Hello, hello, and welcome to App‘n Crunch, Eat Your Serial’s premier app column! Okay, so I know the name is kind of corny, but what can I say, I LIKE CEREAL AND THEMES. At least it’s better than my high school newspaper column, which was cleverly titled “For Havens Sake.” Just take a look at your humble narrator’s name, and you’ll get it. I will forever wear the cone of shame.
Moving right along to more important and less embarrassing things, I will obviously be focusing on apps and all of their forms for this column. But you all knew that—you’re smart people. And since you are so smart, you probably also realize that smartphones, tablets, and apps themselves have become huge parts of our daily lives. Just try riding the subway without playing Angry Birds or going to a party without whipping out your phone and taking a photo with Instagram. It’s nearly impossible. These little gadgets, and the apps created for them, have become our phonebooks, our cameras, and our board games. Best of all, they can be held in the palms of our hands.
When apps go viral, they can become extremely profitable. We’re talking millions and millions of dollars here. There was the famous Facebook buyout of Instagram, which ran for a whopping $1 billion dollars. Not to mention Rovio, the team behind Angry Birds, was rumored at a net worth of $1.2 billion according to Bloomberg. This is a massive industry. People actually make a living designing apps. Just try telling that to your 1995 self and realize how mind-blowing this is.
Alas, this is the world we live in. There’s a lot of discussion about how smartphones and tablets are changing the way we communicate with each other. The constant, real-time responses, whether it’s in games or via social media, allow us to interact more with our friends and family. Yet, there are countless criticisms about the way these same technologies are creating a vast disconnect between people, and only facilitating communication on a superficial level. I can’t say much for either of these stances. Well, I could, but I won’t. What I can say is that in a lot of ways, apps enrich our lives. They make things easier, and while easy may not always be the best, their immense popularity and profitability are not for nothing. For my inaugural column, I wanted to write about apps that are absolute must-haves. I will be focusing on the iPhone and iPad, as those are the devices I own, but I will also indicate whether an app is sold in the Google Play Store, a.k.a. the Android Marketplace. If you don’t have these eight apps for your smartphone or tablet, you need to download them ASAP. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Photosynth for iPhone
Created by Microsoft (yes, that Microsoft), this is probably the best thing that the company has developed since Windows. Really. Have you ever stood in front of a beautiful sunset or in the middle of the room at a party and just wanted to capture all of it in a picture? Yes. We all have. So there you are, trying to take a picture, and you end up taking like a thousand because you can’t get the full magnitude of what you’re seeing in the shot. Back up plan: take a video. However, that doesn’t turn out so flattering when all you can hear is your awkwardly loud breathing in the background. Kiss that scenario goodbye with Photosynth. With this app, you can take amazing panorama shots. Photosynth automatically stitches the individual photos together to create a single image, and the app gives you the option to crop and share via Facebook, Twitter, Bing maps, Photosynth.net, and email. The only issue: occasionally when I try to share my photos via Facebook, the app fails to do so because of a login error, even when I have already logged into my Facebook account. Usually, it works like a charm, and most of us already know that we can’t expect a Microsoft product to work smoothly all the time. Windows Vista was a clear example of that.
FREE at the App Store
Free App Report for iPhone and iPad
Everyone loves free stuff. I’m not a huge fan of Vitamin Water, but when there were free samples being given out on the street, you better believe that I became a Vitamin Water fiend. I could not get enough of that stuff. Then I got home and I had six bottles of Vitamin Water that I wouldn’t even drink and had no idea what to do with. First world problems? Is that an inappropriate statement to make? Anyway, everyone loves free stuff, so everyone should download Free App Report. It compiles a list of free apps daily and allows user to sort by iPhone, iPad, or universal apps. You can also sort through the featured or the most popular apps. From my experience, most of the apps are new and so-so, but every once in a while there will be a total gem. Besides, they’re all free, so you can download and try them out as you see fit. If the app sucks, you can simply delete it. No skin off your back.
FREE at the App Store (Call me Captain Obvious)
SkyView for iPhone
Space has been a constant fascination for man for thousands upon thousands of years. You can’t tell me that you don’t think stars and planets are totally cool, because if you did, you would be completely wrong. This app is great for children and adults who want to learn about the basics of constellations, planets, and the satellites floating around. It is an AR (augmented reality) program in which the constellations and planets appear over the setting that you are in, using your phone’s camera. You simply move your phone to discover new objects in their actual places in space. By clicking on an object, you can discover a series of facts about it. Pretty cool, huh? Plus, it would make a guy look really smart and romantic on a date under the stars. A girl can dream.
FREE or full-version available for $1.99 at the App Store
ChuChu Rocket for iPad, iPhone, and Android
A classic game from Dreamcast. It’s worth every penny, and you will be addicted. That’s all I have to say. Just go download it.
$2.99 at the App Store and $0.99 at the Google Play Store
Notability for iPad
For all of the students and corporate meeting junkies, Notability is a must-have. With it, you can annotate PDFs, write or type notes, record sound, and easily organize everything. Really, it’s a college student’s dream. The handwriting is incredibly smooth, and there’s a back button as well as an erase tool if you ever make any mistakes. The introduction clearly and effectively explains how to use the app, and it just looks cute over all—you can even write on digital notebook paper!
$0.99 for a limited time at the App Store
SnapTell for iPhone or Android
This application has saved me from a lot of stress in the past, and it is a must for anyone who frequently buys books, CDs, DVDs, or video games. Upon taking a picture of the cover of one of these products, SnapTell uses advanced image recognition technology to identify the product, and then gives you a list of the lowest online prices, as well as links to Google, YouTube, IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, and Yahoo! Instead of paying $20 bucks for that DVD you wanted, you could totally spend $8 buying it on Amazon. Instead of buying that book on a whim, you could check out its reviews in a snap, without typing anything in. That’s smart shopping. Also, SnapTell allows you to search for specific items and also has a barcode scanner.
FREE at the App Store and Google Play Store
Flipboard for iPhone and iPad
For those of us who like to know what’s going on in the world (trust me, I totally understand if you don’t), Flipboard is amazing. It puts news from all sources and on all different topics in one place, so you can easily flip through stories and read those that you are interested in. Upon installing the app, you will be asked to choose categories that you are interested in, and you will receive news for only those categories. If you ever want to edit the categories, that option is always available, of course. Not only does this app save all of us nosey folks a lot of time, it also organizes the news in a clean, coherent way that is easy to read.
FREE at the App Store
Thrillist for iPhone, iPad, and Android
Thrillist is basically Yelp but cleaner and minus the snarky and hateful reviews. If you’re ever looking for something new in your neighborhood, turn to Thrillist. You can sort by food, drinks, shopping, and events happening near you. You can also add articles to a wishlist to save them and check them off once you’ve gotten around to visiting a particular place. Kind of like a monthly bucket list of sorts. So, when you start complaining that there’s NOTHING to do in this city, simply turn to Thrillist and FIND something. Sheesh.
FREE at the App Store and Google Play Store