Over one million apps have made their way onto the App Store during its five years of existence. A million. That's a pretty miraculous number when you think about it. However it's not the amount of apps we have to pick from that I find so fascinating, but rather just how much things have changed since 2008. Pickings were comparatively slim at first, and many developers were just starting to dip a toe in the waters of Apple's new smartphone.
On top of that, the technology itself has changed tremendously in a relatively small amount of time. It makes me wonder if anyone from 2008 would even recognize current iOS devices, and by extension the App Store. Would a newer Apple initiate have any idea what they were looking at if they somehow managed to take a trip to five years ago? I think it warrants a look at how the hardware, the App Store, and the apps contained within it have evolved.
2008 - The Beginning of the Beginning
The App Store's first year was a rough but promising one. The iPhone 3G rolled out to coincide with Apple’s new software venue and the original iPhone was still viable. The iPod touch was also present and accounted for, while the second generation appeared closer to the end of the year. Even at this point many developers were eager to push these early iOS devices to their limits, to make them more than just a phone or an .mp3 player with a fancy screen.
Handy apps like Pandora Radio, Last.FM, Facebook, and Yelp were to be expected, but that didn't make them any less impressive to have on a handheld platform. Others such as the intuitive personal organizer Evernote, the eerily accurate song-identifying app Shazam, eWallet’s convenient and secure account password management, and MLB At Bat with its extensive baseball coverage further capitalized on the particulars of the hardware and its general portability. Of course there were also some pretty unnecessary options out there, too. Flashlight kind of served a purpose but was also fairly pointless. It wasn't as bad as stuff like More Cowbell!, though.
At the same time, the games available on the App Store were beginning to show people that "mobile" didn't have to equal "mediocre." Sure there were a few simple ports of the odd classic such as Ms. PAC-MAN, Vay, and Scrabble, but there were also some impressive iOS renditions of popular console games like Super Monkey Ball coming out. Potential mobile gamers also had a few really special titles such as Galcon and Fieldrunners to tide them over. When all was said and done there were over 7,500 apps on the App Store by the end of the year, with more being added every day.
2009 - Moving Right Along
The following year saw even more impressive releases as Apple's digital marketplace began to expand. The second generation of iPod Touch was the bright and shiny new toy at the time, but it was followed shortly by the iPhone 3GS in June while the latest and greatest third generation Touch closed out the year in September. It all meant better processors, better CPUs, more advanced operating systems, and so on. All stuff that developers needed to acclimate to, but also stuff that meant they could push their boundaries even further. There was no loss of steam when it came to content, either: the App Store finished off 2009 with well over 100,000 apps available.
Many of the basic smartphone necessities were covered, but there was room for so much more. Especially while the technology was improving. Plenty of people used their iPhones as phones, sure, but with the addition of Skype they were able to enjoy the added functionality of instant messaging and voice chat without cutting into their data plans (so long as a wifi connection was present). Big companies were really starting to take notice as well. That same year Starbucks and many other big businesses threw their virtual hats into the ring with their own apps designed to make life a little bit easier for their iOS-using customers. Practicality was also becoming an even bigger focus. The Kindle app gave iOS users a practical e-reading option, and Dropbox was there being Dropbox. By which I mean "an awesome and super-convenient way to transfer files between multiple platforms." And this same level of refinement could be seen creeping into the games as well.
So many of the App Store's most notable games and franchises came out around this time. It was almost a mobile rennaisence of a sort. This was the year Real Racing first blew mobile gamers' minds, even causing some of them to question the legitimacy of in-game video footage until they were able to see the finished product for themselves. Zenonia was just a fledgling action RPG at the time, and while a lot of people liked it I doubt they knew just how many sequels it would spawn. The same goes for Pocket God, although with updates rather than multiple releases. Flight Control began to eat away at peoples' free time, Angry Birds and Doodle Jump hit it big (like, super big), and Myst and The Sims 3 further displayed the potential for major releases on mobile platforms. Oh, and Canabalt almost single-handedly invented and popularized a genre.
