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Apps that matter
Instead of just being fun, these smart-phone applications can make life a little easier
By Todd Spann

As addictive and fun as Angry Birds is to play on your Apple iPhone or Android, it's really just a great way to waste time. On the other hand, there are some useful apps that can help you shop, stay healthy and be fit. 

Shopping
A grocery store can be an expensive place if you go in without an action plan. That's where the Shopper app, which can be downloaded for iPhone and for Android, comes in. This nifty app takes the grocery list to another level. 

There are a couple of ways to get your grocery list started, either by scanning items that you already have in your pantry or manually adding items to the list. Once you have the list, the app will begin searching local sales fliers to point you to the best deals. It will even sort your list by aisle so that your trip to the supermarket will be as quick as possible. 

Other key features include coupon tracking, real-time list sharing and syncing, and shopping templates for recipes, favorites and repeat shopping. 

The app also has a customizable item catalog for groceries, home improvement, electronics and beauty and baby items.

This app is easy to use, and for 99 cents, it's hard to beat its functionality. Plus, you'll quickly make that price back on the time and savings it saves you at the grocery store. 

Another helpful app is the Barcode Scanner. This app does price comparison-shopping for you. 

When you're out looking for a new television (or even toilet paper, for that matter) and you want to make sure you're getting the best deal possible, just scan the barcode. The app will go to work and show you prices from retailers online as well as local retail prices. It also will map out directions for you to other retail stores in your area. 

This particular barcode scanner app is for the iPhone only, but the Android Market has several options that seem to do the same thing.

Health and fitness
If you're conscientious about what you eat, this next app might be a good fit. The Nutrition Menu app for the iPhone tracks calories and nutritional values and more. 

Makers of the app, Shroomies, claim to have nutritional information for more than 93,000 food items, which includes menu items from 365 restaurants. There also are 51,000 entries for common foods like fruits, meats and frozen meals. 

The app also features a journal, exercises, weight tracker - and you don't need an Internet connection to access the information; it's all stored in the app itself. That last feature is nice when you find yourself with poor cell service or no WiFi.

Nutrition Menu is well worth the 99 cents, and the developers consistently update it with new information and features. 

On the fitness side, take a look at iMuscle for the iPhone. This app is a pocket-sized trainer. In no way does it substitute a real, live personal trainer, but it is a good visual reference tool. It is designed to help you develop a workout routine by using 3D animated bodies that show how each workout affects your muscles. 

If you have a particular area of the body you want to work on, simply zoom into that area and choose a muscle. A list of all exercises associated with that muscle is shown, and a 3D model performs the exercise that you choose. 

I've used iMuscle for about a month, and it's been a great source of visual information. It has hundreds of workout routines with plenty of information to go along with each workout. 

This next app is a fun way to stay fit and it's also a good way to stay motivated. Fit Friendzy, created by MedHelp and GE, enables users to invite their friends to compete in more than 50 different exercise challenges, which range from 50 push-ups a day to competing in a marathon. 

The big sell for this app is that it is free and simple. Once you load it, pick an avatar and then join a challenge. Once you join a challenge, you can invite your friends to do the same.

 

Story published Friday, September 2, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 5 )

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