Make Christmas sparkle with your smartphone

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We love this time of year – but sometimes, it can feel like you spend more time organising and arranging Christmas than you do enjoying it! But it doesn’t have to be such a stress: our experts have pulled together a fantastic range of apps and helpers so you can make the most of it.

 

From cooking the perfect turkey to setting the mood with an ideal Christmas playlist, there’s a ton to think about at this time of year…

And because even Santa needs a team of special helpers to get him ready for the big day, we’ve put together this super-helpful selection of apps, tools and other aides to help you sort things out and make the most of the big day – so you can focus on enjoying it!

 

Travel

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The luckier among us will be spending Christmas in our own homes. But for others, there’ll be a fair amount of travel involved – and at the busiest time of the year, too.

The good news is, the smartphone in your pocket can help you beat the worst of it, and get where you’re going on time.

If you’re driving home for Christmas, the Highways Agency have a fantastic hands-free traffic app, available entirely free. This will automatically read out traffic warnings and other crucial information, so you can avoid the worst of any wintery disruption – all without taking your eyes off the road.

If, on the other hand, you’re getting around by train, the Trainline app for iOS and Android is an invaluable help. This app makes finding the cheapest train tickets a doddle, gives you live departure times – and even tells you which platform to head to.

 

Food and drink

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One of the biggest responsibilities on Christmas day is cooking that turkey – and with so much at stake, it’s crucial to get it right!

Thankfully, you phone can give you a helping hand. If you’ve got an Android device, we recommend the Turkey Cooking Time Calculator app from Safefood. Just enter the weight of your turkey – in kilograms or pounds – and whether it’s stuffed or not, and the app will tell you exactly how long to cook it for, and at what temperature. It even includes a timer!

For iPhone and iPad users, you can get similar results from Timed2Perfection.This app also includes a handy timer, and can coordinate your potatoes and other side dishes too.

Now, after all that cooking, you’re probably in need of a drink or two… and for that, we’d recommend an app called Cocktail Flow, available for both Android and iOS.

There are a load of apps out there that offer cocktail recipes – but what makes this one really handy is that you can give it a checklist of all the bottles you already have in stock, and it’ll let you know what drinks you can make without needing to head to the shops! Perfect when all you’ve got left is a bottle of Advocaat, jug of gravy and half a litre of cooking sherry.

 

Music and entertainment

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Your family’s all there, dinner’s on – now what’s missing? That’s right, some festive music!

Your ideas about what makes a great festive tune might vary – dad likes the Pogues, mum likes George Michael, you like traditional carols – but whatever you’re into, you’ll find it on Spotify, for iOS or Android.

The really useful feature here is ‘collaborative playlists’, which let all your family and friends add, delete and reorder the tracks. This way, everyone’s choices have a chance to be heard – although we take no responsibility for any resulting arguments! You can find out how to set up collaborative playlists on Spotify's website – or just take a look at the video below:

 

Next, once dinner’s over and you’re settling in front of telly, you might not share your family’s enthusiasm for watching a record 23rd viewing of Live And Let Die. Therefore, we casually remind you that Channel Four’s TV catch-up service, All 4, has an extremely generous number of TV box sets to stream for free. Likewise, you can always find something worth watching – including a movie or two – on the BBC’s iPlayer.

 

Making some memories

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With all the family gathered in one place, the food and drink flowing, and everyone – hopefully – having a good time, what better time to record some of those memories for posterity?

If you’re anything like us, then between you and your Christmas guests, you’ll take dozens of pictures over the course of the festivities. And while having the pictures on your phone – or Facebook profile – is nice enough, for really special memories it’s worth having a physical copy.

PhotoBox and Snapfish are two simple services which take photos from your phone, computer or social media and turn them into professionally printed photos, calendars and other gifts.

Even in this digital age, a physical momento makes a charming keepsake –  so why not get an old-fashioned photo album to fill up with your favourite festive pics? In fact, with both services offering personalised gifts featuring your images, you could even get some great ideas for gifting next Christmas.

 

 

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