It’s not the end, but the start of something new…

9 09 2010

I have decide with much reluctance to stop the Appjudge blog. I have found that reviewing Applications can become a boring and repetitive process. I feel constrained as a writer, and I want to open up to a broaden range of subjects. As a result, I have set up a new blog

http://www.mediadistilled.wordpress.com

This blog will remain up for a little while, however there will be no further updates. If you enjoyed Appjudge, then I hope you’ll follow me to my new blog. Thank you to all the people who’ve viewed the blog, commented, as well as the App developers.





The Death of a Classic

4 09 2010

September, the turn of the seasons, summer to Autumn- a return to work or education after a well earned holiday- a new start. For Apple, the ninth month in the year signals the annual refresh of their beloved iPod range. The whole product line, from the Shuffle to the Touch, gets revamped, in time for Christmas. However, this year, there was a clear omission from the line up. An omission, which has been predicted by many for the last few years, of a product in the iPod family. This product was the forefather of the iOS offspring that we all know and love; a product which, played a central role in the recovery and revival of Apple at the turn of millennium. This product is, the iPod, or the iPod Classic, as it’s come to be known in recent times.

In an age in which we are moving towards multimedia touch screen based devices, the iPod Classic with it’s iconic click wheel, looks almost analogue. It’s antiquity is further confirmed by the fact that the Classic can’t gain passage into the Appstore; Apple’s walled haven. The iPod Classic’s only saving grave, being that it boasts the biggest capacity in the family. The slow decline and demise of the iPod classic was inevitable, given the success of it’s younger touch screen enabled siblings. However, it would be foolish to get swept away by the runaway success of the iPhone and iPod Touch, since both products originated from the Classic. As such, the original iPod generations should be looked upon with a warm nostalgia. The iPod Classic, which as indicated by the name, features a classic design, with the rectangular player sporting a metallic back, and the front being dominated by a screen and click wheel. A design, that has remained largely unchanged throughout it’s six iterations.

The player was first released back in 2001, by Steve Jobs to a relatively small gathering of the press, with the simple tagline- 1000 songs in your pocket. The first generation iPod featured a 5 gigabyte hard drive, 10 hours battery life and was the size of a deck of cards. Initially, the outlook was gloomy, with media reports claiming that Apple’s new device was too expensive and the lack of PC support meant that the majority of people were excluded. However, from there the popularity grew, as the iPod matured from generation to generation. PC support was added and the iTunes online music store was unveiled, allowing users to easily purchase and download tracks onto their iPod.

Incidentally, I remember my first iPod, a 3rd generation ‘white knight’. You could hear the hard drive whir as it processed the music, and the backlit display illuminated the inky darkness when I indulged in a late night music session. There weren’t any Apps, photos, videos or the internet. My iPod focused around it’s sole purpose; playing music. It was a faithful servant; a loyal companion, and like so many others, it started my affection for Apple products. The following year when my PC gave up the ghost, I turned to the Cupertino company, and purchased my first ever MacBook. The year after, I need a new phone, and once again, Apple was my first choice, and I became a proud iPhone 3GS user. If it wasn’t for my iPod, I would probably have a Nokia and another PC.

The iPod not only brought customers to Apple, but it started a cultural movement and the ‘i’ branding, something that has become associated with Apple. In our media saturated society, the iPod provided an enclosed, private environment, in which we could consume our music. The white ear buds that came with the device became almost a badge of honour and recognition between iPod users. In terms of the company, the iPod started Apple’s line of i products, iBook, iLife, iWork, iPhone, iPad. Each of these products, were given the ‘i’ prefix due to the iPod, and each, rather fittingly, focused around delivering rich media content to the customer, for their private consumption.

