What Apps Do You Use?

The best apps

Our team at Cup of Jo has some serious old-school tendencies. We may or may not still use day planners. But we’ve each managed to get hooked on a few apps that we now can’t imagine living without. Here are our current must-haves, and we’d love to hear yours…


One of my greatest pleasures is reading magazines (in the bathtub!), so I instantly fell for Texture. Conde Nast, Hearst Magazines, Time Inc. and few other big publishers got together to make a beautiful app that gives you unlimited access to more than 160 different magazines — Vogue, The New Yorker, Bon Appétit, Vanity Fair, Elle Decor, Real Simple, etc. — on your tablet or phone. You can binge-read them Netflix-style for $9.99 a month. Plus, in my case, a waterproof iPad case.

Another media app that’s magic for multitasking is NPR One from National Public Radio. I rarely apply mascara or cook a meal without it on. It handpicks a personalized radio stream just for you based your listening habits and location, and it lets you skip or rewind stories with one tap. My favorite aspect of NPR One (also: it’s free) is that it mixes in a wide range of genres, including news reports, podcast episodes and well-loved stories from their archives you probably haven’t heard before. I’m also really into the authoritative radio voice that says “Here we go!” when you launch the app. Makes me smile every time.


Saving and investing money can be stressful, but the app Acorns makes it easy. It automatically invests your spare change, by syncing with your credit card and rounding up the change from purchases you make (so, a $6.50 burrito would send 50 more cents to Acorns). Your contributions are painless to part with, but can have a crazy huge impact on your long-term savings.

I recently upped my text game by downloading the gif keyboard Riffsy to my phone. When I invited a friend to sneak out with me for a pedicure last weekend I texted Jimmy Fallon dancing. Then, when Alex was out to dinner with a friend, and I was too sleepy to wait up for him, I texted this baby faceplant. It’s so much fun to use and only $1.99 for the best version.


As much as I like to think I can do it all, the truth is, I cannot. So I use Thumbtack, a genius place to find skilled pros to do the stuff you can’t. It matched me with my beloved handyman, a painter, and a strong human to carry furniture up to my fifth-floor walkup. It can also help you find a piano teacher, a math tutor, a personal trainer… Just tell Thumbtack what you’re looking for, and available pros respond immediately with quotes. There are ratings and reviews, like Yelp, so you can feel confident about who you hire.

Think Dirty
Scan the barcode of any beauty or personal care product, and Think Dirty will tell you exactly how bad — or good — the ingredients are. You can even add up how “dirty” your bathroom shelf is, and track your progress as you work to improve it. But be forewarned: You may never look at your favorite lipstick the same way again.


Shipping packages is always a headache; I never have the right materials or the time to schlep to the post office. Enter Shyp, a genius courier service. All you do is snap a picture of your item and request a courier, who arrives within 20 minutes. There is a $5 fee that covers the pickup at your home and whatever packaging materials they’ll need. Shyp then compares prices among carriers, like FedEx, UPS and USPS, to send your shipment with the lowest-cost option. HOW CAN IT BE THAT EASY?!

Dark Sky
The first week I started at Cup of Jo, Caroline and I grabbed lunch at a nearby cafe. Right as we were about to leave, the sprinkle of rain outside morphed into growling sheets of falling water. Caroline casually pulled out her phone to show me Dark Sky, the holy grail of weather apps. “Let’s wait three more minutes and then make a run for it.” Dark Sky predicts, down to the minute, when it will rain or snow at your exact location. I’ve used it every day since, assured I won’t be lifted away by a storm.

What’s your desert island app (if the desert island has wifi)? We want to know!

P.S. 10 great audiobooks and how to figure out what kind of texter you are.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Tim says...

    Feedly – I can quickly scan through all the blogs I follow for articles that appeal to me, including “A Cup of Jo.” It allows me to easily save the articles I want to come back to. There is also an “Explore” feature which suggests popular content.

    Tweetbot – I’ve tried all the Twitter apps and this one takes the cake. I enjoy night mode which automatically switches to a darker theme when I’m in bed.

    VSCO – Still the best app (for me) for editing my photos quickly and easily.

    Life360 – Much better than Apple’s “Find My Friends” app. My wife and I receive notifications whenever we leave from or arrive at home and work. This would also be an ideal app for tracking family members (kids) and where they have been.

