App of the Week: Mailbox

mailbox-app

Developer:

Orchestra Inc.

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

iPod Touch 3rd gen and up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 6.0 or later

Price:

Free

Available here

Since its announcement, Mailbox has been something of a rockstar among app fans.

If you haven’t been rabidly following it, Mailbox is an app that allows you to finally gain control of your overloaded Gmail accounts (other e-mail services will be compatible soon). Upon first glance the app doesn’t appear to differ wildly from the usual e-mail inbox apps, both first party and otherwise, as it streams your usual e-mail inbox to the app,and presents the messages in a clear and defined, yet traditional format. There’s nothing mind blowing here yet, as it’s just your e-mail inbox.

It’s the interactions available with these messages that makes Mailbox such a hyped app, most of which revolve around sliding a message right or left. Sliding a message quickly to the right, for instance, will archive the message, while a slow swipe to the right will delete it. Swiping shortly to the left, however, lets you put a message on hold from times ranging from hours later to the vague “someday.” A longer left swipe lets you save the message in special categories such as “To Buy”, “To Watch”, and more. You can even create your own custom categories which are, along with your archives and other specific inboxes, fully searchable and available to view independently through tabs atop the app.

There are various other functions of the app including e-mail notification and organizing e-mail chains into readable chat like formats, but the general function of the app is making it as easy as possible to get your inbox to zero (it even celebrates an empty inbox, with a logoed message). It’s designed for people with high e-mail volume in mind, but even the casual e-mail user has to appreciate the combination of fluidity and depth presented by Mailbox, allowing you to not only do more with your inbox than ever before, but do it easier as well.

While a few features shy of its full potential, for Gmail users, Mailbox is in fact the absolute best mobile mail manager ever created. While the developer’s tagline of “you’ll wonder how you lived without it” is as cliché as it comes, it also happens to be the absolute truth here. You’ve never seen an app that allows you to so smoothly and thoroughly handle your messages, and you may very well never need another app to do so.

There’s a sizeable waiting list to download Mailbox at the moment (which is admittedly kind of absurd) , but you shouldn’t hesitate to jump in line, as with a few updates, this might just become the most used app of the year, and is certainly my app of the week.

  

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App of the Week: Table Top Racing

table-top-racing

Developer:

Playrise Edge Ltd.

Compatible with:
iPhone (optimized for iPhone 5)

iPod Touch

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

$2.99

Available here

So like all kids, I’m guessing you enjoyed playing with “Micro Machines” and “Hot Wheels.” If you were a Playstation user, I bet you like the high speed sci-fi racing series “Wipeout.” And like all everybody everywhere, you probably think “Mario Kart” is awesome.

So if I were to tell you that there was a “Hot Wheels” styled kart racing combat game like “Mario Kart” from some of the makers of “Wipout,” would that be something you’re interested in?

Well I hope so, because that’s just what we’ve got, and it’s called “Table Top Racing.” In it, you compete in several races, circuits and events against a variety of different model toy cars, which are unlockable and customizable, in both single player and online multiplayer modes. Rather than a simple sprint to the finish though, you’ll also use several weapons against your foes including the leader finding heat seeker missile and a beyond devastating EMP bomb.

The best part of “Table Top Racing” is it’s care with the subject matter. Everything about the game feels like playing out the most involved of all your toy car racing fantasies, a feature highlighted by the game’s best aspect, the tracks. All of the eight tracks are cleverly designed common world environments modified to create racetracks. For example, you’ll find yourself maneuvering around sandwiches on a picnic table at a Bar-B-Que, winding around oil cans on a work bench, or (in the best and most appropriate level) racing through a child’s room surrounded by classic toys. The track design is inspired and vibrant to the point of being almost distracting at times, but the brilliant layout keeps them fresh and even learning to keep your eyes on the course takes nothing from their creativity.

Table-Top-Racing (1)

As for the gameplay, it’s not near as fast or hectic as the “Wipeout” and “Mario Kart” series that inspired it, but the controls are tight and races are almost always competitive, due in part to the influence of the variety of weapons, and some reasonably challenging AI. There’s always a competitive spirit to the game that somehow never overwhelms the loose sense of fun.

There aren’t enough racing games like this available on mobile systems, and there are none as good as “Table Top Racing.” I wish there were more shortcuts, races, tracks, and speed, but when your biggest knock against a game is that there should be more of it, that’s generally an indication of things going right. That is certainly the case here as “Table Top Racing” does many, many things right, leading to an intense, yet casual approach to the mobile racer with just the right amount of nostalgia to fuel it.

As a, most likely, adult, you are too old to play with your toy cars anymore. With “Table Top Racing” though, you’ll never miss them as it’s the best game of toy cars you never got to play as a child, and my app of the week.

  

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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