Nuzzel for iPad

I fell in love with Nuzzel earlier this year: I wanted an app to quickly understand what people I followed were talking about on Twitter, and I came across this simple utility to see popular links in my timeline. As I wrote in my original review:

Nuzzel aggregates links shared by people you follow on Twitter over a specific period of time. Tweets containing the same link shared by multiple people are coalesced into a single article recommendation in the app, which displays the title, a brief excerpt, the source, and a count with the number of “friends” who shared the story alongside their profile pictures. The useful aspect of this is the way Nuzzel lets you adjust time filters: you can find the most shared links for the past 1–8 hours, the past day, a specific day in past week, or links from last week. By hitting the date button in the upper right corner, you can change the date filter at any time and “travel back” into, say, Twitter from two days ago and see what your timeline was talking about without scrolling long lists of tweets.

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Google Approaches Email in a New Way with Inbox

Google yesterday unveiled Inbox, a new email client for Gmail that takes a different approach to email. Google frames Inbox as a product that recognises we now use email in very different ways today, but email (and email clients) have barely changed.

Email started simply as a way to send digital notes around the office. But fast-forward 30 years and with just the phone in your pocket, you can use email to contact virtually anyone in the world…from your best friend to the owner of that bagel shop you discovered last week.

With this evolution comes new challenges: we get more email now than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks—especially when we’re working on our phones. For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really need to do—rather than helping us get those things done.

Google Inbox is different in a few fundamental ways, with a strong focus on some interesting features:

  • Bundles: Inbox will group together similar emails into bundles such as Travel, Purchases, Promotions.
  • Highlights: Inbox will try to intelligently highlight key information from your emails (event details, flight itineraries) and even pull in information from outside your emails (such as real-time status of a delivery or flight)
  • Reminders, Assists, and Snooze: Inbox also becomes a kind-of to-do app, able to remind you about emails or tasks to accomplish at a later date. This includes letting you snooze on messages until a later date.

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24 Hours with Pixelmator for iPad

Announced and demoed last week on stage at Apple’s media event, Pixelmator for iPad is a powerful portable rendition of the popular (and award-winning) image editor for Mac. I’m no photographer, and I’m definitely no artist, but I wanted to get my hands (quite literally) on Pixelmator for iPad since I watched the demo video. As someone who works primarily from his iPad mini and is about to upgrade to a full-sized iPad Air 2 with faster hardware, I was eager to try this new portable version of Pixelmator for basic image editing and photo retouching needs. I’ve always wanted a lightweight but powerful image editor on my iPad: I could never get used to the interface oddities of Adobe’s Photoshop, and drawing-oriented apps such as Procreate didn’t fit my needs.

I’ve only spent 24 hours with Pixelmator for iPad, so don’t consider this a review. And even if I had more time with the app, my limited perspective and use case wouldn’t allow me to offer a comprehensive look at the app. For that, take a look at Pixelmator’s new website and tech specs webpage.

Below, you’ll find a brief collection of notes and thoughts on Pixelmator for iPad after 24 hours of testing.

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Fantastical 2.2: Interactive Notifications, Share Extension, and Today Widget

Fantastical, developed by Flexibits, has long been one of my favorite calendar apps for iOS. Since the app's first release over three years ago, I've come to expect my calendar to support natural language input; after the launch of version 2.0 for iPhone, Fantastical showed me why I wanted my todo list to be integrated with the calendar with excellent and seamless support for iCloud calendars and reminders in a unified experience. Reminders, however, turned out to be a problem for me as I switched to Todoist earlier this year: I've started using Sunrise – which is a great app – to see my events and todos in a single list, but I'm constantly missing Fantastical's natural language support, advanced features, and polished design.

Fantastical 2.2, available today on the App Store, brings iOS 8 features that allow the app to be more easily integrated with iOS workflows thanks to a share extension and that extend the app beyond its silo with actionable notifications and a widget.

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Maps Connect: Apple’s Tool for Small Businesses to List on Apple Maps

Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land has a great post that details how small businesses can use Apple's Maps Connect tool to add their business to the Apple Maps database. It isn't a completely new feature, as pointed out by Apple Spotlight, but new features have been added and Apple is now actively promoting the feature.

This afternoon Apple notified us of a new self-service portal to add or edit local business listings: Apple Maps Connect. It’s intended for small business owners or their authorized representatives (though not agencies) to be able to quickly and easily add content directly into Apple Maps.

