Archive for July, 2010

OmniFocus Comes to iPad

Friday, July 30th, 2010

The Omni Group’s powerful task management software has arrived for the iPad, hitting the App Store this morning. The app has advanced features including location-aware task lists and over-the-air synchronization with OmniFocus for the Mac and iPhone. The full list of features of the new iPad version includes:

  • Quick Entry for fast, easy task capture
  • Task inbox where items can be stored for future processing
  • Detailed task options like start and due dates, repeating schedules, and audio note and photo attachments
  • Organize tasks into projects and folders, with as much hierarchy as is needed
  • Categorize and view tasks by contexts, or work modes (ie, “Phone” for all phone call-related to-dos)
  • Subtasks, for breaking large tasks into manageable steps
  • Built-in search for locating any task in your database
  • Cloud sync: synchronize with OmniFocus for Mac and OmniFocus for iPhone
  • Location-based contexts: the Map makes it easy to generate and view tasks based on current or assigned locations
  • Forecasts: see a weekly or daily view of all due tasks
  • Built-in reviewing that helps you stay current on all your projects
  • Free customer support via email or phone

At $39.99, the app is not cheap but we know many users who swear by the software’s ability to keep them on track and productive. OmniFocus for the iPhone costs $19.99 and first became available in 2008. OmniFocus for the Mac starts at $79.95.

  • $3999Buy Now

    OmniFocus for iPad

    Last Changed:
    20 months ago
    4.00 (73)
    iOS iPad

    OmniFocus for iPad combines the in-depth task management features of a desktop app with the advanced mobile experience of the iPad. With flexible viewing options, location-aware task lists, and...

  • $1999Buy Now

    OmniFocus for iPhone

    Last Changed:
    23 months ago
    4.00 (17)
    iOS iPhone

    OmniFocus for iPhone brings task management to your fingertips. Keep track of tasks by project, place, person, or date. With OmniFocus for iPhone, you'll always have your important information at...

Kindle App Gets Dictionary, Search, More in Latest Update

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Amazon’s Kindle app was updated to version 2.2 last night adding a number of new features. This update comes on the heels of Amazon’s announcement of a new Wi-Fi-only Kindle device priced aggressively at $139, emphasizing that the giant online retailer remains serious about ebooks on a number of platforms.

The full list of new features in this update is as follows:

  • Instant word lookup on included dictionary with 250,000 entries and definitions
  • Search inside the book on iPad
  • Improved experience for searching inside the book on iPhone and iPod Touch
  • Improvements to line-spacing on iPad
  • Look up words on Google and Wikipedia
  • Fast app switching and bug fixes on iOS4 devices

While the Kindle app is nearly on par with Apple’s own iBooks app in terms of features for reading ebooks, it still requires users to exit the app and use Safari to browse the Kindle book store and make purchases.

  • Books

    Kindle – Read Books, eBooks,...

    Last Changed:
    2 weeks ago
    4.00 (270)
    iOS Universal

    The Kindle app is optimized for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch, giving users the ability to read Kindle books, newspapers, magazines, textbooks and PDFs on a beautiful, easy-to-use interface....

Review: Podcaster for iPhone

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

If you like podcasts as much as we do, you might also be unsatisfied with the inability of the iPhone’s native iPod app to let you know about new episodes and download them automatically. Enter Podcaster, an app by Alex Sokirynsky that will check for new podcast episodes, download them automatically, and act as a full-featured podcast player.

Podcaster first hit our radar in late 2008 when Apple had rejected it from the App Store for duplicating functionality already present in iTunes. Sokirynsky then got creative and distributed the app via ad hoc distribution for a $10 fee. Shortly after the rejection of Podcaster, Sokirynsky was able to get an app with similar functionality into the App Store dubbed RSS Player in early 2009. Just last month, Podcaster debuted in the App Store specifically for iOS 4 (RSS Player is still available though it is for devices running iOS 3.x). We gave Podcaster a spin to see if it satisfies our voracious podcast appetite.

