Ever since 2007, Apple has changed the world with the iPhone, and along with that came the rise of mobile apps. Here at AppAdvice, we are always covering the latest and greatest in the App Store, but things can still end up slipping through the cracks from time to time. That’s why we are introducing our new App Brief — a weekly feature that covers the interesting apps that you may have missed from last week.
So it’s time to sit back with your favorite beverage and catch up on what’s been hot in the world of apps. Enjoy!
It’s time to stop using the Apple alarm to wake up
Up! Alarm Clock provides a beautiful design and makes waking up a motivational experience
Up! Alarm Clock is an iPhone-only app that was released June 15, 2015 for $1.99 on the App Store. With Up! Alarm Clock, users get a simple and clean design with their alarm clock, and it is incredibly intuitive to use. To set an alarm, just slide your finger along the slider on the screen — adding increments of five minutes can be done by flicking up or down on the alarm time. Once you’ve used the app a few times for alarms, Up! will display your three most recent alarms for quick access.
When an alarm is set, Up! goes above and beyond — the app will even tell you what time you should go to bed and catch some z’s for the recommended number of hours of sleep one should get (seven, eight, or nine hours). Up! also has several different options for alarm sounds, which include bells and various tunes, but none of those annoying buzzing sounds you may be used to. Or, if you prefer to wake up to your own music, there’s an option for choosing a song in your iTunes library. Each time you go to turn off the alarm in the app, Up! displays a motivational quote to help you get started with your day.
While there are many alarm clock apps on the App Store, I’ve been enjoying this one quite a bit lately because of the simplicity and intuitiveness of the design, which is clever. It’s incredibly easy to set up alarms, get access to your most-used alarms, and the recommended time to sleep is helpful for an insomniac like me who tends to stay up way too late. Even though the alarm tones are delightful to hear every morning, I do wish that there were more choices in the list, but I suppose that’s what the iTunes song option is for. And to top things off, getting inspired with a motivational quote is something I like seeing first in the day to get me going.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
Don’t ever be rained on again
Dark Sky provides everything you need to know about the weather forecast
Dark Sky is a universal weather app that originally came out back in 2012, but it has just received a significant update last week on June 17, bringing it up to version 5.0.
If you’ve never used Dark Sky, allow me to give you a primer on what it does. It is a weather app that gives you the basics, like current temperature, as well as hourly and weekly forecasts. However, the thing that sets it apart from other apps (especially when it first came out) is the fact that it gives users an hourly graph that measured exactly how much rain would be hitting the area, which is useful if you plan to go out during a rain break. It even pushed notifications to your device of upcoming precipitation, so you would always be prepared.
The 5.0 update brings a new layout for users that has a detailed hour-by-hour timeline for the next 24 hours, as well as the next seven days. And for the iPad users out there, Dark Sky 5.0 brings landscape support. There are now advanced notifications that users can set, which include custom alerts for various data points like temperature, precipitation, snow accumulation, wind, severe weather alerts from the government, and more. For iPhone 6 and 6 Plus users, there is an option for opting in to use the device barometer to get pressure sensor data. And if you have ever wanted to be a weather reporter, Dark Sky can help you with that, since you can now provide feedback directly from within the app.
I’ve been a user of Dark Sky for years, despite the fact that it hardly rains in Southern California, and I am loving the new update. Even though the best way to check the weather will just be looking out the window, Dark Sky provides plenty of accurate information in a single place that lets you plan out your activities. I mean, who likes to get rained on before something important? It sucks!
BuzzFeed goes beyond the laughs, quizzes, and listicles
The new BuzzFeed News app lets you catch up on the most important news of the day
BuzzFeed News is a new app that came out on June 19, 2015 for the iPhone, and is intended to take on the NYT Now app by giving users the news that matters.
While we may associate BuzzFeed with all of those silly posts, quizzes, and listicles that prompt you to rate it with “dope,” “LOL,” “win,” “omg,” “cute,” “fail,” or “wtf,” it appears that the company is trying to show that it can be serious as well as funny. The BuzzFeed News app provides users with a stream of news stories that are considered to be the most important and interesting at the moment. These news articles can come from the BuzzFeed news site as well as other reputable sources from all over the Web. There is also a feature that provides context to any key breaking and developing news story by having bullet points of currently known facts or other bits of information that a reader may want to know of, with the simple goal of helping you understand what is happening in the world. BuzzFeed News also has customizable notifications, in case you want to fine-tune your daily news digest by getting alerted to stories that matter most to you.
I consider myself a news junkie, and the BuzzFeed News app is the latest one I’m adding to my news app collection. The design of the app is simple and easy to navigate, and I can quickly catch up with the news of the day in just a few minutes. The app also gives you full access to the native iOS Share Sheets, so you can add longer pieces to your read-later app of choice, or share it with others. BuzzFeed is now your go-to source for serious news as well as the funnies.
