All Posts By Lisa Caplan
Mother’s Day means so many different things to so many different people that it’s hard to create a list of just four apps for the occasion. There are great gifts to purchase right from iTunes and the App Store, and tons of apps to help you find the right present. But we decided to keep the focus on free or inexpensive apps that will make moms feel special this Sunday and leave them with more than a memory to treasure all year long.
There are a ton of special-for-Mother’s-Day e-card apps, but once sent and received, they tend to be filed away no matter how much sentimental value they hold, like real cards. Slow Message offers an alternative to make mom happy year round. The app allows users to write emails and arrange to have them sent out in daily, weekly, or monthly intervals. While the app doesn’t have card templates, it’s a wonderful way to keep the love flowing even when life’s so busy there’s hardly time for a text message. And while we’re using it, we can set up annual birthday and anniversary emails too.
Released: 2012-01-20 :: Category: Utilities
A phone call or card is wonderful, but nothing beats seeing your children’s faces, especially when they are away from home. And while many moms are tech savvy and iOS ready, some older mothers and grandmothers still find new technologies overwhelming and lots of geek-moms use non-iOS devices. Since almost everyone has access to some sort of mobile or desktop computer with a camera, Skype is the perfect cross-platform app for catching up and sharing events. And, if your mom is one of the sort who isn’t techy, spend the time teaching her how to set up and use it as a time to bond.
Released: 2009-03-31 :: Category: Social Networking
Released: 2011-08-02 :: Category: Social Networking
Fotopedia – Women of the World
What better way to show mom that you appreciate everything she does and everything she is than by celebrating the beauty of womanhood with her? Oliver Martel’s free collection of photographs of women from – you guessed it – all around the world is full of stunning images that celebrate every facet – modern and traditional – of being part of the fairer sex. The app has a wonderful permanent collection and a series of changing photo stories that commemorate different cultures, occupations, rites of passage and of course, lots of photos of mothers.
Released: 2012-02-08 :: Category: Travel
iPad Newstand Subscriptions
Looking for something more tangible? Does your mom have an iPad? If so, one of the best gift ideas – one that keeps on giving and doesn’t cost too much – is a newspaper or magazine subscription. There is something on Newsstand for almost every mom. The New York Times has a section for every interest, and if that’s too pricey or not her style some other great choices include:
- Parents Magazine
- The Economist
- Bon Appetit
- The New Yorker
- Vanity Fair
- Good Housekeeping
- PC Magazine
Happy Mother’s Day!
Taptu, the self-proclaimed DJ of news aggregators, offers a blend of RSS feeds and social network feeds into what they call a social news stream. The already a popular iPhone and iPad app just had a major overhaul with the release of version 2.1.
The biggest change is to the interface; the app now displays articles as stacks of cards arranged by category. The introduction of search streams that allow users to turn any keyword into its own news feed is also very cool.
In addition, users no longer need a Taptu account to have cross-device account syncing. Logging in with Google, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn will do the trick instead. There is now support for Spanish, French and German and Readability integration – a particularly nice touch.
The only trouble seems to be with the apparent Retina display support for the 3rd generation iPad. While Taptu claims it’s fully upgraded, users report it’s anything but. Everything looks fine on 4th generation iPhones and the iPad 2, but on the newest Apple tablets the text is apparently blurry and hard to read. The developers seem dedicated to the long-term success of the cross-platform service, however, so we hope and expect this will be remedied in an update soon.
There is a new app/accessory hybrid for card gamers that is changing the rules. Or at least it aims to. Bicycle Jacked Up! Interactive Card Games gives traditional cards a very 21st century twist.
The special playing cards made by the well-known Bicycle brand are available at most major retailers or can be purchased directly from their web site. Right now card lovers can buy War, Solitaire or Hearts for around six dollars each, and the cards come with a special iPhone stand. When used with the iPhone or iPad app, Jack the Joker hosts a multi-media “adventure” that adds both comedy and gameplay variations to the classics along with live card games. We love the way the app switches up the rules of these familiar games to add variety and replay value.
Don’t have the special cards yet? The apps can also be used to keep and share scores for several players at once. If you grab a deck, be sure to let us know what you think in the comments.
