Let me begin by wishing you a Happy New Year and welcoming you to 2013! One of my New Year’s resolutions, well, my only New Year’s resolution actually, is to blog more, to write more. I would love to turn writing into an occupation. But that is beyond the scope of this year’s resolution. So I figured I would start right away on the first day of the new year and write a blogpost. It is a bit cliché to be sure but it is easy, light hearted, fun and hopefully somewhat useful. Writing about my Top Ten iPhone Apps of the New Year, is what I am talking about. Of course, all of these apps are from way back in 2012 or farther however, in my opinion, they are the best at what they do right now on January 1st, 2013, so I wanted to share them with you. If you do not have an iPhone, my suggestion to you would be to go get one and then continue reading.
Yes, I am cheating a little here but there is a very reasonable explanation for it. Either one of these apps on their won would not be as awesome as they are together so that what I have done, stuck them together for review in the Tenth spot of my Top Ten. TurboScan is just what you might imagine it is. It scans documents into your iPhone using the iPhone’s camera. It uses SureScan technology to take and merge Three photos of your document into one to give you the most clear scan possible. You then are able to select the edges of your scanned document to accommodate for odd angles that might occur because you weren't able to position the camera over the document perfectly and then it is saved. You can also merge several pages into one document if your scan contains more than one page. It is now ready to be exported or sent to the destination of your choice. You can email i. print it, export it to apps such as Dropbox or Evernote or open it in a PDF reader or an app like iFax. This is where this app becomes powerful for everyday business. For some inexplicable reason, Fax still exists. And not only does it exist but it is used extensively in business. It is slow, unreliable and antiquated but it is still there and often still required so for now, to make the most of the technology we have we must incorporate the old with the new and this is what iFax does. After opening your freshly scanned document in iFax you can create a cover sheet and actually fax it to any fax number in the USA straight from your iPhone. And best of all it is free! This allows you to not be tied down to a physical fax machine in order to get documents to those who request them. And you can even receive faxes directly to your iPhone through iFax if you pay a monthly fee for a fax number. I don’t use fax often enough to warrant this option but if you do, it would be well worth the money for the number. Or if you don’t have a fax machine at all, this would be far less expensive than getting ne and dedicating a phone line to it. With TurboScan and iFax I can scan and fax from my work, my car, my home or even from the sidelines during a soccer match. They are great apps if these things are part of your daily life.
PDF Expert is one of those apps that you could also use in conjunction with TurboScan or iFax. It is not simply a PDF reader. You have iBooks, Safari, and myriad of other apps for that. PDF Expert can do far more things with PDFs than I even know how to do but what I have used is filling in forms on PDFs, signing documents (using your finger, very cool), making notes within PDFs, highlighting text and many more. You can share them through email, SkyDrive, Dropbox, Google Docs or even iFax. It is a fantastic app that I will never delete from my iPhone for sure.
Checkmark is a task/reminders app. There are tons of them out there. There is actually a very powerful one built right into your iPhone already. But Checkmark is a step above them all. Checkmark is a beautifully simple app but not one dimensional as some “simple” task apps are. Checkmark can do everything most other task apps can do but does it in a much easier way than any other. With as few as Three taps you can create any task and set an appropriate reminder. You may be thinking, “What does he mean by appropriate?” Well, here’s what I mean; most task apps set reminders solely by time. The native iPhone app, Reminders, does have another feature called Location but it is buried inside the task settings and uses actual addresses to set locations. It works. But not without some effort. Checkmark allows you to preset locations by dropping pins on a map and then associating an icon with that location which is then always available from the Where tab in the Checkmark app. So to create a task and reminder using location you simply tap the Where tab if it isn’t already open, tap the icon associated with the location you desire, tap the + icon to create a new task, enter the task, tap either Arrival or Departure if it is not already selected, tap the Timer icon to set how many minutes after the arrival or departure you want to be reminded if you don’t want it to be immediate and then tap Save. This is a huge addition to the typical task app that either doesn’t have reminders at all or are restricted to only time based reminders. It is so huge that I have found myself using the Where tab far more than the When tab. Through the When tab you can create a task based on a specific time and it can be recurring as well. Checkmark sets itself apart from all the others with a clean, easy and frankly, fun UI that makes me WANT to use it. And that is the best feature of all. Because I have found that no matter how powerful a task app may be, if I never use it, it is worthless. Checkmark invites me to create tasks and set effective reminders and helps me remember the things I need to do when I need to do them. In fact, it reminded me to write this blogpost! And here I am. No greater testimonial than that is needed.
