Archive for August, 2011

‘Consume’ Tracks Your Usage Across Multiple Accounts

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

As unlimited cellular data plans go the way of the dinosaur and more and more of our files are stored in the cloud, it’s become prudent to keep an eye on cell phone usage, online data storage, and other accounts to avoid overage charges. Bjango’s Consume is a nifty utility that can do just this for you. While many providers have their own individual iOS apps that you can use to get the same information (like myAT&T and My Verizon Mobile for iPhone users in the U.S.), Consume lets you see information for multiple accounts at single glance.

Consume can access accounts with over 200 providers in 18 countries. In the U.S., these providers include the likes of AT&T, T-Mobile (pre-paid accounts only), Comcast broadband, and others as well as frequent flier/traveler accounts with American Airlines, Delta and Amtrak, plus Gmail and Dropbox.

Set-up is easy, requiring your existing username and password for each account you want to track. Once your accounts are set-up, you can view a snapshot of all of your accounts when you hold your iPhone in landscape orientation, or see more detailed individual account information page-by-page in portrait orientation.

Consume is currently free and received its most recent update earlier this month, bringing the version number to 1.82. Bjango is now working on Consume 2, which will include iPad support and require iOS 5 due to features that will utilize Apple’s upcoming iCloud service. Though Bjango has not explicitly stated this, I’d guess that Consume 2 will be a separate (paid) app to avoid locking out users who don’t or can’t upgrade to iOS 5. Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to Consume 2‘s release.

[applink url=””]

Notable App Store Additions: AutoCAD, Google Catalogs, Skype WiFi

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

AutoCAD, the venerable computer-aided design software developed by AutoDesk, is now available in the Mac App Store.

Two versions are available: AutoCAD LT and AutoCAD WS. AutoCAD LT is the full-featured design application that allows users to create and edit designs and is priced at $899. AutoCAD WS is a free version that lets users view, edit and share existing AutoCAD design files.

AutoCAD officially returned to the Mac late last year after a long hiatus of several years and this is the first time that Autodesk is offering its design applications in the Mac App Store.

[applink url=”454730552, 445679151″]

Google released the free Google Catalogs app earlier this week, which lets users browse digital versions of the paper catalogs for a number of retailers including Nieman Marcus, L.L. Bean, Crate & Barrel and many others. While it’s not possible to place orders for merchandise within the app directly, links will open the selected product’s page on the retailer’s site in an in-app browser where purchases can be made, or show where the item can be purchased locally.

Google Catalogs doesn’t offer nearly as many catalogs as the for iPad app that debuted in October but it does offer a smoother and more pleasant browsing experience overall.


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Skype debuted a new iOS app yesterday to help travelers find and pay for WiFi hotspots. Skype WiFi locates and lets you connect to hotspots operated by participating providers around the world and pay for usage on a per-minute basis using Skype credits. Handily, each session will only last for 30 minutes and you’ll need to verify if you want to extend your connection beyond this so you won’t inadvertently rack up extra charges if you forget to log off.

Once you’re connected to a WiFi hotspot, you can browse the web, check email, use the Skype app to make calls and more without incurring cellular data roaming charges if you’re traveling abroad.

Skype WiFi is free and requires a Skype account and iOS 4.1 or higher on an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. While Skype WiFi will work on an iPad, it does not have an interface optimized for the device’s larger screen.

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TouchArcade Makes Time’s ‘50 Best Websites of 2011’ List

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Our sister site, TouchArcade, has been listed in Time Magazine’s annual ‟50 Best Websites of 2011” list, recommended as a go-to site for iOS game reviews. The list, published yesterday, recognizes sites that “make the Web so useful, entertaining and just plain indispensable.”

Time describes TouchArcade as follows:

The true heir to the iconic Game Boy isn’t Nintendo’s 3DS. It’s Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, three gadgets that are, among other things, impressive handheld gaming consoles. Nobody else covers games for them like Touch Arcade, a blog and twice-weekly podcast. Whether you’re into puzzles, shoot-‘em-up or nostalgia, its reviews are a cogent, reliable guide to the gems (and duds) among the 75,000 or so iOS games available in the App Store. Its busy forums are worth a visit too.

Congratulations to Arn, Blake, Eli, Jared, Brad, Nissa and the other TouchArcade contributors and forum moderators!


Notable New Apps and Updates: Amazon Student, Reeder and Camera+

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

It’s back-to-school time already (where did the summer go?) and Amazon is on the ball with its release of the Amazon Student app earlier this week. Amazon Student lets users scan barcodes on textbooks and other school supplies to check for the best prices and more.

College Students, keep in your back pocket. The Amazon Student App allows instant price-checks on textbooks and more. Simply scan a barcode to check a price, or use one-click access to scan items you want to buy or sell back. Amazon’s convenient trade-in program can turn your books, games, movies, and electronics into Amazon Gift Cards. Plus, join Amazon Student to get FREE Two-Day Shipping for six months with Amazon Prime shipping benefits!

