Upgrade Your Apps (Part 1) - January

2/1/2013 9:21:19 AM

Your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch come with some solid built-in apps. But the embarrassment of riches in the App Store can take your device even further.

You know that Men's Health book series and website, Eat This Not That (, right? That's the one that explains why French toast is better than Belgian waffles, from a nutritional standpoint, or that an A&W chili dog is a healthier choice than the deluxe cheeseburger. It’s fun to play around with, even if the chances we’ll actually remember their advice when we step up to the counter are small.

We thought that same concept would be great for apps, too. Just like you gotta eat, iPhone and iPad users gotta use apps, but some people don’t venture too far past the packed-in options or maybe whatever's at the top of the App Store charts. But maybe you're settling for a plain old cake donut when you could have a mouth-watering strawberry and Nutella crepe, and have a much better experience. We set out to replace your everyday apps. The workhorses you rely on. Sample from this buffet and you won't save any calories, but you will have an even better time using your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.


If you're like us, you use your iPhone camera every day. So invest in some better apps—it'll pay off big.

Best for taking photos: Camera+

We named it Best Camera in last year's "Upgrade Your Apps," (Mar/12, p22), but after trying dozens more third-party camera apps, Camera+ ($1.99, iPhone/iPad) is still the one to beat. The Clarity filter alone is worth the price of admission, breathing new life into dull and lifeless images. If that’s not enough, images from the Lightbox (developer tap tap tap's version of the Camera Roll) can be synced via iCIoud to the iPad edition. Camera+ is also the only iPhone camera app we know of to offer a faux flash for the front-facing camera sure, they just throw up a PhotoBooth-style white screen as the shot is taken, but that’s still pretty handy in a pinch.


Best for editing: iPhoto

We get a lot use out of the modest but simple editing tools built into iOS, but when it’s time to get down to business, we turn to Apple's ¡Photo ($4.99, universal). Particularly on the iPad, iPhoto effectively replaces the need for the Mac version, making it an absolute joy to manipulate images using only your fingers. iPhoto for iOS may not be perfect (we're still dreaming of syncing to the desktop version, or at least a way to archive our libraries in the cloud), but it’s one of the best ways to manage your photos right on the device that shot them.


Best for video: kitcam

One of the new kids on the block, KitCam ($1.99, iPhone) ranks almost neck-and-neck with Camera+ for still images, offering full manual control over exposure and focus along with plenty of live filters and lenses. But these same tools can also be applied to the 1080p HD videos it records, with automatic stabilization and pro tools like manual white balance adjustment. It’s also one of the few video shooters where you can access the resolution (288p, 480p, 720p, or 1080p) without having to drill down into a bunch of settings menus, and it throws in level, histogram, and grid options for good measure.


Instead of this... try this...

Instead of photo stream, try...Pogoplug

iCloud's free Photo Stream is hard for any app to beat, simply because third-party options can't upload photos in the background without the app being opened first. The best free alternative is Pogoplug, which offers 5GB of absolutely free cloud storage and a universal companion app capable of performing automatic upload of both photos and videos in your Camera Roll, a distinct advantage over iCIoud.

Content can be viewed or downloaded from any web browser, although you'll have to import them into iPhoto or Aperture manually. However, Pogoplug can also be set up to do its magic over Wi-Fi or cellular connections, which iCIoud doesn't allow.


Runner up:

Instead of photo stream, try...Photosync

I Who needs the cloud when PhotoSync ($1.99, universal) can transfer straight to your Mac or PC (using a free desktop client) or even between iOS devices, all without wires? Plus, PhotoSync can upload to Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, and Box all at once.


Instead of phone, try...iGVoice

Google Voice is not a VoIP service, but with developer Lingyun Peng’s iGVoice ($4.99, universal), it can be. Using a free Google Voice account, the iPhone 5-optimized, universal app can place phone calls or send SMS text messages to real phone numbers anywhere in the U.S. for free, with pretty cheap international rates available everywhere else all without using the precious minutes on your calling plan. The app is best suited for outgoing calls or texts; users are still better off using the free, official Google Voice app on the iPhone to receive their voicemails and SMS with push notifications.


Instead of contacts, try...Smartr Contacts

Most of us have separate contacts stored in our email, on devices, and via social networking services like Facebook, Linkedln, and Twitter, but Smartr Contacts (free, iPhone) makes it easy to centralize all of that information on your iPhone. It syncs the info from all of those sources and cobbles it all together, adding photos, email history, and even a graph of email freguency from the previous year. Essentially, this free app consolidates your contacts from all over the place while adding some visual punch, so not only does it supplement Apple's Contacts, it can actually supplant it.

Smartr Contacts

Instead of calendar, try...fantastical

One of the best Mac calendar apps, Fantastical ($3.99) hit the iPhone right as we were going to press, and it's a remarkably stylish and user-friendly option that'll make you forget about the austere aesthetic of Apple's built-in app. Fantastical’s Ul puts a scrolling list of days atop the screen, with a quick look at how full each date seems plus a full listing of events on the bottom. It'll sync with Google Calendar, iCIoud, and Exchange, but it handles new events beautifully simply tap in "Tapas on Tuesday at 2pm" and it’ll find the appropriate destination. Fantastical is every bit as sharp as its title says.


Instead of calculator, try...quick graph

Calculator is handy for guick eguations, and if that's all you ever plan to do, it should suit your needs. For those who need more computing power, Quick Graph (free, universal) is an advanced graphing calculator app that's incredibly useful despite the lack of a price tag. Simple gueries still fly here, but you'll find a deeper set of options for building eguations, which can then be mapped in 2D or 3D, as well as saved if you want them at the ready. And a $1.99 upgrade removes some of the (still generous) limitations for heavy users.

quick graph


Most View
TuneAudio Marvel – Loudspeaker (Part 1)
Doubling Up On Drivers KEF M200
DACs Awards – Q1 2013 (Part 1)
Ubuntu Arrives For Touch Phones (Part 1)
Windows 8 : Customizing the Appearance of Windows - Adjusting Screen Resolution - Change Screen Resolution
Hauppauge HD PVR 2 Gaming Edition
Visual Studio Team System 2008 : Command Line (part 2)
Sony NEX-F3 Review (Part 1)
Planning a Windows 7 Client Update Strategy : Deploying Updates to Clients
HTC One 2013 - HTC’s Latest High-End Smartphone (Part 3)
Top 10
Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Disable a Timer Job,Start a Timer Job, Set the Schedule for a Timer Job
Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Display Available Timer Jobs on the Farm, Get a Specific Timer Job, Enable a Timer Job
Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Review Workflow Configuration Settings,Modify Workflow Configuration Settings
Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Review SharePoint Designer Settings, Configure SharePoint Designer Settings
Sharepoint 2013 : Farm Management - Remove a Managed Path, Merge Log Files, End the Current Log File
SQL Server 2012 : Policy Based Management - Evaluating Policies
SQL Server 2012 : Defining Policies (part 3) - Creating Policies
SQL Server 2012 : Defining Policies (part 2) - Conditions
SQL Server 2012 : Defining Policies (part 1) - Management Facets
Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 : Configuring Anti-Spam and Message Filtering Options (part 4) - Preventing Internal Servers from Being Filtered