While it’s possible to check for new podcasts directly on the iPhone, it’s a manual process that redirects you to the iTunes app where you need to select the podcasts you want to download and there’s no automatic way to check for new episodes of the podcasts to which you subscribe. Also, if you’re not connected to a Wi-Fi network, you may not be able to download a new podcast at all if it’s over 20 MB in size. When it comes to iTunes on your computer, the application does download new episodes automatically each time you open it but it has an annoying habit of not downloading new episodes if it thinks you’ve stopped listening to them and you have to manually re-start the automatic downloads for each affected subscription. Podcaster eliminates these limitations by checking for new podcasts on a schedule you define (though this feature isn’t as robust as we’d like – more on that in a bit) and circumvents the file size limit when downloading episodes over a cellular data connection.

To start using Podcaster, you do need to first find all of the podcasts to which you’d like to subscribe manually since it won’t automatically identify them from what’s in the music library in the iPod app (or you can import a list using an OPML file, though we did not test this). However, searching manually doesn’t take long since it’s easy to search for them by using some handy lists built into the app, like Most Popular and Top Rated, or search for them by title or other keyword. We did have one problem during this process where the app wouldn’t find the Touch Arcade podcast even though it’s readily available with a quick search directly in iTunes and entering the link manually just resulted in an endless search loop without results.

Once you’ve subscribed to all of the podcasts you want, you can adjust the app’s settings to determine how many episodes should be downloaded and saved to your iPhone, how many unplayed episodes should be kept, whether or not auto-downloading should occur when connected to Wi-Fi, 3G, or Wi-Fi and 3G networks, and more. It’s here that you also set how frequently you want the app to check for new episodes as well. While we like the idea of this feature, Podcaster won’t check in the background for you so this schedule is a bit useless since it won’t work if the app isn’t open nor does the app offer push notifications of any kind to let you know there are new episodes to prompt you to manually open the app. The lack of push notifications is a disappointment particularly since this feature is offered in the older RSS Player app, although Sokirynsky’s blog indicates this is coming in a future update.

When it comes to listening to podcasts to which you’ve subscribed, you have a lot of options in Podcaster. You can delve right into a list of the 10 most recent episodes and download or stream them. Or, you can use the handy Playlists tab that will take you through all unplayed downloads, all downloads, or all unplayed episodes regardless of whether or not they’ve been downloaded to your iPhone. The playback screen for audio podcasts provides playback controls at the top and the episodes information below. Links in the information section are clickable so you can get to show notes if the publisher provides a link there. Watching a video podcast brings up the iPhone’s native video player.

Podcaster is iOS 4-compatible and will continue playing in the background when you leave the app and playback can be controlled using the buttons in fast-app switching tray or with the controls of a compatible headset. When you’ve finished listening to a podcast, you need to manually delete it. Unfortunately, Podcaster is missing the ability to automatically delete podcasts after they’ve been listened to that exists in the older RSS Player app.

Interface-wise, we find Podcaster to not be as polished as we’d hope for, particularly given how long the app has been around in its RSS player incarnation and before when it was first submitted to Apple in 2008. Playback controls, the podcast episode lists, and other areas, while functional, lack any sense of style and the attention to small interface details we’re used to seeing even in other 3rd-party apps. Regardless, the app works well enough to get you the latest episodes of your favorite podcasts without needing to sync your iPhone to your computer or check each one manually through the iPod and iTunes store apps. Also, it wasn’t as stable as we would have liked, crashing periodically, primarily while searching for podcasts.

Our wish list for future features in Podcaster includes push notifications to learn of new episodes even when the app is closed, which will hopefully arrive soon as promised, and the ability to continue downloading podcasts in the background even when you go to another app.

All in all, Podcaster is a competent podcast client that does much more than any app that comes installed on the iPhone to keep you up to date with your favorite podcasts. Since Podcaster does nearly everything that the older RSS Player app does, it does feel a little sleazy to see Sokirynsky set up Podcaster as a new app specifically for iOS 4 since it’s absolutely possible to simply rebrand and update an app to take advantage of the new iOS 4 features and still maintain compatibility with iOS 3.x, and we can understand if RSS Player owners are bothered by this once they upgrade to the latest iOS version. While the principle of this practice definitely rubs us the wrong way, the price is relatively low at $.99. If you haven’t used RSS Player before and want an easier way to keep up with new podcasts, Podcaster is a decent option. If you are coming from using RSS Player, we wouldn’t blame you if you pass on Podcaster given how this app “upgrade” was handled.

