MacPhun, the maker of Silent Film Director, FX Photo Studio, and many other photography apps for the Mac and iOS devices, is offering a buy one, get one free special for its Color Splash Studio apps through Sunday, July 1. If you buy (or already own) Color Splash Studio for the iPhone, you can get a free copy of Color Splash Studio for the Mac, which normally costs $4.99.
In order to get the Mac version for free, you need send a picture through Color Splash Studio on your iPhone to email@example.com. When you open the app, capture a new photo or choose an existing one, then edit it to your heart’s desire and tap on Done in the top left corner. In the menu that appears, choose Email and address the new draft email that pops up to firstname.lastname@example.org and send away. You’ll get an email with an activation code and link to download the the Mac version within 12 to 48 hours.
If you like adding color effects to your photos for printing or sharing online, Color Splash Studio for the iPhone is only $.99 and features several effects and controls to dramatically adjust the color of your pictures. The controls aren’t extremely intuitive but MacPhun is working on a major update to the app that will add some new tools and features. Also, MacPhun is running a contest to rename Color Splash Studio and you can submit your suggestion to MacPhun here. The person who submits the app name MacPhun chooses to use will receive a $500 gift card and more. If you can come up with something catchy to suggestion, be sure to submit your suggestion by July 4.
As announced at Google’s I/O developer’s conference today, the search giant has released two new apps for Apple’s iOS devices: Chrome and Google Drive. Chrome brings Google’s own web browser to the iPhone and iPad while Google Drive offers access to the company’s Dropbox-like cloud storage service that provides 5 GB of storage to all users at no charge.
Chrome first debuted in 2008 and is touted as a fast and secure browser that offers easy access to all of Google’s online services with a single sign-in. Chrome became available for Android devices in beta in February and only made it out of beta for this platform yesterday. Chrome for the iPhone and iPad is free and requires iOS 4.3 or higher.
Compared to Safari for iOS, it offers the ability to open an unlimited number of browser tabs, simple gestures to switch between tabs and close them and a unified address and search box. Also, if you switch from browsing through Chrome on your Mac to your iPhone, for example, you can easily access the sites you’d last browsed on your Mac, as highlighted in the following demo video:
Google Drive is a free cloud storage service to store documents and other files that debuted in April. It provides 5 GB of free storage with the ability to upgrade to more storage for a monthly fee, starting at $2.49 for an additional 20 GB. The free new Google Drive app offers access to files stored in your Google Drive account on the iPhone and iPad. In Google Drive, you can save individual files for offline viewing later when you won’t have an internet connection and even share files with others to allow them to view or edit the selected files.
Google Drive does not contain any file editing capabilities so you’ll need to use another app like DataViz’s Documents to Go for Microsoft Office files.
A little PR bird let me know that Skript’s excellent Buy Me a Pie shopping list app is free from today through July 4. If you have’t heard of Buy Me a Pie before, it’s a shopping list app with an essential feature for families or anyone with roommates and shared shopping responsibilities: the ability to synchronize shopping lists across multiple devices over the air.
Once you install the app you’ll need to create an account by designating a user name and 4-digit PIN. These are the credentials your family members or roommates will need to share lists so make them memorable. If anyone who needs to access the lists doesn’t have an iPhone or iPad, lists are also accessible via the web at Buymeapie.com. If one of your lists is updated on another iOS device or on the website, you’ll get a push notification alert to let you know.
If over-the-air synchronization is too fancy for you, you can also send your lists via text message or email.
Here’s a video Skript created to showcase Buy Me a Pie’s features:
Buy Me a Pie is universal and works on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad and requires iOS 4.0 or higher. It’s normally $2.99 so be sure to get it now (and make sure your family and friends with iOS devices get it) before it goes back to its regular price on July 4.
Today Apple released Podcasts, a stand-alone podcast management app for iOS devices that offers direct access to podcasts available in the iTunes Store. The app was expected with the release of iOS 6, which is planned for the fall, following a report earlier this month from AllThingsD. However with this release, iOS 6 is clearly not a requirement.
