Imagine a day in your life. You wake up, head for a swim, drive to work, make some calls, catch a movie, head to the lane you never knew existed behind that parking lot for a plate of biryani, go back home, set an alarm for the next day and finally fall asleep.

Now imagine if your smartphone helped you at every step of your entire day. There's practically nothing an app can't do today. Mobile applications or 'apps' are software applications that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet. They're supposed to help you organise and live your life better. "Apps can make you do so much, such as checking the weather, banking, reading maps or scanning airline timetables," says tech writer Ashish Bhatia. "Each person has a unique requirement that can be catered to through apps." But when did apps make their entry into our lives?

Almost everyone remembers that delightful game called Snake on old Nokia phones. That was probably the first 'app.' But the real breakthrough came in 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone, and users began consuming music on their phones. Today, there are millions of apps in the virtual world. Here's our list of some of the best, across health and fitness, travel, money, productivity, entertainment and the social networking categories.

Finance

Finance

You can't get away from money

- whether it's monthly groceries, that loan to your friend, EMIs for your new car, or even checking the stock market. And now, with dozens of companies offering money apps, it's a mad rush out there.

Most leading banks have apps, usually free of cost, for their customers. Rajeeb Chatterjee, senior vice president and head, ATM and mobile banking, HDFC, says, "We offer more than 60 transactions, such as checking one's account statement, transferring funds, making credit card bill payments, etc on the MobileBanking platform. The app is safe as no information is stored on the mobile phone or SIM card. So even if the phone is lost or stolen, the customer's account is secure and cannot be compromised."

Keeping a tab on your expenses is a challenge, right? Perhaps Delhi-based app developer Ankit Pandey's Daily Expense Manager can help. "During our college days there was a lot of spending (frivolous or otherwise), and we didn't know where and how to note all this down," he says. "Today, with most college kids armed with smartphones, we thought there could be nothing better than an app to manage expenses." There's a host of finance-based apps that you can choose from. Some help you stick to a budget, while others tell you about your investments. Here's our list of some apps that make the cut:

National banks

All major banks, such as ICICI, Citibank, HDFC etc, have apps, which allow account holders to track their balance, statements, find the nearest ATM, and deposit money via their smartphones. Usually banks have in-house developers who make apps for them. Available on: Android/ iOS/ Windows

  • Stock Watch: BSE/NSE

    Like keeping a check on the stock markets while you're on the move? Look no further than the Stock Watch: BSE/NSE app. Developed by SnapWork Technologies, it provides hourly updates and tells you what market experts are saying about the current scenario. The hourly updates appear as a bull symbol on the top of your smartphone. Add your personal shares as well and see how your investments are doing. Available on: Android/ iOS/ Windows

  • Budget Buddy

    This personal finance app allows you to manage your monthly finances in an easy manner. All you need to do is take a picture of your bills or receipts when you make a purchase or pay a bill. Colourful charts and graphs tell you where your money is going. If you see where your money is going, you might stop spending so much! Available on: Windows

  • Market on Mobile

    Developed by Network18, it gives you real-time stock quotes, market indices, and keeps track of your investment portfolio. Plus live videos to know where the experts stand. Available on: Windows/ Android/ iOS

Safety

Safety

This is an important issue in these troubled times.

We travel far and wide, for work, for recreation and could face tough situations. Enter safety apps. Your phone can scream (like an actual woman screaming) if you're in danger. Other apps let your loved ones know where you're stuck; your location reaches them via a text message. There are apps for blood donation too. Bangalore-based app developer Ashton D'Sa and Delhi-based Jayant Bhandari are among those who've developed donor apps. All you need to do is enter the blood group needed and the location, and you get a list of people in the vicinity available to donate blood.

Here are some useful safety apps:

VithU

You've probably seen the ads on television. Popular TV celebrities (they've now roped in actress Kareena Kapoor Khan too) have been promoting it. When you download this app (developed by Star India Pvt Ltd), a note pops up on your screen: "We hope you never have to use it." You need to key in the numbers of your emergency contacts, and if you're in trouble, they will get a message: "I'm in danger. Please help me". You need to press your phone's power button twice and a text with your distress message and location will be sent to those on your list.

Available on: iOS/ Android

  • Scream Alarm!

    This app (developed by GoPal Appmaker) does what it's called - it screams! And it's a loud scream, meant to scare off predators.

    Available on: Android/ iOS

  • SOS Stay Safe!

    To activate this alarm, shake your phone a fixed number of times and your family will know you need them. Developed by New Jersey-based iXtentia, it sends an SMS and an email to your folks about your location at regular intervals. Your phone's battery level is also sent, so in case your battery is next to dead, your family will know.

    Available on: iOS/ Android

  • bSafe

    When you create your account, choose a list of guardians you'd like to notify. To activate the alarm, you need to click the big red SOS button to send your location details to them. You can also get your guardians to track your location live via GPS if you're visiting an unfamiliar area. Norway-based Bipper AS has developed this app.

    Available on: Android/ iOS

Travel

Travel

With so many travel apps attempting to woo users, it's a tough choice.

Booking a cab is commonplace, but making the call, waiting for the call executive to note down all your details can be irksome. So say hello to the Meru app. "Developing it was an obvious decision for us, given that people book cabs on the go," says Nilesh Sangoi, chief technical officer, Meru Cabs. Booking inter-city buses can also be a pain. That's why the RedBus app is so handy. Shashaank Shekhar Singhal, senior product manager (Mobile) for RedBus, says, "Bus travel can be unpredictable given weather conditions and ignorance of the exact boarding place. We give real-time information to users about the location of the bus, and tell them about the points they can get down to take pictures."
Our list of travel apps that will help you plans your journeys with all the fun and none of the pain:

Meru

In the three months since the app came into being, more than 1.3 lakh downloads have taken place, and more than 2,000 trips are booked daily using the app. Their 'In Case of Emergency' alert helps track the user's location. You will need to save the number of a loved one and alert them in case of an emergency. They will receive an SMS with your location details and will be able to see your whereabouts on the map.

