Apps that make sense and save cents
From complimentary music to free calls and cheaper petrol, you can save a lot of money with your tablet or smartphone, writes CONOR POPE, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
When we asked on Twitter last week for users’ favourite money-saving apps, Whatsapp was the one most frequently mentioned. And it is not hard to see why.
It is free, which we like, and allows you to message people anywhere in the world at absolutely no cost, which we like even more.
We are pretty sure the mobile-phone companies hate this as it allows people to circumvent the sometimes ridiculous prices they charge for sending texts and images, particularly when you are abroad.
This is undoubtedly our new favourite app. Launched in Ireland last summer, it allows you to get a taxi using your smart phone.
It has five key advantages. When you order a cab using this you can track its progress as it heads towards you, which is nice. It also allows you to pay by credit card, which means you will never have to get your cab driver to stop at an ATM again.
You don’t have to pay the call-out charge, which currently stands at €2, and you are given five minutes from the moment the taxi arrives before the meter is started, so if you are running a little bit late you are not penalised for it.
You are also sent the name and a picture of your taxi driver, and you are emailed a receipt, which allows you to track just how much you are spending on cabs.
The days of spending serious money on music look numbered. Spotify, which finally came to Ireland late last year, allows you to stream music on to your phone for nothing. You build playlists or allow Spotify to build them for you, hit play and away you go. It is quite brilliant. You can pay for a premium service but we would suggest you sign up for the free deal first to see if you like it.
PUMP IT UP
While the cost of petrol and diesel has fallen slightly in recent weeks it is still expensive, so anything that helps us cut the cost is to be welcomed.
The Pumps.ieapp uses GPS to work out where you are at any given moment and then gives you real-time information on the price of petrol and diesel at garages nearby.
The price difference between neighbouring garages can be more than 10 cent a litre – or €6 a fill-up – so the savings made by shopping smarter can add up.
How many times have you visited you GP over the past 12 months? Or your dentist? The Anytime Health Expenses app will help you to remember all visits and claim the tax back, too.
You simply record all your medical, dental and nursing-home expenses in a “diary-like manner” and claim your refunds via this app. It is very handy if you want to ensure your tax affairs are in order and you get back what is due to you. Its creators deserve a whole lot of credit.
WIFI FOR FREE
Free wifi does exactly what it say on the tin. It uses GPS to locate and display various wifi hotspots near where you are. It has more than 10,000 locations all over the world contained in its database.
Pricewatch was in Strasbourg last week and we found 14 wifi hotspots within half a kilometre of where we were, which helped us avoid some of the roaming charges that could otherwise have been imposed.
CALLS FOR FREE
Viber allows you to make all the calls you want to fellow Viber users at absolutely no cost, once you are in a wifi zone. This app and others – including the better-known Skype – allow smartphone users to bypass the mobile-phone providers.
While you can also use Viber using the 3G network that will eat into your data entitlements and could end up costing you money. In addition to Skype and Viber, you could also download Voxer, which allows you to make free calls to anywhere in the world.
LOW CALL KNOWLEDGE
We love Forget 1850. A lot of companies use 1850 and other such numbers. While these allow you to call them from anywhere in the country at local rates from a land line, they can cost a lot when dialled from a mobile, with some providers charging as much as 35 cent a minute.
And unlike landline numbers, which are routinely included in the bundled “free” minutes offered by the mobile-phone and landline operators, calls to 1890, 1850 and 0818 numbers are excluded from such deals.
This directory points people in the direction of alternatives to such numbers and can lead to big savings.
AN END TO BILL SHOCK
Smart phones are quite brilliant but they can end up costing you a whole lot more than you bargained for because they allow you to download vast amounts of data – particularly if you are using audio- or video-streaming services.
Once you’ve exceeded your allowance the charges can mount up ridiculously quickly. Onavo stops that happening by keeping track of how much data you download in real time – so you know if and when you are approaching your limit. It can also assess how much data your existing apps are using and how much you are using them, and then kill the ones that are unnecessarily eating into your allowance.
The TV and film streaming service Netflix is not without its critics but when it comes to low-cost entertainment on the move, it is pretty good.
You can also get the Sky Sports app for €4.99 a month, which is a steal compared to the price of the telly subscription, which is more than €30 a month.