Yesterday after a fair amount of celebrity hype, Twitter #music launched on the web and for iPhone users. The new app allows you to quickly and easily find a wide range of music and artists on the social site, listen to that music and gets you directly to iTunes to purchase it. All of this is done within the Twitter #music app which is a clean and simple user interface to use.
I must admit that I’ve never been a big fan of music search services or sites because I never found them very useful. Often
I would get music suggested to me that I had no interest in listening to let alone purchases.
No, Music Search Service, just because I’m from Texas you should not assume I like Country music.
Twitter #music seems to be different. Not only does it allow me to search for artists that I like on Twitter but the suggestions it gives, so far, have all been pretty good. I admit that I like a wide range of music so I’m probably more of a pain for a service like this than the normal user. But on any given day I’ll go from Pitbull to Sarah Brightman and won’t think much about it. Twitter #music doesn’t see to have a problem figuring out my eclectic tastes and makes pretty good suggestions of new artists.
Yes it’s only been a day but so far, I’m impressed with the new service.
There are plenty of weather apps in the App Store for you to chose from today. Finding the weather app that meets your needs however is the more challenging prospect. Recently Apalon updated Weather Live for iOS and it has quickly become one of my favourite weather apps. With stunning animated displays that change as the time of day and weather conditions change, you won’t find many weather apps that look this good on your iPhone or iPad. The question for any weather app however is does it provide you accurate and helpful information? In the case of Weather Live, yes is the word.
Weather Live is $1.99 and is a universal app for iOS. That means one purchase & download brings it to your iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini or iPod Touch. The display is optimised for the iPhone 5′s larger display and works very nicely on the iPad Mini. You will need about 40MB of space on your iOS device for Weather Live.
Let’s face it: There are weather apps by the dozen in the App Store. Some work great, some look great and some, well, we question their existence. Most weather apps focus on providing you detailed information about weather in any city in the world. That’s great if you are planning a trip but if you just need to know what the rain chances are for where you are located, it can be a bit cumbersome.
Enter Haze. Haze is a amazing simply but amazingly beautiful weather app focused on providing you with detailed weather information where you are at the moment. Developed by the Danish company Robocat, Haze has an elegant and natural feeling UI that actually makes this weather app fun to use. That UI, complete with animated backgrounds to indicate if the temperature is going up or down, makes it well worth the .99 Cent purchase price.
The Haze User Interface consists of three side-swiping panels that provide you weather information. These panels – Sunlight, Temperature and Precipitation – are all accessed by swiping back and forth across the display of your iPhone. With each swipe a short musical note is played to indicate to you that you have changed screens. Again, simple but effective. Each panel displays different weather information and with a small swipe down you can get a 5-day forecast for the particular information you are viewing (for example, the high temperature for the next 5 days).
The Temperature Panel
The Temperature display is where Haze will open by default and it displays the current temperature where you are located.
The app uses the location services of your iPhone so you will need to make sure you have that enabled in order to use Haze. You can display the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit and the background is animated to give you an indication of the direction of temperature change. In my screenshot on the right, it is 4c but you note that the wallpaper behind looks like it is pointing downward. That is because the temperature will be falling over the course of the next day. If the animation is slow it is a gradual change while a rapid animation indicates a rapid change in temperature. This simple animation is real out-of-the-box thinking and is unique to Haze.
If you tap the temperature indicator several smaller indicators expand out from it giving you more detail on the current conditions. This includes thinks like the expected high and low temperatures, the current windchill (or heat index), the wind speed and direction.
This two-tap approach to giving you the local weather conditions is what makes Haze so brilliantly simple. The app is extremely intuitive with the large temperature indicator seemingly asking to be tapped.
Real Racing 3, one of the most anticipated game releases for iOS for some time, has finally hit the App Store for download. The photorealistic tracks and cars are real courses, brands and models respectively, making this version of Real Racing the most realistic racing game for iOS available. Having been a long time racing game player on Xbox – F1 2012, Forza, etc – Real Racing 3 in many ways is better than a console game purely from a graphics perspective.
Interestingly, Electronic Arts has made Real Racing 3 a “Freemium” game meaning that the game itself is free but there are limitations in the game which you have to make in-app purchases to get around those limitations. This model is nothing new – most of the top games in the App Store have this exact same model and, having played Real Racing 3 for a few hours now you can do a lot of racing without making a single in-app purchase. But you have to be patience for things like repair times or when a car can become available after you purchase it, etc.
Let’s start with the basics: Real Racing 3 is a whopping 750MB download. Yes, all those pretty graphics come at a price, namely storage space on your iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini or iPod Touch. EA recommends that you have at least 2GB free space on your device to play the game as it will need to do a lot of graphics caching to work properly (i.e. frame rates). You will have to download it via iTunes or via WiFi from your device directly. The game is supported on the iPhone 4, 4S and 5, iPad 2, iPad 3rd & 4th generation, iPod Touch 4th and 5th generation, and iPad Mini. The afore in-app purchases range in price from $1.99 to $19.99.
