An article on the BBC tech page about people prepared to give up their smartphones prompted me to think about my own usage and whether I could live without my smartphone. I suspect the answer is not, but I am also very conscious of the amount of time I use (or perhaps waste) staring at my screen.

As I write this at 2.20pm, my phone tells me I have been using it for 22 minutes today but for almost two hours yesterday. Surprisingly my biggest use has been as a phone, followed by Outlook and then Chrome. If I had to have guessed, I would have thought social networking sites such as Twitter and Instagram would have topped my list!

In these days of ‘always on’, my reliance on certain apps has become ubiquitous so while I might been keen to go on the occasional digital detox, I would struggle to live without certain functionality.

Here is my top five apps I cannot live without:

  • Navigation via Google Maps: I can hardly venture out without tapping the destination into Google Maps. This is even true when I am going somewhere I know how to get to, because I love knowing when I will get there, possible alternate routes, and live traffic information. Recently I have tried to outsmart traffic advice from Google twice, with disastrous consequences on both occasions, so it is certainly much smarter than I give it credit for.
  • Podcasting: listening to podcasts has almost completely replaced the radio for me. I listen endlessly in the car and walking the dog and am always proactively looking for new recommendations. I use an app to automatically keep me posted of podcasts I am subscribed to and would struggle to live without them now.
  • National Rail Enquiries/CityMapper: since COVID I have been on a train less, but the National Rail app is still my go-to and one of the very few apps I would pay for. It tells me (much to the annoyance of my more patient family) when the train is late and which platform to expect it on. Likewise in London (or recently in Barcelona) the Citymapper app is fantastic at helping me navigate to where I want to go – particularly if I want to know how far somewhere is by foot.
  • Google Photos: possibly the most useful service from Google – even including Maps. I love the ability to carry out a detailed search to find images from years ago and appreciate the nostalgia of looking back on what I was doing a year, two years or even 15 years ago. The app’s capability to identify someone as the same person aged three or 18 is incredible.
  • Tiny Scanner: probably the least famous app in this list but invaluable as it photographs contracts and other documents and turns them into a scanned copy. For people like me that have to sign and send a lot of contracts but do not have regular access to a scanner, it is a life saver (although I would much prefer everyone moved to e-signature – especially the client with the 66 page contract).