Several of my favorite iPad and iPhone apps have recently been significantly updated and several new ones of interest have been published. Here’s an overview of these (mostly) fabulous apps.
BBC News. (iPad, free) Published April 1. This one hit the ground running one day one, but I’d overlooked it because of interest in USA Today. The BBC News app is a drop dead gorgeous app that has never crashed and provides well written news in the areas of: Top stories, Americas, Technology, Business and Science & Environment. It also has a Times Square-like marquee of running headlines, and any story can be shared via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook. If you decide to pass on USA Today’s looming subscription requirement in July, you can’t go wrong with this free app.
Earth ENVI HD. (Universal, $1.99) This is a follow-on effort by Open Door Networks who brought us Art Authority. It has a great collection of Images of Earth, climate maps, Earth observatory photos, and articles about the Earth and our environment. While the selection is limited, there are some great gems. Any photo can be viewed full screen and then saved to the Photo library for use as Lock Screen or home screen (iPad).
I was disappointed in the resolution of many of the images which, when blown up as a home screen, didn’t look as sharp and as glorious as they should have. The HD term in the title may be overblown. All in all, however, its a gorgeous collection of photos for two bucks.
Transient Events. (iPhone, free) According to the Arizona Daily Star: “The new Transient Events iPhone and iPod Touch application is giving the public a front-row seat to the cataclysmic goings-on of the universe, using University of Arizona telescopes.”
You may need some minimal experience in astronomy to appreciate this app. Amateur astronomers will appreciate it because it provides a list of new events discovered by the telescopes at the U.S. National Observatory at Kit Peak in Tucson, and they may wish to pursue their own observations.
iRecycle. (iPhone, free) Have you ever wondered where, in your own city, a recycle center might accept old CRT monitors, fluorescent bulbs or car batteries? Just enter your location, and what you want to recycle, and you’ll get a list of local centers where you can take things that shouldn’t be thrown in the trash. For example, I now know that Staples will accept old computer CRT monitors for recycling. And if you’re not sure where the center is, it’ll show you the location on Google maps. Very, very convenient app and highly recommended.
Simple Note. (Universal, free) I found this app hard to get excited about. While the interface is slick, very much like te mail.app for iPad, the only thing it does better than the Notes.app that comes with the iPad is to sync notes to their server. It also includes a built in version of TextExpander. Operation of the program requires a registration.
If you’re like me and are allergic to the cloud, registrations to use programs, and just need to mail yourself a note once in awhile, you may not get too excited either.
ABC Player. (iPad, free). This app was updated on May 4 to include support for streaming on the 3G enabled iPads. I’ve seen mixed reviews about the performance over 3G, and that’s to be expected. This app may be a test case that shows why Hulu subscriptions are going to face tough sledding. It’s slick, beautiful, and has only modest length ads. Then you’re off to Lost, Castle, Grey’s Anatomy and more.
Desktop. (iPad, $0.99) Version 1.1 released on May 4 add several more desk accessories: Voice Recorder, Notepad, World Clock and Help/Support. This app allows the user to have two desk accessories visible at once and several more running in the background and readily available. I have published a review of version 1.0 that you should check out.
tChess Pro. (Universal, $7.99) version 1.5.3 released on Apr 27 adds the following: Landscape mode, better handling of popovers, and a graphic prompt to show users how to touch the PGN listing to see the listing of the whole game so far. The landscape mode necessarily makes the board smaller and wastes some screen real estate, but for those who just gotta orient their iPad horizontally for other reasons, it’s a nice addition. I have reviewed this app, and continue to believe it’s the best Chess partner app anywhere.
The author also informed me of something I hadn’t asked about before: the hints provided to the user are independent of the ELO rating set for the app and are generally in the ELO = 2000 range. So if you’re playing against grandmaster strength at 2500, the hints will be good but you’re on you own. Expect to take a beating.
Shredder Chess. (Universal, $7.99) This app was updated to version 1.1 on April 26 and includes the following important additions:
- Huge, world-class opening book
- Online access to endgame databases
- Optional 1-tap-move input
- Auto-rotate can be disabled in software
- Guided tour at launch
- Buttons for quick support and posting a review
Perhaps most notable is the guided tour, which is excellent. I really, really liked this guided tour’s design and implementation. Nicely conceived and not too long. I have also reviewed this app. I think I have the developer thinking about a Staunton Chess set display.
Dropbox. (Universal, free) Dropbox for iPad was just released on May 3, and gives users access to their Dropbox directly. Dropbox is one of those apps that creates a storage space in the cloud that you can access from anywhere. The team at TMO makes good use of Dropbox and really likes it. With the limited file system access of the iPad, Dropbox starts to become a convenient file system for sharing and syncing.
The only question Jeff Gamet and I have is how it’s better than just using GoodReader, which right now seems to me to be the killer app on the iPad. Further work and possible comparison reviews will be necessary.
That’s it for this round.