Racing Circuits of Real Racing 3
One of the big changes to Real Racing 3 over previous versions of the game is the inclusion of real racing circuits. These race tracks include some of the most famous from around the world and the FireMonkey development team of EA spent hundreds of hours at the actual tracks to get the details right. That work paid off – for you. Now you can race on circuits such as Mazda Raceway Leguna Seca (USA), Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium), Silverstone (England), Indianpolis Motor Speedway (USA), Suzuki Circuit (Japan) and Hockenheimring (Germany) just to name a few. Having these real course pulls you even further into the racing experience where you get to figure out how to control the car through the almighty
Eau Rouge turn at Spa for example. If you are a Formula 1 fan, ALMS or World Endurance fan, you will smile when you get to race around one of these circuits.
The work the FireMonkey team put into getting these circuits accurate is evident the first lap you turn at them. The textures of the circuits are superb and the surrounding backgrounds of the circuits are accurate to the finest level. Once you see one of the tracks you will quickly figure out where the bulk of the 750MB download came from on the install. But it is worth it.
There are other little detailed improvements to the game like a working rear view mirror in the cars. This is thanks to the Mint 3 Engine that is being used to render the graphics being able to keep up with the game play.
Like many of you, I work in an office dominated by Microsoft Office and editing those documents on the go is challenging sometimes. CloudOn is a service that allows you to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files from your iPhone or iPad and it ties in seamlessly to your other online services such as Dropbox. It is a powerful answer to other editing apps as this is the real Office apps you are accessing online. Two of my colleagues turned me onto CloudOn and I have found it to be a must have app for me.
CloudOn works through an active Internet connection on your iPhone or iPad. That connection can be WiFi or cellular but has to be there for the app to be able to access the service. Once connected you can connect your online storage services
to CloudOn to access all of your files. Currently Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive are all supported and connecting CloudOn to these services just requires you authorise the app to do so. Because CloudOn is online itself, when you edit a file or folder in the app the changes are automatically and nearly instantly uploaded to the service you are accessing. So if you edit an Excel file from Dropbox, your changes are immediately there in Dropbox. This prevents you from having to worry about overwriting changes or forgetting to upload your edits.
It happens automagically.
As you can see from the screen capture to the right, you can have multiple online file services connected to CloudOn. Much of my corporate life is in Dropbox while much of my personal life is in Google Drive so having ready access to both is important to me. CloudOn allows that, making it a true productivity tool.
The main User Interface of CloudOn is simple but effective with multiple ways to view your files – listing, icons or side-swiping iTunes style views. Because CloudOn uses a predominantly black UI, it is easy on the eyes, even in low light situations.
The release of iTunes 11 marks a major upgrade for the media, entertainment and app store application from Apple. This update has been anticipated for weeks now as Apple delayed the release by a month and that users have complained about the archaic menus and navigation of iTunes for several years now – me included. Apple seemed to be pushing iOS and OS X further and further from a look-and-feel perspective yet iTunes was… iTunes. Boring, not very user friendly and certainly not moving forward.
That has changed with iTunes 11. It is the first iTunes release that feels completely new since I would argue release 7. The navigation is simple and easy. The new App Store is fast with a look-and-feel of the iTunes stores on your iPhone and iPad. This release feels fresh and having used it for a few hours now, it is well worth the upgrade.
When you install iTunes 11 or upgrade to it and start the app for the first time you will have a tutorial page that highlights the new navigation of the app. Here you have arrows pointing to where you can find your music, movies and other media
as well as how to access the iTunes Store. There is also an option to go to the Apple website and watch tutorial videos on how to navigate and use iTunes 11. If you are new to it then you may benefit from watching. That said, the navigation throughout iTunes is natural. Things are where they seem they should be and I’ve not been stumped so far on trying to find some obsure setting or feature within iTunes after this update. If anything, it is easier.
Once you are past the tutorial page you are brought to your music library of all of your albums. If you click on an album then all of the songs for it are displayed in a drop-down page from the album. Here you can select a song to play as well as give it star rating. You can also create a Playlist from this drop-down page or go to the artists iTunes Store page. No more double-clicks or right-clicks to navigate around. It’s all right there in view.
It is hard for me to remember the last time I actually read a physical newspaper. I long since abandoned my subscription to the Dallas Morning News here in Dallas. That was probably 10 years ago if not longer. I get all of my news and magazines digitally through a variety of resources. Still, there are times where I want to have a paper not necessarily local to Dallas but elsewhere in the world available to me. In many cases, getting a physical edition of a newspaper from somewhere in Europe or even another state here in the United States is simply not possible. That is where PressReader comes in and does it fill the need nearly perfectly.
PressReader is a universal app that brings newspapers and local magazines from 97 different countries and 54 different languages to your iPhone or iPad. There are literally hundreds of sources you can subscribe to within the app for a monthly fee or, if you want a single issue of a newspaper, it is .99 cents. PressReader makes these newspapers easy to navigate with hyperlinking to articles within the paper itself throughout and with Retina support, reading is easy on the eyes. Add it all up plus the fact I’m not creating waste by having a paper newspaper delivered and PressReader is a real winner.
