A new year means a new resolution, but simply making resolutions won't help you lose weight or became a fluent Mandarin speaker. When the vacations and parties are over and real life begins again, you'll need lots of help to stay on track.
Here are some helpful devices and mobile app that can keep you on track in 2012, whether you’re hoping to get in shape, become more organized, or learn a new language.
Learn a New Language
Maybe you’re planning to take that long-talked-about trip to Spain, or perhaps you’re hoping to relearn the grammar from high school French. Wherever your linguistic ambitions take you, mobile apps like the following can get you there quicker.
Rosetta Stone TOTALe Companion App
Available for the iPhone, iPhone, or iPad, TOTALe Companion supplements Rosetta Stone’s full TOTALe language-learning software. Choose from 33 languages—including Italian, Mandarin, Russian, and Thai—and jump right into the pre-programmed and online lessons. The mobile app adds value by letting you do your learning on the road (or on your trip abroad, perhaps?).
Paragon Software Foreign Language Dictionary Apps
Starting at $9.99; android-software.penreader.com
While Android users can’t take their Rosetta Stone learning with them on a mobile device, Paragon Software offers an equally invaluable language tool: deluxe, full-length dictionaries that include every word you could ever need to know in the language of your choice. Options include Czech, German, Italian, Polish, and Russian.
Get (and Stay) Fit
Everyone’s favorite resolution is also one of the easiest to break. Make sure you don’t slouch by using gadgets and apps that track your progress and keep you motivated.
Nike’s Sportband fastens around your wrist to monitor pace, distance, time, and calories burned on all your post-holiday runs. (The included sensor slips in your sneaker to track your steps.) Once you’re done sweating, connect the device to your PC via USB to upload your workout info to the Nike+ website, where you can chart your progress and share your activity on Facebook and Twitter.
This wearable fitness tracker records information from your runs, walks, and biking workouts—and it can also serve as your MP3 player while you’re pounding the pavement. The Motorola Motoactv even learns which songs motivate you the most based on your performance. Like Nike’s Sportband, the device stores your workout data for review online. That’s a lot of functionality, but when paired with your Android smartphone (with Motorola’s free app) the Motoactv becomes even more versatile, letting you answer calls and text messages and view your workout data on the phone.
If you don’t want a dedicated device to keep you motivated, an app can pinch-hit as a workout buddy. The iOS-only iMapMyRUN tracks all your workout stats—pace, distance, elevation, and more—and includes a live route map and heart rate info (with the purchase of a monitor accessory). This free app also offers route suggestions via its associated website.
Manage Your Money Better
If you’re looking to get on top of your finances, your smartphone or tablet is your best friend. Armed with your bank’s mobile app (Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, and many others offer them) and some expense-tracking tools, you’ll never be surprised by that monthly statement again.
Free (Android, iOS); www.mint.com
Rather than logging into each of your accounts separately, use Mint’s mobile app to get a real-time overview of all your financial transactions. The app separates your info into categories for cash, credit cards, loans, investments, and property, so you’ll never have to second-guess your current balances. Beyond helping you keep track of accounts, Mint calculates your average spending and helps you set a budget and savings goals.
Free (Android, BlackBerry, iOS, webOS); www.expensify.com
Like Mint, Expensify lets you upload bank account information so you can track your spending. But this app goes one step further, providing a handy way to submit work expenses for reimbursement. You can capture receipts via your smartphone’s camera and record your mileage to submit with the app’s report template.
Free (Android, iOS); www.couponsherpa.com
Though scores of coupon apps are available, most of them only offer rebates at obscure retailers or online stores. With deals for Barnes & Noble; Macy’s; Target; and more, Coupon Sherpa is one discounts app that’s worth the download. You can tweak the settings to display coupons for only the stores you shop at and load grocery coupons onto store loyalty cards so you simply have to scan the app at checkout.
A new year is a great opportunity to cut down on clutter, be it physical or digital. Streamline your e-mail inbox, lists, notes, and more with software and gadgets that practically do the work for you.
Free (60MB per month), $5 per month (1GB per month); www.evernote.com
If you’re a fanatical list maker (and even if you’re not), Evernote can simplify your life by consolidating your notes, ideas, and reminders. With the free program, all your digital notes are synced across your devices so you’ll always have the info you need. Plus, you can save web pages and snap photos to remember for later.
Xobni Smartr Inbox
E-mail inboxes are a notorious source of clutter, but Xobni’s Smartr Inbox sidebar transforms your Gmail account into a super-efficient communications hub. In addition to automatically creating contact info for everyone you’ve ever mailed, called, or messaged, the service provides an in-depth history of your communication with each contact (such as when you last spoke) and pulls in their updates across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Smartr Inbox is compatible with Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Whether you’re a notebook-ridden student or a business type with way too many memos, Livescribe’s Echo Smartpen can help you out by digitizing your notes. Available in 4GB and 8GB models, the pen records all your scribbles (and even your audio) and syncs it to the Livescribe Connect desktop software for easy sharing via Evernote, Facebook, Google Docs, e-mail, and more.
Learn to Play the Guitar
That Fender’s been sitting in the corner gathering dust long enough. With these fun tools, you have no excuse for not fretting it up.
Starting at $399; www.fretlight.com
Memorizing finger placement for chords is one of the major roadblocks for newbies, but there’s a guitar that will show you the light (literally). Available in Standard Electric, Traditional Electric, and Vintage Electric styles, the Fretlight Guitar includes lights on the frets, and they glow red to indicate where to place your fingers. The guitar comes with software for learning chords, scales, and songs, and an included USB cable lets you connect to a Mac or PC.
Rocksmith Guitar Bundle for Xbox 360
If light-up chords aren’t enough to get you practicing, an Xbox game surely will. Rocksmith works with any guitar, though the bundle comes with the Epiphone Les Paul Jr. Simply plug into your console and start playing; the game adjusts the song selection based on your skill level. If you’ve never strummed a chord, the game starts you out with tablature and how-tos. Advanced players can choose songs from The Black Keys, Nirvana, Pixies, and more.
You can do it! Kicking the habit just takes some supportive friends, a helpful app, and a healthier alternative to those cancer sticks. Oh, and tons of will power.
No one can keep you from that Nicotine but you, though an app that shows how much money you’re saving will certainly provide some incentive to stay smoke-free. Quitter tracks how many days you’ve gone without indulging—though it’s on you to fess up if you relapse.
Blu Electronic Cigarette Premium Starter Kit
Okay, so they’re not exactly good for you, but the blu E-cigarettes take ash, smoke, and tobacco out of the equation. These battery-powered cartridges come in a variety of flavors (Cherry Crush, Classic Tobacco, and Magnificent Menthol, to name a few) and deliver a small dose of nicotine to satisfy your quitter’s cravings. Social smokers will also appreciate the Premium Pack’s feature for detecting other blu users in the area.