How to navigate the many uses of the Volume and Side Switch buttons on the iPad

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All kidding aside, even though the volume and mute/orientation lock buttons on your iPad adjust and lock volume levels, they actually respond differently in different situations.  Think back to the last time you tried to silence a song or notification, or perhaps you wanted to adjust the volume of a podcast from the lock screen on your iPad.  Were you successful–or did you fumble around for a while before you achieved the desired outcome?  Turns out, the volume and mute/orientation lock buttons might not behave the way you’d anticipate in certain situations.  Here’s a short list of what to expect the next time you reach for those handy buttons on your iPad.

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iPad App of the Week: ESPN Fantasy Football

ESPN_Fantasy_Football-iPad

Who doesn’t like great iPad apps? At iPad Insight we definitely do. With that in mind, we offer up a quick review of an excellent iPad app, or a few great iPad apps, here each week.

Our picks for Best iPad App of the Week are published here every week. Check out all out picks below and you’ll soon have a collection of stellar apps for your favorite tablet.

This week’s pick is ESPN Fantasy Football by ESPN.  As one of the leaders in Fantasy Football since its conception, ESPN has lead the way in bringing the game of Fantasy Football to the masses at an affordable price.  They have streamlined the process and created an easy user interface that is suitable for the beginner as well as the seasoned veteran.

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Deals: Jarv Nmotion PRO Bluetooth Earbuds at 57% off

Jarv-Nmotion-PROToday’s featured deal is for those of you who love to be wired into all your mobile devices, but hate all those pesky wires.  The Jarv Nmotion PRO Bluetooth Earbuds are now on sale at 57% off!  It’s a great deal that will run you only $29.99 – instead of its standard price of $70.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to upgrade the sound quality of your current earbuds.

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Trying Out OneNote for iPad

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I’ve continued to use the Notes app in iOS 9 and it’s been a great, simple scratchpad for ideas and compiling research links. However, the kicker is that it’s just not accessible on my work PC. The Notes app is available as a beta within iCloud.com, but it’s not nearly as powerful as the version on my iPad.

However, a coworker recently turned me onto another cross-platform possibility: OneNote. I’d never really considered OneNote before because I thought it was best used by students. My sister did some incredible stuff with OneNote in her psychology courses, but I hadn’t realized that you could store files within OneNote in much the same way that you can with Evernote.

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iPad nutrition tracking apps: MyPlate vs. MyFitnessPal

This review compares the nutrient-tracking apps MyFitnessPal, by Under Armor, and MyPlate, by Livestrong. While both offer the ability to track your weight, activity level, and several other parameters, this review focuses on their nutrient-tracking ability. I’m reviewing the free versions of the apps: both have paid versions that offer more intricate tracking and reporting. In the end, they’re both top-notch, and your choice will depend on your priorities.

About a year ago, I moved from Washington, DC, to Kigali, Rwanda to work for a year. In Washington I had a long walking and Metro (subway) commute. According to my Fitbit, I walked about 12,000 steps a day as part of my daily routine. Here in Kigali, my commute is a seven-minute walk to the office. This, combined with my wife’s excellent home cooking, had the waistband of my pants growing tighter and tighter. With my return home in sight I decided to start tracking my food intake, as I also ramped up my gym and walking habits. I’ve used the MyPlate web site in the past, but their new iPad app looked even better, and I started tracking my food intake with it. A few weeks later I read this excellent post from Jim Dalrymple of Loop Insights, one of my very favorite Apple-focused bloggers. If you haven’t read his inspirational post about using the Apple Watch and the MyFitnessPal (aka MFP) app to lose over 40 lbs, I highly recommend it. I decided to give MFP a try based on his good experience. There are pros and cons to both apps, so read more below to help decide which is for you.

Setup

On both apps setup is very simple: enter your height, weight, gender, goal weight, daily activity level, and how many pounds per week you want to lose. The app then generates a goal weight for you. The apps also generate nutrient goals (e.g., how many grams of protein you should have) automatically.

Verdict: tie

Data entry

170The worst part of tracking your diet is entering every morsel that you put in your mouth. Nothing can make it completely effortless, but both apps help by having a huge database of every restaurant and grocery-store food you can imagine, and by remembering what you eat frequently so you don’t have to search for the same thing over and over again. In both apps, you first tap on the meal you want to track: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. Doing so brings up an entry panel where you can scroll your list of frequently eaten foods and pick one, or search for a new food. The apps are about equal in terms of searching and finding the right food. Items from most fast-food restaurants are included in both, as well as packaged and fresh foods of every kind. I’ve even searched for what I thought were relatively obscure foods like Ethiopian njera or shiro wat, and found a dozen choices for each.

