Phone Case Review: Tech21 Evo Check – Is it the Perfect Case?

I have a love-hate relationship with phone cases.  I love the different looks and feel they can give your phone.  I hate that they make my phone bigger and cover up the beauty of my iPhone.  I have used many phone cases over the years.  In fact, some people (my wife) have accused me of having a phone case problem.  They (she) may be right.  I am always on the search for the perfect case.  The holy grail of phone cases that satisfies my every need (desire) in a phone case.  I have come to the conclusion, however, that such a phone case does not exist.  While my idea of a perfect phone case has changed and evolved over the years, as of right now, I have four basic desires when looking at phone cases, and they are as follows:

  1. Bulk. I don’t like cases that add a lot of bulk to my phone.  I like my slim, sleek iPhone and I would rather not turn it into a fat cow of a phone.  My only exception to this rule is when I am hunting Pokémon and need to sport a battery case.  Bulk is kind of unavoidable with those cases.
  2. Design.  My iPhone looks awesome, so the last thing I want to do is cover it up with an ugly case!  This one’s a no-brainer, but I have sometimes had to sacrifice on this point in order to better meet the other criteria.
  3. Protection. I spend a considerable amount of money on my iPhone, so of course I want to protect my investment.  A case that only serves to look good isn’t going to provide much, if any, protection.  Unfortunately, the more protection a case provides, usually results in more bulk.  So two of my criteria are working against each other.
  4. Grip.  I don’t like slick, hard phone cases that are prone to sliding out of my hands. To me that kind of defeats the purpose of having a case!

So in a nutshell, I’m looking for a case that provides good protection, isn’t bulky, provides some grip and looks good.  I think that’s probably what most people want in a case as well. (Unless you’re my daughter.  She only seems to care about number two.  But that’s for another blog post on another day.) Finding a case that meets all four criteria, however, can be a challenge.

I used to really like Otterbox cases as they provide some of the best protection you can get.  However, my tastes have changed a bit and I don’t care so much for the bulk they add to my phone.  I carry my phone in my pocket and Otterbox cases do not exactly work well for that, especially for bigger phones like the iPhone 6/7 and even more so for the iPhone 6/7 Plus models.  When I upgraded to the iPhone 6S from my 5S, I did not want to put an Otterbox on what was already a larger phone than I was used to carrying.  So, I began looking for a smaller form factor case that would still provide good protection. And that’s when I came across a company called Tech21.

Tech21 makes phone cases that are made from a flexible rubber material that provides excellent grip when holding your phone with one hand.  Inside the edges of the case is a material called FlexShock™ that I believe they invented (I could be wrong).  At any rate, this material is nothing short of magic.  I watched a YouTube video of a guy wrapping the silly-putty-like substance around his finger and smacking it with a hammer to demonstrate the shock-absorbance of the rubber.  I also watched a video review of the case on an iPhone 6 being dropped from a second-floor fire escape onto brick pavement and the phone was unscathed.  I was sold!

So I purchased one for my iPhone 6S and immediately loved it.  My phone still felt slim and sleek. It no longer felt like it was going to slide out of my hand, and, while the case was not the greatest color (brown), it looked better to me than an Otterbox.  Plus, I was happy to have found a case that satisfied three out of my four criteria!

Well, fast-forward a year and I just upgraded to the iPhone 7 Plus. Yes, I gave in and got the iPad mini of iPhones.  I found my self once again looking for a case, knowing that this phone was going to be even more difficult to fit in my pocket, let alone hold in one hand!  Naturally, I looked to see what Tech21 had in terms of 7 Plus cases, and was happy to find that they already had a line of cases ready to go for the 7 Plus.  And not only that, they now had more colors to choose from, including white, which I thought would go great with my gold and white iPhone.  So I purchased the Tech21 Evo Check iPhone case in white.

Now that I got all the boring background out of the way (sorry about that), we can move on to the what you started reading this for! I’ll break my review down into the same categories as my four criteria.

1. Bulk

One of the things I love about the case is that it is thin and lightweight.  It almost doesn’t feel like there’s a case on the phone.  My phone still feels thin and sleek.

2. Design

With the additional color choices, the case looks as great as it feels.  I’m often hesitant to get white iPhone cases as they usually don’t stay white for long, and then you have a dirty-looking phone case. Yuck.  But the white case I chose is actually clear rubber with the white being the FlexShock™ material underneath the clear along the edges. So the clear rubber protects the white from getting dirty and stained.  Plus, the clear back allows the gold design on my phone to show which I think looks really sharp. The case is also available in black and light pink.

3. Protection

As I’ve already stated, the FlexShock™ material lining the inside edges of this case provide excellent shock absorption so if you drop your phone, the impact shock is absorbed by the lining and not passed onto your phone.  I can’t attest to this personally as I have yet to drop the phone with this case on (see the next category). But if you’re curious, just search YouTube and you’ll find a plethora of videos of crazy people throwing their phones with Tech21 cases on them across rooms with tile floors, cement, etc. with no harm to their phones.  The edges of the case also provide a small lip around the front of the iPhone so you can lay it face down on a table or counter with no fear of the screen getting scratched.