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One of the most popular camera apps (and my current favorite) in the App Store, tap tap tap’s Camera+ has received an update that adds a new feature: the ability to add captions to your photos.

For Camera+ 2.3 we’re very happy to announce that you can now place captions on your photos. Simply add a border to your photo and then tap the Captions button to add a nicely styled caption, designed to look great with the border you’ve chosen.

Camera+ is also on sale to celebrate the release of version 2.3 at $.99, down from its regular price of $1.99. While Camera+ hasn’t completely replaced the original Camera app that was installed on my iPhone out-of-the-box on the first page of my home screen, it is my most-used camera app by far. (If/when Camera+ gets video recording capability, I’ll happily bury the original Camera app in a folder on home page #12.)

[applink url=”329670577″]

The iPhone, iPad and Mac versions of Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder, an excellent Google Reader RSS client, have all gotten an update adding Evernote compatibility. Evernote is a California-based company that provides services and tools to save and archive notes and it has a large user base numbering in the millions. The neat thing about Evernote is that you can save just about anything beyond typed notes, including photos, web pages, voice memos and more and its integration into Reeder will likely be a welcome addition to Evernote users.

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Starbucks Now Offering Free iPhone App Vouchers

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

CNET reports that Starbucks, the Seattle-based global coffee chain, is now offering vouchers that allow customers to download paid apps from the App Store for free. The vouchers are similar to the existing “Pick of the Week” cards that provide codes that let customers download selected songs from the iTunes store for free.

The first app available to Starbucks customers appears to be Shazam Encore, a very useful music identification app that costs $5.99 (see the picture of it to the right, courtesy of CNET).

I regularly use the free version of Shazam to identify songs on the radio or TV that I like and would happily upgrade to this paid version if I come across one of these cards at Starbucks. I did run to Starbucks this morning to grab a chai tea latte but none of these cards were in evidence there, so either the cards haven’t made it to all stores yet or only select stores will get them. I’m hoping it’s the former and that I’ll be able to score a free app along with my beloved chai tea latte (grande, no water and no foam, please) each time I go to Starbucks.

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Cinemax Arrives for iPad and iPhone

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Cinemax, the premium cable television network, has released an iPhone and iPad app that allows subscribers to watch its programming on demand. The free MAX GO hit the App Store late last week and requires a paid subscription through a participating cable service provider.

MAX GO provides access to the premium movies shown by Cinemax as well as the network’s current original series, Strike Back. Also available are episodes from Cinemax’s After Dark Series, which are shows with erotic themes and content intended for adult viewers.

Participating cable service providers currently include AT&T U-verse, Charter, Cox, DirecTV, the Dish Network, RCN, Suddenlink, and Verizon.

Cinemax is part of HBO (which is in turn a subsidiary of Time Warner), which has its own HBO Go app in the App Store that offers similar functionality to CINEMAX GO. HBO Go debuted in the App Store earlier this year.

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‘Twitterrific’ Update Brings Cross-Device Timeline Synchronization

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Twitterrific, one of the most popular Twitter clients for the iPhone and iPad developed by The Iconfactory, received a major update this week adding a significant new feature. Versions 4.3 of Twitterrific for iOS and the Mac now sync your timeline read status across devices, working between the desktop version of the app for the Mac and the version for the iPhone and iPad.

The timeline syncing is done via TweetMarker, a new service for “setting and getting the “last read” tweet for a given Twitter user” according to the company’s site.  This setting is off by default in Twitterrific, so you’ll need to go into the app’s settings on the iOS and Mac versions to enable it.

Twitterrific will display a small purple marker on the last read tweet in your timeline so you can easily find it. I’ve found so far that it works as promised between Twitterrific on my Mac and iPhone. If you like to stay up to date on Twitter, it’s definitely a very handy feature so you’re not trying to manually find the last tweet you read in your timeline as you switch from one device to another.


Twitterrific for the Mac is currently on sale for $4.99 down from its regular price of $9.99 so now is a good time to buy it if you’ve been wanting to check it out.

TweetMarker is a service that can be used by anyone, so developers of other Mac and iOS Twitter apps can build its functionality into their apps as well. I’m sure that we’ll be seeing more of TweetMarker in other apps in the near future.

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‘Speech Notes’ Converts Your Speech to Text Notes and Stores Your Typed Notes

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

If you’re looking to record voice memos, there’s a plethora of apps in the App Store that can do just that, not to mention Apple’s own Voice Memos app that comes installed on the iPhone out of the box. But what if you prefer your notes in typed format instead and you want to be able to dictate them on the fly instead of taking the time to type them out yourself? Then you should check out  Speech Notes by Beam Speech Solutions for the iPhone.

