Archive for April, 2010

Quick Look: Stock Tracking Apps for iPad

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

We’ve mentioned that the iPad lacks a few apps that come with the iPhone out of the box like the weather, stocks, and calculators apps. We’ve introduced you to a few weather and calculator apps for the iPad to make up for these absent apps and today we’re looking at a few stock apps.

Bloomberg for iPad (free)

Bloomberg for the iPhone has been available for more than a year and a half and the company was quick to put out an iPad-specific version of this popular stock market app to coincide with the iPad’s release. The app’s focus is on providing quotes and financial news, offering tabs to show news headlines, equity indices, currency quotes, and much more.

The My Stocks tab is where you’ll find the functionality offered by the iPhone’s Stocks app – individual stocks can be tracked here and it’s even possible to enter your own holdings to display the current value of your investments.

Tapping on a stock entry reveals details about the company as well as a number of charts to show stock performance over different time periods. We think that viewing these pages in portrait orientation is most useful since related news stories are shown in this view which are not visible in landscape orientation.

Currency exchange rates, commodities such as gold, platinum, and silver, and bonds and indices from around the world are also available in their respective tabs. Bloomberg’s podcasts are even available for download in the last tab and can be played right within the app.

At the stupendous price of $0, the Bloomberg for iPad app is a fantastic alternative for general financial news and quotes and tracking individual stocks.

E*Trade Mobile Pro (free)

While geared toward E*Trade account holders, the E*Trade Mobile Pro app still offers a lot in the way of individual stock and general market information, albeit with an interface that’s not as intuitive as it could be.

Information is divided into three panels at the top and one large one at the bottom. Indicators below each group of panels show you how many more there are.

For the panels at the top, scrolling all the way to the left reveals three panels that are useful only to E*Trade customers only and require logging in, as do the CNBC Video panel all the way to the right and the last panel in the bottom half of the screen.

This leaves three panels in the top half and two panels in the bottom half that are useful for those who don’t have E*Trade accounts. These panels display stock charts and quotes, market index information, top financial news stories, and an editable stock watch list.

Unlike other apps we’ve seen that separate information into panels, tapping on one won’t expand it to take up the entire screen, which is particularly disappointing in relation to the chart panels.

Overall, the E*Trade Mobile Pro app is probably most useful for account holders as one would expect, but it can still provide useful information in a pinch if you’re looking for general financial news and want to track individual stocks.

StockWatch – iPad Edition ($5.99)

If you’re looking for a bit more in-depth tracking of your stock portfolio than the Bloomberg and E*Trade apps offer, StockWatch is for you. StockWatch is specifically geared toward tracking specific stocks and monitoring your entire portfolio, and even offers a free online synchronization service so that all devices with the StockWatch app stay in sync.

The Watchlist tab shows current pricing information and recent news about stocks you want to track, and it’s easy to add new stocks to the list.

The Portfolio tab is where you can track your entire portfolio, adding stocks, mutual funds, bonds, futures, and options. This is where the meat of the app is for those who want to stay on top of their portfolio through a no-nonsense and informative interface.

The Sync Services tab is where the free synchronization service is managed – here, the required PIN can be changed and imports and exports can be handled.

The Settings tab customizes how the app works for you, including very useful features like the page first shown when the app is owned, the standard commission amount for your trading transactions, and a security feature to passcode-protect the app to keep it from prying eyes should your iPad get into the wrong hands.

StockWatch – iPad Edition goes well beyond showing just stock prices and pretty charts, allowing users to keep a close eye on their financial status without any fluff to get in the way and is well worth the $5.99 price tag.

Quick Look: PrintCentral for iPad

Friday, April 16th, 2010

With the iPad making it into the hands of more than 500,000 people since its release, many users who are integrating their shiny new iPads into their daily lives are finding one substantial limitation: the inability to print. This limitation out of the box hamstrings business users, students, and anyone else who needs a hard copy of a forgotten presentation, article, or research paper with nothing but an iPad in hand. Fortunately, third-party developers have stepped up to fill this gap. EuroSmartz is one of these developers and PrintCentral is their latest universal app for the iPad and iPhone.

