Ten of My Most-Used iOS Apps

I thought I’d write a little about my most “essential” apps. I’m always on the lookout for a good app, and at present have over 230 apps installed on my iPhone. I would probably be shocked (and maybe a little embarrassed) to find out what small percentage of those apps I use on a regular basis. So, in trying to determine which apps I would consider “essential” I asked myself, “If my iPhone was erased, which apps would be the first to be reinstalled?”

There are a lot of apps out there that I think are cool and use from time to time, but really only a small handful that I use on a regular basis. So, for what it’s worth, here are ten of my favorites (in no particular order).

AppAdvice ($1.99) – I use the AppAdvice app pretty much everyday. It is one of my main sources for all things Apple. It has daily news articles, app reviews, etc. If there’s news in the world of Apple, they’ll have it. The app also has a sweet section called “AppGuides” which have the top apps in various categories. They break apps down into four categories: “Essential”, “Notable”, “Decent” and “Beyond”. Looking for the best app for stargazing or searching for a job? You can find them in AppAdvice.

Apps Gone Free (Free) – This app is also made by the people at AppAdvice and is simply a daily listing of apps that previously cost money but are currently free. I have gotten a hold of a LOT of paid apps at no charge thanks to this daily-updated app.

20120930-190705.jpgGoodReader ($4.99) – GoodReader is an app I use a lot to manage documents from PDFs to image files to other document types. I can open files directly from e-mail into GoodReader using “Open With…” and then the documents are automatically saved for later reference. You can also password protect folders of documents within the app which makes it nice for downloading PDFs of our monthly bank statements and keeping them secure from prying eyes.

Springpad (Free) – I use Springpad to keep track of a lot of things. I can create “notebooks” within the app which can include all kinds of information like checklists, notes, images, voice memos, etc. And the best part is your free account can also be accessed from a computer through a web browser making it easy to update your information from just about anywhere you are. You can also share notebooks with other users which worked out really well this summer when my wife and I were making lists of stuff to take to our youth camp. We could both add items (or check them off) from our phones and the other one would see the changes almost instantly.

20120930-190715.jpgJotNot Pro ($1.99) – JotNot Pro is a “document scanner” app. Basically, you take a picture of a page and JotNot turns it into a pdf in your phone that you can print, e-mail, etc. You can “scan” multiple pages into a single pdf document with ease. This is one of the apps I found with the help of the AppAdvice app. I use it quite a bit to make digital copies of documents to e-mail to others or even myself for safe-keeping.

20120930-232148.jpgChrome (Free) – I downloaded the Google Chrome browser the day they released it in the App Store. I’m a big fan of Chrome on PC so I was anxious to try it out on my iPhone. It did not let me down. Using my Chrome sign-in username and password all my desktop bookmarks were instantly available on my phone, and any bookmarks I make on my phone are available on my desktop. I can even see what tabs I have open on my desktop or phone and open them up as well. Love it!

20121001-002440.jpgHanDBase ($9.99) – I have been using HanDBase since back in my Palm Pilot days. I was using HanDBase before smart phones even existed and Palm was king of the PDA world. Palm PDAs are all but a memory, but HanDBase is still going strong! In a nutshell, HanDBase is a personal database app. You can create any kind of custom database or use one of the many templates created by other users. One of the things I currently use it for is to keep track of what praise songs we sing in our youth group as well as what dates each song is sung on. And I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I can do with this powerful app.

20120930-232600.jpgSnapseed ($4.99) – Snapseed is a great photo editing app that’s quick and easy to use. It has some pretty cool filters as well as image enhancement features. It’s not a one-stop-shop photo editor, but it is a valuable tool in my photo-editing arsenal.