Released: 2012-04-26 :: Category: Games
SEGA’s Super Monkey Ball franchise was just past its iOS popularity apex when they launched Super Monkey Ball 2: (Sakura Edition) in April 2010 as a universal game on the heels of the launch of the original iPad. The classic tilt-controlled platformer, however, sat untouched after that until last Christmas when it received it’s iOS 5 makeover. Now SEGA has updated the game again adding a new multiplayer option.
Players can compete against up to three friends via Game Center, each playing a different character: AiAi, MeeMee, Baby, or my favorite, GonGon. It’s a quick race to the finish line with the option to pick the level. Random matching is also available, but the wait can be over five minutes to find a single partner.
The new mode is welcome and may help revive Super Monkey Ball 2, but what doesn’t appear updated are the graphics. Here’s hoping for Retina display graphics in a new update soon.
It was a banner week for hit game updates last week and EA and Firemint were in the thick of it with version 1.1.0 of their cat and mouse puzzler SPY Mouse and SPY Mouse HD.
Intrepid Agent Squeak has uncovered a new volcano world. And this new world isn’t just more of the same with a new background. Along with 11 new levels and three new goals come new evil Jungle Cats who throw poison darts. There are also new obstacles like lava pits and fireballs and new power-ups to help complete the challenges.
Also look for Digger the Dog’s new shop where players can load up on power ups, and while Origins, Electronic Arts cross-platform gaming network is still prominent, there is more Game Center integration as well, with achievements now where most iOS gamers tend to look.
This path tracing brainteaser continues to shine as one of the best on iOS so if one already owns it, be sure to update and if not, now’s the time to pick SPY Mouse up.
Released: 2011-08-25 :: Category: Games
There is a new Kickstarter project, Brydge, by Brad Leong that will come close to converting an iPad into a notebook with a hinged aluminum case and Bluetooth keyboard that looks a lot like a Macbook.
What makes the Brydge so special when compared to the various other folio keyboard combos out there, is the stunning design that borrows so much from Apple. Seriously, this ought to have been designed in Cupertino. It sports aerospace-grade aluminum, and has a MacBook-style keyboard. Two models are slated for an October 2012 debut, one with speakers, one without. So far the project is a roaring success. At the time of this writing, about midway through the project’s launch day, it had 650 backers and had already raised $136,070 well above it’s $90,000 goal.
Check out the video. If anyone wants in, pledge levels start at as $150 and secure the indie-investor early access to the Brydge when it is ready to ship.
Many iTunes users with messy music collections are familiar with the TuneUp plug-in. It cleans up a music collection by filling in missing information, providing missing cover art, and as of a recent update, even removes duplicate songs. Their new mobile app offers some of that technology for the iPhone music collection, but, surprisingly, that’s not the app’s purpose.
TuneUp Mobile instead takes on Shazam and Soundhound by identifying music tracks after hearing only a snippet. It works well, but as TechCrunch reports, the primary difference between this new app and the established players is that TuneÚp Mobile is, as yet, unmonetized. That means it’s free to download and has no ads or in-app purchases. All the features are unlocked.
CEO and founder of TuneUp Media Gabe Adiv says he’s “not concerned with monetization of the mobile app right now,” but the app itself functions as an advert for the desktop product in that it identifies songs in a collection in need of a “tune-up” via the same diagnostic tools, but doesn’t actually fix the problems.
Along with song identification and diagnostics, TuneUp Mobile allows sharing to Facebook and Twitter, provides song lyrics and links to iTunes for song purchases. We’re hoping for a universal build in an update soon.
I can’t count the number of times I have had the iCade – the retrofied arcade control cabinet with a real eight-point joystick and eight real buttons – in a physical or virtual shopping cart and put it back because the compatible games list just didn’t warrant the hundred dollar investment. Well, I’m still holding out for Ms. Pac Man, but thanks to Warner Bros Interactive, the next time I’m squandering money and tempted by the flashback accessory, I just may keep it. Why? Because Midway Arcade, with it’s catalog of killer classic games like Joust, Spy Hunter, Defender and a true favortie of mine, RootBeer Tapper, is now iCade compatible too.
