All posts tagged apps

Using your iPhone is easier with these great apps

A new feature isn’t necessarily a great feature

Apple introduced 3D Touch with the iPhone 6 in September, 2014. The feature offers two new gestures, “Peek” and “Pop,” which are triggered by the amount of pressure applied to an iPhone’s screen. You can see 3D Touch in action here. It’s pretty neat and can save time, if used properly.

The usefulness of new features like 3D Touch is variable. There are plenty of “Me, too” implementations in the App Store that don’t make your iPhone easier to use, which is the ultimate goal. In the following examples, 3D Touch makes an app significantly better.

Best implementation: Workflow

workflow_3dtouchHands down, Workflow for iPhone and iPad ($2.99) features the best implementation of Apple’s 3D Touch that I’ve seen. It lets you choose what appears in the resulting pop-up menu (up to four items), ensuring that it’s as useful for you as possible. Here’s how to set it up.

  1. Tap My Workflows on the app’s main screen.
  2. Scroll to the bottom and tap Settings.
  3. Tap 3D Touch Shortcuts

From there you’ll see a list of your workflows. Now, just tap the four you’d like to appear in the 3D Touch menu.

Workflow lets you create, download and share automated, multi-step tasks for your iPhone to perform. Have your phone do anything from order a pizza to move files to services like Dropbox. The 3D Touch implementation here is so helpful that it puts an already useful app way over the top. Save serious amounts of time each day with Workflow and 3D Touch.

Notable

Spark

sparkWhile Workflow is my top pick for useful 3D Touch, it’s not the only app that’s making good use of Apple’s fun tech. Readdle’s Spark (https://sparkmailapp.com), a recent “Best of the App Store” selection, does a stellar job by featuring the app’s most common functions: calendar, attachments, search and compose a new message. Simply select any one to jump right to it.

The iconography here is nice and clear as well, and each task is blazing fast. Browsing attachment is especially useful, as they’re presented as a nice list, which is significantly faster than scrolling through a bursting inbox. Spark is a great app and is use of 3D Touch makes it even better.

Instagram

As we saw with Spark, Instagram for iPhone (free) put the most useful tasks front-and-center. I use Search and Post several times per day. But there’s much more here.

Nearly every link in the app offers Peek and Pop. Press-and-hold on a hashtag to see relevant photos. Do the same to a username for a preview of their latest posts. While holding that preview, swipe up for options like unfollow, enable notifications or share as a message. As with the other apps in this list, Instagram is made easier to use via 3D Touch. Very well done.

Camera+

cmraplsOne last selection: Camera+ ($2.99). The long-standing camera app by Tap Tap Tap lets you jump right to taking a photo, as well as the proper setting for getting a selfie or a macro shot. This saves so much time previously spend fiddling around with exposure and focus, especially when taking a macro shot.

All of these apps use Apple’s 3D Touch to make using your iPhone faster and easier. That’s just what technology like this should do. Try them out and see for yourself.

iPhone app keeps sleepy road trippers awake

A few years ago I spent 12 hours driving from Pennsylvania to Virginia with a few friends. It was a horribly long trip and none of us would have stayed awake on our own. Drowsy driving is dangerous and Café Amazon Drive Awake app (free) is here to help.

This clever little app uses eye detection to monitor your state while driving. To use it, let it find your eyes (creepy), mount it on the windshield of your car (mounting apparatus not included) and begin driving. If the app catches you nodding off (eyes closed for more than a few seconds), it emits a horrific screeching parrot noise that will absolutely wake you up and and maybe cause you to soil yourself.

Drive Awake is a little gimmicky in that, after rousing you, it pops up driving directions to the nearest Café Amazon, a popular coffee shop in Thailand. I don’t know what happens if you’re outside Thailand.

Even without the caffeinated pick-me-up, and despite the nerve-shredding parrot, Drive Awake could save your life. And please, people. I know road trips are fun, but being dead isn’t. Pull over and go to sleep.