20120930-190721.jpgRadarScope ($9.99) – There are some decent free weather apps out there that include radar, but I haven’t found any app that does radar better than RadarScope. Yeah, it’s a little pricey as far as iOS apps go, but it’s worth the price in my opinion. It features lots of different radar types available, animated radar, and up-to-the-minute alert boxes are displayed on screen as well. Simply tap on an alert box to get the details on the alert. Another cool feature is the storm track display which shows the likely path of storm cells along with marks estimating the time it will reach locations. This is my go-to app during our stormy summer months.

20120930-232726.jpgFlixster (Free) – When I want to see what movies are showing in my local theaters and check the times, Flixster is the app I rely on. I can mark my theaters as “favorites” so that they’re always easy to find when I want to browse show times. Flixster has a lot of other features, but honestly I pretty much just use it to look up show times.

There are a lot of other apps I use on a fairly regular basis, but these apps probably see the most use outside of the built-in apps like mail and maps as well as usual apps like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Now it’s your turn…outside of the “usual suspects” what apps do you use most often? Let me know in the comments!

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Ten of My Most-Used iOS Apps

What’s So Wrong With Apple’s New Maps App?

Seattle’s Space Needle in 3D in Apple’s new maps app.

There has been a lot of buzz criticizing Apple’s new maps app that replaced Google’s map app. I personally don’t see what the big deal is. Sure, there are fewer points of interest on the map, but that will get better over time. And besides, I never used Google’s map to locate a point of interest anyway. I would search on Google for the address and then put it into maps to see where it was. Apple’s maps app will do that just fine. And in addition, Apple’s app will give me turn-by-turn navigation to get there. Google maps never did that for me. I used turn-by-turn on a recent several-hundred-mile trip and Apple’s maps app got me there perfectly. And the estimated time of arrival was only off by a few minutes. And the nice part was that I turned my screen off (I was plugged into power the whole trip) and anytime I needed verbal directions the screen would turn on and Siri’s voice would tell me what to do. Once I made the necessary turn, the screen shut itself back off! I was very impressed and pleased.

The criticism got bad enough that Tim Cook actually published an apology for the poor performance of their new map app. He even suggested alternative map apps people could try in the meantime. Again, I don’t see what the problem is! I think maybe Tim’s strategy is to get people to try those other map apps so that they’ll see that by comparison, Apple’s is the superior product!

Much of the criticism also seems to be centered around the 3D maps having errors in some rendering of roads and buildings. At this point the 3D imagery seems more of a “toy” or “gimmick” to me than anything that’s useful enough to where I care about glitches here and there. I personally am dumb-founded at the beauty of the 3D imagery that they have right! I say give Apple a little more time and they’ll improve the maps app. It won’t be long and people will forget all about the initial glitches. I do admit that I miss Google Street View, though!

What’s So Wrong With Apple’s New Maps App?

Buyer Beware: Black iPhone 5 is Easy to Scratch

Photo Credit: AppAdvice.com

Heads up for anyone planning to upgrade to the iPhone 5.  It is being reported that the black iPhone 5 is pretty easy to scuff up (dubbed “Scuffgate”), and some are even coming new out of the box already scratched up.  The black iPhone has a black slate coating on it that, when scratched off, reveals the silver aluminum underneath, making for a not-so-pretty looking phone.  The white iPhone is prone to the same scuffing, but since it is white, the scratches are less noticeable.

When and if I ever upgrade to the iPhone 5, it looks like I’ll be getting a white one!

Source: AppAdvice.com

Buyer Beware: Black iPhone 5 is Easy to Scratch

Little-Spoken-Of New Feature in iOS 6

With all the news about the iPhone 5 and new features in iOS 6, one new feature has flown under the radar and as far as I can tell, has not been talked about at all during or since the iPhone 5 reveal. It is a feature that got my attention when it was originally mentioned last June during Apple’s initial reveal of iOS 6 at WWDC. Since I hadn’t heard any mention of it during the release of iOS 6 I was afraid it may have gotten the boot, but upon upgrading my iPhone 4S to iOS 6 I was pleased to find the feature intact.

What Is It Already?

