Tagged: Apps

Finding a better iOS calendar app: part one

iPhone screenshot of calendar appsI’m not a big fan of the standard iOS calendar app. I’m glad they simplified the user interface in iOS 7, but it’s almost too simple now. It may be even a bit harder to see and use over earlier versions. I’ve been on a quest over the last couple months of testing new calendar options.

The criteria

There are a few things an app needs to do well for me to make the switch full-time. First, it needs to integrate with iCloud calendars. I’m already set up on them, and I don’t plan on re-creating my workflow (again, since I already did that a few years ago with the switch from Android and Google calendars). I currently have a number of iCloud calendars and I am subscribed to a handful of other standard iCal feeds. The setup works pretty well for me and allows easy synching between my phone, my iPad and my laptop. My new app will need to easily plug into these calendars. Integrating Facebook is a major plus, but not a necessity.

It’s also important for me to have multiple views. Sometimes I have a day with six events and the next might have only one. I’d like an easy way to see my busy days versus my free time. Sometimes it’s important to see a whole month at a time, but often a good week view is preferred. I need to be able to drill into a day too. Just having colors on a day doesn’t tell me what’s actually happening that day. Basically, I need options. No one view will work all the time.

Next, I’m looking for something with a simple way to add events. It needs to be easy to do on the go and maybe most importantly, it needs to work quickly. I hate being slowed down as an app catches up with me. On my laptop I use Fantastical. It’s amazing; very quick, responsive and always in my menu bar ready to work. I know iOS is used differently, so I won’t find the same thing. I’m just looking to find something that’s fast and easy to use. Converting plain English like Fantastical on the Mac does would be a good start.

So now what?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to write-up some reviews of various calendar apps. To start, I’m going to take a look at Calendars 5, Fantastical 2 and Sunrise. What do you use? Tell me why you like it, and maybe I’ll add it to my review list.

Failed or Stalled Projects

At some point in your life you’re going to have a project that just doesn’t go anywhere. It’s as true in life (a bookshelf that’s half built) as it is in the design world (that sweet iPad app that ran out of budget). I’ve had my fair share of projects that fell into oblivion. Most of the time it just plain sucks. For reasons often outside of your control, a project you’ve put hours of work into will never see the light of day.

How do you cope with this? It can be extremely frustrating and somewhat confusing. What do you tell your friends and family (whom you’ve inevitably been talking up this project to for months)? Can it still go in your portfolio?

For me the worst part is feeling like you wasted your time. You can spend months on something and have nothing to show for it. In your next job interview you’ll explain what you’ve been working on for the past few months and when they ask to see it you’ll have that lame answer “well it didn’t get made.”

Hours iPhone mockupsA recent example for me was called Hours. It was an iPhone app I had designed screens for. The project was going to serve up business hours on top of the foursquare database. We were nearing launch when foursquare announced they were adding hours into their main database. The months of time and effort we had invested was all for naught. Foursquare had beaten us to the punch. Our spirits were broken and even though our standalone app could still be useful to non-foursquare users, it was never finished.

The reality is it happens. Much more often than anyone would like to admit. I think the best thing to do is try to move on. I hate that advice; it sound so simple but it’s very difficult. In the case of a designer, you are left with un-built screen designs or the artwork of un-printed posters. You’ve done the work, you’ve taken the time to think through the project but it was never put into production. Moving on for a designer could simply be taking the skills and experience you’ve gained and applying them to your next project.

I think it’s still appropriate to put in your portfolio. I have a couple of app projects that stalled out for one reason or another (like Hours) but I plan to put them into my portfolio. The screens were thought out and designed. The mockups were completed. My side of the project was finished, even if the other side wasn’t. Why shouldn’t I have at least something to show for it? Sure it might not be as valuable as a full-fledged running app but until I have those completed projects I want and need something in my portfolio demonstrating my interest and abilities in the app arena. Sometimes just having a few mock ups can be enough to demonstrate your skill and thought processes. In the end that’s what a portfolio is all about anyway, right?

