Archive for December, 2012

AppShopper Picks: 2012 Apps of the Year

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Apple’s App Store continues to grow and a number of excellent apps debuted this year. While it’s impossible to look at every single new app, we did come across several stand-outs this year that deserve a place on our year-end list of the best apps.

If you’ve been following the AppShopper blog, you know that we tend to focus on apps that are well-designed and useful. We don’t look at fart apps or silly dating advice apps that will give you a few minutes of entertainment before you delete them off your iOS device or Mac. With that in mind, this list is cultivated from apps we’ve seen this year that have intuitive user interfaces and do what they’re meant to do very, very well. In short, if you have a need for apps in these categories, these apps are worth your money.


I’m a big sucker for productivity apps. If an app will help me get things done more quickly or more efficiently, I’m all for it. Bonus points if it’s fun to use at the same time. In 2012, there were several notable apps in this category that deserve mention. The first is Clear, a lists app created by Realmac Software, Impending, and Helftone that has a gesture-driven interface (look, ma, no buttons!) to create and navigate around your lists. The iPhone version was released in February 2012 (my review) and the Mac version was released in November 2012 (my review). If you have both a Mac and an iPhone, Clear will synchronize automatically between the two devices via iCloud. If you like to keep lists for groceries, tasks, or anything at all, Clear is our top pick for you this year.

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Though Siri can make it easier to create calendar appointments with natural language, sometimes speaking aloud to your phone isn’t always appropriate or practical. Also, what if you don’t have one of the newest iOS devices that supports Siri to begin with? This is where Fantastical by Flexibits comes in. Fantastical lets you use natural language to create calendar events, so you can just type (or dictate if you have dictation-capable iOS device) “Lunch with Susie at 4 on Saturday” to create an event, which takes far fewer steps than it normally would in the built-in Calendar app (or most other third-party calendar apps I’ve seen). To see it in action, check out the video in my review.

(A Mac version of Fantastical is also available and it isn’t technically on this list of 2012 Picks since it was released in 2011 but I use it daily and still recommend it.)

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Apple doesn’t make it easy for you to quickly toggle system settings or add shortcuts to make calls or complete other common tasks on an iPhone or iPad. If you’re a fan of jailbreaking, this isn’t an issue for you with all of the tweaks (like SBSettings) out there that let you get around this. However, if you’re running iOS 6 and unable to jailbreak your iPhone (at the time of this post, an untethered jailbreak method for newer devices running iOS 6 is not yet available), App Cubby’s Launch Center Pro should be front and center on your home screen. Launch Center Pro can act as an app launcher for your most-used apps and lets you set up shortcuts to complete actions in compatible apps (of which there are hundreds – the full list is here). Launch Center Pro has been useful enough to me to boot Safari from my iPhone’s dock and you can read how I have it set up here if you’re looking for ideas on how to use it.

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Though you could argue that it’s easy enough to just look outside to check the current conditions and a handful of weather apps to provide information you can’t glean from a glance out your window should suffice in the App Store, this message apparently hasn’t reached developers. There are thousands of weather apps in the App Store and it’s a tough crowd to stand out in. However, Jackadam’s Dark Sky managed to do something different in this category this year by offering precise precipitation predictions for your location. Dark Sky can alert you before it starts to rain or snow, allowing you to squeeze in that dog walk or finish up the yard work beforehand. While it’s not perfect in its predictions, I’ve found it to work very well (see my review) and it’s gotten me and my dog out of the house in time to enjoy a walk before downpours that would otherwise have kept us indoors all day.

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Social Networking

It seems that everyone is on Twitter or Facebook these days and the App Store is filled with apps to let you share anything and everything through these networks, making it another tough category to stand out in. However, The Iconfactory managed to shine with Twitterrific 5 for iPhone and iPad. The new Twitterrific has a gorgeous interface and plenty of features to make your Twitter experience a treat though it does lack push notifications, which could be a deal-breaker if you like to be notified of your Twitter mentions and direct messages as soon as they happen. Read my review for details and to see a video of Twitterrific 5 in action.