Updates or new listings will show up within a week or could show up more quickly depending on the situation and whether the listing was flagged and/or there’s additional verification required. Beyond this, Apple has additional fraud prevention measures in place but didn’t discuss them extensively.

Sterling's post has screenshots of the entire process, so if you're interested I recommend reading it yourself. Also interesting is that as part of Maps Connect, businesses can apply for Apple's indoor positioning technology which it launched with iOS 8. The website notes that Apple is currently focused on working with those businesses that have annual visitors of over 1 million, WiFi throughout and accurate maps, amongst other things.

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How One Boy With Autism Became BFF With Apple’s Siri

For most of us, Siri is merely a momentary diversion. But for some, it’s more. My son’s practice conversation with Siri is translating into more facility with actual humans. Yesterday I had the longest conversation with him that I’ve ever had. Admittedly, it was about different species of turtles and whether I preferred the red-eared slider to the diamond-backed terrapin. This might not have been my choice of topic, but it was back and forth, and it followed a logical trajectory. I can promise you that for most of my beautiful son’s 13 years of existence, that has not been the case.

Beautiful story by Judith Newman for The New York Times.

It's easy to dismiss tech companies as “greedy corporations that only strive to make money”, and in many cases that's the simple truth. But in other cases, what they make truly has a positive impact on human lives that is far away from mere financial returns. This story about Siri and an autistic boy is a great example.

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iStat Mini

Bjango's iStat Menus has been one of my must-have Mac apps for the past four years, but I have to admit that I don't use all of its features. I don't need iStat Menus' comprehensive set of tools to monitor my CPU, fan temperature, or network usage – mostly because I don't understand that data and just want to know how much free memory and storage I have.

iStat Mini, released last week on the Mac App Store, takes iStat Menus' most popular features and puts them in Yosemite's Today view with a compact widget that's always a swipe away. iStat Mini will show you CPU, memory, and disk usage, with two smaller network indicators at the bottom for downloads and uploads. And that's it.

If you've always been interested in iStat's monitoring capabilities without the full power of iStat Menus, iStat Mini is a handy widget that covers the basics with a compact layout in Notification Center. Adopters of the app will likely ask for more features, and Bjango will have to balance requests for more options with the simplicity of the widget. A little more customization would be nice, but I wouldn't want to see iStat Mini become as complex as iStat Menus.

iStat Mini is $1.99 on the Mac App Store.


Rdio Launches High-Quality Streams, Interactive Notifications on iOS 8

Last week, Rdio addressed one of my longstanding criticisms of the service by launching high-quality AAC streams with a 320 kbps option for Unlimited users:

Today we’re happy to announce we’ve converted our entire catalog of over 30 million songs to high-quality AAC audio. Listeners around the world now have four sound quality settings to choose from across iOS, Android, and the web. All Rdio users can choose between data-efficient 64 kbps all the way up to 192 kbps. Rdio Unlimited subscribers now also have the option of listening in pristine-quality 320 kbps. Plus individually select your audio settings for a variety of uses, whether you’re using Wi-Fi or cellular streaming or listening to offline downloads.

Rdio is late to the 320 kbps party, but better late than never. I like how the updated iOS app has individual settings for streaming and download quality over WiFi and Cellular connections.

And speaking of the iOS app, it was also updated with new iOS 8 features and support for CarPlay. I couldn't test the latter as I don't have a CarPlay receiver, and the fact that Rdio is now optimized for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is pretty much a given with app updates at this point.

The use of interactive notifications by Rdio is clever: if someone shares a song or album with you, you can swipe down on the Rdio notification to view it or start playing it. The Play button has to launch the Rdio app first, but it's still a nice shortcut that should remove some friction from sharing with other Rdio users.

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Apple Pay in Australia

Beau Giles figured out a way to use Apple Pay, currently limited to the US, in Australia. Essentially, given the right settings and card, Apple Pay will treat the user as an American tourist in another country, with an obvious consequence:

Unfortunately, as you’re essentially paying with a card from the US, you’ll be paying currency conversion fees for anything you buy in Australia with Apple Pay.

I have tried this myself, and I could show the Apple Pay setup screen in Italy, but I don't have a compatible American credit card. It's too bad, because the MasterCard Nearby app shows plenty of Contactless-enabled stores in my area.

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