Foursquare Tips: Lists

When foursquare announced lists a while back I got really excited. It seemed like such a cool way to build up a collection of hot spots. A few days later I all but forgot you could make them. The problem was, I just didn’t have a need. Around my town there’s about a dozen lists for “Best Mexican Restaurants” that all have the same 5 or so places. Why do I need to make yet another list of the same old spots.

Then foursquare launched the #VisitUS challenge. It was a really cool contest that would award a few cities badges based on user-sourced “best of” lists. About Foursquare has a good write-up on it. That’s when I created my first useful list. I collaborated with a friend and we gave Kalamazoo a city guide, foursquare style. Kalamazoo didn’t end up winning a badge but it was a great exercise in creating lists.

Fast forward a few months and I actually pulled up that list again and shared with a couple of friends who were in town for my wedding. They had never been to the area and wanted to know where to go for food and fun. The list was perfect, it was already created, offered and easy way to share the info and gave them directions to and info about each place on it.

This re-ignited my passion for foursquare lists and I set out to make another. This time I planned to make a list of disc golf courses in Michigan (yes, disc golf is an obsession). It was mainly for my benefit. I liked the idea of exploring the state and playing disc golf along the way. I used review websites to compile nearby courses I was interested in playing and then found them on foursquare so I could add them to my list. It’s quickly grown from a small list of nearby courses to a giant list of courses all over Michigan.

the "save" button menu on foursquare.com

Making lists are easy. Adding new places to your list are even easier. Here’s a quick how-to so you can start creating your own lists. When you come across a venue you’d like to add to your list, just click the “Save” button. A menu will pop up listing your current lists (and a “Create a new list…” option if you don’t have any). Just select the list you want it saved to and you’re all set. You can do this on the website (see screenshot) or in the mobile app. It’s the same basic procedure either way.

If you’re creating a brand new list, a dialog pops up for you to add a name to your list. Don’t worry, you can always change it later.dialog for creating a new list on foursquare.com

Editing your lists is easy too. Just navigate to your list on the website (pull down menu under your name > lists) and then hit the big orange “Edit” button. You can then put the venues in a certain order, add tips or photos and remove venues. Near the top of the list you can edit the name and description of your list and use the search box to add more venues. When you’re all set just click “Finished Editing.” Be sure to share your list when you are done.

a list in edit mode on foursqare.com

Do you make a lot of foursquare lists? Maybe you just like to follow them. What lists are your favorite?

 

App Review: iDisc Golf Pro

As previously mentioned, I’m a new disc golfer. I’ve played everyday that I can. On Thursday and Friday I had planned to fit in a couple of rounds but the weather had other ideas. The pouring rain and cold didn’t seem like an ideal situation to play in so I went looking for a virtual disc golf experience. Enter iDisc Golf Pro. It’s a $0.99 app that replicates playing disc golf right on your iPhone or iPad.

iDisc Golf Pro Main Menu

I started by downloading the free lite version. It allows you to play three holes and by the second hole I knew it was worth the buck to play a full 18. You can play one or two players (it’s a local, pass the phone kind of two player) and there are blue and white tees for different skill levels.

There are six course to choose from, each with a unique locale and varying difficulty. They’ve done a nice job giving you a variety of landscapes. Wooded, beaches and even snowy courses are options. All of these are available at the start and as far as I can tell, there is no unlocking of content in this game. The graphics are 3D and reminiscent of a mid to late-90s computer game. They aren’t spectacular but they get the job done.

screenshot from iDisc Golf Pro

screenshot from iDisc Golf Pro

screenshot from iDisc Golf Pro

The game throwing is pretty simple. You cycle through your three disc choices—driver, mid or putter—and then touch the disc, swipe it up and release. Depending on what angle you swipe at the disc will behave slightly different, much like releases in real-life. I wish there were a few more disc choices. It’d be really cool to unlock other drivers that have ratings like real life discs to maximize power, distance, fade, etc. This would bring the game to a whole new level and increase its realism.

screenshot from iDisc Golf Pro

In my opinion, they’ve really missed an opportunity by not integrating with Game Center. I think a game like this is perfect for it. I’d like to see my best rounds on a leaderboard with my friends and most importantly, I’d love to see some achievements. Birdies, aces, finishing under par are all things that could easily lend themselves to the achievement system.