!Emergency! for iPhone: when trouble strikes abroad

Johnny Jet’s travel app of the week is !Emergency! ($0.99). As Johnny notes, not everyone realizes that “911” isn’t the emergency call number in many countries outside of the US. !Emergency! lists them all, and puts them just a tap away. Not only that, it can automatically detect the country you’re in, so you don’t have to spend precious time searching when something is really wrong. That’s a pretty handy app.

iPhone Traveler Pt. 4 – Home screen and alerts

iphonepasspordThe iPhone apps you use while on vacation will be different from those you use while at work or during typical home life. At least I hope so. Keeping our focus on convenience and ease, I’ll suggest that you make adjustments to the the apps on your home screen, the alerts your iPhone delivers and more before departing for a trip. Here are the changes I make to my iPhone while preparing to spend time away.

Re-organize Applications

Your iPhone 5 can display 24 application icons per screen. Folders hold 16 apps each. That means you can have well over 200 applications on your home screen. I don’t recommend doing that, but it suggests that having a lot of apps installed doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of swiping between screens. It also means that things can get crowded quickly, making it hard to find what you’re after.

With this in mind, I consider which apps I’ll use during my trip, and move them to the home screen. The rest are pushed to subsequent screens, reducing visual clutter and saving me from playing “hide and go seek” with my iPhone. I typically have these apps on my home screen during a trip:

  1. Mail
  2. Phone
  3. Safari
  4. Maps
  5. Messages
  6. Camera
  7. Evernote
  8. Kayak
  9. Motion-X GPS Drive
  10. Path
  11. Rego
  12. Rdio
  13. Any destination-specific apps

I’ll discuss my favorite travel apps later this month, but this is my core group. Each has a specific job.

Most of these apps have obvious functions: phone calls, a web browser, Maps, text messages, music and the camera for shooting photos and video. The others have specific duties.

Evernote is my database for everything. It lets me create and browse a fast, lightweight and searchable repository of all the specifics I’ll need. Hotel information, airport details, parking locations, confirmation numbers and so much more are all a tap away. In fact, my “everything database” has all but eliminated paper from my travel materials.

  • Motion-X GPS Drive is my preferred turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone. It’s reliable, inexpensive and easy to use. Advanced features like saved searches and synthetic voices that are genuinely easy to understand make it a winner.
  • Path is a social networking application with an interesting premise. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which invite users to broadcast their comings and goings to whoever will listen, Path asks you to invite a handful of family and friends to share your favorite moments. I often use it with my family, most of whom also do a fair amount of traveling.
  • Rego lets me maintain a record of all the interesting places I’ve visited, which I enjoy reviewing. I can also note places I’d like to visit and create an on-the-go itinerary that sorts itself by proximity.

Finally, I’ll add any destination-specific apps I find. For instance, there are several great apps available for navigating Walt Disney World Resort. In 2011, Macy’s released an official Thanksgiving Day Parade app. Search the App Store for apps related to your destination. I bet you’re successful most of the time.

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Rego for iPhone stores your favorite places

regoforiphoneBig thanks to Rego for iPhone (free for the first 10 places, $2.99 for unlimited use) for sponsoring the site this week. I’ve been using Rego since launch day and it’s earned a spot on my iPhone’s home screen. It lets me create a record of my favorite places, both those I have seen and those I hope to visit someday. With a few taps I can mark it on a map, write some notes, take photos and add useful, searchable categories.

Rego is like a contacts app, but for locations. It has become the place where I store the places I care about. But Rego is more than storage. Before your trip begins, create a new collection and add all the places you want to visit — either by positioning pins on a map, or by searching on names or addresses. Rego searches Apple and Foursquare location databases, and your Contacts. Plan your itinerary by re-centering the map on any pin. For example, set your hotel as the “Active Location” and watch all your places sort by distance to that pin.

