It’s time for another episode of TMO’s App Highlights, featuring a little sum’ sum’ for everyone. But if you don’t see your particular brand of something here, definitely let me know in the comments. I am an equal-opportunity sum’ sum’ writer.
Amazon Instant Video
Depending on where your video interests lie, Amazon has been one of, if not the, last holdouts when it comes to bringing its streaming service to iOS. The company finally did so this week, and overall it’s good news, though not without a couple snags.
Bad news first: Amazon Instant Video is, for now, iPad-only, and there’s no AirPlay. Plus, if you want to rent or buy any videos that are not available for free in your Amazon Prime membership, you have to do it via the browser or another device, thanks to Apple’s App Store rule of taking 30 percent per in-app transaction.
But the good news is that you should have full access to the library of Amazon Instant Video content right on your iPad, including paid content you rent or purchase elsewhere. There is also a Watchlist feature that lets you queue up a list of content to power through. As you can imagine, Amazon Instant Video for iPad is a free app, though the service requires Amazon’s US$79-per-year Amazon Prime subscription.
Digg joins the ranks of Yahoo and other companies attempting to make a comeback this year, and it’s wasting no time. Just six weeks ago, the early pioneer of social news sites sold its domain and lingering resources—once valued at up to $175 million—to Betaworks for just $500,000, and it’s already back with a completely redesigned website and iPhone app.
Betaworks is taking a similar approach with its Digg reboot, but with some notable and intriguing differences. First, the site has an exceedingly minimal design that emphasizes headlines and photography, but there is nary a comment field to be found. You can “digg” stories to vote up their popularity, share them to Facebook and Twitter, and interestingly, see how popular each story is on said services. There is also a Save to iPhone option that could turn Digg into a “social news barometer + read later” service. The Digg app and website are free to use (in fact there aren’t even any ads—yet), though you’ll need a Facebook account to sign up (for now), digg stories, and save them to your iPhone.
You would think the weather app space would be fresh out of innovation by now; after all, it got its own top-level category in the App Store. Unfortunately, you would be wrong, because Solar for iPhone showed up and changed everything we thought we knew about weather apps. Again.
Solar is a gorgeous, minimal take on weather apps, using a clever mix of color to denote the day’s weather and temperature. The use of gestures for various functions—scrolling up and down for an animated 24-hour forecast, pulling down to get a three-day forecast, pinching to view all your weather locations—makes the app fun and, in my opinion, a great iOS citizen. Solar is a steal at just $0.99 in the App Store.
I gotta warn you up front on this one: BeerText isn’t an app, it’s a service. But I thought it was interesting enough to let it slide.
As found on Lifehacker, BeerText is basically instant beer cliff notes for your phone, powered by SMS. Text the name of a beer to (315) 679–4711, and a few seconds later you should get a brief summary of the beer’s history and what it’s about. The service is free, though you should probably have a text messaging plan if you want to avoid exorbitant fees.
Some apps have tinkered with location-based reminders, and Apple took a shot in iOS 5. But Checkmark went all-in, and it shows.
You can add your favorite locations, then add tasks for when you get near them, leave, or for a certain time after you arrive. You can even sort your reminders by distance. Checkmark is $2.99 in the App Store.