While you can still buy an iPod Classic from Apple, for the time being, the only remaining nod towards the original now lies with the iPod shuffle. The smallest sibling of the iPod family, is now the only one to bare the iconic click wheel, since the Nano was recently given the touch screen treatment. Overall, it’s sad to see the end of one of the iconic symbols of the early 21st century. The iPod was the catalyst for the products that we enjoy today- the iPod Touch, the iPhone and, one could argue, indirectly, the iPad. So, like all great classics, even thought it may be long gone, it’s legacy continue to live on.





August Roundup

2 09 2010

August has been a busy month at Appjudge. At the height of summer, I have covered the monthly disposable App, reviewed backing up your data with Dropbox and covered how to find the best Apps on the store, as well as a lot more. In case you’ve missed any of August’s posts, see the summary below with links to the relevant articles.

August’s Posts

The World at your fingertips

For August’s Disposable App of the month, I turned to Google Earth, an App from the internet search giants, that allows you to pinch, scroll and touch your way around the globe. While the App helps prove to your mates how superior your iDevice is to their measly phone, it has very little functionality. The App is a stripped down version of the desktop Google Earth, and therefore, is unlikely to remain on your device for long.

The forgotten victims of iOS 4

For owners of the iPhone 3G and the iPod Touch second generation, it’s been quite a roller coaster ride over the past few months. Users initially delighted that their older devices would be supported by the iOS4  update, only to be disappointed when the update rendered their devices almost unusable. I cover the whole story from beginning to end, and look into what choices 3G and 2nd Gen Touch users have.

Avoiding the digital abyss

As we keep more and more of possessions in the realm of the digital, it’s becoming increasingly important that we backup our precious files and memories. One solution to this comes in the form of the online service, Dropbox. The internet based company has released a corresponding App to extend their reach to iOS users. I review the App and see how well the App integrates with the existing service.

How to Find Good Apps

There are over 225,000 Apps on the store, and asa result, finding the good Apps, from the not so good, can be quite the task. In an attempt to better guide users round the Appstore, I set out some criteria to look out for when attempting to download Apps from the store.

Welcome to the Social Epicentre

In this post I cover a new social App on the store, The Hotlist, that attempts to aggregate location data, while integrating other services and information, such as Twitter and Yelp reviews. The end result, is an App that allows the users to get the vibe of an event, without having to set a foot inside.

I’ve just bought an iPhone…now what? Part 3

The final part of three part post, in which I handpick the best Apps from each of the categories from the Appstore. In this post, I cover the following categories: Productivity, Reference, Social Networking, Sports, Travel and Weather.





I’ve just bought an iPhone…now what? Part 3

29 08 2010

Welcome to the final, ‘I’ve bought an iPhone…now what? post. For links to the first and second post, see the bottom of this post. In this final roundup of Apps, I cover the following genres from the Appstore: Productivity, Reference, Social Networking, Sports, Travel and Weather. To download an App, click on the relevant App icon.

Productivity :

2Do- One of the best todo Applications on the store, with a bolster of features that range from extensive search features and location based tasks. Unlike other Apps in this genre, 2Do features calendar integration which helps sort tasks into categories. 2Do also provides further integration features by importing contacts into the App, so they may be tagged in tasks, as well as featuring a sync and backup facility that syncs the todo data with your PC or Mac. (Lite and paid version, £2.39, scored 5 out 5 in an Appjudge review)

Opera Mini- The first real alternative to Mobile Safari, that doesn’t use webkit to power your browsing experience. Opera have opted to use their own in house compression software that allows users to surf the web quicker, especially over a 3G and Edge connection. The compression software cuts down the data that’s downloaded to view a site by up to 90%, meaning that not only does this App save you time, but money as well, since you’re using less bandwidth. Opera Mini also comes with some good features that help differentiate from Safari and other browsers, such as the Speed dial, which allows you to quickly access your favourite bookmarks, as well as Opera link, which syncs your bookmarks, history and passwords from the desktop client to your device. (Free, scored 5 out 5 in an Appjudge review)

