I buy and download a fair number of iOS apps, but I rarely take the time to post reviews and recommendations. Consider this my attempt to occasionally rectify that. Here is the start of my Every So Often app reviews.
If you want to incite a digital riot in tech circles then look no further than the paid app upgrade. The iOS and App Store platforms revolutionized application development and distribution in both positive and negative ways. One of the negative results is the much-documented difficulties with building a sustainable business model in the rapid race to the bottom strategy of App Store pricing and absence of an officially supported upgrade pricing model. Tapbots, the company headed up by Paul Haddad and Mark Jardine, know this struggle all too well. It’s a running Twitter joke for Haddad every time Tapbots prepares to release a new version of their marquee apps into the wild.
The most recent episode involves Tweetbot 4. I’m a faithful Tweetbot user since Tweetbot 2, having even gone so far as gifting Tweetbot 3 to a friend of mine who was suffering Twitter through the company’s often languishing official app. What this knowledge reveals about me is that I’ve now paid for Tweetbot four times (including the gift purchase) and I still think I’ve underpaid. Using Twitter is not a requirement for my job or any other aspect of my life but it is one of my favorite pastimes and so I’m willing to pay a little bit to make that experience as enjoyable as possible. I’m not even a souped up Twitter power user, so I don’t necessarily benefit from all the great features that Tweetbot offers. I just find their interface and app interaction decisions quite agreeable with my own tastes and brief forays into other apps left me longing to go back to my comfort app.
Setting aesthetics aside for a moment, why should you buy Tweetbot? Here are the features I think that just about any Twitter user device might find useful from Tweetbot (this is basically my hand-picked selection from the feature list on Tweetbot’s website):
- Mute People, Keywords, Tweet Sources on your Timeline, Lists, and Search Results
- Support for Multiple Twitter Accounts
- View/Add/Edit/Subscribe to Lists
- View Tweet Statistics and Account Activity
- Gestures for Quick Access to Common Tasks
- Excellent support for 3rd Party Services
- Night Mode for Low-Light Reading (I keep mine in night mode all the time)
Paper by FiftyThree
I’m way way late to the game on Paper (though I’ve been using Paper by Facebook exclusively since it arrived) but I actually have a pretty good reason – I’m terrible at drawing anything. Perhaps recognizing the niche characterization of their product (and the increasingly cavalier use of their product’s name) FiftyThree recently updated Paper by giving it some features that greatly increases its utility for non-artists. More specifically they added diagraming, note-taking and photo spotlighting features that make it a fantastic application for quickly capturing ideas with stunning visual richness that aims to make “back of the napkin” days obsolete. The upgrade is, of course, a very strong effort to prop up their other business as the manufacturer of Pencil, a Bluetooth enhanced stylus for smartphones.
I love the new drawing tools in the app and the photo spotlight feature is a great idea that I know I’ll use more and more. I’ve seen it in other apps but it is nice to have it here in Paper with the other helpful diagraming and drawing tools. After devoting some time familiarizing myself with the tools, I started thinking about the different applications and analog tools that this could replace for me. I recently completed a couple of closet renovations and I was able to use Paper to communicate through mock ups of what I wanted with our vendor. I’ve also used Paper to develop layouts for web pages and as a scratch pad for quick calculations and ephemeral notes needed when developing websites. Yes, Paper by FiftyThree is turning into a replacement for lowercase p paper for me.
This free app from The Iconfactory is a neat idea – it’s basically a tally/counter app that gives you a tap via Apple Watch every time you increment the counter. If you have an Apple Watch I think this is a must have if for nothing more than a great way to demo taps/notifications on the watch. There isn’t a great way to do this built into the watch which is curious because to me that’s basically the knockout feature of the watch. I love me some Taptic notifications.
And yes, I do launch Clicker from time to time just so can give myself a tap. I think I need more friends.
A few weeks ago, my wife asked me how I stay up to date with the news, specifically if there was a particular app that I use. I don’t remember if she was really interested more in local news or not but at the time I was trying out SmartNews. More recently, after Sidebar.io featured their redesign in a daily update, I turned to Wildcard for it’s unique visual style and card-based news capsules.
Just Press Record
Just Press Record is that rare app that manages to combine a very simple idea with just-enough design and an easy to use interface while also filling a need that many might never suspect they have. In fact, when you boil down Just Press Record into its most basic pieces, it makes you wonder why Apple’s own built-in Voice Memo app isn’t as well-executed as this.
To put it simply, Just Press Record is Voice Memo but with a simpler UI, iCloud syncing support, and versions for Mac and Apple Watch. Most perplexing to me is the absence of iCloud support for Voice Memo; even if you assume that one need not record or sync from Mac to iPhone, you might at least find it somewhat helpful to offer a sync and play app for the Mac that receives files from the iPhone. And while I never in a million years would have imagined that I would go all Dick Tracy and spend much time talking to my watch, between Siri, Just Press Record, and an occasional phone call or two, I talk to my watch all the time. So if you see some strange guy walking around holding his wrist up to his mouth it’s either a spy or me.