I’ve never really been into making New Year’s resolutions. Much like Valentine’s Day or other internationally-recognised special holidays, I figured if I was ever going to embark on a journey of self-improvement (or bestow gifts upon my loved ones or that special friend), I was going to do it for no particular reason, “just because”. Sure, Christmas and birthdays are always nice reminders, but special occasions don’t preclude being nice to people the rest of the time. New Year’s resolutions, I told myself, were for those that liked to make hilarious jokes about what resolution their computer monitor was (mine is 3840×2160, thanks for asking), or for those that needed the extra motivation of a new year to change an aspect of their lives.
That all changed last year, when I told myself I’d eat less fast food. Depending on who you ask, “fast food” can have a pretty broad definition, but giving up McDonalds and KFC seemed like a good baseline, and the beginning of 2014 seemed like a good a time as any to start. Over the past year, I can count the number of times I’ve eaten Maccas or KFC on one hand — hardly impressive, I know, but goals work better if they’re both realistic and achievable. Besides, I’m new to the whole “New Year’s resolution” thing, remember? Small steps.
While Santa was making his own list and checking it twice this year, I was also making a list of my own. A list of the best iOS apps and games of the year — a look back at what occupied coveted spots on my home screen, or what app used the most battery life on my iPhone or iPad. As the curtains fall and 2014 draws to its inevitable end, and in lieu of any actual look back at the year gone by from an Apple perspective, these are the best iOS apps and games of 2014.
In no particular order…
I’ll be honest with you: I’ve never really gotten into the whole “iOS productivity” thing. When I’m out and about, I mostly use my iPhone as a portable Twitter machine, for emails, and that kind of thing — you know, the normal stuff. And when I’m at home, I have my trusty Mac for everything I need to do. But in saying all that, I recognise the kinds of innovative things people are doing with apps like Launch Center Pro and more recently, Workflow. We’ve come a long way since the days of no copy and paste on iOS, and now people are creating workflows for every imaginable thing. If you’re not into iOS productivity because it all just seems a little too hard, or like me, lack the imagination required for getting stuff done on your iPhone or iPad, there’s plenty of beginner’s guides to sink your teeth into. Or you can check out the built-in gallery for a few ideas to get you started.
Workflow is $3.99, on the App Store.
Before Hyperlapse, it was pretty easy to tell when someone had recorded video from an iPhone. There was always a telltale shakiness to the footage that gave it away, and no matter how steady you thought you were holding your iPhone, any movement resulted in the shakes. Then Instagram released Hyperlapse, and mobile video changed forever — and while that might sound a little melodramatic, ask anyone that’s used Hyperlapse for recording video and they’ll tell you how true it is. Hyperlapse’s incredibly impressive video stabilisation tech means there’s now no excuse for shaky video footage. I’ve started recording all my videos taken on my iPhone in Hyperlapse, and it’s basically indistinguishable from steady cam rigs costing much, much more than my iPhone. Hyperlapse isn’t integrated with Apple’s built-in camera app and does require additional processing time after you’ve recorded your footage, but those are small sacrifices to make for perfectly smooth video. Hyperlapse is so good, I often wonder how it’s even possible. The only thing it doesn’t do is prevent you from taking vertical videos.
Hyperlapse is free, on the App Store.
A review from the perspective of a long-time Skitch user
A few weeks back I found myself looking for the ideal app for sharing screenshots, both on the web and elsewhere. I’ve been an Old SkitchTM holdout ever since they went and Evernote-d up the newer versions, and while I hear the new Skitch now has feature parity with the older versions, you’re still forced to share screenshots via Evernote’s own service, and not your own. That makes sense as Evernote now owns Skitch, but a small incompatibility with Retina displays meant it was time to go looking elsewhere.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s a certain sense of vanity or narcissism that comes with the territory of using an app to track Twitter statistics, and while Birdbrain can be used for those purposes, I use it mostly out of curiosity rather than anything else. At its core, Birdbrain is an app for tracking Twitter statistics. It’s been around for a while now, and while it hasn’t always been the fastest app to get updates, the recent update redesigned for iOS 7 is worth looking at.
Wherever you look these days, there’s an app or game trying to nickel and dime you for every penny you have. They do this by offering up a smorgasbord of in-app purchases, which do everything from letting you skip levels, unlock additional content, or even allowing you play the game, in some extreme cases. For all the moaning and groaning every time a new title is launched with in-app purchases, you would think that in-app purchases are the worst thing ever to happen to apps and games.
But here’s the thing: not all in-app purchases are bad, and most of the time, I’m actually OK with them.
In-app purchases can be grouped into roughly two main kinds. The most popular seem to be the ones that unlock content (additional levels, chapters), or there are others that have a direct effect on gameplay (upgrades, hints, bonuses). Some apps also offer purely cosmetic enhancements, such as additional colour packs or sound effects. The official Pokédex app for iPhone pictured above lets you unlock Pokédex data for the various regions, and puzzle games with a built-in hint mechanic usually let you purchase an unlimited amount of hints for a once-off fee. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy every episode of The Walking Dead or every game in the Ace Attorney HD Trilogy, mostly because I know the games and have played them before, but those who are a little more cautious with their iTunes credit get the chance to try out the game before they take the plunge. If they like what they see, a once-off in-app purchase is right there.