5 Christmas apps to help the festive season go smoothly


It’s less than a month now and we can’t help feel a glimmer of excitement that Christmas is on its way. Each year we say to ourselves, “I’m going to start planning Christmas earlier this year,” but before we know it, it’s mid-December and we’ve not even bought one present. With the advances in technology planning Christmas couldn’t be easier and with the assistance of a few simple apps we’ve no excuse for leaving it all to the last minute.

Take a look at the following five best Christmas planning apps:

Santa’s Bag – Christmas Gift List

With a countdown timer, Facebook and contacts import for recipients, customised emails, wish lists, planning lists, shopping, individual gifts and much more all wrapped up in an fun and easy-to-use app, Santa’s Bag – Christmas Gift List could certainly help alleviate some of the stress from Christmas planning.

Setting budgets, keeping track of your spending and being ultra-organised this year is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users. – What’s more, Santa’s Bag is free.

No More Socks: The Christmas List Genius

“The only gift list app to score 5 out of 5 on Macworld,” iTunes’ proudly states – If Macworld’s anything to go by. Though with a string of complimentary user remarks related to the “awesomeness”, “uniqueness” and “beautiful design” of No More Socks, this “best app in the world” certainly seems to be ticking the right boxes.

So what exactly does it do?

Users can store and organise gift ideas all year round, locate and bookmark gifts online, shop, share ideas, get inspired and set up birthday reminders.

Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPd touch the No More Socks: The Christmas List Genius app is free to download.

The Salvation Army Christmas Music

So Christmas planning isn’t confined to presents and shopping and for many households music takes centre stage throughout the festivities.  The Salvation Army Christmas Music provides you with a great variety of Christmas music, including the oldies, classical, hymns, instrumental, children’s, soul/jazz, around the world and the Salvation Army brass Christmas.

Without having to sieve through the CDs locating the Christmas favourites or spending hours downloading all the Xmas classics, this app could certainly simplify the music and entertainment aspect of Christmas planning.

Stream festive music onto your iPhone or iPod Touch for £1.99 – all proceeds go to the Salvation Army.

Santa’s Christmas Village

Christmas planning is all about getting into the festive spirit and if the adverts, lights and shops laden with Xmas items aren’t making you feel Christmassy then call upon Santa’s Christmas Village. With 17 fun activities, seasonal pictures and festive songs, all the family can have hours of fun with this creative festive app. And when the kids are entertained, Mum and Dad can get on with writing Christmas cards, wrapping the presents and preparing the turkey.

Santa’s Christmas Village is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users and costs £1.49.

Sleeps to Christmas Lite – Christmas Countdown

Christmas is a whole lot easier to plan when you know exactly how long you’ve got to go. OK so different animated Christmas characters holding signs that count down the nights, hours, minutes and seconds until Christmas Day might prove a little annoying and send you into panic about what you’ve got left to do but at least the kids will love it – They can even shake your iPhone or iPod touch to make a sleigh bell noise!

Download the Sleeps to Christmas Lite – Christmas Countdown for free.


Parallels Access Turns Your Windows / Mac Programs Into iPad Apps


Being able to get at your computer from your tablet is nothing new — apps like TeamViewer and LogMeIn already to a great job, and a free for non-commercial use — but Parallels Access offers something a little different. It optimises the programs running on your computer so that they mimic iPad apps, supporting the standard full-screen mode, tapping and scrolling that you’d find in anything you downloaded from the App Store. Your Windows taskbar or Mac OS dock is turned into an iOS-style home screen, making it much easier to launch and switch between apps as required.

It’s an impressive feat, and it comes at a price: you’ll need to shell out £54.99 a year for every computer you want to access, though there is a free trial available if you want to test the software out before parting with your cash. The final link in the chain is the Parallels Access desktop client, available for Windows (in beta) and Mac OS, which controls access from your iPad and makes the necessary adjustments on your computer (which you won’t be able to use if you’re also linked to it on your iPad).

We spent some time playing around with Parallels Access on an iPad mini and a Windows 8 PC, and while there were one or two minor bugs in the beta desktop client, overall the setup offered a great iPad-optimised experience. Installation was simple and straightforward, and our desktop software programs really did feel like native iPad apps, from the integrated pop-up keyboard to the simple app switching interface. Using Word was intuitive and straightforward, providing the fully featured software in a way that makes sense for a smaller screen.