Dropbox- For those with a Dropbox account, the official App, is a must. Not only does it provide you with an easy way to view all your Dropbox files on your iDevice, but it also allows you to upload content from your device. As well as this, files that are selected to go in the favourite section can be accessed later without the need for a data connection, meaning that your most important files are only a few touches away. To aid with navigation, the user interface of the App focuses around simplicity, with a search bar at the top, and content such as photos being displayed in the gallery view. (Free, scored 4 out of 5 in an Appjudge review)

Reference :

Articles- A good front end that allows you to search and view all of the articles on wikipedia. Rather than resort to the mobile version of the wikipedia site or another App, Articles hopes to draw in users with it’s clean and intuitive interface. Articles allows the user to just focus on the information that’s being shown by displaying the text in a clear format and shrinking images, that can be enlarged once tapped upon. As well as this, Articles features a number of other unique features that helps set it apart from other Apps, such as the ability to search for related Wikipedia articles based on your location and a bookmarks feature, allowing you to come back to favourite articles. (£1.79)

Dictionary.com- There will be times, when even the best of us need to look up the spelling or definition of a word, and for those times, you should turn to the Dictionary.com App. Unlike similar Apps in this niche, the Dictionary.com App stores the majority of the words on your device, meaning that the App weights in at 44 megabytes, but the advantage of this, is that you won’t require a data connection for looking up most words. As well as providing the obvious lookup functionality, the App can pronounce words, give example sentences and give the origin of the word as well as provide Thesaurus functionality. The App comes in two different flavours; a free ad supported version, and a paid App without the adverts. (Free and paid version,£1.19)

Wolfram Alpha- Sometimes Wikipedia just won’t do, and for those times in which you require a reliable answer, the Wolfram Alpha App will have you covered. The App gives you access to all the high quality information that the site offers, but it’s contained within an optimised interface, that promotes easy of use and navigation. For those of you with an iPhone 4, the App will alter image quality depending on the strength of the data connection that your device is receiving. (£.059)

Social Networking  :

Facebook- Rather unsurprisingly, the official Facebook client is the best way to stay in touch with your friends. The App has all the features of the main site, such as chat, events, notes, contact search and the ability to ‘like’ statuses. The App also boasts features that are unique to the mobile platform, such as push notifications, that will notify you when you receive a new message, notification or friend request. As well as this, the App has recently been updated to include, Places, which allows you to checkin at places, Foursquare style, and tag friends who are with you. (Free)

Foursquare- The App gives you access to the up and coming service, based around ‘checking in’, with your friends as you travel around different locations. In an attempt to encourage users to continue to check in, the App incorporates game mechanics, based around points and mayorships. Each time you checkin, you are rewarded with a set number of points, on top of which, bonuses points can be added, for performing certain actions. Checkin to a location more times than anyone else, and you become the mayor, with some shops and restaurants offering special discounts to their mayors. But, if someone else checkins to the location more than you, then you’ll lose your mayorship, along with your special discounts. As well as the gameplay elements, Foursquare provides information regarding the area you’ve checked into and allows users to add tips. Overall, the unique gameplay elements, combined with the location based information, makes this an App to have. (Free)

Twitter- The web service Twitter has recently bought out one of the best Twitter Apps on the Appstore, ‘Tweetie 2′ and re branded it as their own with some minor changes. The App gives you access to all the same functionality of the website such as the ability to send direct messages, share photos and videos, realtime search and Tweet, along with all the relevant hashtags. (Free)

Sports :

Sky Sports Score Centre- Love Football as much as I do? The Sky Sports Score Centre App allows you to keep up to date with all the related news, score and fixtures of your team, when you’re on the move. The App allows you to create a customised homepage, which is based around your favourite team, and features content, such as next fixtures, latest scores and league position. You can also access scores from all the different leagues, as well as text commentary, team line ups and photos. Overall this is a very well polished App and one of the easiest ways to find out the latest scores. (Free)

