Category Archives: iPad Apps

2Do for iPad Is Getting Push Sync In The Next Two Weeks

  
Background App Refresh was introduced with iOS 7 two years ago, but I’ve found that it only seems to work about 50% of the time for me. I still see many of my apps — e.g. Reeder, 2Do, Evernote — syncing upon startup, when they should have already loaded most of the data in the background. The issue here is the way iOS asks users to simply trust how it will balance the load of background tasks, when it should really allow us to prioritize specific apps that we always want to keep up-to-date.  

That’s why the latest blog post from 2Do has me excited. Push Sync is promising faster syncing that pushes changes from my iPad straight to the iPhone, moments after I’ve made a change, and regardless of what syncing service I use for my tasks. You can bet I’ll be testing this new feature out when it hits the App Store in two weeks.

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Musixmatch Can Provide Lyrics For Apple Music

 

 

musixmatch

Musixmatch is a great case of a new breed of iOS apps that tend to function more as services than outright applications. Musixmatch does have a UI for when you load it up, but it’s really best used as a widget for the songs you’re already playing. The only setup involved is activating the widget in Notification Center.

Once that’s done, Musixmatch can stream the lyrics for most of the songs in my library and display them right in tune with the audio — kind of like my own personal karaoke machine. Soundhound has a similar feature they call LiveLyrics, but it isn’t available as a convenient widget.

I had previously taken a few hours to tag all of my own songs with lyrics metadata so that I could reference those lyrics at any time within the Music app (one tap on the album art would show me lyrics while a song was playing). However,  anything I add to my collection through Apple Music will not have the benefit of any lyrical metadata, and that’s why Musixmatch is so key to me. The service has a great database of lyrics, and it works with songs that I’m streaming to my iPad through Apple Music.

If you haven’t done so already, I’d highly recommend giving Musixmatch a try on your iOS devices. It’s free to use, and it’s a lot of fun to watch lyrics update as you scrub through a song.

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Google Maps for iPad Gets Updated Transit Directions

Google Maps transit directions

Apple Maps in iOS 9 now grant transit options for users in a select number of cities (inlcuding Toronto, thank goodness!). However, Google isn’t sitting on their laurels in the mean time. Yesterday’s Google Maps update added a number of interesting features, including direct sharing to Facebook and Facebook Messenger (great for events and friends who are showing up late).

However, the most useful feature for me has been the addition of live transit schedules built right into the app. It’s now easier to identify different kinds of routes, and these routes are differentiated the moment you request transit directions. I tested a few different locations and Google would divide its suggestions into Fastest, More by subway, and More by tram. Tapping on a particular line (e.g. 501 on Queen) displays the upcoming arrival times, so you can check to see how much leeway you have in case you miss the first streetcar or bus.

Google Maps has had transit directions for quite a while now, but it’s nice to see the UI has been cleaned up and now offers more granular detail. Apple Maps still seems to have an advantage in Canada due to the mapping of specific station exits, but this update from Google Maps is running a close second.

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Apple introduces a new News app in iOS 9; will it replace your favorite RSS reader?

iOS9-News-App

At the World Wide Developer Conference last week, Apple introduced their all new RSS reader app called News.  In all honesty, I see it as a good move on their part–it makes sense.  By offering a free news aggregator that automatically is included in iOS 9, iPad owners are much less likely to go outside the Apple ecosystem in search of a an alternative.  This move to provide a more comprehensive, all encompassing experience on iOS will be a good hook for new iPad and iPhone users.  However, after talking with some current users, many of them were not as impressed.

Will the News app be a viable alternative to much more established and successful RSS readers like Feedly and Flipboard?  Yes, and no.  Traditional RSS reader advocates will likely stay with their current choices.  However, new iPad users looking for a way to consume content more easily, and all in one place will likely find News to be the first and perhaps their last choice since it will be pre-installed on their device.  Never underestimate the power of convenience.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter seem to be absent from the list of available feeds that can be included in the News app–which might be a little discouraging to some users.  I for one, won’t miss them, as that is not the way I consume social media content.  I’d rather just read those kinds of posts from within their respective apps; and I would bet that the majority of Facebook and Twitter users would feel the same way.

