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App Store Fifth Anniversary: Ten Fantastic, Landmark Apps for iOS

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on July 8th, 2013

The App Store turns five this week, and we'll be taking a long look back at this disruptive force in the way we use our mobile devices. Back in 2008, when the App Store launched, we had no idea how far it would come in such a short time, but hindsight is a good thing.

During that time, there have been a ton of apps that changed and improved the state of the art. Here, then, are ten that we think really matter, apps that had an effect on our lives, even now. Apps that changed the landscape of what we expected from a mobile device, and gave us new ways of interacting, sharing, and understanding our world.


The grandaddy of social image sharing, Instagram created, with an ease of use and pretty image filters, a whole new social network based on images. In an era of Facebook (who eventually bought the service) and Twitter, that was no small feat.


While derided as a possible porn-chat app, Snapchat took a single idea and refined it to a razor's edge: take a picture, caption it, and share with your friends. Then, zen-like, that picture disappears. The hidden potential in this app caught on with young and old alike, changing the way we communicated with pictures. Without an archive, Snapchat lets users freely share what they might not otherwise.


Here's an app that allows anyone on any platform to exchange messages with anyone else on any other platform. In a world where you're just as likely to have friends using Android or Blackberry as iOS, this was a revelation. Many other apps tried something similar, but Whatsapp has the userbase and an easy to use, intuitive app that brought it to the forefront. Now we can stay in touch with all our friends and family, regardless of platform, for free.


The photographer's photography app, Camera+ fairly invented iPhoneography, letting iPhone users capture and edit better photos than the built in app with ease. Since its launch, the app has kept pace with upgrades in technology and the camera lenses in each iteration of iPhone, empowering real photographers and talented amateurs alike. Heck, they even pioneered using the volume button as a shutter release, until Apple shut that down, only to use it in the built-in Camera app.


Before Google Drive, before iCloud, there was Dropbox, a service that mirrors your documents across computers with a simple, unified login. The Dropbox app on the iPhone took the same, intuitive simplicity and allowed us all to access and edit the same documents on the go as easily as doing so on our Macs and PCs.


Take notes, save pictures, record audio, bookmark websites. Do this on any device you own: Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android. Evernote has become the de facto standard for network-connected note taking, and much more. You can use this app to write a shopping list on your computer, and then pull it up on your iPhone while at the store. You can collaborate with others on documents, sharing notes and notebooks with ease.


Ever been in the car when a song comes up on the radio and you just can't remember the artist that performed it? Hold your iPhone up, launch Shazam, and let the app magically recognize the music, returning the artist name, album, and easy-purchase buttons for the iTunes store. Newer features include movie preview recognition with links to more information, and television ads that, when recognized, provide links to vendor websites. It's magical technology at its best.


Marco Arment created Instapaper as a basic web app, single handedly creating the "read it later" market that many other apps now compete for. Arment started the service in 2008, built the iPhone app himself, and saw the service grow far beyond his initial vision. He's subsequently sold the app to another company, who promise to maintain and improve it as we continue forward.


Waze was one of the first social mapping and traffic app, allowing users to share road conditions with each other while on the go. It may be one of the most unappreciated apps on this list, but it continues to serve a loyal and vocal user base, providing real-time help from users to help us all plan the best route possible.


The check-in craze started here, with Foursquare. Becoming the mayor of a location, along with various gamification features, provided a stickiness not seen before the apps release. Even with privacy concerns dogging its every step, Foursquare has managed to remain in the public imagination as the way to let our friends know where we are at any given time.


RSS is great, as are Twitter and Facebook feeds. But what we really want is a place to see all of those things at once, published in a slick, easy to use layout. Enter Flipboard, still the best darn social news reader around. It makes the various web sites and social feeds we all rely on much prettier and interesting to look at, letting us keep up to date without having to dip into several different apps to do so.


Founded as a streaming internet radio service on the web, Pandora made the transition to iOS brilliantly, becoming a force to reckon with in the competitive streaming music market, as well as a household name known by one and all. While other services continue to chip away at the venerable service, offering on-demand music access, Pandora continues to be the music access app of choice on iOS devices everywhere.


Can't decide where to eat? Shake your iPhone and Urbanspoon will randomly choose a restaurant nearby that matches your criteria of price, cuisine, and distance. Released in August of 2008, Urbanspoon was the first app on the App Store to combine GPS location data with a database of local dining and drinking establishments, creating a loyal community that reviewed meals, restaurants, and service for other users.

