3 iOS Replacement Apps: TWC, Nightstand Central, Calculator Free

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If you’re like me then you may have fire up the iOS’ built-in Weather app maybe once while owning your iPhone or iPod touch.

How about the Notes app? Fahgetaboutit!

Maps app? Well, I do use that one.

These and many other iOS built-in apps haven’t changed much since they were first introduced on the original iPhone. Back then the Maps app was a crowd pleaser.

Nowadays iOS’ built-in apps are more yawn than applause worthy. Even the apps that have seen updates, like Camera, pale when compared to the trainload of feature rich apps that could easily replace them.

The problem is that while it’s easy to find a good replacement app if you are willing to part with a little cash, it’s a bit tougher to locate really good freebies. So, this week and for the next few weeks I’m going to take a look at apps that could replace the built-ins.

What’s surprising, to me at least, is the number of built-in apps iOS offers. If you never download an app in your entire iPhone-using lifetime, you would probably get along just fine because, truth be told, the iOS built-in apps are not bad.

Take the Map app, for instance. There are a host of GPS enabled navigation apps available for the iPhone that offer turn-by-turn voice navigation, 3D displays and more, but I like the Map app because of its uncluttered simplicity.

In all, I count 15 built-n apps, not including apps like Settings, or App Store. They are, in no particular order:

Weather - This one is pretty sad. More later.
Clock - Clock is useful but it could be a lot better.
Calculator - A very solid app, why is it not on the iPad?
Calendar - A mixed bag that’s gotten some improvements, but not enough.
Camera - Adequate if you just focus on taking photos.
Movie - Again, adequate if you just focus on taking movies
iTunes - The venerable music storehouse could use a mobile facelift.
iPod - And so can Apple’s iconic music player.
Maps - Not just for navigation, but for finding stuff around you.
Messages - Likely the most used built-in app. It just works.
Notes - Good in a pinch, but no wireless syncing.
FaceTime - This is a new one and already there are good alternatives.
Photos - There are other ways to display your shots.
Voice Memos - Surprisingly useful, but could use an update.
Stocks - For those who use it, a useful app, but the alternatives are better.

This week I’m going to cover three of the easy ones: Weather, Clock, and Calculator.

The Weather app is likely the easiest to replace, because the app has so few features; current and six day forecast for a list of locations of your choice. That’s it.

iOS Weather app

iOS Built-in Weather app (Sad)

The Weather Channel offers a free, ad supported app, The Weather Channel App, that is chock full of features. You get current, hourly, 36 hours, and an extended 10 day forecast, and maps that track a variety of conditions including clouds and precipitation, with motion radar to boot! You also get severe weather alerts when issued by The National Weather Service. These alerts can be life savers.

TWC app

The Weather Channel

There’s also video forecasts and a listing of Weather Channel shows. One feature I like is iWitness where app users can upload weather photos and movies.

As I mentioned earlier, The Weather Channel app is ad supported, but the ads are not obnoxious and I think they are a small price to pay for so much service.

This one you should definitely download.

Another fairly obvious replaceable app is the Clock app. With its alarms and world clock display the Clock app is far more useful than the Weather app, but it’s about as interesting as day-old oatmeal.

Spice up your clock watching life with Nightstand Central. Here, again, is an ad support app that is loaded with features. Location aware weather forecasts, multiple alarms setting, wallpapers, even gesture controlled dimming.

Nightstand free

Nightstand Central

Here’s my favorite feature: You can set a variety of alarms based on days of the week. I have a weekday alarm and a weekend alarm, both of which I can name and turn on and off as I wish.

You can shake the iPhone to snooze the alarm. Choose from a large variety of high quality photos for wallpaper. You can even change how often the weather gets updated.

The feature list goes on and on. If you want even more features, like using you iPod music to wake you, and if you are getting tired of the ads you can opt for the paid version.

Nightstand Central had me at gesture dimming, and it’ll be one of your favorites too.

Ok, the Calculator app is likely the most complete of the three built-in apps I’m replacing this week. In portrait mode on your iPhone or iPod touch it’s a regular calculator like you’d find for a few bucks at any store. Rotate the device to landscape and the Calculator app converts to a full featured scientific calculator that any student or engineer would appreciate.

So what’s missing? Calculator on the iPad.

It’s always been a puzzle to me why Apple chose not to include a calculator on the iPad. The app was already there on the iPhone, all they needed to do was make it fit on the larger screen.

It doesn’t matter because there’s Calculator Free for iPad.

Calculator for iPad

Calculator Free for iPad

As the name implies, Calculator Free is a free calculator for the iPad. The term “free” is somewhat of a stretch because the app is ad supported, with a sizable ad right under the number display, where you can always see.