What is here, is a great little game. It’s fun, it replicates its real-life counterpart pretty well and there is enough variety to keep you coming back. Sure it could be improved but I’m just glad it exists and it’s affordable. It’s a disc golfer’s best friend on a rainy day. I hope the developers continue to work on iDisc Golf Pro and build on the great base game they’ve already created.

Instagram Goodies: Physical Photos

Last time I posted about Instagram I shared some web viewers to explore the Instagram world on your computer. Now I’d like to share a few sites that let you take your photos out of the cloud and into the world. Many of these will give you physical prints of your photos but each one has its own unique spin.

Instaprint: This is a really cool idea. They’ve created a system for printing Instagrams at events. You set it up with a hashtag and location, then all photos matching either of those will be printed out of a small little box. It’s super simple but infinitely cool. Your photos are also saved to an online gallery so you can view all the event’s photos in one place. They rent out their boxes for events but I hope they will be selling them soon. I’d love to own one.

Printstagram: As you probably guessed by the name, Printstagram prints your Instagrams. They have a variety of products from t-shirts to a mini prints, posters to stickers and my personal favorite, tiny books. There are lots of options to bring your favorite Instagrams to the physical world.

StickyGram: This site lets you pick 9 of your favorite photos and turns them into a 3×3 grid of magnets. It’s a great way to spice up your fridge with photos you’ve taken. My fiancé made one with pictures from her and her mom’s trip to Paris. They’re really great keepsakes.

Postagram: This one is actually a smart phone app available on both Android and iOS. I’ve used it and it’s a neat, easy way to send a postcard to someone with one of your Instagram photos. You can put a custom message on it and they take care of the dirty work of printing and mailing it off. All you do is a few taps on the phone and a buck or two later, it’s done. I think they’re even giving you 5 free cards right now, so go check it out!

CanvasPop: This service will enlarge and print your photos onto canvas. They literally turn your Instagrams into pieces of art, how cool is that? I plan on trying this one out soon myself.

App Review: Clear for iPhone

You probably have heard about Clear, the to-do list app that made a big splash a couple of months ago with its extremely simple and unique interface. It truly is an app that thinks outside the box when it comes to user experience. I immediately downloaded it because the interface was just so different and intriguing I had to touch it. I played with it for a while, added some tasks and lists, deleted some, changed themes and thoroughly enjoyed the quirky little app. Clear is great. It’s ground-breaking even. It totally re-imagines user interactions. That’s all well and fine but is it useful?

Some would say Clear’s lack of fancy bells and whistles is what makes it great. There aren’t any buttons and you add, delete and re-arrange with swipes and gestures. This part really works well and I think it’s an improvement over other list apps I’ve used. To fully appreciate the UI, you really need to use it but this video does a good job walking through it.

The simplicity that makes it great is also what makes it so frustrating. If you want to view your list on a computer, you’re out of luck. Clear doesn’t synch up with any of your beloved services. You won’t find any iCloud or Google here. I assume they feel everyone has their iPhone with them all the time. While that is true (for me at least) I also am at my computer the majority of the day and would love to have my iCal or Google Calendar to effortlessly synch my tasks from Clear. Sometimes it’s easier to manage these tasks on the device I’m using and not have to pull out my phone and open an app just to check an item off my list. I don’t think this is necessarily a deal-breaker but it’s certainly annoying.

The biggest downfall of Clear is its lack of dates. You can create a task for anything but you can’t assign a due date to it. Sometimes it’s really nice to know a bill is due on such-and-such date so you make sure it’s in the mail on time. I would like these date-assigned tasks to show up in my calendar so when I’m looking at what’s going on today, I can see a task that needs to get done too. Again, this begs the question, “how simple is too simple?”

Visually, Clear isn’t much to look at (but in a good way). It’s basically just rectangles of tasks. That’s pretty much all it needs to be. They offer a variety of themes that change those rectangle’s colors. You can earn “bonus” themes by having other apps (for example, Path) and games installed or following team members on twitter. I’ve even read that completing 100 tasks unlocks a theme. That’s a nice little Easter egg. It would probably be nice if you could design your own themes. It probably wouldn’t be hard to allow you to pick your own set of colors, but that complicates the app and goes against the simplicity they’re going for.

