Category Archives: application

Google’s Trusted Contacts App is for Personal Safety



trusted-contacts-appGoogle has launched a new app called Trusted Contacts.  It is designed to help you feel safe and to give your friends and family peace of mind.

Right now, the Trusted Contacts app is only available on the Play Store, and can only be used on Android. If you are an iOS user, you can sign up to be notified when the iOS version of the Trusted Contacts app is available.

Once you install the Trusted Contacts app, you can assign the “trusted” status to your closest friends and family members. You can revoke the “trusted” status whenever you want to.

Your trusted contacts will be able to see your activity status – whether you’ve moved around recently and are online – to quickly know if you’re OK. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, you can share your actual location with your trusted contacts. And if your trusted contacts are really worried about you, they can request to see your location.

If all is well, you can chose to deny that request. If you ignore the request, or are unable to respond to it within a reasonable timeframe, your location will automatically be shared with your trusted contacts. Your loved ones can determine the best way to help you out. The Trusted Contacts app can share your location with your trusted contacts even if your phone is offline.

You can use the Trusted Contacts app to have a friend virtually walk you home if you feel unsafe. Share your location with one or more of your trusted contacts. Those loved ones can virtually watch you walk home. After you arrive home safely, you can stop sharing your location.

Venture Beat reports that you need to sign into Trusted Contacts with your Google account credentials and activate your location history. The app will create a map of everywhere you go.


Free Peer-To-Peer Payments With the New Tilt App



Tilt logoI used the crowdfunding platform Tilt a few times back when it was called Crowdtilt. My overall experience with Tilt was good, as I was able to successfully fund a couple of small campaigns. Since then, Tilt has expanded beyond just crowdfunding campaigns into event ticketing and peer-to-peer payments. All of these new features are front and center in the new Tilt 3.0 app.

Tilt 3.0’s peer-to-peer payment system is probably the most handy feature of the app:

In 2-3 taps, easily pay or request money from friends and family! It’s perfect for drinks, bills, ride-sharing, and more. Plus, it’s completely FREE to use.

The app also has a request money feature for those times when your friends conveniently “forget” about how they said they’d help cover the cost of last night’s outing:

Front the cost of dinner? Request money from as many friends as you want. Everyone can see who has and hasn’t paid, which adds visibility so you can spend less time playing debt collector.

Since many users have employed Tilt to fund large events, it made perfect sense for the new app to include ticketing and event management features:

Attendees are automatically issued tickets that are easily accessible from their email, the Tilt mobile app or a unique link to a mobile web view. Each ticket comes with a unique QR code and can only be used once after being scanned by your team. Tickets can also easily be transferred to others.

Tilt 3.0 is a free download from the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.


Evernote Making Changes to Free Tier and Payment Plans



Evernote logoPopular productivity and note-taking/sharing app Evernote announced it will be making changes to the different tiers the company has offered to its users. The biggest changes will impact those who use Evernote’s free Basic tier. The company has also said it will be raising prices for its two paid tiers for new subscribers, but won’t be raising rates on existing customers right away.

Changes to Evernote’s Basic (free) tier:

On Basic, you can access notes on up to two devices, such as a computer and phone, two computers, or a phone and a tablet, as well as on the web, so you can continue to take your notes with you throughout your day. Passcode lock on the mobile app, formerly a paid feature, is now available on Basic as well.

Previous to this update, Evernote Basic users could access their notes on more than two devices, so this could be an impactful change for many users.

Evernote’s middle tier, Evernote Plus, will now be priced at $3.99/month or $34.99/year:

To stay in sync across all your devices, consider Evernote Plus. You’ll also enjoy the ability to take notebooks offline on a mobile device, so your notes will be with you wherever you go, even when there’s no Internet connection. You can forward emails into Evernote and keep them alongside related notes, complete with attachments, and 1 GB of upload space each month means you can keep all your projects together.