  • News

    Podcaster 5

    Last Changed:
    31 months ago
    1.50 (35)
    iOS iPhone

    Subscribe, download and play audio & video podcasts without having to sync with iTunes.  Originally rejected for duplicating functionality. iPad users, check out Podcaster HD. A great...

  • Entertainment

    RSS Player Podcast Client

    Last Changed:
    52 months ago
    2.50 (148)
    iOS iPhone

    ##################### This app is for iOS 3 users and iPad users.  If you are running iOS 4, please purchase Podcaster instead. Email if you have any questions. ...

Chopper 2 Offers Unique Control Mode

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Chopper 2, a side-scrolling shooter/rescue game where you control a helicopter through various missions, hit the App Store yesterday and it includes a unique control mode that we haven’t seen before. The app is universal and works on both the iPad and iPhone and if you own both, you’re in for a fantastic treat: you can use the iPhone as an external controller to play the game on your iPad via a Bluetooth connection.

Touch Arcade has done a full review of Chopper 2, including a video (embedded below) that shows the iPhone control scheme used with an iPad connected to a 50-inch plasma screen. A set-up like this puts the iPad/iPhone combo in competition with stand-alone consoles and we’re really excited to see developers continue to push the envelope like this. Though Chopper 2 isn’t the first game to pair an iPhone and iPad for gameplay – Electronic Arts’ Scrabble for iPad was the first that we know of with its separate Tile Rack app for the iPhone to supplement gameplay on the iPad – this is the first we’ve seen this type of control scheme for an action-oriented game.

Chopper 2 is on sale for a limited time at $2.99 and if you own both an iPhone and iPad, you owe it to yourself to try it out. If you have a large display and Apple’s Component AV Cables, you too can enjoy playing Chopper 2 on a big screen in your own home.

  • Games

    Chopper 2

    Last Changed:
    23 months ago
    4.50 (545)
    iOS Universal

    Chopper 2 is the sequel to the best selling App Store helicopter side scroller, Chopper. Chopper 2 features 36 action packed missions over 12 unique and beautiful locations. It features a completely...

Review: Text’nDrive Pro for iPhone

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

With laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving going into effect in more and more states around the U.S., developers are working on ways to help users who still need to use a cell phone for certain tasks while driving more safely. While we definitely don’t advocate emailing or texting while driving, it is clear that voice recognition technology today can streamline some tasks to make them safer to do while driving. Enter Text’nDrive Pro by HandsFree Software, an app that will read new emails aloud to you and let you craft replies hands-free using your voice alone. We tested the app to see how well it works to let you know if plunking down $19.99 (it’s currently on sale for $9.99 as we write this review) for the app will be worthwhile for you.

To use Text’nDrive Pro, you must first set up the email accounts you want the app to check in the app itself. Most of the popular email services are a snap to set up, including Gmail, Hotmail, MobileMe, and AOL. However, corporate users and those using email accounts not with one of the major free email providers may encounter some difficulty. For example, our own AppShopper email accounts are hosted privately and Text’nDrive Pro would not accept the settings so we could test the app using a work email account. For a Microsoft Exchange account, the IMAP protocol must be enabled for Text’NDrive Pro to work with it, and your IT department may or may not be keen on enabling this for you if it isn’t already.

We tried out a personal Gmail account instead and had no trouble setting this account up in Text’nDrive Pro. Once an account is set up, the app will trawl for new email every few minutes. When a new email arrives, the app will read the email aloud to you. This function works quite well and we had no trouble understanding email content read to us. Emails are read aloud in a computerized voice that reminds us of the system voice named Alex in Mac OS X.

After the app finishes reading an email aloud to you, you are offered an opportunity to respond to the email. While you can interact with the app by touching the screen to speed up the response process, you can also just follow the voice prompts to do so completely hands-free.

When you dictate a response to an email, the app simply records your voice and replies to the email by attaching a link to an MP3 recording of your reply. While this worked just fine in our tests, with recorded replies playing back with no trouble on our computer and on our iPhone, this wasn’t quite what we were hoping for, to be honest. We had hoped that this app would reply in kind with a written email, taking our dictated message and transcribing it accordingly. HandsFree Software tells us that they have plans to add this capability in the future.