The app was already treat for anyone who spent hours and rolls of quarters in arcades as a kid. Players wander through a virtual showroom with classic cabinet games – all played in portrait mode which is ideal for the original iCade with the groovy casing. There are also four table top games including air hockey and pool and even a juke box to complete the late 70’s -early 80’s vibe. In fact, Midway is my favorite of all the classic collections on iOS because of its immersive design. But like Atari’s Greatest Hits, the first iCade compatible classics collection, these iconic titles just beg for physical controls. Now they have them.
On top of the generous content that comes with the $.99 download, Midway Arcade offers two $.99 in-app purchases to unlock fantasy and action three-game packs. Midway Arcade’s realistic setting is ideally suited to the iCade’s original design, but of course the app also works with the newer iCade models like the iCade Core as well.
One of three non-Apple apps, and the only game, showcased at the unveiling of the 3rd generation iPad, NAMCO BANDAI’s Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy impresses hard-core and more casual gamers with incredible console-quality graphics and intense aerial action. Last week the first update was rolled out, packed with goodies for fans and reasons to entice new players to pick up this sleek air combat title.
We raved about the multiplayer options when we first reviewed Air Supremacy and now it’s been expanded to 10 online players up from eight. There are also three new playable planes and 17 new achievements. There are head-to-head matches against friends via Game Center and a rematch option for online multiplayer games. If one owns an earlier title in the franchise, Sky Gamblers: Rise of Glory, one new aircraft is unlocked with this update, along with some minor enhancements and bug fixes.
The game has been wowing users and critics alike, not only with console-like visuals but with amazing gameplay and lots of small touches that make this one of the most immersive experiences on iPhone or iPad. If one’s looking to the future of iOS gaming it’s definitely the time to take Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy for a test flight.
It was Earth Day this past Sunday, so what better time to check out the second in the Painting with Time app series: Climate Change. The app has 17 pre-set images of geographical regions that have been severely impacted by global warming. If one has any reservations about the veracity of Earth’s rising temperatures going in, toying with this app should lay them to rest.
Each image first appears as a tracing. Users then pick one of eight brushes or pre-cut segments, but instead of painting with tubes of color, we brush on the effects of time. The consequences are jaw dropping. The app uses high quality photographs of each locale from two time periods. Some are decades apart, others like the Mississippi River only a year. Users can uncover the overlapping views one at a time by filling in the canvas quickly with broad strokes to compare, or get creative and paint or break up the image artfully. Each photo comes with information on the region and the impact climate change is having there. There is even a multi-media presentation on the issue in general.
For those who don’t want to be lectured, and prefer to see evidence with their own eyes, Painting with Time: Climate Change is perfect. For believers and even activists, it provides a useful teaching and display tool.
For those in the US shopping around for the best carrier, a Boston-based start-up, SwayMarkets, launched an app late last week that serves up data that AT&T, Verizon and Sprint usually keep obfuscated. CarrierCompare has received a lot of media attention, but users and critics have mixed reactions.
The app itself is easy to use and provides useful information for finding the carrier with the best coverage right where users actually use their iOS devices. The trouble, according to CNN Money, is the way the app gets its data. Dave Goldman explains:
Here’s the catch: The app is only as good as its crowd-sourced data. SwayMarkets has a starting data set pulled in from its previously released NetSnaps app, but CarrierCompare will only become really useful if a critical mass of people adopt it.
Another more recent issue that’s hurting CarrierCompare is the removal of one of the three key metrics – Signal Strength – leaving only Response and Speed measurements. Users are not happy, and SwayMarkets explanation is confusing. In the App Store they state:
This update removes the ability to measure signal strength as one of the metrics we use to compare carriers. Luckily, when compared to our other measurements, signal strength has the smallest impact on the quality of your data service. We are actively working to find a way to bring this feature back in the future. If it is important to you, please let us know by emailing us from CarrierCompare or our website.
