Tag Archives: Apps

The Best Apps of 2012 Roundup

App Store best of 2012 LogoIn case you missed it, Apple has released an extensive list of last year’s best Apps, Books and songs in the App Store. It’s a pretty extensive list, so you’ll want to be comfortable before jumping in and checking out the selection.

I’d be curious to see how many people already have downloaded most if not all on the list?

By the way, on a similar side note, yesterday marked another milestone for Apple and the App Store by way of 40 BILLION apps being downloaded through the store and that’s not even including re-downloads or updates! That’s incredible.

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App Review: CloudOn for iPad

CloudOn App IconWhat’s the first thing people ask you as soon as they purchase their iPad – Can I run Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint on it? And for a while, there have been solutions (apps) that you could purchase that would help, but didn’t offer complete functionality like the desktop applications did. And even if you ended up with Docs-To-Go or similar, you still ended up having to pay for anything that would be useful.

That is until Cloud On released their app, available through the App Store for FREE, you’re able to open, create and modify Microsoft Office documents with ease (well, at least the main 3 – Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Not only is it free, but it also gives you full application functionality, same as it would on a desktop. I’ve been using it at work for the past few weeks and can honestly say that I’m in love. I can work while moving around, update my spreadsheets and create word docs without having to be at my desk. Great tool to managing workflow, but even if it’s not for business, it’s a great feeling to be completely mobile even in your own home!

CloudOn for iPad Screen Capture

I should warn you that it does have it’s shortfalls. First off you’ll need to create (or login to) a dropbox account. Not a huge deal, since drop box is also free from the App Store. And once you’re got that setup, you configure it with Cloud On and you’re set. The next shortfall is that Cloud On will only work with an internet connection. So if you’re not in wi-fi or out of rang of 3G connectivity, you can’t access your documents. The application is useless actually without internet access. And then there’s the issue of trying to quickly scroll through your document, there’s about a 2 second app delay (blurry) as the app refreshes and displays the content accurately. Not major to me, but if you have no patience, it may not be the best solution.

At a price of FREE, it’s a no-brainer for me. I got the app asap and haven’t looked back since. and use it everyday. I’m not even sure how the app manages to stay free since there’s no in app ads that come up or anything. Once you get it setup and going, you’ll enjoy the unlimited access to a complete list of commands from drop down menus (same as their desktop versions) while working on office documents. It’s worth every penny 😉

My rating: 5/5

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iPad 2 vs. The New iPad: What’s New?

iPad 2 and The New IPad Side by Side

So a little under a month now since the release of The New iPad and I get asked a few of the same questions, “Should I buy the iPad 2 for $399?” and “Is it worth getting rid of my iPad 2 to get the new iPad?” – So to answer those very two questions, I’ve summarized the main features that stand out when it comes to shopping for a new iPad.

Outside.
The iPad 2 and new iPad have the same outer design with slight modifications that wouldn’t be noticeable unless you compared them side by side. The New iPad is 0.03 inches thicker than the iPad 2 and 0.11 lbs. heavier. So any case/holder that you had for your aging iPad 2 won’t fit The New iPad. Sorry.

New iPad Retina DisplayDisplay.
Apple’s main landing page has the headline: “RESOLUTIONARY”, and that it is. The physical size of the screen hasn’t changed (Still 9.7″ since the iPad 1) but there are many more pixels in that same area. 3.1 million pixels in the 2048 x 1536 resolution Retina Display on the new iPad is pretty sweet. The higher resolution makes it look as if you are holding an HDTV in your hand; pictures look incredibly crisp, video even crisper, and text is much sharper – If clarity is a major factor, this is for you.

iPad 2 vs. New iPad Screen Comparison

Inside.
The new iPad’s A5x processor with quad-core graphics is faster the previous iPad’s A5 processor. The new processor helps make beautiful graphics possible. When I compared a game like Infinity Blade on the new iPad and the iPad 2, the difference was clear (and sharper). The game on the new iPad was more vivid and more responsive, actually felt more like a video game console as opposed to a tablet.

Things like web browsing, checking e-mail, reading books and standard apps performed at the same speed they did on the iPad 2. No noticeable improvement there.

