Forget the resolutions, kick off the new year with a few of these useful apps


New Year’s Resolutions are the latest fad to receive the app treatment. My social media timeline have been awash with apps promising to help you fulfil those annual do-better intentions. Instead of apps to help you achieve the unachievable, rather use some good apps that make your life easier and more productive.

Every year, my personal favourite app is always Evernote. Evernote is a brilliant business tool that I use constantly. It works on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, letting you access your notes and documents on any of these computer systems. You’ll never feel like you’ve left something behind again.

Apart of the usual batch of mail, messaging, social media and browser, the next app I use the most is this one. With its green icon and the head of an elephant, no doubt to imply you ever forget anything, I use Evernote for storing useful information I might need, which syncs on all the computers I use.

The premium version offered an additional password lock – now available in the free version too, that is especially useful for safeguarding your privacy – and also lets you save all your notes offline so you can access them when you’re flying or travelling without data roaming. It’s worth every cent.

It’s closely followed by Instapaper, another remarkable app that has many imitators but none with its smoothness and efficiency. You know how you can never get through all the interesting articles that you want to, and have tens of tabs open in your browser waiting for that spare moment that never comes to read it. Instapaper solves that for you brilliantly. Click on the “Save to Instapaper” plugin or extension in your browser and it sends the text of the web page to the app on your phone, where you can read it.

The app I am using more and more for finances is WeChat. It’s something of a wonder app, often mistaken for a competitor to WhatsApp, but is so, so much more. With 768m users in China, it has become the organising principle for much of the Chinese mobile internet. You can message with it, including group chats; do microblogging and make voice and video calls (which were available long before WhatsApp or Facebook’s Messenger). Every few months another high-profile Western news publications sees how WeChat is used in China and punts it as the future. Or as Fast Company recently headlined its article: “How Social Cash Made WeChat The App For Everything”.

But it is WeChat’s Wallet that is the most interesting, and why we named it the Stuff app of the year for 2016. Since the middle of last year, using WeChat the magazine has made it possible to buy tech products directly off the pages, through WeChat, which are delivered free the next day by Incredible Connection.

Payment is the new great industry to be disrupted by the smartphone, which has forever altered communications, messaging, the camera industry, music and video consumption. Already a payments phenomenon in China, WeChat is the dark horse in this new m-commerce race.

It’s been fascinating to see mobile commerce like this start taking off in South Africa. Doing more of it is a good new year’s resolution itself.

This column first appeared in Financial Mail


About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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