4. Grip

The rubber material that the case is made from has a nice “grippy” feel too it.  Some complain that it can get greasy if you’re hands are sweaty or oily, and they’re correct. However, I’ve never had anything on the case that couldn’t be quickly and easily wiped off on my pants or shirt (don’t judge me).  The material provides great grip in your hands.  I can hold my iPhone 7 Plus in one hand with no sliding whatsoever.  I can even tilt the phone to more than 45 degrees without holding onto it and it doesn’t slide off my hand (see images below).

So for now, my search for the Holy Grail of phone cases is over. Measuring by my criteria, the Tech21 Evo Check phone case is, in my humble opinion, as close to the perfect phone case as you can get.  It’s the closest I’ve ever found, anyway.

Product Images:

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Phone Case Review: Tech21 Evo Check – Is it the Perfect Case?

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Reviewed

With the recent release of the newest iPhones, the iPhone 7 Plus is sporting dual cameras, one wide and one “telephoto” lens for bringing you a little closer to the action.  Taking advantage of the dual cameras, Apple announced that it was working on a “portrait” mode where the camera software would use the two lenses to determine depth in a photo and thereby create photos with blurred backgrounds, emulating the type of images you can get from a DSLR.  Being a photographer who also loves shooting awesome pics with my iPhone (at least I think they’re awesome, anyway!), I was very intrigued by this new feature.  Enough so that I pulled the trigger on switching to the larger form factor plus model of the iPhone 7.

This past week Apple released iOS 10.1 beta for developers and I was excited to see that it included the new portrait mode update.  My initial reaction to the first photos I snapped with it was one of shock at how well it worked.  The “fake” shallow depth of field looked pretty natural in most of the candid shots I took with it.  The first shot I took was of myself, blindly pointing the camera at my face and pushing the button.  When I turned the phone around and looked at the camera, I was shocked.  Shocked first of all that I actually framed the no-look selfie pretty well, but mostly that the image looked amazing!  The blurred background made my face pop out just like a DSLR shot would do. See the image below.

img_1434
First shot I took using the new “Portrait” mode on the iPhone 7 Plus

My mind was flooded with the possibilities this was going to open up.  As one who shoots photos with his iPhone a lot for social media and other uses, I am always looking for new tools to take the photos to the next level.  Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to render DSLRs useless.  I will not be using this to shoot portraits for my clients.  But as far as my hobby photography, this will definitely allow me to leave my bulky gear at home more often.  For instance, Friday night we went to a local high school football game.  I normally lug my camera gear along, but this time I left it at home and only took my iPhone.  Even though I didn’t have my DSLR, I was able to capture some really great images using the portrait mode.  Notice in the example below how the background is blurred out reducing distraction and making the subjects in the photo pop out. The blurring is not perfect around all the edges, but you have to look pretty hard to see the imperfections.

 

Processed with Snapseed.
Candid photo shot using iPhone 7 Plus “Portrait” mode

 

But I did wonder just how well this would perform on a photoshoot, so I convinced my wife to go out with me on a photo shoot.  She’s been my photo subject for many a photo shoot, but this was the first time I left my DSLR at home.  In the end, my belief that this would not replace DSLRs was confirmed, but also confirmed was my belief that this would allow me to leave my heavy gear behind more often.

iPhone 7 Plus on a Photo Shoot

Limitation 1: Speed
The camera in portrait mode performed well all in all, but it did have limitations.  The first limitation I noticed was that it’s not the fastest at taking successive shots.  Each shot takes a few seconds for the processing to complete and save the image, thereby limiting how quickly you can fire off shots.  As my wife was moving and changing her poses, I often missed great shots because the phone wasn’t ready to take another shot yet.  This is not a problem with a DLSR as they can fire off many shots per second to get those split-second moments that pass by.

Limitation 2: Distance
The second limitation I immediately noticed was the distance you are limited to.  You can’t be too close to the subject (about 2 feet) and the subject needs to be within 8 feet.  So that leaves about 6 feet of “wiggle room”.  I found it difficult to be able to get back far enough to take full-body shots as it uses the longer of the two lenses.  I could get far enough away to get mid-calf-up shots though.  But this is understandable, as the effect is pretty minimal when you get that far away from the subject, so I can’t really fault it for that.  But it is another reason that this feature will never replace a DSLR.

Example Images From Test Photoshoot

In the end I did manage to get some pretty publish-worthy photos using just my iPhone, which you can see below.  Again, the blur effect is not perfect along edges (especially hard edges) and you often get a bit of a halo around the subject.  But, unless you’re looking for it or zoom into 100%, you’re not going to notice it.  I did edit the photos for color, but all edits were done on my iPhone using Snapseed.  Click on each image to see a larger version.

