I know, I know, I'm a little late to the party posting this. In fact I'm only just now getting caught up on all of today's big news.
If you're wondering, my morning was spent with my wife and son at the downtown OKC library's storytime for toddlers, getting lunch, and eventually heading back home to lay him down for a nap. What can I say, that's what the life of being a stay-at-home dad is like sometimes.
Anyway, after months of anticipation I've finally had a chance to play with Marco Arment's new Overcast podcatcher for iPhone. My honest opinion so far? It's okay.
Don't get me wrong, Overcast has plenty of great features and special touches to speak of—just not enough to lure me away from Pocket Casts. If nothing else, the lack of an iPad client is a dealbreaker for me (though Marco does have one in the works). On top of that, Overcast is slow and buggy on my iPhone 4s. I can hardly blame him for not fully supporting such an outdated piece of hardware, but the fact remains.
With all that said, please don't let my first impressions tarnish your curiosity. If you're in the market for a new podcast app, Overcast is free to download and there's no reason not to give it a shot yourself. I just personally wasn't as blown away as I'd hoped.
For now, I remain optimistic that future updates will prove me wrong in the long run.
Stache is new Mac app that allows you to bookmark and archive entire webpages, á la Pinboard. Rather than displaying as a simple list of links, Stache takes a more visual approach by attaching a screenshot to each bookmark.
It syncs over iCloud with its iOS companion app, which has no archiving abilites but does share the Mac app's "visual bookmark" design, bookmarklet/URL scheme support, and full-content search. Although I have no need to switch away from Pinboard, Stache certainly makes for an interesting alternative.
~Finally~, Reeder for iOS has updated to v2.2, now with background app refresh and a load of other awesome features and fixes. Go get it.
Minor tangent: As much as I enjoy using Jared Sinclair's unique RSS app Unread, I always come back to Reeder. It has a slow development cycle to be sure, but after all these years I still love its sheer speed and simple design. Unless Silvio Rizzi goes out of business, I can't see myself ever needing another RSS app.
My latest iOS gaming obsession is Monument Valley, a new platformer inspired by the art of M.C. Escher. You play as Ida, a silent princess who must navigate a series of seemingly impossible architecture by solving puzzles and avoiding the Crow People and other strange inhabitants.
Each level presents a structure that looks impossible to traverse at first, but by moving or rotating sections of the environment, you can alter these optical illusions to create a path where none existed before. Watch the official trailer and you'll see what I mean.
As noted in a behind-the-scenes video, every stage is like a different work of art, beautiful enough to be printed out and hung on a wall. As you interact with Ida's world, you are greeted with pleasant sound effects and music, so I recommend playing with headphones for the best experience. (I wonder if the developers plan to release the soundtrack, because I would buy it.)
Monument Valley is one of the most gorgeous and thoughtfully considered games I've seen on iOS, one that answers the question, "Are video games art?" with a resounding yes! And it's only $4, so there's not much reason to stay away.
As a writer, my goal is to inspire others to be more creative and do their best work. If my writing has helped or inspired you in any way, please consider supporting this site with a modest donation or by signing up for the $3/month membership subscription.
Fantastical 2 has been my calendar app of choice for the past few months. My one quibble so far has been that it was only designed for iPhone. I have used it on my iPad in 2x mode, but it has never been a great experience.
That all changed with today's release of Fantastical 2 for iPad. All of Fantastical's key features—including the DayTicker and its ability to understand natural language input—have been carried over from the iPhone version. The main difference is that the iPad app takes full advantage of the larger screen to display more information at once. It's more than a basic calendar; it's a detailed dashboard for my schedule.
As it stands now, the iPhone version is where I will quickly create new events, and the iPad version is what I'll use to manage and review existing events. I recommend picking up both if you haven't already done so, especially since the iPad app is on sale for $10, a discount of 33%.
Shawn Blanc invited me to write about iOS Pinboard apps for The Sweet Setup. It's a pretty crowded market these days, but after thoroughly testing the various Pinboard apps out there, we selected Pushpin as our top pick in the end. A very close second went to Pinswift.
Well, now they want to clear the air (see what I did there?) once and for all, by going back to a single, universal version of the app and making it temporarily free so that everyone can easily migrate over:
“As Apple doesn’t offer a way to migrate users between copies of an app, we’re going to make Clear free for 24 hours so owners of Clear+ can move to the correct version free of charge.
To make sure as many people as possible can move to Clear, we’re going to do this twice in the next few weeks. We know this is risky - we rely on the income from Clear to run our small, independent company - and so whilst this was by no means an easy decision for us to make, we simply want to do the right thing for you, our customers.”
The tagline for the app is "A Calculator Without Equal", which is not only clever from a marketing perspective, but also true because the app does not have an 'equals' button. It simply calculates answers on-the-fly, and lets you use swipe gestures to undo, redo, or archive an answer for later reference.
The app also has a certain charm to it, with helpful animations and pleasant sound effects throughout (you can see it in action here). It will even give useful error messages, like if you try to divide by zero.
“Chicago Avenue Moon is a responsive, generative music app that gathers a set of variables including date, time, phase of the moon, and GPS location, and uses that data to determine how its music unfolds, in real-time. The piece is intended for a listener in motion, whose route and speed affect the composition. Composer Joshua Dumas wrote 1000 brief musical phrases which the app manipulates, sequences, and layers to create trillions and trillions of variations, a unique experience with every listen.