New iPad Dictation IconDictation.
Introduced exclusively for the new iPad you can now speak your notes in to the new iPad’s mic and it will translate your speech into text entering directly into a new note, email, iMessage. Originally rumoured to be Siri on the new iPad – it’s not. Great concept and idea, but nothing something I’d personally find THAT useful. I’m sure there’s lots of people out there that were just waiting for this feature. Who knows, we may see Siri in a future generation iPad, but not this time around.

iSight IconCamera.
The new iPad comes equipped with an iSight 5.0 megapixel camera. Let’s face it, the iPad 2’s camera wasn’t that great, often taking grainy and blurry pictures. Not as great as the iPhone 4s’s 8 megapixel monster, it does take noticeably better pictures.
Ask yourself – how often will you be using your tablet to snap pictures?

LTE 4G.
The new iPad is equipped with LTE (4G) wireless cellular network capability. Which means that if your mobile carrier offers LTE, it will perform faster than older technology 3G. This ‘upgrade’ will be most noticeable for someone that’s constantly on the go and not often connected to a wifi network.

Below is a side-by-side chart with the numbers so you can have an table of the differences.
iPad 2 vs. New iPad Comparison

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App Review: HeyTell Voice Messenger

HeyTell iTunes IconHeyTell brings back the original concept of the walkie-talkie, but for your iPhone. A cross-platform voice messenger that allows you to instantly talk with and locate friends and family. No account needed just download from the app store, install and start the app, choose a contact, and push the button to start talking, it’s so easy I walking sending my mindless banter within 2 minutes of searching through the app store.

Simply press and hold the large yellow button to record your voice and convey it to the other person.

HeyTell In UseBefore you roll your eyes and being to think “why not just pick up the phone and call the person”, the app has a few features that can’t be had with regular phone calls such as sharing your location with your selected contact. Conversation are stored locally on your phone for replaying offline. Push notifications alert you when you’ve received an incoming HeyTell message. For use on 3G, EDGE and Wi-Fi.

Before sending your friends a message, make sure they have the app installed or else they’ll get an email letting them know how to get it from the App store. Not bad for a FREE app that bring back the walking-talkie.

The obvious downfall of this app is that it seems a lot easier to just pick up the phone and call. On the other hand, this may be better to use while driving. As opposed to texting/talking while driving, now you can send out quick snippets of verbal messages.

My rating for HeyTell: 3/5

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Say Hello to iCloud

iCloud Sync

So what does iCloud do exactly? Well for starters, it does pretty much everything MobileMe did before it — meaning web-based email, contacts, and calendar. Those three services will also sync to your devices. But iCloud does a lot more than that.

The service promises to keep your photos, music, and settings synced across devices, using the iCloud servers as a way point and container for most (but not all) of your content. Essentially what it does is keep a running tab of content you’ve created, or apps and music you’ve purchased from iTunes. All of that content is sent to the cloud, and then back down to your phone, iPod touch, or iPad.

To help you visualize how this works, here are a few use cases:

  1. You take a bunch of photos on your phone. Since you’re using Photo Stream to sync these to iCloud, they get beamed up to Apple’s servers. Later, when you open your laptop and start up iPhoto, the application pulls down all of those photos onto your local storage. The same thing happens when you use your iPad with the same account and Photo Stream turned on.
  2. You buy an app on your iPhone. Later, you want to put that app on your iPod touch. You’ll have access to that app on any of your devices in a list of purchased software in the App Store. All you need to do is download the app to your device.
  3. You buy a new song in iTunes. If you have iTunes in the Cloud turned on, that new purchase will sync down to all of your devices registered with the same account. No fussing with syncing individually anymore. The same goes for video and iBooks content too.
  4. You’re working on a document on your iPad in Pages. With iCloud, that document will be saved on your iPad, then accessible through icloud.com for download, or will be synced to your other devices running Pages. Every time you update that document (unless you’re doing it in Pages on your laptop), it will be synced to the cloud.

Essentially, this is a rather static service which is constantly moving your content from your devices, up into the cloud, and back down to devices. It’s not Flickr or Gmail — it’s a way to keep content and devices in sync without hassle. In its current state, it works quite well, though there are some catches in the service that you should probably make a note of.

For starters, you get 5GB of storage for free, which doesn’t count your apps, music, books, TV content, or Photo Stream images. You can upgrade that storage for a nominal fee (starting at $20 a year for a total of 15GB, up to $100 annually for 55GB of cloud storage). Secondly, the way iCloud handles your photos is that it will keep 1000 photos in the cloud for up to 30 days. If you go beyond 1000, or past 30 days, you start to lose your content unless you move it to a device (say your laptop) or to a folder in your Camera Roll. If that sounds confusing — that’s because it is. Also, there’s no way to view your photos or share them online at this point.