Some of the more advanced operations (like clicking and dragging) take a little time to get used to — pay attention to the tutorial video that appears during the setup process, which explains how to duplicate mouse clicks and keyboard presses on your touchscreen iPad. Not every application works perfectly right now, but you can make use of the free trial period to see how Parallels Access handles your favourite programs.

Parallels has high hopes for the app. “We are now in an always-on age where people are increasingly demanding access to their applications and data regardless of physical location,” said CEO Birger Steen. “With Parallels Access, you can tap, swipe and pinch your way around Mac and Windows applications to ultimately be more productive at work, and lead a more connected life.”

You can download Parallels Access for iOS here and find the desktop clients at the Parallels website . The company also develops an extensive range of other virtualisation and cloud computing products.

Top 5 Car Related Gadgets


What do you do if your car is a bit, well …old? You can buy the latest fancy gadget and totally keep up with the Jones’s next door without having to fork out on an the expense of a new car. Take a look at the following top apps and devices available so that you can modernise your motor even if the chassis might be falling apart.

OBD-II Scan Tool

An OBD-11 scan tool will do what the typical modern mechanic does when he links his scanner to the car’s onboard computer in order to find out what ailments the car has. Of course knowing whether the oil pressure is too low or there is a possible leak in the head gasket is great but it’s another kettle of fish entirely to actually fix the problem.

Simply purchase an OBD-II adapter online and connect it with an OBD-II accommodating car, which is most modern vehicles and you can then use an app such as the Torque Pro, to learn about the state of your car’s health, without the fear that you’re getting ripped off by a mechanic.


Smartphone Integration

If a car has smartphone integration – think certain Toyota models and the Pandora in the US – the information from the driver’s smartphone appears automatically on the dashboard’s LCD screen. The information can be controlled via the car’s instrument panel and some commands are even voice-activated. Sounds a little bit like Night Rider and David Haselhoff!

There are kits available, which will allow you to control your smartphone’s music selection through your car’s audio system and you can even watch videos on the LCD screen.


Motor insurance claims can be drawn-out and indecisive affairs, especially if the ‘other guy’ is wavering the truth about an accident that you were involved in. With the iCarBlackBox you can record such vital information for your insurer’s perusal. Mount your smartphone on the windscreen of your car and when loaded with the iCarBlackBox it will record braking, speed and indicator use, etc. It can even play back the whole accident on video and prove who did what and when.

Could prove an intuitive investment for just 69 pence!


Confused.com Parking app

How many times have we been driving round a city trying to locate a place to park? Such a dilemma recently happened to me in Brighton, where due to an inability to find a car park, I drove around for the best part of an hour and then copped for a £80 parking ticket as I ended up parking illegally.

Confused.com Parking app eradicates such dilemmas. Simply download this app and find the most convenient and least expensive places to park within a city – A potent money – and stress – saving tool indeed.

Parking app

Viper Smartstart GPS

A real James Bond car gadget, the Viber Smartstart does much more than simply directing you to a parking spot. An alarm goes off when you reach certain pre-programmed zones and likewise if you go faster than you should. You can control many of your car’s functions from miles away via your smartphone, such as turn the radio on or open a window.

You can even start your car up in winter from the comfort your eleventh floor apartment and by the time you appear out of the lift the car is warmed up nicely and ready to go! You can even find out if you left a door unlocked. Although these smart little tricks will require an ongoing subscription. There is a basic non-subscription model for a little over half the price as the subscription package, but it only works within the Bluetooth range.


Top 5 Free Holiday Apps


We’ve noticed a couple of things when searching for recommendations for good apps to use on holiday. First that many are aimed at helping you plan or organise a trip, but are of limited use when you get there, and second that many need a steady internet connection, which unless you want to pay expensive roaming fees are again of little use when you get there. So here’s a short list of five free and genuinely useful apps that we think should be on every smartphone user’s “must-have list” for a trip abroad.

