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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App of the Week: Drive

Developer:
Create Digital Media

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

iPod touch 3rd gen or up

iPad

Requires:
iOS 5.1

Price:
$0.99

Available here

Don’t use your phone while driving.

From nationwide campaigns to motherly warnings, we’ve had that simple message drilled into our heads for as long as we’ve had cell phones. Most people know the dangers, and most agree with the idea in principle, but unlike other driving safe philosophies, like “don’t drink and drive” or “wear your seatbelt,” the idea of putting down your smartphone while driving is not catching on any time soon. You see it all of the time, and probably have been guilty of it yourself a few times, yet as much as it seems like common sense, it’s pretty obvious people are not in a hurry to stop doing it in mass.

Developers Create Digital Media seems to realize this and have created a compromise of sorts. If you are going to use your phone while driving, then at least limit yourself. They’ve removed your game apps, Facebook, keyboard, and Twitter, and have designed the app Drive, which trims your smartphone down to four main functions, all grouped together and handled by a beautifully minimalist design.

The functions are call, music, text, and map. Coupled with the large font, brightly colored ways they are displayed, the actual methods to using these features are also pleasantly simple and often require only bold gestures and swipes.

For instance, the music app allows you to change songs by horizontal swipes, and change the volume with two finger vertical motions (you can also play the music randomly via a shuffle playlist). Texts and calls use simple scroll and tap methods for going through your contacts, and for texts you are able to program general important statements for quick sends. The map features is maybe the least developed of the bunch, but it does provide integration with Apple Maps as well as standard directional functions and a nice, easy to view on the fly general map in tune with your current location.

The developers of the app are promising to keep developing all of its functions, with the map feature seeming to be a main point of emphasis with these updates. Even in its early stage though, Drive provides one of the more complete driver friendly apps I’ve ever seen as it successfully allows you to use the most important abilities of your phone without severely impairing your ability to drive. It’s an incredibly intelligent app, that with enough improvements you could evolve into a standard mode for all out of the box smartphones as it presents a realistic idea for handling the using your phone while driving problem, and also provides and alternative, simpler phone use option for any other times when your ability to use your phone to its full extent is hindered.

If you’re guilty of using your iPhone or, even worse, iPad, while driving then you owe it to yourself, and honestly other drivers, to give Drive a shot. Not only is it sleek, intuitive, and incredibly user friendly, it’s also my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Manalyzer

Developer:
Xynyn

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:
iOS 4.2 or later

Price:
Free

Available here

On the subject of being a man, in the song “Mannish Boy” Muddy Waters had this to say:

“I can make love to you woman,
in five minutes time
Ain’t that a man

I’m a full grown man
Man
I’m a natural born lovers man
Man
I’m a rollin’ stone
I’m a man-child”

While that was Muddy Waters estimation of a man, it would be unrealistic to compare your only manliness based on the Muddy Waters scale. Still, though, I’m betting in a moment of channel surfing weakness where you ended up on a chick flick too long, or maybe settled for a light beer and a salad at dinner, the question has briefly crossed your mind.

Are you properly manly enough?

Luckily you need not wonder anymore, as one app now has the balls to tell you. From Xynyn comes the Manalyzer, or Manliness analyzer. Using photo analysis of your hands, and face, the Manalyzer uses figures and ratios determined by research done in over 25 scientific papers to take the analysis of these photos and assign a man score to you. The man score then correlates to five different categories (financial success, aggression, leadership, athletics, and innovation) to determine how much man you are, and what kind of man you will be. In the interest of fairness, there is also a mode that manalyzes women (though please note it is not advised that even a level 10 man try this on their girlfriend).

Now I know what you might say. That there is no way this app can accurately calculate how much of a man you are based on a couple of pictures. To these people I say, I scanned a picture of man great Charles Bronson, and came up with a 10.

That’s scientifically proven enough for me to man up, and name this the app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Bastion

Developer:
Supergiant Games

Compatible with:
iPad

Requires:

iOS 5.1

Price:

$4.99

Available here

As the Summer of Arcade kicked off in 2011 for Xbox Live, one of the headline games was a title called “Bastion.” Like just about every other indie title ever made, it arrived without much hype and drew little more than curiosity based on the tantalizing art style. But as soon as it hit the marketplace, both critics and fans found themselves completely immersed by a game that realized that sometimes there is an inherent value in style over substance, if you happen to be the most stylish thing in the room. It went on to post impressive sales figures, and find itself on short lists everywhere for game of the year.