While traveling, use Rego to visit the places you planned, and add new places you discover along the way. Rego uses the iPhone’s GPS, so you don’t need Internet coverage to capture new places. Also, in most cases, your maps will have been cached during your planning, so they’ll still be available when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

Rego is private by default, but you can selectively choose to share places. This creates a web page for your place on the Rego server, that you can show the world. Other Rego users can directly add that place to their Rego, by visiting the page. I actually like keeping it private, as I use Rego is my personal travel log and wish list.

Don’t take my word for it, Apple loved Rego so much they featured it in the New & Noteworthy list on the App Store home page in 127 countries, and gave it a big banner in the Travel section. It’s truly one of my favorite travel apps.

Here’s how you can sponsor the site. It’s a great month those with travel apps.

The iPhone Traveler Pt. 2 – Back up, pack and get tickets

iphoneandtix

A good vacation, like so many other things in life, will be more successful with ample planning. Your iPhone is more than up to the task! In this section, I’ll explain how to back up important information before you leave (and retrieve it if disaster strikes), pack your things in an orderly way and finally find tickets for a plane, a train and a hotel.

Why use an iPhone for these tasks? There are several reasons. My favorite is the wealth of beautiful, useful and convenient apps that are available. The travel industry has embraced Apple’s pocket-sized computer and we, the travelers, benefit. It’s so very easy to find a hotel, flight or bus when it’s convenient for us. Don’t want to pay a lot? Finding bargains with an app is easy, too. Plus, dedicated apps are so much easier to use than starting from scratch with Google.

Also, skipping email and printed tickets means less “stuff” to carry, loose and accidentally rip or destroy. There’s no fishing for “which pocket or case did I put that in” when the answer is, “It’s just here on my phone.” It’s a tremendous convenience. So, let’s get started by performing a good, reliable backup.

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easyJet for iPhone offers mobile boarding passes, Passbook support

jeteasyappscrnshtThe UK’s discount airline easyJet has added support for Apple’s Passbook and mobile boarding passes to its free iPhone app, easyJet Mobile. This update is a part of the airline’s larger initiative to replace all in-person check-in options with online methods.

For now, six airports — Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nice, London Stansted and Southend — are taking part in a trial. If all goes well, you can expect additional airports to accept iPhone-based checkins from easyJet.

I’ve used the United iPhone app (free) several times to board in Boston’s Logan airport as well as Orlando and Tampa. Pulling out an iPhone is much faster that using a paper boarding pass, not to mention it eliminates one more thing to tear or lose.

I hope this goes well for easyJet and its customers. If you’re in the UK and you’ve tried it, let me know how it goes. Digital boarding passes and check-in is a real time-saver.

Smart pajamas read to your kids at night

CNET on Smart PJs, “The world’s first and only interactive pajamas”:

“Smart PJs, called the world’s ‘first and only interactive pajamas,’ require downloading a free app for iOS or Android and scanning one of dozens of codes from the Smart PJs with a smartphone or tablet. The device then reads aloud a story, sings a lullaby, or broadcasts pictures of animals or other bedtime-appropriate cuteness.”

Horrible. Awful. Why read to your children when you can toss an iDevice at them? In fact, you don’t even have to pick out the story anymore. Jr’s PJs will do that for you! There’s more:

“‘Now your child will be excited to go to bed,’ says a promotional video for the product.”

Yeah, nothing helps a toddler fall asleep faster than excitement. Sign me up.

Instagram needs to move the Send button

instagrambutton

I love Instagram as much as they next guy, but its iPhone developers need to move the Send button that appears when writing a comment. I often press it accidentally, which publishes a nonsensical incomplete sentence. An early version of Facebook for iPhone had the Send button down by the keyboard, too, but fortunately they’ve moved it.

At Bat ads library of vintage games

At Bat version 6.1.0 features a library of more than 60 classic games dating back to 1952.

thesteal

Might I suggest 2004. Dave Robers. The steal.