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Google's new camera app for Android devices running on the Kit Kat operating system, which is unsurprisingly called Google Camera, is available today.

According to a post on Google's Research Blog, the best thing about the new app is its cool new Lens Blur feature.

The Lens Blur mode will allow users to take a regular photo and then tweak its point or level of focus afterwards - check out the example shots above for a pretty cool before and after.

Unlike Instagram, which only allows its users to select two basic blurring effects, you're able to choose to make any object come into focus more simply by tapping on it within the image. You can then alter the depth-of-field slider and simulate different aperture sizes to achieve bokeh effects. For up-close shots of faces it would really make your subject's features pop to subtly blur in the background, but for cityscapes you could push it to the extreme to create a tilt-shift (or miniature) effect.

Google explains that the algorithms it's used to create these 3D photos run entirely on mobile devices, and are related to the computer vision algorithms used in 3D mapping features like Google Maps Photo Tours and Google Earth.

As self-obsessed, vain and narcissistic millennials we have no excuses when it comes to producing sub-standard selfies.

Gone are the days of holding up a blurry camera phone and giving it your best cheesy grin, there are all kinds of different apps available now to crop out your laundry hanging in the background, blur out slight imperfections and even change the shape of your features if they've been bugging you.

It all sounds a little creepy, but as more and more people start snapping selfies (we're looking at you Obama and Prince Andrew) the less seriously we're all taking them. They're vain, they're annoying, they're probably heavily edited, but we just can't stop taking them and neither can anyone else.

Here at ShinyShiny we've been snapping selfies like crazy (all in the name of research, of course) to bring you our top ten favourite apps for getting the right angle, editing and tweaking them. Watch us talk you through our best four in the video above, or take notes from the list below if you're after heavy-duty editing.

Do you have a favourite app for selfie-editing? Let us know what it is in the comments below.

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CameraBag

CameraBag may not be the prettiest of applications, but it allows you to make a bunch of basic changes to your images and, most importantly, provides you with a huge bank of amazing filters.

The great thing about CameraBag is that each of its filters come with an intensity slider. This means you can customise each filter and only add it ever so slightly if you want more subtle effects.

This is good news for selfie-lovers, as some of the filters on their own would be too intense and make your skin look funny. On the other hand, a slight film over your face is just what your hungover eyes need.

Aviary

Aviary is a really comprehensive photo editing app. You can do everything from making basic tweaks, like cropping and brightness enhancing, through to adding filters and blurring out certain areas of your images.

It's a perfect one for selfies, because you can make the tone, brightness and saturation of your photos more flattering, remove blemishes, banish redeye and even whiten your smile.

Aviary is free, but you can pay extra to unlock more filters. There's actually a "portrait" set for £1.49 that would be worth the investment if you're looking for more filters than Instagram has to offer.

Selfie Cam

Selfie Cam claims to be the "ultimate" selfie app because it allows you to set a timer so you take your selfie at the right second and then add stickers and all kinds of crazy things to your photos. This app is much more about being silly and having fun rather than editing your face within an inch of your life, which makes it one of our favourites.

Facetune

If you're serious about selfie-editing then you really need to add Facetune to your bank of apps.

This powerful app, built especially for portrait editing, allows you to even out your skin tone, whiten your smile, reshape your face, remove dark circles, get rid of blemishes and even add more hair to your head.

Chances are your selfie will be completely unrecognisable after 15 minutes alone with Facetune, but it's actually quite fun to be given the power of a retoucher with just your mobile phone.

Front Flash

Front Flash is ideal for those situations when you've just got to take a selfie OMG it's too much, but the lighting is bad.

Now of course you can't take a selfie in complete darkness and expect this app to work it's magic, but it does make your photos a little bit better than a full-on flash, which can be really unflattering.

Instagram

We've added Instagram to the list because it's often cast aside as a photo editing app nowadays and just used as a way to share images.

Instagram actually has a bunch of great filters and its new contrast sliding feature means you have more control over the intensity of your selfies.

CamMe

CamMe is less about editing your selfies after you've taken them and more about perfecting your selfie technique to begin with.

Simply place your phone wherever you like, show the camera your palm, make a fist when you're ready to be papped and pose. CamMe will then take a photo a few seconds later, providing you with a countdown.

The whole idea behind CamMe is you'll get a much more flattering selfie if your camera is just a little bit further away from you, which is totally true and also gets rid of that weird, unflattering, big arm thing you get when you hold your phone.

Photofy

Photofy isn't really about taking or editing selfies, but using this app you can add all kinds of things to your photos afterwards. You can choose from huge, themed stickers (we don't recommend you do that) or you can just use the app to add simple captions.

