The drinks are done, we’ve celebrated and 365 days lay out before us in 2015. At this time of year, we all try to look back at the last year and look forward to see what we can improve in our lives by making New Years resolutions. So, just how can technology, and Android in particular help you out? Let’s find out.
If you’re still smoking, you may want to try to quit and it’s a hard process (5 years on, trust me, I know). But the Australian Government has attempted to give you the tools and even a smartphone app to help you quit. You can start off at the Quit Now website, or head on over to Google Play and install the Quit Now: My QuitBuddy app.
The app is fairly good, with a range of great ways to visualise your progress. You can use the app to set goals, and it visualises how your body is benefiting from quitting, as well as your wallet, by showing you a running total of how much you’ve saved (maybe enough for a new phone eventually?). There’s even a range of games in there to distract you at those times when the cravings really hit.
It’s well worth checking out, so head over and check it out.
The other traditional New Years resolution will generally be about fitness. We all dream of losing a little weight, or maybe even training one day for a fun run or just maybe making it up the stairs without what feels like a minor coronary. Google Play is absolutely chock full of different apps which will help you achieve your goals, and here’s a couple.
Calorie Counter – My Fitness Pal
Counting calories is the oldest trick in the book, because it works. If you cut down the amount of calories your body will definitely respond. But it’s hard to keep a track of everything you eat, so My Fitness Pal makes it just a little bit easier.
With over 3 Million entries in their food database, which you can even add to your daily total using a barcode scanner, they have a fairly complete library. Each entry contains information about the item you’re eating such as calories, fat, protein, carbs, sugar, fiber, cholesterol, and more, you can even add to the library if you find something not included. There’s even a recipe calculator to make home cooking a bit easier to track.
As well as your food intake, you can even track your exercise and weight with My Fitness Pal. You can enter in specific exercises, including how many reps and sets on a particular exercise you performed and log it in the app.
As a bonus, My Fitness Pal is amazingly open allowing your data to be shared with a variety of different hardware platforms like Endomondo, Fitbit and Jawbone, and hopefully it will one day connect to Google Fit.
Google Fit is the new kid on the block, and while integration with the platform has been slow to start, Google seems to have big plans. At this stage, Google Fit is really great for tracking your activity either through manual entry as you do exercise or from tracking your Android Wear watch.
You can track your weight, activity and heart rate at the moment, but there’s no food tracking or more granular controls for activity tracking i.e you can’t track how many reps at a particular weight machine you just did (My Fitness Pal can). It’s a very young product, but one you should probably get in on early just to see how it develops.
There aren’t too many apps that do integrate with Google Fit, yet. But the list has started to grow slowly, apps like RunKeeper and Nike+ Running do, and so does Google’s own run tracking app My Tracks.
Google has a large number of employees who are fit, and many use running to maintain their health, so Google has produced My Tracks. It’s a very simple GPS based Running/Cycling/Walking tracking app for your phone (or I guess tablet if you want to lug one around). It’s a neat little app, but it tends to change a lot of the functionality as Google changes their focus, such as adding in Google Fit integration when it launched.
My Tracks used to do a lot of sharing to Google Maps etc, but recently they changed it to output GPS based KML files to places like Drive. It’s a small price to pay for having access to the core data which can be shared to a number of different platforms like Google Earth, or even just uploaded to My Maps.
Even though they’ve taken some functions away, they’ve continued to add. My Tracks lets you add photo waypoints when you’re out and about. When going for a run you often come to places that are visually just stunning and you can stop (briefly) and take a photo, which is added to the track that you can show people if you want.
My Tracks was also recently updated with Android Wear support, so you can start and stop your run from your watch. Paired with a GPS enabled watch like the Sony Smartwatch 3, a Bluetooth headset and music downloaded to your watch through Google Play Music and this integration means you can go for a run with just your Android Wear watch – the only thing missing is a good hear-rate monitor.
If you live in a mostly Google services related world and want to do some running then My Tracks is definitely a great place to start.
C25K – Couch to 5K
Of course you won’t be tracking your running if you’re unfit, so why not check out an exercise program called C25K or Couch to 5K. It’s a program that aims to build your fitness from Couch Potato, to someone who can run 5km over the course of 9 weeks. There’s a whole website devoted to it which includes blogs, podcasts and helpful tips. What you will find though, is that in Google Play there are dozens of apps which take you through the C25K process.
The apps that are out there include a wide range of visual styles, features and come in a range of paid and free versions. You can find the one that suits you, but the program itself is fairly solid and you’ll be enjoying going for a run in no time.
Your finances on Android are fairly easily accessed. The major Australian banks: NAB, St George
Commonwealth Bank and Westpac, all have apps for Android as do a lot of smaller institutions, some of whom have embraced NFC payments (CUA and People’s Choice) using the Host Card Emulation solution provided by Cuscal, which works with a variety of devices, rather than Westpac and Commonwealths reliance on partnerships with Samsung.
But what about accounting and bills etc? Well, you can get your finances in line with a number of solutions.
As we go through life, we all tend to accumulate a number of bank and credit card accounts, and Bill Guard aims to put them all in one place. Bill Guard basically lets you track your spending all in one place offering to alert when new purchases are made, as well as the ability to question transactions and supply you with fraud protection.
Bill Guard does require you to hand over your credentials to your bank accounts, but does offer added password protection for the app itself. It also has a mainly read-only approach, so it’s mostly tracking what’s going on in all your accounts rather than sending money out.
If you really need to start reigning in spending, then the best bet is to track where all your money is and where it’s going and this is a great way to start. Check it out now, for free in Google Play.
If your business accounts need some work, then you may want to look at Xero Accounting Software. It’s a great looking software package which lets you do all the things that Bill Guard does, but with a more business based focus.
Xero is absolutelyt chock full of features, offering support for viewing all your accounts – including bank, credit and PayPal accounts in one place. You can control your invoicing and contacts, as well as perform currency conversions all from the one app.
Xero also integrates with many existing platforms for Payroll, Customer Relationship Management, and other e-commerce solutions such as PayPal, Shopify, Expensify and more. It’s a solution that lets you control almost everything from your Android phone. Xero is cloud based, so you can also login to your web based account to look at transactions or functions wherever you are.
If you’re interested in checking out Xero, head on over to Google Play and install it, or check out their website for more information.
With over a Million apps in Google Play, there’s a number of ways to help you do almost anything to help you in your daily life. We love to hear about new apps all the time, so if you have any suggestions feel free to shout out about them in the comments below.