Apps for the home
Looking for some extra help around the house? There’s an app for that.
Modern smartphones have become so powerful that many rival the processing power of PCs, and given that you don’t need a desk, an ethernet cable or a dedicated plug socket to be able to use one, they are increasingly becoming the go-to tool to control the things around us.
This is especially true in the home, where a connected phone, the right apps and, in some cases, a little clever hardware can make life easier in virtually every room. Here are 10 suggestions to get you started.
From the sofa
If you have Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music – or all three – Sonos’s app brings everything together for playback on one or more of the company’s connected speakers (from £149 each). The big plus here is that you can have the same track playing through the whole house or you can opt for different tracks in different rooms, and the app lets you control the lot.
Hue is Philips’ foray into the smart home market, with a specific focus on lighting. There are LED bulbs, lighting strips and indoor/outdoor lamps and lights in the collection, and everything can be controlled from the Hue app on your phone. Be warned that you do need a £50 gadget called a Hue Bridge for it all to work (several starter kits have this included); it basically connects everything seamlessly via wifi.
Around the home
You could, of course, simply hit Google to find gardeners, cleaners or gutter-clearers in your area, but Bizzby aims to make it all a bit simpler by finding one for you. The on-demand app lets you select whatever job needs doing – even assembling flat-pack furniture – and then aims to get a quote from a local tradesperson back to you in under five minutes.
This clever, collaborative app is a great way to get everyone involved in keeping the house running smoothly. There’s a calendar so that everyone can see who’s doing what and when, and also a shared shopping list that can be added to by any member of the family. At OurHome’s core, however, is a task manager where chores can be assigned to different people – and because it’s all been ‘gamified’, it’s actually got a decent chance of motivating everyone to do their bit. You simply offer a treat in return for a certain number of points earned – for kids that might be a trip to the zoo; for couples it could be a romantic dinner.
In the kitchen
NutriBullet has been a global smash hit in the decade-plus since its launch; if you’ve been living on Mars it’s basically a compact blender (sorry, ‘nutrient extractor’) that many a dieter swears by. The latest incarnation, the Buletooth-enabled NutriBullet Balance, costs £149.99 and takes things up a notch by connecting to an app that acts as your personal nutritionist. Choose a recipe, add ingredients with the aid of the built-in scale, press ‘blend’ on your phone and then drink, with all the nutritional information about your concoction right there on your phone screen.
To make use of the Drop Recipes app, you first need to buy a set of Drop scales (at around £60); these, when connected to the app, help you measure out ingredients for a variety of online recipes and then you’re taken through the method step by step. There are hundreds of tasty tried-and-tested dishes to choose from – baked goods, main courses and more.
Safety and security
Ring Video Doorbell 2
The app doesn’t work without the Ring video doorbell, £179, but once you’ve fixed the device by your front door you’ll be able to see who’s on your doorstep just by looking at your phone – whether you’re lounging in the garden or shopping in the supermarket. Google offers something very similar called the Nest Hello, which costs £229.
Nest Cam IQ
This hi-tech piece of hardware is priced at £299 and is controlled by a smartphone app or by its built-in Google Assistant, and works as an all-round home security device that alerts you when it sees a human being. If you’re on holiday and someone breaks in, you can calmly tell them, via the Nest Cam, you’ve just called the police; at home, you can use it as a baby monitor. The Nest app lets you keep track of other devices, too, such as the two Nest thermostats that are currently available. With these, you can keep tabs on your energy usage, and – more excitingly – turn up the radiators in the bedroom from the kitchen table via your phone.
ADT Smart Home
Security specialist ADT famously offers a monitored alarm service – meaning it checks in with you if your burglar alarm goes off. Now it also has a package that includes a mobile app that allows users to control their system from their phone – with email and text alerts if an intruder comes a-lurking and motion cameras that allow you to see what’s going on at home.
When you’re in the mood for a home makeover, MagicPlan helps you map out your next big DIY job on your smartphone. Using your camera, you scan a room in 30 seconds and then watch in awe as the app works out the room’s dimensions to give you a floorplan. Next, add furniture, doors and windows and spend a few hours on the perfect configuration for your dream room.