Apps to make your life easier and better: Gautrain Buddy, Uber, Google Goggles, Vine, and more!


There are so many great apps available that can add value to your work, social life, and organisational skills. Some are fun, some save time, some save money, and some have reached the point of becoming almost indispensable! You may well not have heard of many of them, so we’re here to give you the low-down on eight apps that we think are useful, fun or valuable in a South African context and so inspire you to add to your library those that you think will add value to your life.

Gautrain Buddy


The Gautrain – “For People on the Move” – has an official app to help make your commute as smooth and effortless as possible. The Gautrain Buddy provides you with everything you need to know about the rail and bus service: its peak and off-peak schedules, fees, station-specific bus options, and parking and drop-off facilities. So you don’t need to chance it or try to remember anything – install the app on your phone and organise your life as you’re busy living it!

Other features include a map showcasing your bus’s progress, an alert message function, the recall of your last inputted station, and a station swap button. Gautrain Buddy is available on both iPhone and Android and is accessed via your Gold Card.



Uber is an app targeting travellers and offers an easy ‘cab hail’ type of service that puts you in touch with a driver in whichever city you find yourself. At present the Uber service exists in 35 countries globally, including South Africa, and is expanding its reach.

Let’s say you arrive in Moscow – simply tap a button on your Uber app and a driver will come to you where you are. You can watch the cab’s progress on a map. All drivers connected withUber have had insurance and background checks to ensure a quality service. It’s free and available on all smartphones, though for now the Windows Phone version has been pulled.

Google Goggles

Google Goggles

Google Goggles allows you to take a photo of a product, a famous landmark or painting, a barcode or some such and if the app can find it in its database then it will identify the imaged object or place for you and provide other useful and interesting information. So don’t stand scratching your head while staring at something – snap away and learn what you need to know!



The Vine app has been around for a while and enables you to create and share short, looping videos. And when we say short, we mean it: videos can’t be longer than seven seconds.The user interface is divided into categories, which include Music, Nature, News and politics, and Food. A recent update to the app is that you can now comment and chat on a video, and you can favourite it.

While perhaps the majority of Vine clips tend towards navel gazing, its uses are as varied as its users so that political speech clips, event highlights, NGO promos, ads, athletics and much more can and are shared via this app.

Virtual Zippo Lighter


The Virtual Zippo Lighter is simply a fun app that provides you with a digital lighter you can sway in the air in lieu of an actual lighter. How it works: you open it with a flick of your wrist, then you swipe your thumb down the flint wheel displayed on the screen to turn it on. If you sway your phone in the air the flame will simulate the movement, and if you blow on your screen the flame will pretend to sputter.


Aweza is a relatively new app that provides translation services in all of South Africa’s 11 official languages in a bid to help South Africans communicate better with each other. Its slogan is “One Nation, One Conversation”.


Users can look up words, phrases and pictures in order to get an audio or written translation. Conversational categories are also provided, such as “A

t the garage” and “Entertainment”, and in each one phrases are suggested, such as “Please check the oil” and “Where is the theatre?”

While the app is a good idea and is making progress in terms of ironing out issues, it still has a ways to go to. Case in point, it relies on user contributions so that currently one can easilyobtain translations from those linguistic groups that dominate the app user pool, such as the English and Afrikaans, whereas Tsonga translations, for example, are greatly lacking.

That said, the app has been acknowledged by the World Design Capital (WDC) and addresses a real-world communication obstacle and so has high potential value should enough contributors across the linguistic spectrum add to its store of words and phrases.



FourSquare, launched in 2007, is a highly successful app that gamifies your movements and activities by inviting you to ‘check in’ whenever you arrive at a new destination. Just arrived at work? Sign in. At your favourite restaurant? Sign in. Because if you sign in more often than anyone else you become Mayor of that place.

Another feature of FourSquare is that it provides area maps, and offers personalised recommendations of places you might like based on where you’ve been. It will also tell you about localspecials and deals.

Users of the app you can connect with others (as in other social media sites such as Facebook) and in this way it can be a useful tool for seeing at a glance if any of your friends or contacts are nearby, perhaps to meet up for a spontaneous cuppa?

Lastly, users can find reviews of places and input their own for the sake of contacts and others.



Flipboard is a very popular app as it gathers together all of your favourites in one place. In its own words, “It’s a single place to discover, collect and share the news you care about. Add your favourite social networks, publications and blogs to stay connected to the topics and people closest to you.”

For the businessman, the student, or the simply interested-in-life individual, this is a great, easy tool for keeping informed, engaged and connected.

Do you use any of the above apps? Please share your thoughts on them with us in the Comments section below!


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