Posts tagged Instagram
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
College has always pretty much been the only way to start a career in our modern world. However well you do without a good college degree, “I went to Stanford.” will always leave a lasting impression on whoever you’re talking to. But, as online classes and resources continue to branch out, creating more content and ways to access them, the credibility of these classes continue to increase. Coursera, an online college level course distributor, already has a pretty good system running. There are hundreds and hundreds of courses on the site, only a handful on demand, most with scheduled class times spread throughout a period of time, curated by many different universities all over the world in tons of different languages. If you complete these courses, you can earn a verified certificate of completion, signed by the instructor from the university. Although the certificate can’t actually be used as credits, they are a good show of prior learning when applying, or just used as proof that you completed the course.
Coursera is now taking this “verified certificate” thing to the next level. They have already introduced a feature called Specializations, which are a group of courses under a certain topic. Once you have completed these courses, you have to complete something called a “Capstone Project”. A capstone project is, well, a project to show that you’ve learned the material. After completing the capstone project, it will be reviewed, and you may be awarded with a certificate of specialization completion.
Obviously, Specialization Completion is worth a lot more than just completing one of the courses, because it has you use your new knowledge. But also, Coursera has recently partnered with a couple tech companies, including Google, Swiftkey, Instagram, Shazam and others to help with the credibility of these Specialization Courses. When you complete the capstone project, depending on the specialization you took, your project will be reviewed by one of these companies, and the best of the course’s participants may be given some reward by the company itself. For instance, Google looked over all the capstone projects in the Mobile Cloud Computing specialization, and featured the winner’s apps in the Play store, as well as giving them free Nexus tablets.
So far, these partnerships have been restricted to specializations to do with technology and entrepreneurship, but Coursera says they expect to branch out in the future to other topics as the specialization courses grow.
This opportunity, for your work to be shown to many new companies is a great for many people in college, not yet in college, or later in their career to try to move into a job they like better. Whatever the reason, Coursera is creating this great opportunity for learners of all kind, and you should definitely check out their courses, whether for college or just for fun. Also, this partnership is one step in the right direction from the Internet being known as “that place with cat videos” to a reliable, verified learning reasorce. Since is Google, Shazam, and many other of the biggest tech companies trust them, why shouldn’t you?
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:
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.
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.
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.
Hyperlapse by Instagram
With smartphone cameras increasing rapidly in quality, demand for apps that display and enhance these photos is similarly growing. Tons of photo and video apps have popped up, many focusing pretty much on the same thing: filters. Filters have become almost globally used, making your photos more lively and colorful. That is if you choose the right filter. Another photo editing technique, that has become popular, is a feature where you can blur sections of the background of your photo, making your subjects pop out even more.
Whether any of these actually make your photo better or not, that’s your opinion, but the apps that provide these features have become very widespread. So, to offer some guidance, I have put together my favorite photo and video apps of 2014:
I recently discovered Clips, (or should I say “Columbus-ed” Clips) and immediately knew I would always use it. Clips is a video editing app, allowing you to easily import, shoot and edit videos, wrapping it all up in a nice bow with two great features: the ability to add music and do voiceovers, both of which I have been struggling to do in other apps.
Clips lets you create short, entertaining films in a contemporary style, narrated by you, and with cuts taken from throughout of your journey. For example, a filmmaker using Clips could take inspiration from Casey Neistat. Animation is pretty much excluded from Clips, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create great films or just even fun outtakes. The great part about the app is how easy everything is, from the UI to the design, all understandable and simple.
Camu is a photo editing app, and a great one at that. Recently undergoing a significant design change, Camu lets you add filters to your photos just with a swipe and increase the contrast of the colors, which is great for making your photos bolder. Along with that, if you select the menu button at the bottom left of the photo, you can make a collage of photos, add blur, split the screen in two, add a timer, change the ratio of the sides and more. An easy to use import and export system is also integrated into Camu, allowing you to immediately send your edited photos to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and if they’re on the app, your friends directly. With all these features, and the only real downside being the fact that you actually have to open the app to use it rather than just swiping up and accessing it like Apple’s built-in camera app, otherwise I’d say that this is the best selfie taking app on the market. (Yes, I’m cringing inside.) Also, it’s a great app for taking beautiful, artistic shots good enough to be taken by an average camera.
