Reviews

The Elements for iPad- app review

The ultimate in interactive elements has arrived in the form of The Elements for iPad. I was a little late getting to this app seeing as how it came out at the iPad launch, but I am really soaking up what the Elements has to offer now. It's is basically an interactive book made by the folks at Periodic Table. They make printed books, etc for the education market around the world. This is their first foray into the iPad/iPhone and I have to tell you; wow. I wish they had this stuff when I was a kid.

The way The Elements works is you have a complete listing of the periodic table of elements in front of you. These objects are not just photos of the elements, but actual 3D renders that move. Tap on an element and it takes you to that element's custom page of discovery.

The element page consists of a big render of the element or an example of it's use on the left of the screen and all the information you could want to know on the right including the atomic radius, structure, weight, density and more of the element. WolframAlpha provides additional information and proves to be an awesome resource.

The bottom right corner gives you additional navigational tools. Tap the right arrow to bring up more information about the element along with even more 3D renders of the the element or it's uses. You can spin/rotate all of the element examples in real-time; there are over 500 renders in this app. You also get a detailed history and story about each element to give even more insight. Of course just having interactive 3D renders aren't enough. No, double tap a render and you are presented with a fullscreen object. Tap the double circle icon and you can view the object stereoscopically. Focus your eyes, you can see a "real" 3D render of the object. Of course, some of us just can't do that. So The Elements gives you a convenient link to order the special 3D glass for $4.95. That is rather cool. I can imagine students sharing the glasses to examine all of the elements in this way and it is really exciting to see the future of interactive education for students.

Alas, there is always another side to the story and regretfully this app has crashes constantly even with the most recent update. I so am looking forward to a few more updates to make it ultra-stable.

The newly formed company TouchPress is responsible for creating The Elements and are on a mission to make more books like this one. What is on my wish list? The human body and the universe, I can't wait.

[$13.99- iTunes Link]

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Marware Eco-Vue case for iPad - accessory review

Marware Eco-Vue case brings executive leather folio look-and-feel to iPad

Make no mistake, the Marware Eco-Vue case for the iPad [$42.95 - TiPb store link] is the executive option for iPad cases. It's the leather bound Cadillac. It's the finely appointed Benz. No, I'm not writing a luxury car review, but that's kind of how this case feels. The quality is excellent -- it smells excellent. Deep black leather with crisp white stitching on the outside sandwiches your iPad providing a think layer of plush protection, softer gray microfiber swaddles it inside while still granting access to hardware buttons and ports. There's also a clear screen protector included to keep the display safe.

A thin elastic band lets you secure the Marware Eco-Vue closed or flipped back and open. There's a leather strap that folds over the top and tucks in to keep your iPad from falling out. I'm paranoid so it didn't de-stress me to the level a snap or velcro or some other form of security would have, but it's long enough and the friction is high enough that the iPad stays put. It's leather-glove tight inside either, which will annoy perfectionists but does make getting the iPad in and out far easier. Since I haven't seen a dock yet that will work with this size case, that could be a plus for those who want to take their iPad out every once and a while.

Inside the Marware Eco-Vue's front cover are a couple of highly useful extras. An elastic leather strap lets you slip one hand inside so you can carry the iPad around and tap away with the other hand without worrying it will slip and fall. A stand folds out to let you prop it up on a table to create a better typing angle. A magnet keeps it from flopping around when not in use. Smart. So smart I kind of wish a magnet was also used to keep the case closed, though the elastic is certainly more traditional.

And if you're wondering about the Eco in the name, Marware says it's made out of substances healthier for the environment and meets RoHS standards.

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BN eReader for iPad - app review

Barnes & Noble has released BN eReader for iPad as an alternative to Apple's iBooks and Amazon's Kindle app. It is an excellent ebook reader and offers many customizations as well as the ability to share books with friends and family.

Reading on BN eReader is a pleasant experience. You can read either in landscape in portrait. In portrait, eReader displays the book as one page. However, in landscape, reading in a two column or one column format depends on what your font settings are (both style and size). If this is not a bug, it is very annoying. I'd much rather see a toggle to turn two columns on or off. You can enhance your reading experience by choosing between one of Barnes & Nobel's five professionally designed themes, or create your own theme by editing the page, text, highlights, and links colors.

One of the big features BN eReader offers that iBooks does not, is the ability to add notes. Just highlight a block of text by dragging with your finger and select "add note". After you've created the note, you can quickly get back to it at any time. In addition, you can highlight text and look up words in the dictionary.

The other huge feature of BN eReader is the ability to share books with friends and family. Barnes & Noble refers to the technology as LendMe. With supported books, you can access your iPad's address book and select which contact you wish to share the book with. Upon accepting the offer, your friend will be able to enjoy the eBook for 14 days. If someone lends you a book, BN eReader will add the book to your library and display the message from your friend.

If you have BN eReader on your Mac, PC, iPhone, and Nook, the last page read will sync across all devices. All notes and highlights will also sync to your PC and iPhone (coming soon).

