[App Fridays] These apps will keep you meaningfully engaged during lockdowns and self-isolation
As the world battles its biggest public health crisis in a century, our weekly App Friday column makes a slight departure from its conventional format. In this edition, instead of reviewing a single app, we recommend a bunch of apps that’ll help you stay afloat during a lockdown.
Starting March 25, India entered a 21-day lockdown period to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, which is sweeping across the country.
Even though a lockdown isn’t unprecedented in such times, navigating through periods of social isolation and extreme uncertainty can be challenging and stressful.
It can even lead to a collective mental health breakdown, as indicated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other public health advisories.
First, there’s the new normal - remote working - to deal with. Then, there are concerns around the supply of daily essentials like groceries, medicines, etc. Add to that, the steady overflow of COVID-19-related news and (mis)information.
But, as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going!
Of course, there are social media and dating apps that are recording significant spikes in usage. But, to break the monotony, ease your period of isolation, and perhaps make it a tad meaningful too, YourStory recommends some interesting apps you could turn to.
There are new skills to learn, new books, movies, and podcasts to discover, new games to play, and new ways to calm yourself.
Learn new languages with Duolingo
Duolingo is one of the most popular language-learning apps in the world.
More so now, with the platform reporting a 200 percent surge in test-taking activity, according to a company statement. The app offers set lessons in foreign languages like Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Mandarin, Japanese, etc.
The lessons are short, engaging, and game-like, thus appealing to all kinds of users without weighing them down.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Duolingo has reported a 100 percent spike in users in China, where the pandemic originated three months ago.
Discover world cinema with MUBI
MUBI is one of the most underrated and underdiscovered streaming apps. It could be because world cinema is an acquired taste, after all, and continues to lack the mass reach and popularity of mainstream films (or masala films as is known in India).
The app is a welcome break for viewers with its enviable collection of classics, cult, independent and arthouse films.
MUBI also curates filmmaker retrospectives and spotlights on leading film festivals like Berlinale, Sundance, Cannes, and more. There is a dedicated MUBI India page too, that lists 30 masterpieces per month.
So, if you’re a cinephile, a MUBI subscription could help you get through the quarantine period. A three-month plan (along with a 30-day free trial) costs Rs 199.
Hear free audiobooks on Audible
Books have traditionally been regarded as great companions for the lonely and asocial.
Amazon’s audiobook service Audible recently made hundreds of its titles free to help people cope with self-isolation. If you have restless kids at home, this is the perfect app to engage them in.
Audible’s wide range of titles caters to everyone from preschoolers to teens. “For as long as schools are closed, we're open,” the app announced.
In India, there’s also Audible Suno, a free app that houses podcasts across all genres: Bollywood, sports, current affairs, comedy, fiction, spirituality, and more.
Relax with colouring books on Colorfy
Colorfy offers fun colouring templates, and is one of the highest-rated free (with ads) colouring apps on Google Play Store.
It features swathes of content from florals, gardens, mandalas, animals, zodiac signs, historic places, author portraits, and famous paintings that you can colour. The app can keep both kids and adults engaged for hours.
Add to that, colouring apps are known to soothe frayed nerves, and are often recommended by mental health professionals to relieve stress and anxiety.
What better than this to keep you company in solitude?
Listen to food podcasts on Stitcher
Podcasts are a great way of relaxation and among the most preferred downtime activities for millennials across the world. They help reduce your screen time too.
There are tonnes of podcasts and podcasting apps out there. But, let’s turn our attention to the Food Podcast and the Food Lens Podcast on Stitcher that havepicked up immense buzz lately. The episodes chronicle personal stories through the lens of food.
Bestselling cookbook author Lindsay Wilson takes listeners on a food adventure through sound, imagery, nostalgia, and memories.
Not only are the shows compelling, but as they say, food memories are the best of the lot. In times of stress, you can surely dig into them!
Play social games on HAGO
HAGO (abbreviation for Have A Good One) is one of the top social gaming apps in the world, and a huge hit in India already.
It lets you discover friends, play games, host ‘voice parties’, and earn real rewards (mobile recharges, shopping vouchers, and even smartphones and bikes).
HAGO has games that can appeal to all age and interest groups.
The best part is that the app is free, and creates an environment of social and community interaction, which can come in handy in times of physical isolation.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)