Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Apps: Part II

Let me be blunt here: living in San Francisco without a smartphone pretty much makes you a social pariah.  Or an ironically technophobic hipster.  Or poor.  Which are all basically the same thing (kidding!).

I can't seem to wake up, socialize or even buy hairspray without turning to my phone for guidance.  And I'm not alone.  Here in SF, apps aren't just useful tools you download for fun, they're our lifeblood, much like Philz coffee and PBR.

That being said, let me introduce you to some of my most-used apps of the moment.  These are all iPhone apps, but Android-friendly versions exist for most of these apps too.

{App 1: Circa}

Circa is the app created by the British news agency Reuters.  I have several news apps on my phone, but this one's got the most convenient user interface.  Circa introduces news stories to you a paragraph at a time, instead of giving you a block of intimidating words to tackle on your screen.  Like what you're reading?  Great!  Simply swipe up to get to the next paragraph.

Another beautiful part of Circa is that you can share the entire article of any news story you see to your email, Facebook or other link-sharing platform.  It never cuts a story short or asks you to pay for the privilege of being well-informed.  If you're not the type to shriek in terror at the sight of British English (I mean, that extra "i" the Brits put in "aluminium" can be terrifying, I know), then this is quite possibly the most plebian-friendly news app on the market.  "Plebian," by the way, is a big word I use now because I read Reuters every day.

{App 2: Pocket}

Throughout the day, I'm always coming across articles I want to read or videos I'd like to watch, but as I'm supposed to be "working" at the time, or am on a crowded bus with limited patience at my disposal, I don't necessarily have the time to give all these fun little pieces of the Internet my full attention right when I see them.

This is where the Pocket app comes in.  This little square on your phone enables you to save any link you come across for later viewing.  Just open up the app, and view a personalized list of quality content hand-picked by you to read whenever you have the time. 

{App 3: ReadQuick}

I love to read, but I'm not exactly going to be breaking any world records for reading speed anytime soon, especially as my attention span gets easily distracted when there are multiple words on the page.  But one word on the page at a time?  That I can give my undivided attention to.

That's why I decided to give ReadQuick a try, because I've always wanted to be a faster reader.  This app syncs seamlessly with the Pocket app (see above) by saving everything you save to Pocket, as well as any other text-based links you'd like to copy and paste.  Or you can search for articles through the app's browser.  

The app--which flashes one word of text on your phone screen at a time--tells you how long it will take to read any particular piece, and you can also change the read speed, screen mode and text to suit your needs.  The theory is that by constantly feeding you text at a steady pace, you'll eventually train yourself to a faster reading speed.  

Whether or not that's true, what I do know is that now I can read the morning's news in half the time, by getting each article delivered across my screen in the simplest way possible.  Laziness at its finest, but let's call it productivity here for the sake of argument.

{App 4: RadiOn}

Waking up is, like, really, really hard.  I personally like to wake up gradually, within the span of, let's say, an hour and a half.  RadiOn thinks this is a great idea, and delivers the sweet, soothing sounds of the BBC to me at 6:00 am, and continues to caress me with that gorgeous British accent until I finally roll out of bed at 7:30.  Alarm clock radios are pretty great like that.

Just like an alarm clock radio, RadiOn allows you to set multiple alarms and choose from virtually any radio station on the planet.  If you don't like the radio, you can choose to wake up to white noise machine sounds or any of your iTunes music.  There's a sleep timer, too.

{App 5: Pixlr}

I'm a big fan of Instagram, but the filters on that thing leave much to be desired.  I get you're trying to be the simpler plastic Holga cameras of yesteryear, Instagram, but come on: you're an app on a $600 phone.  The jig is up.

Until Instagram gets over its pretentious hipsterness (which could take a while, I get it, I live in San Francisco after all), Pixlr is quite possibly the best free photo editing app out there.  All the filters you wish Instagram had, and some you never even knew existed but can't believe you've lived this long without.

{App 6: Think Dirty}

I don't know about you, but cancer really freaks me out.  The older I get, the more I'm convinced my toothpaste is trying to kill me.  Well, according to this app, I'm right: my toothpaste is trying to kill me.  I know I could have found that out years ago simply by looking at the ingredients list, but to be quite honest, my eyes start to glaze over when looking at long words that have a bunch of consonants strung together.

I've scanned just a few of my beauty products on this app and they've all registered as "evil."  Not good. Thankfully, this app suggests alternatives that won't seep poison into my skin.

I'm now making the slow and steady transition into all-natural beauty products, thanks to this app's adorable color-coded ranking system.  Think Dirty serves as a friendly reminder that the beauty and pharmaceutical industries must be in cahoots, because that's the only explanation I can come up with to why there are so many horrific chemicals in the products we put on our bodies every day.

{App 7: QuizUp}
On a lighter note, QuizUp is a great trivia app filled with every topic to pique your interest.  Simply log on with your Facebook account or your email, and duel it out with someone across the world in topics covering math, science, video games, sports and current events that are updated constantly.  It's a great way to pass the time while also testing your knowledge.  The bonus is you get to feel smugly self-righteous when you win.

That's the list for now.  I hope I introduced you to at least one app that will change your life for the better.  Please feel free to let me know which apps you can't live without in the comments section below.  I love hearing about new apps!  Every time I download a new app on my phone, it feels a little bit like my birthday.  I know how sad that sounds but I'm not even kidding.

No comments:

Post a Comment