Everyone knows what the so-called “best” apps are—the term generally applies to the most used and most downloaded ones: Instagram, Venmo, Spotify, Postmates, and so on. The “best” apps are arguably just those we’re most addicted to or dependent on.
In the spirit of appreciating apps other than the handful that consume most of users’ time, we’ve rounded up a few Ringer staffers’ favorite sleeper apps of the year—the unheralded ones that fill some sort of niche need. And no, we may not open them as often as we do Instagram, but that’s a force of habit—the use case for these apps is pure fulfillment.
Shaker Samman: In the same way that people looked at the Apple desktop mail client and said, “Hey this is bad, let’s make it better,” Bear made Notes better. It is a really cool note-taking app for desktop and mobile that lets you easily sort notes, make checklists and numbered lists, and use four sizes of headings. Also if you pay a small yearly sub, it links between devices. I use it constantly. I highly recommend it.
White Noise Deep Sleep Sounds
Molly McHugh: Like an idiot, I adopted a puppy right before the holidays, a season that requires ample travel and little time at home—a bad combo for puppy-rearing. Thanksgiving weekend, my husband and I packed our two dogs into the car and drove to the beach house my family rented. Turns out, it was a very creaky house, and at night anything above a whisper caused our puppy, Crouton, to bark and pace. We didn’t sleep for two nights. We joked with my cousin, who brought his infant daughter, that he and his wife were getting more sleep than we were. (It was not a joke.) On the third night, at 3 a.m. in what felt like a fever dream, I thumbed my way through the App Store until I found an app called White Noise Deep Sleep Sounds. There are many different background and static-sound options, but I selected “fan,” because at home Crouton sleeps near ours. Once activated, she went from barking and pacing to the occasional whimper. In the app’s “about” notes, the creator writes: “For my son. And for all the parents who could use a little bit more sleep.” Dog parents included, I guess.
Live Soccer TV & SofaScore
Donnie Kwak: The most indispensable apps to me are those that perform one useful task reliably well. As the host of Ringer FC, our soccer podcast, I rely heavily on Live Soccer TV and SofaScore—the former informs you which channel/streaming platform you can find any game on and the latter is a no-frills, to-the-second live scoreboard of every world football match on a given day. Using a general sports app like ESPN to find soccer updates is like going to a steakhouse to order vegetarian. Go to where you know they’ll do it best.
Alyssa Bereznak: My sleeper app of choice is an app that helps me sleep. Centered is a free, straightforward tool that leads you in brief guided meditations whenever you’re feeling stressed. I find that a lot of other meditation apps out there tend to be like “What if spa?—but on steroids!” Too many images of Japanese tea gardens and annoying babbling brooks. Centered doesn’t try to transport you to some low-stress Xanadu, it simply plays audio of the world’s most relaxed man telling you to close your eyes and breathe deeper. The clips range from four to 19 minutes, and include light instructions for clearing your mind. I find myself drifting to it in moments of crisis at work, or when my mind is racing just before bed. Technically I did not discover this app in 2018, but it should be no surprise to learn this was the year I used it the most.
Julie Phayer: As someone who gets easily distracted, Due has been a lifesaver. I use it for important reminders (bills are due, set up appointments, give the cats their medicine, etc.) or quick to-dos (follow up on emails, avoid Twitter for Game of Thrones spoilers, listen to new podcasts, etc.).
I’ve tested multiple reminder apps but Due is by far the best. You receive reminders of items that are due until you act on them, which I desperately need—otherwise the notification will get buried and I’ll forget about it. The ability to customize the snooze interval time is fantastic. The interface is beautiful and every feature is quick and easy to use. The app also offers reusable timers, which I deploy constantly. I would write more about how great this app is, but I just got a reminder that I need to call my mom back.
Out of Tune
Rodger Sherman: Over the past year, I’ve gotten really good at winning money playing trivia apps. You probably remember HQ, the waning phenomenon that is thankfully still giving out thousands of dollars a day to loyal players like me. But I’ve also played the dozens of HQ knockoffs, most of which have identical formats to HQ, but lower production values, less professional hosts, and glitchier tech. None of that matters to me—all I care about is that with a phone in my hand and Google in my browser, I can win money playing these games.
All of them, that is, except for Out of Tune. The premise is simple: There are 10 songs, and you have to guess their titles. The game experience is great—the hosts and DJs (there’s one of each per game) are clearly having a great time playing songs they love, or cracking jokes about the songs they don’t. Unlike all the other games, I can’t find a way to outsmart the competition at OOT—there’s not enough time to Google song lyrics, and Shazam is out of the question, since all the songs are played slightly out of tune—get it?—to make them tougher to recognize. The only way to win is to crank the volume in a room with friends and hear a bunch of songs you like. It’s probably the game I win the least—and the one I enjoy playing the most.
Force Touch Trackpad
Brian Phillips: This is such a sleeper app that it’s not even an app—it’s a built-in iOS feature, only no one seems to know about it, which is tragic because it rules and will make your life better. If you have an iPhone with Force Touch, you can hard-press on the keyboard during any text-entry situation and your phone’s screen will become a trackpad for moving the cursor around. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when you consider what a horror it is to move the cursor within text on a smartphone, and how many times you type “I am so excited to go to the Rsoe Bowl next month” only to see autocorrect change it to “Hose Bowl,” and then a gray mist falls over the world as you realize you now have to pilot the cursor in between the “H” and the “o,” even though you and all the devils in hell know full well that tapping your thumb there is only going to select “excited,” and you’re going to have to do that weird hover-thumb/magnifying-glass thing that will eat nine seconds of your precious, finite life—when you stare down the cold barrel of these facts, the Force Touch Trackpad trick becomes the kind of everyday lifesaver that stops you from leaving your phone in the sand and walking into the sea. I love it so much.