There’s one other issue with Photo Stream that I find a little disconcerting. Once your pics have uploaded to Photo Stream, you have no way to delete individual photos. You can delete all of your photos and turn off the service (thus allowing you to delete on your devices), but you can’t choose single files to delete by hand. The moment you finish taking photos, they’re upped to iCloud where they basically cannot be manipulated. It’s actually a bit upsetting — it feels like you don’t have full control over your content.

By the end of October, Apple will introduce another component to iCloud – iTunes Match. For $24.99 a year, that service will find every song you’ve ever purchased on iTunes and make it available to stream on your devices, and will also upload or match anything else you have in your collection — whether you’d purchased it in iTunes or just ripped a CD.

The free basic iCloud service should simplify the experience of moving content to and from devices. It’s not perfect but it solves many problems that iOS users have struggled with since the first iPhone.

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App Review: mSecure Password Manager

mSecure App IconThe other day I was singing up for an Evernote account and while entering my email, username and password, I realized that this was likely the 342nd account I’ve created somewhere on the internet over the last 10 years. I also realized that I mostly go by memory and don’t really have a ‘place’ to store my passwords and logins. Since I recently lost my wallet, I knew that going old-school and writing everything down on post it notes would probably end up in the wrong hands, I decided to see how secure it would be to put this sensitive information in my iPhone since it never leaves my side and I have it with me 24/7.

mSecure on the iPadAs first I was nervous about this, since if I ever lost my phone, someone would be able to log into all my account and I’d be in serious trouble until I stumbled upon numerous reviewers and trust sources recommending mSecure app for iPad and iPhone.

mSecure is a password manager that allows you to store all of your private information on your iDevice. From credit card numbers, bank account, passwords, prescriptions, combinations, web accounts and many more. The app is supposed to be very secure thought, as you can see from their website, it’s virtually impossible to ‘break in’ and you can set the self-destruct mode to erase and delete after a said number of failed attempts. (I’ve set mine to 5, nice and low)

mSecure In App Icon SetsLoaded with tons of features and options, you can pretty much customize the app any way you want by deleting the default categories, adding pre-loaded icons to easily identify your accounts and even allows you a nice search feature should your list be extremely long and you can’t remember how you entered your account info.

mSecure uses 256-bit encryption of data which is supposed to be “impenetrable.” I’m willing to bet that someone could break in, if they really wanted to. But I don’t know crap about that sort of thing. I’m sure you probably know more than I do. Either you’re rolling your eyes because I’m naïve, or you’re shaking your head thinking I’m paranoid.

mSecure In Use GroupsThe app is on sale for a limited time through the app store for $4.99 (reg. $6.99) The best thing I like about this app is that you can download the desktop manager (Windows or Mac) and back-up your data to your computer and then cross-sync to your iPad. So you have all your data with you at all times, on all devices and you don’t have to input it 5 different times. With iCloud, it’ll be interesting to see what this app can do with ‘magical’ syncing capabilities.

If you’re the type of person who’s freaked out by just logging into your Facebook account, then this app probably isn’t for you. But if you like to throw caution to the wind and need a good place to store important information that you’d like to have on you at all times – then you should check this out. I know there are other password managers, but this one is easy to use and relatively cheap. I’d recommend it based on the price for what you’re getting. Definitely worth it.

The app is pretty much perfect as a utility and the only complaint I really have is that they should allow you to use your own icon images, or allow me to upload them for sure, but that’s me just being really picky. As well as the other thing being that I don’t think data is ever really secure on a phone, no matter how much encryption, but that’s just my paranoia, no fault of mSeven Software (the developers).

My rating: 4/5

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Temperature App for Menu Bar

Want to know what the temperature is outside while working on your Mac, without leaving an open application? – There’s an app for that and it’s FREE.

Meteorologist Menu Bar Preview

Called Meteorologist, this app does just that, sitting in your menubar giving you weather updates on the locations you specify. Meteorologist displays a location’s temperature and descriptive icon to demonstrate the current weather situation all in the menu bar. After clicking on the menu item, a drop-down menu displays multiple location’s weather, the forecast, highs and lows, humidity, pressure, UV index, visibility, wind speed and direction, and even the sunrise and sunset times.

You can also customize the settings as to what should always be displayed and what should only be included in the drop-down (full) menu.

If you think the dashboard weather app is a little limiting in the information it displays this app picks up the slack and the best part, is that it’s FREE.

Download Meteorologist at SourceForge.

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App Review: Video Playlist for iPad

Video Playlist for iPad Icon A few weeks ago, I set out on a road trip to the US and brought the whole family. I figured, I’d load up the iPad with hours and hours of music videos and hit play so that the baby in the car could be entertained the whole way there.