Make your voice be heard! Or perhaps your music as well. Whatever sounds you need to record, there's an app to make that happen. Here are four of our favorites.
iSaidWhat?!: I've used probably 6 different iOS devices over the past 3 years, and the list of apps that I've installed on all of them is short; iSaidWhat?! is on all of them. This audio recorder is perfect for recording audio anywhere and everywhere from the iPhone or the iPad (though it's not universal, it still works), with the ability to trim files down. But really, the reason why it's so great? It's possible to reduce the gain on the mic, so in particularly noisy situations, it's possible to prevent audio clipping. It's perfect for loud situations, and makes it the app that I keep using. It could use a modern update, but it's still great.
GarageBand: Want to record some music? Why not use Apple's mobile version of their famous music app? It supports recording through the mic port, including from third-party accessories like iRig for guitar, and external microphones. As well, there's MIDI support for using devices like keyboards with the app. When it's all arranged, the files can be exported to SoundCloud, to a desktop iTunes library, or even to Facebook and YouTube.
Mixlr: Pre-recorded audio is for suckers. To paraphrase Bill O'Reilly: "We'll do it live!" This app is perfect for that. Just fire up the app on iPhone, and start broadcasting over wifi or 3G/4G/LTE! Want to play music for strangers on the internet? Go for it! Want to start up a live podcast with friends? Sure! Just have random grumblings and rantings that need to be shared with people right now? This app is perfect for that as well. The audio can then be saved for posterity to SoundCloud, Mixcloud, or Dropbox. The revolution will be broadcast live!
AudioNote: Need to take some notes with the audio you record? This app is a perfect choice to use with it. You can record audio and type notes along with the recording. Best of all, it's possible to tap on text and go right to that part of the recording. It's great for transcription or taking notes in class. Plus, the app is universal, giving it an advantage over the similar Notability.
GarageBand has included Audiobus support along with other enhancements in the latest update. Audiobus is an app that allows you to connect multiple audio apps together at once, experimenting with new sounds and recording your own music.
• Play and record music apps supported by Audiobus directly into GarageBand*
• Turn off grid snapping to get finer control over region and note editing
• Fixes an issue that resulted in feedback while connecting 3rd-party audio accessories into the headphone/microphone jack
There are a lot of iPhone users out there who enjoy being able to personalize their ring tones, myself included. But sometimes that can be easier said than done, especially when users can’t sync to iTunes for whatever reason. However, there's a way around this issue that’s both easy and incredibly effective with a minimum of cost (about $6 total) and absolutely no jailbreaking involved!
First and foremonst, two apps need to be installed: ToneConvert and GarageBand. Be warned; GarageBand is a big install that takes up close to 700 MB.
Once both apps are installed and ready to go, the rest is easy. Open up ToneConvert and you’ll see this screen:
Select Browse for audio file. For the purposes of this example we’re going to be visiting www.audiko.net just like in the video. Mostly because it’s a fairly massive source for pre-sized audio files.
Now it’s time to select a sound or song. I’d prefer to search for something myself, so let's look for the Godzilla roar.
After picking the file, tap the Preview button. This will call up two choices: Play or Download. Hit Play first to make sure it’s the desired sound, then go ahead and Download it.
It’s time to Convert it!, then hit Copy to Pasteboard. And that’s the first half of the process.
With the sound file is saved, it’s time to open up GarageBand. When opening the app for the first time, you should see the Instruments screen. Scroll over to the right until reaching the Audio Recorder.
Tap the Tracks icon in the upper-left corner. It’s the one that looks like a few broken lines next to the arrow.
Now tap the empty track and select Paste. You can use GarageBand to further customize your ring tone but for the purposes of this demo we’re going to keep it simple and stick with the default sound.
Tap the arrow in the top-left corner and select My Songs in order to save the project.
From the My Songs screen tap Edit in the top-right portion of the screen, and select the new song. Tap the Sharing icon in the upper-left corner of the screen (it’s the one that looks like a box with an arrow sticking out of it).
