App Review Archive

Review of iOS 8

With the release of iOS 8, Apple has taken another step forward in their mobile operating system platform.  It is not a watershed, massive change that we saw with iOS 7.  Rather it is taking what was foundational in that release and refining it further.  As I write this review of iOS 8 I am compelled to remember the early days of iOS.  Comparing where this platform was just 4 years ago in the iOS 4 days, it is remarkable how much has changed.  iOS 8 represents the most advanced mobile platform Apple has ever produced and you could argue that it is the most refined in the market today.

But the purpose of this review of iOS 8 is not to sell you on it.  I’m assuming, because you are on this site, you are already an iOS user who has upgraded to iOS 8 or that you are someone looking to move from another platform to iOS and want to find out what all the hubbub is about.  Hopefully I’ll be able to satisfy both types of readers.

To start, we need to look at what has become a very foundational part of iOS 8 and indeed OS X Yosemite:  iCloud.  When iCloud was introduced in October 2011 (yes, it’s been that long!), it was seen as an opportunity for Apple to do better than they had done with the MobileMe service.  To be honest, that was a pretty low bar.  My professional opinion:  MobileMe sucked.

But iCloud hasn’t exactly set the world alight.  When it was introduced the expectation was that it would be Dropbox like in functionality and it proved to be anything but that.  It was rigid in what file formats you could store on it, you could effectively only store from Apple apps and storage was horrendously expensive for such a limited service.

But Apple kept at it, slowly tweaking and improving the service.  They also kept building and improving their data centres globally, adding more and more capacity.  They were playing in the long game and were willing to take their lumps against Dropbox and OneDrive for the long term gain of their vision.

Last year in OS X Mavericks and iOS 7 it began to really take hold with it being a more integrated part of the platform.  Now, in iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, iCloud is very much part of the fabric.  The line between “on the device” and “in the cloud” has blurred and that is evident in several of the new features of iOS 8.  In fact as you read on in this review of iOS 8, you are going to read a common theme of iCloud integration with applications.  Indeed I would contend that is increasingly more difficult for someone who wants iOS to not use it with iCloud.  Like Google has done with Android and Chrome and to a much greater degree Microsoft has done with Windows Phone and Windows, it is time to pick your ecosystem readers.  Playing in more than one is getting ever more difficult because operating systems are dependent on cloud services and vice versa.

But not impossible.

iCloud has grown up a huge amount in a short period of time and the fluidity between apps and storage is now borderless.  That’s exactly what Apple (and Google, and Microsoft) want it to be.  The question is will you jump in with both feet.

Enough with iCloud, I think I’ve made my point.  Let’s talk about iOS 8 and the design and new features (or refinement in most cases) of the latest Cupertino has to offer us.

Review of Camu for iPhone

One of the newest and brightest photo taking and editing apps in the App Store is Camu for iPhone.  Camu is a real time editing app that allows you to apply photo filters on-the-fly to the photos you are taking at the moment or add those effect to photos later.  It then allows you to post those creations to a wide range of social networks for sharing.  The beauty of Camu for iPhone is in its simplicity but don’t let that fool you:  This is a powerful photo editing application.

I’ve been using Camu now for a couple of weeks and I have to say I’m nothing short of impressed.  It has a nice selection of filters that you can apply to your photos (and not you don’t get nickel & dime’d to death with having to buy filters) but it is also completely gesture driven in using so there is virtually no learning curve.  This is one of those apps that truly anyone could pick up and figure out in about 5 minutes.  In fact my only real disappointment with the app is that there isn’t a native iPad version.

It is well worth your time and iPhone storage to take a look at Camu for iPhone.

Camu for iPhone – Free – Download Now

Star Wars Commander for iOS Review

Star Wars Commander is the latest in the Star Wars franchise of apps from Lucas Arts that brings a tower defence style game to the Rebellion versus Empire universe.  Like many such games, the object is to keep your own base safe and secure while also leading attacks on your enemy bases to collect currency and materials to further upgrade and build your own base.

This is where the game takes a twist.  In Star Wars Commander you can choose if you want to fight for the Rebel Alliance or if you want to take up arms for the Galactic Empire.  Depending on the site you select will determine the weapons at hand and your mission objectives.

I have to say that personally I’ve grown a bit tired of the tower defence style games as there are so many of them.  But Star Wars Commander, while certainly in the genre, has been a great amount of fun to play partly because it is in the Star Wars universe (and really, what’s not to love about that?) and the fact I can pick my side in the game.  It’s kinda nice being on the Empire side and commanding TIE Fighters. :-)

Star Wars: Commander (Universal App) – Free (In-App Purchases) – Download Now

Vivino Wine Scanner App for iPhone Review

I love wine but I fully admit that I’m a bit of a neanderthal when it comes to being able to pick a good wine from a not-so-good wine.  As I have discovered, price isn’t necessarily a reflection of a wine that is good and there is certainly an element of personal tastes that come into the picture.  Compounding my problem is when I go to my local grocer or “bottle store” (AKA Liquor Store), there is a dizzying number of wines of all times and all price ranges.  Regardless of your wine selecting skills, there is a great app that can help you find that perfect wine as you stand there looking at a wall of bottles.  The Vivino Wine Scanner app allows you to scan the label of any wine and instantly get peer ratings, price ranges and reviews of that wine.  It helps eliminate the guess work so you can find wines you like at a price that is right.

