We’re shaking things up a bit here. Because doing the same thing every week gets a bit boring and also, Raju was right. It was mostly the latter. It’s not easy to find 10 truly innovative, problem-solving, awesome apps every single week.
Ok so now that we know where we stand, let’s turn this thing around. Instead of focusing on quantity and trying to round up to a sweet double digit number every week, our sole aim will be to try and bring you the best apps, every two weeks. At least, that’s the plan. Who knows how long this will last. Feel free to place your bets in the comments below (some context: Last time Raju tried this, he lasted 2 weeks. My previous weekly attempt lasted 9 weeks).
1. Liner – Highlight the web like it’s a Kindle eBook.
Liner’s an app that’s trying to solve a problem close to my heart – highlighting text on the web and archiving it. For someone who reads a lot on the internet, it would be great to have a place to highlight the best stuff and keep it somewhere that’s easy to revisit.
Now, I’m not a big fan of how Liner is trying to do it, but I do like that it’s giving it a shot.
If you’re used to highlighting text in the Kindle app, you’ll feel right at home here. When you come across anything you want to highlight, remember or share (as tweetshots – it’s a thing now), just bring up the share sheet and tap the Liner extension (the app’s onboarding experience for setting this up is well done). Then Liner will reload the whole page in its own app. Now from here, you can highlight text and save and stuff. I don’t know what you inferred by reading the app’s website, but it’s definitely not possible to highlight stuff directly from Safari.
My problem with the app is that it’s too much work – too many steps. But, of course, that’s the limitation of iOS itself and most mobile browsers – they don’t support plugins.
Someday I hope I’ll be able to highlight text as easily I can select text to copy. But alas, today is not that day.
That makes me think. Why isn’t anyone trying to do this in Chrome? I mean it’s as simple as just coding up an extension right? Maybe give Android a shot? It’s a heck of a lot more open than iOS. Yes, iOS still deserves to be the launch-first platform. But not for everything guys.
2. Klok – Because you’ll never figure out what time it is in LA.
Klok is the most versatile world clock widget I’ve seen yet. It’s not a simple widget that shows time in a bunch of different cities. No. It’s a converter as well. Say, I need to know what time it’s in San Francisco when it’s 8 AM in my hometown.
All I have to do is swipe down the Notification Center, tap my city in the widget, and from the slider below, select 8 AM. Voila, the San Francisco time updates to 7:30 PM. Just like that.
Plus, there’s some thoughtful color coding going on here. A while clock face means it’s between 6 AM and 6 PM and that it’s OK to call. A black clock face means it’s not. Also, when a city is a day behind or a day ahead of you, you’ll see a -1 or +1 bubble right there. Super helpful. And, of course, if you don’t do anything, you’ll still be able to see the current time in any city that you have chosen from the app. That’s the default state.
If you ever find yourself Googling what time it is going to be in X place or trying to find the exact time for the next Apple/Google keynote in your time zone, don’t. Just get this app. It will all be a Notification Center pull away from you – always.
3. mlist – An email client just for newsletters.
If you didn’t know, email newsletters are where the action is. No, it’s not a joke. It’s also not 1998. Turns out, smart people across this industry are starting to figure out that no social network can give them as much control over their audience as email can. Because after all, it’s a decentralized medium. Facebook will only show your readers maybe 7% of the posts unless you pay but when it comes to email, there’s no such gatekeeper.
Also, there’s some really good action going on in newsletter land where there are people using the newsletter to put out original and unique content – something that’s not available on their website. The Quartz Daily Brief and the MacStories Weekly are the prime examples.
But and there’s always a but, you don’t really want to clutter your already crowded inbox with newsletters. The reason why I love mlist is because it lets you have your cake and eat it too. When you sign up for the app, you get an email address. Use that email address to subscribe to any newsletter and it will show up in the mlist app on your iPhone and iPad (I can’t wait for the web client to launch).
So now your inbox is clear and you have one centralized place to read all the awesome stuff you wouldn’t have otherwise. And as because you’re not giving out your personal email address (or information), feel free to subscribe to any number of newsletters. Unsubscribing is easy.
4. LookUp Dictionary – Feeling stupid never looked so good.
Yes, iOS has a pretty good dictionary built-in. In fact, it’s a great tool to have on your side when you’re engaged in an impromptu iOS vs Android flame war.
LookUp is a dictionary app for people who are far beyond “pretty good”. For people who can look up and see the beauty that a dictionary app clearly deserves.
Kidding aside, LookUp is actually a really good app. As a person who has used Dictionary.com’s app, I can appreciate a bit of thoughtful design when it comes to trying to be less stupid. As it’s a third party app, it can’t integrate natively in iOS’s floating selection window.
But the app is pretty simple to use. When you first open it you’ll see big beautiful cards with some words of the day, with associated glyphs. Tap the Search button to start searching. LookUp will show four different swipeable cards. The meaning, synonyms, etymology (the dictionary app’s underdog), and the trusty old Wikipedia definitions. As I’ve said before, everything is big and beautiful and easy to read.
If you’re planning to give your dictionary app some much-needed makeover, $2.99 is worth the price.
5. Apple Music – Spotify who?
It’s the second week of July and we here in the tech community are still not over Apple Music. We’ll need at least a couple of weeks to love, hate and love the thing all over again. If for some reason this is the first time you’re reading about this, let me tell you about Apple Music. Are you free for the next hour or two?
No? Ok. Here’s the short version. Apple finally came out with its own music streaming service. Except they decided it was better to just integrate it in the Music app. Because how well it has worked out with iTunes so far. So in the new Music app that you can only get after upgrading to iOS 8.4, you’ll get access to 30 million streaming songs, your own library, Beats 1 live radio, Pandora style artist based radio, a curated For You section, and a place for artists to post updates that no one seems to rightfully care about because it’s clearly broken right now.
Yes, it’s a lot and there are many issues with it but I think you owe it to yourself to try out the service in case you haven’t already. I’ve been using it for 2 weeks now and in spite of all the little quibbles, I do love it. I’ve canceled my Rdio account.
I’ve written about it extensively over at Guiding Tech. Do feel free to cheat on TechPP for a while.