Apps for Expats

In 2012 over 60 billion apps were downloaded. That’s almost 10 apps for every inhabitant of the planet, although there is, naturally, some disparity from country to country.

One in five Britons now owns a tablet, with iPads leading the pack. Add BlackBerrys, Androids and smartphones to the count and you have a great many people for whom a mobile device has become as important to their daily lives as a landline or a car once was. Industry surveys show that iPhones and other smartphones are actually used 35% of the time to make calls. The remaining 65% is for apps functions. At the Reporter we use our mobile devices for GPS when we are out distributing the magazine and for consulting the Oxford English Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus. Paper encyclopaedias are already dead; dictionaries won’t be far behind. Press conferences can be recorded on our mobiles and breaking news from France, the UK or the US is followed live on an iPad and sent to our website.

For expats, mobile devices seem even more essential which is why this column has generated so much interest. So this time round we’re targeting apps of particular practicality to expats (Skype or FaceTime are givens).

French letters: a must in your pocket or purse

French LettersFrench Letters is in French, and pricey at €10.99, so you might want to wait until you really need this one but one day you will surely need to download 12,500 Courriers Types.

This app is a catalogue of letters in French covering just about every situation you may come across in your life as an expat in France. Administration, insurance, banking, law, education, health care, leisure and plenty more – all classified by category and theme, with search words to help find just the right one. English translations are not included but we all know enough French to seek out the letter we may need and we can always use Google Translate to make sure a letter is indeed the one that applies.

Type the destination name and address into the app and it will send the text in an email to you or to the addressee.

The down side: 12,500 Courriers Types is for iPad only. But you’ve always wanted a good excuse to get one so this is it.

National Apps

Number10Many governments now have apps that are of real use to their citizens living overseas.


For Americans:

Find your Embassy

FBI’s Most Wanted

• What can I take on my flight?

For Britons:

HMRC tax calculator

UK Newspapers Plus

Official Number 10 iPhone App
British Airways on your mobile
EasyJet mobile

National Rail Enquiries for Android & iPhone

For other nationalities see other articles below


TV and radio from “Home”

TuneInMost UK and US channels now have their own apps but very few let you view from overseas so you’ll need VPN (see www.HasEurope.com). But once you have it, most mainstream channels have their own app. Canadians will want the CBC apps while Americans will want ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or CNN for live updates from home. Google “television news apps for Americans” for the whole list of dedicated apps. Almost every British mainstream channel now has its own app but the free BBC iPlayer is the must- have app for British expats.

For radio from anywhere in the world that you used to call home, VPN isn’t needed. Our radio app of choice is TuneIn Radio (Free). There is also a “Pro” version (€4.49) with more options, including recording and pick-up-where-you-left-off functions.


What’s that in miles?

HiConverterNo matter how long you’ve lived abroad there are some units that you just don’t get. Not only from the French to whatever but also from whatever back to the French measures you’ve become used to. When your dad in Manchester or Milwaukee goes on about snow in inches and his gas usage in miles per gallon, do you have any idea what that means? When you want to buy him French ski boots for his birthday but all you know is that he takes an English size 10, it’s not much use at Decathlon. And what’s a teaspoon of sugar in grammes?

You need HiConverter. It converts over 3000 units within 108 categories from petrol consumption to bra sizes. Paid €0.89.

iPad users might prefer the similar “Converter” although it doesn’t convert bra sizes, which men in particular will find indispensable, what with Valentine’s Day on the way.

Parlez vous app?

TranslatorWe had a look at translation apps here last summer but an impressive new one has come along since. Talk to the app and Translator will translate a phrase into any of 54 languages, show you the written translation and speak it out loud in the native language with a proper accent. It works, and a lot better than expected. I was able to carry on a conversation with a Portuguese lady with her speaking her native language and me speaking English into my iPad.

Translator claims to be a app but that only applies to the written part. If you want the speech recognition and talk-back it costs €0.89. Bem valeu a pena.