App of the Week: Bondsy

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Developer: Bondsy 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

One time in college (no, wait, it’s not that kind of story) I needed a new part for my computer, and went to the only computer repair place in town. The guy there said he had a part, but wasn’t sure if it worked, and didn’t want to charge me much if it couldn’t. Instead, he just asked if I could get him some hoagie bread for his lunch, because he forgot his at home. I did, and the part was mine.

Of course it didn’t work, but that is still the day I learned the joy of the barter system.

If you too miss an age where the trading of goods and services wasn’t tied up in the arbitrary value of money, then consider the new app that allows you to to exchange pretty much anything for pretty much anything, called Bondsy.

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Bondsy features a pretty simple set up that allows you to post a photo of a good or service you’re looking to give, write a brief description of it, and provide what good or service you are looking for in exchange. In turn, the people who are interested can ask questions or make a counter-offer.

What separates Bondsy from services that offer something similar, such as craigslist ads, is the fact that the only people you will be dealing with are either friends or friends of friends, thus removing some of the nasty anonymity of exchanging goods and services on the internet, as your friends are, probably, unlikely to try to pawn off a soiled mattress, really amateur guitar lessons, or glued together chair on you (again, probably).

We all have extra stuff laying around that may not be worth the hassle of eBay or necessarily fit for Goodwill. What Bondsy does is put a value back into that former junk, and allows you to keep it in a trusted circle where the exchange has a little more security. Even better, with money out of the equation, there is a lot more creativity involved with the value behind every offer, bringing some fun into previously useless items, and creating an auction house type atmosphere amongst your friends.

And fun is really what this whole thing is about. Even though you stand the chance of scoring some cool stuff, it’s really about the fun that comes with bartering with your friends over it. Imagine a scenario where someone you know having some great extra game tickets, and a bidding war of goods and services starting over them, and you can see the potential of Bondsy, and why it is my app of the week

  

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App of the Week: Pizza Compass

Developer: Oak

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod touch 3rd gen and up, iPad

Requires: iOS 6.0 or later

Price: $0.99

Available here

A scenario.

It’s 2 A.M. and you’re the kind of drunk that usually only follows a particularly joyous event, or a particularly disastrous one. While concerns such as the bar tab you just threw on your credit card, and that black eye forming over a disagreement over that girl you don’t remember will soon dominate your thoughts, the only worry at the moment is where you can get a slice of pizza in this unknown part of town that you were highly familiar with only four shots ago.

While you can ask a stranger (unlikely and potentially dangerous) or navigate Yelp and Google Maps (not a chance in your current state), what you really need is a digital arrow that simply shows you where the nearest pizza is right damn now.

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Such is the purpose of Pizza Compass. Simply spin the app’s pizza icon and you’ll soon be directed to the nearest slice joints, and even be provided with a steaming pizza graphic when you’re in range. Should you have the need, you can also explore the built in map to view all nearby pizza places, and get photos, hours, reviews courtesy of Foursquare, and more.

Described as both a no frills app, and “the most important app ever made,” the makers of Pizza Compass are very aware of both the incredibly simple nature of the program, and the fact it is absolutely essential. You can easily make the well-reasoned and fact based argument that everyone with a soul enjoys pizza, and as such it is highly likely that at some point, you will appreciate having an app that cuts through the crap (as in other food that isn’t pizza) and gets you on the right path to enjoying the greatest thing to ever come in slice form (that’s right…suck it mere bread).

A further scenario. It’s now 2:30 A.M., and you’ve soaked up a medically advisable amount of excess alcohol courtesy of a hot and greasy peperoni pizza, all thanks to Pizza Compass. With the few brain cells left firing, you realize that Pizza Compass is in fact the app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Star Command

Developer: Star Command LLC.

Compatible with: iPhone 3GS and up (optimized for iPhone 5), iPod touch 3rd gen and up, iPad

Requires: iOS 4.3 or later

Price: $2.99

Available here

Captain’s Log Stardate 90946.8

After years in development following a successful Kickstarter campaign, “Star Command” is now available for the app store, and provides a universe spanning strategy title, that offers the chance to chart the unknown and boldly go where no game has gone before.

Well…ok that’s an exaggeration.