Screen shots of the Clear app

Overall I like Clear. I still use it but to-do lists for me always seem like such a great idea until I forget about them. Clear is fun and useful. I’m making an effort to remember to use it everyday. I wish it had a few more features to it (perhaps due dates with alerts could remind me to use it more) but its unique interface is very refreshing and might just make up for its lack of features.

You can check out Clear in the App Store.

Living in the Cloud

With the recent release of Google Drive, “the cloud” is once again all anyone can talk about. There are plenty of options but now that the big boys like Apple and Google are on board, just about everyone is starting to use some form of cloud storage.

I’m personally a huge fan of the cloud. I love having access to stuff anywhere, anytime and on any device. I actually use multiple services to maximize free space (and because I’m a little too paranoid about my data to put all my eggs in the same basket). Here are a few popular cloud services I’ve tried out:

Dropbox – I started using Dropbox a few years back at an independent contracting gig. It was a really simple way to transfer files between my laptop and the office desktop I was using. It was even more useful to have a shared folder with other team members so any of us could get access to the latest files at any time. Since leaving that job, I still use Dropbox all the time. It’s simple enough that I really don’t have to do anything at all. I love that it works across so many platforms so effortlessly. There’s been multiple times where I’ve needed a file when I wasn’t near my computer and could still get to it with someone else’s computer through the Dropbox website (This isn’t just a feature of Dropbox but most of the cloud services). When you sign up for your free account you get a decent chunk of space (2GB) and you can earn more space with referrals (up to 16GB total). There are paid accounts that up your storage space considerably, but I haven’t reached a point where that’s necessary yet. I think they also have “team” packages with lots of space designed for sharing on a project or in an office.

CX – This one is almost completely a clone of Dropbox (I’m not sure which came first, maybe Dropbox is the clone). They have the same effortless synching between devices and  CX works across plenty of platforms too. What I do like is their style. It’s bright, it’s fun and it’s very clean. The other big advantage to CX is the space. You start with 10GB, which is the largest free amount I’ve come across. You can even earn up to another 6GB by referring friends. If you’re looking for space, you can’t beat CX.

Google Drive – Google finally rolled out the much-rumored Google Drive. It essentially upgrades Google Docs to 5GB that you can use to store all of your files on. They’re accessible online (compatible formats can still be opened/edited like old Docs) and there is a nice desktop app that behaves (as in effortlessly synching) exactly like Dropbox and CX. There’s an Android app that I haven’t tested and apparently an iOS app is in the works. I’ve been an avid user of Google Docs for a while now so Google Drive is a nice upgrade for me. Google has a bit of an edge with integration. They’ve already announced a few partnerships (Lulu for example) and a number of browser plugins to extend it. I think done right, they can grab a lot of market share with tie-ups like these.

iCloud – This is Apple’s take on the cloud. Like many things Apple does, they don’t want you to even realize it’s there. They want to give you what you want when you want it without having to worry about where it lives. I haven’t come across many apps that are integrating with it yet but I’m sure they are coming. All of my iPhone pics are automatically available via photo stream in my iPhoto when I pop open the laptop. It’s stupid simple and for that I have to recommend it. Your mail, contacts, calendars, bookmarks (for Safari), photos, docs and even iPhone backups work without you having to do anything (beyond enabling it). As an added bonus they’ve added “find my Mac/iPhone” into the mix so you can locate your misplaced device. The downside is your synching is mostly limited to Apple products and services. If you’re using any of those though, it totally rocks.

Cloud App – This one is very different from the rest. It’s something I use nearly everyday but not in the same way. Basically it’s a service to share files. You just drop a file on the little cloud icon in your menu bar (on a Mac at least), it uploads and generates a tiny URL for you to share. You can even have it auto upload screen captures (again, on my Mac at least). One of the really cool features of the app is “rain drops.” These are essentially plugins that extend the usefulness of Cloud App to other apps. My favorite mail client, Sparrow, also integrates with Cloud App for sending attachments. I couldn’t find a definite total space limit on Cloud App’s site but you are limited to 10 files a day at up to 25MB a file. For most things that’s perfectly acceptable. They’ve got pro plans that up that space and add other cool features like custom domains for sharing. This isn’t something that will replace your Dropbox but I use both everyday for very different work flows.