Podcasts app is the easiest way to discover, subscribe to and play your favorite podcasts on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Explore hundreds of thousands of free audio and video podcasts from the Podcasts Catalog, and play the most popular podcasts, organized for you by topic, with the all-new Top Stations feature.
Enjoy all of your audio and video podcasts in a single app
Explore hundreds of thousands of podcasts including shows in over 40 languages
Try the innovative new Top Stations feature to find new podcast series in a variety of topics, including arts, business, comedy, music, news, sports, and more.
Browse by Audio or Video podcasts, or see what’s most popular in Top Charts
Tap subscribe for your favorites and automatically receive new episodes for free as they become available
Stream episodes or download to listen while offline
Skip forward and back using simple playback controls
Turn on Sleep Timer to automatically stop playing a podcast while listening in bed
Share your favorite episodes with friends using Twitter, Messages and Mail
Optionally sync your favorite episodes from iTunes on your Mac or PC
Sync your episode playback for seamless transition between devices
Third-party podcast management apps have been available for years, offering increasingly advanced features over time like automatic and background downloads of new episodes and cross-device synchronization (available in Instacast and Downcast, my preferred podcast management app). This free new offering from Apple will likely give these paid apps a run for their money in offering a boatload of features at no cost with a clean interface you’d expect from Apple and direct access to the podcast section of the iTunes store to discover new audio and video podcasts.
Note that there are a couple of areas where paid apps like Instacast and Downcast beat out this new Podcasts app and those are automatic cross-device synchronization and the ability to subscribe to podcasts not available through the iTunes Store. You can synchronize podcasts between your computer and the Podcasts app on your iPhone or iPad using the Podcasts tab in iTunes (available when your iPhone or iPad is connected) but your current playback location within episodes does not sync between devices automatically over the air. So, if you switch from listening to an episode on your iPhone to your iPad, you’ll have to manually find your last playback location to pick up where you left off. Instacast and Downcast will synchronize playback location for you automatically between devices via iCloud. Also, these paid apps let you subscribe to podcasts through the manual entry of a URL, whereas Podcasts only lets you subscribe to podcasts available in the iTunes Store.
Podcasts is universal and requires iOS 5.1 and iTunes 10.6.3 or later. If you’re looking for a good iPhone and iPad-related podcast to listen to, I’ll put in a shameless plug here for the one I co-host with Chris Meinck in my spare time (link opens iTunes).
I’ve said it before but Tweetbot by Tapbots is still my preferred Twitter app for the iPhone and I would love to see a version for the Mac so I can bask in the cute robotic sounds and well-designed interface all day long (no offense to Osfoora, my current choice to keep up with Twitter on my Mac, of course). Up until now, Tapbots has been mum about bringing Tweetbot to the Mac but we got a sneak peek of the upcoming app in a tweet this week from designer Mark Jardine:
Can’t speak about future apps, but here’s a higher res image so you can see the details of the Retina MBP screen. d.pr/i/4FVg
The image linked in that tweet shows a Tweetbot app running on a new Retina Display MacBook Pro.
It appears that Tapbots programmer Paul Haddad and Jardine are also both using a pre-release version of Tweetbot for the Mac to post to Twitter. There’s no word yet on when it will be released but we’ll definitely let you know when it hits the Mac App Store. In the meantime, I highly recommend you enjoy Tweetbot on the iPhone and iPad if you’re a Twitter user.
App Cubby’s Launch Center Pro utility app debuted in the App Store today, featuring configurable shortcuts to complete actions that normally take several taps, such as completing a Google search in Safari, capturing a picture with Instagram, composing new tweets and much more.
It’s like speed dial, but for more than just phone calls! Launch Center Pro creates lightning quick shortcuts to specific features burried deep within apps. Call a loved one, message a friend, launch Instagram’s camera to quickly snap a pic, tweet, or turn your iPhone into a flashlight. Launch Center Pro gets you to where you’re going faster than ever before!
(Unlike Axotic’s Fast Tools Pro that I mentioned earlier this week, Launch Center Pro actually does work as promised.)