To purchase a book, BN eReader will launch the Barnes & Nobel eBookstore in Safari. After purchasing a book, you much exit safari and reopen BN eReader; you will see your book automatically add to your library and begin to download. The process is simple, but not completely painless. I'd much rather see BN eReader open an in-app browser because switching between apps isn't very elegant.

Barnes and Noble did an excellent job with their eReader and offers many things that iBooks does not. Having the world's largest bookstore in your hands is definitely a welcomed addition to the iPad.

Video and screenshots after the break!

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How to tweak your Jailbroken iPhone

We get a lot of questions about tweaking Jailbroken iPhones, so here are a few handy tools that are free and don't require a lot of know-how in order to implement.  All you need is a bit of spare time to change your Jailbroken iPhone from stock to stunning!

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Pogo Sketch stylus for iPhone and iPad - accessory review

Here we have the Pogo Sketch stylus [$14.95], the small, lightweight and stylish choice for those who want to write on their iPhone or iPad.

The Pogo Sketch comes in sliver or pink and is made of a aluminum alloy that makes it look sleek and feel sturdy in your hand. The capacitive foam tip gives a nice soft feel when its used, though I do find you have to press a bit harder than when using your finger. The tip is thin which is also good for those who want to do detail work or get around pudgy fingers to begin with. There's a handy clip on the back so it will fit over your shirt, book bag, or hang off your pouch case. It also has a loop on the top so if you want to hang it from your neck -- or anyplace else -- you can just place a cord around it and go. They really did think of everything.

Some (including Steve Jobs) may ask: why use a stylus at all when you always have your fingers handy. Well I live in a cold climate and I hate having to take off my gloves to use my iPhone or iPad. I also would rather use a stylus when I am doing anything which leaves my fingers dirty like eating or yard work. Also, drawing with a stylus is fun.

I keep my Pogo Sketch with me in my purse, so if ever I need it is always at hand. It works really well with the iPhone and iPad and is a good deal at $14.99. It's especially great for a gift because it is very useful for any iPhone, iPad user. If you pick one up please let me know if you enjoy it as much as I do!

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mommy to be for iPhone - app review

mommy to be is a pregnancy tracking application for the iPhone. It provides detailed weekly information, photos, tips, and a place to store notes.

The home screen of mommy to be displays how many weeks you are into your pregnancy, your baby's length and size, a meter to visually see how far you've progressed, and much more. There is also a new photograph displayed for each week. Although these photographs are very nice, I would prefer to see a picture that shows how the fetus looks at this stage in development. One thing I found strange about mommy to be is that the accomplished number of weeks is correct, but the current week is one week ahead. My suspicion is that since this app was developed in Europe, they count their weeks different than we do in the US.

In addition to the home screen, there are tabs for "You" and "Your Baby". Here you'll find detailed information about what to expect with your body and the developmental changes that are happening with your baby. One or both of theses sections will generally also include a cute picture that is related to the topic being discussed.

The tips tab is an excellent section of this app. Each week, mommy to be gives you a different tip related to pregnancy, babies, shopping, or anything that is related to being pregnant. I find this part especially helpful as a first-time mom.

mommy to be is a great pregnancy application that offers a lot of useful information. This app will be good companion for any pregnant woman wanting to track their pregnancy and learn about the process on the way.

Video and screenshots after the break!

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Box.net for iPad - app review

Box.net for iPad is a front end to Box.net's cloud-based service that allows you to manage and share your data from anywhere. Thanks to the app, you can access your content not only through the Box.net website on any computer, but from your mobile devices now as well. 

The iPad version has a very intuitive and easy to use interface.  I recently set up an enterprise unlimited Box account for our business.  As we are in real estate development, we have tons of files to upload.  I was surprised you can even view AutoCad files with a plug-in.  Plug-ins are another area I really enjoyed looking at.  OpenBox is a service Box.net offers which features several plug-ins for 3rd party clients and apps that can work in conjunction with Box.net.   I spoke to a consultant at Box.net that also confirmed desktop syncing is about to come out of beta and hit officially in the next few weeks.  That was one of our biggest concerns as we'd like a cloud backup of all our data.

Also, being a small business, we especially liked the collaboration feature. We can leave notes or tasks for eachother on certain documents and folders.  When I sign in, I see what's new or what files have been uploaded or change since my last log-in.

Box.net offers the following features (some features vary with account type):

  • Sharing with links
  • In-folder collaboration
  • User permissions
  • Integrated file views
  • Online workspace
  • Tasks
  • Uploading files on the go from your iPhone or iPad

Box.net has a few pricing schemes for individuals and business users.  The unlimited business version you'll have to call for details on as it can vary.  The enterprise unlimited version also comes with your own dedicated account manager for any technical issues.  You can also add an unlimited number of users for a set price per user, per month.  Besides the enterprise plan, the other plans are pretty straight forward:

  • Lite - 1GB storage, 25MB file size limit, Free
  • Individual - 10GB storage, 1GB file size limit, $9.95/month
  • Business - 15GB storage per user, 2GB file size limit, $15/month per user up to 3 users
  • Enterprise - Unlimited storage, Unlimited users, Call for pricing

These prices are very reasonable compared to maintaining a server.  Speaking from a business perspective, we've had no issues that Box wasn't able to resolve.  If you use Box on a personal or business level, let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Update: After recording the video, Box.net released an update that allows for the uploading of files. We'll look at that in the iPhone review soon!