The static ad is pretty annoying, but if you can look pass it what you’ll find is an app almost exactly like the Calculator app on the iPhone. The biggest difference, aside from it being larger to fill more screen real estate, is that Calculator Free has different key colors, which you can change, as well as remove the ads, if you buy the “pro” version.

This app does a good job doing what Apple should have done by including a calculator on the iPad, but if you’re going to pay money get EZ-Digits HD, which includes a “paper tape” memory and other nice features.

If you’re going to stick to free then Calculator Free is for you.

That’s a wrap for this week. Next week I’m going to tackle 3 more replaceable app, so stay tuned.

More freebie apps below with direct links.

Comments

webjprgm

I like the built-in Weather and Clock apps.  hmmm  I don’t like ads, so I avoid them if I can.  Conclusion? I’ll stick with Apple’s versions.

Except the calculator, I have like three calculator apps, and which one I use depends on what I want to calculate.  Apple’s isn’t quite feature-rich enough in that case.

Besides, my main use of the weather app is to laugh at relatives who live in North Dakota and Wisconsin while I sit in California.  Don’t need fancy pressure maps for that.

wab95

Thanks for the tips, Vern.

I hadn’t really thought about the weather and the clock apps, probably because I use both everyday. The weather app, though about as exciting as sliced bread, is no less useful, and tends to beat local forecasts in many of the countries where I am. I’ll play with Weather Channel’s, although I tend to look at NavClock for current situational info and BusyCal on my Mac, to which I can link to multi-day forecasts.

I also downloaded the Nightstand Central, and will play with that as well. Looking at some of the others in your line up, it may be too late for me to benefit from freebies in some of these categories. My consolation is that, at least, I have supported to the developer community, from whose innovation I have benefited greatly.

Lee Dronick

Besides, my main use of the weather app is to laugh at relatives who live in North Dakota and Wisconsin while I sit in California.

I live in San Diego, our weather is boring. smile

I very much like The Weather Channel app

Vern I am not sure what you mean when you say “No wireless synching” for the built in Notes. If I create a note in Mail on my Mac then a few moments later it shows up on my iPad (in the Notes app) and iPhone (in the mail app). If I create on on my iPad in a few moments it shows up on my Mac and iPhone. Now I am using MobileMe and perhaps that is the difference. I use Notes quite a bit.

Vern Seward

@ Webjprgm: The Clock app I’ll grant you. It’s not bad for what it does. Just wish it did more. Even just a wee bit more.

You can keep Weather. 6 day forecast? Not severe weather alerts?  C’mon! TWC app ads are not bad and you get radar and alerts. You can laugh at your ND relative a bit hard when you see a radar image of the snow getting dumped on them.

Just saying…

@ Wab95: It’s never too late. grin

Vern Seward

@ Sir Harry: Notes sync with Mail? Since when? The last time I used it I had to wire sync my iPhone to get the notes synced. I guess Apple did update that one.

I’ll check it out.

Thanks

Vern

Philip Brown

It turns out that there IS wireless syncing for Notes now.
Even without mobileme.

You have to enable an account to handle it, in your global settings. but once you have done this, its kinda similar to the Mail app.

In Notes, press the left thingie at the top, to go to

<Notes)

there is now an ADDITIONAL left button, kinda like Mail has,
going to
<Accounts)


To create an account for sync purposes, if you havent already, you must go into
(global) Settings -> Mail,contacts,calendars.


You can then select which of your accounts are Notes-sync enabled.

Lee Dronick

Thanks Phillip, I was just about to post the procedure.

Dan

Do you hate waking up again and again to hit your snooze button?  Then try my new phone app called MultiSnooze.  Now when your alarm goes off and you look at the clock and determine you can hit the snooze button 3 times, simply tap it 3 times right up front and then roll over and sleep for 3 uninterrupted snooze cycles.  Learn more at multisnooze.com.  Thanks for checking it out.

Jamie

I use the weather app everyday because it gives me what I need quicker than TWC app, although I have it installed for extended forecasts. The calc app is fine and the iPhone alarm system does 95% of Nightstand.

Vern Seward

All,

To each his own, as my grandmother use to say. I don’t know if she was talking about personal choice or segregation, but it seems to fit here. grin

I live in Florida, the weather here is about predictable as the mood of a crack addict on a Sunday afternoon, and often as violent. Any weather person would find this area a challenge. We can get daily lightning storms, downpours so heavy you can’t make out the house across the street, tornadoes, hurricanes, and Lovebugs.

Any application that can give me more than a 5 minute heads-up of dangerous weather is aces in my book. TWC app does that. iOS Weather does not.

If you can make do with the iOS Weather app, more power to ya.

Thanks Sir Harry and Philip for posting the process for syncing Notes. I didn’t know that. Love it when I learn something new.

