My essential iOS apps — Part 3

Software

Part 3 — Special mentions

I originally had not planned a Third Part in my ‘Essential iOS apps’ series, but while writing the first two I couldn’t help but notice a few applications which — while I don’t consider them strictly indispensable — are important enough to warrant a mention.

Sparrow — This promising email client enjoyed a brief moment where it was my primary email client both on the Mac and on my iPhone. Then Google came, acquired the company (or acqui-hired its developers, whatever), and ruined everything. Development of the Mac app has basically stopped, and on iOS it receives the occasional maintenance update to keep the app working. However, something curious has happened with this app and my setup: it is now the primary email client on my secondary devices. It has replaced the built-in Mail app on my iPhone 3GS, and it has replaced Mail.app both on my 12-inch and 17-inch PowerBook G4s (Yes, I was quick enough to download Sparrow at the beginning, when it was still a Universal Binary). In other words, it’s not an essential app, but I still love it very much.

x2y — This is a great aspect ratio calculator, developed by Joe Cieplinski, who is also one of my favourite tech writers (you should add his blog to your feeds). As the official app description goes, “x2y is a beautifully simple aspect ratio calculator for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Built for designers and web developers who need to resize images and videos in code, x2y calculates dimensions for you automatically. Just choose the original aspect ratio or size, enter one of the new desired dimensions, and the missing dimension will be calculated instantly.” I’m not a designer or Web developer, so this app is not part of my essential tools, strictly speaking, but whenever I need to resize an image I want to include in an article on one of my blogs, I always reach for x2y. It’s really a well-designed and thought-out application which I strongly recommend despite what some people may think about its ‘expensive’ price tag.

Twitter — Why a special mention for Twitter’s official iOS client? For a very particular, obscure reason: to my knowledge, it’s the only Twitter client that will work on your old iPhone 3G with iOS 4.2.1. I didn’t believe it myself, but I tried this and it worked: on your iPhone 3G, enter the App Store app and look for Twitter. You’ll get the Download an older version of this app? dialog box, tap Download and install the app. Log in to Twitter and… it’ll work. (I mentioned it previously, by the way.)

Dragon Dictation — This app is worth a special mention because it still works with older iOS devices, having iOS 4.0 as minimum requirement (at the time of writing). It works great on my iPhone 3G.

Groove — Music player & Smart playlist — The app description says that “Groove learns your listening habits and organises your music into great playlists.” At first I didn’t think I would use such an app, since I’m not on the move enough to spend much time listening to music on my iPhone or iPad. Yet I recently tried Groove and was impressed by its (revamped) interface and, more importantly, by the great mixes it generated by choosing songs from my library. Again, I wouldn’t call Groove an ‘essential’, but its importance and frequency of use are rapidly increasing on my iDevices.

Mactracker — Mactracker is a compact encyclopaedia on everything Apple produced: computers, peripherals, devices, accessories, operating systems. It’s the best tool for quickly looking up some information on an Apple product, no matter the vintage. When I set up a new iOS device, this is usually the first non-strictly-essential app to be installed right after all the already-mentioned essentials.

Coast by Opera — This is a really interesting browser, which sits on my iPad dock together with Safari and has made me use Chrome less and less frequently. I love Opera’s modern take on how to browse the Web and the ‘websites as apps’ paradigm. I love how gestures are implemented and the browser’s UI in general. I’ll probably write more about it in a separate post.

Jasmine — I don’t watch a lot of YouTube videos, but when I do I fire up Jasmine and not the official YouTube iOS client. I simply love Jasmine’s minimal, elegant UI. It all feels so much less cluttered.

VLC — The only occasion when I watch videos on my iPad is when I travel, which doesn’t happen all that frequently (and that’s why there were no video apps in my essentials collection for the iPad). There are many good third-party iOS apps for playing videos out there — Flex Player and Infuse are the first coming to mind — but for my needs, VLC is a complete-enough package.

Status Board — When I was talking about Screens in Part Two of this series of articles, I wrote: “Over time I’ve purchased a few apps with an ‘expensive’ price tag, and at first glance it’s easy to dismiss them with the typical Oh, App X does just that? It’s not worth the price objection.” The same can be said about Status Board by Panic. Why should I pay $10 for an app that just displays information in a pretty way, most of which information (time, weather, email, Twitter and RSS feeds…) can be retrieved from other sources for free? Again, it’s a well-designed app and with little extra work it allows you to configure custom data sources to display the information you need. You can have it display statistics, with graphs and tables, in real time. And you can see all this information together at a glance. Again, once you begin to recognise and take advantage of its versatility, it’s not hard to see that it’s worth the $10.

 

And that’s really a wrap! Thanks for reading, and if you have questions or suggestions, you know how to reach me.

Link to Part 1

Link to Part 2

The Author

Writer. Translator. Mac consultant. Enthusiast photographer. • If you like what I write, please consider supporting my writing by purchasing my short stories, Minigrooves or by making a donation. Thank you!