Essential leisure apps for your smartphone

Essential leisure apps for your smartphone

Turning on a new smartphone for the first time usually reveals a home screen bursting with manufacturer-specific apps.

Commonly known as bloatware, these proprietary programs are intended to prevent consumers from using third-party software – thereby giving their data to other companies.

Your phone manufacturer would dearly love to know where you go, what you buy and how you might be targeted with advertising.

However, bloatware is unlikely to be the only software installed on your phone as the months pass.

Given how important our phones are to our leisure activities, we’ve rounded up some of the key leisure apps to download through Apple’s App Store or Android’s Google Play Store.

(We’ve excluded leisure apps which tend to be pre-installed, like YouTube and Facebook).


  • Facebook Messenger. Despite a series of PR scandals and an increasingly unfashionable image, Facebook’s user base is uniquely comprehensive. The Messenger app supports direct and group messaging – the only reason many people continue to use Facebook
  • WhatsApp. Also owned by Facebook, WhatsApp has become the default group communications platform. Equally popular among residents associations and classmates, it’s ideal for relaying information, sharing links and graphics, and keeping in touch
  • Skype. As landlines gather dust and call allowances go unused, Voice over IP platforms are replacing traditional phone calls with video communications. Skype remains the market leader, thanks to a uniquely flexible, powerful and robust platform.


  • TripAdvisor. It’s possible to lose entire evenings working out which restaurants deserve your custom based on past diner ratings, or which hotels won’t disappoint. TripAdvisor’s interface is becoming more sales-focused, but its user feedback remains unmatched
  • Todoist. Downloaded over ten million times by people who love making lists, Todoist is a streamlined life management tool. A simple interface is perfect for attaching deadlines to tasks and generating daily lists – Christmas planning will seem like a doddle this year
  • GateGuru. Designed to reduce travel stress, this leisure app contains a wealth of data about each stage in a journey. Examples include estimated security check-in times at airports, detailed maps and public transport data. It’s underpinned by a huge user review base.

Health and wellbeing

  • Couch to 5K. The title is misleading, since this nine-week NHS fitness programme won’t enable many people to run quickly enough to cover five kilometres. However, its medically curated programme of incremental workouts has got people of all ages up and running
  • MyFitnessPal. Describing itself as the world’s largest nutrition and calorie database, MyFitnessPal has over five millions foods listed in its databases. The importance of food journals and calorie counting has long been understood, and no platform does it better
  • Lifesum. The belated recognition of mental health issues is one of this decade’s greatest success stories. Lifesum is a jack-of-all-trades app, encouraging healthy lifestyles from fitness to eating disorder management. Setting goals leads to greater self-awareness.


  • Shazam. Originally designed to identify song snippets by comparing them against a database of wave patterns, Shazam is evolving into a marketing tool. Some adverts now contain specific soundtracks, linking through to advertiser microsites
  • Spotify. Recalling the days of peer-to-peer file sharing, Spotify enables people to listen to tens of millions of songs across WiFi. Around 70 million users have paid subscriptions, while 100 million free account holders get to enjoy everything from the Spice Girls to Slipknot
  • Netflix. An estimated 50 per cent of all internet traffic relates to just two platforms – Netflix and YouTube. The latter is pre-installed on every Android device while Netflix’s content-rich app has been downloaded over 100 million times on Android alone.
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