173When picking frequently eaten foods, MFP holds the slight edge, as it remembers your portion size, where MyPlate always presents the stock portion size that you may have to adjust. For example, I frequently eat Cheerios with ½-cup of soy milk. Even though the stock portion size in both apps is one cup, MFP remembers that last time I only used ½ cup, so presents me with that portion so I can just tap the check mark and be done. MyPlate makes me change “1C” to “1/2 serving” every time. This is a small complaint, but remember we’re trying to make the process as painless as possible.

Verdict: MFP, by a nose

Daily nutrient reporting

At the end of the day both apps let you assess your intake of calories, the three macro-nutrients (fat, protein, and carbs) and some micro-nutrients. If you’re interested in the most detail possible, MFP has the edge again. If you’re interested in a quick, easy-to-read, at-a-glance summary, MyPlate is better.

Verdict: tie

Tracking progress

MyPlate presents large, colorful graphs that let you track several nutrients across a week, and 1, 3, 6, or 12 months. You can track calories (the one I always look at), but also macronutrients, sodium, cholesterol, sugars, and dietary fiber. I find MyPlate’s colorful graphs more visually compelling (including those damned red bars when I go over my calorie goals), but that could be a personal preference.

171What MyPlate won’t show you in the free version is a daily average over these same periods. For example, it would be useful to me to know my average daily calorie count in June as compared to August. This isn’t a big deal for me as I pull calorie data into Apple’s iPhone Health App which does show daily averages, but it’s a two-step process, which is less convenient.

174MFP shows all the same info, including daily intake averages, over whatever time period you chose. As with daily reporting, MFP offers more nutrients to track over time, but honestly I don’t use them. If you want the most fine-grained tracking, and in-app daily averaging, MFP wins here.

Verdict: MFP, for in-app daily averages and detailed reporting

Connection to HealthKit

I’m using Apple’s HealthKit as the hub of my fitness tracking. I feed activity info from the iPhone, nutrition info from these two apps, and am shopping for a better way to get my cycling data into HealthKit as well (If you have a recommendation, please let us know in the comments below.) I also manually enter some info, keeping HealthKit as the hub. This is where MFP fails badly. Setting up MyPlate in Apple’s Health App couldn’t have been easier, and the data transfer to Health Kit is seamless and almost immediate. Connecting MFP, by contrast. was an exercise in frustration. After deleting MyPlate to ensure I wasn’t getting double data, I searched for a while on the MFP forums to find the instructions for connecting to Health Kit. I followed the many, many arcane steps, and finally got them connected. But then the data stopped transferring and I got the dreaded “no data” message from the Health app. I asked for help on the MFP forums, sent email, and even tweeted a plea for help. I got several referrals to the original instructions. I got a Twitter response that referred me to the same email address from which I never received any help. In the end I gave up and went back to MyPlate. But! If this connection to Health Kit isn’t important to you, please disregard this entire section.

Verdict: MyPlate (MFP failed completely)

Summary

These are both polished, easy-to-use apps that will help you get important information about your nutrition. I, and many others, find this information invaluable in trying to eat healthy and lose weight. Both sync seamlessly with their web and iPhone apps. If you want connectivity to Apple’s Health Kit, use MyPlate. If you don’t, take your pick based on the info above. Happily you won’t go wrong with either app. Me? I don’t have a scale here, but am down one belt-notch and all my clothes fit again. If I keep it up I might just fit into my 1997 motorcycle leathers by the time I hit the US. MyFitnessPal and MyPlate are both free in the app store.

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Deals: Lima Unlimited Data Storage at 40% off

Lima-Unlimited-Data-StorageToday’s featured deal is especially useful for those who value the need to have the most recent versions of their data automatically synched and available on all their devices.  Lima Unlimited Data Storage is now on sale at 40% off!  It’s a great deal that will run you only $89.99 – instead of its standard price of $150.  Don’t miss out on your opportunity to explore this new Cloud-less data storage solution for all your digital devices.

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The Best Under-the-Radar iOS 9 Feature: The Back Button

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For users of Android devices, the idea of a back button isn’t new. It’s the button you press on an Android smartphone or tablet to bring you back to the previous page (within an app), or to the last app you used. iOS 9’s take on the back button is a little more straightforward, though.