Speech Notes debuted the App Store earlier this summer and features a very simple interface with the recording button at the top and a list of all of your saved notes at the bottom. To create a new note, you can either tap on the recording button to dictate your note or tap on the plus button in the top right corner to create a note by manually typing it out.

When you dictate a note, you can also dictate punctuation to insert commas and periods as needed. However, I couldn’t seem to find the command for a carriage return to create a new line though it’s not clear if the app is even capable of this. With this limitation, Speech Notes is best for short lists and ideas you want to capture and then edit later manually if you want. Also, the app does not automatically capitalize the first letter of any sentences you dictate. While not a terrible issue, it’s noticeable and annoying to me as a writer.

The conversion of dictated speech to written text requires an internet connection. The speech recognition is not perfect and felt less accurate than what you’d get with an app like Dragon Dictation but it’s still quite serviceable.

One other limitation is that you can’t add on to an existing note via dictation – you can only extend an existing note manually via the iPhone’s virtual keyboard.

The app’s interface is pretty sparse and unpolished, and there’s not much in the way of settings other than the language you’d like to use. By default, Speech Notes selects the system language used by your iPhone though you can choose from among 13 languages in total: Czech, Danish, German, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Ukrainian.

Speech Notes is free and ad-supported. At the moment, there’s no way to remove the ads via in-app purchase but they are fairly unobtrusive and don’t interfere with using the app.

Speech Notes is compatible with the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs, and iPhone 4 and requires iOS 4 or higher. It also works on the iPod touch from the 2nd generation and later. Speech Notes also works on the iPad though it is not a universal app and does not offer an interface optimized for the device’s larger screen.

I really like the concept of Speech Notes. I often find myself wanting to quickly record a note but would rather have it in text format for reference afterward instead of listening to a voice memo and then transcribing it manually later. I like that Speech Notes can do this as well as keep text notes I type out manually, a combination that isn’t offered by any other app in the App Store to my knowledge. But it hasn’t become my default notes app because the shortcomings mentioned previously, most notably the lack of a carriage return voice command and the inability to add to an existing note via dictation. Also –and I admit that I may have been spoiled by other apps in this regard– I’d like to see some sort of back-up or synchronization capability via Dropbox or another method so I can access my notes in other ways as well.

Speech Notes is only at version 1.0 right now and hopefully Beam Speech Solutions will be improving it in the near future. I think Speech Notes has a lot of potential if it gets a few more features and the interface gets some attention to add some polish.

[applink url=””]

New iOS Apps: Boxee for iPad, Facebook Messenger

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

Boxee, a start-up company that develops media center software for multiple platforms, released its iPad app earlier this week. Boxee for iPad lets users watch videos and available on the internet and watch content streamed from a computer over Wi-Fi. Boxee first previewed Boxee for iPad at CES earlier this year and the app joins the company’s Boxee Remote utility for the iPhone in the App Store.

Boxee is a free service so there’s no monetary risk in trying out the iPad app if you don’t already have a Boxee account. The app isn’t really about discovering new videos as it is about watching videos shared by your friends on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr or videos that you’ve marked to watch later. The latter is the most useful feature of Boxee for iPad for me – you can easily install a Boxee “Watch Later” bookmarklet in the browser on your computer, iPad, or iPhone, which you can use to add videos to your Watch Later queue. It’s essentially like Instapaper but for videos. You can find instructions on how to set up this bookmarklet here.

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Facebook also put out a new app earlier this week, releasing Facebook Messenger in the App Store. Facebook Messenger lets you send and receive text and picture messages to and from your Facebook friends, essentially offering more distilled functionality of the Chat tab in the original Facebook app.

If you use Facebook a lot to get in touch with your friends, Facebook Messenger could be a valuable communication tool since it’s free to use (aside from any data charges you may incur if you go over your monthly allotment from your carrier) and doesn’t use any of your text messages either.

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Mac App News: eBay for Mac Debuts, Skype Gets HD Video Chat

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

If you’re a Mac user and like eBay as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that eBay has released an app for the Mac that offers easier access to items up for sale on the online auction powerhouse’s site. The free app hit the Mac App Store yesterday and lets you access your saved searches, watched items and much more.

From what I’ve observed so far in using the app, it’s quicker and more pleasant to browse eBay’s offerings through the app than through its site. Unfortunately, there are some things you can’t do from the app, like creating auctions and reading and responding to eBay messages. However, it’s still a must-have app in my view for browsing eBay’s site.

[applink url=”447401799″]

Though it’s not available in the Mac App Store, Skype announced a major update yesterday that’s worth noting. The popular VoIP service updated its Mac App with Lion compatibility and HD video chat capabilities. Version 5.3 of Skype for the Mac is available for download here. The app itself is free as are Skype-to-Skype calls and messaging among users though you’ll have to pay to make calls to mobile and land lines.