Protect your iOS device from the dangers of public hotspots
Wi-Fi Hotspot Protector protects your iPhone and iPad from hacks and other cyber-threats
Wi-Fi Hotspot Protector is a new universal app that came out on June 14, and is a great companion for anyone who is a frequent traveler, a mobile student, or just works away from home. The point of the app is fairly straightforward: to protect you from various security threats and cyber-attacks while you are using Wi-Fi hotspots.
Using the app will require an account, which you can sign up for right within the app. Creating a new account gets you 10 free days of service, with plans starting at $0.99 for another 10 days up to $32.99 for three years. With Wi-Fi Hotspot Protector, the app will identify potential threats near you, and then protect and notify you of them. There is high-grade encryption with the app so that any information you send and receive over the hotspot is protected. Wi-Fi Hotspot Protector also gets the closest and fastest connection for you to use, so you don’t have to worry.
Since I work remotely, I enjoy going to coffee shops to get my stuff done. I appreciate the protection that an app like this offers, and if you’re a road warrior, it’s advisable to look into an app like Wi-Fi Hotspot Protector to make sure your data is safe from threats.
Accessibility and keyboards is a must
Viskey’s customizable large-type keyboard makes it easier to type for aging eyes
Viskey is a new third-party keyboard that came out on June 6 as a universal app on the App Store for $4.99. It is designed for people who require reading glasses or just need larger keys on their devices.
While Viskey is far from the prettiest keyboard on the market, it provides plenty of accessibility for those who need it. Viskey makes use of contrast and large text previews, so you can always see what you’re typing in those text messages, emails, or even notes. Plus, there is plenty of customization so you can make the keyboard yours, such as adjustable size, configurable black on white text, automatic capitalization and word correction, spell check, shortcuts, and more.
While I personally don’t need a keyboard like this (I’m still young!), I know plenty of older folks who may not be able to see the small keyboard on their devices as easily as I can. Accessibility is an important part of iOS, and Viskey is a keyboard that should make life easier for those who need something a bit larger for typing on their iPhone or iPad.
A powerhouse writing app gets a big update
All writers who use iOS should be using Editorial, which just got even better
Editorial is a powerhouse plain text editor app that originally came out for the iPad in 2013, then became universal last year with the 1.1 update. Last week, on June 15, Editorial 1.2 came out and has made significant improvements for the app that should be a staple for all writers on iOS.
Editorial is a plain text editor at the core, but comes packed with amazingly powerful features for power-users such as automated workflows due to Python integration. The 1.2 update last week added a slew of new features and optimized the app for the larger screens of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which was highly anticipated. The update also brought “Folding” sections for Markdown and Taskpaper projects, which means sections of a document can be collapsed or expanded by tapping on a triangle next to the header. Quick Settings makes it faster to change editor-related settings so you can get back to your writing. The “Arrange Paragraphs” tool lets you move your paragraphs around for better flow, and screenwriters will be happy to hear that Editorial finally supports the Fountain writing syntax. There are also numerous other feature additions as well as improvements and bug fixes.
Editorial has been my number one writing app of choice on iOS ever since it first came out, and I’m very happy to see how far the app has come since then. Having this powerhouse on both the iPhone and iPad with all of the automation features easily accessible and configurable means writing has never been easier on iOS. If you are a writer with an iOS device who wants to streamline the writing process on-the-go, then you must check out Editorial, which is on the App Store for $9.99.
Too lazy to get your phone to check the battery?
Don’t worry, you’re able to check your iPhone battery level from your wrist with Power – Glance at battery life
Power is a new app that came out on June 17 for the iPhone for $0.99 and has one purpose: to show you your iPhone’s current battery level on your Apple Watch. The iPhone app will also display this information in a simulated Watch, but that’s defeating the purpose of the app.
Ever since I got my Apple Watch, I have been using my phone less, so I appreciate simple little apps like this that tell me the battery level without me having to pull my phone out or looking for it if I just set it down somewhere in the house. If you’re like me and just too lazy to get your phone out to check whether it needs a charge, then grab this app and check with a flick of the wrist. Like they say, the Apple Watch is all about convenience, right?
Editor’s Choice Pick: Editorial
No question about it — Editorial is my pick for best app from the past week. Not only does it pack in a ton of amazing features for any writer, but it also does so in a slick interface that is fairly intuitive to navigate. As a person who writes for a living, I appreciate all of the tools that Editorial has, because it makes my job a lot easier when I’m on-the-move. Anyone who writes on iOS needs to have Editorial in their writing app arsenal, no doubt. If you don’t already have it, make sure to get it — it’s well worth the price tag.