Launch Center Pro works using shortcut URLs to access existing functions within apps. It’s not meant to be an alternate home screen to simply launch apps – it can carry out more complex tasks with fewer taps. For example, it comes pre-filled with some common actions, like toggling your iPhone’s screen between 10% and 100% brightness levels (you can adjust these levels to your liking), turning the camera’s LED light on to act as a flashlight on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, and more.
App Cubby created a demo video to highlight what Launch Center Pro can do:
It takes a little experimentation to learn how Launch Center Pro works and set it up the way that works best for you but it can be a powerful tool. I’ve already created some groups and actions that will let me pare down the number of apps I have on my iPhone for speed-dialing, turning on the camera flash, and others. Launch Center Pro works with a ton of other apps that incorporate the URL scheme Launch Center Pro uses. As I write this post, there are more than 200 compatible apps and this list will surely continue to grow. Popular apps like Tweetbot, Shazam, Reeder, OmniFocus, Netflix, Instapaper, as well as many of the stock apps that come installed on the iPhone are on this list.
Launch Center Pro is on sale at a special introductory price of $2.99, which is 40% off its regular price so dive in now to get it before it goes up. Note that it requires iOS 5 and works on the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, 3rd- and 4th-generation iPod touch, and all iPad models.
In general, I like to focus on providing information that will help you decide whether or not to spend your hard-earned money on an app. While many free apps are often featured here, most are paid (or free with compelling in-app purchases) since there’s more on the line for you to buy a paid app than to simply download a free one. And, I like to cover apps that at least look like they’ll be good and offer some value (would you really come here to read reviews of bad apps?) based on the description and screenshots.
Though every now and then, I come across an app that sounds promising but can’t possibly live up to its description. These apps are almost always bad buys and while I don’t want to vilify any developer, I sometimes feel like I should warn readers accordingly. Today is one of those days.
A new app by Axotic debuted in the App Store today called Fast Tools Pro. Here’s what its description promises:
Add Widgets to your home screen!
Now you can have Wifi / Bluetooth / Auto-Lock / Flight Mode and Brightness Settings right on your home screen with this app.
There is a major issue with this description that may not be known to the average iPhone or iPad user (my mother, who is new to the iPhone, certainly doesn’t know this): Apple doesn’t allow apps to run as widgets on the home screen.
So, Axotic is promising something here that isn’t even technically possible using the SDK and developer guidelines provided by Apple. But what if this app somehow does work as promised and slipped through the cracks of Apple’s app approval process, you ask? This process is not perfect given the tethering and Bluetooth switch apps that have made it to the App Store before, but given the big promises made in this description, I think it’s doubtful. However, in the interest of providing useful information to readers, I purchased the app and tested it to see.
And you know what? It doesn’t work as promised. Surprise, surprise.
The home screen referenced in the description is a fake one – when you open the app, you’re presented with an interface that looks like the iPhone’s home screen but it’s not. It contains none of your purchased apps and shows some of the apps that come installed on the iPhone, like Game Center, iTunes, Music and others, but these are all shortcut buttons to the apps themselves presented on a wallpaper that’s a stock option in the Settings app.
And the widgets? There are handful of weather, clock and other widgets that you can add to the fake home screen within the app. And the settings widget to toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other settings doesn’t work iOS 5.1 or higher (and since I don’t have a device on a lower iOS version, I can’t test to see if they actually work).
So, there you have it. Fast Tools Pro doesn’t work as promised. I know there are a ton of apps in the App Store like this but this app’s description seemed so willfully misleading I felt compelled to try it out and tell you about it, even though it resulted in the developer earning $1 from my purchase. However, maybe this post will prevent others from falling for its false promises and giving Axotic even more money.
Of course, another issue entirely is why Apple allows apps like this in the App Store. While the app may technically function, it certainly doesn’t do what its description states. Of course, asking Apple to test every app submitted to see if it can do everything claimed in the description would make the approval process exceptionally cumbersome but it seems like even a basic check would have prevented Fast Tools Pro from making it there.
Here’s a link to the app so you can see it, but don’t buy it. Really. It doesn’t work as promised.