It beats other caption and text adding apps because there are so many more options to customise everything you've added to your selfie.

MoreBeaute

One of the most vain (and slightly troubling) apps on the list, MoreBeaute has one job and that's to make you more beautiful.

According to the developers behind MoreBeaute, more beautiful means dreamy blurred skin, lots of light and low saturation.

Frontback

Frontback is a little different to the other apps on the list. Sure it takes your selfie for you, but it also utilises the back camera in order to capture what you were looking at and where you were when you took your selfie.

Granted the trend to take a selfie AND your surroundings might not really catch on and isn't really Instagram-friendly given its final shape, but it is a pretty cool idea we'll be trying as we wander around London this weekend.

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Ever read a printed version of an article that you wish you could instantly share on Twitter? Or see a photo in a story that you're desperate to pin? Well Peekster aims to make linking up online and offline media as easy as possible.

All you need to do is scan the headline of an article, or a small chunk of text, and Peekster will serve up the online version on your phone seconds later using its optical recognition technology. Think of it a bit like Shazam, but for online media. Once you've found what you're looking for, there's an option to share the article to different social networks, as well as a related stories feature too.

For now Peekster is free, but it's already looking to become more of a marketplace for related articles that can drive in-app purchases, having struck up deals with the likes of The Guardian and The Evening Standard already.

Peekster is available for free from iTunes.


We all know that the beginning of the year really isn't the best time to address our bad habits. If anything a lack of alcohol/chocolate/curling up in bed in the foetal position in January is going to make us less likely to do good things than going cold turkey on everything that's nice about the world.

But it's nearly the end of March, the weather is ever-so-slightly better, the nights are ever-so-slightly lighter and your summer holiday is ever-so-slightly closer, all great reasons to start doing more things and improving yourself just a little bit.

We're setting you a challenge to pick just one of your bad habits and attempt to change it over the next few weeks. Don't have one? Then use LittleBit to cultivate something new and worthwhile instead. Let us know what you choose, which app is going to help you and how you're getting on in the comments below...

If too much caffeine is (literally) keeping you awake at night: Jawbone Up Coffee

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Jawbone is famous for its cool little Jambox speakers and Up fitness trackers, but recently it also launched a caffeine-tracking app, called Up Coffee. The app is designed to sync up with your fancy Up (or now Up 24) tracker, but you can still use it if there isn't an activity monitoring gizmo strapped to your arm, just input some basic details about yourself and then add your caffeine intake throughout the day (remembering that it's not just coffee that contains caffeine).

The app shows you your caffeine intake in an awesome, interactive little visualisation that looks like coffee beans filling up a jar (see the screenshot above). On a basic level you can view how wired you are with the beans - from sleep ready to wired - but you can also delve much deeper into your your stats too, monitoring your activity levels throughout the day and keeping a log of how you've done throughout the week.

Now admittedly Jawbone Up Coffee isn't designed to completely kick your coffee obsession, but it will present you with more information about how your body is reacting to that seemingly harmless cup of java throughout the day. Also, the little warnings are pretty hilarious, I just tried to input my second coffee of the day and got a warning that read "This dose of caffeine could make you jittery. Are you sure you want it?".

Jawbone Up Coffee is available for iOS devices for free.

If you can't stop eating the bad stuff: Noom Weight

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We've written about Noom a few times before because it always comes top if you're looking for a way to track your eating habits and activity levels throughout the day but don't want to pay a fortune for a Jawbone, Nike+ or Fitbit wearable.

On the surface Noom is a simple and intuitive calorie intake and activity level tracker, once you've inputted your details it'll tell you how many calories you've consumed and how many you have left. Its comprehensive database allows you to add everything you eat and there are even UK supermarket-specific meals too to make the whole process quicker and easier.

Granted you could use Noom to track all of the bad things you eat, which may just make you feel worse. But, the basic principle behind Noom is that tracking and visualising what you eat each day is the first step in understanding your body and making those all important changes. Unlike similar apps on the market Noom also serves up expert advice and motivational tips to ensure you've got a goal in mind and you stick to it.

You can pay extra to chat to a randomly selected group of other Noom users about your eating habits, which sounds weird and kinda daunting, but it's actually the 2014 equivalent of trotting down to your local Weight Watchers to chat recipes and hop on the scales.

Noom Weight is available for iOS and Android devices.

If you want to quit smoking for good: Smokio

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Smokio is the first smart, connected electronic cigarette and smartphone app combo. Yep, there's literally nothing that isn't "smart" and/or "connected" nowadays.

The Smokio e-cigarette contains a special chip that tracks how much you use it and what impact it's having on your body when you reach for an e-alternative rather than the real thing.