When I set the songs in a playlist, I noticed that they don’t play consecutively. I know I’ve been able to do it on my phone in the past and figured that the iPad should be able to do the same. Read reviews online and it wasn’t. Sigh. The iPad uses a different iOS application for the iPod than it does for videos (That’s why there’s two individual icons on the springboard) … The standard Video App, doesn’t allow for continuous playback on iPad 1 (I’m not sure if this has been fixed on iPad 2 – since I don’t have one yet) but I needed a solution to be able to load multiple music videos and allow them to play continuously without me having to push play after every track. Same way the iPod playlist plays continuous.

Found Video Playlist in App Store for 99¢ and couldn’t be happier. A simple concept that works so well, and I felt should have been put in the operating system since day one. This app does exactly what it’s named, with an added bonus, since you can add/remove and edit your video playlists on the fly. Instead of having to change the playlists in your iTunes, this is in-app so you can re-arrange when away from your PC.

Video Playlist iPad Screen Capture 1

You also get access to your complete iTunes library, synced to your iPad so you could even cue, TV episodes, movies, etc. to play continually, without having to hit play after every video. The on-screen navigation of the app is easy to follow and allows for full screen, track skipping and shuffling.

Video Playlist iPad Screen Capture 2

A must-have utility app if you’ve go lots and lots of music videos loaded on your iPad 1. My rating: 5/5

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Future iPhone May Help You Make New Friends

Recent patents applications submitted by Apple for the continuing development of the iPhone in coming generations, indicate that the iPhone could have location-based services and interest-matching features. Your iPhone could possibly find your next friend, business partner or date. Oh wow!

Apple Location Patent Linear

With the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, social networking continues to be the biggest trend for the past few years! If you remember PING, Apple has already tried to dive into this market before (with limited success). Their next attempt will be this patent – Either as a ‘built-in’ feature of future iPhones or an App that’s loaded as part of another iOS update.

There was an app that release in recent weeks, which allowed users to match and go on a blind date with users based on their location and interests, and this patent seems like a play on that concept with further refinement and development.

So far user reviews seem mixed, some people think it’s a great idea since you don’t have to bother with creating profiles on lavalife or match.com but others feel that this raises the creep meter with cries of personal invasion. I think that’s a bit of stretch though since I firmly believe that Apple will allow users to disable such feature should one not wish to participate, maybe even make it an option that needs to be ‘downloaded’ in addition to any other iOS updates at the time.

A part of me also wants to believe that this is simply a marketing stunt and ploy to create buzz and possibly even created to throw off the competition into believing this is in the works when, in fact, they’re working on something totally different. No one knows for sure, but the speculation circus is already rolling out.

To summarize, if this is what it looks like and becomes wildly successful you can consider your phone to be your ‘ice-breaker’ and matchmaker – especially awesome if you’re too shy to meet people in real life. (Ya right)

We only need to think of a brilliant name for this type of service. I got it – iLonely.

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Hands-On With iMessage

iMessage IconiMessage, coming this fall as part of the iOS 5 updates, is all the rage and many specialists are claiming that this could ultimately be the dagger that finally kills SMS – I don’t agree. While iMessage is a great concept that is similar in many ways to Blackberry’s Messenger service, you’ll notice that it’s integrated in the SMS application of your iDevice’s operating system.

That means, that for the most part, you’ll active the iMessage option in SMS settings on your phone, and when composing a new message to a contact in your phone book, it will automatically recognize if the person you’re sending to has iMessage turned on and can receive messages that way. It’s similar to the way FaceTime has to be enabled in order to receive video calls from another iPhone/iPad or MacBook.

With iMessage, you’re not using your carrier’s traditional SMS signal to send texts, it uses data. So iMessages can be sent through Wi-Fi and your 3G service, not incurring ‘text/SMS’ message fees from your carrier (if you’re on a pay-per-use plan).

In addition, you’ll be able to send pictures, videos, contacts and your location through iMessage, without picking us an additional MMS charge. Similarity to the way BBM works, you’ll be able to see when your contact reads the text message, and when they’re typing. It was also appear in the notifications centre on the lock screen, when your phone is in sleep mode.

Redmond Pie has managed to upload a hands-on video of iMessage in action on an iOS 5 beta.

iMessage will only be compatible with iOS devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The iPhone will register your iMessage with your cell phone number, while you iPod and iPad will register your iMessenger with an email address.

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