Pocket is a great app to have in any situation where you’ll spend a significant amount of time without an internet connection. Able to save web pages (including images and even videos) locally on your phone with just a couple of taps on the screen, it’s easy to amass a list of “must read” articles to peruse at a more convenient time. So you could, for example, grab the day’s news from the wireless area at reception and enjoy it outside at the pool bar while catching a few rays.
Available for: iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire


You’d be hard pressed not to have at least heard of Skype. The popular VOIP (Voice Over IP) service has found a new lease of life on mobile platforms, and it’s a great way to make video or voice calls without touching the data or minutes on your phone package. This is particularly useful abroad when facing roaming charges, provided you can find a quiet place in a wireless area to make your call. You can also send messages via Skype, though alternatives such as WhatsApp offer a slightly more straightforward way to send free text, photo and video messages to loved ones while away.
Available for: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry


Oanda Currency Convertor
There is no shortage of currency conversion software for mobiles, but we’re a fan of Oanda’s for its small footprint (just 220k), fast and straightforward operation, daily exchange rate updates and the fact that it works offline. You can also choose between the standard interbank rate or use the percentage add-on option to set typical rates for credit card companies and ATMs at foreign banks. So there’s no excuse for miscalculating the next booze cruise – just don’t forget to add on the drinks.
Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry


Tourist Language Learn & Speak
Software such as Google Translate and iTranslate are undoubtedly marvels of modern translation, but unless you’re paying hefty data roaming fees are of little use when you actually need them – on holiday in an area with no wireless signal. Offline phrasebooks are a better bet when you’re actually abroad, and Tourist Language Learn & Speak for Android is up there with the best. With support for 24 languages in 58 countries, all of the key phrases you’ll need are sorted into handy categories and can be are spoken back to you to help with pronunciation.
Available for: Android

Tripit Travel Organizer
After a passport, perhaps the most important thing to take with you on holiday is a printout of your travel itinerary, booking confirmations, airline reservations and other documentation you might need while away. Unless you’re particularly organised it can be easier to forget one or more of these so a service like Tripit could be a lifesaver. Simply upload any relevant documentation and Tripit organises it and makes it available offline for you to check at a moment’s notice. You can even get weather forecasts, maps and directions and share your details with family or friends so they know where you are if they need to contact you.
Available for: iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7

Top 5 Sunbathing Apps


Okay so it might be a little premature to start reaching for the sun cream, in fact in the UK we can go the whole year without having so much as to open a bottle of sun protector, but if you are jetting off to sunnier climes this year you’d be extremely foolish if sun protection wasn’t an integral part of your suitcase.

Using the correct protection is a serious business and various companies have come up with gizmos which will allow you to sunbathe in a more controlled way.

The UV wristband

Intellego Technologies of Sweden have come up with this neat little aid to help with safer sunbathing. No bigger than the standard hospital wristband, this nifty device can alert the wearer when it is time to get out of the sun.

Basically the wristband changes colour and when it hits a certain shade you know it’s time to leave the beach. You can get different strength levels for different skin types.

Although it has to be said that this potentially lifesaving device is not particularly helpful those of us who have a tendency to fall asleep on our sun lounger!



Sun Alert Lite

For those really serious about getting a comprehensive understanding of sunbathing and protection, Sun Alert Lite might be the app for you.

This useful tanning aid has three dials, one for skin type, one for the SPF rating of your sun cream and one of the weather conditions, enabling users to have an accurate understanding of what sun protection they should be using.




Knowing when to reapply your sun lotion is always a bit of a bind and all too often can sunbathers forget and suffer with red-raw skin as a consequence. Thanks to Nevus forgetting to reapply are over as you simply set an alarm so that you know when to reapply the lotion.

The Nevus iPhone app also supplies the UV index as well as a “Sunscreen Visualiser” so that you know how much lotion to apply for optimum coverage.

A handy app for just £1.99!



Coppertone MyUVAlert

This free to download app by Coppertone enables users to look up the UV index for the location they are heading to. Users are then encouraged to set up a ‘Suncare profile,’ which has been accused totmataro.cat/comprar-kamagra.html totmataro.cat/cialis-20mg-precio.html of simply being a platform for Coppertone to sell its skincare products.

The UV index might be pretty handy though!



Suntan Watcher

Simply lock your phone, set your sun tan levels and catch those rays! The various settings monitor, how many minutes you should spend sunbathing before it is time to turn over, how long before sun cream is needed to be applied, and how long before it is time to stop sunbathing altogether.

