Archive for the ‘Applications’ Category

Scarab

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Scarab

Scarab is a really nice niche product; poetry and prose read by the creators, as if they were in the same room with you. Each issue provides a number of pieces, including interviews. The app itself is free and each new issue is purchased via downloadable content and then played through the core app. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the artists, so by subscribing to this journal, we can fuel their future efforts.

Releasing a periodical literary journal via downloadable content on the iPhone was a great idea, in and of itself, because it allows such a personal and intimate experience. For each piece, the listener is provided with an audio reading, directly from the voice of the artist, as well as a photo, to put a face to the words. What really set this title apart, for me, is the quality of the work offered. The work of fiction in the first installment, by Michael Gutierrez is excellent, as is the poem by, and interview of, David Rivard. What really sold me on Scarab, though, was this beautiful piece by MRB Chelko:

-Night Rain-

Awake, I want to score the walls-
slash my quick life into them.

Signature.
Signature.
Signature.

I want to fall in shadow sticks across
the wall,
slice breath-holes in the room,
not sit
as this woman sits
in the dumb shelter of her body

as if the night will
spit its worm silk in her mouth.

I think this is a phenomenal project and I urge anyone that is mildly interested to pick up this app. It’s brilliantly conceived and well executed.

Update: The second issue is now available, via in-app purchase, and I am happy to say that it provides the same level of quality as the first issue; an excellent selection of voices in poetry.

Rating: ★★★★★ icon
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Appsaurus

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Appsaurus

With Appsaurus the brilliant minds at Hello, Chair Inc. have hit upon the perfect combination of machine learning, usability, and fun. Full stop.

If you are a die-hard fan of the app search/comparison meta-game, as I am, this app is for you. When you hit the Explore button, a selection of five apps are displayed. The user simply taps his or her favorite app from the list and another similar screen appears, with a different assortment of apps. With each press, Appsaurus learns more about the types of apps you like and the recommendations start to get better and better. And that’s just the beginning. To expedite the recommendation process, you can swipe any of the apps to mark them as favorites or to block them. This whole process is surprisingly fun! You start to see more of your favorite apps to mark, which shows you the app is learning, but you also start to see recommendations for apps that you don’t own, some of which look quite interesting. After my first few minutes of use, I already found three apps that interested me and this is coming from a guy that owns over 3000 apps already.

That describes the core functionality of the app, but there are a variety of tweaks for users to experiment with. One important feature is that you can browse your Favorites list at any time and add your own manually. That’s right, you don’t have to wait hours for your favorite app to show up (although my favorite, Trism, showed up in a matter of minutes), you can simply do a search and add it to your list yourself to improve the recommendation process. You can also tap that favorite app to provide a list of “Apps Like This”, which is an indispensable tool. Yes, you will sometimes get a list of five apps with no “winner” on it, but you can simply reload for a new set of possibilities. You can also create customized lists that disallow certain categories (bye bye “Weather”), include specific search terms, and look only for apps below a certain price point. The real beauty of this app is that you don’t “start over” every time you open the app, instead it saves all of your data up to and including your entire path used to get where you are. By that I mean, you can backtrack through all of your previous exploration at any time, not just for the current session to find a certain app.

The only gripes I have are as follows: I would have liked the ability to mark apps of interest. You can always mark them as a Favorite and refer back to that list later, but then they could potentially taint your results. Besides, for me at least, the Favorites list becomes cumbersome fairly quickly. I would really have liked an option to disallow Lite versions, as well, since they are duplicative, but it’s not a major concern. I also can’t comment on how useful the app will be to users that start with very few apps, because I have no data on that (although my assumption is that this app would be next to useless for someone hasn’t used a lot of apps, since there would be no data to mine). None of these issues keep the app from being extremely useful for me, so I’ll continue to use it and perhaps hope for an update, at least on the Lite issue.

The user interface is elegant, the controls are intuitive, and the app does exactly what it professes to do – it finds apps that you might like. If you know about apps and you want to improve your app collection, in a way that caters to you directly, you can’t do better than this app.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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iCab Mobile

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

Looking for a replacement for Safari? This is the most full-featured of the bunch; full-screen browsing (as shown above), private browsing, saved web forms, banner blocker, tabs (that are saved after shutdown), screen orientation lock, optional Google Mobilizer page compression, in-app email, and more. My only complaint is that the scroll bar stays in portrait mode, even when in landscape mode. If you aren’t interested in any of the aforementioned features, stick with Safari, but if you want full-screen browsing with forward/back swipes, for instance, it’s worth the price.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Inquisitor

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

This is a dead simple search app that is the exact opposite ofiCab Mobile. You have only a search window, with auto-complete, but the searches are filtered really well to provide a decent selection of hits very quickly. Not for power users, but the design is really slick and intuitive.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ icon
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QuickReader

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

This is a speed-reading app designed to improve the reader’s ability to chunk word groups together quickly. You start by testing your current reading speed to use as a baseline. Then you tweak a few values like Words Per Minute and block size, which controls the speed and size of the highlight text block (shown in the screenshot above). It comes with over 20 famous works, including Pride and Prejudice, The Tale of Two Cities, and Flatland (!). I wish the app provided a way to download free texts from the Internet, but what they provide is substantial for the purpose. Personally, I find the method of training your eyes to move faster with this method to be superior to textbook solutions, but your mileage may vary, as will your comprehension.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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SidPlayer Pro

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Play any and all of your favorite Commodore 64 soundtracks on your iPhone!

When you read the previous line, you either rushed to the app store or you thought, “huh?”. You don’t really need to know more than that.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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Grocery IQ

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

This app is really slick. Press the plus sign at the top, type in what food you need to buy at the grocery store, it pulls from a huge database of items and brands to generate a potential hit list, you pick the one you want, enter quantity data and such, and it then adds it to your grocery list in the proper aisle. You can make different lists for different stores, with some crossover items. While you are at the store, you can check things off as you dump them in your cart. You can flag oft-purchased items as favorites so, next week, your list is easier to generate. A number badge on the app icon, shows you when you have items to buy. It really is amazingly helpful.

Update: Barcode scanning (awesome), list sharing, and coupons (which are annoying).

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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ZenNews

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Very kewl way to get the news; an aggregator that uses tag clouds to display hits. May not be for hardcore newshounds, although they do have more straightforward ways to search the data, but for casual users like myself, it’s awesome. The presentation is excellent and you simply swipe left and right to browse many of the obvious news sources like CNN, NY Times, and BBC World.

Update: The love affair is over. The more I used it, the more I realized I would rather use a “real” news engine, even if I check it rarely. Down a star.

1Password Pro

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

This is a great way to keep all 50 jillion of your passwords for different sites and such in check. You set 1 password to get into the app and view all the rest. It also allows you to set up profiles to automatically log into websites. It uses hardware-accelerated AES encryption. The pro version is adding MobileMe syncing, which will be FTW. There is also a Mac desktop version.

Rating: ★★★★☆ icon
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