Everything you do with the Smokio e-cig is automatically synced up to a dedicated app on your smartphone using Bluetooth, so you can keep track of your usage, where you do it, when you do it and when your e-cig needs recharging.

Of course a certain level of willpower and motivation is needed to make the transition from normal cigarette to the fancy Smokio e-cigarette in the first place, but it's the stats about how your body is in a much better state and how much money you've saved in the long run that might really hit home for those who are on the verge of giving up for good.

As you'd expect the whole kit isn't cheap and starts at around $89 from the Smokio Store, but if you're committed to quitting it's a hell of a lot cheaper than a lifetime of actual cigarettes.

If you feel like a big couch potato: QuickFit's 7 Minute Workout

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According to research, we should stop feeling intimidated by lengthy workouts and people who are training to do their tenth marathon in our Twitter feeds, and instead treat our bodies to short blasts of high intensity exercise - 7 minutes of the sweaty stuff to be exact.

Sure it might just be the latest fad in a long line of fitness crazes, but the exercises included in the 7 Minute Workout all get different parts of the body moving and leave your heart pumping as if you've just come back from a pretty intense run.

There are a number of different apps on the market to introduce you to the 7 Minute Workout (not to mention some great YouTube videos), but our favourite is from Quick Fit.

The app takes you through all 12 exercises of the 7 Minute Workout giving you 30 seconds for each with a 10 second break in between. The voice commands are simple and ensure your form is spot on, but they're not at all patronising like some other workout apps on the market.

HD videos accompany each workout so you can check you're doing the exercises right. You can also try and keep up with the number of reps the little dude does each round too, but don't worry if you can't - it's much better to start off slow and ensure your form is perfect before you try and smash through 297385 reps in 30 seconds anyway.

There's a performance tracking section within the app that keeps track of your workouts and your progress and once you've done a fair few you can unlock a special workout dedicated just to your abs.

We know that even the smallest bit of exercise can seem too time-consuming and daunting for busy and tired people, but try and just commit to three sets of the 7 Minute Workout each week and we promise you'll sleep better and feel a bit fitter after just a few sessions.

7 Minute Workout - Quick Fit is available from iTunes for 69p.

If worrying takes over your day: iCouch CBT

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Now this is a really specific one, and it's ideal for those whose main habit is worrying.

To those who don't tend to over-think or worry too much this will seem like a strange addition alongside kicking caffeine or a stop smoking kind of habit, but to those prone to a bit of worry and anxiety throughout the day, it could have a really positive impact.

iCouch CBT is an app designed to help you deal with worries and it's based on basic CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) methods. We're in no way therapy experts here at Shiny Shiny, so do your reading if you'd like to know more, but iCouch CBT works on the premise that you need to work through your worries one step at a time to understand them, turn them into something more positive or just realise they're not worth the time and effort.

To some this may sound like a real challenge, but once you've added a worry into the iCouch CBT app it'll guide you through a process of working through it. For those battling with big anxiety problems and depression it may just be a drop in the ocean, but it's worth a shot and has certainly helped calm me down on more than one occasion in the past.

iCouch CBT is a little pricey for an app at £2.49, but well worth it. It's available for iOS devices from the iTunes app store here.

If you want to set new goals and start much better habits: LittleBit

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LittleBit wins hands down in the adorable app stakes with its small smiling face and friendly "Hiya" welcome every time you log-in. But it's not being included in this list because it's cute, but because it's a really simple and effective way to encourage you to hit your goals and cultivate good habits - one small step at a time.

All you have to do to get started with LittleBit is create a New Habit, which can be anything you want like go for a run or floss your teeth. LittleBit will then remind you to do it and encourage you to take a picture of it, earning you a "Bit". Once you get 21 "Bits" you can complete your habit and unlock a big photo reel of your achievements - but let your good intentions slide and you can start to lose "Bits"!

The beauty of LittleBit is that you can only focus on one habit at a time, which takes the pressure away and makes you more likely to keep on track and make just one small change gradually rather than being overwhelmed by about 39873485 ways you'd like to improve your life.

LittleBit is available for iOS devices.

If you're looking for a much healthier and worthwhile distraction: Duolingo

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Maybe you don't need a big app intervention to overcome your habit, but just a new distraction. There are literally thousands of apps and games that are much better for your health and wellbeing than downing cupcakes and coffees, but a personal favourite of ours here at Shiny Shiny is Duolingo. The intuitive language-learning app keeps you occupied, allows you to compete against yourself each day AND helps you learn a brand new language in the process. If you could train yourself to reach for Duolingo instead of that coffee cup/remote control/cigarette then you'll be in a much better (and multilingual) state, we promise.

Duolingo is available for free on iOS and Android devices.