Scan is a bar code and QR Code reader. You might not think that exciting but that just means you need this app even more. QR Codes open the door into a cyber world that as of yet few people have really ventured. They give you immediate and salient access to videos, websites, coupons, and information about what you are interested in and looking at in the real world in real time. And Scan is the best app for unlocking that doorway. It is fast, simple, seamless, and nearly invisible which is exactly what you need in order to place your full focus one whats behind that cyber door. Scan works immediately upon opening it. It has a full screen UI with ghost-style, minimalist buttons to access its features. But its make feature and focus is to scan codes and it begins doing that the second it is opened. Open it, place the camera over the code and it is scanned automatically with no need for further interaction with the app. Brilliant. Then it opens the appropriate app to access the content linked through the code. So much better than any other I have tried. It can also scan from your photo library and keeps a history of scans if you want to revisit them later. And it can turn on the light of your iPhone’s flash if you are trying to scan in a darker location. Absolutely amazing app. Get it and unlock the wonderful world of QR Codes.
Evernote is one of my most prized apps on my iPhone. It as been completely redesigned for the iPhone as well as the desktop and is better than ever. If you do not have Evernote you should go get it now. It is by far the best notes app out there. No matter where you are and using text or photos you can make note of everything you you need and remember everything. Evernote keeps it all nicely adn easily organized across all your platforms and devices. Never forget But this review isn’t for Evernote, it is for FastEver. This is because despite all the greatness of Evernote, fast launching and note creation is not one of Evernote's strong suits. And that is where FastEver comes in. It is a separate app that connects seamlessly with Evernote to allow you to create fast notes and get them into Evernote quickly. I have often spent as little as a few seconds from clicking FastEver to closing it in the creation of a note. And while I move on to other things, FastEver is logging it into Evernote and Evernote is syncing it across all my devices. In my job and in my writing it has been a gem that I couldn’t live without. It has become such an important part of my everyday life that I keep it docked on my iPhone. I click the FastEver icon and it opens instantaneously to a screen ready to accept the note. I immediately can start typing and hit save and my home button and FastEver does the rest. I can spend a few extra seconds if I have them and actually tag the note or specify which notebook to file it in if I want or I can open Evernote late when I have the time and add those things to it. I only wish there was a way to take a photo from FastEver. I am sure they are thinking that this option would slow the app down too much and maybe they are right but that is the only thing I miss. Mainly because FastEver is so awesome that it has virtually replaced the Evernote app as the initial note taking app. Only when I need to take a picture for a note do I actually open Evernote to make a note. FastEver is that good. It is simple, clean, and looks and feels like you are right in Evernote so it is the perfect companion the the most powerful note taking and organizing app for the web, Evernote.
This oddly named app has become one of my best friends. It is a writing app. That is pretty much all it does. There is an app for the iPhone and a corresponding one for the Mac. They both integrate into Dropbox so you will always have the latest version of your writings on any device you choose to write on. I am actually writing this entire post using Byword. It is a clever little app. It is a full black screen with white text that you can make larger or smaller depending on your tastes. You can change the font to whatever you desire and it does have auto-correct and spell check. It auto saves so you never have to worry about losing what you have written and it can export to PDF, email, HTML or print. You are also able to use Markdown as well if that is something you are used to using. It is easy on the eyes and it just works. It is just fantastic and it has replaced Pages for nearly all of my writing now. Inserting links and photos and graphics is not what Byword is about. It is about text. And it is easy enough to transfer the text over to a more powerful program or app like Pages to add all those other elements to your final product. But especially on the iPhone, simple is often better and that is what Byword brings to the table. If you need to write at whatever times you can find regardless of where you are then Byword is the app for you. Nothing better.
