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Wow Factor – 10 apps that make you go “ooooh”

The iPhone is a modern-day wonder of the world, packing processing power that would have been unheard of 20 years ago into a device that fits into your hand. Over the past few years advances in machine learning, augmented reality, and other buzzword-sounding tech concepts have moved so fast they still seem a little like magic.

So it’s not uncommon when we’re testing apps to exhale an involuntary “ooooh” or “that can’t be possible!” – there’s a lot out there with a certain wow factor that makes you want to show off what you’ve just seen to anyone who’ll listen.

Here, then, we’ve gathered together ten apps from across the genre spectrum that we think possess that intangible wow factor. Let’s check them out.

Avatarify (free)

Sure, it’s gimmicky, and sure, it’s a bit unsettling – but the way Avatarify takes any photo and magically animates it like a Harry Potter portrait is crazy impressive. Use it to “control” your favorite celebrity with video capture or prank your friends by making them dance to the latest TikTok craze. Wow.

Why not give your pet an entirely unsettling human personality?

Read our review of Avatarify

MelodyVR (free)

This app puts you in the front row of virtual concerts with real musicians, granting even better views than you’d get if you were really there. Shot in full 360 degrees from a variety of angles, these gigs with big names truly have the wow factor. MelodyVR was great even before COVID, but these days it may be just the escape we need.

Read our review of MelodyVR

David Bowie is… ($10/£10)

Want to get even more intimate with a musical superstar? This augmented reality tour of David Bowie’s life and career gets you up close and personal with the pop chameleon himself. It’s based on a hugely popular exhibition and exudes wow-inducing material at every turn.

Read more about David Bowie is…

Mission to Mars AR (free)

The writer of Starman and Space Oddity would have liked this one too, we reckon. NASA’s Perseverance rover touching down on Mars earlier this year was a wow moment of recent history, and got people talking about space again. It was certainly an incredible achievement, and with Mission to Mars AR you can visit the red planet too, taking in detailed panoramic views from the comfort of your sofa.

Read our review of Mission to Mars AR

Universe in a Nutshell ($3/£3)

All that space talk got you contemplating your place in the world? This app from Kurzgesagt and Wait But Why will really make you feel insignificant – in a fun way, of course. It’s essentially an interactive encyclopedia of facts to make you go “wow” at every scale the universe has to offer, from the littlest atom to the outer reaches of the universe.

Read our review of Universe in a Nutshell

PlantSnap (free)

From the infinite wonders of the universe, to the limited wonders in your backyard: point your camera at any plant of flower and PlantSnap can identify it with remarkable accuracy. It’s a capability that has to be seen to be believed – wow, how does it know?! – and is just the beginning of what will be possible with machine learning in years to come.

Read our review of PlantSnap

InkHunter (free)

Here’s another cool use for augmented reality that will have you messing around just for fun. InkHunter allows you to virtually “try on” tattoo designs to see how they’d look on your skin. It can help you avoid a potentially painful mistake, and it’s an amazing way to give yourself the wow factor of a full skull-adorned sleeve – without the commitment.

Read our guide to InkHunter

Vellum (free)

If you want your device itself to have the wow factor, you’ll need an eye-catching lock screen wallpaper. There’s no better place to look than Vellum, which curates incredible art and photography that you’ll actually want to stare at 50 times a day.

Read our review of Vellum

Artleap (free)

Speaking of amazing imagery, Artleap makes it easy to create your own crazy artistic compositions with yourself at the center. There are plenty of presets if you’re running low on creative energy, or you can build an abstract collage from scratch – either way, you’ll be wowing your friends on social media with a new profile pic before you know it.

Read our review of Artleap

Neverthink (free)

Running out of ideas? Open up Neverthink, pick a ‘channel’ and let a curated stream of short video clips give you a quickfire hit of wow energy. The content skews young, but there’s stuff for every taste here somewhere. A great quasi-random way to discover cool new things and a fantastic boredom killer.

Read our review of Neverthink