    AnyList – The best grocery list app I’ve found after trying countless others. Very simple, well-designed user interface, has the ability to share lists (I share with my wife), and automatically groups items according to where they are located in the grocery store.

    1Password – I don’t know how I could function online without this app. It stores all your many different passwords in one place. Remembering a password has never been so easy.

    Foursquare – Relied heavily on this app for food and fun ideas on a recent trip to Las Vegas, ignoring Trip Advisor, Yelp, and Google Reviews altogether. Sorts places by ratings and reviewer tips highlight the stuff you shouldn’t miss out on.

    Breaking News – Notifies me with push notifications of breaking headline news.

    Pocket – I use this heavily for articles I want to go back and read when I’m short on time. Very easy to use, and very convenient.

    New York Times Cooking – So many delicious recipes that have never disappointed. Be sure to try Mark Bittman’s “No-Knead Bread.” It will change your life.

  2. Orange Harp for finding sustainable goods! Plus they donate 1% to Not for Sale – a non profit that is working to end human trafficking & modern day slavery. So it helps you feel good about the products you bring into your life!

    Unfortunately it is only for iphone atm, but I was so excited that I contacted the brand to see where they are on Android dev, and it’s in their plan!!!

    For now I can look at their brands list ( but still can’t wait for the Android app…

    Also seeing texture mentioned is like a bullet to the heart bc my ex works there. No matter how the relationship ended(my choice) it still sucks to be reminded of that pain :/

  3. patricia says...

    Joanna if you are into greener Apps you would love Seafood WATCH i’ts a guide to sustainable seafood in a world where labeling seafood has been so confusing and dishonest. You basically type in the reataurant or the grocer in your location and it tells you what are the greenest most sustainanle seafood catch around it even has a grading system to make sure you buy the best. If you like to know more about this, an article online called The Piscivore’s Dilemma. And thanks for the apps reviews and what many commentators left on this post. Im happy to check out a few.

  4. Shannon says...

    ~Feedly for aggregating blogs I read.
    ~Storm for weather.
    ~TripIt for organizing all my travel info in one place.
    ~Waze for directions and avoiding traffic snarls.
    ~IF (short for IFTTT or If This Then That) for linking connections (ex. If I post an Instagram photo, copy to Dropbox, or Mute my phone when I get to work (or arrive at the movies))
    ~Delectable for cataloging wine I drink or want to.
    ~Strava for recording my bike rides and sharing with friends. (keeps me motivated by competition)
    ~Quakes for being notified where/when an earthquake happens in the world (I have family in Hawaii who care about tsunami)

  5. amanda says...

    Android POV…
    – NYTimes: love the format for news + daily mini-crossword puzzle
    – Blendoku: amazing game for color nerds
    – KEXP: truly independent rock :)

    Things I would ditch from my phone when I am on a desert island:
    – Google suite that currently keeps my life organized: Keep, Maps, Gmail, Hangouts, Calendar
    – All my work apps

  6. Kate says...

    I read magazines on Zinio free via my library. Fuels my love of magazines for free!

  7. Kit says...

    Love these! My best-loved apps these days are Audible, WorkFlowy (for lists – personal & work, it’s like my brain stored in an app), NYTimes Cooking, Pedometer++ (MUCH better layout than the automatic apple one, plus it makes confetti when you hit 10,000 steps – wheee!), & Insight Timer for timed meditation (plus you get to see how many people you just meditated with around the world!)

  8. Jill says...

    I use EyeEm for photos. So nice for browsing my old photos and discovering new photos. And love their filters.

  9. Love Digit more than Acorn to save money. Auto-deducts small amounts, after analyzing your account, doesn’t require extra app and sends useful texts.

  10. If you love cooking try Paprika. It’s not cheap but I’ve been using it for years to manage my recipe collection. You can organise your recipes any way you like, search by name, ingredient and more, scale them for double or half serves. And best of all, if you find a recipe you like online you can easily pull it into the app using a couple of clicks. There are loads more features too. I use this app every day and can’t recommend it enough

  11. Karen says...

    Pzizz is life changing for me. As someone who loves to nap but can’t seem to nap for less than 1.5 hours each time (no matter how many alarms I set, I always fall into the land-of-no-return deep abyss that is sleep), I can now take 20-30 minute power naps and feel well-rested afterward.