PrintCentral’s features list is quite long, but stand-outs include the ability to print over Wi-Fi or 3G, in-app access to print emails and email attachments, and the use of iPhone OS 3.2’s file sharing feature with the app’s update to version 1.2 that was just released today.

Opening the app for the first time displays a prompt to download the printer helper software from the EuroSmartz site. This software is required for printing, which is the only snag if the only computer you have access to isn’t yours and getting administrator access to install software on it isn’t easy or feasible. Otherwise, the application for the Mac takes up under 3 MB of space and required no set-up at all once installed.

Once the WePrint software was installed and a test document was transferred to the iPad via iTunes, it took under one minute to start printing the document to a printer on a local Wi-Fi network.

Printing over 3G to a printer behind a firewall may require some additional set-up through a Print via Proxy setting and EuroSmartz has some help documentation to support users in getting this up and running.

Printing emails and email attachments requires more work than might be expected when seeing this item in the app’s features list since it requires setting up each email account within the PrintCentral app again – it won’t use the built-in Mail app or pull emails from it. This might be a little tedious to do if you’re in a rush and we’d recommend you set these up before heading out the door with your iPad to avoid any delays should the urgent need to print an attachment arise suddenly.

Beyond offering printing abilities, PrintCentral document storage and viewing on your iPad and basic editing of text documents, though we found that editing was only available with documents created within PrintCentral.

PrintCentral can also access MobileMe iDisks (or any WebDAV server) to transfer and print files.

With so many features, PrintCentral is highly functional but not entirely intuitive. Fortunately, help files can be accessed within the app (an internet connection is needed to view them) and on the EuroSmartz site.

PrintCentral costs $9.99 and comes in a single universal version compatible with both the iPad and iPhone.

Number Crunching: Calculator Apps for iPad

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

As we mentioned in last week’s article on iPad weather apps, the iPad does not come with all of the same apps as the iPhone out of the box. Why? If rumors are to be believed, these apps were left off the iPad because their scaled-up designs for the iPad’s larger screen were personally rejected by Steve Jobs. Whatever the reason, new iPads don’t offer an easy way for users to calculate much at all fresh out of the box. We’ve found a few apps to fill this gap.

If you’re looking to replicate the iPhone’s calculator with its standard mode in portrait orientation and scientific mode in landscape orientation, CrowdCafé’s Calculator for iPad ($.99) is an option. In landscape orientation, a standard calculator with a sleek brushed aluminum finish sits on a desk surrounded by common office accoutrements.

In landscape orientation, the calculator changes to an expanded one in scientific mode, offering trigonometric, exponential, and logarithmic functions and more.

Button presses are accompanied by a clicking sound though there are no settings to turn it off, requiring users to manually adjust the iPad’s system-wide volume level if this sound effect is unwelcome. The calculator’s virtual buttons are fairly large in both orientations so entry errors shouldn’t be an issue for most. And while the background desktop and paraphernalia image is cute, it serves only as eye candy that may not be attractive to all users and we can’t help but think that this space could be put to better use. Overall, this is a serviceable app that will mostly duplicate what the stock iPhone Calculator app can do for a low price.

Next up is Digits ($.99) by Shift. This calculator app uses the iPad’s entire screen, displaying calculation history in a running strip on the left side. While this app lacks scientific functions, it brings a virtual tape that records calculation history to the table making it suitable for longer or repetitive arithmetic calculations. Useful features include a flag button to mark a specific result for later reference and a backspace button to correct entries.

Calculation history is saved automatically in between uses unless this setting is turned off. The interface can also be customized to change the background color.

James Thomson’s PCalc Lite is a free app that offers a full scientific calculator right off the bat in both landscape and portrait orientations. PCalc Lite’s differences from the other two apps lie in its expansion possibilities. Add-ons include a theme pack to change the look of the calculator, a conversion pack to do unit conversions easily, and more packs to provide functionality for engineers, programmers and other more advanced users.

The Settings menu offers one other theme aside from the default, another font for the digit display, and the ability to turn off the key click sound.

PCalc Lite offers a lot to start with and lets you try-before-you-buy to get a feel for the app before spending money on the add-on packages, while remaining a solid calculator app even without the add-ons. According to the developer’s site, PCalc Lite is only going to be offered for a limited time, so get it while you can.