He imagines the piece as a personalized soundtrack for strangers’ mundanities—an effort to help re-enchant a person’s daily commute, trip to the laundromat, or evening jog.”
Chicago Avenue Moon is only $1 right now, and will go up to $2 after Feb 11th. I highly recommend checking it out. If nothing else, it will totally change the way you experience a nighttime walk.
Unread, a new RSS app developed by Jared Sinclair (who also developed the excellent Riposte for App.net), has just been unveiled to the world. I'm apparently one of the few people on Earth who didn't get into the beta, so I don't have an official review written like my friends Federico Viticci, Shawn Blanc, and Stephen Hackett do. (I'm not bitter or anything.)
Even so, I'm already enjoying my experience with Unread in the short amount of time I've had to play with it, and I look forward to testing it a lot more.
The special launch price is only $2.99, so get it while it's hot.
Federico Viticci has assembled a series of lists for his favorite apps for iPhone, iPad, and Mac that came out in 2013. Lots of good stuff in there, and he's also put together some interesting stats concerning the series.
I always enjoy Craig Mod's pieces (a previous example being Subcompact Publishing) and this latest one is no different. In it, he talks about his transition from manual cameras to digital ones, and then to the iPhone — and the iPhone is quickly doing away with the old methods.
“Yet if the advent of digital photography compressed the core processes of the medium, smartphones further squish the full spectrum of photographic storytelling: capture, edit, collate, share, and respond.”
He's totally right. I've been longing to buy a mirrorless camera to replace my decade-old DSLR, but it's getting harder all the time to justify such a purchase.
The camera I carry with me every day – my iPhone 4s – is already capable of handling most of my photography needs, including editing. If I upgrade to a 5s, I'm sure it'll be even more difficult to justify carrying a dedicated camera. And so on, and so on.
Shawn Blanc tasked Chris Herbert and I with putting together a list of our all-time favorite iOS games for The Sweet Setup. The list has a little something for everyone and I had a lot of fun putting it together, so go check it out!
Apple just unveiled their 2013 Best-Of charts, encompassing all the types of media found on the iTunes Store (music, movies, tv shows, apps, books, and podcasts). Each category is interesting enough to check out, but being the nerd I am, I was mainly interested in the App Store results.
Some highlights that particularly caught my attention:
VSCO Cam was runner-up for iPhone App of the Year, and deservedly so. It's the only photo editor I need, and so it's the only one I've been using for the last several months.
Ridiculous Fishing received iPhone Game of the Year. This was also very well-deserved, because it's easily one of the most entertaining games I've ever played on iOS. Maybe on any console. The music alone is so good, I even bought the soundtrack.
Editorial was mentioned as one of the top 'Smart Productivity' apps. Can't hit the nail much harder on the head than that. I know that my own productivity and overall writing workflow have gotten a huge boost from this app.
Many congratulations to all the developers – of which there are way more than I could comfortably list here – who got into top lists in their respective categories. It's been another exciting year for iOS apps, and I'm looking forward to what's in store for 2014.
Marc Edwards compared a month's worth of results between the two devices. As you might expect, some days are more closely matched than others, but overall the M7 chip and FitBit Zip performed pretty similarly.
For as long as I could remember, Instacast was the podcast app that I felt provided the best overall experience on the App Store, and the one I recommended to everyone else who asked. But as it turns out, Instacast's recent 4.0 update sadly resulted in a step backwards in usability. I talked about this a bit in my recent article about the state of podcast apps on iOS 7:
“The playback controls cover up some of the podcast artwork, the advanced toolbar […] can no longer be hidden, and the cloud sync service no longer seems to work properly.”
Replacing an app on my dock is a pretty rare occurrence since I'm picky about what gets put there in the first place, but Instacast just hasn't been cutting it for me anymore. And so, I found myself doing something I never expected: I decided to give Pocket Casts another shot.
Ever since sometime in 2008, I've been a user and ardent fan of Evernote. Over the years, it's been the place where I've dumped just about everything I possibly can — interesting articles from the web, recipes, tutorials, project ideas, blog drafts, purchase receipts, shopping lists, inventories, gift ideas, bits of inspiration…the list goes on and on.
It was my Everything Bucket — my external brain. And for a while, it was a pretty good one.
The wait is ~*finally*~ over. You can now pick up Reeder 2 from the iOS App Store for only $5, and it works on both iPhone and iPad. The previous iPhone version of Reeder already supported Feed Wrangler – my RSS service of choice – but this update also brings Feed Wrangler support to the iPad.
I've sorely missed being able to use Reeder on my iPad, and it feels good to have it back. My initial impression (after only 10 minutes of playing with it) is very positive, other than that it took a long time to sync my Feed Wrangler Smart Streams.
And as always, Federico Viticci published his review of Reeder 2 immediately after the app was available for purchase. Go check it out.
Over at Tools & Toys, Shawn Blanc and I put together a list of some awesome iOS apps and games that have gone free this week to celebrate the App Store's 5th anniversary.
Seriously, this list is full of great stuff, so go check it out.