App of the Week: Stow

Developer:

Apptifica, LLC

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up

iPod Touch 3rd Gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 6.0 or later

Price:

$1.99

Available here

Much like Déjà vu’, that feeling that you forgot something when leaving your nest for an extended period of time is a near universal one. Almost always, it has no real bearing, but is unshakable nonetheless once it dawns upon you. While the feeling may be inescapable, with the new packing aid app “Stow”,  you can make sure that’s it’s just a phantom notion, as you can be guaranteed that everything you could possibly need is safely on hand.

Where “Stow” succeeds in an over-packed app field (pun sadly intended) is in its smart philosophy to packing. Rather than provide a grocery shopping style checklist of items, “Stow” takes a more lively approach to the subject by allowing you to account for factors like the amount of days you will be away, what the weather is going to be like during your time there, and even if laundry will be available. Only from there do you go into the checklist mode, where you are now equipped to factor in exactly what you will need, for all days, and conditions. It will even advise you as to common items you may need for individual weather conditions, and handedly provides subsections for various accessory types such as electronics and first aid, so no possible stone is left unturned.

An even more useful feature are the templates. With these, you can set a basic needs list based on what type of trip you are going on. Examples include: golf, beach, business, family, city, and more. All of them factor in essential (and handy) items for the various situations, and while they may not represent complete universal rundowns, it’s an excellent starting point. Even better is the ability to create your own templates based on common trips you take, so that you can have a “go to list” tuned exactly to your needs.

There’s more to the app of course, including abilities to factor in multiple people (useful for families), the ability to create a short list for your morning routine, you can print lists, save them as spreadsheets, share them, etc. It all comes together to create an app that feels very complete, as it accounts for so many potential aspects of such a specific task. At $1.99, its one of the more pricey apps of its kind, but for anyone that travels with any regularity, or has a serious forgetfulness problem when packing, the usefulness of “Stow” justifies it’s price immediately.

Ironically the only essential item the app can’t account for when packing is whether or not you have the app itself. Be sure to download it then and count it as the last important packing decision you’ll ever have to make on your own thanks to “Stow”, my app of the week.

 

  

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App of the Week: Temple Run 2

Developer:

Imangi Studios, LLC

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd Gen and up

iPad

*Available for Android on Jan. 24

Requires:
iOS 4.2 or later

Price:

Free

Available here

*Sigh*

Well I tried.

I tried to find a reason to not put “Temple Run 2” as the app of the week. I wanted to find some obscure, must have gem that was released in the same week as one of the biggest app sequels of all time instead, and hope to help it find some time to share in “Temple Run 2′s” considerable spotlight. Try as I might though, it was still “Temple Run 2” that came on top of the heap.

I probably don’t need to elaborate on the concept of “Temple Run” as with 170 million plus downloads, there’s a good chance you’ve played or heard about it. But just for forms sake, “Temple Run 2” has you playing as an adventurer in pursuit of the golden idol. The actual acquiring of it is never an issue, but the escape from the temple is the real challenge, and this is where the player comes in as they try to escape the temple, and it’s fervent defenders, via a series of course changes, jumps, and other simple (but rapid) interactions, all while trying to collect coins to unlock all kinds of goodies. You can’t survive, but the fun is in how long you last, and how much you can collect.

Since it’s a clearly successful formula, “Temple Run 2” doesn’t find much cause for altering it. Instead, this is a “more is better” type sequel, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t noteworthy additions. A particular highlight of “Temple Run 2” is the graphics, which are significantly improved from its predecessor. Everything is so colorful, varied, and detailed that it becomes impossible to look back at the first game without a scoff. It does cause some problems on older systems because of this, but the visual reward is worth the increased hardware recommendations.

Otherwise, it comes back to that more word to tell you what so great about the game. That would include more power ups (that goes along with more characters), more achievements, more collectibles,  more environments, and best of all more obstacles like zip lines and mine carts that help make playing “Temple Run 2” in long sessions a much greater joy thanks to some genuine variety around every bend.

And of course it all works. “Temple Run” only came out in 2011, and while the novelty of it has long worn off, the fun never really did. “Temple Run 2” celebrates that fact by maintaining the simple joy of the gameplay, and sacrificing none of the addictiveness, but it also knows where to nip and tuck, and where to enhance, so that at least for the first few play-throughs, the game feels new again.

I think the reason that I was hesitant to write about “Temple Run 2” here is because it is such a big, bold, headline grabbing release, it seems almost lazy to join the masses of appraisers and admirers in covering it. Yet after spending some time with the game, I’m reminded that it’s not always about what’s new, what’s bold, and what’s unsung, but that rather sometimes it’s as simple as good is good. Well “Temple Run 2” is certainly good, and it’s also my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Directr

Developer:

Directr, Inc.

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch 3rd Gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

Free

Available here

I always wanted to be a movie director, but a lack of ambition, and talent, sadly kept me from that particular goal. That still never stopped me from having a fascination with the filmmaking process, even if the particulars of the art have eluded me.

The new app Directr was seemingly made for people like me. It’s a video recording app that allows you to produce semi-professional looking works out of video recorded on your Apple device. The difference between Directr and other film creation apps is the more relaxed approach it takes to the idea. The highlight of the app is that there is no editing required, and it’s pretty much all point and shoot. That’s not to say it’s a bare bones program as you are allowed to insert text, music, graphics, and, in a particularly inspired bit of design, use storyboards to help you plan the layout of certain types of videos (which is a major contributor to the simplicity of the app).

