The Single Most Asked Question of all Time … Since 2008 (Part C of 3)
In this final installment of my app starter kit roundup (check out part 1 and part 2), we’ll be taking a look at lifestyle software, navigation and something I’m not really keen on – health and fitness apps. Perhaps these categories are unfamiliar to you, but much like my unfamiliarity with an exercise bike, a little test ride can only do good.
Lifestyles of the not so rich and definitely not famous. At all.
At the dawn of the App Store, the Lifestyle category was where Apple tossed all those apps that managed to crawl out of the primordial ooze, but didn’t fill a specific purpose. Tossed aside, these round pegs which at first didn’t fit into square app holes (heh) grew legs and slowly ascended to become land-walkers, so to speak.
There’s still some weirdos floating around in Lifestyle, but for the most part the once pathetic category can stand on its own through the strength of titles like eBay and the hippies’ love for Etsy. Which reminds me, I need to check on the shipping status of my hand-woven dreamcatcher made from soothing eucalyptus twigs and found pigeon plumage.
Yes, we’re going to talk about eBay. Many of you probably tried out or used the eBay app in the past, only to abandon its wasteland of functionality. Now is the time to return.
It’s a simple and easy to use app made by a company that actually cares about its customers’ eyes in that the layout doesn’t make them bleed. With the latest version, users get to relish in a streamlined and fairly well thought out UI, though the iPad app is where eBay obviously spent the most dev money. Don’t be fooled, however, as those super nifty animations are far overshadowed by the iPhone app’s utility. Almost threadbare, the handset version is far more nimble and easier to maneuver than the overladen and, dare I say, pompous iPad iteration.
All the functionality is there: your PayPal account, saved searches, tabs on ending auctions and push alerts letting you know you’ve been outbid for that vintage Boba Fett action figure. Again. Why HandsSolo82? Why?!
The true essence of a Lifestyle app, Instructables is quirky fun. A meeting of the (possibly unstable) minds, this app lets users create, share and comment on a variety of DIY projects. There’s a decent selection of recipes, hacks and ridiculous inventions that’s just as fun to browse as it is to attempt building in meat space. Just added last month is commenting, which makes the experience feel more like a gathering of your favorite cult members to discuss next week’s Kool-Aid mixer. I mean that in the best way possible.
A journalist’s favorite anything: alcohol. I’m getting the sweats just thinking about those delicious, delicious elixirs … BarNotes is a great tool for the greatest of man’s endeavors. I mean it has that kitschy “B” on the app icon, it must be good!
Not only does this app offer up some mean cocktail recipes from notable mixologists, it lets you connect to other users just as you would in a real bar, minus the noise and despair. There’s an option to comment on what people are drinking, options to share your own highly potent recipes and more.
How I know it’s for
alcoholics liquor aficionados: it’s one of the few apps that has a real recipe for an Old Fashioned.
MotionX GPS Drive
Fullpower-MotionX is kind of like the Swiss Army knife of the development community: they have built-in toothpicks. Like any other great app maker, the firm started out with a dice rolling game and moved on from there. Now the company’s motion sensing technology platform powers a range of titles and hardware, from a first-party sleep tracker to Nike+ and Jawbone’s Up fitness wristband.
MotionX GPS Drive has long been a major player in the App Store for its accurate and intuitive driving title, and it seems as though no one can improve on it, not even big shots like Garmin. The UI just feels right, with no pathing errors and a clean, uncluttered look that needs only a glance to confirm you’re on track for the midnight Taco Bell meet-up. Most important is accuracy. MotionX GPS Drive simply integrates data from the iPhone’s and iPad’s onboard sensors in a way that no one else can. Routing is efficient and positioning is snappy thanks to the MotionX motion sensing platform.
Price: $0.99 with add-on subscriptions like live voice directions.
Sleep Cycle was one of the first sleep trackers to hit the App Store, and it’s still one of the best. Just open up the app, lay your iPhone on the bed whilst you slumber and the software will keep a record of your sleep patterns. Using the handset’s built-in accelerometer, the software cleverly monitors and processes in-sleep movements to determine your sleep state, and will choose the best time to wake you up. For example, when I start violently punching at the air above my bed, Sleep Cycle recognizes that I’m probably in some sort of delusional REM cycle. It wouldn’t dare rouse me at that time, mostly out of fear. But when you reach a state that is near to awake, the alarm will start to chime. Surprisingly, the system actually works, leaving me less groggy in the morning.
The app has a default time window of 30 minutes in which to wake you up. For example, if the alarm is set for 9:30 a.m., the app will start looking for an awakened state from 9 a.m., and will sound the sirens when it finds one. Also available is a “tap to snooze” feature (not recommended as a mere touch of the phone shuts off the alarm), graphic display and storage of past sleep sessions, a “sleep quality” meter that I can’t seem to get above 40 percent, and some other goodies.
Tap & Track
While it hasn’t been updated in over a year, Tap & Track is still my favorite calorie counter. The app boasts a huge offline food catalog, making Cinnabon entry fast and easy even if you’re in a mall’s dungeon. There’s also a list of restaurants and popular food items that comes in handy if you frequent fast food chains. Exercise and activities can be entered to calculate weight goals, which for the most part works well.
Tracking includes calories, burned calories, fat and carb budgets, daily BMI, export of data to a spreadsheet-friendly CSV file, and awesome graphs showing that you’re getting fatter (your mileage may vary).
We’ve come to the end of our journey into app land; it was nice to walk down Apple’s vaunted digital hallways with you all. With the selections in this series, I aimed to build a good base on which to build an app collection, though the real beauty of the App Store is that you can explore it yourself, find what you want and, in most cases, try it out for free. I recommend taking some time out of your busy schedule of reading blogs like this one to just browse through the store, click on some interesting app cards, read the comments and go from there.
Until we meet again (in about two to three weeks), happy hunting.
|Mikey Campbell is a self-professed tech geek. Perhaps it was the “100-in-one” electronic learning kit his father gave him as a child, or some genetic disposition to solder, but his need to break into a shiny new gadget cannot be stopped. After graduating from college with a degree in journalism and working a brief stint at a local daily print publication, he explored his roots in Japan for three years; making countless visits to the electronics sanctuary that is Akihabara. When he’s not tearing down perfectly good hardware, Mikey is out taking artsy photos or hitting the beach in his home town of Honolulu, Hawaii. Mikey is currently an editor for Apple news site AppleInsider.|