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An honorable mention in this category goes to Tweetbot for Mac. The iPhone version was released last year and it’s a regular in the Top 200 Paid Social Networking apps and the Mac version debuted in October 2012. While it’s every bit as functional and fun to use as its iOS counterpart, its $20 price tag keeps it off this list since there are several other options in the Mac App Store that cost less and are just as capable.


As you probably already know, we usually leave game coverage to our sister site, TouchArcade. However, I’d be remiss in failing to mention a couple of games that have stolen hours of my time in 2012. First is Loren Brichter’s Letterpress, a cooperative word game with Boggle overtones. In Letterpress, you fight your opponent for ownership of as many tiles in a 5-by-5 grid of letters by creating words. The tiles you claim by creating words become yours, which is denoted by the color of the tiles, though they can reclaimed by your opponent if you’re not careful. The player who has claimed the most tiles once all of the letters have been used wins the game. See the full review over at TouchArcade for a more detailed look at Letterpress.

Next is a game called 10000000 that combines tile matching with RPG elements that blew the mind of TouchArcade’s Editor-in-Chief Eli Hodapp and earned a 5-star review shortly after its release over the summer. I’ve played through 10000000 a total of three times now from beginning to end, using the acquisition of a new iOS device each time as an excuse to install it and start over again from the beginning. Check out the review and video over at TouchArcade and download it now – you won’t regret it.

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If you’re looking for more recommendations on the best games of 2012, check out the series of Best iPhone Games and Best iPad Games articles over at TouchArcade.

This last pick was admittedly driven by a little bias but since it’s free (and awesome), I hope you’ll forgive me. Our sister site TouchArcade released an app earlier this year so that you can have even easier access to its excellent editorial content covering the best in iOS games and its active forum. With push notifications, you can even be alerted right away when a game you’ve had your eye on is released or goes on sale. If you like to play games even casually on your iPhone or iPad, the TouchArcade app is a worthy download.

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That’s it for our 2012 picks. We look forward to what 2013 will bring to the App Store and sharing the best of what we find with you as always!

iTunes Connect Holiday Closure: No New Apps or Updates December 21-28

Friday, December 21st, 2012

As in previous years Apple is shutting down iTunes Connect, the tool through which developers manage their apps available in the Mac and iOS App Stores, for the holidays from December 21 through December 28. This means that Apple isn’t approving or releasing any new apps, app updates, or allowing price changes during this entire period. Since AppShopper gets its information in real-time directly from Apple, our price drop, updates, and new apps lists on our site and in our app will consequently not change during this time.

So if you see these lists look the same to you over the next few days, don’t worry – nothing’s wrong or broken on our end. Our site and app are just reflecting the lack of activity in the App Store because of this closure. You’ll start seeing new apps, updates, and price changes on December 29 when iTunes Connect opens back up. Note that our Popular lists will continue to change during the closure since they rely in part on other data that doesn’t come from Apple.

Notable Holiday App Sales

Friday, December 21st, 2012

If you’ve been waiting for price drops to buy some apps, I’m pretty sure the time has come for you to go through your Wish List and browse our Price Drops list and open up your virtual wallet and buy it all because it feels like everything is on sale right now. It’s not possible for me to list every app sale in this post but I’d like to at least highlight some of the significant ones, particularly for apps that were featured or reviewed here on AppShopper this year.

But first things first.

If you’re new to AppShopper, see this article on our Wish list function and how to use it.

Now on to the sales!

First up are a few notable paid apps that are completely free for a very limited time. Snowman’s location-aware tasks app, Checkmark, is free for today only while Blux Camera for iPad has also dropped to $0 from $1.99 for a short time. WhatsApp Messenger, the incredibly popular cross-platform text messaging app, is now free as well, down from $.99.