And now it’s coming to iPad.

If you never got to experience “Bastion” originally, it’s a story of a protagonist known only as the kid who awakes one day to find that an event known as the “Great Calamity” has wiped out just about everything he’s ever known. His only hope is to search out a communal safe haven, known only as the bastion.

“Bastion” is an action RPG in the style of “Diablo.” From there, it immediately defies categorization. Letting the simple and addictive style of the genre take care of that burdensome concept known as gameplay, “Bastion” instead focuses its considerable efforts on…well just about everything else. You’ll immediately be drawn in by the games art style, which features well rendered hand painted environments and characters. Color has seemingly abandoned video games as a whole, and to call “Bastion’s” style a breath of fresh air contradicts the fact that the only way to really describe the look of the game is breathtaking.

Coupled with this graphical onslaught is some of the best sound design ever put in a video game. This is mostly due to the games gruff narrator who manages to comment on just about everything in the game, whether scripted or otherwise. What initially seems gimmicky, and could get annoying, instead becomes vital as it contributes to the game a unique storytelling style that reminds you of a storybook fantasy tale. When not being entertained by the narration, you may take the time to notice that the music is not only appropriately atmospheric, but also stands well on its own accord.

For its critical transition to the iPad, little is lost. All of the game’s content is available, and looks and sounds great. The controls could have been an issue, but by using a minimal amount of touch buttons, the developers have managed to make things as painless as possible, and after the first few levels you will rarely find yourself fumbling with the controls. In fact, the only reason I couldn’t recommend the iPad as a platform for “Bastion” is because when everything in the game (the addictive action, the stunning look, and the encompassing sound) all come together, it’s very easy to get swept up in the title and thus lose track of the world around you, making “Bastion” something of a public hazard. Also, much like the original title, you may find yourself wishing that you had an invisible narrator commenting on your every action through the day, only to be continuously disappointed there isn’t one.

There doesn’t exist enough games with the simple beauty of “Bastion,” and there are even fewer on the iPad. In 2011 “Bastion” for the 360 was a candidate for best game of the year. In 2012, it’s still got enough going for it on the iPad to be my app of the week.

  

App of the Week: Prismatic

Publisher:
Prismatic

Compatible with:
iPhone
iPad
iPod Touch

Requires:

iOS 5.0 or later

Price:

Free

Available here

We live in a world of constant stimulation.

At no point in the day is the average person but mere moments away from an entire universe of information and entertainment both classic and current. You could call it overwhelming, but that doesn’t really seem fitting. Overwhelming would imply there is some kind of burden, when really it’s enjoyable how much we have access to, even if there is no good way to sift through it all, and find the bits most relevant and interesting to you.

New app Prismatic may have the answer to this dilemma. After you create your log-in through Facebook, Twitter, or G+ the app immediately starts learning about you and what you’re interested in. From there it begins to pull news stories from the world over and deliver them to you based on your interests. You can influence this story selection further by letting the app know what stories you like, and telling it various subjects, people, locations, or anything else you may be interested in. What’s even better is the app begins to  learn, and varies its selection eventually creating a constant flow of news made just for you.

Call it Spotify for news, and you’ve got the right idea. What’s even better is that it works as well as the famous music app. Of course, this isn’t a completely new idea for a program, as Google Reader and some other, similar apps have been offering this same feature for a while. Prismatic, though, is different because of how organic it feels. The layout of the app allows you to smoothly move between the stories themselves, and the features that let you input information to expand the stories the app suggests. When the app is working at its best, the effect truly feels like a virtual newspaper meant just for you. Better yet, you can share stories you find with friends, and them with you, allowing you to expand your interests and horizons even further.

Even in its early stage, Prismatic is an essential app. Even if you use it for nothing more than to gather your favorite topics in one place, it does it better than any of its competitors. But if you take the time to truly explore the abilities of Prismatic and create a news network with you at the center, then you are rewarded with a program that becomes as essential to check multiple times a day as your e-mail is. While I’m still waiting to see what great additions further development of this app will create, for now it’s still newsworthy enough for my app of the week.

  

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