Okay, enough beating around the bush. Most people probably won’t be as excited about it as I am anyway! The feature to which I am referring is the ability to upload images from your iDevice’s camera or camera roll directly through web pages in mobile Safari.

Clicking on “Choose File” in a web page will now let you select a photo from your iDevice’s camera!
For instance, if a website has a feature where you can upload, say, a profile picture for an account, and that website has a form where you can select a file from your computer and then upload it to the website, previously you could not do this from within mobile Safari on an iDevice. If you clicked on the “Select File” button, nothing would happen. So, to upload pictures from your iDevice to a website like Facebook, Twitter, etc. you had to have an app that would upload the pictures for you. Not anymore!

Now you can, if you so desire, go to facebook.com in Safari on your iDevice, select “Desktop Site” from the menu to view Facebook as if you’re at your computer, click “Add Photo” and then select a photo from your camera roll (or take a new one on the spot) and post it! I realize it would be pretty silly to do all that when you can just use the Facebook app, so Facebook isn’t the best application of this new feature, but you get the idea. This feature enabled me to add the ability to take and upload pictures of students in my youth group to my secure online attendance database directly from my iPhone to help with putting names with faces in our group. I would have needed a special app to be able to do that under iOS 5. And it’s a lot easier than taking their pictures with a digital camera, keeping track of who’s who, transferring them from the camera to my computer, and then finally uploading them to my online database. Pretty sweet, huh?

I realize not everyone is going to share my enthusiasm over this rarely-spoken-of feature, but it has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me personally. Go ahead, try it out. You know you want to!

Little-Spoken-Of New Feature in iOS 6

Apple’s New “EarPods” Review

Along with the launch of the iPhone 5 we got our first glance at Apple’s newly designed earbuds, dubbed “EarPods” by Apple. In their announcement they promised they would fit better and sound better. Common complaints about their previous standard earbuds were that they wouldn’t stay in your ears and sounded terrible. And I have to say, in my experience, I have to agree with those complaints. I tried so hard to make Apple’s earbuds work for me, but I just couldn’t stand the feeling of earbuds that felt like they would (and actually would!) fall out if I so much as smiled. So I was anxious to find out if Apple’s new EarPods would deliver on their promise.

Since I’m not upgrading to the iPhone 5 just yet and don’t have any plans to buy a new iPod, I started a search in local retail stores to buy a pair of the headphones to give them a try. This was no easy task in itself. The nearest Apple store to me is about 45 miles away so I preferred to find them somewhere closer. I tried Best Buy and Wal-Mart with no success. I finally found a pair in a small computer store on the campus of the University of Nebraska. Success! I walked back to my car and anxiously opened the package.

Packaging

EarPods fit nicely in the included hard shell carrying case.

As one would expect, the packaging was neat and clean and of high quality, par for the course for Apple product packaging. I love the fact that they come in a hard plastic case to store them in when you’re carrying them around in your pocket. I have always tried to find some small container to put my ear buds of choice in for carrying in my pocket to keep them from getting filled with lint and other debris common to average pocket, not to mention getting tangled up in knots in the process. To know that I wouldn’t have to find something to transport them in was a huge deal for me personally. I have to say it can be somewhat time-consuming to put them back in the container, but I feel it’s time well spent to extend the life of the EarPods. Packaging: 5/5

Fit/Comfort

EarPods feature a newly-engineered shape touted to fit a wide variety of ears.

Once I got the EarPods extracted from their cool case, I placed them in my ears. They fit a little differently than your typical ear buds, and to my delight, they stayed put and didn’t feel like they were barely hanging on like the old Apple ear buds! I tilted my head side to side to see if they would fall out, and they stayed in place. Yes! Now, they aren’t super tight fitting in my ears, buy my ears have larger than average ear canals. I almost always have to use the largest rubber fittings on ear buds with interchangeable ear pieces. As I have used the EarPods I have found that they stay pushed in better after they have warmed up more to my body temperature than when I first put them in “cold”. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. The plastic housing just seems to have more “grip” when it gets warmer. I prefer to have them pushed in as deep into my ear canal as possible as this produces the best sound quality for my taste. They do work their way back out after a bit and I find myself pressing them back in every now and then, but that hasn’t bothered me.