Golfshot: Golf GPS- For those of us without our own caddy, the Golfshot App is the next best thing. The App provides detailed maps and information on over 33,000 courses across the globe. The App has a number of features that aim to aid golfers that utilises the device’s GPS, such as the ability to touch a point on a hole and get distances to that point and from there to the green. (£17.99)

iSport- If you find yourself in an unfamiliar location and feel the need to play your favourite sport, whether that be football or tennis, the iSport App could become one of your best companions. The App makes use of the GPS function in your device to locate the nearest football pitch or tennis court. All you need to do, is decide which sport you want to play, and from there the App will provide a map to your chosen location as well as contact details. The user interface is simple and to the point, allowing you to quickly find the information that you need. (£0.59)

Travel :

London Tube Deluxe- Whether you’re visiting London for the first time, or you’re a resident, the London Tube Deluxe App will help you navigate the maze of underground trains more efficiently and quicker. To achieve this the App has an array of features such as, a tube map, live departures board, timetables, status updates and push notifications. But by far the most useful feature being the journey planner, which allows you to pick a station to start from and a destination station and the App will do the rest. The App can offer multiple routes based on the number of changes and time, as well as working around any station or line closures. (£0.59)

Google Earth- Imagine having the ability to pinch, scroll and touch your way around the entire world- with the Google Earth App, you can. The App is a cut down version of the Desktop client, in terms of functionality, since it lacks some of the features, such as the variety of layers that you can apply for additional information. However, overall, this App is worth having, purely to show how capable your device is. (Free, featured in a monthly disposable App post)

NextBuses-Rather than stand in the cold and rain, wondering when the next bus is due, you should stay inside and check the timetable using Nextbuses. The App covers 370,000 bus stops around England, Scotland and Wales, so chances are good that your local bus route is covered. You can search for routes and destinations and the App can locate the nearest stops using either GPS or an entered postcode. Nextbuses also allows users to favourite their most used bus stops for easy access. (£0.59)

Utilities :

Torch for iPhone 4- The names says it all really. It turns the LED flash on the back of your iPhone 4 into a torch, allowing you to illuminate darkened areas. Torch for iPhone 4 will also allow you to send Morse code, via the flashing light, if you happen to know it. The App features a nice user interface, with some detailed metallic textures being used. As you may have guessed by now, this App is only for iPhone 4 users. (£0.59)

RedLaser- This App aims to help shoppers save money when they are out and about with their iPhone. RedLaser makes use of the camera that’s integrated into your iDevice to scan barcodes and then with this information, perform a price comparison search to find the best price for the product that you’ve scanned. For times when the camera fails to read the barcode, the App uses a smart search feature combined with a manual code entry form to find the product. The App reads barcodes from both the US, UK and Europe. (Free)

Battery Doctor Pro- This App is aimed around making sure that you get the most of your iDevice’s battery life. Batttery Doctor Pro gives you detailed statistics on your battery and from that, it can predict how much time you’ll squeeze out of the battery, based on 16 usage models. As well as this, the App gives a health report on the state of your battery, gives tips on extending the life of your batter and logs each time your charge and the duration. Overall, this App is a must for all users, since we all could do we getting an extra few minutes out of our battery. (£0.59)

Weather :

Weather Pro- For when the stock weather App won’t cut it, the Weather Pro App will. The App covers over 2000,000 locations worldwide with seven day forecasts. The App focuses around detailed weather forecasts and weather radar can be displayed for the majority of European countries, as well as the USA. The App boasts a clean interface that centres around displaying the weather information on a light blue background. The App is also optimised to work off any type of data connection, whether that be a weak EDGE connection or a strong WiFi signal. (£2.39)

AccuWeather- For those who take the forecast a little less seriously and would rather not shell out for an App. AccuWeather is still heavy with the details, giving users access to information such as air quality, UV index levels and radar. The App also features a clean interface, with a small ad banner along the top. Overall, this is a great, free alternative to the default Weather App. (Free)

Windfinder Pro- This App is aimed at kitesurfers, windsurfers, sailors and paragliders. The App gives forecasts for over 15000 locations worldwide and gives information such as wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, cloud coverage and perception, just to name a few. (£1.19)

Got an App that you think should be in here? Let’s hear about it, in the comments section below. Part one of this post is available here. Part two of this post is available here.





