Last week I wrote about three apps you might think about using instead of Apple’s built-in iOS apps. I covered Weather, Clock, and for the iPad, Calculator.
In that article I alluded to the notion that few people used Notes, and stated that the app did not support wireless syncing.
I was wrong on both counts.
Notes, it seems, is enjoyed by more than a few iDevice users, especially since Apple has updated it to allow syncing with your email accounts.
After folks started telling me about how much they liked the app, I decided to take a closer look and I found that I use the app more often than I realized. My Notes log is filled with snippets of info that I was apparently in a hurry to jot down. True to its design, Notes was there to capture names, phone numbers, and addresses didn’t have time to set in my address book, places I’d been, and things I wanted to remember. In short, Notes was there to capture my notes.
So, all of you who wrote to say that I was off the mark on Notes, I agree, to an extent.
While I do use Notes like I might scraps of paper, I don’t use it for serious note taking. There are several reasons for this.
First of all, using Notes on my iPhone for any writing longer than a few sentences is a pain. Phones, even smart phones, are not designed for such tasks. Even if you link your iPhone to a Bluetooth keyboard, extended writing is not optimal because of the little screen.
I’m not saying writing War and Peace 2.0 on your iPhone can’t be done, I’m saying I don’t believe most folks would want to attempt it. I’m also saying that writing even a journal entry can feel more like a task than a pleasure when doing so on a phone, and Notes does not help the matter. Whereas Notes lets you save text, and the iPhone is smart enough to distinguish phone numbers from addresses and let you use them as such, you can’t do much else in Notes. You can’t save a photo or movie, for instance, or a voice note. All of which can come in handy in the various situations you may find yourself in.
With all of this in mind, I thought I’d lead off this week’s Free on iTunes with a possible replacement for Notes, one that can do all that Notes can do, and a bunch of other stuff as well. I speak, of course, of Evernote.
If Notes is great for collecting those bits of information we jot down on napkins, receipts, backs of business cards, or whatever else we find handy, then Evernote is even better at it.
If you see a cloud formation that reminds you of a bunny, don’t just write about it, snap a photo or hum an inspired tune about it. You can even store webpages and screen shots. Then put it all together in an Evernote file. The file gets stored on the Evernote servers wirelessly as soon as you are done with the note. You can then access that note from any of your devices that have Internet access either through an Evernote client, or through the company’s website.
Evernote does not force you into some rigid note taking format, you can set up a note however you want, then catalog your notes in a way that makes sense to you.
The best part is that all of this note-taking goodness is free. Create as many notes as you want. No pesky ads and no crippled versions to deal with. Evernote does show an occasional promotion, but these are rare. Evernote also limits you on the amount of data you can upload per month to 60MB. If you need more then you can upgrade to 1GB a month for $5 a month.
Evernote is Notes on steroids. I have and use both. You should too.
The second iOS built-in app I’m looking at replacing this week is the Stocks app.
Truth be told, Stocks is not a bad app. You can track your favorites by updating the list with companies you’re interested in. You can get more info about a company by touching the listing, which shows you typical stock info (highs, lows, volume and so on). Swipe to the left once and you get a trend graph, which lets you view from daily rises and falls to the trend for the passed two years. Swipe again and you get news about that particular company and the business that company is in. Pretty slick.
If, however, you what to examine that info a bit closer then you may need an app with a little more horsepower. Try Yahoo! Finance on for size.
Yahoo! Finance gives you all of what Apple’s Stock app does, and you get tickers that show indices movements, updated every 15 minutes, news stories and videos, real time stock tracker, and stock stats details that the stock Stock app just won’t show you.
Touch a stock and get more details and news about that particular company and the industry its in. Rotate your phone to view trends for that company, and you can use the pinch gesture to see more graph details.
You can keep track of different markets, like the S&P 500 and Japan’s Nikkei Index. There’s also a Tech Ticker section where you can watch and read finance related articles.
And there are no ads!
If you have more than a casual interest in stocks and finance and need more than what the Stock app offers, then Yahoo! Finance may be just what you’re looking for.
This last app is a tough one because I use the built-in one all the time. Messages is Apple’s text message tool, and it’s pretty good. The best and worst thing about it is that it is integrated with my phone’s voice account, which means that it is governed by AT&T. SMS (Simple or Short Messaging Service) has grown from a telco’s administrative tool to the primary way many people communicate, and it seems it will only get more prevalent.
It has always bothered me that we are literally being screwed with high rates for our texting. It’s not just AT&T who benefits from texting, it’s a cash cow for every telco (in the U.S.). It’s not their fault, I suppose. We are the ones willing to be robbed for the privilege of writing small messages to each other. There are alternatives to Messages, but the telcos had them hobbled enough to make them inconvenient to use. Now that’s not so true anymore, but there are other reasons you might want to stick with SMS/MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) texting.
Still, if you really want to text but don’t want to pay for the privilege, there are ways.
TextPlus, for instance, provides all users with a phone number. That way folks receiving a TextPlus message can relate it to a person in an address book instead of having some weird number appear every time you text them. I had trouble texting to my real text number when I tried TextPlus recently, and that made me worry that others might not get my messages.
Another problem with TextPlus is the ads. They are worse than annoying. They actually get in the way, popping up to cover the full screen from time to time. You can pay four bucks to rid the app of ads for a year. I’m not a fan of any app that bullies you into paying them.
TextNow also supplies users with real phone numbers and is ad supported, but the ads are small and not annoying. And it definitely works with standard SMS and MMS text accounts.
You also get some really nice wallpapers, you can set the app skin color, even use a unique signature.
TextNow does let you pay to go ad free, and you can buy other services, like voice calls and more wallpapers.
If you just want to text for free and don’t mind a few unobtrusive ads, TextNow is the way to go.
Another way to go is to use Google Voice. It also provides users with a phone number, which is a good thing. It’s also ad free, another good thing. The bad thing about Google Voice is that it is text only, no MMS, and there no texting in landscape mode, which is a head scratcher to me. Anyway, it’s a free option, and free is good, right?
OK, that’s a wrap for this week. I’ll look at 3 more replaceable app next week.
And since we mentioned Google, here are more free Google iOS apps below, with direct links.