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.

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.

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.

Review of Findery for iPhone – The Social Local Knowledge Sharing App

I’ve been fortunate in my life and career to be able to travel a lot of the world.  If there is one thing that is always the challenge though it is finding the local knowledge about a particular place.  There are plenty of apps out there to help you plan your travel and give you the highlights but what about the local knowledge of a place?  What are the secrets that a city holds?  That’s where Findery for iPhone can help.  It is a social, local and crowdsourced app that allows you to leave notes – text and photos – as you travel so others can find out about little discoveries and in return, you get to see others notes and discoveries.  It is a great app for finding out about a place – the real place, not just the touristy stuff – in a beautifully designed and easy-to-use app.

Findery – Free – Download Now

Review of Meteovista HD – A Widget Based iPad Weather App

In the App Store there are quite literally hundreds of weather apps and the vast majority of them start with a North America focus.  I get it.  The biggest app market is the United States and that’s where if you want your app to succeed you aim it.  But as an American living in England, I’ve found that many US-centric weather apps leave much to be desired when it comes to getting information about my locale.  Then I found Meteovista HD for iPad.  Meteovista is written by meteorologist here in Europe and has more detailed weather information for European cities than most other apps out there.  It’s a beautifully simple app with a widget based design that gives you all the basic information you need to plan your day.

Meteovista HD – Free (In-App Purchases) – Download Now

Review of Layrs – Simple Yet Sophisticated Photo Layering App for iPhone

Photo editing on iPhone and iPad’s has continued to grow in depth of ability and easy of use.  Nowhere is that more exemplified as it is in Layrs for iPhone.  Layrs brings a simple, easy-to-use interface with dozens of filters that you can layer onto your photos.  While not as sophisticated as other layer editing apps available in the App Store, Layrs will meet the needs for a large portion of iPhone users without requiring a massive investment.  Or like zero investment.  Layrs is one of the best values in the App Store at the price of Free.

layrs – Free – Download Now

Review of WritePad Pro – Note Taking App Taking It To Another Level

There are a wide range of note taking apps available to iPhone and iPad users in the App Store but one of the newest, WritePad Pro, is one that has got our attention.  The app is developed by PhatWare and it brings all of the benefits of the original – and still available – WritePad for iPad – but with improved cloud storage support and dramatically improved handwriting recognition.  WritePad Pro will allow you to modify text, insert pictures, drawings and even maps into your notes and synchronise them with virtually any cloud-based storage.  Recently PhatWare provided AlliOSNews a copy of the app to review and after having used it for a few weeks I can say it is light years ahead of the older app and has quickly become my favourite note taking app on my iPad.

WritePad Pro (Universal App) – $9.99 – Download Now

Review of 2048 – Highly Addictive and Challenging Maths Puzzle Game

There are puzzle games.  There are maths games.  There are puzzle maths games.  Then there is 2048.  2048 is a relative new game to the App Store and it already has a cult-like following.  The premise is simple:  Move tiles on the play board to add them up until you reach the magical 2048 tile.  Sounds easy right?

Good Luck.

2048 (Universal App) – Free (In-App Purchases) – Download Now

Review of Racing Elements – A Beautiful Racing Themed Weather App

In the world of F1 photography – as with drivers and teams – there are big names. It could be argued that none are bigger than the surname Cahier.  Paul-Henri Cahier and his father Bernard have captured 60 years of F1 moments and personalities and both are legends in the field.  Now you can enjoy that eminence database of photos in a new app, Racing Elements.  Racing Elements however is not just a photographic database, it is a weather app at heart.  It provides you local weather information with the backdrop being the beautiful photographs from the Cahiers but also integrates news and information about Formula One.  For any Grand Prix fan, Racing Elements is a must-have app for their iPhone or iPad.

Racing Elements (Universal App) – Free (In-App Purchases) – Download Now