Those are just a few options that I’ve personally been using. Each one is a little bit different and for me at least, no one service can do it all. I like each for specific reasons and will continue to use them all. Since you can try them all for free, I suggest you do and find what works best for you. Do you have a favorite I didn’t mention? Tell me about it in the comments.

Starter Kit: Casual iPhone Games

The next installment of my “Starter Kit” series is all about casual iPhone games. Mobile gaming, especially for the iPhone, has become a HUGE market. There are all types of games and with the power these new devices offer, some of the games are absolutely stunning. Not only in terms of graphics but in gameplay and mechanics. I’m going to start with casual games. These are great for just about anyone and usually don’t require much effort or time commitment and while some are great looking, it’s usually more about fun than killer graphics. Think of these as “standing in line” or “waiting in the doctor’s office” kind of games. I’m sure I’ve missed many (there are literally thousands), so please feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Action Hero: This is a good-looking side-scroller. You run along jumping, ducking and punching your way across the top of a very long train. As most of the games listed here, it’s a good way to kill a little time. Check out Action Hero.

Air Hockey: There are a bunch of these and each have a little plus and little minus. I’ll just suggest you check out Super HockeyGlow Hockey 2Touch Hockey: FS5 or Air Hockey and let you make up your own mind.

Angry Birds: If you haven’t heard of Angry Birds, you’re probably living under a rock. This is pretty much the most popular casual game of all time. Basically a bunch of punk pigs came and stole all your bird eggs. The birds decide to go all kamikaze on the pigs and their forts for vengeance. That’s a basic description but this addicting game has you sling-shotting a variety of birds, each with their own abilities, at the pigs. It’s a ridiculous amount of fun and hard to put down. It’s so popular there are lots of different versions. I recommend the original Angry Birds (free and paid full version), Angry Birds Seasons (free and paid full version) and the latest, Angry Birds in Space. There is also Angry Birds Rio (free and paid full version) but I’m not as big of a fan of that one.

Doodle Jump: This one has you tilting your phone to direct the doodle guy to various platforms and bonuses like trampolines or jetpacks all with the hopes of reaching new heights. It’s nice to see a simple game with an interesting control scheme. Check out Doodle Jump in free or full paid versions.

Draw Something: This one is one of the hot games right now. It’s a super simple version of Pictionary you play with your Facebook friends. It’s turned based, so you pick your word, draw it and send if off to a friend. That friend watches your drawing, guesses the word (hopefully) and then picks their own word, draws it and sends it back. It’s fun to make drawings and laugh at them. Since you’re drawing with your finger on a tiny screen they can be quite hilarious. There’s a free version with ads and paid version without ads and more words to choose from.

Flight Control: This frustrating but oh-so-fun game turns you into an air traffic controller. You draw paths for airplanes to reach the landing strips. It sounds easy but only certain aircraft types can land on certain runways and some are faster than others. It gets progressively harder the longer you play. Another great game to kill time with and another great game that is hard to put down. It’s also available in free and paid full versions.

Fruit Ninja: This one is great. You use your finger to swipe across the screen to destroy fruit. It’s really a lot of fun. Fruit Ninja Lite is free but you’ll probably enjoy the extras the full version can offer.

Jetpack Joyride: This is one of my favorites. You’re a dude with a jetpack (already cool, right?) and you’re using that jetpack to navigate through a lab all the time collecting coins, avoiding electrofied-balls-of-death and completing odd missions. You can use the coins for upgrades to your wardrobe and jetpack too. It’s a blast and probably the game I come back to the most. Check out Jetpack Joyride.

Line Runner: Stickman games are very prevalent in the App Store. This one is a side-scroller where you have to avoid obstacles by jumping and ducking. It’s simple and fun and probably harder than you’d expect. Check out Line Runner.

