Old / outdated / discontinued iOS apps I still use

The sheer quantity of iOS apps available today, combined with low average prices, means we end up trying a lot of apps, quickly replacing older ones. Sometimes it’s because a new app in the same category offers interesting new features. Sometimes we delete an app because after the initial appeal we discover we rarely get to use it again. Sometimes an app simply ceases to be updated, or perhaps it just doesn’t get frequent updates, we think it’s no longer developed or maintained, and we discard it just because of that, even if the app is still capable of doing its job. All in all, there’s a sort of ‘disposable culture’ around mobile apps.

Getting rid of an app because it’s no longer developed (or effectively discontinued and removed from the App Store) in some cases is justified because of security concerns, or because some features no longer work, like when an app connects to a series of services which, in the meantime, have updated their APIs. Other times the reason for deleting an app is æsthetic: there are still many apps with a pre-iOS 7 look out there, and their dated interfaces badly stand out when we launch them in our otherwise updated iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Meanwhile a fresher alternative has come up in the App Store and we choose the new over the old.

Earlier today, out of curiosity, I did a small census of the apps on my iPhone 4, and discovered that I still use a bunch of them that are old, no longer developed, or have been discontinued for a long time now. Generally speaking, some of the reasons I still use them are:

  • Habit — Maybe there is a newer app in the same category, but I’m so familiar with the old app’s interface that I can do things more quickly and efficiently with it.
  • It was a considerable investment at the time — Despite the ‘disposable culture’ I mentioned above, I don’t like wasting money on apps. If an app cost me more than $5, I’ll use it until it can reasonably be used. Paying for another $5 app in the same category only because it has a fresher UI is silly, as far as I’m concerned. (Unless of course this newer alternative offers a stellar set of features and improvements.)
  • It’s still good at its job — There are apps on my iPhone I’ve been so satisfied with that I’ve never bothered to look for replacements.
  • It’s still unique in some way.
  • It keeps being fun — I’m a very casual iOS gamer and I still have a few old games I love to return to when I have five minutes to kill.

Here’s a list of such apps, in no particular order[1]:

  • Mill Colour — [Free · iTunes link · Last updated: Dec 15, 2011] This app is not even Retina-optimised, but I still use it every now and then because of its colour filters. A small selection, but created by professionals.
  • addLib S — [$1.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Feb 13, 2013] This app has been updated rather recently, but if you consider the app activity (as reported by AppShopper), the previous major update was in March 2012, and before that there was no activity since September 2010. It’s a cool photo/design app, whose interface never looked outdated, which still offers the occasional interesting result.
  • KitCam — Discontinued and no longer available on the App Store. There is a clone, however, called KitCamera [$2.99 · iTunes link], which is your best chance to use this incredibly versatile and complete photo app on the iPhone. I’ve explained what I love about KitCam in My essential iOS apps.
  • Momentile — Discontinued. I still use it to upload photos to the site.
  • Design Observer — [Free · iTunes link · Last updated: Oct 18, 2010] I use it to browse and read news and articles from The Design Observer Group website. The site was recently redesigned, but the app still sports the old look and colour scheme. I like the site redesign, but I must say I use the app more frequently.
  • Meernotes — [$2.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Nov 7, 2012] I still love certain instances of skeuomorphism, and I’ve been using Meernotes since day one to keep a sort of micro-journal, so I haven’t given up on it yet.
  • The Typography Manual — [$3.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Mar 26, 2012] It’s still a handy and excellent resource.
  • WhatTheFont — [Free · iTunes link · Last updated: Dec 16, 2011] Again, I keep it around because it’s a practical resource. Sometimes the results are a bit hit-or-miss, but often it helps me have an idea of which kind of family a typeface may belong to, especially typefaces I stumble on when I’m out and about.
  • Tuner Internet Radio — [$4.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Oct 28, 2010] Honestly, I kept this app on my iPhone for a long time because when I bought it in 2008 it was one of the most expensive apps on my iPhone (it was originally priced at $5.99) and I wanted it to be a lasting investment, so to speak. As it turns out, it has been exactly that. I got it at a time when I listened to internet radio stations much more than now, and I always liked its simple, clean interface (now, of course, it looks dated), so I never felt the need to replace it with another app of the same kind. Now I use Radium more often on my iPhone 4, but still use Tuner on the iPhone 3G/3GS.
  • Deep Green Chess — [$7.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Apr 19, 2011] Well, it’s still a beautiful app, and for my occasional game against the AI (or to study famous chess matches) it’s more than enough. Bit of trivia: It’s from the developer of Deep Green for the Newton: here’s a screenshot from my MessagePad 2100.
  • SlotZ Racer — Discontinued. Now it has been replaced with SlotZ Racer 2 HD [$0.99 · iTunes link] but I still find the original game to be simple and fun, so I’ve kept it.
  • Air Sharing for iPhone — [$8.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Sep 12, 2013] True, it’s been updated recently, but it’s been around for a long time and it was one of the first apps I bought back in 2008. I still find it quite useful for quick document exchanges from Mac to iPhone via Wi-Fi.
  • MotionX Dice — It appears to be discontinued, as I can’t seem to find it on the App Store anymore. It was probably last updated in 2010. Still my favourite to roll virtual dice.
  • ShakeItPhoto — [$1.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Aug 18, 2011] This app does one thing, and does it well. You take a photo with the iPhone camera, or choose a photo from the Camera Roll, and ShakeItPhoto turns it into a fake Polaroid. There are other apps which achieve the same result, including one made by Polaroid itself, if I remember correctly, but I still like ShakeItPhoto because it has no filters or effects. It’s all meant to be as immediate as taking a photo with a Polaroid camera.
  • Cocktails+ — Discontinued. Last update was probably in 2009. Here’s a brief Macworld review. I love this app for its large database of cocktails and the various ways to search for recipes (you can search by Base, Type, Flavour or Tag[2], or browse everything alphabetically). I’ve tried other similar apps, but I still haven’t found a worthy alternative to Cocktails+.
  • Scotty — [$2.99 · iTunes link · Last updated: Sep 27, 2012] I use Scotty almost daily. As I wrote in My essential iOS apps, This app transfers photos and videos between iOS devices or from an iOS device to a Mac, over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. There are probably a lot of similar apps out there. I find Scotty to be a no-nonsense, fast, reliable app and so I don’t see why I should look for alternatives.


