If you follow the adverts on the television, you would think that today’s smartphones are primarily used for communications with friends, family, and coworkers, playing games, and getting directions on how to best navigate traffic and weather.

smartphone apps

While these are indeed useful features, there exists a veritable treasure trove of highly specialized apps that prove invaluable to people in virtually any profession or those with any other special requirements.

This article is by no means a comprehensive listing of such apps; not surprising since there are in excess of a million apps currently available for download, with more being released every day. That said, the examples below might inspire you to see what might be available for your special interests and needs.

Shopping apps

Most people are familiar with apps that focus upon online shopping, such as eBay and the like, but it might not be too long before even small brick and mortar businesses will be offering apps that make purchases more convenient and drive additional customers their way at the same time.

One French company, EuraLille Carrefour, has installed a Philips-designed LED lighting system in their store that not only lowers the business’ lighting costs, but programs each individual bulb to broadcast its location. By activating a compatible app and aiming their smartphone camera at one of the lights, customers are able to locate virtually any product, merely by typing the product name into the app’s search feature. The system is essentially a detailed, in-store version of a GPS navigation system.

With such a system in place, can it be long before such stores offer a shopping list app that allows them to compose their shopping lists at their leisure, then guide them aisle by aisle through the store as efficiently as possible? You can imagine how useful such an app would be in a big-box warehouse store. And for those businesses who choose not to revamp their entire lighting system, strategically-placed Bluetooth beacons could serve the same function at significantly lower cost.

Apps for healthcare professionals

The number of apps designed for healthcare professionals would fill a huge book, and we will not even scratch the surface in describing them here. One very popular app is Virtual Practice for Doctors, which places a wealth of information about patients at the physician’s fingertips, even while away from the office. This information can include virtually all of a patient’s health information, such as history, drugs prescribed, and physician’s notes.

Another app, DynaMed, provides a broad database of disease references, typical treatment options, and summaries/discussions on thousands of pertinent topics typically researched by physicians.

Behemoth smartphone maker Samsung is in the process of developing what it calls its Early Detection Sensor & Algorithm Package that monitors electrical impulses via a headset that shows promise for predicting strokes.

Another company, AliveCor, has already established the viability of using a smartphone app to detect atrial fibrillation, possibly leading to commercial availability of an app that provides advance warning of an impending heart attack.

Apps to make you smarter

Beyond all the mindless, time-wasting games that keep you company on long train rides, there are a few that can actually help you sharpen your mind. One such app for Android devices, Lumosity, challenges you via a series of training routines to retain different sequences as they appear – an exercise that has long been proved to increase mental acuity. Unlike most clinical trials, however, Lumosity manages to entertain you while it improves your brain. The fact that it is free is an extra plus.

An app for Apple smartphones, BrainHQ, enhances the ability to process visual cues, such as recalling the names of people you’ve just met, whether at work or in social situations. It comes in both free and extended versions, and could be just the thing for people who are too shy to keep asking people’s names after their first introduction. If that sounds like you (or someone you know), it might be worth a try.

The list of apps in each of these areas goes on seemingly forever, and the list of different types of apps goes on almost as long. It is getting to the point where you can almost list anything you want your smartphone to do, and a quick search reveals that “There’s an app for that!”

As in most other endeavours, your greatest obstacle is your imagination. And there is an even wider realm for those who seek out less-obscure apps, just for fun. All work and no play, and all that…