Moving on from utility type apps into more of the entertainment variety I present Prismatic. In it’s most basic sense, Prismatic is a newsreader. But in reality it is much more than that. Prismatic is a smart newsreader. You connect it to the social network you use most and it learns your interests and then goes out into the vastness of the Internet and finds the news stories that you will find interesting. It mixes into one feed current events, sports, entertainment, technology, art, music, etc. all driven by what you are interested in. The UI is simple and clean and feels very at home on the iPhone. Flipboard is a similar app but may biggest complaint with it was that after the initial “flip” of the headlines the UI changed to movements that were inconsistent with it’s “flip” style interaction. Prismatic doesn’t suffer from this issue. It maintains consistency throughout the app. Scroll through the headlines, tap a story, scroll through the story, swipe right to go back to the feed. It does a great job of finding a nice mix of news and nearly always is something I am interested in. If I want to save or share a story I hold my finger to the story and three option icons pop up, Download, Share, Favorite. Slide my finger to the one I want and that action is taken. Super easy. Swipe Left and the menus and settings appear including my downloaded, shared and favorited stories as well as my viewing history. I can always find that cool article that I want to share with someone later. Yet, Prismatic is not perfect. It opens stories within its own browser but it is geared more for text so often photos or embedded video either don’t work or don't show up at all. Additionally, many times the entire article is not shown and you have to click a link to read the remainder of it. Either Prismatic needs to make the browser within the app more powerful or it needs to seamlessly send you into Safari. But despite this area of inadequacy, Prismatic is still the best smart newsreader that I have found. Give it a try!
Jasmine is a YouTube app. The YouTube app for the iPhone is great, especially so if you want a more YouTube web feel. But if you are a person who is just wanting to search YouTube for fun videos without all the extra junk that YouTube throws at you then Jasmine is the app for you. I find myself using Jasmine far more than the official YouTube app. The UI is slick and simple and more beautiful than any other YouTube app I have used. It makes searching and watching videos fun. But don’t mistake it’s simple UI as being weak. Jasmine gives you control over every aspect of your YouTube account. You can search, browse featured or trending videos, access play lists, subscriptions and even your own uploaded videos. But the key is, you do what you want the way you want, when you want. Jasmine gives you total control over YouTube and who can argue with that?
Have you ever been at an event and wished that someone who wasn’t there could share in the experience live or wish you could share an event live with your friends or family? What would it take to do that? What equipment set up would you need? What method of delivery would you need to set up and pay for? How could you ever be technologically advanced enough to pull such a thing off? Well, with BFF Broadcast the answer to all of those questions is “don’t worry about it!” That’s because BFF Broadcast from Ustream when connected with FaceBook does it all for you. If you can tap on an app and press record while pointing your iPhone’s camera at an event, you can stream any event live to all your FaceBook friends. It is really that easy. And it really works! From sporting events, to concerts to speaking engagements or even just a family get together at the holidays, these moments can be shared live with anyone you connect with through FaceBook anywhere in the world. The future is finally here in the palm of your hand and it is called BFF Broadcast.
This app will not be for everyone. If you have a weak heart you might just skip this one. And though this app is geared to a very specific consumer, the technology that it has pioneered has the potential to change books forever. iPoe is an interactive digital book for your iPhone. It combines text, artwork, sound, animation and interactive elements into a reading experience unlike anything you have ever seen, heard or read. There are two editions of this app right now, each containing several of the most popular stories by Edgar Allen Poe. Put in your headphones, turn out the lights, open the iPoe app, and be whisked away into the eerie worlds of Poe. It is spooky, intense and at moments terrifying. I have never screamed while reading a book before but this app did it. It is very affective with the horror genre but I can see this technology being fantastic in every genre of book. I cannot wait to see how it is used in the future. In the meantime, treat yourself to the future but beware...just beware...