With social distancing the new norm and many of us working from home, we may find ourselves missing our friends, getting bored and feeling a bit lonely.
But thankfully, we live in the digital age and technology has given us loads of ways to stay in touch, play games, and even watch shows with our friends without leaving the house.
As we’ve been urged to #StayHome, it’s important we stick to social distancing. So to help you out we’ve found the best apps out there to help you stay healthy, happy and connected with friends, family and work colleagues while you’re sheltering in place.
One of the best apps for connecting that you probably already have installed on your smartphone is WhatsApp. When meeting up with your friends is off limits for a little while, those group chats are going to be more important than ever.
But WhatsApp is more than just memes with your mates. Don’t forget you can make audio and video calls for free if you’re on Wi-Fi. So you can pick up the phone and speak to your family, relatives and friends for free - even if they’re overseas.
And of course, with people in vulnerable situations - you may be self-isolating with symptoms yourself - WhatsApp is also proving to be a valuable tool in community support. Assistance groups are springing up on the app, and through groups on Facebook, filled with volunteers in local communities offering help and aid to vulnerable people.
If you need local assistance, or want to volunteer to help people in need in your area, here is a comprehensive list of Facebook and WhatsApp groups and contact details for the country.
As we mentioned above, Facebook groups are playing a big part in connecting people and local communities together. Elderly people and those who are self isolating may need help with groceries, medicine, or just a quick chat on the phone.
And of course Facebook is still a great way of staying in touch with your friends and family. So don’t hesitate to jump on Facebook Messenger and connect with someone you might not have spoken to in a while.
Houseparty is the app that’s taking the social distancing world by storm. It mixes games with group video chats so you can essentially hang out with your friends and have a laugh without leaving your house.
When you download the app, Houseparty links up with your social network accounts (like Facebook or Snapchat) so when you sign up you can quickly see which of your friends are already using the app. And if there are friends who aren’t using Houseparty you can easily send them an invite.
Once you’ve set up your account, as soon as you open the app it lets you know when your friends are around and ready to chat and vice versa. And unlike WhatsApp, you don’t have to be invited into group chats. You can join in your friends’ chats whenever you like, just like a real houseparty.
The real fun is the games. Once you’re in chats, you can all play games together like Trivia Quiz, Heads Up and Quick Draw! It really does add a fun new element to video chats and helps keep you entertained while you’re stuck indoors.
Get Houseparty today
Watching shows with your mates is one of life’s great pastimes. Who doesn’t like chilling out on the sofa with a big bag of snacks, a box set to binge and some mates to share the fun with? Well despite social distancing, you can still do all these things, albeit slightly differently to the way you're used to.
Netflix Party is a Google Chrome extension (it’s not actually an official Netflix feature) that enables you and your friends to watch the same thing at the same time and comment as you go along. It syncs the video so you’re all watching at exactly the same time, and it adds a group chat bar where you and all your friends can chat while you watch.
Just like a WhatsApp group, you can give your chats icons and nicknames, as well as post screenshots, GIFs and more.
To start your Netflix Party, make sure you’re using the Google Chrome browser. Then go to the Chrome Web Store and search for Netflix Party, then click the Netflix Party icon and select "Start Party" and you'll be given a URL. Then all you have to do is share that with your friends and you’re good to go.
Try out Netflix Party
With strict social distancing guidelines in place for at least the next three weeks, you might not be able to see friends and family for a little while. But this is the digital age, and we’re not going to let coronavirus get in the way of seeing our loved ones.
There are plenty of video call options available to get in touch with family and friends wherever they might be. Here’s a selection of our favourite apps.
Skype has been many people’s go-to video chat for a long time. You probably use it, your parents have almost certainly used it and your gran’s probably even used it. It’s free, easy to use and is available on mobile, desktop and tablet.
You can add up to 50 people to a video call so that’s definitely more than enough for a good chat.
Zoom is a video chat app that’s gaining a lot of popularity. While it’s previously been used for business conferencing, it’s picking up a lot of steam for casual calling and is currently the world’s second most downloaded mobile app (TikTok is number 1).
Zoom’s sudden popularity could be attributed to its fun features. You can add fun backgrounds so it looks like you’re video calling from a wacky location like the Burj Kalifa, or even outer space.
You can download Zoom for your smartphone in your mobile’s app store or visit the Zoom website to download it for your desktop.
The iPhone user’s favourite, FaceTime is a simple video call option built into iPhones. Making a FaceTime call is as easy as making a regular call, so it’s a great way to catch up with a friendly face while you’re social distancing.
The one catch with FaceTime is that it only works between iPhones. However if you want to video chat between Android phones, or even Android to iPhone you can try….
Google Duo is another easy to use video chat app that works on both Android and iOS smartphones as well as tablets, and computers.You can add up to 40 people into a call, and you can even send fun little video messages.
Get Google Duo
Mental health and wellbeing
While we’re social distancing and not having much face to face contact with friends, family and colleagues, it’s going to be important to keep our mental health in check. Headspace is an app that helps with meditation and mindfulness.
There are loads of meditation guides to help with happiness, productivity, technology and more. It can really help with stress and anxiety. You can even invite your friends to meditate with you.
Learn more about Headspace
Concerts and Shows
Don’t think social distancing will deprive you of your culture fix either. As musicians and artists are stuck at home too, many are streaming from home to give their fans a bit of musical relief. Songkick is a great website that livestreams concerts and performances from a range of different bands, DJs, singers and acts.
If you’re into the theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company streams a range of esteemed shows via its Marquee streaming service. In light of current events, Marquee has extended its free trial to 30 days. So if you sign up you can have a month’s worth of access to ballet, opera, contemporary dance and theatre including Swan Lake, Carmen, Midsummer Night’s Dream, King Lear and many more.
While we may be social distancing, we’re still encouraged to stay healthy however we can. You can still go on your daily jog as long as you’re alone and if you have a garden you’re free to engage in other types of outdoor activities. The Map My Run app is a great way of tracking your progress, setting goals and staying active.
And if you want a more indepth way of monitoring exercise and activity, why not get a fitness watch? The Honor Magic Watch 2 is an excellent smartwatch that focuses on fitness tracking with a range of features.
Check out our review of the Honor Magic Watch 2 and find out more about this useful wearable.