Evernote’s top tier, Evernote Premium, will now cost $7.99/month or $69.99/year:

Get the full power of Evernote with Evernote Premium, a set of tools designed to help you go paperless and take ideas into action across all your devices. Find text buried inside Office docs. Annotate PDFs. Discover connections between notes, turn business cards into phone contacts, or present your work with one click. Premium includes 10 GB of monthly upload space, and you have all the benefits of Plus and Basic, too.

The post that documents the changes to Evernote’s plans states that the company is making these changes to help enhance and improve its services. Evernote has become a valuable tool for a lot of people, and I’m sure many will continue to use it, despite these changes. But the limitations put on the Basic account may find some free-tier users looking for alternatives.


Apple and WWF Work Together with Apps For Earth



Apps for EarthApple and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are working together to help protect life on our planet. They created a global Apps for Earth campaign. There does not appear to be an Android version of this project.

From now through April 24, WWF will receive 100% of the proceeds from participating apps in the App Store via both the purchases of any paid apps and the In-App Purchases created exclusively for the campaign.

There are a total of 27 participating apps that feature new content celebrating WWF’s global conservation work in key focus areas: forests, oceans, fresh water, wildlife, and food and climate. The WWF app is participating with brand new content. For a limited time, you can support WWF by purchasing the Earth Story in the WWF Together app.

There is a link on the Apps for Earth page that will take you directly to the Apps for Earth section of the App Store. One of them is the Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft app, which is currently offering an in-app purchase of the exclusive mage Khadgar. This is a portrait that replaces the “default” mage portrait in the game.

Some other gaming apps include:
* Angry Birds 2

* Candy Crush Soda Saga – Two weekend-only themed events on Bamboo hill (April 15-17 and April 21-24)

* Disney Infinity: Toy Box 3.0 – New Toy Box levels and a bundle pack featuring characters from Zootopia, Tarzan, and more

* Jurassic World: The Game – Adds legendary dinosaurs, eco-buildings, and other items to your prehistoric theme park

* MARVEL Contest of Champions – Grab a three-star Hulk and set off on a quest to clean up after polluters like Ultron and Abomination

* Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes – Battle the Empire in a new event set in the lush forests of Endor. Plus, get Ewok bundles that include crystals, credits, and more.

There are also several apps that are not gaming related. One of them is Recolor – Coloring book for Adults. It offers a new gallery that features pictures from WWF focus areas, including wildlife, climate, and more.


Reddit has Launched an Official Mobile App



Reddit new mobile appReddit has launched the first mobile app that was built by the company. The Reddit mobile app is available for both iPhone and Android and is now available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.

Reddit VP of Consumer Product, Alex Le, posted information about the official Reddit app on Reddit. It explains that the company planned to deliver their first official Android Reddit app and to improve and stabilize Alien Blue (a very popular, but unofficial, third-party Reddit app).

Updating Alien Blue was more difficult a task than expected. In the post, Alex Le wrote:

Revamping Alien Blue is also a pretty obvious thing to do, but what started out as a simple improvement project turned into a much larger effort. We’ve decided to rebuild our iPhone app from the ground up to be faster, more modern, and more usable.

The official Reddit app features inline images, night theme, compact and card views, and simpler navigation. Users can customize their Reddit experience on the mobile app with themes. Just like the Reddit website, the app allows “top content” to rise based on the upvotes of users.

The website for the official Reddit app shows images of phones with photos of a cat and dog being cute together, sushi, a Go game, and a very red watermelon. To me, it feels like the app is being presented in a way that makes Reddit look like it is similar to Instagram or Pinterest – very photo heavy. Cats are mentioned more than once in the app’s description.

Personally, I don’t use Reddit very often. I go there to check out what’s new on /r/Diablo because that’s my favorite video game and people post interesting stuff about the game there. I never post anything myself, I simply read whatever is in there. As such, I’ve never had any problems with Reddit.