But on their website (on a page that looks bizarrely, if not deceptively, like a page from Wikipedia) they politely blame Apple and urge users to take up their cause by leaving comments about the app:
We had to remove signal strength in order to remain in compliance with our developer agreement with Apple and avoid having our apps removed from the App Store entirely. Apple has been very cooperative through this process, and we are pursuing ways of bringing signal strength back in the future. … However, we recognize that signal strength is an important metric for comparing voice quality, so we encourage you to mention it in your reviews and emails to us – it can only help raise awareness.
Some users report the app crashes or doesn’t work, but Philip Elmer-DeWitt in his article for CNN Money had no issues with his testing in Brooklyn. The app is free of charge and ad free so if you give it a test run, let us know what you think.
Zinio has long been a serious player in digital magazines distribution, on and off iOS. Zinio first appeared on the App Store in April 2010, but offered digital magazines on its website well before that. Zinio’s iOS app updated recently and is now optimized for the new iPad’s retina display. With a vast catalog of first and second tier magazines and with periodicals available across various mobile and PC platforms, Zinio is proving they can stay competitive. Download speed has also been improved considerably in this update.
The quality of individual digital magazines is always dependant on the publishers, not Zinio or any distributors. Some magazines look like what they are – prettified PDF’s. But, when magazines like National Geographic take advantage of all the interactivity, particularly now with the crisper text and images, the reading experience parallels any on Apple’s Newsstand where many magazines have yet to be updated for the enhanced display.
Zinio’s update shows the company’s continued dedication to iOS as a platform. Until Apple can bring in more partners like Rolling Stone and somehow urge or compel all iOS native magazine publishers to support its best and newest features – a slow process considering major publications like Time Magazine, The Nation and The Atlantic have yet to adopt Newsstand, much less adapt to the latest iPad’s specs – Zinio should continue to hold their market share and possibly even see it grow.
Telltale Games episodic point and click adventure series, Law and Order: Legacies came to a close with last week’s release of episode seven: “Resolution.” The game, which features fan-favorite cast members from various eras of both Law and Order and SVU follows the show’s format of splitting the roughly hour’s worth of gameplay in each episode between crime solving and courtroom action, with lots of Dick Wolf-esque cut scenes.
In keeping with the show’s based-on-real-events formula the “epic conclusion” opens with a businessman pushed to his death off of a New York bridge during an Occupy Wall Street protest. There’s a suicide note, lots of red herrings, and the finale ties the previous episodes together.
The first instalment was included with the initial purchase price of $2.99 with subsequent chapters available through in-app purchases of $2.99 each. Now to celebrate the conclusion the first episode is available as a free app download and the complete set of six additional chapters is available for a one-time $12.99 IAP.
If one’s been playing they won’t want to miss how it all wraps up, and if one is a fan of the TV shows but unfamiliar with the game, this is the best and most affordable time to jump into the crime solving drama. And, we’ll all have to wait and see if the franchise is popular enough to warrant a season two.
According to AllThingsD, iPhoto for iOS passed the one million download mark last week. That’s quite an impressive figure, particularly when it implies Apple has earned more than five million dollars from the app in less than a two week period.
Apple released the final piece of its popular iLife suite of user-friendly creative apps at the Apple Event in San Francisco early this Month where the new iPad was unveiled.
Critics – like our own Kevin Stout in his review – quickly noted the app’s simple interface that offers moderately advanced editing features in a way best suited to the multi-touch screen and gesture controls. It also seems that users agree that at $4.99 for a universal build of a photo app that can beam pictures from device to device, create web-hosted photo journals, and touch up photos with simple sliders and brush-on effects is a winner too.
Here’s hoping that theses results motivate to the folks in Cupertino to apply the winning formula to all their software. Then at the next iPad launch we can dream of an Aperture app to compete with Photoshop Touch and to seeing other professional-grade Apple software adapted to their mobile platforms with the prices adjusted accordingly.
Kid-lit publisher Oceanhouse Media may not be a household name, but the catalog of children’s books they own the rights to are. They include, amongst others, Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys series, the beloved Berenstain Bears and, most notably, the collected works of Dr. Seuss. The universal apps are minimally digitized, focusing on the words, illustrations and learn-to-read features.