Welcome to the Social Epicentre

21 08 2010

We live in a world in which we have a dual identity, one in the real world and the other, on the internet, and for most this comes in the form of a Facebook or Twitter account. As well as this, there has been a rise in Geo location and the integration of this with the social sites, with the rise of services such as Foursquare. However, at the moment, all of these web and social services are failing to interact with one another. For example, I can check in with Foursquare, but then I can’t create a Facebook event using this Geo location data and invite friends to it, and I can’t check Twitter for related tweets about the location that I’ve checked into. In an attempt to bridge the gap between some of the social services, the Hotlist App  aggregates data from your Facebook account to populate the App with events and friends. From there, other services, such as Yelp and Twitter, provided additional information, which all contributes to a stream of relevant information that the user can use to their advantage.

The Basics

Category: Social

Last Update: 30 July 2010

Seller: Hotlist Media, Inc

Price: Free

Size: 1.2 mb

Version: 1.0

Requires: Compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later

The Review

One of the key features that sets the App apart from other social services, is the level of integration that The Hotlist offers. On the most basic level, the App connects with your Facebook account so it can import friend’s details. From there, based on events in the Hotlist database, the App can provide reviews from Yelp, the girl to guy ratio and, probably the most helpful, Tweets from people at the event, which gives users an insight of the vibe of a venue without stepping a foot inside. The integration of this data, combined with your friends from Facebook, gives the user access to information that allow them to make better informed decisions.

The overall level information that the user can gain from using this App is staggering, however, the developers need to continue to expand the level of integration, with additional services, such as Foursquare. I understand that this will rely heavily on how open social services are willing to be when it comes to integrating their data into the Hotlist App, however the more relevant services that The Hotlist aggregates, the more useful the App becomes, since with more relevant and quality information, users can make better decisions.

Along with the integration and aggregation of external data, the App is also well stocked out with features, such as directions to events which exports to the Google Maps App. Users also have the ability to track their friends through both a profile page, which reveals additional information on the person, as well as a news stream that mentions when and where your friends will be.

At the time of writing, the App covers over 1.2 million venues across 86 cities, and the App encourages users to add venues through the database via a simple entry form. At the moment the coverage of events in England is mainly focused around the main cities, however over time, as the service matures, the coverage will spread as people add places to the database.

While the App has good features as well as the integration of your social data, the App would benefit from additional features such as push notifications, for when friends check into or create an event. At the moment, the user has to continually check the App to find out the whereabouts of friends and events. The Hotlist also lacks a settings page, that allows users some basic controls over the experience. On a basic level, users should be able to change the theme of the App, as I don’t think the bright orange header will appeal to all. A good example of user control over the user interface of the App, is the Google Mobile App, which allows users to change the colour of the header. If the Hotlist was to adopt a similar features, it would broaden their user base, since it allows users to tailor their experience. On a more complex level, another setting could help reduce the amount of data that the App downloads. One example of this, is when looking at an event profile, the pictures of all the people who are attending are downloaded. There should be a setting to turn this, and similar data intensive features off.

Conclusion: A promising app with a bright future that is heavily dependent on both users, since it’s up to them to add to the database, and the developer’s relationship with social services. As I mentioned before, it’s vital that the developers continue to integrate other social services into the App in order to ensure that the Hotlist continues to be ahead of the pack. As it stands, this is a good App, which integrates data  and services in a new and inventive way. With a few changes to the App, mainly the introduction of a settings page and regular updates, this could be a five star App.

