Posts in reviews

Shazam for Mac: Background Song Recognition in the Menu Bar

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.

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Fileup Simplifies Dropbox Sharing with Drag & Drop and File Filters

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.

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A Preview of the SpeakerSlide, A Kickstarter Project

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.

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Overcast Review

When I received the first beta of Marco Arment's new app, Overcast, back in May, I didn't think I could use an iPhone-only podcast client with no iPad version and no streaming support as my daily podcast listening solution. Overcast, available today on the App Store, is launching to high expectations and hype for what Arment, best known for creating Instapaper, founding The Magazine, and co-hosting the Accidental Tech Podcast, has been working on since his reveal in September 2013.

Two months after putting Overcast on my Home screen as a vote of confidence and using it to listen to podcasts every day, I don't want to go back to any other podcast app I've tried before. In spite of lacking iPad and OS X versions and some features from popular podcast apps, the listening experience in Overcast and its approach to podcast discovery have been so thoughtfully implemented and cleverly engineered, I find it to be a superior choice for my listening habits.

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Spillo Is a Versatile and Fast Pinboard Client for OS X

Developed by Damien DeVille, Spillo is a new Pinboard client released today for OS X and available on both the Mac App Store and Bananafish Software’s website. Unlike Shiori (a desktop app for Pinboard I covered before) and other minimal apps that try to facilitate the process of saving bookmarks to the service, Spillo wants to be a full client for management and discovery of links, and it’s reminiscent of powerful solutions for iOS such as Pushpin and Pinswift. I’ve been using Spillo for the past couple of weeks, and I think it has potential.

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Polymo Review

Polymo is a new camera app for the iPhone and iPod touch that launched earlier this month with a focus on letting you organize your photos with tags. The developers pitch it as a “better place for photos on iOS” thanks to the app's clean design, simple gestures, and elegant interface. Unfortunately, I don’t think Polymo is a replacement for the Camera Roll, but don’t dismiss it straight away; there are still appealing aspects of Polymo that may make it useful for you.

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Ultratext Lets You Create GIFs with Text and Selfies

Ultratext, available for free on the App Store, is a new and fun iPhone app to create animated GIFs from text and selfies, and share them with others through iMessage, Instagram, or other services. I discovered the app yesterday thanks to a tweet by Casey Newton, and I've been using it all day to send animated messages to my friends and family. The idea seems to resonate with normal people in my life and the app is indeed simple and enjoyable, hence it's worth a mention on the site.

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