Posts tagged Drafts

Best Apps of 2015 – Top 5

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Today is the first day of 2016, but before embracing the New Year here at Fast Forward, it’s time to look back upon the past year in smartphone innovation with our third annual App of the Year award. Without further adieu, I present to you the top 5 apps of 2015:

#1. Drafts

Without a doubt, Drafts is one of the most useful, if not the most useful, apps on my phone right now. I’ve used Drafts for a couple of years now and it’s still one of my most used productivity tools on the iPhone. Like a notes app on steroids, Drafts allows you to easily and quickly write down notes and share the with a click of a button. With customizable options, you can share your note to any one of Drafts’ long list of options, from Twitter to Evernote to Dropbox to Email to Reminders et cetera, et cetera. You get my point. Drafts has become my personal hub for ideas, notes, and frankly writing anything that I happen to want to write down: phone numbers, article ideas, shopping lists, and more. Plus, with a new design and an update that includes some very helpful shortcuts using Apple’s new force touch, Drafts is becoming faster and better with developer updates that leverage Apple’s new features. At least for me, the usefulness of the app is incredible; while I often simply send myself emails with reminders and notes, in Drafts this task is simple while also offering the option to share or save my notes however I like.

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#2. Casts

Although podcasting has been around since the 1980s, then known as “audioblogging”, podcasts only really started to pick up steam in the last 5 years. With the first season of the hit podcast Serial in 2014, the medium finally became a large part of modern culture, as Serial’s influence was comparable to a popular weekly TV series. In fact, in it’s first season, Serial was averaging an incredible 1.5 million downloads per episode, a number certainly qualifying the show as significant. Podcasting in general has grown as well, studies showing that approximately 39 million Americans have listened to a podcast over the last month. So if you aren’t already listening to a bunch of podcasts, as I am, it might be time to start. There are podcasts for everyone, in topics ranging from tech to comedy to sports, and Casts is a great app to help you find new podcasts and listen to your favorites.

While other podcast apps dominate the market, including Apple’s own version, I personally use Casts for its simplicity and aesthetically pleasing design. Once you’ve found your favorite podcasts, which you “subscribe” to, the icons of all your podcasts will show up in a nice, tiled design on your homepage, making it easy for you to navigate and download the ones you want to listen to. With helpful navigation bars and intuitive design elements, Casts is, in my opinion, the best podcasting app out there.

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#3. Instagram

2015 has been another great year for the social media giant Instagram. With over 400 million active users, 20% of the users of the Internet in general, Instagram has grown from a small trendy platform to the ubiquitous giant social media app it is today. In the past year, besides continuing to be the favorite social media of many youth around the world, Instagram has made many interesting and, in my opinion, good changes. First of all, they dropped the “square only” rule, adding functionality to post photos of all sizes. This allowed people much more freedom in what they post, as often regularly proportioned images wouldn’t fit in Instagram’s odd square constraint. Along with that, Instagram, like Drafts, is easily one of the apps that has best used the iPhone 6S’ new feature, “Force Touch.” Just by force touching on usernames, photos, and other parts of the interface, you can easily get a preview of whatever you touch on, which can actually save a lot of time when browsing the new explore section or sliding through your feed. In sum, while Instagram has stayed primarily the same, a couple of changes made during 2015 made the app that much better than it already was, which was pretty dang good.

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#4. Periscope

Periscope was, in my view, the breakout app of the year. First being bought by Twitter, then winning Apple’s App of the Year award, Periscope emerged as the clear winner in the tough rivalry that emerged with competitor Meerkat. Both live video streaming apps, Periscope triumphed as the leading app in that space, with more users (10 million to Meerkat’s 2 million), a better design, at least in my opinion, and the backing and integration with Twitter. In the app, you can watch live streams from all over the world, and even only about 10 months since it’s launch, people have already started using the platform in a wide variety of interesting and fun-to-watch ways. (Here’s one of my favorite examples) I’m sure that over the next couple years streaming apps will grow into a whole new medium, and Periscope will be leading that charge. 