Scroll down and select Share Song As “Ringtone”.
From the Export screen you can name the tone whatever you’d like, then hit Export to finish the job.
Now it’s simply a matter of going into the phone’s Settings and Sounds tab to adjust the ring tone settings. Tap on the particular sound you’d like to replace, which in this case is Ringtone, and select the new tone.
And you’re done! Now you can download, adjust, or otherwise create your own custom iPhone ring tones without the use of a computer, iTunes, or a jailbroken device. So, what ring tones are you planning on making for yourself?
IK Multimedia, purveyor of fine musician-quality iOS peripherals and software, has announced a new keyboard today: iRig Keys. This portable keyboard has 37 velocity-sensitive keys, is Core MIDI and USB class compliant, and will work with iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and Mac or PC computers. There's also free software for every platform, and it will work with any other MIDI compliant software, like Garageband.
iRig KEYS will be shipping in Fall 2012 for $99.99/€74.99 (excluding taxes) and will be available from musical instrument and consumer electronics retailers around the world. Pre-orders are now available from the IK Online store and other selected online stores.
A new tool for musicians is slated to be released by Alesis. The Alesis iO Mix is a mixer/recorder accessory for the iPad.
The Alesis iO Mix lets musicians mix and record four channels of audio into GarageBand (all Core Audio apps are compatible). Alesis previously released the iO Dock, which made the iPad compatible with studio equipment. But with the iO Mix, the iPad basically becomes the studio.
The iO Mix has four input channels (combo XLR-1/4”) and stereo outputs (1/4”). It even has video output for live show videos. It has a guitar-direct (DI) switch for recording a guitar without an amp. And an Alesis Module Mount (sold separately) can mount the iOS Mix to a mic stand.
The iPad is enclosed securely and the power supply keeps the iPad charged during recording.
The Alesis iO Mix currently has no release date or pricing available.
In what was another fantastic year in the world of iOS apps, we are here to bring you the titles that we, the staff of 148Apps, thought were the best of the year. Here are our top five picks for the Best Apps of 2011:
Tweetbot - Even with the latest Twitter integration in iOS 5, this app is our favorite for accessing and using the ubiquitous social networking service. Tweetbot has a ton of improvements over the official app, with a fantastic use of space and gestural support.
Garmin Street Pilot On Demand - GPS apps are typically expensive, with high prices supposedly justified by the real time information they provide. Garmin decided to thing a bit different, offering basic navigation for $0.99, with an available $2.99 per month subscription for premium features like turn by turn voice navigation.
Garageband - The granddaddy of consumer-level music creation apps moved from the Mac to the iPad (then the iPhone with a Universal app update) this year, bringing powerful tools to those magical devices. While it's not as full featured as the desktop app, the mobile version of Garageband is good enough for on the go hobbyists and pros alike.
7 Billion - This is our favorite nonfiction app out to date. Published by National Geographic, it explains just what, exactly, the number 7 Billion means in plain english, has several stunning pieces of journalism on the impact our world population is having on the environment and each other, and contains world-class photographs and info graphics to support it's main points. This app presents a thoughtful and sobering look at the world population with some surprisingly hopeful possibilities for the near future.
Orchestra To Do - Productivity apps overflow the App Store like Tribbles on the Starship Enterprise, and are equally as difficult to tell the difference between. Our pick for the best to do app is Orchestra To Do, a free yet fantastic task manager, with some great touches like voice recognition, task sharing, automatic sync, and a clean, easy to use interface. This one just shouldn't be missed.
That's it, there's our list of the best iOS apps of the year. Did you have a preferred title that we may have overlooked? Let us know in the comments! We look forward to another great year of iOS Apps in the year 2012!
This week, March 13-20, 148Apps awarded the Editor's Choice badge (along with 4.5 stars a piece) to two music apps: IK Multimedia's Amplitube Fender and Apple's Garageband. Editor Rob LeFebvre, who reviewed the Amplitube Fender application along with its hardware counterpart - the iRig - commented: "it's so easy to configure and use that I'm planning on using it on stage in the near future." Rob's been playing guitar for over twenty years.