The Vivino Wine Scanner app is one of those apps that just makes life easier.  It works amazingly well and I’ve yet to find a bottle of wine that it didn’t recognise.  Literally all you do is snap a photo of the label of the wine bottle and it does all the work of giving you information about that wine.  It has become my favourite app to use while I’m stood in my grocer trying to find that bottle of wine that goes with that meal.

Vivino Wine Scanner – Free (In-App Purchases) – Download Now

Vivino Wine Scanner Pro – $4.99 – Download Now

My Data Manager for iOS App Review

There was a point not so many years ago that there were data plans from mobile providers that were unlimited data consumption.  Then the Internet got big and apps came into being and suddenly the mobile providers were having their networks crushed under the onslaught of data being pushed to mobile devices.  The solution was to limit the amount of included data or, in some cases, cap at a certain level.  That is where an app like My Data Manager for iOS comes in handy for iPhone or iPad users.

My Data Manager is an app that allows you to set your weekly or monthly thresholds on your data plan and keeps track of how much data you are using.  But it even smart enough to monitor how much WiFi you are using (because there are places you still have to pay for that for some reason – you reading this airports and hotels of the world?) and even your roaming amounts which can be really expensive if you over use while abroad.  It’s an impressive little app that is easy to use and configure and gives you alerts when you are getting close to your data limit.  If you have a limited amount of data you can use each month, My Data Manager for iOS should be an app on your iPhone.

OneFootball for iOS Review

This weekend here in England has been the start of the 2014-2015 football season.  All the leagues, most notably the Premier League and the Champions League, start in earnest as do many of the European leagues across the continent.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking for a good app for my iPhone and iPad to follow my favourite teams along with keeping up with news from around the various leagues.  I think I’ve found it in OneFootball for iOS.

OneFootball for iOS allows you to select your favourite team and follow them in detail as well as get push notifications during matches (when you can’t find your way to the pub to watch for some reason) and detailed information on each match and the season.  Further, you get a great news feed of all the information from across all the various national leagues and can even go into another league and setup notifications for a particular team.  All this in an app that is free.

Nifty MiniDrive Pro Review

I love my 13″ MacBook Pro.  It is great for travel – which I do a fair amount of – yet is powerful enough to do everything I need to do on a day-to-day basis.  But there are two things that are highly under-utilised on my Mac:  The DVD Drive and the SD Card Reader. I can easily solve this problem.  In the case of the DVD drive, I can crack the case, rip out the drive and replace it with a SSD Drive.  Easy but expensive and absolutely a warranty voiding exercise.

Then there is the SD slot.  I can stick a SD Card in it and use it as extra storage but it sticks out.  Which means it can get caught

Nifty MiniDrive Pro

Nifty MiniDrive Pro

shoving it into my case and potentially broken.  Now I know that Apple never intended the SD slot to be used for full time storage needs but someone has turned this rarely used part of my Mac into something useful.  That is Nifty and the Nifty MiniDrive Pro.

The Nifty MiniDrive Pro is a SD sized Micro SD card reader that slides perfectly into the SD slot on your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.  It sits flush with the chassis meaning that it doesn’t stick out.  At. All.  And your Mac simply sees that Micro SD card as just another drive in Finder.  Brilliantly simple and stunningly powerful.  For less than $50 I added 64GB of storage to My MacBook Pro all without ever turning a screwdriver.  I’ve reviewed a lot of great things here at AlliOSNews but this may be one of the simplest, coolest things ever.

TechMom Tuesday: OneDay at a Time

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

I used to be a scrapbooker. Creative Memories all the way, with approximately 57,000 stickers for every adventure.

I was known for stealing piles of brochures from hotel lobbies. I’d squirrel away a menu from a fancy restaurant and save every ticket. Every vacation or milestone moment in time became a stack of memories carefully curated into an 11×14 amalgamation of arranged art.

When I became TechMom, I had the best of intentions of continuing with my hobby, documenting those fleeting moments of childhood. I even started both TechTots books during the months my family lived apart – tiny twin TechTots in Chez NICU and me wishing them home already.

Review of Blacksmith-Labs Barrett Leather Holster Case for iPhone

I’ve always been a sucker for a great iPhone case and having had the pleasure to review many over the years, there are a few that stick out in my mind with fond memories.  I think that the Blacksmith-Labs Barrett case could be one of those in the future.  With its simple but elegant style, the case provides protection for your iPhone 5/5s/5c and makes sure that it is always on your hip thanks to a stylish and virtually indestructible metal belt clip.

Review of Evernote Jot Script Stylus – The Ultimate Stylus

Looking back over the last 16 years that I have been writing reviews of mobile products and solutions, I’ve reviewed dozens of stylus’ in that time.  Most have been pretty good.  Some have been great.  Then comes along the Evernote Jot Script.  This Evernote-branded-built-by-Adonit is simply the best, most accurate stylus I’ve ever reviewed.  While the price will put some readers off to trying it, if you are looking for the ultimate performance for handwriting or drawing on your iPad or iPhone look no further than the Jot Script.