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Monday, August 11, 2014

Finding Free Apps

Every once in a while someone will ask about places to find good apps, especially free ones. In this post I'll discuss and list some great options for websites as well as apps that let you know of apps that are free but more importantly to me apps that usually cost money that are free for a limited time. I like those because they're usually of higher quality, don't have ads or in-app purchases, or are the HD or Pro versions of an app.

Why does an app developer make an app go free for a while (usually a day)? Most likely it's to generate buzz around the app so people will download it and then tell their friends or post it to social media. Other times the app is seasonal or out of date, like a Decorate the Christmas Tree app. Or perhaps they just want you to download the app and look at the ads. Regardless of why, they are out there for the pickin'.

So let's begin with apps that talk about apps. The ones I currently have on my iOS devices that tell me when apps have gone free are:
  • Appsgonefree - my personal favorite because it usually has very high-quality apps and a great user interface (UI)
  • Free App Finder - a new one that I also like because it lists a lot of apps by category which you can then filter to find just what you want or need
  • appoLearning - an app that claims to have the best iPad apps handpicked by teachers. I appreciate that it's broken down by grade-level and Community Picks
  • appsfire - this app has been discontinued but it still works (somehow). The company apparently wasn't making any money with a free app about free apps (ironically) so they changed their business model to advertising. But, the app is in our WSD Filewave portal and can be pushed to WSD devices by filling out this form. You can also go to this page and get free apps emailed to you.
  • Hot App Finder - also does a great job of categorizing. This one lists free and paid trending apps. I haven't used it a ton but it looks resourceful.
The other avenue for free apps is the Internet. There are a few websites I look at every so often as well as search engines and social media sites that do the same thing. Here is my list:
  • FreeTech4Teachers - This is by far my favorite blog to read because the things he chooses to write about most often have a direct impact on what I can do in the classroom. He reviews apps, websites, and a ton more Internet stuff. Very worthwhile to read his blog and follow him on Facebook.
  • SmartAppsforKids - another one of my favorites. I love this site not because of the website but because of the daily email I get that has lists of a lot of hand-picked, free "today only" apps, many of which are for education. The site owner has kids so she's always testing the apps out on her kids, which I do too, and gives good, honest reviews about the apps. What I suggest you do is go to the site and sign-up for her newsletter on the right side. The apps tend to be preschool to elementary focused but there are enough for secondary kids that it's worth it to subscribe.
  • Twitter - This is the newest place I've started to look for free apps and it's probably going to turn into my "go to" place for the future. If you go to Twitter and do a hashtag search for something like "#iosedapp" you'll find lots of Twitterers who post with that tag about free apps. Or search for any combination of words that you think will find you free apps (#iosedapp, #freeiosapps, #freeedapps), If you haven't used Twitter before I highly recommend you get familiar with what it does. It's the future of search and it's here now.
  • iPadApps4School - another great site that has not only free apps for education, but gives reviews for all types of educational apps. This is a companion to FreeTech4Teachers but it's not updated as often.
  • AppShopper - does free and paid apps in one big list. My favorite feature is that it's easy to see which are the free ones and they give a healthy description of each so you know whether it's worth investigating.
  • iOSnoops - the worst-named app, but one of the best for finding free apps. It let's you filter between iPhone, iPad, or both and gives little descriptions to help you decide if the app is right for you.

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