    • downloading now!!! gahhhh!!

  12. MZE says...

    My husband has an Android and I have an Apple phone and we use Wunderlist to create shared To Do lists which we can update and sync with each other’s phones. So useful!

  13. Darcy H says...

    Sky Guide!!

    Sky Guide connects me to what’s-the-what in the universe. Truly. I’ve come to depend on that when facing the daily mundane activities of my tiny earthly life.
    Plus knowing even a little about space impresses all the right people. ~wink
    Only catch is that Sky Guide is for iPhone and iPads only.

    • Alison says...

      I love Sky Guide too! It seems like everyone I know does. It used to be that I didn’t know the first thing about stars and constellations.

  14. Joanna says...

    I love the app Think Dirty!!! thank you so much – downloaded and cleaning my toiletries shelves already.
    I’d love to read more about greener lifestyle choices, Cup of Jo team :-)
    Great post and so many insightful comments!

  15. Haley Kraut says...

    think honey nutrition app ( genius snacks and meal ideas of kids, also connects you to nutritionists and you can post a question and time of day and they will respond with an answer!

  16. Taskary because it syncs with gCal and my task list creating a great daily agenda on the widget on my home screen. The reminder functions are great allowing you to set specific times, location based reminders, and snooze them. Sorry Apple users but this is purely an Android app.

  17. caitlin says...

    Gallon size freezer bag ziplock = Best waterproof iPad cover. I only read in the bathtub

  18. LOVE reading through these suggestions- great post! I love a lot of the ones mentioned above, but I’ll add in a few that I didn’t see yet:

    For Fun:
    -One To Watch: Where you can keep track of movies that you’d like to see
    -#FarrOut: Where you can decorate photos with silly images of unicorns, sea creatures, shapes, and colors. Great for making cute little images to send to friends on bdays, celebrations, etc.
    -Grama: Type in a hashtag, and it shows you what the most popular searched hashtags are that relate to it. So if I type “puppy” it might come up with “dogsofinstagram” “puppylove” and “dailydog”. You then select the ones you want to use, and it copies all of them to your clipboard. Tagging is now super easy!

    For Work:
    -TurboScan: Great for “scanning” documents to clients
    -Hours Tracker: Keeps track of my freelance hours; can set it up to include payrate and directly invoice clients
    -TapeACall: I often record my consulting phone calls with my clients and send them a copy when we hang up
    -Pay By Phone: I use this to pay parking meters through my phone. It reminds you when your meter is going to expire and you can automatically add more time. Not sure if it exists outside of San Francisco.

  19. Laura says...

    I love Strava for tracking runs, biking
    Thanks everyone for all your ideas, these are great!

  20. thanks for sharing.. i need to look into Thumbtack.. that sounds like a live saver.. and Shyp

  21. Emmy says...

    Oooh so many great recs! I love Stylisted to book in-home hair and makeup appointments. So easy to use and I get to pick my stylist based on price and their portfolio so I always get someone perfect for me.

    Plus, their customer service can’t be beat.

  22. katy says...

    1 second everyday – record your year through 1 second video snippets (I just try to take a few videos or live photos each day and go through once a week and set it up). I started this at the beginning of the year and LOVE it. I have a 45-second video of the year so far, and it’s such a fun way to look back. Mine has entirely too many videos of my cats, I’m sure with kids this would be even more exciting, to see them grow through the year, :)

    Slidebox – to organize photos with a simple swipe.

    Photo editing apps: VSCO & A Color Story.
    Retouch – to remove things I don’t want in photos (electrical cords, sockets, etc) – like photoshop superlite.

    Bloglovin’ for reading blogs

    addicted to Instagram & Pinterest, of course

    silly cat games: Hackycat & Neko Atsume

    Book Crawler to keep track of what I’ve read – very simple, I like that’s just just for this without all the extras that go along with Goodreads

  23. I’ve heard of apps like Texture and used to sign up for them but I realized after a few months that I missed flipping through magazine pages and ripping out the photos that I liked (and making collages!). But I LOVE the idea of that because all those magazines can definitely get expensive and pile up!