As a devout Mac geek, I think there should be a People’s Magazine devoted solely to app developers. Let’s be honest, computer apps are what make our lives easier, not celebrities and cheating spouses. So with that said, I’m honored to release my personal list of my top 10 most used inexpensive and free iOS apps of 2011.
Some of these apps have been reviewed in MUO, while a few others may not have received the attention they deserve.
After checking email, the iOS and OS X RSS reader NewsRack ($4.99) is the app I start off with every morning. I tried several other RSS readers, but none provided the synchronization features I get with NewsRack. Talk about a time saver. I use NewsRack to synchronize with Google Reader, so that when I check and read feeds on my Mac, iPhone, or iPad, they automatically get updated on all those devices. The app also allows you to share articles on social network sites and services including Instapaper.
When I finally go to bed at night, Instacast ($1.99) is the app I use to download and check the handful of podcasts I choose from to listen to as I fall asleep. Instacast makes it easy to discover, subscribe, and listen to audio and video podcasts over Wi-Fi and 3G.
The latest iOS 5 version synchronizes podcasts between devices via iCloud. In terms of podcast downloads, Instacast makes iTunes obsolete for end users.
For some odd reason Apple has yet to make it easy to simply send documents from your Mac or iOS device to another Apple device. So I use Handoff ($1.99) nearly every day to wirelessly send articles over my local network, using the Handoff Safari extension, to my iPhone and iPad. Handoff should be a built-in feature in Apple devices using iCloud.
Nearly every iOS screenshot you see in my MUO articles gets sent to my Mac desktop using PhotoSync ($1.99). I simply launch the app, select screenshots in my Camera Roll, and push and hold my finger on a button that automatically sends selected shots, via wireless transfer, to my computer. PhotoSync also works with Dropbox, Facebook, Flickr, and other photo sharing sites.
I feel a little guilty every time I use PriceCheck, because now whenever I go shopping at say BestBuy, the local Apple Store, or Borders, I pull out PriceCheck and see how much I would save by ordering online, particularly from Amazon. As much as I would like to buy locally, 20% to 30% savings is something I can’t ignore. PriceCheck makes the process way easy with its built-in barcode scanner.
I’ve written several articles about Mint.com, the free online personal finance tracking and budget management service. Each iOS version of this Mint app (free) has gotten increasingly better. I can easily launch this app and get balances on my financial accounts and see if I’m staying within budget. If you want to save money, use Mint.
JotNot Scanner Pro ($1.99, free version also available) is one of several apps that enabled me to use my iPhone as my wallet. When I need to keep track of receipts or other documents, I simply launch JotNot, snap a photo, tag it, and toss the paper receipt in the trash or a desk drawer. The iPhone camera shots are nearly the same, if not better, as traditional scanners.
iMovie for iPhone
iMovie for the iPhone ($4.99) makes it totally easy to edit family and event videos I shoot with my iPhone. After using iMovie for over a decade on my Mac, I thought it would be cumbersome to do so on an iPhone, but it’s not. iMovie is a fun, practical, creative, and easy-to-use video editor for your iPhone or iPad.
This year, I finally learned how to effectively use the speech to text application Dragon Dictate. On days I don’t feel like typing, I can simply dictate text, and the typing gets done three times faster with about 95% accuracy. Dragon Dictate for the Mac is expensive, but its developer Nuance has released free voice to text apps for the iPhone and other iOS devices. It also produced Dragon Remote Mic (Free) for the iPhone, which turns out to be very good for dictation.
So when I want to get my butt off my office chair and still type, I launch Dragon Mic, increase the font size of the document I’m writing, and dictate text as I walk around my office. Dragon Mic and Dragon Dictate prove that voice technology will only get better over time.
I’m a huge fan and reviewer of magazine style apps for the iPad – the device I use now to do most of all my extended reading, including ebooks, PDFs, and articles. I have and use Flipboard, Pulse, and Google Currents on my iPad, but Zite (Free) is the app I browse the most.
Why is that? Well, because Zite offers less, not more to read. It delivers articles based on my reading interests. The content of Zite is based on chosen topics, not direct RSS feeds. I discovered that this is a good thing because it prevents me from adding lots of RSS feeds, as I have done in my Google Reader account. It also means that I get content from sites other than the ones I regularly visit.
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