Last week they announced a second collection of Seuss titles, five in all, in a single package priced at $11.99. The Dr. Seuss Beginner Book Collection #2 contains:
- Green Eggs and Ham
- Dr. Seuss’s ABC
- The Cat in the Hat Comes Back
- There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!
- Hop on Pop
They also released a lesser known title, The Shape of Me and Other Stuff, in which the guru of children’s literature waxes nonsensically poetic on “The shape of you the shape of me the shape of everything I see . . . a bug . . . a balloon, a bed, a bike. No shapes are ever quite alike.” The app is currently on sale for $1.99.
For young readers – and their parents – the new collection offers a great savings on classic Seuss titles, and the new release is ideal for pre-readers to enjoy.
Released: 2012-03-21 :: Category: Books
First published in 1940 by Dorothy Kunhardt the touch-and-feel board book, Pat the Bunny is a nursery library staple. On April first Random House, publishers of the Pat the Bunny book app, are releasing an update to the beloved classic. It will be free for those who own the app, and a seasonal incentive for parents to get the award-winner for their kids as their parents may have shared the classic print version with them.
Aimed at toddlers through pre-schoolers the universal digibook already features 14 interactive pages with tons to touch and swipe as little ones play hide and seek with the bunny. There is a fun paint mode, and on devices with front facing cameras kids can see their own reflection, like in a book with a tinfoil mirror. The app has everything except the soft patches of fur.
Soon kids will see an Easter themed design and be able to join an Easter egg hunt. Once located, the eggs will yield surprises that should delight the youngest iOS users. The update will be available for a limited time only, so if there is a household with cute and chubby fingers that is without a copy this would be a good time to get it, and if it’s already a favorite don’t forget to watch for the update on the App Store to enjoy the holiday treat.
If ones uses a capacitive stylus on their iOS device – those pseudo-pens that are great for handwriting, sketching, typing, and just tapping – the name Ten One Design may not be familiar but it’s very likely they’ve come across their Pogo stylus line.
This month the iOS accessories company released news that should make iPad artists and note-takers smile. Temporarily dubbed the Blue Tiger Stylus, it’s something completely different. It uses Bluetooth 4.0 to pair with the iPad, particularly the new one. The result is direct input not from the screen, but from another gadget, which allows for much more user control.
The Blue Tiger won’t simulate pressure; it will react to it with genuine sensitivity and be better than traditional styluses (styli?) at distinguishing between intended strokes and palm prints. The killer feature is best described by Ten One founder Peter Skinner: “When using Blue Tiger in a drawing application, the user can control stroke thickness … which is displayed on the multi-colored LED button.” There’s no word on a release date or price, but if it’s durable it will be well worth paying a premium for, as it should outlast traditional styluses with inflated rubbery nibs.
NewBlue Inc. a video technology company, re-launched an app that, if it works as well as it shows in the demo video, will allow users to get some amazing looking video editing results with no special skills. Vibop 2.0, a complete reimagining of the now defunct first version, hopes to do for for iPhone videographers what Instagram has for iOS photographers. That is, make adding really neat effects effortless and incorporate social network sharing to the utmost.
Using existing footage or that shot for a Vibop project on the fly, users can add professional-grade sounds, intros and mix and match any of the nine included themes: Silent Film, Super 8, Comic Book, Love Note, Tech Talk, Beatz, Postcard, and one theme that makes the app a potential standout, the custom Twitter theme. This feature uses a company’s (or person’s) personalized Twitter profile to create a unique branded video. Additional effects will be available for in-app purchase.
Once the project is completed the social networking component kicks in with integrated one-tap posting to YouTube of course, along with Facebook and Twitter. The templates and examples suggest the app is not intended for making full-length movies, but rather sending video postcards with some Hollywood flair. A direct-to-YouTube desktop version of Vibop is also available.
In their press release announcing the new app, NewBlue co-founder, Todor Fay explains “anyone can capture and share video – but the magic is what happens in between. The Vibop 2.0 app allows people to showcase their creativity and make a statement, democratizing mobile video with fun and easy-to-use tools.” We can’t wait to give this a test-drive but if you get to it first, be sure to tell us what you think in the comments.