Mr. AahH!!: This is a really simple game. You’re a little guy on a string and you’re trying to land on the next platform. The platforms are different sizes and sometimes there’s wind to factor in. The closer you land to the center target area the more points you get. Sometimes the most simple games are the most frustrating and addicting, as is the case here. This one has a free Lite version and the full paid version.

Rope’n’Fly: You take your guy from building to building via rope. You try to avoid falling to your death on the ground. Sometimes you can hop on a plane and ride it for a while. The object of the game is to get the farthest. I enjoy it a lot. Another easy to play for just a few moments or quite some time. I especially like some of the achievements in this one.  I’ve only played Rope’n’Fly 3 but there is a Rope’n’Fly 2 as well.

RunStickRun!: You’re a stickman on the run. Jump from platform to platform in this simple side-scroller. It’s fun, but nothing too fancy. I’ve still spent a bit with RunStickRun! and had a good time.

Safari Party: This is one of those “swap to make a group of matches” kind of games. It’s kind of like bejeweled with cute little animals, although the gameplay is slightly tweaked. It’s fun and a favorite of my Fiance’s (probably for the animals). Check out Safari Party.

Scramble with Friends: The turn-based games with your Facebook friends is a very popular category. This one is a scramble game, where you get a grid of letters and you try to connect letters to make words. The longer the words the more points. I like this style of game to begin with, so the added element of competing with friends was a nice addition. There is an ad-supported free version and an ad-free paid version for this as well.

Stickman Cliff Diving: This game is extremely frustrating. That said I find myself playing it often. You’re a stick figure and you’re diving off cliffs. Before each round you’re given a certain time of dive you should be attempting. If you complete the dive correctly you move on. Simple in theory but difficult in practice. Stickman Cliff Diving is worth wasting some time on.

Temple Run: In this one you tilt your phone to “steer” a guy running through ruins. You swipe to make sharp turns and jump or duck. It can definitely be frustrating but also a lot of fun. It has a lot of copycats now so it must be good, right? Check out Temple Run.

Tiny Tower: When I first got my iPhone I really got into this game. In a lot of ways it reminded me of the classic Sim Tower game I used to play (albeit badly) on my old Mac LC II. To be perfectly honest it can be a little “pesky” having to constantly stock your tower. It’s a “hurry up and wait” kind of game but it is still fun to expand your tower. I don’t play it anymore but when I did, I enjoyed it. Check out Tiny Tower.

Woolcraft: This is a puzzle game where you have to get sheep from point A to point B. It gets increasingly harder as the levels go on (which game doesn’t I suppose). I like that it makes you really think and plan ahead. Check out the full version Woolcraft as well as the free Lite version.

Words with Friends: This is another turn-based game to play with your Facebook friends. This time it’s all about Scrabble (but they won’t say that due to copyright). It’s fun to try and squeeze every last point out of your letters and having the opportunity to “reply” to your games at your convenience is appreciated. Sometimes that 62 point word needs a bit of time to come to you. This one is also available in a free, ad-supported free version and an ad-free paid version.

Starter kit: iPhone Apps

I’m continuing my “starter kit” series with another chunk of info I send friends. This time it’s all about iPhone apps. I was extremely excited to get my iPhone and quickly downloaded literally hundreds of apps within a few days (who am I kidding, hours). Here’s a bunch I enjoy. The list is unfinished and probably slightly outdated by now but enjoy!

You’ll want some type of flashlight app. I use one called LED flashlight that uses my camera flash and it’s quite useful. I’m pretty sure any of them would work fine though.

Music: Pandora is a must although I’m intrigued by Songza and it could replace Pandora for me. Turntable.fm is a really cool concept of social DJing. I’m a fan of having Shazam to identify music, even if it only works for me half the time. I was using GoMusic to access my Google Cloud Music, but that appears to be gone, Melodies looks promising to fill that void. The standard music player is decent enough and does have the advantage of  iTunes synching.

Wikipanion is a good Wikipedia app. It’s faster than using the wiki website but has access to all of the content.

Navigation: I like Waze a lot. It gives you all the spoken turn-by-turn navigation with a little social twist that alerts you to construction, accidents and the popo. It’s leaps and bounds better than the stupid Maps app Apple includes and it’s free so you don’t have to shell out $50 bucks for Garmin or something.

