Posts tagged social media

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 – Social Media

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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.

 

Winner: Instagram

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.

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Runner Up: 

Youtube

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.

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Other Best Apps:

Vine

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.

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Quora

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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Honorable Mentions:

Twitter (follow us at @FFtechdotnet)

LinkedIn (linkedin.com/in/amorganfftech)

Flipboard

 

 

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TechSpot: The CIA’s Controversial First Tweet

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It seems as if everyone is on twitter. Obama is on twitter. Katy Perry is on twitter. Even an 104 year old woman is on twitter. So there’s really no excuse if you are not. I’m on Twitter (@FFtechdotnet), and pretty much everyone else it to. Just the top 5 most followed people combined have 233 million followers. That’s a lot of people. So, it seems like it wouldn’t take that long for a gigantic government agency to join in on the global phenomenon. Well, they finally have. That’s right, the CIA have finally joined Twitter.

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@CIA is their address. The agency’s first tweet really shows why they made the account and how they really feel about joining social networking: ”

That’s right. In their first tweet, the CIA made a joke on themselves. For all of you out there who don’t get why this is funny, this type of response is called a Glomar response, named after a case involving the Soviet Union and a sunken sumbarine. Long story short, the we had to come up with a response to an information inquiry while also staying within the constitution. That’s when they came up with this “We can not confirm or deny blah blah blah.” response and named it after the company trying to fish the sumbarine out of the ocean, Global Marine. Since then, the CIA and other government bodies have been using this response constantly for any inquiry for information they would rather not give away.

Rather surprisingly, instead of a lighthearted response to this first tweet, the reaction (at least from some people) was something close to disgust. The NYC Review of Books, (@nybooks) really disagreed with the CIA on the desision to joke about themselves, and made this clear is a couple of tweets they put out days after the CIA join. The first was a ICYMI (in case you missed it), reminding people to read a book about the unethnical techniques of CIA torture. In later tweets, they highlight these one by one.

 

There were many more of these tweets from NYC Books, and none of them have been responded to by the CIA, even though all of them were sent to them and had @CIA tagged. Instead, the CIA released a tweet saying,

 

We will see if they do respond to the outrage or they just let NYC rant on and on without any recognition. Even though joining Twitter seemed to have no downside back when the agency thought it up, it now seem as they are regretting it a bit. They just let all those people who just spend their whole life negatively commenting on everything they can find a way to channel their rage at the government. And I’d bet they certainly didn’t expect that someone would go into such detail about the CIA’s unethnicality. We will just have to wait to see exactly how the CIA uses it’s account, either as a way to edjucte the public and really share informing data, unclassified or not, or wether it just says promotes themselves and doesn’t say anything helpful. If it does do that, you can’t really blame them. That’s what most people do. 

TOTW: Open Source Stuffed Animals Squishable

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Social media is great for a lot of things, such as keeping in touch with friends or searching for interesting articles, but it has never yet been used like the way Zoe Fraade-Blanar and her husband Aaron Glazer use it. They are the founders of the 11 person company Squishable, who are out to make the cutest and most diverse set of stuffed animals to ever set foot on the market. They even made a Squishable Axolotl. Never heard of it? Point proven.

The Squishable Axolotl

AXOLOTL MEMUCO

The Axolotl

So how do stuffed animals have anything to do with social media? Well, Squishable uses social media sites like Facebook to take advice and search for new ideas for their ever-growing collection of plushes! As an example, here is a post they did on Facebook last Wednesday:

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As you can see, Squishable takes the public into account, which greatly boost the customer satisfaction. Squishable is probably the only toy company that does that, which explains it’s huge following. Plus, I personally think Squishables come out better than competing brands. But that’s not all Squishable has to do with the public.

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Squishable Cuthulhu

Open Squish is Squishable’s biggest advantage over other toy companies. Open Squish is a program where anyone over the age of 18 to can submit a design for a future Squishable! First, you can download a template and use that as a base for your design. Then, you upload your design to Squishable’s website to be approved. If it is approved, your design gets put into a contest, in which people can vote on all the approved designs for the best one of the week. All of those will be prototyped and the few successful prototypes will be made into Squishables (mini or regular)! You can even look at and critique the prototypes. If it is not as successful or has something wrong, it could end up as a Limited Edition, where only 1,000 will be made commercially available. Plus, the prize for getting your design picked is $500 ($250 for mini), a $100 ($50 for mini) Squishable gift card, and your name on the tag if picked.

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Squishable is probably the best and biggest stuffed animal company out there. Any animal you can think of has already been made or prototyped. They even have some food, like waffles or bacon. But seriously, Squishable uses social media and the public to their own advantage, securing success. Like no toy company has done before.

 

FastNews: Twitter App For Google Glasses?

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We all knew this was coming. Twitter has started work on a Twitter app for Google Glasses. Or have they? Twitter user Shivster Muddler has supposedly taken a picture using Google Glass and posted it on Twitter. The Tweet had the caption: Just shared a photo #throughglass. Here it is:

It is very mysterious, though. Since then, Shivster’s account has been deleted, so I had to use a Tweet showing Shivster’s original Tweet. Sounds fishy, doesn’t it? It could have easily been set up, but we do have some evidence. Venture capitalist John Doerr has alluded to Twitter making their predicted Google Glass app. Still, there is no solid proof.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass

Twitter is only starting the social media-on-Google Glass craze. There will surely be many more to follow, such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+(already built in), Facebook, and more. Of course, we all definitely need to be able to Tweet a picture without anyone knowing. Still, whether good or bad, we can pretty much assume Twitter will be coming out with an app for Glass.

 

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