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Clear, the lists app for iOS and Mac made by Realmac Software, Impending, and Helftone, is on sale for Christmas. The iOS version (my review) is 50% off, bringing it down to $.99 from $1.99 and the Mac version (my review) is 30% off, bringing it down to $6.99 from $9.99. (Realmac Software’s other apps are also on sale for Christmas and you can find a full list of these here.)

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Though you may not want to be thinking about taking notes for class or work meetings or Microsoft Office documents over the holidays, there are a couple of apps now on sale that you should know about. Dataviz’s Documents To Go Premium is on sale for 40% off, bringing the price of the universal iOS app down to $9.99 from $16.99 while Noteshelf, an excellent handwriting notes app for iPad is now 70% off, bringing its price down to $1.99 from $5.99.

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If you plan to play DJ at any holiday parties, algoriddim has reduced the price of its impressive djay for iPad by 50%, bringing it down to $9.99 from $19.99. If you’re not going to get a chance to inflict your DJ skills on friends and family in person, you can chat with them via Skype, Facebook, Google Talk, instant messaging, and more with Shape’s IM+ Pro for iPhone and iPad which is now 50% off, putting it at $.99 down from $1.99.

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That’s all for now. Happy shopping!


AppShopper App Removed from the App Store For Now

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

As some of you may have noticed, our official AppShopper App has been removed from the App Store. The App was removed by Apple due to a conflict with some new rules that Apple introduced with the iOS 6.

Current users of the AppShopper App will be able to continue to use the app, and we are working on a new version that we hope will be approved by Apple.

That new version will support the taller screen of the iPhone 5, that I know many have been waiting for:

We don’t have any more details quite yet, but will post more when we can.

Readers should also be reminded that Apple shuts down their iTunes Developer portal around the holidays, so from the dates of Dec 21 to Dec 28th there will be minimal to no activity in the App Store. As a result, AppShopper will also show little activity during that time.

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‘Arc Squadron’ Free For a Limited Time Thanks to TouchArcade and Psyonix

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Our sister site TouchArcade has announced the newest offering in its new TouchArcade Free Play program. In partnership with developer Psyonix, Arc Squadron, which debuted in the App Store in October, is now free for a limited time down from its regular price of $4.99.

In Arc Squadron you control a space fighter on missions to destroy enemy ships and obstacles. You earn points when completing missions, which then can be used as currency to buy ship and weapons upgrades and modifications. It’s got a simple control scheme and the graphics are gorgeous on retina display devices. Check out the official launch trailer:

Arc Squadron earned five stars in a review from TouchArcade. If you want to see the game in action a little more, check out the video in this post to see TouchArcade staff play the game and talk about it.

Remember, if you want to stay on top of all of the games offered through the TouchArcade Free Play program, bookmark this link or get the free TouchArcade app.

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Notable New Apps and Updates: Capture for YouTube, Letterpress, Navigon, StreetPilot

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Apple will be closing down the App Store for the holidays soon and app developers are clearly working hard to push out updates and new apps before then. In particular, Google hasn’t been resting on its laurels following the release of Google Maps last week (which was downloaded over 10 million times in its first two days in the App Store, in case you were wondering how popular it is) and has released Capture, an app for YouTube that lets you easily record, edit, and upload and share your videos. Capture hit the App Store yesterday and is free to download.

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Letterpress, the word game released by Tweetie developer Loren Brichter that debuted in the App Store in October, has received a major update that adds a neat new feature: the ability to share replays of your finished games on the web. You can seen an example here.

I always get a kick out of developers who get creative with the description of what’s changed in an update and Brichter managed to make me laugh out loud with his for version 1.2:

  • Share Replays! Now you can tweet, post, email or just hoard links to your games and show off yer skillz! (Requires iOS 6)
  • CHRISTMAS is a proper noun. It’s not allowed. Bah humbug.
  • Loads of little tweaks.
  • Improved dictionary.
  • Handle orientation changes on iPad better.
  • Clarified the “prefix” rule in the How To Play. Apparently the word “prefix” means something different to programmers and grammar geeks! The rule is actually really simple; it has nothing to do with roots, stems, definitions, moon cycles, or Latin derivations. It boils down to: no words found at the beginning of a previously played word. Easy.
  • People read these. Neat. If I were smart I’d monetize all over your eyeballs.