Vern Seward

Travis

This probably sounds really nit-picky, but it’s hard to take this article seriously when every reference to iOS isn’t capitalized correctly.  I don’t even use or care about Apple products all that much, the only reason I clicked on this article is because I was curious of iOs was something different.  Anybody with a bit of tech smarts knows that OS stand for operating system, so… it’s iOS.

Fred

Downloaded Nightstand Central based on this review.  Liked the sounds and functions until I got to the limitation not mentioned in this article.  For it to work fully, the program must be kept open overnight.  Otherwise you’re limited to 4 sound options and only 30 seconds of alarm. 

I deleted it.  I’ll stick with the iPhone Clock alarm - nothing needs to be launched.  It works as long as the phone’s on.

archimedes

Vern, not everyone is interested in replacing perfectly good ad-free apps with programs that display advertising!  Those replacement weather, clock and calculator apps are ruined by the ads.

That calculator app in particular just needs to die - and Apple already has the bullet!

Note to developers: I’d much rather pay 99 cents, once, up front, rather than endure advertising every time I use the app. (Unfortunately they may make more money from ad-supported apps, so I expect to see more of them, alas.)

Apple made the built-in apps simple, and I like them that way. I don’t make mistakes with the built-in alarm clock, it works regardless of whatever app might be open, and it doesn’t drain your battery.

weinwalk

You imply that the Clock app does not have multiple alarms. That’s not true. I have 4 different alarms set up, different times on different days/groups of days (named, on and off at will). I’m not sure what the max is, but I find it very useful, simple, and ad-free. The only thing I would like to see is a way to define how long ‘snooze’ is.
The weather app is good for quickly checking what’s it going to be next week in the places I frequently travel to. If I want more detail I use TWC.

Chas

10 day forecast? That’s too much like the state lottery.

Dan

Try my new app!  It’s called MultiSnooze.  It is a full featured snooze alarm clock app with some great features.  It has the ability to store 1000’s of recurring, named alarm events, it allows you to wake to a stock list of songs as well as your iTunes playlist.  It has a shake to snooze feature.  It also has two patented features; they are MultiSnooze-which allows the user to press the snooze button multiple times when he determines how many snoozes he will be taking and then receive that many uninterrupted snoozes.  It also has a feature called SoftWake.  When SoftWake is enabled the user will be notified when transitioning from one MultiSnooze session to the next.  The app also allows the user to select the length of time for each snooze; from 1 minute to 20 minutes.  See more at MultiSnooze.com

Vern Seward

@weinwalk: I don’t believe I implied that the Clock didn’t have multiple alarms, I said the Nightstand Central has them. I suppose you could glean that implication from my statement, but it was not my intention.


Vern

Rocco April

Agreed. Use notes all the time. Original Notes didn’t sync. Back then I used Evernote

Thomas Hobbs

The Nightstand app will not display the time in 24 hour mode. Even your screen shots show this. Can’t imagine why this should be a problem when the system time is displaying in 24hour mode. Lame.

wab95

The Nightstand app will not display the time in 24 hour mode. Even your screen shots show this. Can?t imagine why this should be a problem when the system time is displaying in 24hour mode. Lame.

Yes it does, at least on my system. I am using it in 24 h mode now. You have to press the time icon and it will display.

PB

Another vote for iOS notes. Works great for me using MobileMe. I think that MobileMe has scared off people because everybody wants free. Maybe when apple revamps it and provides a free or cheaper version people will catch on how useful it is.

One thing I don’t understand is snooze. I set my alarm for when I need to get up, not before, not after.

Vern Seward

@PB: Is it that you don’t understand the concept of snooze or you don’t understand how to use it?

I assume it’s the former. grin

Many people will set an alarm well ahead of when they need to wake with the thought of getting an early start. When the alarm sounds they hit snooze to get a moment to collect themselves before going forth and tackling whatever task awaits.

I’m not a snooze person, I get up immediately, often before the alarm goes off when I bother to set one.

Truth be told, I seldom use an alarm, I’m one of the lucky ones who can wake themselves at or about a designated time without the help of an alarm clock. It’s one of my many super powers. grin

Anyway, people who use snooze love snooze.

Vern Seward

PB

Vern, I’m the same. I use the alarm as a back up and am usually up by the time it goes off. Your point about using snooze for some time to “collect” one’s self is a good one though.

Lee Dronick

I use the alarm in the Clock app and have multiple alarms set up. Not just for wake ups, but for reminders during the day as well. You can create your own ring tones which can also be used as alarm sounds; I have a waterfall and birds chirping sound for my 4:00 am alarm. The timer function is my cooking timer.

Vern Seward

Hey Harry, I’d forgotten that I’ve used the timer for cooking as well.

Vern

debbie

I found iWeather complete in the app store, and love this app!  It’s not free, but cheap enough, and gives location based weather as well as bookmarked locations.

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