There you have it – three calculator apps for your number crunching pleasure. Soon, we’ll check out other apps to bring stock prices, voice memos, and multifunction clocks to the iPad for those who miss these standard iPhone apps.

Quick Look: Wormhole Remote for iPad

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Just prior to the iPad’s U.S. launch on April 3, developer Nate True of Tap Tap Revenge fame announced the pending release of his latest app endeavor, Wormhole Remote. Now available in the App Store, Wormhole Remote is a new iPad app that lets you operate a Mac on the same local Wi-Fi network remotely.

Pairing an iPad with a Mac running OS 10.6 (no other versions of OS X, or Windows, are supported yet) is easy. First, you’ll need the Wormhole Remote Server application for your Mac, which can be downloaded here. Once installed and running, opening the Wormhole Remote app on an iPad on the same local network will reveal a pairing prompt.

Selecting the iPad in the Wormhole Remote Server task bar menu on the Mac will confirm the connection (this only needs to be done once between each iPad and Mac).

Once paired, the Mac will be listed in the app as a host.

Selecting the host computer reveals icons for all of the apps currently open on it.

Tapping on an application’s icon reveals all of its open windows and selecting one brings it to the forefront.

In order to enter text, a button in the top left can bring up the iPad’s on-screen keyboard.

Wormhole Remote handily offers additional keyboard buttons not available on the iPad’s virtual keyboard, including the tab, control, alt/option, and command buttons, as well as all of the function buttons – these can be accessed with the “…” button on the top right edge of the keyboard. Access to an application’s full menu is provided by tapping on the Menu button in the top right corner of the screen.

Switching to a different application is as easy as tapping on the Applications button in the top left corner. Note that Wormhole Remote only allows access to applications currently open on the Mac and it’s not possible select new applications to open.

We found that entering text via the iPad was almost painfully slow, with a noticeable delay before the text appeared in the application on the host Mac. Deleting typos took some time and it was easy to delete too many characters since the delay gave the impression that some key presses did not register.  Also, though you’re using the iPad’s keyboard, its predictive text entry and spelling correction features don’t work since it’s simply emulating a regular keyboard attached to your Mac. However, if you are a careful and patient typist, using Wormhole Remote for quick bouts of text entry while you’re in another room away from your Mac is definitely doable.

Using Safari remotely is intuitive since you can use the same multitouch gestures you’re used to using on the iPad already to navigate web pages. Standard mouse controls, like clicks, double clicks, and secondary clicks are also possible. The “?” button in the top right corner shows a Quick Reference guide listing all of the available navigation gestures.

While web browsing remotely through Wormhole remote worked well, it was not as quick and fluid as using the iPad’s own Safari browser.

Since Wormhole Remote works only between iPads and Macs on the same local network at the moment, it’s only truly useful if you’re in another room away from your Mac with iPad in hand and you really don’t want to get up and go to your Mac. However, True is planning on adding remote access capability via 3G and non-local Wi-Fi networks, plus additional compatibility with more Mac OS X versions and Windows, which will greatly enhance the utility of this app.

Wormhole Remote for iPad is available in Universal format for $6.99 while Wormhole Remote for iPhone works on the iPhone/iPod touch only and costs $2.99.

CourseSmart Puts Textbooks on iPad

Monday, April 12th, 2010

CourseSmart, a company that offers textbooks in digital format to students and educators, now has an iPad-specific app to complement its iPhone version released last year. eTextBooks for the iPad hit the App Store over the weekend and is free.

The CourseSmart service provides access to over 10,000 electronic textbooks at prices about 50% less than their paper counterparts. It works under a subscription model and first requires a free account to browse and buy books, which is done in an online store on the web and not directly in the app.

The price and subscription duration are listed for each textbook in the online store. Purchased textbooks can be accessed for the full duration of the subscription either online or via the iPad or iPhone apps.

With the announcement of the iPad, CourseSmart promised an enhanced app that would take advantage of the iPad’s features, namely its larger screen. CourseSmart envisions even more features for the app in the future as demonstrated by this video posted on its site:

The CourseSmart app for the iPad is available now and is free.

