By Jason Snell
December 12, 2014 1:04 PM PT
My Favorite Things: iOS Apps
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
I have an iPhone and an iPad. Do you have an iPhone and/or an iPad? Did you know that you can add small programs, or “apps,” to it? Here are some of these so-called “apps” that I enjoy.
Marco Arment is an obscure developer, podcaster, and blogger who wrote an app that lets you play back your podcasts. While Apple offers one of its own, cleverly called Podcasts, Overcast is a whole lot better. The Smart Speed feature reduces dead air almost imperceptibly, saving time. It sounds better at speeds greater than 1x than any other podcast app I’ve tried. And the Voice Boost feature makes podcasts easier to hear when you’re in a loud environment, like a car. Which is where a whole lot of podcasts are consumed.
Much has been written about Overcast, but it’s the podcast app I’ve stuck with.
[Free, with $5 in-app purchase for all the extra features.]
Grocery IQ is the app my wife and I have settled on for our shared shopping list. If one of us finished something in the pantry or fridge, we’ve now trained ourselves to immediately open our iPhones up and add it to the shopping list in Grocery IQ. (The app allows multiple accounts to share lists, which was a prerequisite when we were looking for a shopping-list app.) There’s even a barcode scanner that allows me to skip inputting the item’s name half the time, which is nice. And tapping items as purchased as you’re going through the aisles at the supermarket is actually kind of enjoyable.
I have to admit, Grocery IQ is far from perfect. It’s made by Coupons.com, so there’s a coupon-clipping element that’s a bit junky, though I generally just try to ignore it. I’m ready to replace Grocery IQ for something better, but for more than a year I’ve failed to find anything that matches its lightweight, easy approach to shopping lists. Inelegantly useful sometimes wins out, and that’s what has happened in this case. If your family’s been looking for a purpose-built app to share a group shopping list, give Grocery IQ a try.
I raved about Fantastical for the Mac, but Fantastical is also my calendar app of choice on the iPhone. I prefer its flexible interface, which I generally keep in a list view with a small monthly calendar at the top, to the design of the stock Calendar app.
I was less excited by the iPad version of Fantastical, and I still don’t love it like I do the iPhone version. But in the upgrade to iOS 8, I’ve found the iPad Calendar app to be unreliable. It quits an awful lot when I’m trying to edit calendar entries. Fantastical for iPad doesn’t, and though I don’t find most of the iPad app’s view options to be particularly useful, the design is flexible enough to allow me to swipe them away, leaving me with the basic week view that I want on my iPad.
Me switching away from Apple’s stock apps is getting to be a trend. First I started using Fantastical on my iPhone, and then I switched from Mail to Mailbox. I love Mailbox’s easy swipe gestures that let me archive, delete, or file messages, or—best yet—set them to boomerang back into my inbox after a predetermined amount of time. This approach helps me manage my inbox better, and since I use my inbox as my email to-do list, that’s a good thing. Mailbox only works with Gmail or iCloud, but my personal mail is hosted on Google Apps, so I qualify.
I wrote about Nuzzel back in October, and I’m still using it regularly. Nuzzel is an attractive, easy-to-use app that scans through my own personal Twitter and Facebook streams to find interesting news. There’s also a friend-of-a-friend feature that taps a broader network than my own, but still in the vicinity of the stuff I’m interested in. I do wish Nuzzel would support Twitter lists, though. I’ve got a few really good ones that would be perfect fodder for Nuzzel.
I’ve come to find Nuzzel to be invaluable, and I prefer using it to using traditional RSS newsreaders. Does that make me a bad person?
David Smith’s Pedometer++ is my pedometer app of choice. I’ve got an iPhone 6 (and used to have a 5S), both phones with the onboard mobile coprocessor that turns your iPhone into a pedometer at all times. Pedometer++ displays that data, which on the iPhone 6 includes an estimate of flights of stairs you’ve climbed. (Apparently the hill I walk up a few times a week equates to 18 stories. Who knew?) I like Pedometer++’s simple, brightly colored layout. If you’ve got an iPhone 5s or iPhone 6, you’re already carrying around a pedometer every day. Why not use it as a motivator to walk more?
MLB At Bat
Major League Baseball’s iOS app has been among the best apps on iOS since close to the very beginning. I use this app to listen and watch games (combined with one of the league’s premium streaming services), read news and game recaps, and consult box scores, standings, and stats. The season’s over now, and so MLB At Bat has faded away from the front page of my home screen, but it’ll be back there as soon as pitchers and catchers report.
[Free, premium features $3.]
The app I use the most on iOS is Twitterrific. On iPhone it’s okay, but on iPad is where I love it. It works the way I work with Twitter. I love the display options, including numerous different font choices, its dark-at-night and light-at-day themes, and the general look of the app.
I was never a huge Tweetbot fan, but I always understood its appeal on the iPhone. On the iPad, though, Twitterrific has always been my favorite client, and it remains so. I realize this is not a widely held opinion—the fans of Tweetbot are legion, and most everyone else just gives up and uses the official Twitter app.
I’ve given up and use the official Twitter app on the Mac now, but on the iPad it just don’t work with the ways I use Twitter, especially since I’m constantly consulting saved searches and lists. On iPad in landscape orientation, Twitterrific’s sidebar gives me access to all of those searches and lists with one tap.
Unfortunately, all third-party Twitter clients are on the clock. Eventually the number of features in the official apps will so overshadow the third-party apps that we’ll all have no choice but to switch. But I’m not willing to give up Twitterrific on my iPad just yet.
[Free, premium features $3.]
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