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On the surface UpTo looks like a regular calendar app, sync it with your existing calendar and you're presented with a much slicker (and yep, not to mention prettier) way of seeing what's going on in both your personal and professional life.

But UpTo is also aiming to create one huge shared calendar for everyone to access. Sounds messy, right? But you decide which kinds of events you'd like to see, so it could be your boyfriend or girlfriend's calendar, a movie listings calendar, your Facebook calendar, a calendar with cool events in your area or just choose calendars based on your personal interests, you can pick and choose depending on how sociable you feel.

To stop things getting confusing, the calendars exist on different layers. On the front layer is yours and then there are all of the different ones underneath. This is great, because although sometimes you may feel like the life and soul of the party, other times you may just want a quiet weekend and to only glance through your top priorities.

At the moment the different layers of calendars are only available to iOS users living in the US, but you can still download the app from the iTunes app store here.


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In the same way Spotify has changed the way we listen to music and Netflix has changed the way we watch TV, Readly is here to shake up the way we read our favourite magazines.

You pay a flat rate of £9.99 a month and Readly allows you to access a range of different magazines. The thing that makes the subscription so appealing is that, just like Spotify and Netflix, you're not tied into a lengthy contract, it's commitment-free and much more likely to hook you in than something that forces you to sign up for six months or even a year - after all, that's why none of us are members of a gym, right?

You can also access Readly across FIVE devices, meaning it's great for families or those of us who are short of cash and like to share these subscription services amongst mates.

There's a huge selection of publications from the likes of Haymarket, IPC, DC Thomson and many more. At a quick glance you've got everything from trashy real-life women's titles like Chat and Pick Me Up to much more specialist titles like Boat Owner and Amateur Photographer Magazine.

I'm personally most excited about Time Out, Women's Running and Wallpaper, as well as some of the US-based science titles, but there really is something for everyone.

Already popular in the US and Scandinavia, Readly is available on most iOS, Windows 8, Android and Kindle Fire devices. Find out more here.

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No one has time to sit back and slowly comb through the newspaper each morning, so we've collected together our top apps for consuming the news on-the-go from your phone.

We'd recommend trying out a few of them to see which you like the best, whether you prefer to sift through photo-heavy feeds of content, just see the basic facts or watch the main headlines as mini videos.

Feedly

When Google Reader died (we're still not really over it yet) most die-hard RSS fans reached for the warm, familiar embrace of Feedly. On the surface it's just a standard RSS reader, but it's really customisable - you can choose to browse between content "cards" if you're a fan of Pinterest, just the titles if you're in a rush or a magazine-style if like us you want a mixture between the two.

Feedly has a bunch of cool features, like the most popular and shared stories in each of your categories are flagged at the top, you can save things to read later and also share them seamlessly from a computer, phone or tablet device.

Feedly Reader is available on iOS and Android devices.

Yahoo News Digest

Remember Summly? We wrote about it back in 2012 when Stephen Fry had tweeted that he was a huge fan and began to obsessively use the clever app to read summaries of top news stories. Well fast-forward to 2014 and Yahoo has gobbled up Summly, closing it down and using its cool super summarising technology for the Yahoo News Digest app.

Although we're kinda sad to see Summly disappear, the Yahoo News Digest app is just as useful and uses the same algorithm to find the most relevant content. It serves up news digests for users twice a day and all of the key information is summarised and presented at the top, which is great for those who like to skim through the news instead of delving deeply into anything.

Yahoo News Digest is available on iOS devices.

@BBCNews

If you don't even have time for an app specially designed to serve up the news to you each day, then we'd recommend following @BBCNews on Instagram. The BBC are trialling a new service they're calling "Instafax", which sees them creating 15 second summary videos of a major news story, usually with a video clip or a series of photos and a few sentences of text to explain what's going on.

Follow: @BBCNews

Flipboard

One of the most popular on the list and definitely the best-looking, Flipboard (pictured above) is great for those who get bored with text-heavy apps and care more about bringing a newspaper or magazine reading experience to their mobile phones.

Like most of the other apps on the list, you pick a selection of topics that you can about and can then "flip" through the top news stories about them. You can also add in your social feeds too, so you can see mundane updates and selfies from your friends in amongst the important stuff. Flipboard also allows you to favourite articles and even create your own magazine full of the things you care about too.

Flipboard is available on iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone devices.

Circa News

Circa News, like its competitors, presents news stories in much shorter, easier to digest formats so you can see what's important and then move on. However, it gets a little different because it actually has a dedicated team of editors behind the scenes serving up summarised content for you. Granted this team of editors has a strong focus on US news, but it's follow feature is great for breaking news, press to "follow" a story and you're than updated on when there have been significant developments. Let's hope a more UK-centric hits our side of the pond soon.