Atebits’ Tweetie Acquired by Twitter

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Yesterday, Twitter announced that it will acquire Tweetie, one of the most popular iPhone Twitter apps, and re-brand it to be the official Twitter app. Twitter described that this acquisition is to help avoid confusion among Twitter users:

Careful analysis of the Twitter user experience in the iTunes AppStore revealed massive room for improvement. People are looking for an app from Twitter, and they’re not finding one. So, they get confused and give up. It’s important that we optimize for user benefit and create an awesome experience.

Tweetie’s developer, Loren Brichter, will be joining Twitter as part of this acquisition. Once re-branded, the official Twitter app will become free, down from the $2.99 price of the current Tweetie iPhone app. An iPad version of the app is also forthcoming.

Delivery Status Touch Brings Stylish Package Tracking to the iPad

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Junecloud’s Delivery Status touch has been updated to Universal format to work on both the iPhone and iPad. With an overall rating of 4.5 stars for the current version and frequent appearances in the Top 100 in the Utilities category in the past 30 days, Delivery Status touch appears to be a hit among those who like to keep tabs on their packages.

On the iPad, the large screen is put to good use, showing a map of the package’s current location as well as a blue dot indicating your own location to illustrate how far it still needs to travel.

The “View details online” button will replace the map with a browser page showing the package’s details from the delivery company’s website.

While there isn’t much in the way of settings (you can only change the sort order of packages being tracked), the app continues to offer online synchronization so you can enter and view package data on the web through the Junecloud site, a free Dashboard widget (Mac OS 10.5 or later only), and through the iPad/iPhone app. With this sync feature, package information you enter on the web or through the Dashboard widget will appear automatically in the app on your iPad, and vice versa.

Delivery Status touch can track packages with a number of delivery services around the world – a full list is here.

If you want to share a package’s status, it’s possible to create an email within the app and send it on its way.

Delivery Status touch now costs $4.99, up from $2.99 prior to the Universal version, though we don’t begrudge Junecloud this price increase at all given the app’s functionality, style, and free synchronization feature.

Weather HD: Slick Weather App for iPad

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Just the other day, we wrote about some full-featured weather apps for the iPad – WeatherBug Elite and The Weather Channel Max. We’ve come across another weather app that, while not as robust in terms of the amount of sheer information offered, shows weather conditions in a way that’s prettier than any other we’ve seen.

VIMOV’s Weather HD (iPad only) shows current weather conditions using life-like video that really takes advantage of the iPad’s vivid screen. It’s hard to describe how lovely this can look with words alone and VIMOV has posted a video to demonstrate how the app works:

Weather HD costs $.99 and while it’s temporarily more expensive than WeatherBug Elite (currently free for a short time only) and The Weather Channel Max, it’s another alternative if you like a little eye candy with your weather forecast.

More iPhone/iPad Filters (Search, Top100)

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

We continue to expand the filtering capabilities of the site by adding an iPhone/iPad filter to both the Search and Top100. Enjoy!

Wunder Radio Brings Radio Streaming to iPad

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Wunder Radio by Weather Underground was released to the App Store in Universal format last night, adding an iPad-specific interface to the popular radio streaming app.

The primary view in Wunder Radio on the iPad is a web tab that displays information on the station and song currently playing, with a song history list on the right. iTunes links are provided where possible to make it easy to purchase songs on the go. Tapping on an iTunes link will open the iTunes app. Since third-party apps cannot run in the background on the iPad, Wunder Radio will close and music will stop playing.

Wunder Radio can use the iPad’s location services to find local stations and a search bar is available to search the RadioTime database and the web for more sources. A web browser is also built in to help while away the time as you listen to a station.

Favorite stations can be bookmarked for easy access later.

The Settings menu includes a sleep timer that will close the app after 1 to 120 minutes, as well as web and streaming settings options.

The Show Fireworks option in the Settings mimics the iTunes Visualizer, showing animated graphics to complement what you’re listening to, though they are far less sophisticated than what iTunes offers.

The information button reveals a small pop-up to show song and station details and a volume slider (the volume buttons on the iPhone and iPad both serve to adjust volume as well, of course).

Since the app is Universal, the same version will work on both the iPad and the iPhone with an appropriately formatted interface for each device. iPhone users with a new iPad who had purchased Wunder Radio before this update will be happy to know that this version is available at no charge. For everyone else, Wunder Radio costs $6.99.