Garageband was the other application to rock the boat, setting the bar for portable music creation. "Ever since the iPad’s introduction people have wondered why GarageBand (or any of the other iLife software for that matter) wasn’t available," writes Timothy Smith in his in-depth review, noting the third-party counterparts that have attempted to fill the gap - but not like the way Garageband has finally done. "Apple did a great job making their portable version of GarageBand accessible for beginners, but feature rich enough for real musicians. It isn’t going to replace a real studio set-up, but it’s definitely more than a novelty. Their price point is really competitive too."
In other news, a subtle update found in iOS 4.3 reveals a change in the way Apple handles in-app purchases. Bonnie Eisenman reports: "One complaint that has been consistently leveled against in-app purchases is that it’s easy to accidentally make a purchase in real-world money by accident ... In response to such complaints, Apple has changed its handling of in-app purchases in iOS version 4.3. Now, a password will also be required to make an in-app purchase, though for fifteen minutes after entering your password that time you’ll be able to make multiple purchases." For the most part, this should stop any unexpected in-app purchases by your friends or relatives.
On the hardware front, iFixit stripped the iPad 2, revealing a number of interesting points along the way that may lead you to rethink how careful you are with your new device. "Once the team were able to remove the glass, it was noted that both the LCD and glass thickness were smaller in comparison to iPad 1" writes Kyle Flanigan. "Whilst this does provide a number of advantages, notably the reduced thickness and weight of the device, it may reduce its overall durability." On the plus side, the team were able to confirm that the iPad 2 does indeed contain 512MB RAM - double that of its little brother, iPad 1.
Finally, Chanelle Joy Duxbury commented earlier this week on a report that allows for iMovie, which received a universal update, to be installed on the original iPad. I tested the method personally - and it works flawlessly. Now even the first generation iPad adopters can enjoy its big brother's applications!
That's all for this week - check back the same time next for a round-up of all the latest happenings. Don't be afraid to check out our Price Drop List or our Top 148Apps List, as well - they are CHOCK full of vital info!
The iPad 2 itself is a faster, stronger, thinner, and lighter version of the iPad. It improves on most of the features of the iPad while not radically changing any of the originals features, making this release pretty much what we hoped for and expected. These updates do a lot to elevate the iPad 2 above any of the announced "iPad Killer" Android tablets like the Xoom or Samsung 10.1. The iPad 2 will be available in 16, 32, and 64GB wifi and 3G versions that work on AT&T or Verizon (not both), the same configurations and price points as the current iPad.
The main changes are in the speed of the iPad 2. The iPad 2 improves on the processor by now including an A5 dual core processor. In addition, the graphics processor has been improved, offering 9x the graphics processing power of the original iPad. Next up, the size of the iPad 2 is now considerably thinner, while remaining the same length and width wise. It now has a flat back and weighs a little bit less while retaining the same 10 hour battery life.
The only real new hardware feature of the iPad 2 is the dual cameras. There is now a front facing and rear camera. These can be used to take pictures, videos, and can be used in Facetime. A welcome addition, but not one that really changes the landscape.
The iPad 2 will be available this Friday. So far we've heard that it can be ordered online from Apple.com (no pre-orders though) as well as (starting at 5pm) from Apple, AT&T, Verizon, and Best Buy stores. Other stores will likely announce launch plans this week.
By far the greatest part of last weeks announcements were the new Apple developed iPad apps, iMovie and Garageband. Both look absolutely amazing. We'll be sure to have full reviews of both as soon as possible. Garageband in particular looks absolutely amazing. Both are priced at $4.99. iMovie apparently only works on the iPad 2 while Garageband will work on the original iPad as well.
You can view the full Apple announcement at Apple.com.
So the question for you, our readers, is the iPad 2 enough for you? Does it have the features you wanted? If you have an iPad, will you upgrade to the iPad 2? We can't wait to see your answers.