In conclusion, I have to say I am very pleased with the performance of the new camera on my new iPhone 7 Plus and even more so with the new portrait mode.  DSLR killer? No.  Great addition to my always-on-me camera? A resounding YES!

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode Reviewed

Apple Watch! Initial thoughts…

IMG_4555Ever since I was a young man of 10 or 11 years old, I’ve had a fascination for watches that do more than just tell the time. My first watch was a simple Casio that had two buttons. The display showed the time, but if you pressed one of the buttons it would change to show you the seconds. Another press showed you what time the alarm was set for. It was a technological marvel!

And then my dad got me and my brothers each a Casio calculator watch. Mind. Blown.  I could do math on my wrist! And not only that, it had a simple race car game where the display became four lanes of traffic viewed from the top and you moved you race car back and forth between the lanes to avoid oncoming traffic. That simple game became an obsession of sorts for us. We were all three playing it constantly trying to beat each other’s (and our own) high scores (keep in mind this was before Nintendo even exisited…gasp!). We played it so much that we all wore out the two buttons on the watch that you used to move the car back and forth in the game!

I never really realized it until now, but that watch created in me a fascination with “smart watches”.  Never again did I own a watch that simply told me the time. Over the years I would spend hours studying digital watches in stores seeing what features each one had. How many stopwatches, timers, or other features they offered. I once had a watch that could store up to 50 phone numbers in it. Then I got a watch that, when taken off my wrist and strapped into a cradle on my bicycle, became my speedometer/bike computer. It would track my speed as well as my cadence.

Last year I took the biggest leap to date when I purchased a Pebble smart watch. I was instantly in love with it. Notifications and text messages from my iPhone now came to my wrist along with sports scores, the weather, and other tidbits of information. Amazing! Soon, I found myself wishing I could reply to those messages from the watch itself, and, for a short time while my iPhone was jailbroken, I could. Simple, pre-programmed responses, but I could reply all the same.

Then came the Apple Watch event announcing the new Apple Watch models. I was impressed, but wasn’t sure if I would be spending the money to upgrade from my Pebble just yet. Well, fast-forward to April 10 and I was awake at 2 a.m. awaiting the Apple store to come online so I could pre-order my 42mm Space Gray Apple Watch Sport Edition. Then the waiting game. I was given a May 13-27 delivery window (much to my dismay) and my watch was finally delivered on May 19, a little over a week ago.

First Impressions

I had tortured myself while I awaited my watch’s arrival by watching Youtube video after video of people unboxing, using and reviewing their Apple watches. So, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect when I opened mine and used it for the first time. I will say I was surprised at the weight of the box, even though I heard many people comment about it. I was also surprised to find that it was smaller than I had imagined it would be. It wasn’t the monstrosity on my wrist that I had been afraid it would be. I had also been worried that the screen would not be very responsive as I seemed to see person after person having to tap multiple times on their screens to get a button to recognize their tap. While I do have to tap a second time occasionally, it is not very often and the screen is very responsive in my experience. Some have complained about the watch’s appearance, but I personally think it’s a very good-looking watch. Definitely the best looking watch I’ve ever worn. I’ve grown accustomed to having watches with a lot of utility looking very, well, utilitarian. Bulky, blocky. Not elegant. But the Apple watch is not bulky or blocky and is indeed very elegant. Again, that is my opinion and I’m speaking as one that just came from a Pebble which is definitely more bulky and blocky than the Apple watch.

Battery Life

Yes you have to charge it every day, but this issue was grossly over-blown. Each night I put my watch on the charger on my nightstand while my wife and I watch one of our shows on Hulu or Netflix in our bedroom. By the time the show is over my watch is 100% charged since it is usually still around 40-50% when I put it on the charger. Then I wear the watch while I sleep because I like to have a watch on at night. As an added benefit I love being able to see what my heart rate is while I sleep! Then, in the morning the battery is usually down to about 90% so I place it on the charger while I get ready for work. It’s always at 100% by the time I leave for the day. So all the critics that say you can’t wear it for sleep tracking are simply wrong.

Conclusion

I’m not going to write a full review of all the features of the watch, mainly because there are already a plethora of reviews out there that give an in-depth rundown of all its features. But I do want to add my voice to the many critics and nay-sayers that don’t see the point of the watch. I knew before I even bought the watch that I would love it. How could I possibly know that, you ask? Because I loved my Pebble and in everything I viewed or read about the Apple watch one thing was clear to me: it would do everything the Pebble did and more, and it would do it better, with the exception of battery life.

It seems to me that every critic of the watch is expecting it to be something it was not intended to be. It’s kind of like giving a bluetooth headset a negative review because it won’t clean your floors. It’s kind of ridiculous.

And as far as third-party apps being terrible, I would agree. But that’s going to change, and very soon. Once developers are able to create native apps and they are made available to users this fall that criticism will in all likelihood be moot.

In short, the Apple watch is amazing and it’s only going to get better.

Apple Watch! Initial thoughts…

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

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?