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#5. Runkeeper

Fitness has always been a large part of the smartphone/wearables market. Exercise is just something that everyone knows they should do, and Runkeeper helps us stick to our goals by track our runs, bike rides, and other activities with the iPhone’s GPS. Exercise apps should compile a host of stats, have an intuitive design, be easily navigable (as you don’t want to be fumbling around with your phone while you are running or biking), and just be fun and enjoyable to use. Runkeeper is all of that and more. The main screen is very easy to use, which helps when exercising, and once you’re done the app will give you your time, calories burned, distance traveled, average speed, and more. You can set goals, connect with friends, play music, and pretty much everything your would want out of a running app. With almost 5 stars on the app store, Runkeeper has risen to prominence in the fitness section over the last year.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Sky Guide
Medium
Shazam

Best Apps Of 2014 – Top 5

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Nobody can doubt that we have entered a new era of technology: one recent study showed that the world now has 7.1 billion cellphone subscribers, 90% of the global population. By 2015, the study says, the number of cell subscriptions will surpass the number of humans buying them.

Increasingly, as complete the transition from the flip phone era to the smartphone era, we approach a point where you can’t really live without one. And what makes an OS for a smartphone good? The apps. Apps are the single and only thing that brings the best parts of an OS alive, giving you the freedom to do an almost infinite amount of things with your phone. So, with an enormous market, low barriers to entry, (e.g., a $100 Apple developer account and some programming experience) and the ability to go whatever your creative mind wants, there’s no telling how many great apps will pop up. Well, let me tell you: there are tons. So many good apps, in fact almost too many, that you really do need to search for the very best of them. So here I have listed my favorite apps from 2014, all ones I like and use frequently:

Winner: 1Password

Everyone has heard of the privacy and security scandals of this year: Sony, the NSA, iCloud – the list goes on and on and has made many nervous about their online security. If you’re like many, you probably changed your bank password and moved on. But in the back of your mind, you know having unique, strong passwords for each of your online accounts would greatly help your security. That’s where 1Password comes in.

The app is available on your computer, as a browser plugin, and as an app, and will let you enter all of your passwords, concealed all under one single, very strong password of your choice. Hence, “1Password.” Once you input your passwords, credit card info, and logins, 1Password will securely hold them for your use, making them available at your fingertips (literally – since you can enable Apple’s TouchID as an alternative login to the app).  The software can even generate a extremely secure password whenever you need to change passwords or create new accounts. I use it all the time, and it’s a great alternative to just remembering them. As it gets easier and easier to hack into personal information, it’s important to have secure passwords, and 1Password will certainly help you do that.

 

#2. Instagram

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Instagram is one of the most well-designed and user-friendly social apps in the App Store.  As someone who uses Instagram on a regular basis, I’ve found that there isn’t much that I dislike about the iPhone app.  While some just don’t get the appeal of constant photo-sharing, and I get that, but what makes Instagram so great for me is that I can connect not only with my network of friends, but also follow artists, sports teams and other interesting personalities.

But there are so many features that make the app so great: the top-class photo editing software; easy DMs; the ability to tag and comment people; the list goes on. I’m going to make this short, but if you want to read more on Instagram, read my full reviews HERE and HERE. But, in brief, assuming that you know at least 10-20 people already on the app, all the great social interaction features will surely make Instagram your favorite social media for interacting with friends.

#3. Monument Valley

This Escher-style groundbreaking game defies the common thought that video games can’t really be artistically beautiful. All the amazing optical illusions in this game really works your brain as you seemingly fly through a plethora of amazing scenes and places in the storyline. The great story combined with the beautiful art and easy gameplay makes, in my opinion, Monument Valley one of the best games ever for mobile. In fact, the only one thing bad about it is the short play length; playing non-stop, you can finish it in a couple of hours. Although, most of these complaints were squashed when the creators released an extra eight-level add-on called The Forgotten Shores. The game doesn’t have very much replay value, but while you are playing it, you feel like you’re reading a classic, timeless book. Only better.

 

#4. Drafts.

To start, I have to mention: Drafts is one of my most used apps, earning its position in my dock. There couldn’t be an easier app to take your thoughts, ideas and notes and export and send them wherever on the Internet you need. Simply, the amount of places you can quickly and easily take your plain-text notes and export them (e.g., as emails, as messages, to Twitter, to Evernote, to Dropbox, etc) is incredibly helpful and customizable, so much so that I rarely spend more than 10 seconds during each use, saving an incredible amount of time. It’s what productivity apps are supposed to do, and Drafts does it perfectly: saving your in-between time for working, relaxing or socializing, and making it easier to get your notes and ideas wherever you need them.

 

#5. Pocket Casts

I bet you’ve heard of the Serial podcast, and maybe even Start Up. Both are podcasts, one about a murder and the other an ongoing story of a startup podcast company. These two shows have reached far more people than the traditional podcast audience, with Serial even featuring in recent SNL and Funny Or Die parodies. I listen to both, and while I am, I’m realizing that there are many more podcasts available about pretty much anything, many of them very well produced. Thus my need for an app that helps me find, download, organize, and listen to them. My favorite is Pocket Casts.

