Friday, May 30, 2014

Recommended apps for new owners

I've been meaning to write this post for a very long time but finally got kicked in the arse by a cousin (Hi RJ!) so here goes.


Congratulations on your new iDevice!  No doubt you've heard someone say "There's an app for that" because, well, there probably is one, somewhere within the 300,000+ apps available. So how do you find good ones?  That's where I come in.  Below I'll highlight some of my favorites for anyone new to the iOS environment or even for long-time users looking for something new and cool.  And of course please post your own suggestions in the comments.

Note: Prices are all from memory so "$" means it's single-digit dollars, usually under $5, but I don't remember how much.  I'm not positive about the rest so please let me know what i missed

- TiVo, Netflix, HBO Go (if you have those services)
Spotify - I happily pay for the premium service but even for free it's awesome for streaming music.
SoundHound * Shazam (free) - tells you what song you're listening to.  Sometimes one works better than the other so I have both.
Seedio (free) - sync multiple iDevices if they have the same song saved on them so they all play at the same time.  Neat and great way to make the music louder.

Health & Food
Sleep Cycle (free) - put it in your bed at night and it'll track your sleep pattern.  Even better use it as an alarm to make sure you're woken up when you're not in a deep sleep.  For a non-morning person like me this is a big win
Argus or Breeze or MotionX (free) - I've been using Moves to track my steps all day every day but that was recently bought by Facebook and their new privacy policy is abhorrent.  I can sum up all of the legalease with "We probably won't sell your data now, but we may decide to later and if we do, well, too bad."  I'm deciding between these three. (free) - buy gift cards to restaurants at severe discounts. You can actually buy as you're walking in, which is very handy.  (Works great in NYC. Your mileage may vary)
Savored (free) - Find restaurants around you which offer a discount if you make the reservation through the app.  (Works great in NYC. Your mileage may vary)

News & Weather
Nooly or RainAware (free) - both show you down-to-the-minute weather forecasts.  Not perfect but better than you'd expect.
Weather Underground (free)- far better than the built-in app or The Weather Channel's.
Mactracker (free) - if you own a Mac or any other Apple device (*ehem*) this'll give you stats on everything they've made since, uhm, ever.
StarMap 3D (free) - shows you an interactive star map when you hold it up to the sky so you can determine if that reddish dot is Mars or your eyes going bad.

Photo/video taking and editing
- Editors - I have a bunch on my phone that I use for various things but only because I haven't sat down to list what each does and delete most.  In case you're interested: PS Express (that's Adobe's Photoshop), Fotor, TouchUp Lite, PhotoFunia, Photo Notes, Handy Photo, Snapseed.  Once I sort through these I'll update the blog post.  What follows are my strong recommendations.
Pro HDR ($4) - You must buy this.  It's either $2 or $4 and worth every penny 10 times over.  It takes simply stunning shots of sunsets and other environments where some areas are very dark and some very light.  The built-in app does a pseudo HDR, sorta, but this one does it for real.  Trust me - you won't be disappointed.  Accept no substitutes.
QuickPix ($2) - shoots pictures as fast as possible as long as you hold the trigger button.  Perfect for trying to capture that one shot where your child/pet/spouse/neighbor is trying to do something new/cool/dangerous/funny/exciting/moronic but timing is unpredictable.
Cycloramic (free) - if you have an iPhone 5 or 5s this will take a 360 degree panorama automatically when you put it down on a hard surface.  You won't believe it until you see it.  I don't think earlier phones and iPads will do it.
iPhoto & iMovie (free) - You know them on the Mac - get 'em on your iDevice.  If you don't have a Mac they're still worth getting because they're useful and cool.
Emulsio (free demo) - Stabilizes shaky video
PopAGraph (free, I think) - easy tool to play with pictures, like turning it all black and white but colorizing one part, or making a person pop out of the scene.  Powerful and fun.
Action Movie (free) - this one is silly but lets you add movie-like special effects to your videos: dinosaurs walking through the shot, missiles blowing things up, etc.
iMotion HD (free?) - create your own stop-motion videos.  Really cool.
123D Catch (free) - From Autodesck.  Create interactive 3d models of anything you can photograph.  It's almost like a 3d scanner in your camera.  Practically alien technology.

- Banking (free) - surely your bank has an app and it's probably very useful.
- CamScanner (free) - take pictures of documents, deskew them, run OCR and save as PDFs.
- Pages, Numbers, Keynote (free) - if you're an Apple user these will let you view and even edit docs in your iCloud account from your phone as easily as from your Mac
- MagicPlan (free) - stand in one spot in a room and use the phone's camera to plot out the room's layout including walls, doors, windows, etc.  You won't use it daily but when you need it there's nothing better.

Store apps: Amazon, Lowes, Home Depot, eBay, etc (duh)
Deal finders: Groupon, Living Social, Google Shopper, Amazon Local
Bag Of Woot (free) - I love woot and this will track all of their deals in one shot
- Shipping: Fedex, UPS
- Quick Scan (free) - scan a barcode or QR code to learn more about the product including pricing and availability.  Ever wonder how much that gift you just received cost?  Well, now you can find out. Better than my old standby, RedLaser.

Your airline's app - for tracking flights, etc. (duh)
Word Lens (now free) - real-time translating of printed words from {something else} into English.  Eerily accurate.
Say Hi Translate (free, I think) - translate spoken words.  Not perfect but very useful if you're traveling.
Altitude (free) - shows you exactly what it says it does.
WhatsBusy (free) - monitor how busy your local airport is.
Waze (free) - Excellent traffic/nav app.  Now owned by Google, FWIW.
Google Maps (free) - you know this one

- Convert (free) - convert any unit into any other (compatible) unit.  e.g.: how many teaspoons are in a gallon?  Convert just told me it's 768.  It also works on area, time, data, power, temperature, pressure, etc.  Where was this when I was in high school???
- iHandy Level (free) - a level built into your phone.  Even more useful than you expect.
- Cloud: Dropbox,, Google Drive, Tresorit, Bitcasa, etc - If you use these services their apps are very handy and free.
- Google Voice (free) - the only way to use Google Voice now.
- Namecheap (free) - I moved my domains from GoDaddy to Namecheap and couldn't be happier with them.  If you're interested I'll be happy to help, and I think I get $1 for every domain you move to them with my referral code. Woohoo!
- Speedtest (free) see if your internet connection really is as slow as you think
- Knock ($2-$4) - if you own a newer Mac this will let you unlock the screen with your phone by knocking on the phone.  Very cool.
- Carat (free) - battery usage monitor tells you which app/service is hitting your battery the hardest.
- Chrome (free) - Google's browser.  I use this and Safari - both work well, but I especially like Safari's integration with my Macs: I save a password on one and they all get it within seconds.  But Chrome works nicely too.
- Authy (free) - if you use Google Authenticator for two-factor authentication this is a drop-in replacement with some better features.  If you're not using TFA why the hell not?  Do you want to have your identity stolen?  That's what I thought.
- Gmail (free) - Google's native mail app.  Very good.
- Mailbox (free) - the best mail app out there, bar none.  I use this 90% of the time.  I'm happy to explain when I use the others - just ask.

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