Instead of being an always-present software button, the back button only appears after you’ve tapped on a notification or a widget within the Notification Center. For example, if I’m browsing in Safari and I tap on an iMessage banner, the back button will appear in the top-left corner of the screen so that I can go back to Safari when I’m done responding to a message.

The integration of the back button is great in a couple of ways:

  1. It’s a new feature that adds shortcuts for advanced iPad users, but it doesn’t take up any space when it isn’t needed. It also does not replace any existing shortcuts, so it won’t confuse users who aren’t computer-savvy.
  2. The back button disappears after a period of ~2 minutes, so if I decide to chat for a while, the UI will adapt to what I’ve chosen to do.
  3. The back button helps to preserve a sense of place in iOS. It can be easy to lose myself in all of the icons on my homescreen after I leave an app, but a back button is a literal reminder of what I might want to return to.

I think this change in iOS 9 is going to be one of the best and most underrated new features this Fall. It isn’t as sexy as split-screen multitasking or rumoured Force Touch shortcuts, but the back button has made iOS a lot faster and more pleasant to use.

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iPad App of the Week: blueskyme – Beautifully GTD inspired

blueskyme-for-iPad

Who doesn’t like great iPad apps? At iPad Insight we definitely do. With that in mind, we offer up a quick review of an excellent iPad app, or a few great iPad apps, here each week.

Our picks for Best iPad App of the Week are published here every week. Check out all out picks below and you’ll soon have a collection of stellar apps for your favorite tablet.

This week’s pick is blueskyme by Dynamic Elements AS.  Blueskyme is a beautifully GTD inspired Productivity App that you can use to effectively manage your email, tasks, calendars, contacts, lists and projects.  With the ability to synchronize with your iOS Reminders app, your Calendar and your Contacts.  Now you can have all of your important information wherever and whenever you need it!

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Deals: LithiumCard Wallet Battery with Smartphone Charger at 50% off

LithiumCard Wallet Battery

Today’s featured deal is especially useful for those who are always looking for ways to extend the battery life of their device without carrying around a large, bulky charging brick.  The LithiumCard Wallet Battery with Smartphone Charger is now on sale at 50% off!  It’s a great deal that will run you only $29.99 – instead of its standard price of $60.  It’s portable, fast and extremely durable–what more could you ask for?

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How to dictate more effectively on your iPad

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There are two main methods for capturing text while using your iPad.  One way is by using Siri to carry out an ever growing variety of commands and tasks.  The other method is through dictation accessed via your iPad keyboard.  While Siri is a perfectly capable tool to use for dictation, and might be your preferred way to capture text, we have found that our favorite digital assistant especially shines when asked to answer questions and perform tasks.  Thomas recently wrote about some of his favorite uses for Siri on his iPad.  Dictation, however, is more of a quick and dirty way to collect your thoughts and have them transposed right onto your iPad screen whenever you typically would need to enter text in an app.  Think of it as an alternative to typing.  While a very helpful tool, there are some initial challenges to dictating effectively on your iPad or other iOS device.  The manner in which we speak doesn’t always translate exactly to how we write–or even how we collect our thoughts.  As a result we’ve collected some tips to help you be the most efficient at using dictation.

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Overcast for iPad

   
I’ve started to listen to podcasts again, but the first-party Podcasts app from Apple is still a little buggy as of beta 4 of iOS 9. Beta 5 did come out yesterday  and it may have fixed the issue, but it actually doesn’t matter to me any more because, in the interim, I ended up buying Overcast.

What I really like about this app is the gigantic set of buttons, and the spacious, non-standard layout. There are more ornate podcast apps out there, but there’s a beauty to the simplicity of the icons and white space present in Overcast. Subscribing to podcasts is dead simple if you know the name of the show you’re looking for, and the interface makes it easy to find new shows by category or podcast network. This doesn’t sound remarkable but it’s a lot cleaner than the default Podcasts App, which prompts me for a URL whenever I want to add a new show.

The funny thing is that I didn’t actually need to buy Overcast. The basic features  in the freemium version are quite enough for me, as all I really need area list of shows and a way to download new episodes automatically.  Smart speed can cut silences out of recordings and Voice Boost enhances the listening experience, but I just haven’t felt the need to use these features so far. I’m simply content to use the incredibly clean and post-iOS 7 interface.

The main reason I decided to pony up for the $5 in-app purchase is because I want to see more indie apps like it. I’ve read enough articles at this point about the viability of being a developer on the App Store, and so I want to make sure I’m actively supporting the software I really enjoy using.

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