Photos: The quality of the iPhone’s camera is outstanding. I don’t even know where my point-and-shoot camera is anymore. In terms of apps, Instagram is my favorite. All those hipster filters and easy sharing make it a must have. IncrediBooth is a fun photobooth app. DerManDer is an easy to use panoramic camera. Shoebox is a cool app that makes scanning old photos super easy. Piictu is a fun social network of images. You basically add to streams of various topics, it’s kind of a game and very amusing, even if you’re just browsing.

Check-ins: Foursquare goes without almost saying. It’s a wonderful way to explore your surroundings. I’ve got a blog post about getting started on foursquare if you’re interested. If you want to go beyond that, check out Untappd for beer check-ins and GetGlue for movies, TV and video game check-ins. GetGlue will even mail you the stickers you unlock. Cheers and Stamped are both beautiful apps that are kind of “I like this stuff” apps. Soundtracking is basically the foursquare of music and Foodspotting is for food. Most of these are also good for discovering things and many of them will push your check-ins to other social services if you so desire.

ESPN ScoreCenter is actually a very handy app. I’m not a huge sports fan but it’s nice to get score and game alerts for the Red Wings.

IMDB, pretty self explanatory and necessary to settle arguments.

Flixter for movie times, trailers and watching any Ultra Violet digital movies (you probably “accidentally” got one with a DVD) you may have.

News: I can’t sing the praises of Flipboard enough. It’s pretty, easy and fun. It’ll even bring your social media feeds. Alternatives are Pulse and Google Currents but neither is quite as visually pleasing as Flipboard.

QR / Barcode: I have something just called Scan. It does the job, although I rarely use it.

Video: Vimeo, Tout and Apple’s iTunes Movie Trailers are good apps. Tout is video snippet sharing, Shaq’s really into it. If you have a NetflixHulu PlusU-verseHBOXfinity (Comcast) or Showtime subscription, check out their apps and watch on the go.

Coupons: It never hurts to save a buck or two and Groupon, Living Social, Campus Special and Coupon Sherpa can help.

Lots of stores have apps. I like the Best Buy (also check out their Reward Zone app), Target and Amazon ones. Google Shopper can be helpful to compare prices. There is a separate Amazon PriceCheck app that lets you scan barcodes in a store and see the Amazon price to compare. Walgreens is handy if you fill prescriptions or print photos there. You can do both right in the app.

Reading: If you’re into books, you’ll be happy to know you’ve got options. You may already be invested in some e-book service and they probably have an app. Apple’s got their iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle, and of course Barnes and Noble’s NOOK.

Dropbox is one of my favorite services. I use it across all my computers and my phone to easily keep files in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. Sign up for it now!

Google Translate is helpful and fun.

Tasks / To Do: Apple’s built in tasks doesn’t do a lot and you might need something more. It’s biggest advantage is integration with Siri. Try Awesome Note or Wunderlist. Both are pretty slick apps and I believe both are free. Some people like Evernote but I find it overly complicated. Lately I’ve been using Clear for it’s awesome interface.

Getting More Apps: A handy app to find on sale and free apps is called AppShopper. Discover Apps takes a look at your current apps and recommends new ones.

Foodily is a neat recipe sharing and browsing app.

RunKeeper is a good running/exercise logging app. It will even chart your activities with GPS. If you get it, be sure to link your account with foursquare on their website so you can earn special badges.

Skype is available and works.

Cards: Lots of cool greeting card and postcard apps. Postagram, Sincerely Ink, Apple’s Cards, Jiffygram, and Red Stamp, just to name a few. Most of them will let you create a card, then they print and mail it for you. Usually for a buck or three. A couple of them let you email or send a text of the card for free.

Square Card Reader is a little app lets you accept credit cards on your phone. You’ll need the small attachment (free if you request from their site) that plugs into your headphone jack.

Games: I’ll do another post on games, there are too many.

There you have it. An intro to iPhone apps. Did I miss your favorite? Do you think my suggestions just totally suck? Tell me about it in the comments.