UPDATE: As mentioned by Matt in the comments, Fast Tools Pro appears to have been removed from the App Store. I can’t say that I’m sorry to see it go and I’m glad that no one else will be duped into purchasing it by its misleading description. However, a free version the app, also by Axotic, called Fast Tools is still in the App Store. This app has the same description as Fast Tools Pro did but at least no one will lose any money by downloading it since it’s free. However, I’m still disappointed that Apple’s approval process didn’t weed this one out as well since it can’t do what it promises.
FileMaker, Apple’s subsidiary that creates relational database software, has released a brand new version of its Bento personal database app for the iPad. Bento 4 debuted in the App Store today at a special introductory price of $4.99 through July 31, after which it will go up to $9.99.
Bento 4 features a redesigned interface, new views and themes and direct access to the Bento Template Exchange to download new templates compared to its predecessor, Bento for iPad. Bento 4 requires iOS 5 and can synchronize with Bento desktop software on a Mac via Wi-Fi. If you’re using the previous version of Bento for the iPad, data stored will automatically be moved to Bento 4 if you choose to upgrade by purchasing the new version.
FileMaker has created video to showcase the new features in Bento 4:
The desktop version of Bento for the Mac is currently on sale for $29.99 down from its regular price of $49.99 through July 31.
Bento for iPad is still available for purchase in the App Store and it received an update to version 1.1.6 today, though this is described as a maintenance update and it’s unlikely it will receive new features going forward. Since Apple does not allow developers to charge for app upgrades in the App Store, FileMaker had no choice but to offer this new version separately in order to charge for it. This is a conundrum faced by every app developer and I find it a little ironic that Apple’s own subsidiary had to take this tack to get around its own restriction in this regard.
Visual Voicemail, which debuted on AT&T with the first-generation iPhone in 2007, is an incredibly useful feature that does away with the need to make a phone call to hear your voicemail messages and allows you to see a list of messages at a glance and choose the ones you want to hear in any order you desire. However, there are ways to improve upon the experience and Libon Voicefeed for the iPhone has done just this, giving users the ability customize voicemail greetings for individual callers, get written transcriptions of voicemails, and more.
Libon Voicefeed is free and offers several features beyond visual voicemail at no charge:
Text transcription of your voicemails – scan through your messages when in a meeting
Customized greetings for up to 3 groups of contacts – greet each contact appropriately
Greetings you can either record or simply text! – no need to record each message
Smart VoiceTags – greet all your callers by their name, or even let them know where you are …
Push alert and Email notifications of incoming voicemails – never miss a message
Libon Chat – chat with all other Libon users for free
Message context – see what your caller just posted on Facebook or Twitter
A premium subscription, which costs $9.99 per year, gets you unlimited customized greetings, a larger selection of voices (to read your custom greetings to callers), unlimited storage for your voicemails, and mp3 files of your new voicemails via email so you can listen to them anywhere you can check your email.
To get started with Libon Voicefeed, you need to create an account and go through an activation process. Creating an account is free (you can choose whether or not to go for a premium subscription later) and the activation process requires you to make a phone call to do the magic to reroute your voicemail to Voicefeed away from your carrier’s system. This is a painless process and it can be reversed in the future should you decide to go back to plain vanilla visual voicemail from your carrier. Note that in the U.S., Voicefeed currently works only with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and even T-Mobile.
During the set-up process, Voicefeed will add two entries to your Contacts as shortcuts to activate and deactivate the service.
Once your account is set up and Voicefeed is activated, you can begin creating custom greetings for specific callers or groups of callers. My one gripe here is that Voicefeed does not recognize any groups you may have already created in your Contacts list though this feature is on the developer’s radar for possible inclusion in the future.
You can record custom greetings using your own voice or type greetings that will be read by a computerized voice. For each custom greeting, you drag and drop people from your Contacts list into the greeting’s virtual bucket, which is illustrated well in this demo video:
Then as long as callers aren’t hiding their Caller ID and they’re calling from a number stored in your Contacts list, they’ll hear the greeting you’ve assigned for them when you don’t answer the phone. You can get very specific with your greetings, making up ones for individual people if you’d like. I have a custom greeting specifically for my husband, making for a very personalized approach for loved ones when you can’t pick up the phone.