This is what an email reply sent through the app looks like to a recipient:

We could do without the tag line promoting the app and find that this reply style does not lend itself to professional use at all. We’d much prefer it if the app would use an introduction and signature that can be customized by the user with an opt-in to the promotion-oriented mention of the app.

For some reason, we found that the app took longer than expected to receive new emails in the Gmail account we used – the app would show us that no new emails had been received when our computer and even the Mail app on the iPhone showed a new message had arrived, even after several minutes. Prompting the app to check rather than waiting for the next scheduled check did not help. And if you receive an email that is mostly HTML, we found that Text’nDrive Pro simply wouldn’t acknowledge that it had been received and it wouldn’t show any new messages received until we received a text-only email afterward.

If you don’t want to listen to a new message, you can tap anywhere on the screen to stop playback. If you don’t want to reply to a new email after it’s been read to you, you can simply remain silent after the voice prompts and the app will not send a reply.

When it comes to SMS messages where we think this app could be absolutely invaluable, Text’nDrive Pro does not yet offer SMS reading and replying functionality despite what you might infer from the app’s name alone. HandsFree Software hopes to add this feature before Christmas. With the recent update to Dragon Dictation that will transcribe dictated messages and paste them directly into a new SMS message, it’s clear that this kind of functionality is allowed by Apple though addressing an SMS by voice will most likely be the tricky part to implement.

Given the difficulties we encountered with trying a privately-hosted email account and the limitations for Exchange email accounts, Text’nDrive Pro will have a difficult time meeting the needs of business users who are probably the primary target audience for this app. However, if you route your business email through Gmail, this app could work well for you. Otherwise, we are hard pressed to think that many users who only check and respond to personal email will find this app to be worthwhile unless you spend an inordinate amount of time on the road and must respond to new emails immediately.

We did wish for a few additional features to make this app even more useful. First, some sort of voice control to repeat the dictation of an email received in case we missed something the first time around would be fantastic – this could be accomplished with a simple voice menu after a message is first read asking if we want to reply or repeat the last message. Second would be some way to mark messages to be replied to later, also handled by voice controls. If you’re in the midst of navigating in a new area, you may not want to reply to a message right then and there but know that you want to in just a few minutes once you get away from a tricky intersection and it would be great if there was a simple voice menu command to “reply later” that would replay the last message in 5 or 10 minutes.

We think HandsFree Software has an app with great potential in Text’nDrive Pro. In its current incarnation with limited compatibility with Exchange and privately-hosted email accounts and without any SMS features yet, we don’t think it’s worth $19.99 for most users right now. If Text’nDrive Pro gets true email transcription and SMS features in the near future as well as wider email account compatibility, it very well could be worth $20 and we suggest you hold on to your money until that time comes.

HandsFree Software also offers a free lite version of Text’nDrive that allows you to see how the app works though you’ll only be able to hear up to 45 words of new incoming emails and won’t be able to reply.

  • Business

    Text'nDrive Pro - Speech To Text...

    Last Changed:
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    1.50 (16)
    iOS iPhone

    "Want To Listen To Your Emails While Driving And Reply With Your Voice? There’s An App For That!" ✌ Loved by CNN ✌ 75 OFF! TODAY ONLY ☆THANKS TO OUR 2 MILLION USERS FOR...

  • Business

    Text'nDrive - Speech To Text...

    Last Changed:
    32 months ago
    1.50 (21)
    iOS iPhone

    "Want To Listen To Your Messages While Driving And Reply With Your Voice? There’s An App For That!" ✌ Loved by CNN ✌ ☆THANKS TO OUR 2 MILLION USERS FOR SPREADING THE WORD☆...

Airlines Bring Mobile Boarding Passes to iPhone

Monday, July 26th, 2010

American Airlines has released a new app that provides travelers with a number of utilities including flight details, standby list tracking, mobile boarding passes and more. The app hit the App Store early this morning and is free.