As an alarm rings out perhaps this anti-sunburn gadget is more suited to those who can’t help but fall asleep on the beach – Not bad for a mere £0.69.


Top 5 Cooking Apps


Consider yourself a novice in the kitchen? Not convinced by the never-ending slew of expensive celebrity cook books? Don’t worry; all answers, recipes, measurements and cooking dilemmas can be found in your very pocket. Take a seat at the chef’s table and allow Latest Gadgets to round up five of the most interesting, informative and easy to use smartphone cooking apps…

Cook School Fresh

On Cook School Fresh

Backed by the Government’s Food For Life campaign, Cook School Fresh respects any level of knowledge and provides full instructions accordingly. With an emphasis on fresh ingredients (well, the clue is in the title), seasonal availability, age of the student and ingredients, this free app serves simple step-by-step instructions that will allow you to progress from water-burner to gourmet guru in a matter of meals.

Free and home to hundreds of healthy recipes, Cook School Fresh shouts louder than many standard recipe applications thanks to its emphasis on education. Setting you up to have the confidence to knock up perfect, low calorie, sustainably sourced grub on your own, the potential to totally ruin your phone with butter-smudged digits also ranks lower than other apps, too…

Yours for FREE


Wolfram Culinary Mathematics

On iTunes

Cooking: it’s all fun and games until you mess up one of the measurements. Especially in the dark art of baking… Stumble on just one of the digits and your flan will end up a complete flop.

Luckily Wolfram’s Culinary Mathematics are here to help; allowing you to negotiate your way through the metric/imperial maze and adapt your portion sizes depending on the size of your dining party, it eases all possible cooking conundrums.

Wait; there’s more. Not only does Culinary Mathematics provide assistance with unit conversions, it’s also a very handy resource for nutritional information and even waste management and budgeting for the family shopping trip.

Numbers and noms: Culinary Mathematics has it all locked down.

Yours for £1.49

Matthew Kenney’s Raw Express

On iTunes

Goodbye cooker, hello healthy lifestyle! Not all recipes involve slaving over a hot stove, you know…


Well established US chef Kenney is something of a raw food evangelist. Proving raw doesn’t just mean ‘knocking up a quick salad’, his Raw Express app offers 50 insightful meals that really push the fresh food and vegan mind set. Highlights abound but take  this first menu suggestion from us: the raw chilli with cashews and sour cream and Brazilian truffles are to die for!

Yours for £1.99


Knife Skills

On iTunes

For those who’ve picked up a few skills and feel a bit handy, say hello to Knife Skills, a comprehensive guide to becoming a proper chopper.

With 36 high definition video tutorials and detailed step-by-step guides, everything you could possibly know about knife work and cooking is right here for the reasonable sum of £6.99. From basic veg prep such as tear-free onion dicing to crafty butchery such as cutting up a whole chicken, this is a great way to literally sharpen your skills in the kitchen.

Yours for £6.99



On iTunes

It’s the moment all budding chefs dread… You’ve got the perfect menu planned, you think you’ve got all the ingredients ready then – horror! – you realise you’ve left one essential item off your list and the store is closed.

What do you do? Run away and cry in your shed? Is that what Gordon Ramsay would do? No siree… He’d look up the best substitution and crack on, which is exactly what you can do with this 69p app. Who knows? You might even create something better with this last minute ingredient switch.

With an added bonus of offering alternative ingredients for food allergies and gluten-free diets, you’ll soon find that not all recipes need to be adhered to as strictly as others…

Yours for 69p

Netamo’s Urban Weather Station: Health Benefits and Meteorological Readings


We Brits love our weather – if all other avenues of conversation dry up, the damp and blustery conditions are one sure-fire fall-back. Now Netatmo is planning to exploit our meteorological weakness with the Urban Weather Station, a device it describes as “the first personal weather station with Air quality sensors, for iPhone, iPad and Android devices”. You shell out the princely sum of £159 for two sleek, cylindrical devices that between them measure both weather conditions and air quality inside and outside your home, then view those results via a free app on your iPad, iPhone or Android mobile.