You’ll get a push notification when there’s a new voicemail waiting for you and a badge count on the app’s icon will show the number of new messages.
In its last update, Voicefeed also got a blacklist feature that lets you create a custom greeting for anyone not in your contacts list or who has hidden their caller ID, a nice touch if you really want to filter out people you don’t know or those who are hiding their identity.
When it comes to checking your messages, you can listen to them right within the app or if you’re a premium subscriber and have enabled email notifications within Voicefeed, you’ll get an MP3 file of each voicemail emailed to you.
If you activate the beta transcription option, you can simply read your messages within the app. However, transcription is not very accurate (no less so than Google Voice’s own transcription feature) but it can be good in a pinch if you’re not in an environment where you can stop and listen to your voicemails.
Voicefeed also offers features that go well above and beyond what you might expect. If you’re really into Twitter and Facebook, Voicefeed also offers the ability to customize your voicemail greetings with your last posted status. And, you can also check your voicemail messages from a landline by dialing the designated access number for your country (which is 347-694-8001 in the U.S.) and using a personalized access code provided in the app.
I found Voicefeed to work reliably in catching every call I didn’t answer and playing the appropriate custom message for callers as I specified. For the casual consumer, Voicefeed may not be a compelling option over standard Visual Voicemail but I can see it being a worthwhile tool for business users who regularly field calls from customers, colleagues, contractors, and others. For these users, Voicefeed would make it easy to provide a welcoming and informational greeting for customers and provide more relevant information separately for other callers.
If you want to give Voicefeed a try, it’s free in the App Store and takes only a couple of minutes to set up. Libon Voicefeed is reliable and provides features carriers could learn from in a relatively easy to use package.
It’s been a busy week in the world of Apple with several significant updates and new apps hitting the App Store this week beyond Apple’s own iOS 6 and Mountain Lion announcements earlier this week.
First up is the release of Amazon Cloud Player for the iPhone. Amazon competes with Apple in the digital music market, boasting more than 20 million songs for sale and 5GB of free storage of the music you buy in your Amazon Cloud Drive with more storage available for purchase. The free Amazon Cloud Player app lets you stream songs stored in your Amazon Cloud Drive or download it and store it on your iPhone so you can listen to your music even when you don’t have an internet connection. You can also create playlists and stream via Bluetooth to other devices.
Amazon also updated its Kindle ebook reader, adding support for children’s books, comic books, and graphic novels. The formatting on the iPad has also been improved and you can now search for content with a new search function on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.
Microsoft also got in on the app update action with the release of version 1.5 of its My Xbox Live app that adds the ability to use your iPhone as a remote control for your Xbox to play, pause, and fast forward and rewind media. The My Xbox Live app first debuted in the App Store in December with functionality limited to changing your avatar and tracking your own achievements and those of your friends and this update makes it a more compelling download for Xbox users.
Though we’ll leave the review up to our compatriots at TouchArcade, I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention the release of a new title by Imangi Studios, the makers of the wildly popular Temple Run. This time, Imangi partnered with Disney to put out a version of Temple Run featuring Merida, the heroine of the upcoming Pixar movie, Brave. Temple Run: Brave offers the same simple swipe and tilt mechanics of the original Temple Run with revised scenery and a new archery option to earn more coins.
Temple Run: Brave debuted in the App Store yesterday and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch and costs $.99.
Next, one of my favorite RSS reader apps for the iPhone got a major update today. Reeder hit version 3.0, getting multi-account support, the ability to subscribe to and unsubscribe from feeds, and optional synchronization with Fever, a paid service that scans and sorts items in your subscribed feeds to show you the hottest news items and make keeping up with a large number of feeds easier.
Last but not least my go-to online coupon site, RetailMeNot, released an iPhone app this week. RetailmeNot aggregates coupon codes for online stores and is a great resource to check before you place an order to see if you can get free shipping or some other deal to reduce the price of your purchase. The RetailMeNot Coupons app is free and features a neat drag-and-drop coupon code feature to let you do your shopping right within the app and enter a found coupon code during the checkout process.