Write for iPad Review

By Angela LaFollette on July 8th, 2013
There's plenty to love about this text editing and note taking app such as device sharing, gesture shortcuts and a quick keyboard toolbar.
Read The Full Review »

How To: Transfer Files to and From Your iOS Device

Posted by Carter Dotson on May 28th, 2013

An iOS device, just by itself, is capable of many things but file handling is not one of them. Thankfully, there are ways to get files from one’s computer to an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch with or without a cable. Here are two of the best ways to transfer files to and from your iOS device.


The great thing about Dropbox is that it syncs up very easily with multiple devices. Apps are available for every major platform, but the most convenient thing is that it’s possible to set it up on a computer where Dropbox folders work just like local storage. This way, files can be saved to Dropbox folders and made available easily wherever Dropbox access is available. There’s also access for uploading and downloading files through the web browser for those who just need quick access or can’t install the app for computers.

Don’t worry, files in Dropbox aren’t just stuck in Dropbox’s app. It’s possible to open files in compatible apps. Just tap the arrow in the upper-right corner, tap Open In… and choose the appropriate app. This way, PDFs can be signed in DocuSign Ink, or text files opened in Byword, for example.

Those who prefer a Google bent to their cloud storage might want to check out Google Drive - it provides much of the same functionality.

GoodReaderfor iPad and iPhone

The beauty of GoodReader is that when it comes to storing and handling local files, no app beats it. Most any file can be opened up in it at least for storage, if not viewing and using in some fashion. Of course, if the app just existed by itself, it’d be useless. Thankfully, getting files to and from GoodReader is a breeze. You can link up a cloud storage service like Dropbox, add in an FTP server, or even SMB/AFP servers for getting files to and from computers with shared folders.

As well, tap the wifi icon in the app to enable wifi transfer mode, where connecting to the given URL through a web browser will allow you to download and upload files. As well, the app supports transferring files through iTunes’ file sharing.

Sadly, just using one’s iOS device as a USB storage device is difficult without the use of outside programs like i-FunBox installed on every computer, which of course kind of beats the point of having a USB storage device. It may be possible through jailbreak utilities, but jailbreaking is more trouble than it’s worth. Have any other useful ways for transferring files? Let us know in the comments.

Heliog Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Carter Dotson on April 26th, 2013
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: PICTURE THIS?
Heliog is a photography-focused Dropbox app that could use a few improvements to make it a must-have for photography enthusiasts.
Read The Full Review »

Get All your iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive Stuff In One Pace With Documents.me

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on January 16th, 2013
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Got a slew of documents and other media across all those different cloud systems, like Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and even email? Documents.me hopes to alleviate the stress of remembering which system the file you want is stored in by aggregating it all into one app, available for iOS devices as well as Mac and PC.

Documents.Me increases productivity by allowing users to search for a file or browse all of their files or file content from public or private clouds right from their mobile device. It also offers offline access to users’ files and folders as well as downloaded files. Additionally, Documents.Me employs strict security and control measures to keep personal and company documents safe. Documents.Me works on WIFI, 3G and 4G networks.

1Password 4 Updates In The App Store With iCloud, Dropbox, Secure Browser Support

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on December 13th, 2012
+ Universal & Apple Watch App - Designed for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: PASSWORD PERFECTION :: Read Review »

Popular password manager 1Password updated today to version 4.0.2, bringing iCloud and Dropbox support, a secure browser, and a Universal app. Purchase it for 50 percent off the normal price today, and install it on all your iOS devices to create and manage passwords, website browsing, and secure data.

Every day there are new passwords to remember. They are often forgotten. Using weak passwords or re-using them makes it easy to remember, but criminals love it when you do this. 1Password solves all these problems.

