With the holidays in full swing, our phones can be lifesavers. Whether we’re traveling, shopping, cooking, or just spending time at home with family, there’s usually an app that can make the experience more enjoyable — or at least tolerable. The only drawback to these seasonal saviors is their tendency to zap your battery, leaving you phoneless when you need to be connected most. Be sure to invest in an external battery like like the Anker Astro3, and enjoy these apps (and the holiday spirit) to your heart’s content.
Scan and Save
Call it crass and commercial, but like it or not, gift-giving is a major part of the holiday season. And with budgets tighter than ever, comparison shopping is key. Apps like Redlaser and the Amazon app let you scan a product’s barcode with your phone to check prices at other stores and online, so you can be sure you’re not paying more than you need to. Before you get back in the car, though, consider the opportunity cost: is it worth saving $25 to spend an hour driving to the store and fighting fellow shoppers instead of watching TV in a two-person Snuggie with your significant other?
If you’re the last-minute type and haven’t yet booked your flight home (or to a tropical holiday escape), the Hipmunk app is a great choice for making travel arrangements. In addition to standard options like price, it also lets you sort by “agony” — that special blend of pain caused by price, layover duration, and flight time. And if sleeping on your parents’ TV room couch seems too tough to bear, Hipmunk has plenty of listings for accommodations as well.
Some prefer a good old-fashioned road trip to planes and trains, but throngs of cars clogging the roadways and hours spent with small children with peanut-sized bladders can add to seasonal aggravation. Get a leg up with the popular Waze app, which uses your phone’s sensors to automatically crowd-source information about traffic slowdowns from fellow users. You can also manually report traffic jams, accidents, or speed traps — a great assignment to keep your passengers occupied. If you want to be the hero of the family (at least for the duration of the car ride), the Astro3 has three USB charging ports in addition to its main rapid charge Smart Port — enough for everyone to plug in.
When cooking up a feast to feed an army of hungry relatives, any assistance is a welcome relief. Cooking apps like Cook’s Illustrated and How to Cook Everything hold your hand through detailed recipes, and even shed light on the rationale behind brushing your piecrust with egg whites. Epicurious’ encyclopedic archive of recipes is sure to have something to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. The Epicurious app even generates shopping lists once you’ve decided on a menu, eliminating the need for a note-taking app, or sticking Post-its to the doorknob.
Curling up in front of the fire? Wrapping presents? Trying to stay calm while driving? Streaming music is infinitely preferable to the shuffle function on your music player, which will inevitably reveal your unfailing devotion to ‘80s power ballads at an inopportune time. Give Songza a spin — the playlists, curated by music nerds and DJs, can be selected by mood. There are soundtracks for busy mornings, late-night hangouts, and, of course, enough Christmas music to last you through Labor Day.
These apps can help you minimize stress during the holidays, but they’re also notorious drains on battery life. Even if you’re headed out for several days of travel, Anker’s Astro3 has you covered. It has enough power to revitalize your phone multiple times (6 times for an iPhone, 4 times for a large-capacity battery like the Galaxy S4, and once for a tablet), prolonging your device’s life while you wait for your plane, get lost on country back roads, or at snuggle up in a fireplace-equipped cabin in the mountains. Charge Anker’s Astro3 external battery before you leave the house, and avoid that naked, vulnerable dead-phone feeling during this holiday season!
Justin Levinson is the Online Editor at Makeshift. He's also an expert on the future of work.