocked western book shops in the city, and I would have to agree. The ‘Kindle App’, however, provides a platform for purchasing and discovering new books that are otherwise unavailable – and you don’t even have to buy a Kindle.

A useful app for those who are willing to learn the local lingo is ‘LearnThai’, a free app that allows the user to learn Thai though tapping phrases on screen, displayed in English, and listening to them being spoken loudly and clearly in Thai. If the learner is satisfied, there is an option later on to purchase more phrases. The app is clear and straightforward, and has certainly taught me some extra phrases and words.

An app that will come in use for those who enjoy travelling is the ‘Skyscanner’ app, which allows you check the prices and times of flights on the go. Renowned for finding the best value flights, SkyScanner’s app is completely free, incredibly easy to use, and offers all of the functions of the full website.

If you want to capture images on your smart phone and share them with the rest of the world quickly and easily, then the hugely popular ‘Instagram’ app, which is free, could be your answer. Once you’ve taken a photo with your phone’s camera, you upload it to your ‘Instagram’ account and share it with the ‘Instagram’ community. You can connect with friends, share on social networking sites, or simply share the images with strangers.

‘HiConverter’, priced at £0.69 (or 31 baht) is another extremely useful app; it converts not only currency, but fuel prices and fuel consumption, men’s and women’s clothing sizes (and bra sizes) and other units such as electrical voltage, temperatures and frequency. There is also a built-in calculator that provides handy information on percentages to help work out tips and bills.

It is easy to get lost in the identical streets of Chiang Mai, as I have often discovered, even for those who have lived here over a decade, and should you ever find yourself in that kind of situation, the free ‘Google Maps’ app is an essential. It works by accessing your location and pinpointing where you are on a map. You can then simply type in the address or the name of a landmark near to where you want to go, and the app will show you the shortest route, with the estimated time it will take. Your location point will then move as you do, similar to a sat nav.

Another worthwhile app to download is ‘Tunein’. There is a free lite version as well as a pro version, which costs £2.99 (134 thb). The app allows access to an extensive range of different radio stations that you can then directly stream from your phone. There are an assortment of options including local stations, recommended, music, sport, news, talk and others, which once selected lead onto another screen displaying either more options or a list of relevant radio stations that you can then automatically tune into at your will.

The best app for contacting friends and family abroad is the free ‘Skype’ app, which, providing you have a camera on your phone, allows you to see and speak to other ‘Skype’ users over the internet. The ‘Skype’ app is accessed via a ‘Skype’ account which is free to make and use and can be used on any computer, tablet, or phone which supports ‘Skype’.

And finally, of course, is the ‘Citylife Chiang Mai’ app, which contains information on what is happening in the local area, where to eat and drink, where to stay, where to shop and what to see. There is also a map of Chiang Mai with a range of attractions, restaurants, shops and bars pinpointed in the area. In the ‘What’s Hot’ section there is a calendar showing a list of what’s happening on what days along with their locations in Chiang Mai.

Phone apps can be extremely convenient and incredibly helpful, whether it be a map to help you find your way home, a phrase to help you talk your way out of a sticky situation, or a conversion to show you your own clothing size. Best of all, virtually anyone with a smartphone can use them with the internet, no matter how technology friendly (or unfriendly) you are.