Pocket Casts easily lets you find new podcasts, subscribe to them (alerting you and even auto-downloads the new podcasts) and listen to them, complete with reviews and summaries. A medium such as podcasts demands an app that’s easy to navigate, because just like music and TV, you want to get to your content as fast as possible, and Pocket Casts does a great job of doing that.

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Honorable Mentions:

Wordbase

Hyperlapse by Instagram

Clips

Phlo

Best Apps By Category Of 2014- Utilities and Productivity

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kAs technology gradually becomes more and more integrated into our daily lives, the amount of interaction that we have with computers and mobile devices is going up. A big part of the time you spend glued to your computer is transitions between actually doing work. Formatting documents, sending emails, calculating, etc. All the time you spend on small tasks like these can be reduced, and that’s where the Utilities and Productivity category comes in. These apps will make doing unimportant tasks easy and fast, making your life more streamlined, easier and altogether better.

Winner: Drafts

It may seem odd, but Drafts is actually one of my most used and helpful apps on my phone. Basically, the app is a note taking apps, with an added feature of exporting to pretty much everywhere. After you type your short note, writing draft, whatever, you can take that and immediately export it to many different places using the pop out sidebar. For example, you can text your writing, email it to a specific preset person, put it in Evernote, tweet it, post it to many different social media sites, set a reminder, save to Dropbox, add an event in Google Calendar, and more. I use the app mostly to email and text myself ideas and reminders, but Drafts has so much potential to be used for so much more. To me, if utilities and productivity apps needed to pick one app to represent the whole category, I would pick Drafts, as it does exactly what utility and productivity apps should: make what would otherwise take a short amount of time instantaneous and easy.

 

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Runner Up: Phlo

There are pretty much two search engines that dominate the gigantic internet market: Google and Bing. But really, we all know that Google has the lion’s share of the market. But, when moving to mobile, there are more options to search from, as your objectives are different, most likely to find a specific piece of information, and fast. So, using only one search engine may not cut it maybe you want to search Wikipedia or Google Images or Youtube. That’s what Phlo does: make it easy, via one search, for you to browse all different sources. It’s like a regular search engine, except with a customizable bar on the side for switching to pretty much any site that might help you. It’s like Google, Bing, Wikipedia, Duck Duck Go, Amazon, Youtube, Google Images, and more all rolled into one. An Internet-wide search engine.

 

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Other Best Utilities And Productivity Apps:

Workflow

Workflow has been in the news recently, and that’s probably because of it’s ingenious and new design. The app, which is meant to help you get stuff done, lets you take from a plethora of actions involving many of your phone’s features and some third party actions to create a custom workflow. A workflow is a set of these actions that completes a certain objective, like calculates a tip or makes a custom gif. There is an incredible amount of things you could do with the app, but to be honest, I really only used the tip calculator on a regular basis. You can certainly come up with other uses and workflows, but I didn’t find it necessary to use any of the workflows besides for the ones that come with the app. Still, I’m sure this app is incredibly useful to many people, and holds so much possibility for easy and quick usage of the Internet and everything it can do.

 

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Slated

Slated is a great use of iOS 8’s new custom keyboard function, allowing you to seamlessly text and type in a completely different language. All you have to do it type out what you want, select the language, and then just tap the bar right above the keyboard. Your text will then change to the language of your choice, and you’re set! And for any of you out there who have to text in another language, I know this is a lifesaver for you, as I am one of those people. But if you aren’t one of those people, it’s still always handy to have all the languages under your tool belt, and as the world is constantly getting more connected over the internet, you may very well need it.

 

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Top 10 Apps Of The Year

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Top 10 Apps Of 2013

The time has finally come, when we at Fast Forward have to make the toughest decision of the year: the choice of the top 10 apps of the year. These apps that I have picked are my favorite apps from throughout the year, mixed in with the new, exciting, and most popular apps of 2013, year of the snake. Here they are:

#1: Waze

Maps and directional apps are becoming increasingly important in today’s society, especially since people are relying more than ever on smartphones rather than memorizing street names and how to get around. Waze definitely dominates, allowing users to post problems like bad traffic, police, fallen trees and more. This year, I have definitely used Waze more than even Google Maps, and was essential to living this year. All hail the Waze god!

