Saturday, December 29, 2012

What's on your Front Page? or Jen's Top iPhone apps of 2012

What's on your Front Page?  
Your iPhone's Front Page that is.

Looking at my iTunes history, I've downloaded 294 apps over the past few years.  Currently, I have about 132 of these on my phone.   I purge the apps I don't use to avoid clutter.  I have the most useful apps on the front page, then I have them loosely organized by category.  I spend a fair amount of time learning the apps features, or trying out different apps until I find the ones I like.  I also often troll the Apps stores featured apps and read lots of app reviews.

I would say I'm a power user.  I hate a sloppy interface.  I like apps with a distinct purpose.  

Below are my favorite apps as of the end of 2012 in alphabetical order:

Flashlight -  I use this about once a week and the simple interface is perfect.  After launching, it acts as a flashlight without having to navigate anything, but can set different colors or use a strobe effect easily.  When a flashlight is needed, it is needed.  This should have come as a standard app.  Apple missed the mark here.

Georific - Geography quiz game that can be played alone or with a friend.  I like the different categories such as Capitals of the World, US Federal Capitals, Music and Entertainment (Who knew Rhianna came from Barbados?).  I also like that there are three levels so when I can't find anything in the Hard setting, I can go back to Easy.  A game that teaches is a total winner for me.

Pageonce - Link all your accounts and Pageonce lets you schedule or make payments, see balances and shows a calendar of when bills are due.  It tracks investments, credit card balances, bank accounts all in once place.  It has some good dashboard views to see where the money is going.  It tells me that I need to cook more and dine out less.

USA Today - This interface is updated fairly often and every time I cringe because I liked the old interface just fine, but I end up agreeing that the updates are good.  This is easy to navigate, gives weather for destinations that I specify.  A big complaint I have with some news readers is that sometimes the stories only come in a 'video' version and I prefer to read my news.  USA Today offers video, but usually also has text for the same story.  If you only read one News site, this is it.

Waze - It's a navigation app, it's a game, and it provides traffic and police alerts while driving.  This app is extremely well done with an excellent user interface.  It integrated with my bluetooth car radio seamlessly proving verbal turn by turn instructions and alerts such as 'Police ahead' or 'accident on shoulder'.  Plus you gain status and points as you provide alerts. This app collects your speed so you can see the average speed on the road ahead of you. All alert content is user provided.  I was disappointed by several traffic apps before finding this.

WordsWithFriends - This totally addicting game has not lost its appeal.  Zanga continues to make it easier to play with links to facebook and twitter added this year.  The updates have been subtle and useful.  I'm glad they haven't tried to change the original look and feel like some games do. I also really like (not related to the Zanga) for competing in daily and monthly tournaments.

Here is my home screen showing my most used apps:

Here are all the apps currently on my phone:

Tray - Phone, Safari, Mail, Calendar
Page 1 <Necessities> - Messages, Photos, Camera, Settings, iTunes, Weather, Music, Facebook, Maps, Pageonce, Passbook, Twitterific, Kindle, Flashlight, Google Maps, Foursquare, Lexeme, Words, Waze, USA Today
Page 2 - Clock, Contacts, Ancestry, Alarm Clock, Newsstand, Garmin onDemand, Starbucks, swacket, Truth or Dare, Podcasts, Find iPhone, Rowmote Pro, iBooks, OLO, QRReader, WordPress, Duilingo, Remote
Page 3 - Geocaching, BigOven, Stitcher, Shazam, Calculator, Compass, Notes, Pandora, Facebook Pages, Beatthetraffic, Food
Page 4 - Stocks, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Goodreads, Blogger, Skype, YouTube, Google Drive, Lync 2010, Facebook Messenger, TweetCaster, TweetDeck, Google+
Page 5 - <Games> Cut the Rope, Bejeweled 2, Doodle Jump, States and Capitals, Stupid3, SongPop Free, Scramble, WordsWorth, Puzzlejuice, Stack the States, 7 Words, Game Center, Georific, Atari Greatest Hits, Candy Crush
Page 6 - Word Lens, iDisk, Voice Memos, U of Delaware, Nook
Page 7 - <finance> PNC Mobile, Amex, e*trade, LevelUp, myTFS
Page 8 - <travel> OpenTable, UrbanSpoon, Alfred, Local, TV Diner, Zipcar, KAYAK, Trip Tracker, Marriott, Where, Roadside, TripTik, FlightTrack, SundayDrive, MAD Maps, Taplister, Parkmobile, TripAdvisor, Disney
Page 9 - Pic Collage, Lifecards, Postcard, Diptic, Gallery, PhotoTouch, Flickr
Page 10 - Reminders, Videos
Page 11 - AppStore

What are your favorites?  
How are your apps arranged?  
How long to you keep/purge apps that you don't use?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Technology udpates at Walt Disney World

As a lover of Disney World and a lover of technology, I am always excited to see updates in unexpected ways at my favorite park.  Below are three items that impressed me, then a bit of a rant about what didn't meet the Disney criteria.  When writing this article and looking for references to the features on Disney’s website, I came up short.  I find it interesting that Disney doesn't promote these things more than they do.

Here is what impressed me:

Star Tours – this ride now offers 54 variations because the ‘show’ is in three sections, and the beginning has two options, the middle has three and the ending has three.  Put them all together to get 54, although we only had to ride 12 times to see each of the 8 videos.  The beauty of this is that more ‘options’ can be added creating a new experience every year or so.  I also liked that the ride featured a member of the audience as the ‘rebel spy’ by showing their ‘wanted’ picture to Darth Vader!

Fastpass+ – Disney is trying out a new fastpass+ system where you can choose what rides you want to ride online ahead of time.  This will save you from having to go to the ride to get a fastpass, which is really a teaser since rides like Arrowsmith’s Rockin Roller Coaster had a 90 minute wait when I was there, so there was no way I was going on without a fastpass, but I had to go all the way to the ride to get that fastpass, then leave.  The new fastpass+ card uses RFID technology, eliminating the paper slips that are used for each ride today. There is more information on the fastpass here.

Disney app – On the Magical Express bus ride from the airport to Disney, you will learn about the new Disney app showing maps, show times and park hours.  This app also shows ride wait times.  We had varied success with this, where it should not always be the same as the wait time listed on the ride, but it was usually in the ball park.  This was helpful when planning where to go once in the park.  One downside is that the wait times have to be ‘unlocked’ by entering the park, which means we couldn't look ahead on the bus or while in our room. 

Here is where I was disappointed:

Room Key - I really like that our room key is also our ticket to the parks, but it would be better if it was also our PhotoPass, Fastpass+ and Disney Attractions+ photo card too so we didn't have to carry all of those around.

Traffic flow - There were a ton of people on scooters at the parks!  I don’t mean any disrespect to people who need these, but loading them on and off the bus takes a long time, and it is problematic in some of the tighter walkways.  I saw a lot of kids riding them while the adults walked.

Beer - Disney is a family destination and therefore not known for its beer, but where there is beer, it was coors and bud. The BigRiver Grille Brewpub is good, but can't somebody make a good Disney Brown to have in the parks?