When you start PressReader for the first time you will by default be in a pay-as-you-go plan which is .99 cents for each download you make. You can also setup a monthly subscription that is $34.99 per month. That on the surface seems high but keep in mind that you can subscribe to an unlimited number of sources for that monthly price. Whether it is 1 or 100, it’s $34.99. Basically that is what one or two paper-based subscriptions would cost for some of these publications so it is a really good deal in the long run. More details on the pricing and usage policy later in the review.
Earlier this week I posted a review of three iPhone 4/4S cases made by the Australian company Cygnett. Today I’m going to review three cases they offer for the iPad 2 and new iPad. These cases provide protection for your iPad while giving you good functionality and good looks at the same time. All three cases are great choices and are just a small sampling of what Cygnett has to offer in their case line up.
The first case is the Lavish Earth folio style case. This case, which comes in black, sandstone or purple, is made of hard shell that is padded and wrapped in leather. On the outside the stitching all around the case is uniform and tight showing
a well constructed product while on the inside, similar quality if found in the stitching for the sleeve that holds the iPad. The sleeve in which you put your iPad is designed to hold it snuggly but also give you access to all of the buttons, camera and headphone jack of your iPad. The sleeve secures your iPad within it with a strong velcro strap on the inside of the case and leather straps on the top and bottom of the sleeve secure it to the outer shell and keep your iPad in place.
The Lavish Earth case is designed to provide you the ability to view your iPad from multiple angles while in landscape mode. On the inside of the front cover are three strips of leather sewn into the cover. These provide a ridge for you to rest the edge of the iPad sleeve to view the screen. This gives you the ability to view your iPad in the most comfortable position possible depending on your location and the space available. When you have it set to the lowest angle, I found it is actually very comfortable to view the screen but also to type on the on-screen keyboard of the iPad as well.
Cygnett has done a good job in the design of the Lavish Earth case with a small but important feature. The case has a magnetic closure thanks to small magnets on the inside edge of the front flap of the case. This also gives the case the ability to turn your iPad on or off when you close it, much like the Apple Smart Cover and Smart Case. So not only does it secure the front of the case to keep it closed but you don’t have to remember to turn your iPad off when you do close it. Not many 3rd party case manufactures have taken advantage of this feature of the iPad 2 or new iPad so it is great to see Cygnett doing it.
The Lavish Earth case is $59.99 and is designed for the iPad 2 and new iPad. You can get more information on it here.
The gameshow-meets-obstacle-course television show Wipeout on ABC here in the United States is a big hit. Millions watch it each week as contestants try to navigate a series of obstacles, most of which are moving, to reach the end of the course. As you would imagine, there are plenty of falls, spills and outright painful looking meetings with these obstacles, which really is part of the fun of the show. Add to that some often very interesting people playing the game and, well, you get American TV at its finest.
Now thanks to Activision you can play Wipeout anytime you desire on your iPhone or iPad. Based very closely on the television show, Wipeout allows you to control a character and navigate them through the obstacle courses to win prizes and of course Game Center achievements. The trick, just like on the TV show, is to navigate without getting knocked off the course or having a cringe inducing face plant with your character. And that can be challenging. With super easy controls and surprisingly accurate physics, Wipeout is worth hours of fun. If you like the show, you’ll love the app.
If there is one thing that is true about iPhone cases it is that there is one for you no matter what your need is in that case or your aesthetic taste. No where is that potentially more true than with Cygnett. The Australian company has dozens of styles of cases for iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5s to meet virtually any look, feel and design you have in mind. Recently their marketing firm Sandbox Strategies sent me three samples to review to give you the AlliOSNews readers an idea of what they have available.
The first case I tried was the UrbanShield line. It is a brushed aluminum case and in my case it has a bronze color to it. It looks fantastic and is what I would say is a more hip or professional looking case of the three. The back is the brushed aluminum while the sides of the case which snap over the sides of your iPhone are a snug fitting rubber material which
snaps around your iPhone. There are holes cut into the side of the case so you can access the mute switch and volume up/down buttons on your iPhone and there is a hole in the back to allow for you to snap photos with your iPhone without having to remove the case. The UrbanShield case does not add really any weight or bulk to the iPhone which is an added plus. You don’t feel like your iPhone suddenly became big in your hand with this case on it.
As an added benefit, Cygnett provides a screen protector with the UrbanShield case so you have complete protection of your iPhone. As with all screen protectors they are a bit tricky to install but I did not find them any more difficult than others on the market.
Installing the case on my iPhone 4S was easy. I started by putting one edge of my iPhone into the case then sliding the other side down into it. It will be a tight fit as that is the design so a little force is required to get the final edges over the phone. Getting the case off was a bit more of a challenge as it really hugs the iPhone.
The UrbanShield line up comes in black, blue, bronze, and silver and are $19.99 directly from Cygnett. You can get more information on this case at this link.