That being said, I think everyone is aware that Reddit has developed a bad reputation in the past due to some of the content and discussions that can be described as “unwelcoming” (to put it mildly). The presentation of the official Reddit app makes Reddit look friendly and inviting. Perhaps Reddit is hoping its new mobile app will attract users who have been previously avoiding Reddit.


The Mobile App Gap



The history of mobile applications dates back to simple games such as Snake, Pong, Tetris, and Tic-Tac-Toe included with candy bar phones.

As phones became “smarter,” Windows Mobile phones of the mid-2000’s and others included the ability to install third-party software, both paid and free.

Next came the era of the high noise level platform app stores that we know and love/hate today. There are tons of both free and paid apps. Some apps are useful to accomplish very specific, pointed tasks with high efficiency. Others apps are arguably less than useless. The good and the bad, the useful and the useless are packaged together in a cacophony of brightly-colored graphics and flowery sales language, all on equal footing and demanding attention. App discovery is often painful, unpleasant and risks device app bloat.

Mobile device ownership and management requires a learning curve. In phase one, the mobile device novice is at high risk of downloading seemingly every app encountered, while actually making use of very little of that which has been installed.

Phase two of the learning curve is typically marked by out of storage memory errors.

Phase three requires the user to decide which useless apps should be deleted so that the mobile device can continue to be updated and/or functional. When deleting apps, there is a tendency for the user to hang on to installed apps if there’s even the most remote of chances that the user might conceivably use the app.

The key test to determine whether a particular app should simply be deleted is to ask yourself whether or not you would reinstall it after a factory reset.

It should be noted that apps that the user has paid for will tend to have a higher psychological value placed on them, regardless of whether they are actually useful or not.

In this noisy mobile app jungle, where crap is right alongside cream, people are trying to squeeze the most out of their mobile devices, to extract the maximum productivity.

Mobile devices make great content consumption devices. Proof is all around us. At any given moment when people are around, how many of those people are absorbed with their mobile devices?

As mobile devices become ever more powerful, the next step in the evolution of the mobile device usage learning curve is revolving around increasing demand to accomplish real-world productivity tasks. While some productivity tasks can be accomplished, others are difficult or impossible – not because of computing power limitations – after all, today’s mobile devices often have quite powerful processors – no, because of software limitations.

Mobile device operating systems have grown larger and more sophisticated along with the more powerful processors. However, there is a problem plaguing both iOS and Android in the form of an app gap. Apps are wannabe pretenders when it comes to genuine software sophistication. No mobile device apps can compare on equal footing with desktop computer software. Both major platforms – iOS and Android – suffer from this problem.

There is nothing stopping software vendors from developing highly sophisticated mobile software, other than the fact that it’s typically just not worth it. For whatever reason, mobile device owners have a pervasive “it has to be free or very low cost” mentality. We are willing to spend upwards of a thousand dollars or even more for a high end mobile device, but balk at the idea of having to pay more than a few dollars for single apps.

If you have ever tried to push a mobile device to better take advantage of its powerful processing capabilities, you quickly run into a problem. Go beyond a certain level of task sophistication, and the apps typically fall flat very quickly. The ultimate test for mobile apps is to take a mobile device and plug it in to a 1080p or higher monitor. Attach a keyboard and if it’s an Android device, attach a mouse or trackpad. Try to use the mobile device and the installed apps like you would a full computer. For example, try to push the experience to its limits by editing a long, complex video and see how well it goes. The mobile software will play back high resolution videos without any trouble at all, but try to do something really productive and things quickly fall apart. The problem isn’t the processor, but the software.

The mobile app gap situation doesn’t look as if it will improve anytime soon. In the meantime, as mobile device owners and users there are a lot of questions we should be asking ourselves.

How much are you willing to pay for mobile device apps? What has been your experience? Have you ever paid for an app and then realized later that it was a waste of money? What is the most you have ever paid for a mobile app and why?