  • 1. There are a lot of iTunes links in this article. If you want to prevent iTunes from opening every time, I suggest an excellent Safari extension called NoMoreiTunes.
  • 2. Some interesting examples of search by Tag include: Caffeinated Drinks, Contains Dairy, Has Defunct Ingredients, Historical, Non-Alcoholic. Searching by Flavour is also useful, because sometimes you don’t know what you’d like to drink exactly, but want, say, something that has Citrus, or Coffee, or Grapefruit, or Hazelnut, or something Herbal, or with Lime, or spicy, or with Irish Whiskey, etc. Searching by Flavour helps a lot in this regard.


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Readmill is still useful as an eBook reader

When Readmill announced it was acquired by Dropbox and that it would cease operations on 1 July 2014, I was as sad and disappointed as when Sparrow was bought by Google. The Readmill app had quickly become my favourite reading app on the iPad, having a lovely, elegant interface with beautiful typography and just the perfect amount of surrounding controls. The Highlight feature, in particular, was very well implemented and I found myself using it a lot.

Thankfully, even the export tools have been well designed, and I could download all my reading history and preserve all the highlights I had made over time in various books. But I was curious to see what would happen to the iOS app after July 1. Somehow I’d missed this FAQ in the Epilogue post over at Readmill:

Can I continue using the Readmill app?

You can, but we do not recommend it. The app will not be updated or supported after July 1, 2014, and we’d like to help you transition to another service now.

Well, despite the lack of updates or support, I still think Readmill is a very useful and elegant eBook reader, and I’m still using it.

Readmill library

George Orwell’s collection of Essays successfully imported just a few days ago

Of course, since the underlying service doesn’t work anymore, you can’t sync your library, or make highlights, or connect to any of the social features of Readmill. The only thing that works is the book reading part — you can still import ebooks into the Readmill app locally via iOS’s “Open in…” feature. (All the books you imported in Readmill before the service closed retain your reading history and all the highlights you made.)

Perhaps for many people this is not enough, but if you only care about reading ebooks in your iPad or iPhone through an interface which, in my opinion, is better than Apple’s iBooks app, then you might want to keep the Readmill app installed on your device.

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Making iWork ’09 the default

A few days ago, Mac OS X Hints published this tip: Make iWork 09 the default and avoid update nagging Apps which is very simple yet very useful for those people who still prefer using the old versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

I’m one of those people. While I’m pretty indifferent to Numbers and Keynote, I use Pages a lot, and after trying the newest version I quickly went back to using iWork ’09 version 4.3. (Among other things, Pages 4.3 seems to be much faster than the latest version at opening certain documents — such as large Word and PDF files — at least on my system.)

