iOS App Review: Mailbox for iPhone

I have never tried a different e-mail client on my iPhone or my iPad.  The stock iOS mail app has always worked just fine for me. That being said, a new app caught my eye a few weeks ago and I finally got to experience it today for the first time.  Why did it take me a few weeks to try it out, you ask?  Well, because the developers of “Mailbox” are rolling the app out in a controlled release to be sure they’re servers can handle the onslaught of new users.  So, when you download the app, your spot in “line” is reserved and you wait until you are added into the system.  When I downloaded the app a few weeks ago I was 554,000th in line (or somewhere around that number).  Whenever you open the app it tells you how many people are in front of you in line and how many are behind you. Earlier today when I was 1,884th in line there were over 600,000 people in line behind me. Anyway, now that the waits over, I’ll get on to my initial impression.

Awesome. In word, that is my initial impression.  The app advertises that it will “change the way you do e-mail,” and I have to say, I believe it will! The basic premise of the app is that you have your inbox, which is where your mail comes into.  From there you dispatch it into categories by simple swipe gestures. You can either swipe a message right and it will archive it. Long swipe to the right and it will be put into your trash. Swipe to the left and it will give you choices in a pop up to have the message delivered back to your inbox later. Choices include later today, this evening, tomorrow morning, this weekend, next week, in a month, or you can specify a date. A long swipe to the left will allow you to put the message in a list.  The lists can be edited and configured to your taste.

I have to say this works exactly like I would like a mail client to work. I have always had an over-cluttered inbox because I’m always saving messages that I might need later. Now I can quickly and easily archive those messages.  And then there’s messages I get on the weekend that pertains to something I need to do when I get back to work the following week.  My old workflow would be to mark those messages as unread so that I would hopefully see them when I get back to work on Monday.  Now I can set those to redeliver themselves on a day I choose.  And then there’s messages like online purchase receipts, etc. that I put into “folders” to organize them so I can find them later.  And now I can quickly sort those types of messages into lists of my choosing.  As I said before, AWESOME!

If you have an iPhone, download this app immediately and get your spot in line!  It’s free, so you have nothing to lose!Mailbox

iOS App Review: Mailbox for iPhone

iOS App Review: Photo Manager Pro

20121130-163959.jpgPhoto Manager Pro – $0.99 (Universal)

A few weeks back I wrote about some of my most-used apps that I have installed on my iPhone and/or iPad. One app that I didn’t include on that list (but should have) is Photo Manager Pro. It’s probably fitting that I didn’t include it as it really does deserve its own stand-alone review. I would say it’s probably currently one of my most-used apps. But enough about me…onto the app!

What Is It?

20121130-163951.jpgAs you may have guessed, Photo Manager Pro is a photo management app. I have tried quite a few photo management apps in a seemingly never-ending search to find a good replacement for the bare-bones Photos app built in to iOS. Organizing photos in iOS has always bugged me. I’m a sort-into-folders kind of guy so the melting-pot photos app has always bugged me. Yes, they added the ability to create albums to sort your photos, but they all still remain in the main photo album with no way to tell if you’ve added them to a different album! Not ideal in my opinion. Whenever I want to find a photo I took a couple months back it feels like searching for a needle in a haystack sometimes.

Other photo management apps I’ve tried have had shortcomings that kept me from using them to “replace” the stock photo app. But once I tried Photo Manager Pro, I knew there was finally hope! Photo Manager Pro lets you create as many folders (and sub-folders!) as you want which gives great flexibility in organizing your photos. Simply create a folder, click the import button, select the photos from your camera roll, and the photos are imported. Easy!

Tip: If you’re using an iPad, I find it easiest when importing a large number of photos to first put those photos into an album in the iOS photo app. Then, in Photo Manager Pro you can browse to that album, and simply press the “Select All” button to import. Otherwise, in Photo Manager Pro you have to select every photo individually. But don’t you have to select each photo individually to put them in an album in the iOS photo app anyway, you ask? Well, no, you don’t. This leads to my second tip. There is a little known feature in iOS on the iPad to quickly select a range of photos in the photo app. Try it for yourself: Go into your camera roll and select the “Edit” button in the top right corner. At this point you can select multiple photos to add to an album. You can tap each photo individually to select them, or, press and hold on a photo with two fingers close together and hold for a second. Then, without lifting your fingers, simply slide across multiple photos to select them. You can even snake your way down the screen, row by row without lifting your fingers. Unfortunately, this two-finger swipe selection does not work on the iPhone.

Transferring Images to PC (or Mac)

Another great feature of the app is the ability to transfer my pictures off my phone and/or iPad through my wifi using the web browser on a PC or Mac. No need to plug my device in with the USB cable. I simply start the app’s “Photo Server” which allows me to connect to it from a computer on the same network as my wireless router using its IP address. Once connected, I see all my folders and I can click on any folder to see thumbnails of the pictures in that folder. I can then either select individual images or select them all with one click for downloading to the computer. The selected images are automatically compiled into one or more zip files (depending on how many pictures are selected) for easy downloading. You can also transfer pictures from the PC to Photo Manager Pro using the same web interface. It is much more user-friendly than manually transferring pictures using the USB cable!

Transferring Images From one iDevice to Another (Peer-to-peer)

Thanks to photostream in iOS photos you take on your iPhone will show up on your iPad. But I for one was disappointed to discover that the photos were down-sized when added to photostream. So if you want to get a picture from your phone to your iPad without losing resolution photostream isn’t a viable option. The good news is, with Photo Manager Pro, transferring those 8 MP iPhone images to your iPad is a breeze! Once you have the photos imported into the app, simply open the app on your iPad and start the transfer photo server. Then, on your iPhone select the image or images you want to transfer in the Photo Manager Pro app and select the P2P button. This will bring up a list of available servers which should include your iPad. Select your iPad and you will see a list of the folders you have created in the app on it. Simply browse to the folder you want to transfer the pictures to and start the transfer! Easy! Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway) this process when reversed can transfer images from your iPad to your iPhone.

Viewing Images

One of the pitfalls of many of the photo management apps I’ve tried out has been actually viewing the images once they’re imported into the app. Many apps either crashed when attempting to view larger resolution images or didn’t have a clean “swipe” transition from picture to picture like the built in photo app. Not so with Photo Manager Pro. Viewing photos is as smooth and reliable as the built-in app. The app overall has been extremely stable in my experience. Very few crashes if any at all.

Other Features

Other features of the app include the ability to color-code your folders as well as password protect certain folders or the app entirely. You can also rate images using a five-star rating system as well as view the EXIF data of images. Oh, and it imports and plays videos flawlessly as well!

Conclusion

I have been extremely pleased with the performance of this app in pretty much every aspect that it functions. I haven’t found much fault with it and it has enabled me to keep better control over my once-bloated camera roll. Once I import images into Photo Manager Pro I delete them from the camera roll (once I’ve also transferred them to a computer for backup). Your needs or desires may differ from mine, so the app may or may not be what you’re looking for, but it has been a welcome addition to my mobile toolbox!

iOS App Review: Photo Manager Pro

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!

Ten of My Most-Used iOS Apps