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Garmin’s Navigon and StreetPilot navigation apps received an update today that adds iCloud synchronization to keep your favorites in sync across multiple devices and Foursquare and Glympse integration. Glympse is a location sharing service through which you can share your current location with anyone via email or text message for a period of time you specify. There’s a free Glympse app in the App Store if you want to check it out separately.

The Navigon and StreetPilot apps are also on sale now for 25% off their regular prices through January 7. Garmin has dropped prices lower than this in the past though usually only around Black Friday after Thanksgiving. If you really want to save a few more bucks you’ll probably need to wait until next November. Otherwise, go ahead and get them now before the prices go back up on January 7.

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For a list of all of Garmin’s StreetPilot apps, click here. For a list of all of Garmin’s Navigon apps, click here.

PSA: ‘Fruit Ninja’ and Other Halfbrick Studios Games Free for One Day

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Our sister site, TouchArcade, pointed out this incredible sale early this morning and it bears repeating for those of you who aren’t aware yet. Halfbrick Studios, the maker of Fruit Ninja and other assorted fantastic games, has made all of its paid iPhone and iPad games free for today only. This includes the ever-popular Fruit Ninja, along with the newer Puss in Boots variant that was released late last year.

In Fruit Ninja, your goal is to slice as much fruit that’s tossed on the screen as possible with a virtual sword. There are various game modes in which you need to avoid bombs, not let any whole fruit drop out of sight, or simply slice up as much fruit as you can in a limited period of time. There are even multiplayer modes so you can play with someone else locally on the iPad or test your fruit-slicing skills remotely against a friend or a random stranger via Game Center.

I know it may not sound very exciting but it’s incredibly fun and I’ve wasted a lot of time destroying harmless virtual fruit. You can check out the review of Fruit Ninja: Puss in Boots over at TouchArcade if you want a deeper peek at it. But I’d suggest you just skip that and get right to downloading. Be sure to click the Buy Now buttons below before 6:00 am GMT (that’s 1:00 am EST for those of you on the east coast in the US) on Tuesday, December 18.

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Google Maps Finds Its Way to the App Store

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

If you’ve been led astray, in Australia or elsewhere, by Apple’s revamped Maps app in iOS 6 and hoped for a native Google app to take its place, your wish has come true. Late last night, the search giant released Google Maps in the App Store and you can download it in all its direction-giving and traffic-information-showing glory right now.

If you’re familiar with the pre-iOS 6 version of Maps, you’ll notice that the interface of Google Maps bears little resemblance to its Apple-packaged predecessor. However, it packs in the same features plus a few more. Traffic and street views are still present but Google Maps is now graced with turn-by-turn voice guidance, a feature that Google has offered for some time in the Android version of the app. It also includes public transportation directions, which Apple left out of its own Maps app in iOS 6.

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Since Google Maps is free, you can get it now yourself without making a dent in your bank account. There are few not-so-obvious tips and tricks that may be helpful. First, shaking your iPhone will prompt a feedback submission form to pop up where you can report a map error or give general feedback on the app (you can turn this off in the app’s settings). Second, tapping on the icon with two arrows in the bottom left corner in street view mode will let you pan around simply by moving your iPhone (because using your finger is just so passé now). Third, swiping from right to left with two fingers will reveal the menu that toggles traffic, public transit, and satellite map views.

Right now, Google Maps is for the iPhone only and does not have an interface optimized for the iPad’s larger screen but The Verge heard that this is in the works. Google also admitted to David Pogue of The New York Times that this iOS version is better than the Android version.