The full list of the app’s features is as follows:

  • Enter your login & password only once: saving your info allows the app to push your upcoming flight details to your home screen, automatically
  • Set a parking reminder
  • Monitor your place on the standby list
  • Track your Elite Status progress
  • View personal flight details: get your gate, seat and flight status info at a glance
  • Access your mobile boarding pass: the app saves it for you, so it’s always easy to find
  • Use GPS to locate the nearest American Airlines serviced airport
  • View terminal maps
  • Play Sudoku

American Airlines states in its press release that future updates to the app will take advantage of its GPS capabilities and offer push notifications. An iPad-specific version of the app will also be released shortly.

This appears to be the first app from a major U.S. airline that offers a mobile boarding pass feature, allowing travelers to use an iPhone to board a flight without needing to print a boarding pass in advance.

Outside of the U.S., British Airways also added a mobile boarding pass feature to its app last week.

  • Travel

    American Airlines

    Last Changed:
    4 days ago
    1.50 (26)
    iOS Universal

    Introducing the travel app that understands who you are and where you’re going. From where you’re departing and from what gate. Where you’ll sit and even where you are on the standby list....

  • Travel

    British Airways

    Last Changed:
    1 week ago
    3.50 (2108)
    iOS iPhone

    To Fly. To Serve. The British Airways app makes booking, boarding and accessing everything about your flights easier than ever before. Personalised to you, the app gives you instant access to the...

Skype Update Adds Multitasking in iOS 4

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Skype has been updated to version 2.0.1, bringing multitasking to the popular VOIP app so that calls can be received even when other applications are running. The full description of the new features is as follows:

Run Skype in the background with multitasking in iOS4. Receive Skype calls and IM while other apps are running or when your iPhone is locked. You can also continue your call while you switch to another application. Multitasking is available only with iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS.

Skype was most recently in the news in relation to Fring, a multi-platform messaging and VOIP app that had previously included the ability to use Skype’s services and the quarrel between the two companies ended with what appears to be the permanent removal of Skype from Fring’s in-app offerings.

While we appreciate this update to use iOS 4’s multitasking abilities, we’re still waiting for the addition of video calling within the Skype app to take advantage of the iPhone 4’s front-facing camera.

  • Social Networking

    Skype for iPhone

    Last Changed:
    3 days ago
    3.00 (54)
    iOS iPhone

    Say “hello” to the new Skype for iPhone. Remastered to put your conversations with the people who matter most at your fingertips. Stay in touch with free messaging, voice or video calls on...

Gameloft’s N.O.V.A. Gets Gyroscopic Control Mode for iPhone 4

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Gameloft’s first-person shooter, N.O.V.A (Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance), has been updated to version 1.2.1 with some iPhone 4-specific features including the ability to control movement using the device’s gyroscope and Retina Display support. Only a handful of games take advantage of the iPhone 4’s gyroscope, with ngmoco’s Eliminate: Gun Range appearing as the first to do so shortly after the iPhone 4’s release.

The full list of the updates made to N.O.V.A is as follows:

  • Updated for iPhone 4 and iOS 4
  • New gyroscopic control mode with complete 3D range added
  • Crisp & gorgeous high-resolution graphics to take full advantage of the iPhone 4 Retina Display
  • Support for iOS 4 multitasking on compatible devices: switch between your favorite apps instantly

Touch Arcade reviewed N.O.V.A when it was released and found it to be impressive. We haven’t spent too much time yet with this latest version but the gyroscopic control feels smooth and graphics are nice and crisp.

  • Games

    N.O.V.A. - Near Orbit Vanguard...

    Last Changed:
    44 months ago
    4.00 (393)
    iOS iPhone

    NEWLY UPGRADED FOR iPHONE 4 with optimized graphics for the Retina display & gyroscope support for innovative controlling and aiming precision. **IGN - Best Action Game of the Year:...

Flipboard Social Magazine App Debuts

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Flipboard, an iPad-only app described as a “social magazine” with a novel way to show updates from Twitter and Facebook, debuted in the App Store early this morning. Flipboard was created by a start-up company founded by entrepreneur Mike McCue and Evan Doll, a former Apple iPhone engineer.