Other Best Apps:
Obviously, I couldn’t exclude Instagram from this list. The app practically grandfathered the whole online photo editing and sharing movement and subcategory, but I have to say that although I ranked it #1 as best social media app, I personally like the photo and video editing capabilities of Camu and Clips better than Instagram, though ironically those apps are mostly used for exporting to Instagram…
Anyway, yes, Instagram does have a very detailed editing software, my favorite feature of which is the feature allowing you to simply tap and hold your picture to see it before and after the editing changes you made. So, in conclusion: I would pick the previously stated apps above Instagram for editing purposes only, but if you are going to post it to Instagram anyway, just use Instagram for crying out loud. The editing system is good enough, one of the best photo and video apps ever, in fact.
Hyperlapses, a creative new film technique, is where a special program takes a video, and then in post speeds it up to make an interesting sped view of the world, great for use on clouds, cities, conventions, and more. Hyperlapse, Instagram’s first app release other than Instagram, can do just this, in style. You can take these hyperlapses, change multitude of the sped up to 12x, and then easily share or download your creation. Also, if you take a standard 6x hyperlapse, and then afterward change it back to 1x, or regular, all external movement in the scene will disappear, almost as if your hands weren’t shaking in the first place, although you know they were. Despite the name, Hyperlapse had many more uses than just creating hyperlapses, even though that enough would make a great app and is certainly a deserved successor to Instagram.
Slow Fast Slow
If the App Store is a library, and each app was a book, that would be a pretty dang big library. And unlike books, apps can be updated, social, multiplayer, and iCloud compatible. Even in their own category, apps can bring you a completely different experience from other apps. It’s only logical that something with the same enormity as the App Store would have some good apps, and that’s certainly the case. There are many top-class apps out there, but like I said, there are a lot of them. So, I will pick the ones I used, the ones I like, to review under each category for 2014. To start off, I’ve picked the Social Media category, probably the most used category on the App Store as a whole. Just be forewarned – I don’t use Facebook, so that won’t be on here.
Everybody knows Instagram. The 7th most popular social media app and site out there, the makers of Instagram perfected the photo sharing social media app. Literally there isn’t much more they could possible add. There is an easy direct messaging feature, easy integration with many third party photo apps, easy uploading and taking photos, and great aesthetics. The overall design is great, everything from the like button to the small orange semi-circle indicating you have a notification completes the look seamlessly. This app connects you to your friends, and lets them have a peek into your life and what you do, along with interacting with them via likes and direct messaging. Of course, the main thing that makes a social media app or site is the amount of users they have, and Instagram certainly isn’t short on those, with a current total of approximately 100 million. Great design, great user base, great app.
Although, in the current, popular definition of “social media”, Youtube is on the outer edge, I’ll still put it in here. With a incredible 1 billion average active users, Youtube has built such a following that it is one of the staples of the Internet itself, almost as much as Google. Which makes sense, as Google owns YouTube. As much as a website can, YouTube is a perfect site. And for this article’s sake, I should mention that the app is definitely as good, with a great mobile interface and design.
The ability to create media, such as video, and put it on a platform with so much attention that it makes, with enough hard work and good videos, it easy to become popular over the course of a couple years, is astounding. We live in an age of global information and sharing, and YouTube is just a great example of that. And besides all that, there is a gigantic wealth of information on YouTube in any topic, wether it’s educational, comedy, instructional, entertainment, music, vlogs, or whatever. It’s something that mankind has never had before, and should make full and deserving use of.
