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Essential starter apps for your smartphone

Andrew Stucken / 01 September 2015

Got your first smartphone and new to the world of the apps? We have the eight essential apps that you should put on your smartphone first.

WhatsApp phone application
Some of the most useful apps around are free to use or low cost © GongTo /

Over 40 Lighted Magnifier

A simple to use, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin app – except that it is presumably not essential to be over 40. It uses your phone’s camera to effortlessly turn it into a magnifying glass, with added flashlight option for dark environments. 

You need never struggle to read a bill in a dark restaurant again.


A great free app that lets you send money – with no charges - just using someone’s mobile number. Perhaps you need to split the bill in the restaurant but just do not have the right change, or want to gift some money to a grandchild.


WeQ4U promises to save you time and money wading through endless call centre menus. It dials the number for you when you enter it in a box on screen after loading the app. If you have to wait, you can choose to press 9* to disconnect, and it holds your place until an agent answers.

Not only is the app free, it saves you up to 30p a minute on call charges - it uses a normal geographic number in place of a premium rate one.

National Rail Enquiries

Save time and call connection charges with this free app. Quick and simple to use, with options such as working out the station nearest to you.

BBC News

Keep in touch, with this app that sends a feed of the day’s news and sport stories to your phone – read the text or stream the video.


When abroad, perhaps on a Saga cruise, many users are wary of switching on data roaming for fear of running up a large bill. WhatsApp allows you to send messages – including picture, video and audio - for free, and to as many people as you like – provided they have installed the app. 

With access to Wi-Fi, perhaps at a hotel, airport or café, you will not even pay mobile data charges. Otherwise, you can still connect over your phone’s mobile network. WhatsApp will of course work within the UK as well.


With this app you can use Skype on your smartphone, as on your computer, free to another Skype user. But why would you need to if you already have enough free minutes in your phone’s price plan? Free international calls to other Skype users are an obvious reason. And you might find Skype Out - where you buy credits to call land lines and mobiles via Skype – is cheaper for domestic calls too - especially premium rate ones.

Better still, using Wi-Fi, you do not even have to use your mobile data allowance. So when abroad, for example, you could use the hotel’s Wi-Fi network to phone home. To be sure of avoiding hefty data roaming charges, switch off your mobile network connection.

Calorie Counter

This app allows you to set a target weight, and rate of weight loss - and it calculates exactly how many calories you should be taking in each day, net. 

You log the foods you eat, and exercise taken. It then works out your overall calorie gain or – hopefully - loss. It points up a global trend called The Quantified Self, fans of which use apps to monitor just about any and every aspect of body and mind.

Many apps featured are free and work on the two major phone platforms, iOS and Android - and some on other platforms too. In many cases alternative apps are available.

Be aware of data usage and charges. If in doubt, check with your network provider.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.