Sunday, July 31, 2011

Favorite Apps

I've probably already mentioned that I'm pretty amazed at all the things a smartphone can do. We may not have transporters or warp drive yet, but we're darn close to tricorders. (I'm sure the iPhone 15 will come out with the ability to detect radiation and bone fractures.) In the meantime, here are some of the things of my favorite apps. (I've tried to note the ones that are iPhone only. And no, I'm not paid by Apple. Yet.)

Games: The Heist (iPhone only)
This puzzle game has been so much fun, I’m going to miss it when I’m done with the last 8 puzzles. It has 60 puzzles in four categories. The first type involves sliding Lincoln Logs out of the way to get a vacuum tube across a square to a connector. The second type is a colorful twist on Sudoku, with icons instead of numbers, and a grid that isn’t evenly arranged. These were my favorite. The next set involves a robot that you use to push diodes over to their connection slots. But you’re in a narrow maze and the robot can only push from behind, so you have to stay away from walls. The last group basically consists of picture puzzles, where you have to rearrange the tiles to put them in the correct order. Instead of pictures, the tiles contain snippets of wire that have to line up in the right way to complete one or more circuits. 

Runners up: 

Social Media: Instagram (iPhone only for now, Android in the works)
I think this is a pretty cool concept. It’s Twitter, but instead of 140-character status updates, you upload photos from your phone. If someone is following you on Instagram, they see your photos in their feed. You can “like” photos (by clicking on a heart) and add comments. When you load a photo, you can share it via Twitter or Facebook. You can pull up your photos on any browser at, and you can check out statistics at Oh yeah, you can also apply one of 15 different artsy filters. I almost never do; they pretty much all look terrible to me. 

Runners up: 

News: CNN Money
CNN Money does not have the best writing – that has to go to the runners up, New York Times and The Economist. However, the writing is catchy. And it’s light enough that I can read it in between sets when I’m doing bench press or squat workouts at the gym. That’s right, instead of listening to music when I work out, I read. Maybe if someone wrote songs about the news each day – that’s music I’d work out to. 

Runners up: 
  • NYTimes – especially since the speeded up the load time 
  • The Economist – best writing, ever. 

Reference: Google Maps
Seems like I’m always driving someplace new out here, so being able to call up a map at any time is a lot of help. The traffic feature is nice too, since I don’t know the traffic patterns out here either. I am a bit concerned that one day – when the machines decide to get rid of us pesky humans – Google maps is going to give me directions to drive off a cliff, and I’ll just do it. So I occasionally go a different route than the one it recommends. Of course, I always regret it and vow never to doubt Google again. 

Runners up: 
  • Wikipedia – Great for shutting down a conversation debating any fact 
  • Google Translate – I’m working on my Spanish vocabulary 
  • Stocks – To look at the markets more often than a long-term investor should. 

Productivity: Evernote
I’m a total note taker. I have several notebooks of notes I’ll never refer back to. Now I’m saving the trees and keeping that info in someone’s datacenter, where it can be tagged, indexed, and searched. Am I worried that someone is going to hack in and get my data? Only if there is a market for old rental car reservations, Christmas gift lists, and topics I’ve already written about, or no one would want to write about. Hmm…maybe I should be worried after all. 

Runners up: 
  • Notes – I keep my gym workouts on here, instead of carrying around a notebook 
  • Reminders – coming with iOS 5, I’m hoping this to-do list is as good as Apple says.
Those are the apps I like the best and use the most. I'm eager to see what will come out next, as well as anything good out there that I've missed. Let me 

What's your favorite smartphone app?

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