What is the practical use of Directr? Well, based off of examples provided on the apps site, it can be used to stylishly record your baby’s actions, make a modern day slideshow of your vacation (only interesting), or to provide a video capture to spice up your apartment listing just to name a few. Thanks to the deeply integrated social features, sharing your videos is exceptionally easy, and even already there is a growing community for doing just that, as people aspire to create viral video sensations, or even just sell a car.

If you had to assign a greater purpose to Directr though, it would be giving users the ability to enhance their everyday videos, without beating them over the head with the prospect of having to sort through and splice together mounds of footage. While it doesn’t have the creative depth of a full fledged video editor, it does allow you to come up with a similar final product, and always maintains the fun of creating something that is closer to a film than a simple video, without forcing you through the elongated, tedious process usually required to do so.

For a free app, there is lot of life in Directr, and once you download it, it becomes hard to shoot any video, without suddenly framing it within the abilities of the app. Nothing you can create with Directr will be winning any Oscars, but the program itself does goes home with my award as app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Hundreds

Developer:

Semi Secret Software LLC.

Compatible with:
iPhone (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

$2.99 (on sale)

Available here

In what has been a surprisingly deep week of quality apps, hopefully signaling a new year of the same, it was a tough task picking one to spotlight. There is one, however, making some serious noise and gaining quite a following from sites like Kotaku who already name it their, admittedly pre-mature, game of the year.

It’s called “Hundreds”, and if you give it a minute it would like to take over your life. How? Well, like so many other great puzzle apps, it starts with a simple idea. In this case, it is taking a grey circle (or circles) with the number zero in the center, and pressing down on it while the number grows until it reaches a hundred (in the case of multiple circles, the numbers must collectively add to be a hundred). With me so far? Good, because this is where it gets fun. You see, while holding down on a circle it turns from grey, to red. Should that red circle touch pretty much anything, you lose. At all times you must be aware of the location, numbers within, and size of your circles to try to find the right balance of when to manipulate what circles where. It’s an idea very easy to grasp from just a quick video demonstration.

Humorously the first level is a lone circle you must do nothing more to than press down upon until it grows to a hundred. It’s the game’s tutorial level as from there, it spends the rest of its 100+ levels exploring every possible way to throw the concept in your face, and torture you with the relentless difficulty it is capable of. As a fan of level design, I was blown away with the sheer, there’s no other word for it, audacity of the puzzles in this game. It’s clear the developers are overachievers, and they will leave you in stunned silence at the outset of most every level while you appreciate how difficult of a challenge you are facing.

By using random movements, dynamic obstacles, and good old constraints, “Hundreds” forces you not into a zen like state to best it, but rather an actively contemplative one. It gives you plenty of time to consider your next action, and its consequences, and then in the heat of making your move forces you to dynamically adjust the expectations of those actions. It’s like a pitcher giving the batter all the time in the world before politely asking if he’s ready to swing. Even then, he would have no idea what’s coming, and little time to adjust.

The word you’ll hear about “Hundreds” is addictive, and rightly so. It is addictive. Buy what impresses me most is the effortlessness of the entire experience. It’s a puzzle prodigy of sorts, in that it so easily does everything well that you forget the real effort being put into every aspect. Yet even down to the cryptic messages in between stages, there isn’t an idea here that wasn’t carefully considered and implemented.

In the end “Hundreds” may just be another addictive, clever mobile puzzle game in a, thankfully, long line of them. But that it never makes you feel like you’re playing something that has come before is the real joy of the game. “Hundreds” may not be one in a million, but it is equal or greater to all of those titles that paved the way, and is a constant joy, not to mention my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: MTA Subway Time

Developer:
Metropolitan Transit Authority

Compatible with:
iPhone 3GS and up

iPod Touch 3rd Gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

Free

Available here

My app this week is really only for residents of NYC. Everyone else, please feel free to proceed to the nearest sexy lady picture you find on this site.

Are they all gone?

Good.

So you know how annoying it is trying to catch your subway train on time right? Even though they stick to a supposed schedule (unless it’s the C train, the slacker of the transit system) sometimes your morning bagel takes a little longer to toast, or you have an unexpected stop and chat, or it’s raining and you debated for too long to call in or not, or maybe (as you told your boss) the train truly was running late, and your morning is now officially in peril.

It happens far too often, and even though the MTA has updated platforms with arrival estimates, and support a host of apps to help, it wasn’t until the recently released MTA Subway Time app, that straphangers now have the ability to get real time train schedules.

The app currently supports 7 lines (1-6 and the 43nd S), and provides updated arrival times of the major lines as they occur. The arrival times include trains running in both all directions, and has data for both arriving and upcoming trains. Along with that, you also get the usual train routes, work updates, and all other information you would need in actually organizing your commute.

It’s not the world’s prettiest app, and is very basic in its current stage, but should still be immediately downloaded by any commuters of those lines, and really by all straphangers in anticipation of additional lines being added. Never before have commuters had this kind of accurate information available to them at any time, and the only reason it doesn’t feel more impressive is because it seems like something that should have been done long ago.

You can’t overstate how welcome this app is, and as the MTA chairman Joseph Lhota described it, represents a “day that generations of dreamers and futurists have waited for”. While I wish the app could give false updates to my boss that are more in line with my current, personal schedule, this miracle program arrives right in time to be named by app of the week.

  

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