Setup is simple, as demonstrated by  our video unboxing guide: the outdoor device, powered by four AAA batteries, straps to a suitably sheltered point outside using a bracket or supplied Velcro belt, while the indoor cylinder plugs into a handy power socket. Constructed from a mixture of aluminium and white plastic, each cylinder is designed to look sleek and unobtrusive, so should fit seamlessly into most living or office spaces.

Both devices need to be within range of your Wi-Fi network, but setup is simple: just temporarily plug in your mobile to the indoor cylinder, and it’ll grab the connection details it needs. Once done, both devices can start funnelling data to your mobile at scheduled intervals, or whenever you tap the button on top of the indoor device.

The Weather Station uses your phone to get an exact location, which ensures it’s able to calibrate its barometric-pressure sensor to your altitude. The sensors collect information about temperature, humidity, air pressure, noise, CO2 levels and air quality, before delivering all this information to your phone. MacWorld noted in its recent review that early readings tend to fluctuate as the unit acclimatises itself to its new home, but once settled down, it delivers accurate results.

The app not only provides a beautiful display of all the information provided by the Urban Weather Station, it also stores every scrap of information it receives, eventually providing graphs of all the data for comparative purposes. The app also provides up to six days of local weather forecasts, while users can sign up to Netatmo’s Urban Weather Programme, which shares your station’s data for the benefit of others living close by as well as meteorologists, scientists and environmentalists.

Those looking for a complete weather breakdown may be disappointed by the lack of options for measuring wind direction and speed, but the Urban Weather Station offers more than just a glorified barometer and thermometer; it also measures air quality and noise levels indoors and outdoors. Armed with this information, the app can provide timely reminders about when to ventilate your home as the CO2 levels rise plus warn you to stay inside when air pollution levels are at their worst.

With the UK’s increasing problems with air pollution starting to make national headlines, Netatmo’s timing in releasing the Urban Weather Station couldn’t be better. It could become the urban dweller’s must-have accessory this summer.

Netatmo’s Urban Weather Station is now available for £159 at netatmo.com.

Connected Car: Glympse Partners with BMW and Mini for Location Sharing


BMW hasn’t pushed it smartphone app integration as much as its competitors like Ford or GM, but at last week’s New York motor show the German car manufacturer announced new partnerships with Glympse, Rhapsody, TuneIn and Audible.

Each app, as you’d expect shows up on the LCD in BMW models equipped with the app integration feature, in a style similar to other car applications, such as navigation or the hands-free phone system.

Owners of BMW Apps-ready cars just have to connect their smartphone to the car’s dashboard system to start using the new apps.

With Glympse integration, drivers of BMW’s and Mini’s will be able to broadcast their location to friends and family via Facebook and Twitter, along with their email and calendar contacts.

The system, which uses the drivers’ smartphone, is a great companion for first time drivers where love-ones might be worried about their safety and current location. The system will automatically track their position, when they’re expected to arrive and even whether they’re stuck in traffic.
Anyone receiving a Glympse update can view the sender’s location on a real-time map through a web browser, with no need to have the dedicated mobile app installed on their smartphone, tablet or computer, which makes the system really easy to use for the end user.


“With this partnership, we are excited to expand our roster of apps within the BMW Group Application Integration Program. Our drivers will be able to share where they are on the road safely, simply and with a touch of a button.”

Rhapsody, an Internet-based music service, has also announced a new partnership with BMW. Drivers will get a similar feature set to what shows up on the current smartphone app, including playlist access and the ability to download music. The app also shows album art for currently playing tracks, which is a nice touch.

BMW also announced integration of Audible, a leading provider of audio books, and will let drivers choose a recorded book and play it over the car’s stereo. The interface lets drivers change the playback speed and skip back 30 seconds at the push of a button. Because the car integrates with the app on a phone, it starts playing from the most recent stop point.

Audible book recordings integrate with Amazon’s Whispersync, so if a driver owns a book on Kindle and Audible, the last Audible book starts at the last stopping point of the Kindle version, and vice versa.

And finally TuneIn, a leading provider of internet radio, announced that BMW drivers will be able to listen to radio stations streaming over the Internet from anywhere in the world, using their phone’s mobile broadband connection.

The only problem we can see with any of these apps is: they’re only as good as the 3G networks they’re running on, which in the UK is flakey. But fast-forward 18 months, and once 4G has fully rolled out across the country, and these services will likely be competing with traditional radio for your attention for years to come.