Rating:

+ Integration and aggregation of data and services

+ Features

+ Inspired new approach to the social App genre

- Minor adjustments- settings page

Like The Hotlist? – You may like…

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About time!

17 08 2010

As some of you may have noticed, the About page on the site has been under reconstruction for quite sometime. This was mainly to give the page a quick spruce up, as well as updating some of the information on it. For those who’ve yet to venture onto the page, it’s well worth it. The page contains information about the blog, contact details and a potted history of the Appstore. Check it out.





How to Find Good Apps

15 08 2010

Unfortunately there is no magical formula for finding a good App. The Appstore has well over 225,000 Apps on the store, at the time of writing, and as a result trying to find a good App, amongst the mediocrity and down right rubbish, can be quite a daunting and a time consuming task. However, in an attempt to provide a guide for you, and other weary App hunters, I have put together some pointers for finding good Apps.

User Interface

In a nutshell this is how you will interact and navigate around the Application. A good user interface will promote the use of the App through highlighting and making it easy to use the App’s features. As you may have noticed, through the general day to day use of your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad, Apple excels at this. As you can imagine, the user interface plays an important role and if you’ve read any of the reviews on the site, you will of noticed that one of the first things I scrutinise is, the user interface, since it heavily influences the final product.

Examples of a good user interfaces can easily be found on the Appstore, through simply looking at the provided screenshots, however, I’ve decided to highlight two Apps; the first being, I’am T-Pain. The developer has spent a lot of time creating a visually appealing interface that not only promotes navigation around and the overall usability, but also encourages user to use the App. While, the I am T-Pain App is a good example of an elaborate user interface, in the opposite end of the spectrum, Spendometer, provides a much more straight forward approach, which when in comparison to the elaborate visual eye candy of the T-Pain App, looks almost bare bones. Regardless, the point remains the same, since Spendometer still provides a good interface for the user, but in a starkly different way to the T-Pain App. Spendometer focuses upon allowing users to easily access the functions and interrupt the data easily.

Price

It would be natural to assume that as the price increase, so does the quality of the Application, and while you wouldn’t be far wrong, as always there are some exceptions to the rule. Such an example of this is the official Twitter Application, which unlike it’s competitors, is free. The Twitter App is arguably the best Twitter client on the iOS platform, since the Twitter service merely bought the developers of the high successful Tweetie 2 App and re branded it as the official Application. Another example of this, can be seen been the paid and free version of the Runkeeper Application. The paid version adds very few additional features when compared with the free version. If you can put up with a small advert banner, along the bottom of the App, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t pick the free version over the paid Runkeeper App.

Relevant Feature Set

A number of Apps on the store have an impressive array of features, however not all are relevant or useful. A good App should tow the line between the quantity of features and the quality and relevance of them.  A good example of this is 2Do, an App that aims to please those with the desire to track, manage and set a vast to do list. 2Do has an ever expanding array of features that are all designed around the core functionality of the App. The App offers a number of relevant features, such as the 2Do sync that backups and updates the 2Do data on your computer. As well as the extensive search feature, combined with the calendar integration, helps the user sort and find tasks.

What do the people say?

One of the easiest ways to find good Apps on the Appstore, is to spend a little time doing some research before committing to a purchase. The Appstore provides a rudimentary way for people to rate and review Apps that they have downloaded, and while some can be unhelpful, you can still get a useful insight into the quality of an App. Rather unsurprisingly, Apps that are good tend to get a higher average star rating than their bad counterparts. Also, make sure that you read the reviews for the latest version of the App

Another good way to find out about Apps is to have a look around the site and search for Apps. If you have a new iPhone, check out my posts, ‘I’ve just got an iPhone, now what?, part 1 and part 2. Furthermore, for an example of a good App, see my review of Flight Control or Opera Mini. For an example of a bad App, see my review of Kickball.

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