Available on: Android and iOS. Soon on Windows.

  • Delhi Metro Rail Corporation

    Type in where you want to get off, and the app will tell you exactly which platform to take the train from, where to change trains (if required), where to get off, and how much it will cost you.

    Available on: Android/ iOS

  • BusIndia

    Developed by Radiant Info Systems Ltd (RISL), the app debuted last month and is a government initiative. BusIndia earlier had a portal, which though successful, didn't reach many users. Chairman and CEO of RISL Venu Myneni realised the potential of mobile penetration and decided to develop an app that allowed users to book bus tickets. However, you can book only state transport buses through this app.

    Available on: Android/ Windows.

  • Street Lens

    You've just landed in a new city, allow your phone's camera to be your friend, philosopher and guide. With Street Lens (developed by Tracky Apps), point your phone camera on a street to discover the best shops, restaurants and other places of interest close by. Tap the icons that spring up to get more information, such as reviews or phone numbers.

    Available on: Android/ iOS

Productivity

Productivity

You know that niggling feeling.

There was a list of 'to do' things for the day, but you can't quite remember what they were. When you were out shopping, you forgot where you parked your car. Naturally there are apps designed to ease all these irritants. Kulveer Taggar, who has developed the Agent group of apps says, "We wanted to make something we ourselves would want to use. Our Parking Agent (for instance), came about because we didn't want to waste time looking for the spot where we'd parked our car when we went for investor meetings."
Tap these apps for greater productivity and efficiency:

  • Bother Me

    Reminders are often not enough for people to finish their tasks on time. Developed by NOS Microsystems Ltd, Bother Me post-its will badger you into finishing your task. All you need to do is write down your tasks for the day on a note (this could be a wooden board, a whiteboard, or the typical yellow stick note). You'll see an angry face at the bottom of your screen where you choose the notes from. Just click on the angry face. Every time you unlock your phone, this note will pop up on your screen, reminding you about pending tasks.

    Available on: Android

  • Skitch

    A sudden call from your client to discuss a project plan can make you nervous, especially if you don't have a laptop on you. But if you have the PDF you mailed to the client on your smartphone, the Evernote Corporation app can come to your rescue. It will let you mark changes on the PDF. This app also lets you plot directions on Google Maps and mail it to friends to help them find their way to a destination.

    Available on: Android/ iOS

  • Clean Master

    Developed by KS Mobile, this app is perfect for cleaning your system cache. At the press of a button, your phone will start running faster than before.

    Available on: Android/ iOS

Entertainment/ Social

Entertainment/ Socialt

Of course we're worried about our productivity and our health. But we're only human.

And it's obvious that we'd like some entertainment every now and then. Vinodh Bhat, co-founder and CEO of Saavn, a platform for listening to music, says, "With the increasing penetration of smartphones and the unmet desire to have music on the go, we created our iOS, Android and mobile Internet apps. Mobile app users are much more engaged, and listen to more songs in a session than Web users. While the usage varies a lot between users, on an average, mobile users are listening to around 6+ hours of music per month."

Though there is the disadvantage of viewing your favourite show or movie on a small screen, for those who are on-the-go and don't like to miss out on anything, there's Ditto TV. This app allows you to watch your favourite shows and movies on your smartphone screen. Manoj Padmanabhan, business head, Ditto TV, says, "We need to cater to the youth whose demand has shifted to watching what they want, when they want."

The app Wooplr caters to the needs of shopaholics with eclectic tastes. This app stems from the fact that "people are curious and choosy and want search results to cater to their needs," says Arjun Zacharia, CEO of Wooplr, a 'shopping, discovery and lifestyle' app. It lets people who are fond of shopping build their own network of followers and friends. Here are the coolest entertainment/social apps:

Saavn

Saavn stands for South Asian Audio Video Network and is a digital music service, which allows you to listen to any song from any film in any language. Developed by a company of the same name, they have special features like 'Songs of the Week', which is a collection of about 10 popular numbers for that week. They also have 'Surprise Me', which is a playlist of 15 songs from every era. You can create your own playlist by adding as many songs as you want. Available on: iOS and Android

  • Ditto TV

    We've reached that age where we're comfortable watching TV on our smartphones. Ditto TV, developed by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, is a way to catch the latest show, or movie of your choice, no matter where you are. Data charges for downloading apply separately and there's the individual charge of the show or movie you'd like to download. The app is free of cost for users for the first fortnight. Movies and TV shows have been categorised into Best Picks, Romance, Thriller, etc. You can also watch Live TV, which lets you catch a particular TV show as it airs. The quality is good, so you shouldn't worry about video clarity.

    Available on: Android/ iOS/ BlackBerry/ Windows

  • BookMyShow

    There's a play on at your favourite theatre this Saturday. And your friend also has a dance recital on Wednesday. But you don't have time to call for the tickets. Developed by Bigtree Entertainment Pvt Ltd, the BookMyShow app finds out who's performing where and when, which movie is showing in which theatre and books your tickets faster than you can say BookMyShow!

    Available on: Android/ iOS/ BlackBerry/ Windows

  • iCouch

    You're watching the latest episode of 24 and dying to discuss the show. Post a picture of a scene from the show on the page where other viewers are discussing it. Users get a reminder around 15 minutes before a chat window is about to open. The mission, the makers say, is to provide TV channels with a platform to engage with the audience. Developed by Noida-based iDubba, iCouch is a chat application for TV viewers.

    Available on: iOS/ Android