Why are people willing to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars for sophisticated commercial desktop class software without batting an eye, yet close their wallets when it comes to paid apps for mobile devices? Do people perceive mobile devices to have as big of a potential payoff as a desktop or laptop? If mobile computing devices don’t have the same payoff potential as a desktop or laptop, then why not? What is the difference between the two systems? What can be done to increase the potential payoff value of mobile computing devices?


ArtRage Touch



artrage4-logoThe Surface Pro 3 I purchased a few weeks ago came with the bundled Microsoft Pen, which is a fancy name for a stylus. At first I didn’t make much use of the stylus, but after a while I decided it was time to experiment with it and see what it could do. Unlike the fat stylus’s for sale that will work on any capacitive touchscreen, the Microsoft Pen will work only with Surface devices and offers extreme precision.

The Surface Pro 3 with preinstalled Windows 10 comes with a program called Fresh Paint, and I played around with that for a while. Then I started looking in the Windows App Store and found ArtRage Touch which sells for $9.99. I was already familiar with the iOS version of ArtRage on my iPad, so after playing with the trial version in short order I ended up buying the full version.

ArtRage Touch has a very similar interface across all versions. There are full desktop versions of ArtRage for both Windows and Mac, as well as iOS and Android versions.

ArtRage Touch for Windows is similar to the iOS version, but perhaps somewhat abandoned. The most notable shortcoming is with the lack of much ability to save creations. While it is possible to save creations to the standard ArtRage PTG file format, there are apparently zero non-ArtRage applications that can open these files. If you do a direct share to Facebook, ArtRage Touch simply shares a screen capture including the ArtRage interface. I found an acceptable work-around by “printing” the file I want to a PDF format file, making sure that I have the paper size adjusted to landscape and to “print” the entire image to a single page. Then, I open the just-exported PDF file in Adobe Photoshop Elements and export the image as a standard JPG file. This lack of the ability to export directly to JPG is a major shortcoming, so would-be buyers beware.

The ArtRage website itself doesn’t even list ArtRage Touch as a version for sale, though they still sell ArtRage Touch in the Windows App Store.

If I ever were to become a more serious artist, I would consider buying the full version of ArtRage 4 for desktop machines, which sells on their website for $49.90.

Setting aside the problem of how to share creations with ArtRage Touch, it is a lot of fun to play with digital draw and paint tools. Digital versions of various paints, airbrush tools, pencils and papers can create extremely realistic effects with no wasted paper or messy, expensive paint supplies to futz around with.

On larger touch screens, “digital gloves” are available that allow the side of the drawing hand to be rested directly on the screen without interacting, though obviously many other types of open-finger gloves or even a piece of cloth would likely have the same effect of preventing capacitive contact with skin. The Surface Pro 3 has excellent palm rejection with native apps such as OneNote and others, but even so the appropriate digital gloves would seem to be a no-fuss solution with larger-screen devices. It is very tiring to try to hold and use a stylus on a large touchscreen device without anything to rest the side of your hand against.

Every version of ArtRage includes the ability to pre-load another image, typically a photograph, that allows a “trace” layer(s) to be placed on top. Thus, it is possible to accurately trace out the lines of an image and then paint it afterwards, which can result in some interesting, and sometimes hilarious images.

There are also many serious video producers on YouTube that lay out extremely good “learn to draw” lessons that can teach you how to draw if you follow along.

Once purchased, ArtRage Touch can be installed on up to 10 Windows devices.


Neko Atsume is Now in English



Neko Atsume gameNeko Atsume: Kitty Collector is an adorable game where players collect cats. The incredibly cute artwork caught my attention right away. A recent update allows players to toggle between Japanese and English in the game.

The adorable artwork was what first attracted me to this game. All of the text in the game was written in Japanese, and this left me guessing about how to navigate through the menus and what the different items were called. Although most of the game is fairly intuitive, there were times when I needed to search online for an explanation about things.

Neko Atsume in English

The recent update of Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector allows players who use iOS devices to toggle between Japanese and English. Suddenly, I could read the names of the gifts that some of the cats have given me. I discovered that some of the mats were actually heating pads. Some of the item descriptions are amusing. At this time, the update that enabled English is only available on iOS.