Circa News is available on iOS and Android devices.

Let us know what your favourite news app is in the comments below.

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If you're anything like me, then when you see something you'd like to save or share or flag for future reference then you're likely to pin it, favourite it, bookmark it, email it or send it to your kindle depending on what kind of mood you're in. Dragdis is a simple new Chrome extension designed to make saving things you want to take a look at again as easy as possible.

As you can imagine from its name, Dragdis works by dragging and dropping anything that interests you, from an image or video to a link or chunk of text, into a designated folder that pops up at the side of your screen. You can create your own folders and even add apps to the side that allow you to share things to your social networks or other services too.

In many ways it's just like a traditional bookmarking tool, but it's much more intuitive. It could be seen as a competitor to the likes of Pinterest and Evernote, but the fact you can integrate those kinds of services into your Dragdis sidebar means it's more of a convenient filter that you can pass everything through rather than a replacement for your favourite services.

Sign up to Dragdis here.

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Lily Cole, the supermodel with the flame red hair, beautiful doll face and big brains, has been developing her social network, Impossible, for a few years now. It's all based on wishing, giving and sharing, which sounds amazing in practice, but are we all really that nice?

Impossible is a little like Instagram when it comes to looks and functionality, but instead of selfies, cat photos and blurry cake snaps it's about sharing your wishes, dreams and desires (but less in a having lots of sex and making millions way and more in a travelling to a different country and learning French kinda way).

People sign up and share their wishes with the rest of the magical, happy-clappy, positive little community of wish tellers and fulfillers. Others can respond to wishes, see popular and featured wishes and even like wishes with a little heart - see, just like Instagram.

If you're still not really getting it, then a random selection of current wishes include things like, "I wish I could find a beautiful bookstore in Toronto", "I wish someone from a foreign country could send me a package" and "I wish I could become a model no matter what my height." So as you can see, some lend themselves much more to community gifting and sharing than others...

The web version of the site over at Impossible.com has slowly been gaining traction, but this week the Impossible app for iOS has been topping the App Store charts, so that's bound to get a few more people interested. To be honest we're not sure whether it'll really catch on in this big bad world of ours, but we applaud Lily for trying to sprinkle a little bit of her magic and joy onto the masses.

You can download the Impossible app for iOS devices for free.


whisper-app-screenshot.jpgEveryone's favourite online viral news, quiz and cat bible, Buzzfeed, has teamed up with secret-sharing app Whisper in a deal that'll allow the editorial team to access its content for possible articles (and when we say articles, of course we mean lists).

According to the New York Times over the weekend, Buzzfeed writers will be able to search the site for interesting list fodder and Whisper can suggest cool ideas to the editorial team based on trends and themes it sees developing amongst its users.

Neetzan Zimmerman, Whisper Editor-in-Chief and ex-Gawker journo, said, "BuzzFeed is just a natural partner for Whisper." He continued, "It is teeming with the sort of content we will be good at."

It goes without saying that if you have an actual, real life, never tell a soul secret then Whisper isn't the place for it. Well, unless you want 10 gifs of Tina Fey to illustrate your juicy stories of shame that is.


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Super popular beauty, spa and wellbeing service Wahanda has finally launched its own iOS app, making last-minute appointment booking easier than ever.

Those who are already big fans of Wahanda will find the new app really useful, as it provides you with all of the same information and access to salons and spas that you can find on the web, like reviews, booking and in-depth venue details.

The app is particularly useful for those living in a busy city because it uses your location to serve up the closest venues to you. This is really handy if you're anything like me and didn't realise there's an awesome little salon just a few streets behind your office that you never knew existed.

You can book your appointment slot in real-time using the app, make a secure payment and then save it for next time in your 'My Venues' tab to make rebooking even easier.

Wahanda CEO, Lopo Champalimaud, said:

"We are thrilled with this next step in our evolution. The way we live our lives is constantly changing and right now, we're living in an age where many of us are using iPhones and iPads 24/7. Our app has been designed to reflect this and make booking beauty treatments faster and more convenient than ever."

The Wahanda app is available from the iTunes store for free.


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It's been a while since a location-based app has had us excited, if anything the constant sharing of of where we were and what we were doing using Foursquare a few years ago just became annoying and creepy, so now most people will tag their location on Instagram and that's about it.

But what3words is here to shake up the way we view location, and it's not about stalking each other and showing off where we've been, it's about mapping unique words onto the world one 3X3m square at a time.

What is what3words?

First launched in July last year, what3words is a free service that maps out 3X3m squares and gives each one a unique address of just three words. Each 3X3m across the whole planet has already been given three words, but for £1.49 anyone can purchase personalised OneWords (just one word, or two squished together starting with an asterisk) to make describing a 3X3m square easier.

