This site is best viewed in landscape mode.
Rotate your device to start reading.

tech
by: Craig Wilson   ·    11 July 2017

Alternative apps

Life is all about choices - why shouldn’t your smartphone’s home screen be the same?

For every big-name mobile app, there’s a plucky underdog hoping to win over users. Whether you’re a contrarian who just likes to avoid the mainstream options, you’re eager to give the small players a chance, or you simply want alternatives in case your favourite app gets acquired by Facebook, these are the familiar services – with potentially unfamiliar names – that are worth a look.

Hail and ride

Mention taxis and mobile apps in the same sentence and one name is probably top of mind: Uber. The American company may have the best brand recognition, but it’s also been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons of late, leading some users to look for other options.

The best option for South African commuters is Estonian service Taxify. Anyone who’s ever used Uber will find the Taxify app (available for Android or iOS) instantly familiar. You can watch your driver’s progress in the app, link a bank card for seamless payments, and rate each trip.

So why use Taxify over Uber? For starters, it’s great to have a second option for those times demand for Uber has invoked its 'surge' pricing, and second, Taxify shares a larger portion of its fees with its drivers than Uber does.

Write right

The default note-taking apps on smartphones tend to be very basic, which is why so many people opt to use apps like Evernote instead. But Evernote is by no means the only text-wrangling app in town. One of the best alternatives is Bear. Available for iPhone, iPad and Mac, Bear offers the usual cross-device synchronisation you’d expect, along with the ability to add hashtags to documents and even link them together, so you can keep the chapters of your great South African novel in order.

Bear also includes a 'focus' mode that strips away menus and other distractions so you can stick to the business at hand. And if you’re writing posts for your woodworking blog or other online content there is a range of advanced mark-up options to choose from. Once you’re done, export your magnum opus as a Word or PDF document.

Nosh on-demand

With winter in full swing, one of modern life’s great pleasures and privileges is food delivery. Until relatively recently, getting a pizza, pasta or something more extravagant to your front door meant either calling the restaurant, or using a service like Mr Delivery. Smartphone apps have changed that, much to the delight of those who’d rather go hungry than have a telephone conversation with a stranger.

While it may not have the marketing budget or reach of UberEats, local service OrderIn has been in operation for far longer, and offers at least as good a service. Use the app to place and pay for orders from restaurants in your area and all you need do is wait for the doorbell to ring (and, preferably, put on something more respectable than your dressing gown).

That said, thanks to its eagerness to get consumers using it regularly, UberEats frequently runs promotions or offers discounts on orders, so it’s worth keeping an eye on it.

Mozart or Britney?

So, should you go ahead and delete the big-name apps? Well, no. That’d be silly. And why pledge allegiance to one when you can have all the options and get the most of what each offers? Apps, like music, are all the better for variety. We don’t need to choose between Mozart and Britney, we can have both. And the world is richer for it.