Let us iron out those lockdown kinks in your dating game with these essential Valentine’s Day apps that make impressing your bae a breeze.
It seems the last few years have made us all rewrite the playbook for a good night of romantic gesture. When the age-old default date night of "dinner and a movie" could result in a week of quarantine, we're forced to get a little more creative with our thinking (unless a snotty week together with your crush is somehow appealing to you).
Thankfully where viral biology is letting us down, technology has our back!
Here are some of the best free apps in 2022 to help you create a low-effort, high-reward romantic evening with your loved one, a pet or even just yourself.
Crush-worthy Cuisine - Kitchen Stories
When travel is off the menu, you can still escape through the flavours of home cooking. Thankfully, the daunting task of not creating a culinary mess has been reduced to the complexity of tying a shoe with Kitchen Stories.
With step-by-step guides for the recipes (including video instruction), along with strong user community integration that allows tips and helpful examples from fellow kitchen strugglers such as yourself, the app creates a safe space for your cooking limitations to be overcome. It also has some practical smarts in the form of shopping lists, preparation times and my personal favourite, providing all measurements in metric (goodbye American recipe sites!)
And if this app stands you up for whatever reason, you can always fall back on Deliveroo or Uber Eats (just remember to get your order in early, especially if you're considering a more expensive establishment and/or live in a more remote location).
Sophisticated Sound - Digital Concert Hall
Ok, it's time to get controversial. Most people would be thinking that Spotify or Apple Music for your background sounds, and there's no shame in that approach. Both these apps have thousands of curated playlists that make setting the mood a simple and painless process. Between celebrity mixtapes or hitting up your more trendy friends to share their proven playlists, it's never been easier to appear musically minded to that special someone across the table.
But hey, you want to stand out, right? And we don't all have a lazy $12/month to throw at another subscription service. That's why I'm going out on a limb here and saying there's a better alternative to streaming Ed Sheeran's latest album to do all the romantic heavy lifting. If you want to bring some class, originality and cultural deep cuts to the evening, you need to get the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestral app. Sign up for the Digital Concert Hall's 7-day free trial so you can have the full catalogue of work on rotation. You can even stream the concerts on your device or TV if you want it to feel like you've hired your own quartet for the evening. If you’re not quite tech savvy and not sure how to do this, check out our handy guide on how to cast your phone to your tv here.
The only hard part about the whole experience is learning how to pronounce the names of the composers (case in point: Leoš Janá?ek)
Finally it's worth remembering that good music apps need great speakers to shine, so connect your phone to something with the ability to do justice to the bass notes. . If you’re on the go and not sure what Bluetooth speakers are best for you, then check out our guide here for the best Bluetooth speakers in Australia to enhance your experience.
Other free backup options include iHeart Radio (but like free Spotify the ads kill the mood) or if you want a more meditative experience Naturespace will set the scene for a calm, relaxed, deep-and-meaningful conversation.
Woo With Words - Rhymers Block
Poetry can be hard to write... At night... With the lights... out.
Thankfully expressing your inner feelings through rhyming couplet doesn't need the talent of Shakespeare of Robert Frost. With Rhymers Block you can pimp out your Valentine's card with some original poetic lines of love thanks to the simple design that suggests rhyming words for whatever you write.
The look and feel is subtle so you can work on it incognito on the bus or even in the presence of the recipient. You can share directly from the app to your socials (if you're brave), and even if you have no idea where to start there's an entire built-in community of fellow amateur poets keen to share their work as inspiration (if you sign up).
Try it out and no doubt you'll tout about it's clout... (Clearly I still have some work to do).
Kill Awkward Silence - Party Qs
Having people back in your social scene means you might have forgotten the art of the conversation. Since the start of the pandemic, conversation-starter apps are a category on the rise. If you feel like you've forgotten how to hold a conversation without using emojis or get beyond the simple stuff, this app might be the cheat sheet you need to have some interesting chat ready to go.
Topics are broken up depending on your situation, such as icebreakers ("Beach, mountains or countryside"), movies ("What movie's plot twist surprised you the most?") and date night ("If there's one thing you could change about how you grew up, what would it be?").
Party Qs is designed to get conversations in the real world, not on the platform. You know you're using the app right if you forget about your phone and engage with the person opposite. You can either use it as inspiration to have some topics in the back of your mind to kickstart a fading conversation, or in the millennial world it's actually acceptable to load it up at the table and use it together as the conversation starter - literally. You can even double up and use these for dating apps as your go-to tinder conversation starters
Moody Memories - Fotor
Last year around this time we published the 7 Best Free Photo Editing Apps and it's worth a look as it gives some great insight into some of the top apps for photo editing on iOS and Android.
This year, I'm throwing a new contender in the ring with Fotor, a solid photo editing app that's been around since 2012 (the equivalent of the Bronze Age in internet years). It's got some AI smarts for cutting out backgrounds and adding touchups or artificial light. Factor in its easy interface and one-click filters and it's a great choice for enhancing the memories you capture of the evening to maximise jealousy from your ex-lovers when you post to your socials. Fotor is definitely a contender for one of the best photo editing apps available in market.
Couch Cuddle Entertainment - Argo
Controversy strikes again here, but bear with me as I make my case.
As Hollywood has moved to steal a bigger slice of the distribution pie over the last few years, we've seen an explosion in "on-demand" content platforms like Disney+, Stan, Binge, Paramount+, Apple TV+ and others spring up (and some others fall away... RIP Presto). Most people are looking for some blockbuster entertainment, and if that's your bag then Paramount+ are offering 7-day free trials (but don't forget to unsubscribe or you'll be adding $9/month or more to your budget).
But true love is about challenging our views on the world and opening up to new perspectives. That's why I'm recommending Argo (the app, not the 2012 Ben Affleck political thriller which is the opposite genre of rom-com). This app has some of the world's best short films ("short" in the classical "pre-internet" sense - some films run over 20mins). With one of the better user interfaces of all the streaming services, it's easy to use and refine. Ultimately, it's made by cinephiles with fellow cinephiles in mind, but it's a refreshing way to be exposed to the power of cinema and international human stories that the MCU and blockbuster-obsessed Hollywood overlook these days. Argo even has a selection of critically acclaimed animated short films to browse if that’s what you’re looking for.
There's a selection of free content when you first open the app, or you can make the most of a 7-day free trial if you want access to the full catalogue.
Go Deep With Sleep - Sleep Sounds By Sleep Pillow
So after all this if against the odds you still didn’t manage to get lucky, don’t cry yourself to sleep... use an app! There's plenty of players in the wellness/sleep category, but but if you’re looking for one of the best sleep apps, Sleep Sounds by Sleep Pillow is as simple and functional as they come. Simple controls to pick from a range of natural environments, the ability to make your own mixes of soundscapes, volume control, and timer settings make this a great free choice to ensure you sleep through any audible bumps your home or surrounds might try to disturb you with in the night.
It even continues to play whilst the app is closed, so you can have it play in the background whilst you flick through social posts your friends are putting up of their romantic evenings.
Want to dive deeper into some self-care apps? View our top curated list of the best self-care apps to find out more!
So that's it. Go forth and spread the Big Love.