So for example, I'm looking out onto Newington Green in London right now and the spot I'm looking at is called along.coffee.think (click the link to see it has a unique web address too). However, for a small price I can call it *beccasview as well, or, you know, something much more exciting.

What can I use it for?

Because what3words narrows down location to such a small area, as apposed to addresses that are sometimes really confusing, it's already had a lot of interest from businesses who find its 3X3m labelling service really valuable - especially those working in the delivery and services industries.

However, the cheesy romantic in me can't help but think that it'd be a lovely way for you and your loved one to label a location that means a lot to you both - like the 2014 equivalent of carving your initials on a tree.

The truth is the possibilities are really endless and already developers are making use of what3words' API in order to create services for themselves. This week Steve Caldwell, the founder of Crosstek, has created the watch3words app for the Pebble smartwatch, which allows users to find their unique three-word address wherever they are at the touch of their smartwatch button. So this means they can communicate their location in seconds without the confusion of coordinates down to the exact metre (well, the exact three metres). We're interested in seeing how the service integrates with even more wearable devices in the future.

How do I start using it?

You can access what3words via the web, but this week the team has launched native mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices, which enables users to buy up bits of the planet and move OneWords around while they're on the move.

You can download what3words from the iTunes store and Google Play for free.


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Mainstream media tends to hark on about the benefits of meditation once every few years, usually at the same time a celebrity mentions how much it's changed their life during an interview - David Lynch, Ellen DeGeneres and Russell Brand are just a handful of examples. But whether it's currently the flavour of the month according to Glamour and the Mail Online or not, people have been practicing different forms of meditation all over the globe for thousands of years.

Meditation itself is a very broad term and encapsulates a bunch of different practices and techniques, but the overall theme is that meditation induces a quiet state of thought, contemplation and mindfulness. Sometimes this becomes a deep, meditative state (this sometimes the case with transcendental meditation) and other times it just means taking a step back and observing the world around you, which is what mindfulness is all about.

Regardless of whether people meditate for hours each day in a trance-like state or just take a few minutes to breath deeply a few times a week, the benefits can be pretty life-changing. Meditation can give you a bit more peace of mind and perspective each day, but over time it can also help those battling with more serious disorders, like depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Although the constant beep and buzz of the technology around you might be the reason for some of your daily stresses, like most areas of your life there are some handy tools available on your phones to introduce you to meditation, help you to stay calm and collected and possibly even work to make deep, long term changes to the way you think, feel and live your life.

Today I've collected together just a few of my tried and tested apps for meditation, deep breathing and mindfulness on-the-go. Please add any of your suggestions in the comments below and I'll continue to update this list. Happy meditating :)

For getting started with meditation: Headspace

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Headspace is where I started my journey into the world of meditation. Last year, I watched Andy Puddicombe, the creator of Headspace and official Buddhist monk, give a brilliant TED talk about the importance of taking ten minutes out of each day and it inspired me to try it out, just for a week.

Once you've downloaded Headspace you're given Andy's "Take 10" programme, which includes ten free days of ten minute meditative practices, all focused on becoming more mindful of your breath, the space around you, your body and your mood. That sounds like a lot to take in, but it's really simple and Andy's soothing voice guides you through every step.

However, it's the cute little animations at the beginning of your journey that are REALLY special, because they tell you what meditation is all about, how it could work for you (there are very few shoulds in the world of meditation) and how it might feel. Until I'd seen these animations I was pretty sceptical about the whole thing, imagining it was about quietening your thoughts and escaping from them into a safe little meditation haven, when really it's the exact opposite.

Check out the Headspace YouTube Channel for animations, explanations and interviews with the people behind the app.

TIP: Although we're recommending Headspace as a beginner's meditation tool, once you've completed your first ten days (you can go back and re-do them as many times as you please) you then have the option of paying for a subscription fee to get access to more. I'm a massive cheapskate and don't pay for any subscription fees, well until now. Once you've completed the first ten you're onto Headspace's Take 15, which is fifteen whole minutes of mindfulness each day to move you forward.

Headspace is available from the iTunes app store, Google Play and the Amazon Appstore, check here for links and details. You can also access Headspace via the web too.

You could also try: Calm for getting used to meditation. It presents you with seven steps of calm to relax you and pairs all of its guided meditations with beautiful background music. We actually love this app, but prefer Andy from Headspace's voice and the simple nature of his app, which sounds a little silly, but plays a really important part in your meditative practice.