Once you enter your Facebook and Twitter log-in credentials, Flipboard will display updates and articles linked to by your friends on these social networks. Flipboard also includes additional “channels” with content to which you can subscribe to get news and information in the areas of business, finance, politics, music, and a number of other areas. Flipboard also offers a list of sources in a “Today’s Picks” section.

Flipboard has posted a video demonstrating how the app works:

Flipboard is a bit overwhelmed at the moment and we’re seeing an error message indicating that the company is limiting the number of new Twitter and Facebook connections and is working on adding new server capacity.

  • News

    Flipboard: Your Social News...

    Last Changed:
    2 weeks ago
    4.50 (186)
    iOS Universal

    Flipboard is your personal magazine, at your desk, in your back pocket or on your wrist. Filled with stories, photos and videos on any interest, it’s a single place to keep up with your world. And...

Handy Light: Tethering App Camouflaged as Flashlight

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Nick Lee’s Handy Light app, which looks like any other flashlight app that uses the iPhone’s screen to provide illumination, actually camouflages a tethering feature using the SOCKS proxy, à la Nullriver’s Software’s NetShare app that was available for a short time nearly two years ago. The app just hit the App Store a little while ago and costs a mere $.99.

For those unfamiliar with tethering, it allows you to use your iPhone’s cellular data connection on your computer or other devices via Wi-Fi. In the U.S., AT&T requires an additional $20 per month for this feature, and you must be on the most expensive data plan that costs $25 per month (unless you were grandfathered into the unlimited $30 data plan offered previously). We’ve tested the app and it works as advertised, bringing unofficial tethering to any iPhone running iOS 4.

Lee has posted a YouTube video demonstrating how the app works:

In case you don’t want to watch the video, the instructions are as follows:

  1. Set up an ad hoc Wi-Fi network on your computer (network name and password requirement are not important).
  2. Connect to the Wi-Fi network you just created on your iPhone through the Settings/Wi-Fi menu.
  3. Tap on the blue arrow to the right of the selected Wi-Fi network, click Static in the IP Address menu and enter the following IP address and chuckle at its geek quotient:
  4. Next, enter in the Subnet Mask field.
  5. Back out of the Settings menu to ensure these settings are saved (though hitting the Home button right away shouldn’t change them).
  6. Go to your Mac or PC and change the network settings to use the SOCKS Proxy and enter as the Socks Proxy Server address and 1337 as the port. On our Mac laptop, this is what the resulting screen looks like:
  7. Be sure to apply/save these settings.
  8. Go back to your iPhone and open the Handy Light app and tap the flashlight colors at the bottom in the following sequence: blue, yellow, red. Then tap the top right corner of the screen and the color should change to purple. Your iPhone is now capable of sharing its internet connection with the computer you set up.
  9. Leave the app open and go to your computer and start browsing. As the video describes, we found that it took a few seconds for the connection to kick in but then it worked like a charm. Though many variables affect network speed tests, a quick test using yielded 3.92 Mb/s down and 0.38 Mb/s up while tethered to our iPhone 4 through Handy Light.

Of course, while we felt it was important to get this news out to you, it’s almost guaranteed Apple will remove this app from the App Store once the company learns of this hidden feature. Hopefully, this won’t happen too soon and everyone can enjoy the tethering feature this app offers for a mere $.99 (comparatively, NetShare cost $9.99 when it was available). Now, what are you waiting for? Go buy Handy Light and get your tethering on! Those of you on metered data plans should be careful tethering with this app, however, since this can quickly eat up your data allotment. Also, since you need to keep the app open for it to keep working and the 3G radio in your iPhone takes a lot of power to run, this will likely drain your battery pretty quickly so be prepared and make sure your iPhone’s AC charger is close at hand.

UPDATE: It looks like Apple has removed Handy Light from the App Store so it is no longer available for purchase.

UPDATE 2: There have been a few impostor apps in the App Store with similar names but these DO NOT offer tethering ability, hidden or otherwise. We strongly urge our readers to not buy any of these impostor apps since these developers seem to be trying to take advantage of the original Handy Light’s fame while not providing the same hidden functionality.

If you didn’t buy Handy Light when it was in the App Store on July 20, 2010, you’re out of luck, unfortunately.