Koreans are addicted to their smart phones. Their use even has its own culture, with all kinds of businesses that operate around accessorizing them. Most people have the same type of convenient phone case that also holds their cards, for example, and don’t even get me started on charms . At any given time nearly everyone on the subway is watching TV, messaging or playing a game, and no fewer than 5 people will walk directly into you each day because doing one of the former is just that engrossing. You’ve got to admit, though, that all the neat stuff phones can do now is pretty addictive. There’s a vast sea of apps out there, but if you’re coming to Korea (or even if you’re already here), these are the top ten you may find the most useful.
Top Ten Apps for Korea
Seems pretty obvious, I know, but this may be the most widely-used app in the world, and it goes beyond chatting with your friends and liking the ridiculous cat pictures they share. Facebook can also be used as a learning management tool.
If you set up a separate account you can add your students, upload lesson plans, exchange documents and otherwise keep them updated about your class quickly and conveniently. This kind of relationship is still strictly professional, but gives students the sense that you’re close at hand and more helpful and attentive than the average teacher because you’ve gone a bit above and beyond to see to their needs and keep in regular contact.
Download it (here)
You probably already know about the ubiquitous messaging app used by 98.9% of the Korean population (that statistic is completely made-up), but if not, well, you’re in for a treat. You can hear the little “Kakao~!” notification that sounds more like “Uh-oh~!” everywhere you go. It’s linked to your phone number, so all of your contacts are automatically imported to form a sort of Friendship Voltron as soon as you start using it. There are supplementary apps you can download for it, too, like cute animated emotes and games.
3) Subway Map
There are several different interactive subway map apps that will show you where you are, the fastest way to get where you’re going, how long it’ll take to get there and when each train is scheduled to arrive. It’s extremely convenient; the only time you’ll need to use the touch screen or physical maps in the subway is when your phone is dead.
Naver and Daum are probably the most popular sites in Korea, but unless you speak Korean, you might not get much use out of things like the news and entertainment updates Daum offers. Naver, though, is primarily a very useful search engine and map tool. Even if you just get basic words from Google Translate and put them in, you’ll find it quite helpful. It’s like the Korean Google and has other features as well, such as images and books.
There are a few different translators you can use, and boy, do they make your life less stressful. Even if you speak some Korean, having an electronic dictionary at your fingertips is a necessity. Every phone comes preloaded with a basic one, but you may want to try Google’s. It requires an Internet connection but can translate SMS, e-mails, pictures of text and even has a voice recognition feature that translates into English or Korean instantly. If you have an older device this feature won’t work and neither will the camera, but if you’ve got a newer one, the future is now.
CamDictionary, which translates Korean text from photos, is another one you can try. It’s a great idea but still has a long way to go; if you’re in a dimly-lit bar or restaurant or want to translate light-coloured text on a dark background, for example, it can’t really help you, but it’s still fun to mess around with.
6) Korean Food Guide
A popular blog, Seoul Eats, created this amazing app, which is especially useful if you’re on a special diet or have dietary restrictions. For those who want to learn about the language and culture quickly, it’s something fast and convenient you can use every day to expand your vocabulary and reading skills. Amaze your coworkers and dates with your intricate knowledge of soup! Order dinner without confusing the waiter or being shocked by what you end up getting!
7) Simple Notepad Secret Camera
All phone cameras in Korea make a shutter clicking sound when used to discourage perverts from taking up-skirt shots. Not condoning that at all, but sometimes you might want to take a photo in a shop for future reference without everyone turning and narrowing their eyes in unison, or capture an interesting outfit or video a hilarious drunk on the subway. Well, now you can. Secretly.
This app requires you to be able to read some Korean, especially for more detailed info, but places and times are simple enough for everyone to understand. It tells you where the nearest bus stops are and covers the bus schedule and routes not only for Seoul, but also for surrounding areas.
People come to work and study in Korea for all kinds of reasons, but let’s face it: most of us are teaching English. TeacherKit and others like it will surely get better as they’re updated over time, and can help both beginners who have no idea what’s going on and busy seasoned professionals organize their classes, students, lesson plans and grade books. It is, however, iOS only.
Download the (iTunes)
10) Google Goggles
See something you like? Goggles can recognize text in several different languages, logos and famous images, barcodes, works of art and more. If what you’re pointing at and shooting is in Google’s database, it can give you information about the thing and even tell you where to buy it.
Download it for Android or iTunes (here)
Some of the other vital apps for your everyday life include but certainly aren’t limited to: Skype, Google Drive, Google Maps and another helpful teaching tool called Timers4Me.
Finally, to round out your basic phone set up, some of the most popular games right now are: Angry Birds Star Wars, Minecraft, Grand Theft Auto and a few different variations of Temple Run. All of these are fun, and all of them are stupidly addictive. Now that your phone is loaded with all the basic necessities, go forth and conquer your social network, your commute and your waiting time!
Do you want to tell us about another must-have app for South Korea? Do you have any tips or tricks about using tech on the ROK? Tell us by leaving a comment below.
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