[Free - iTunes Link]

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Groupon for iPhone - app review

Groupon for iPhone is an App Store front end for the free Groupon service that acts like a buying group in your city. You can get a wide selection of things at a discount from massages to baseball tickets.

You can go to the website to view what the daily deal is, or just launch the iPhone app. The app allows you to select a city, place an order, view your Groupons, expirations and more.

This is how it works. Groupon coordinates deals with vendors in your area. When a certain number of people "buy" the Groupon, the deal is on and everyone is charged. If the limit for the deal is not met, no one gets charged.

The Groupon app is divided into three sections: Today's Deal, My Groupons and Settings. Today's Deal shows you all of the information about the daily deal. You see the cost, how many bids are needed for the deal to happen and let's you know when the deal is "on" too. It gives details on how much you are saving and what's in the "fine print". Fine print includes the expiration information, blackout dates, etc. If you have decided that this is a Goupon you want, click the Buy button. You are not charged until the quota for this deal is met; nice.

The My Groupon section is to review what Groupons you have and get a history of your purchases. Location and expiration information of your Groupons are kept here as well.

The last section is settings and currently the only option is to enable a passcode lock for the app.

[Free- iTunes Link]

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OmniGraffle for iPad - app review

OmniGraffle for iPad is a great application for creating workflow diagrams, organizational charts and more. At work I use Microsoft's Visio to create workflow diagrams pertaining to software implementations. I now have almost the exact same functionality in my iPad.

The layout is very similar to Apple's own iWork suite for iPad (and OmniGroup's other iPad offering, OmniGraphSketcher) in that you swipe between open documents and can easily create or delete documents from the same screen. If you have used OmniGraffle on the Mac or Visio on Windows you will be instantly familiar with the interface once you have created a document. The top right corner has all of your stencils, drawing tools and properties of the objects you are working with. In the top left you have control over layers for your diagram. For this review, I am going to cover the simpler aspects of OmniGraffle so you understand at a high level what it does. Advanced users will revel in the other aspects.

To begin drawing, open the stencil group your want and drag an object to the grid. This can be done in portrait or landscape. From there you have almost limitless choices: color, line thickness, rotation, curve edges, shadows and so on. After placing a few objects in your drawing you can connect them with the connector stencils. Again, drag to the drawing and connect. The properties for lines are the same as other objects but you can add different types of arrows and even branch the arrows out. OmniGraffle for iPad can also use third party stencils, but no guarantees. These stencils should be added via iTunes.

So now you have several objects in your drawing and you want to change the properties of all of them, perhaps change the fill color. How do you accomplish this? Very, very, very easily. All you have to do is tap and hold the first object, then tap subsequent objects. Any object you touch will become a group for editing. You can then apply any changes you like to those objects; colors, line thickness or style, just about anything. It is awesome to have this power at your fingertips and it is a shame OmniGroup does not have templates available for the user to edit since changing properties are so easy to do. OmniGroup has suggested they may add templates in future release of the app.

It is important to note that OmniGraffle gives you excellent placement tools and control over your drawing. You can add, edit or duplicate layers in your drawing and activate snap to grid so you can precisely position every object placed.

The single biggest drawback for this wonderful application is that unless you already use the Mac version of OmniGraffle, it is difficult to share with other types of applications. Exporting options include: send .graffle in email, send email PDF, copy as image and send to photos. There is not an XML or Visio export at this time unfortunately.

I could go on about all of the fantastic features of OmniGraffle and for a 1.0 product launch with iPad and I very excited for the future of this application for the iPad. OmniGroup says that they have a lot of plans to enhance this app and they are coming soon. The short development time did not lend itself for adding a lot of features at launch (though I still think they did an amazing job) For business, this has to be one of my favorite applications.

[$49.99- iTunes Link]

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Bloomies game for iPhone - app review and give-away

Bloomies for the iPhone, from Phantoom Entertainment, is a time management or sim-style garden game. Your goal is to advance your garden by gathering more plants, bees and achievements.

Upon starting up the game you are taught how to plant a flower by touching the shovel and adding soil to set up the location. Then you choose your flower and place it in the soil. There is also a bee that gathers nectar, which you will use to purchase other bees and flowers.

Bloomies is a beautiful, easy to understand, open ended sim for casual and younger games who want the fun of building their garden without the responsibility of always having to log in to maintain it. If you go away for a little while and don't water your plants, they'll get unhappy but they won't wither and die, and will be ready and waiting for more when you return.

If you're looking for something more interactive and immersive, however, then this style and pace of gameplay may not be for you.

Video, pictures, and a give-away after the break!

[$0.99 - iTunes Link]

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