This cute collector game is extremely simple to play. Fill the food dish and put some toys, beds, or other items into the space. Random cats will come and visit (until the food runs out). Check in periodically and you might find a cat taking a nap or playing with a toy that you left out for them. If the food runs out, you won’t get any more cats until you fill the dish again. Unlike other pet related games, the cats don’t die if the food runs out. (They just stop visiting you for a while).

The overall goal seems to be encourage all of the different cats to visit. There is an album that shows players information about the different cats that have appeared, and the kinds of things they like to play with. Some cats will decide to become your friend and bring you a special gift.

Cats that visit will “pay” you in fish. Those that were especially happy will “pay” you with golden sardines. These are the two currencies in the game. Eventually, you will collect enough to buy more stuff for your cats to use. This game is appropriate for kids to play, and they can use the in-game currency to shop in the store for more stuff. Parents should be aware that the purchase of additional golden sardines costs real-world money.


Apple has Approved the Hinder App



Hinder appHinder is an app that was created by Lizz Winstead. As you might know, she is a co-creator of the Daily Show. She’s also a writer, producer, comic, and part of Lady Parts Justice, which is a group of comedians who use comedy and satire to bring attention to legislation regarding women’s access to birth control and abortion.

The Hinder app could be described as a form of political satire. It functions similarly to Tinder, but instead of showing you people whom you might want to date, it shows you politicians. You can see a photo of the politician and a quote that he or she actually said about women, women’s health care, and issues relating to equality.

In addition to a photo and a quote, Hinder gives you more information about the politician who is on the screen. If you think that politician is a horrible person, and you want to warn your friends about him or her, you can. Swipe left, and Hinder will let you share that information with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

What if you happen to agree with the politician’s viewpoints (and/or actions), and want to share that with your friends? Swipe right, and you can share that information with your friends after you make a donation to Lady Parts Justice.

Like Tinder, Hinder can show you politicians who are “in your area”. Pick the state that you live in, and you can see politicians, (and judges) from that state.

Hinder is an iOS app. Earlier today, Huffington Post reported that Apple had blocked Hinder from the iTunes store. Apple felt that the content violated Rule 14 of its app review guidelines, which bans apps that are “defamatory, offensive, mean-spirited, or likely to place the targeted individual or group in harms way.” This rule is lifted for “professional political satirists and humorists”.

Clearly, Lizz Winstead fits that description. There was a social media push to convince Apple to reconsider. Within nine hours, Apple chose to approve Hinder. You can get the app from iTunes or the Lady Parts Justice website.


PicLab HD: Spice Up Your iPhone Photos



hd-iconLike many photographers, I’ve spent countless hours experimenting with a seemingly endless stream of photo apps for iPhone. While Photoshop is great for hardcore RAW editing on a desktop, sometimes you need a quick and simple solution for editing photos on the go. The latest addition to my mobile photo arsenal is a beautiful little tool called PicLab HD.

PicLab HD is a powerful design studio that enhances your photos with a plethora of effects and overlays. Just import a photo from your photo library and browse through the extensive catalog of filters, moods, stickers, and overlays. You can also perform basic adjustments such as contrast, brightness, saturation, and blur.

The cool thing that sets PicLab HD apart from other photo editors is its wide variety of text and artwork overlays, all created by professional designers. You can customize the size and color of the overlays to create the perfect addition to any picture. The $1.99 app includes several collections of these stickers, and you can purchase additional packages for $0.99 each, or purchase the entire catalog of artwork for $2.99.THIS TO THISThe free version of PicLab doesn’t include as many features as PicLab HD, but it’s a good place to start experimenting with what the PicLab ecosystem has to offer. You can upgrade from within the free app to access the features of the HD version, or download PicLab HD directly for $1.99 in the App Store. If you’re a serious photographer/designer/artist/enthusiast, I recommend making the plunge and buying PicLab HD– it’s most definitely worth it!