I used Google Maps this morning to help guide me to a local coffee shop (the things I do for work!). Voice guidance worked well if a little less chatty than I’m used to with Apple’s Maps or Garmin’s Navigon. Since I trust Google’s map information more than Apple’s, I do wish I could get Siri to default to Google Maps for directions instead, though I prefer the deeper 3D view offered by Apple’s Maps over Google Maps when viewing driving directions.

There isn’t any advertising in Google Maps yet so you won’t be bombarded by marketing as you search for businesses and get directions. But as long as Google doesn’t go overboard with ads, Google Maps will be hard to beat as a free alternative to Maps that packs in more features and more comprehensive and reliable data overall.

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PSA: Get ‘Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD’ for Free Thanks to TouchArcade and Crescent Moon Games

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Yesterday, our sister site TouchArcade announced a new feature, TouchArcade Free Play, where a highly-rated game will be available for free for a limited time. Today, that program kicks off with Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD by Crescent Moon Games, which is regularly $6.99.

Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD debuted in the App Store in 2010 and earned five stars in a review from TouchArcade. Aralon is an RPG in which you choose to play a human, elf, or troll and then defeat enemies and complete quests to save the kingdom. Here’s the game’s official trailer:

To clarify, this TouchArcade Free Play isn’t the result of some marketing scheming. The games offered will be those that have been reviewed and personally selected by TouchArcade staff and they receive no compensation for featuring these games. They just want to give you the opportunity to get great games for free. The developers of these games are willing participants in the program and their generosity is appreciated.

You can stay on top of what’s offered through TouchArcade Free Play in the future by bookmarking this link or through the official TouchArcade iOS app. And you should be hitting that buy button below to get Aralon: Sword and Shadow HD for free right now.

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Notable New Apps & Updates: Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Yahoo, Find My iPhone

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

While some things seem to slow down just before the holidays, app developers are apparently an exception if the number of major updates this week are any indication. While all of these apps are free and therefore pose no risk to your wallet, I still wanted to highlight them in case you’re considering a paid alternative that may be less functional comparatively after these updates.

Instagram, the popular photo sharing service, has updated its iPhone app with a new camera interface, the addition of a new filter, Willow, and Foursquare integration. In related news, Instagram removed support for Twitter cards, a feature that allowed Twitter’s own official apps to show thumbnail views of users’ Instagram photos within timelines, from its service. If you’re using a third-party client like Tweetbot this change doesn’t affect you. Yet, at least.

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Speaking of the official Twitter apps, Twitter’s iPhone and iPad app also got an update this week, adding features that put it in competition with Instagram when it comes to pictures: filters and basic photo editing tools.

Twitter notes Instagram’s removal of support for Twitter cards in the text describing what’s new in version 5.2:

We understand that you are experiencing issues with viewing Instagram photos on Twitter. Instagram has decided to disable its integration with Twitter and as a result, photos are no longer appearing in Tweets or user photo galleries. While tweeting links to Instagram photos is still possible, you can no longer view the photos on Twitter, as was previously the case.

Why do I feel like I need some popcorn before seeing what happens next between Twitter and Instagram?

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The iPhone app for Flickr, the Yahoo-owned photo sharing site, got an update giving it a new interface and – drum roll, please – filters! And, Yahoo also released a brand new iPhone app for its free email service. Yahoo! Mail hit the App Store yesterday and requires iOS 6 or later.

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All right, enough about filters. Apple updated its Find My iPhone app to offer driving directions to help you get to that lost iOS device. While you may or may not have confidence in the map data, they should at least point you in the correct general direction. You’ll need to be running iOS 6 to get these directions, by the way.

If you don’t already have Find My iPhone, I’d definitely recommend that you download this free app and enable all of your iOS devices to use it. Here are Apple’s instructions on how to set it up. I’ve read several stories detailing how users found their lost or stolen iPhones or iPads with this app and service and while I don’t recommend that you attempt anything dangerous like trying to take your device back from a thief, it can be incredibly useful in any situation when your shiny bundle of Apple joy goes missing.

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