Other Best Apps:
Unlike YouTube, Vine is definitely for pretty much entertainment only, as there’s not much you can say that’s educational in only 6 seconds. But, that time limit does make the app very addicting and appealing, as you can scroll for hours on end just watching these small clips of most likely comedy. At least, the 6 second limit gives it a unique quality of a definite social media, one that can be used by anyone, and even to communicate with friends. My personal favorite feature is, although it is not unique to Vine, but that you can pause, start and easily edit your videos. This gives way to many more interesting possibilities, and you can search Zach King, someone who makes full use of that feature. Overall, although Vine isn’t my favorite of all social media, it does have it’s redeeming qualities that make it great for certain purposes.
Quora, a smaller, lesser known social media site, is actually one of my favorite social media sites. The site and app is used as a social query platform. If you have a question that can’t be Googled, or needs the opinion of other people, you can put it on Quora. If it’s a reasonably good question, you can usually expect it to be answered. And if you know the answer to a question on the site, or just want to give your opinion, you can just as easily add your answer to the list of other people answers. Many fairly famous people are on the site, such as Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, and some other celebrities that have sprouted in the Quora community. The amount of interesting opinions, real facts you wouldn’t have otherwise known, personal stories, and tons and tons of questions is what makes Quora a nice, quality social network.
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After the incredible success of their first app, Instagram, the aptly named company Instagram Inc. had to follow up their first hit app with another. As most every type of equipment for many different professions have been recently made obsolete because of smartphones and mobile software, Instagram Inc. expertly rode that wave with their new app, Hyperlapse. Hyperlapse targets a specific type of photography, one that has been very popular in the recent years for cuts in promotional or review videos, or just beautiful scenes sped up such as the Northern Lights or large, incredible cloud formations. Whatever the cause, there are many uses for time lapse videos, but, there is one problem. Normal time lapse cameras are about $150-$300, a price only professional photographers can cough up. This, of course, left a big hole in the market for someone to sneak in there and create a cheap time lapse camera. But, Instagram Inc. took it one step further with Hyperlapse. Yes, Hyperlapse is a time lapse app, beautifully designed and easy to use, but also, the best part is it’s free.
These days, simplicity is key in a popular app. Nobody wants a thousand popup bars, or twenty buttons, or 50 different settings that they have to look through. More importantly, nobody wants to even look at them, or have these distractions on the screen. It needs to be orderly. In terms of Hyperlapse, there could be many settings, logins, and buttons that could be in view or obstruct your easy access to what you want, which is the ability to make a time lapse. Instead, the app almost immediately brings you to the main page, the page with the ability to make time lapses.
That page consists of two elements. The first and most pronounced is the record button. A simple round, white button, this design feature is the only other floating button or sidebar in the whole page. The other element I mentioned is the background, which is a live feed of the front camera. Once the time lapse is started, a useful set of numbers appear underneath the record button, showing how long you have been recording and how long the time lapse will therefore be. (the ratio is 6:1)
Once you’re done, a bar pops up to allow you to change the speed of your time lapse of from the original 6 times faster. Of course, the bar that controls this is very style-conscious, using a slightly opaque black texture bar, with a rounded slider button, both details used highly in iOS 7 and OS X Yosemite. And in the background, a interactive loop of your just made time lapse, put in the speed that you have set on the bar below.
Now, once you are done with all that, this is where it gets creative. Even though the last step is pretty simple, it represents a thoughtfulness of the developers of what would be easiest for the user, adding features contributing to the customizability and smoothness of the app in general. At this stage, you are done with your time lapse. Now, Hyperlapse turns your creation into a video format, and saves it to your camera roll, and from there you can do what you want with it. Of all the options that the developers could have chosen from for this action, saving it to the camera roll is the most helpful, as iOS 7 makes is very easy to export pictures and videos to apps and other forms of communication.
Hyperlapse is a great app for many reasons; it makes a previously pricey ability free and easy to do, the whole design of the app is slick and fits the whole style of the current operating system and most likely most operating systems to come. Plus, time lapses are pretty damn cool. Wether you’re using it just for fun, or for a professional commercial, or a YouTube video, Hyperlapse is good enough for all of it, definitely a good follow up app for Instagram.