Smartphones have become a critical component of everyday life: They keep people on time, in shape and up-to-date, and even provide entertainment. But although they may be smart, sometimes they need a little help to make them intelligent enough for your specific needs.
With these seven apps, your device will know exactly what you want, when you want it, so you'll spend a lot less time swiping and tapping, and a lot more time actually getting things done. Best of all, every single app on this list is free.
Let's start with one of the basics. For a very long time, the Google Search app was little more than a shortcut to the world's most popular search engine — that is, until Google Now came along. Google Now is like a personal assistant that curates your search history, Chrome browser history, Gmail, Google Calendar and location data to deliver useful information right when you need it. Getting up for work in the morning? Google Now gives you an overview of your commute, a traffic report and a weather forecast. Just checked in for a flight? Without lifting another finger, Google Now will automatically retrieve your digital boarding pass. Each piece of information appears as a card that can be swiped away when it's not needed, and the app remembers which cards you've swiped, so it knows what's most important to you. Google has prepared for a wide range of uses and scenarios, so try out the app for yourself. Although Google Search is available for most devices, the Google Now feature is limited to those running Android 4.1 or iOS 6 or later versions.
Tempo – iOS
As powerful and user-friendly as mobile devices have become, it's still a chore to maintain a calendar on most smartphones. Tempo helps solve that problem by intelligently connecting email, contacts, social networking, maps and events, for a better calendar experience on iOS. For example, tell Tempo you have a meeting coming up, along with the location and a list of the attendees, and the app will automatically pull up of all your relevant email conversation threads and documents, your co-workers' social networking and contact data, and directions and parking suggestions. Running late for your event? With just a couple of quick taps, you can easily send a preset mass email to the people who need to know. Of course, you may not get a warm reception when you arrive, but with Tempo, you'll never be accused of leaving your team in the dark. [5 iPhone Apps to Manage Your Business Contacts]
Tipbit – iOS
Tipbit is a lot like Tempo, except that it places a stronger focus on your inbox. When you receive an email, Tipbit extracts the contact data of everyone in the thread, along with recent tweets, shared LinkedIn connections and mutual Facebook friends. The same information available to your inbox is shared with your calendar and contacts as well, so the app does an excellent job of seamlessly integrating the three. From its compatibility with services like Dropbox and Evernote to its integrated Google search function, Tipbit is designed to be a hub for your professional life. Like Tempo, Tipbit is free and exclusive to iOS, although an Android version is currently in development.
Agent – Android
Agent is so useful that it should be preinstalled on every phone. The app can perform many different tasks, such as remembering where you parked your car, automatically silencing your phone when your calendar shows you're busy and reading incoming texts while you're at the wheel. Agent can make your phone last longer on a charge, too; when your device's battery level drops below a certain threshold, the app responds by dimming the display and turning off background syncing. However, the app is not available for iOS because apps like Agent that manipulate system settings aren't permitted on Apple's platform.
Cover – Android
Like Agent, the remaining apps on this list are currently only possible on Android because they fundamentally change the way you interact with your device. How does Cover do it? It replaces your phone's stock lock screen and learns which apps you like to use — when and where. Wake your device, and Cover will present you with a different list of apps depending on your location and the time of day. Say you're at work, where you normally use Google Keep and Dropbox. Cover notices that and places those apps on your lock screen for quick access. Then, when you're back home, relaxing after a long day, Cover swaps them out with Netflix and Spotify. Cover will also silence your ringer at set times when it knows you don't want to be disturbed. Cover is also seriously fast — fast to wake, fast to launch and switch apps, and fast to tell where you are. It might even make you faster, too.
Aviate – Android
Of all the apps on this list, Aviate is easily the most ambitious because it completely transforms your phone's standard interface, getting rid of those rows and columns of apps for a dynamic feed of information. While it doesn't quite match Google Now's sheer diversity of use scenarios — Aviate won't, for example, call up a boarding pass at the airport — it will follow you throughout your day with relevant updates, like weather, traffic, directions and calendar events. And Aviate borrows a page or two from Cover, rotating different apps for work, home and going out, so you don't have to waste time searching for the right one when you need it. However, Aviate is currently restricted to an invite-only beta, so you'll need to reserve a spot in line first.
EverythingMe Launcher – Android
EverythingMe is another predictive home screen that eschews Aviate's design for something more familiar to Android users. Upon first glance, it appears to be pretty basic. When you open EverythingMe for the first time, you'll see a bunch of categorized folders, a row of predicted apps toward the bottom and a voice-enabled search bar at the top. It's that search bar that really makes EverythingMe shine, because it allows you to query literally anything. Say "pizza," for example, and EverythingMe will return a long list of downloaded apps and sites related to food, like Yelp and Urbanspoon. Open one, and the app you choose will already be primed to search for pizza, without requiring you to input the term again. EverythingMe's greatest feature is that it saves you time: It ensures the right apps are always within reach, without requiring extra taps or repeat entries.