For meditation in different scenarios and on the move: Buddhify 2

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Headspace is definitely my favourite meditation app, but sometimes it isn't always easy to find time each day to sit in a quiet spot and meditate - even though you'll feel the benefits more if you do. Buddhify 2 presents you with a colourful wheel packed full of different scenarios, like trying to get to sleep, travelling and walking in a city. Tap on one and that segment opens, serving up three meditations for you to choose from, all usually of different lengths.

Just like Headspace, Buddhify 2 is focussed on mindfulness, but there are other helpful practices in there too, like gratitude and kindness towards others. When you're stressed out on your commute expressing anything other than disgust for that sweaty dude next to you may seem absolutely crazy, but the goal is to remove yourself from your own anxious little washing machine of thoughts - and it often works!

If you like to keep track of what you get up to, then Buddhify 2 saves your weekly stats, record streaks and the amount of content you've consumed overall. It also allows you to rate your mindfulness, concentration and balance on any given day.

Finally, if you fancy going it alone Buddhify 2 has a ten minute timer, allowing you to practice meditation without a guide. This may be daunting for newbies, but it's certainly something to aim for.

TIP: Headspace has a few different guided meditations for helping you drift off to sleep and sorting you out if you're awake in the night and just can't nod off. They're both really soothing and have always worked for me when I've had trouble sleeping.

Buddhify 2 is available from iTunes for £1.49, but trust us, it's totally worth it.

You could also try: Omvana is an app full to the brim with different kinds of meditation practices and tools from a range of experts. The reason we prefer Buddhify to Omvana? Well, it may sound strange but there's just TOO MUCH choice with Omvana. There are so many different guided meditations and background sounds to choose from and you have to pay for most of them. When you feel like you need a little calm the last thing you want to do is flick through hundreds of different choices, which is why we think it's probably better for those who have been practicing meditation a little longer.

For calming down and breathing deeply: Pranayama Universal Breathing

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If you don't fancy listening to a guided meditation but want to calm down and have a bit of time for yourself, then try a breathing app instead.

I really like Pranayama Universal Breathing, a simple application that serves up a little wheel. Begin and the first third of the wheel is when you should inhale, and the other two thirds are when you should exhale. It sounds like something you should know how to do already, right? Nope. Wrong. Many people breathe short, shallow breaths or even hold their breath, causing them to become on edge and anxious.

Try mindfully breathing and even when you're in a super stressful situation you'll be surprised to see just how much it can calm you down.

TIP: The app has a number of different customisations and I recommend adding a little bit of music to your breathing practice too in order to concentrate on nothing else but you and your breath.

Pranayama Universal Breathing is available from iTunes for free.

You could also try: Breathing Zone has been built to calm you down and reduce your blood pressure, so it's a more science-based option for those who want to reduce stress but aren't keen on the idea of meditation.

Meditation for little people: Smiling Mind

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Yep, it's not just us grown ups who can benefit from meditation, but kids too. Smiling Mind is both a web and app-based meditation programme specially designed to give kids a sense of calm and clarity throughout their day.

The Smiling Mind interface is really simple, just hit play and your session will begin. Just like Headspace and Buddhify, Smiling Mind is focussed on mindfulness - paying attention to your mood, breath, body and the space around you.

We imagine it could be tough to get the youngest seven to eleven age group to engage with the app at times, but all of the guided meditations within have been developed by a team of psychologists specialising in therapy for kids and teens.

TIP: Although promoted as a mindfulness tool for kids, there's an adult section too. So if you haven't clicked with any of the other apps yet, give it a go.

Smiling Mind is available from iTunes for free.

Main image via http://psychedeliknights.tumblr.com/

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For months we've heard rumours that Apple is on the brink of launching its first mobile health product. Known as HealthBook it's tipped to track everything from sleep to fitness to hydration and given Apple's current hold over the smartphone market it could be game-changing. Earlier this week, Apple fans at 9to5 Mac published a really detailed rundown of many of HealthBook's key features, which prove it could well be the app that forces mobile health well and truly into the mainstream.

According to 9to5 Mac, the app will include a number of different cards all contained within the "book". Each card represents a different area of your health, and from the screenshots it looks like all kinds of areas will be covered, including bloodwork, heart rate, hydration, activity, nutrition, sleep, blood sugar and much, much more. If these screenshots are part of a yet-to-be-released app (and not redundant or awaiting much more tinkering), then it looks like Apple could bring all of the experiences we're slowly getting used to with other apps and products into one handy hub. It's not clear whether third party apps or devices will feed into the HealthBook, but it would seem necessary to gather such comprehensive data - unless Apple has a line of hardware up its sleeve too of course. Many are already worried this could signal the death of every other mobile health app out there, but it could actually lead to even more validation for the health and fitness tracking industry.