In fact, “Star Command” has a lot in common with the PC indie hit “FTL,” right down to the Kickstarter origins, as both games task you with the same objective of traversing different galaxies and defeating some of the toughest scum in the galaxy through ship to ship battles, and onboard scuffles, all as captain of your very own space ship.

While the games may share a similar product description, where “Star Command” differs, and ultimately shines, is in the number of little things.

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For instance, the graphics are exceptional. Whereas “FTL” was all about minimalism, “Star Command” looks similar to old PC games like “XCOM” or “Syndicate” and gets the most out of its perspective thanks to a bright and detailed style. The cutscenes are also straight out of a Lucasarts adventure game, and really drive home the humor, danger, and even frights of the game based on the current situation.

As for the gameplay, there is a lot of it. After you’ve customized your captain, you are now responsible for hiring a crew, and assigning them to three different job classes, as well as building and customizing your ships weapons and systems, which are all acquired by using tokens that are earned along the way. Once everything is eventually in place, the game mostly revolves around combat, for which you are responsible for the command of every single aspect of the ship. When it’s time to fire the plasma beams, that’s up to you. When a team needs to be organized to fend off a boarding party, that’s up to you. And when all hell is breaking loose and no hope seems to be available, it’s again down to you.

That last one is important, as things can get out of control very easily. This is not an easy game by any means, as “Star Command” requires your complete concentration, and the ability to multitask like a machine, if you are ever going to have a chance of surviving. Your survival is the key too, as once the captain goes down, the game is over.

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Don’t let the doom and gloom keep you away though, as even at its most frustrating “Star Command” is an ambitious and extremely entertaining title that does a great job at promoting an atmosphere where anything can happen at any turn. Exploring the universe truly feels like you’re doing just that, since the variety of enemies and scenarios present at each location rarely, if ever, repeats, making each new adventure feel like some lost episode of “Star Trek.”

In fact it’s probably no coincidence that this game is coming out so close to the new “Star Trek” movie, as if you are a fan of that series, or of anything sci-fi, this app is a beam down from the heavens. It’s a complex, yet accessible and rewarding, adventure that requires several levels of active and passive strategies. Every effort proves worth it though, as it all contributes to a title that lets you experience what it’s like to be at the helm of your own sci-fi ship.

“Star Command” is the perfect type of strategy game for your phone, and with any luck will be the start of a franchise that will live long and prosper. For now though, this game proudly serves as my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Swype

Developer: Nuance Communications Inc.

Compatible with: Android devices

Requires: Android 2.2 and up

Price: $0.99

Available here

The keyboard of your mobile device is something you can’t even call a feature. It’s more of a given and, as such, you probably never really put much thought into it, or consideration into using any but the one your device came with.

The developers of Swype seem to be aware of that mentality, and for years have been working on a keyboard alternative that would merit that very consideration. While they made their name initially (and literally) because of a trace to type featured dubbed Swype, that feature has since become standard for many android devices, and have forced the team at Swype to develop a product not dependent on a single feature, and worthy of the app’s long anticipated Google Play debut.

They’ve done it too. With the trace feature no longer its ace, Swype instead focuses its effort on making a keyboard that is not only faster than others (Swype was used to set a Guinness Book record for texting) but more accurate as well. While this is best exemplified in its abilities to do things like learn the type of language and lingo you use to offer better text prediction, its intelligent sentence editor, or how you can do things like change to a keypad style layout for numbers, it’s more of general design philosophy than anything that is exemplified by a single feature.

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That isn’t to say that Swype doesn’t have some flash though. Since being bought by Nuance Communications, Swype has incorporated that company’s Dragon Mobile Assistant feature, which is integrated into the keyboard and allows you to verbally dictate a message, or any input, with a kind of accuracy you really don’t see from other similar programs, and provides yet another reliable input feature for your buck. There’s even a planned feature which will incorporate the languages and unique dialects of any area you are in, and use them to further enhance the text prediction feature.

I’d be lying if I said Swype is a sexy or exciting app, or one that is easy to properly do justice to by describing it. It isn’t, and you can’t. What it is though is a monumental improvement to maybe the most essential of functions your mobile device is capable of, and at its must have introduction price of $0.99 (which unlocks it for your phone and tablet) is cheaper than other comparable apps like Swiftkey, yet doesn’t sacrifice an ounce of functionality in the process.

You may not often consider your keyboard and ways to make it better, but the developers of Swype have, and they’ve used that information to create a keyboard that is 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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