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Next-Gen Business Apps for iPad: Featured App Store Collection this Week

The Featured section of the iPad App Store is jam packed with good stuff this week. One of the featured collections that caught my eye is titled ‘Next-Gen Business Apps’.

It’s a compelling title, and the collection of apps does it justice. This is a strong set of featured apps. The collection is divided into these sections:

Extend Your Apps: Excellen productivity apps in here including Evernote, Workflow, Slack, OmniFocus 2, IF by IFTTT, and more.

Works with Handoff: GoToMeeting, Trello, and Things are among the picks here. Also, Apple’s own Pages app.

Present with AirPlay: From Keynote to Haiku Deck and quite a few more great presentation apps

Secure with Touch ID: 1Password, Box, Dropbox, and PDF Expert are just some of the star apps here that work with the iPad’s fingerprint technology.

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Google Photos for iPad

  
Google introduced their competitor to iCloud Photo Library yesterday and it’s simply called Google Photos. It’s available right now across iOS, Android, and the web. The huge draw of Google Photos is that it offers unlimited storage of 16 MP compressed photos and 1080p video, which means that you don’t have to worry about how big your own photo library is growing and how much that’s going to cost you over time. The system is also smart enough to identify people and contexts within the Photos, which means there’s much less manual sorting to do, but also means that Google is analyzing the content you are uploading.

I’m trying Google Photos out just to see what it’s like and see if it’s faster than iCloud Photo Library for remote access, though I’m not sure if I like the idea of Google being able to reuse my personal content in advertising. I accept that that can happen with Facebook, but that’s also why I only upload a very specific subset of my photos to that service. In order to use Google Photos, you really have to go all in.

Competition in this space is good, though, and I think it will quickly force Apple to up their game with iCloud Photo Library sooner rather than later.

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Office for iPad Needs To Improve File Caching

Word for iPad

Microsoft is updating their Office apps on iOS at a pretty blistering rate, with a major update every one or two months, but it’s still lacking one basic feature for me: easier local storage.

Having Microsoft Excel on my iPad has been immensely useful, but it’s highly dependent on having a good internet connection when I want to access my files. I keep my work files on my office-supplied OneDrive for Business account, and accessing a large PowerPoint file can take upwards of a minute at times. Other times the download can simply stall on me, leaving me without all of the numbers I’m supposed to talk about at my meeting.

What I’d want here would be a quick way to star or earmark files for quick local caching so that, as long as I haven’t made any changes to the file, I can open the iPad up at any time and just re-open said file. What the iOS Office apps seem to do, however, is simply re-download the files every single time I want to access them, regardless of whether or not there were changes since I last loaded them. I do have the option of duplicating the file and saving a local copy to my iPad, but that copy won’t automatically sync any changes to my work PC, so it’s not really a workable solution.

I’d love to see a solution in the next few months that adds a switch to quickly cache a file as local (like Google’s Docs/Sheets/Slides apps) so that I can work on spotty Wi-Fi, but still enjoy the benefits of file syncing on OneDrive.

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MLB At Bat iPad App Updated for Opening Day

MLB At Bat iPad app

MLB At Bat, the official Major League Baseball app for iPad and iOS, has been updated right on time for Opening Day of the 2015 season.

The app was updated to Version 8.1.1 yesterday and is looking great and all set with previews of tonight’s opening matchup of the Cardinals vs the Cubs and all the rest of the slate for tomorrow’s games too.

Here’s the change list for the 8.1.1 update:

• General Performance Improvements
Version 8.0.0
AT BAT OPENING DAY UPDATE
• Apple Watch: Introducing support for At Bat on Apple Watch, beginning April 24, 2015, to get live scores, statistics, pitch tracking, player cards, notifications and news
• Pre-Game Lineup (iPhone)
• Up-to-the-moment game analysis feed with play tracking data, game tweets and inline video highlights (iPhone, requires Premium subscription)
• General Performance Improvements

And here’s an App Store link for MLB At Bat; it’s a free app with subscription options starting at $2.99 per month, and a universal app designed for both iPad and iPhone.