You can check out the full post on 9to5 Mac here for more screenshots, speculations about the data collected and rumours about its launch.

starbucks-app-screenshot.jpgWe all know the type, the tutters, the ones who push past you to get on the tube, the ones who elbow you just to get into a queue a fraction of a second quicker. Well, luckily for these angry and impatient people Starbucks may soon be launching an app to allow them to order and pay for their coffees on their frantic march to the coffee shop.

This isn't just great news for pushy, crazy people everywhere, but it also means there's less likely to be a queue when you're calmly and happily waiting for your coffee too.

The new plans were hinted at by Adam Brotman, Starbuck's Chief Digital Officer, in a Bloomberg interview, who revealed his team are "actively working" on the possibilities of mobile ordering. "It's something our customers have asked for," he continued. "We're not revealing a lot of details about it now."

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Those who have tried to get pregnant in the past know it's not half as easy as you imagined and for some it can takes a great deal of time, effort and planning to get your head around what's going on, which is where the Ovia Fertility app comes in.

This iOS and Android app aims to make family planning easier and a lot quicker - because the last thing you need when you're trying to conceive is a load of stress!

The app encourages you to track and input a range of data, from when your cycle is starting to how much exercise you get each day. Through Ovia's algorithm it'll then serve up a simple dashboard that presents information about your health and lifestyle - identifying points where there could be issues and where improvements should be made - as well as making those all important predictions about when you should conceive.

The app syncs up to a range of fitness tracking devices and services - like Fitbit's Flex and the Withings scale - enabling you to build up an even more accurate picture about how your body is functioning.

For those having some problems conceiving, the app can serve up personalised recommendations, create reports for your doctor and enable you to share everything with your partner every step of the way too.

The app is free and available from the iTunes app store and Google Play.

tinder-dating-big.jpgAwh you've gotta feel for the slew of beautiful, rich and talented celebs that are using Tinder and getting absolutely no matches. All of the sad faces for them :(:(:(.

According to Techcrunch, celebs like Ashton Kutcher (isn't he taken?), Lindsay Lohan and Josh Groban are all using the hook-up app but regular people don't believe they're really their awesome celeb selves. Tinder's answer? Verified accounts.

Just like the little verified blue ticks on Twitter, Tinder plans on introducing a way to prove celebs are who they say they are. We imagine that'll lead to a lot of average Joes and Janes hooking up with celebrities via the app instead of some slimy nightclub. WOOP for fame hungry horny people across the globe!

fequency-app-big.jpgAndroid app Frequency is a must for those intent on being more productive and awesome each day, as it tracks how much time you spend in each app on your phone.

The app provides little diagrams about which apps you use over the past day, week or month, when you use them and how long you spend in each one, an eye-opener for those who are curious and a must for those interested in hacking their day and getting more actual work done rather than sitting on Snapchat/Instagram/Twitter for hours and hours on end.

Frequency is available from Google Play for free, but there's a pro version that starts tracking automatically - the free one is manual.

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The BBC has launched a new version of its popular video-on-demand service, BBC iPlayer, today.

The new iPlayer has been redesigned, so it looks different and some of its core functionality has changed too. So the recommendations have become much more advanced, the viewing experience is tailored to your device, search is smarter and programmes are grouped together in more intuitive ways.

The new look apps will be updated over the next few months and while they get spruced up, BBC is working on making even more content available via iPlayer, like more original drama and comedy shorts, guided tours and content around specific events, such as the Chelsea Flower Show.

Tony Hall, the Director General at the BBC, said: "This is an exciting day for us. BBC iPlayer is really popular, and new iPlayer will be even better. You'll be able to find so many more programmes you might like - and I hope everyone enjoys the new design. It's just a first step to re-inventing BBC iPlayer, the best online television service in the world"

First unveiled back in 2007, the BBC iPlayer apps have now been downloaded more than 28 million times and more than 10 billion programmes have been requested in the six years since its launch.


instagram-lux-slider.jpgInstagram fans will know exactly what Lux is - that little sunshine icon in the bottom right of your edit screen - a feature that once you press it strengthens your photos with more contrast and intense colours.

It's a great button to press when you're working with scenery in order to make your images look a little more dramatic, but when you're editing selfies and group images it often makes everything a little too dark and features become unrecognisable and blurry.

Well it looks like Instagram already knew our little bugbear, as in its most recent updated it's made Lux into a sliding, adjustable feature. Now when you press the sunshine button you're greeted with a super simple slider (see the example on the left) so you can decide exactly how much your images are strengthened.

Slide it to near the top with scenery and moody shots of clouds, keep it round the middle for objects and food snaps and only add a little bit for selfies and group shots of faces.

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