✓ Generate strong, unique passwords for every site
✓ Protect your data behind a single Master Password
✓ Secure with military grade 256-bit AES encryption
✓ Cryptographic operations use standard iOS libraries to ensure no security gaps or backdoors
✓ Auto-Lock keeps your data protected even if your device is lost or stolen

BoxCrane Review

iPad App - Designed for iPad
By Michael Halloran on September 25th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: USABILITY FOR A PRICE
BoxCrane is a a replacement Dropbox app with many useful features that give users better control over their files on the go.
Read The Full Review »

Price Drop: iA Writer, iCloud Synced Text Editor on Sale for $0.99

Posted by Jeff Scott on August 15th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: FOCUSED TEXT EDITING :: Read Review »

One of the better iCloud or Dropbox synced text editor, and the one that I use is on sale for $0.99 for the Universal version. It's a great app for keeping text documents synced over iCloud or Dropbox on the iPhone, iPad, and OS X desktop. Highly recommended.

iStorage Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Jennifer Allen on June 16th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: FLEXIBLE
A powerful file management tool that lacks a user-friendly touch.
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SignMyPad Review

By Angela LaFollette on April 23rd, 2012
SignMyPad allows users to sign, save and send PDF files directly on their iPad.
Read The Full Review »

CloudPhotos Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Kevin Stout on April 19th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: HAS POTENTIAL
CloudPhotos is a photo management and camera app that uses Dropbox for its cloud service.
Read The Full Review »

Byword Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Jennifer Allen on March 20th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PURE
An ideal authoring app for those that need both plain text writing functionality and markdown facilities.
Read The Full Review »

Appigo's Notebook App Comes To iPad And Adds DropBox

Posted by Greg Dawson on January 25th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED :: Read Review »

Originally designed for the iPhone, Appigo's Notebook app has gone through a major update and is now a universal app designed to play nicely with the iPad as well. The productivity app is well known for offering a simple user interface and solid feature set to create, share and edit notes. The new 2.0 version is now optimized for Dropbox syncing, which allows the user to share notes on all iOS devices as well as Mac and PC platforms. In addition to sharing between the user's devices, this new support makes sharing with friends, family or colleagues even easier.

The update plays off the company's thought that adding a powerful collaboration tool was necessary for its users. The new version adds a familiar notebook interface with full-screen editing capabilities and overall the update seems to be a cost effective productivity tool for users with multiple iOS devices. The notes are saved in standard text format and is compatible with PC and Mac text editing applications. Notebook is available on the iTunes App Store for $4.99.

Coaxion Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Keri Honea on January 12th, 2012
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: MUST-HAVE FOR COLLABORATION
How great would it be to be able to collaborate with coworkers outside of the office using Dropbox and Box.net without giving them personal access to your clouds?
Read The Full Review »

Favorite Four: Text Editors

Posted by Carter Dotson on December 7th, 2011

As a writer and iPad owner, I'm always looking for ways to use my iPad to write effectively. I do not need complex word processing software for my work - I just need simple plaintext editors that can sync with Dropbox, as I need a way to get my text on to an actual computer! Wordpress is still a pain to use effectively on mobile, though an app like Blogsy helps out tremendously. Here are my favorite 4 solutions for cloud-based text editing on iOS.

iA Writer: This text editor's greatest strength is its simplicity: pretty much the only setting that needs to be configured is Dropbox syncing, because it's the only setting. Files can be saved anywhere on Dropbox, and there's even iCloud support, which works with the Mac version of the software. The focus mode makes it much easier to just type without distraction, and the additional controls above the software keyboard make typing and editing text on the iPad screen far easier than any other app.

Notesy: This app's strengths are twofold: first, it features great automatic saving to Dropbox. While it only can sync up to one directory for saving files, it does have subdirectory support. The app also offers universal support, something that iA Writer lacks, which makes it easy for me to type up articles on my iPod touch when I'm not near my iPad, or in a situation where it's easier to use than the iPad.

Daedalus: What this app does differently is that it uses a stack-based interface, where text documents can be stored in logically-arranged groups of files. This works well for multitaskers who need to work on just specific sections of text at a time, like when composing lists, or for those who want some kind of visual arrangement of their work. Daedalus also has multiple display themes, customizable buttons above the keyboard, and multiple file export options.

Nocs: This app is designed for those who use Markdown; while it does type up plaintext and support editing of txt files in Dropbox, what this app brings to the table is the ability to convert Markdown to HTML easily. For those unaware of Markdown, it's essentially a variety of HTML formatting commands that are designed to be easier to type in than most HTML formatting is, and to look presentable when viewed as plaintext. Nocs can convert Markdown-formatted text into HTML files, suitable for pasting into Wordpress or anywhere else needed. Did I mention it's also free and universal?