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#2: QuizUp

QuizUp is truly the epitome of a great game. Trivia games don’t really have a high expectation, but with Quizup on the market, all the other apps have no chance at all. The very well designed and modern game allows users to play online users in a humongous variety topics, ranging from ancient history to dogs to Harry Potter. A social aspect allows you to thoroughly review your recent game, look at your stats and add friends which you can challenge. It’s so good, it would’ve done equally as good even if it was a paid app. This game certainly earns it’s spot in number 2.

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#3: Vine 

The Vine sensation has been sweeping the world, a social network dedicated to showing 6 second videos, which anyone can take right from their phone. This type of video has been popular for anyone to make a short film, topics ranging from art, experimental, cats, and most popular, comedy. Funny and incredible Vines have been topping the charts, such as a prank or someone throwing a basketball off a 60 story building and making it. The giant amount of users and videos makes what the app what it is, and it really is a great social network.

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#4: Duolingo

Duolingo has really sprouted into the big leagues in the past year, becoming the best and most popular language learning app. The unique social aspect of Duolingo’s approach to teaching sets it ahead of the rest, even the famous Rosetta Stone (the app, not the artifact). The app itself is also amazingly designed, allowing the user to surf through languages and lessons with ease. Learning languages has never been easier.

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#5: Candy Crush Saga

Candy Crush Saga. Who hasn’t heard of this sweet game that has taken over it’s category. The addictiveness of Candy Crush and it’s achievements, rewards, Facebook integration left everyone thinking “just one more level than I’ll go back to work”. Candy Crush is so immersive and addicting you could easily play for 10 minutes, then look up from the game and it turns out that it’s 2045. This is the ultimate game for wasting your life away, and has adults and kids global under it’s spell.

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#6: Snapchat

Taking pictures on the fly is really something phones excel at, and people (especially teenagers) like to take advantage of that by using Snapchat. Snapchat is essentially a social network that’s a mix of What’s App and Instagram. The great design lets you take a photo, then draw on it, add a caption to it and send it to another Snapchat user. But when it gets there, the other user holds their finger on it and only gets to look at it for 1-10 seconds, then it disappears forever, erasing the need to go back and delete texts or photos because of limited space. Snapchat is a very practical and fun social network, and it’s amount of downloads and users show that it’s idea is a success.

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#7: Clash Of Clans

It’s in our nature as a human being to want to control more and defeat our enemies. It’s called REVENGE. Clash of Clans is a village building strategy that lets us get the satisfaction of beating our opponents and stealing their gold. This multiplayer online game allows you to build up your village and grow in technology and land. The layout of the game makes it easy to run your village and at the same time chat with your Clan members in a social aspect. Tons of people all over the world are roughing it out with Clash Of Clans, and it has become very popular and a classic game.

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#8: Plague Inc.

The strategy category of games have recently exploded with a bunch of great apps, one of which is Plague Inc. Plague Inc is a hyper realistic game where your goal is to, well, kill the world and everyone in it. You start out with a basic bacteria and your goal in a game it to spread to all the world and kill everyone, but not too fast or your hosts will die but not to slow or the cure will be discovered. Plague Inc brings out the villain in everyone, showing you a world, with amazingly realistic events in a newscast above, where you can collect DNA points and evolve your disease. Definitely the best strategy game of the year.

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#9: Drafts

Many productivity apps are only useful to the overworked and people in need of organization, but Drafts places its uses right in the perfect spot. Everyone could profit from using Draft’s easy interface and it’s ability to distribute information. All you have to do is customize the settings, and when you, say, need to send yourself a quick reminder or post something to Facebook and Twitter at the same time, Drafts is your solution. You can quickly type something into the top section, then send it to one of Drafts many options, such as markdown, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Email, Text, Email to _____ (customizable), and many, many more. Drafts can serve you in many more ways than you could imagine, and is definitely a must need app.

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#10: Spotify

Pandora has been dominating the music services apps for years, now, but the time has come when a new option has arrived. Spotify. Spotify is a music app that you can download or play almost ANY song you could think of. There is also a radio, with no advertisements, unlike Pandora. You can make unlimited playlists and radios, but there is one small catch: it has a small monthly fee. Still, it is definitely worth it for those of us who spend ridiculously big amounts of money on iTunes, and is a very useful app for on the go music.

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And that’s it. If any of you don’t have any of these apps, I would highly recommend getting all of them. Below I have given out awards to three different apps; best design, Most Popular App, and Most Practical App. Watch out for my top tech and top app posts for 2014.

Best Design: QuizUp

Most Popular: Candy Crush Saga

Most Practical: Waze

 

 

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