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Soulver for iPad: The Notepad I Wish I’d Had In Math Class

I can’t believe I haven’t actually written about Soulver for iPad yet, seeing as I’ve been using it on a daily basis for the past four or five months. Soulver is a great little calculations notebook for the iPad. At first glance it can look like a plain text editor, but do not be fooled — it’s got delicious math geekiness embedded between its lines.

Soulver makes it easy to handle calculations like:

  • 5 + 5
  • 10 x 2
  • 30 * (550/132)

You enter the numbers on the left side, answers appear on the right.

You can also use more natural language to calculate solutions. So instead of calculating a tip by typing “85 x 1.15”, you can also type “15% of 85” to reach the same conclusion. Or you can use Soulver to convert things like “8 oz in lbs”.

My favourite use case harnesses Soulver’s ability to refer to previous calculations and use them as variables. For example, if the first row in Soulver is “47 x 13”, I could refer to its product (611) on any other line in any other equation I create. I can also name particular lines, so I can refer to Line 1 simply as “Warehouses”. From that point onwards, any time I type out “warehouses”, Soulver substitutes that word for the number 611.

If that sounds confusing, here’s what it looks like within the app:

I use Soulver as an everday calculator, but also as a daily budget calculator. I use Next to track everyday expenses, so that app provides me a total of how much I’ve spent this month. I then plug my regular bills and income as different lines into Soulver, which ultimately provides me with a snapshot of my current budget for the month.

Of course, there are many other ways you could take advantage of the app. That’s the really fantastic thing about Soulver, and why it feels like such an easy recommendation for anyone who regularly deals with numbers on a daily basis.

Here’s an App Store link for Soulver; it’s priced at $4.99 for the Universal app, and there’s also a Mac version available.

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Pixelbite Reckless Racing bundle for iPad

IMG_0476

If you like casual/arcade racing games for the iPad like I do, the Reckless Racing titles might be familiar to you. Pixelmate, the makers of the Reckless Racing series is offering all five of their racing games as a $4.99 bundle in the App Store right now, a $7.99 value. Best of all, if you already own one of the titles, you get a credit for it. For example, I already have Reckless Getaway on my iPad so the bundle is $3.99 for me.

Here’s a link to the Reckless Racing Bundle. Look for a comprehensive review of Reckless Racing 1-3 on iPad Insight in the near future.

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Calcbot 2.0 for iPad

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Calcbot used to be my favourite calculator app before I discovered other innovative calculator alternatives like Soulver and Tydlig. However, when I saw on Twitter that Calcbot 2.0 had been released, I did have to give the app another look.

One of the easiest changes to spot in Calcbot 2.0 is its iOS 8 compatible design. Textures are much more abstract now, but the colour scheme is still delightful and brighter than ever before. The buttons are still as gigantic as before, which makes them very easy to tap if you like to use your iPad in lieu of one of those enormous physical calculators for quick calculations. I also really like the live history that’s displayed along the top of the screen, which makes it very easy to recall previous calculations, or summon the product of an earlier calculation and use it in your current one.

The visual update makes a lot of sense, and in truth, it’s been quite a while coming. However, the other change to Calcbot is that it now encapsulates one of Tapbots’ other apps, Convertbot, as an in-app purchase. Swiping left within Calcbot reveals the Convertbot interface, which makes it easy to quickly conduct various imperial, metric, and currency conversions in real time.

The $2 in-app purchase also adds an extra theme and an unlimited calculation history, but the integrated conversion feature is really the main draw.

Here’s an App Store link for Calcbot ; it’s a free download with an In-App purchase option to add another theme, unlimited calculation history, and the extra Convertbot features for another $1.99.

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