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These are the iPhone apps I can’t live without right now

Published Feb 13th, 2021 9:01AM EST
iPhone apps
Image: Apple Inc.

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  • My smartphone is an iPhone XR, and over the past year or so I’ve gravitated to some new apps that I’ve come to rely on more than others, especially thanks to conditions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • These apps include everything from Flipboard to HBO Max, which carries my favorite TV series at the moment, as well as the Starbucks and Target iPhone apps.
  • Read on for some additional iPhone app recommendations that are especially perfect for the COVID-19 era.

Already this morning, I’ve used the Starbucks app for my regular caffeine injection, bought New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth’s new book This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race via Apple’s Books app, scanned the morning’s headlines via Flipboard, and downloaded the latest episode of my favorite TV show right now — the sublimely fantastic Italian crime drama Gomorrah — to my iPhone XR.

That last one I did via the HBO Max app, one of several iPhone apps I’ve found myself reliant on more than ever over the past year. Do I even need to remind you of why? In hindsight, I don’t necessarily know whether it’s the coronavirus pandemic that nudged me into spending more time with these apps than I otherwise would have, or if the pandemic just pushed me harder in a direction I was already going. My reliance on the iPhone’s Wallet app, though, is one thing that’s definitely pandemic-inspired. It’s where I keep my digital Apple Card (I didn’t even bother getting the physical version of Apple’s still relatively new credit card), and I’ve become a big fan over the past year of forgoing cash entirely, using my iPhone to make purchases like groceries at Target while racking up cash back along the way. Keep reading below, because I’ll give a brief run-through along these same lines of some of the other iPhone apps I couldn’t imagine living without right now.

The apps below are in no particular order, and I’ll include links to the apps in Apple’s App Store so you can check them out yourself if you want. Here we go:

iPhone 11Image source: JLO_FOTO/Adobe

Duolingo: One thing I can’t wait to do, like I’m sure goes for most of us, is travel again once the world gets back to normal. I’ve been using this app to brush up on my Spanish from high school and college. (Pro tip: Make sure you have your notifications turned on for this one. It’s pretty relentless about pinging you to practice regularly, and I’ve found that if I don’t have the notifications turned on, I’m more apt to let my practice sessions slide.)

HBO Max: I waited years, literally, for the US premiere of the third season of my favorite TV show right now — the aforementioned Gomorrah. Supposedly, the Italian city of Naples basically shuts down whenever new episodes of this series air in the country. That may or may not be true, but for those of you unfamiliar with it, you can basically think of this show like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and The Wire all mashed together. It’s fantastic, and this NYT article (“‘Gomorrah’ is Back, as Bloody and Gripping as Ever“) will catch you up to speed.

Apple’s Books app: I’ve been reading more than ever during the pandemic, which is a great way to slow down your mind and quit fixating on the news and all the other crazy things in the world right now. One of my favorites I read, or should I say re-read, over the past year: John le Carre’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold.

MDLIVE: This is my telehealth app, one that puts a doctor’s visit in the palm of your hand 24-7. I’m sure most of us feel more trepidation than ever about going to the doctor right now given everything that’s going on, so a telehealth option for minor things offers amazing convenience that will no doubt only be relied on by more people over time. You’re not putting yourself at risk by being in public and around other sick people, and the doctors on the other end of this app can quickly shoot your prescription over to your pharmacy, while you then go about the rest of your day.

The Target app: Again, because of the pandemic, I’ve changed up the Target runs I make. Instead of venturing inside the store to buy groceries, I utilize the free drive-up option that the store’s app makes possible. You just load up your virtual grocery cart in the app, pay, and then drive to whichever store location you want, where employees will bring your purchases out and load them into your trunk or back seat for a contact-less experience that’s perfect for the COVID-19 era.

Flipboard: This one, as I noted above, is a great way to keep up with news as well as topics that interest you, without having to deal with all the frustrating aspects of doing so on social media. I’ve used it especially to keep on top of streaming TV news, and which new shows are coming out where.

Finally, the Starbucks app: I rely on this for essentially the same reason as the Target app above. It removes some steps in the drink-buying process, for a contact-less experience. I order in the app, I drive to my favorite local Starbucks near my apartment, and the order is waiting on me inside, in the store’s to-go area. I’m only inside for a few seconds, and the app also lets you accumulate rewards.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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