Developed by Jared Sinclair, Time Zones is a clean and nifty utility to see time zones at a glance without having to convert offsets between cities in your head. The app was released today on the App Store, and it's free with a $4.99 In-App Purchase to remove ads.
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I've tried hundreds of unit and currency converters over the years, and I didn't think I could still be impressed by the input mechanism and design of an iPhone app built to convert numbers. Ångström, developed by Ilya Birman and Alex Babaev, surprised me with a clean design and a unique way of entering numbers and selecting units that I haven't seen in other apps and that I now find superior to most solutions I've had on my iOS devices.
I've been using a free iPhone app called Nuzzel to catch up on interesting links and news shared on Twitter following a recommendation on Kottke and a tweet by Ben Thompson. I'm a fan of the underlying idea and the execution of filters in the app, but there are a few things that annoy me and that, I suppose, stem from this startup's need to track clicks on links and “user behaviors” as much as possible.
In the increasing complexity of music streaming apps that put several layers of interface and navigation between the launch experience and listening to your favorite songs, Albums is a refreshingly simple music player that lets you search, bookmark, and play your favorite albums. Developed by Louie Mantia and Caleb Thorson, I was skeptical about the app's premise when I saw its one screenshot and read its iTunes description, but there is something about it that resonates with me and that has been elegantly executed in this first release.
I was surprised to hear last week that Shazam, makers of the popular music recognition app that's going to be integrated with Siri in iOS 8, had launched a desktop app for OS X, available for free on the Mac App Store. I always associated Shazam with the portability and instant-on nature of the iPhone: you hear a song playing, you want to know what it is, you pull out Shazam and let it work its magic. That's why I've never managed to get used to Shazam on the iPad and why I seldom use all the features that the company has tacked onto the app over the years: fundamentally, I see Shazam as the music recognition app for iPhone, and that's it.
Developed by Francisco Cantu, Fileup is a new OS X utility that lets you quickly share files through Dropbox by dragging them onto a menu bar icon. Unlike other apps that have implemented the same sharing mechanism and user interaction (which Dropbox surprisingly doesn't support with their own menu bar app), Fileup adds filters for file types, integrates with Notification Center, and lets you set up templates for naming files through a simple syntax. The idea is reminiscent of Vemedio's shortlived Sharebox experiment, but, as required by Dropbox, Fileup is a separate menu bar utility that doesn't interact with the official Dropbox client.
Over the past few years Apple has continued to improve the speakers in the iPhone and iPad quite significantly, except for the fact that they continue to be directed out to the side rather than the front. In fairness, this is probably the most practical location for Apple but it has meant that I've purposefully cupped my hand around the iPad's speakers to help redirect the sound on a number of occasions. It is exactly this weakness where a Kickstarter project, the SpeakerSlide, is trying to improve things. It's a simple plastic (polycarbonate) accessory that redirects the sound out to the front of the device. The SpeakerSlide team were able to ship me 3D-printed evaluation models of the SpeakerSlide for both iPhone and iPad, so I gave the product a test run over the last week.
I first tested the SpeakerSlide with the iPad Air and I can honestly say that the effect it had was instantly noticeable and fairly significant. Sound coming from the iPad actually sounded like it was directed to me, which shouldn't be surprising, but what was surprising to me was how much more natural that felt. When I started taking the SpeakerSlide on and off to try and hear the difference, the effect was even more noticeable. It almost felt like the sound (without the SpeakerSlide) was muffled because of the direction of the speakers. Because the sound is being directed at you with the SpeakerSlide, it also means you don't need to have the volume as loud as you would without it, and that shouldn't be underestimated.