The downside to sticking with the older iWork suite for me isn’t much the frequent nagging to update to the newer versions, but the fact that — as the author of the hint writes — it is impossible to make the older apps the default. “The old Get InfoChange All trick doesn’t work.”

The solution is simple. I tried this on my MacBook Pro and it worked:

First, make a backup. Then install the latest iWork apps. Your older versions get moved to a subfolder called iWork '09. That’s why you have the backup.

Next, move the NEW apps to an external disk or other partition. You can then restore the 09 apps to the /Applications folder. Or leave them in the subfolder if you prefer.

Having the apps on different volume from the system disk lowers their priority, so the 09 apps in your /Applications folder remain the defaults for your documents. What is more, any further updates will update the newer versions on your external drive, leaving your 09 apps untouched.

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The description at its website says it all: Breach is “a browser entirely written in JavaScript. Free. Modular. Hackable.” There’s really little to add: the Breach home page explains everything rather clearly. I don’t know anything about JavaScript, but since I love trying new browsers and love this kind of experiments, I just had to download Breach and try it out.

The process is straightforward, fortunately. You download the OS X application from the home page and follow the ‘onboarding’ instructions once launched, that will guide you through the installation of the first essential module (mod_strip) to start using Breach, plus a second module (mod_stats) that sends anonymised usage statistics to the developers to help them improve Breach. As specified by the developers, The stats only include generic event types (no URLs, no personal data) and they are sent to Google Analytics.

Using Breach is, as expected, a bare-bones experience, but the browser feels fast and is surprisingly stable considering its alpha status. One little touch I find especially nice is that each tab extracts the dominant colour of its website, for better differentiation if you, like me, usually keep a lot of tabs open.

I hope the project will expand and gather a community of enthusiasts building cool new modules for it. On this page you’ll find a few (some already working, others in progress), so that you can start having fun with Breach.

(Found via the excellent Brett Terpstra.)

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I am an iPhone+case convert

The Typist, in I Am the Cheat:

According to a recent Business Insider survey, 86% of iPhone owners use a case, with almost 60% of them citing damage protection. Of those who don’t, 50% say “cases are too bulky”. Nick Heer explains why he’s among the minority in a short post titled “I Am the 14%”:

Avoiding bulkiness isn’t an aesthetic decision, it’s a practical one. I don’t wear super skinny jeans by any means, but adding thickness and weight is unwelcome.

I’ve only owned two iPhone models so far: the iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4, plus an iPhone 3GS that was kindly donated by a good friend. I’ve always agreed with the ‘case-less iPhone’ school of thought. My white iPhone 3G was just too nice to be wrapped in any case, no matter how stylish or well-made it was. The form factor of the original iPhone, and of the 3G and 3GS, in my opinion, didn’t really warrant the use of a case. Their back doesn’t easily scratch as the classic iPods, and those iPhone models also have a very pleasant grip that — at least for me — makes it rather hard to mishandle or drop the device. I never dropped my iPhone 3G once, and after three years of regular use, the back is in almost-new condition (only the silver Apple logo betrays the use).

Therefore, when I purchased the iPhone 4 in 2011, I found the new design so pleasant and so much nicer than the previous iPhone models that I, like Nick Heer, didn’t want to even consider covering that beauty with a case, any case. But I soon realised one thing: while being an order of magnitude nicer than the 3G/3GS, the iPhone 4 felt more slippery in my hand when holding and handling it. At first I thought I just needed to get used to the new, sleek form factor. But time passed and, even with my smallish hands, I simply didn’t feel the same nice grip the iPhone 3G had. And I dropped it twice in the first month of use. Nothing major, and I was relieved to see the iPhone come out unscathed in both cases.

Then, a few months later, I dropped it outside, on concrete. Luckily the fall, although bad, didn’t affect the hardware on the inside, but the iPhone gained two visible dents on one side and a few hairline scratches on the display (fortunately unnoticeable when the screen is on). That very evening I was online shopping for an iPhone case.

I still didn’t want anything too bulky. I wanted something that added a minimum layer of protection without burying the beautiful industrial design of the device. The Incipio Feather case was the solution. I chose the glossy clear shell, so that it could feel even lighter visually, and I’ve been a happy user of this kind of case ever since. It adds very little bulk, and what little it adds actually helps to handle the device more securely — it has given my iPhone 4 just enough grip to avoid further drops.

I hope to upgrade at least to an iPhone 5 when iOS 8 comes out, and when I do, I’ll look for a similar kind of case to protect it with. Ideally, I’d still prefer to use the iPhone without a case, but if I have to buy one, a clear polycarbonate shell is the only type of case I consider for an iPhone.

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