As far as how the EarPods will fit in different sized ears, I’m not sure. They claim to have formed it to be on average the right size for most people, but I have no way of putting that to the test. My wife has freakishly small ear canals (sorry honey, but it’s true!) and the EarPods won’t even fit in her ears, let alone stay put. But then again, we’ve had difficulty finding any ear buds that fit in her ears! My 14-year-old son also has a hard time getting them to fit in his ears, but he can get them to stay. For me personally, the fit of the EarPods gets a passing grade. Fit/Comfort: 4/5

Sound Quality

Uniquely-shaped ear bud directs sound straight into your ear canal.

Okay, so once I determined I was satisfied with the fit of the EarPods, I plugged them into my iPhone 4S and selected one of my favorites tracks for testing bass response in headphones. I personally like good bass in my music and have been on a fruitless search for a pair of ear-bud-type headphones with decent bass. I even once bought a more expensive $80 pair of ear buds after doing a lot of research online to find a pair with good bass response. I figured if they delivered, they would be worth the investment. I opened the $80 ear buds in my car, tried them out, and immediately went back in and returned them. They didn’t sound any better to me than a cheaper $20 pair that I already owned. So, at this point, considering my previous lack of success in finding any ear bud that had good bass response for under $100, I was skeptical at best about how my latest ear bud purchase would sound at the low end.

I pressed play on my iPhone, and…I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was honestly the most amazing sound I have EVER heard come from an ear bud. The highs were crisp and clear, while not being ear-piercing, and, most amazingly, the lows were deep and silky smooth! Now, I have to mention that everyone’s experience may not be the same as mine. It does depend on your music type as well as the EQ settings on your device. I have my iPhone’s EQ set to the “Hip Hop” preset (Settings->;;Music->;;EQ) as that has the best balance between the bass and treble in my opinion. When I turned the EQ off or changed it to many of the other presets, the headphones did not sound nearly as good. With the EQ off the bass sounded more hollow and the treble end was ear-piercing. So, experiment with the different presets and find the one that sounds the best to you. Everyone hears things a little differently.

My son, who has been begging to get a pair of Beats headphones, after hearing the EarPods playing his favorite rap artist Lecrae, has now changed to wanting a pair of EarPods instead (hallelujah!). Now, that’s not to say EarPods can compete with Beats, but they are certainly good enough to satisfy a thirst for more bass in your headphones. Especially in ear buds. Sound Quality: 5/5

Controls

The usual three-button inline remote with built-in mic returns, but this time with more control.

The EarPods also have an inline mic for phone calls and controls that can be used to control your iPhone or iPod. The functions that you can control with the three-button inline remote are volume up and down, answer or reject phone calls, “summon” Siri, play or pause your music, Skip forward or back a track, and fast-forward or rewind. It can be somewhat difficult to remember the button sequences for different functions since there is basically only one button used for all functions as the plus and minus buttons are used for volume up and down exclusively. If you’re like me, if you don’t use a function very often you’re likely to forget what the button press sequence for it is. Controls: 4/5

Sum It Up, Man!

All in all, I am extremely pleased with my purchase. I can honestly say I have never been satisfied with the sound from any ear buds I have ever owned, until now. For me, EarPods appear to have it all. Good, comfortable fit, and great sound quality. If you’re not planning to upgrade to an iPhone 5 or buy a new iPod Touch or Nano anytime soon but use headphones to listen to music, I would recommend buying a pair of EarPods. For this kind of sound quality I would pay $80. But the best part is, they’re only $29! Will they satisfy the audiophile? Maybe not, but for this price range they are without a doubt unrivaled. In a word, amazing! Final Score: 18/20

Apple’s New “EarPods” Review