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Top 10 iPad apps of 2012

The odometer’s about to tick over on another year, and as sites like ours often do, we’re looking back at the most popular and useful apps released for Apple’s iDevices in the past year.  My last article was devoted to the top 10 iPhone apps of the year.  This time we’ll be looking at the top 10 iPad apps of 2012.  What’s most interesting about this year’s list is the number of games – just 3, versus 7 apps meant for productivity and communication.  Drum roll please – the top 10 iPad apps of 2012, split between the top of the paid and free charts:

Top Free iPad Apps:
1. Skype for iPad (Skype Communications S.a.r.l) – This app is a shining example of the future totally living up to its science fiction hype. We may not have flying cars, meal replacement pills or hover boards, but by golly do we have video phones! The current version of the app also uses cellular data, so users aren’t tied to just places with WiFi access.  If the future is calling, we’ll likely be answering it via Skype and waving to it through the FaceTime cameras on our iPads.

2. Temple Run (Imangi Studios, LLC) – Temple Run feels like an old school platformer, with a couple of changes.  The camera angle is top-down rather than side-scrolling and uses the player/avatar’s point of view, and there aren’t really “levels” to complete – just threshold numbers of coins to collect to unlock parts of the mural in the game.  Although the game is free to play, the app allows players to purchase upgrades to various items in the game’s “store”.

3. Facebook (Facebook, Inc.) – I’ll re-iterate here what I said about the iPhone version: “Here it is, the 800-lb gorilla of social media – an app for the site that everybody loves to hate, but can never give up on… It’s been updated this year, to be faster and leaner and it really does seem to be getting better as time goes on (even though the developers seem to be bent on changing it all as soon as everybody gets used to one layout).  Just about the only thing not available in the mobile app is the ability to play games, since the browser-based games are all dependent on Flash – and we all know what Steve thought about Flash!”  Also note that the iPad version of the app bears a positive resemblance to the website itself, and has the redeeming characteristic of making Timeline actually bearable.

4. Netflix (by Netflix, Inc.) – This app is just about the most entertaining way I can think of to completely max out a wireless data plan in the space of an afternoon!  In fact, a 2011 report cited Netflix as the largest source of North American web traffic, accounting for 33% of traffic during peak periods. That’s a lot of movies and TV shows streaming to iPads, kids! (In fact, at the highest bandwidth tier, it’s possible to stream just over 2GB/hour – best to stay close to the wireless router for this one…)

5. The Weather Channel for iPad (The Weather Channel) – When you absolutely, positively have to know whether to grab a jacket or an umbrella, accept no substitute. This is the mobile app presence from the venerable cable/satellite channel. The app features animated, customizable weather maps; radar maps and pollen information; tweets and user photos; as well as news coverage and storm footage.

 

Top Paid iPad Apps:
1. Angry Birds Space HD (Rovio Ent. Ltd) – Again, I’ll copy here what I said about this app in the “Top 10 iPhone apps of 2012” article, as well as mentioning that this game (like any other) benefits from the extra screen real estate offered on the iPad: “The number 1 mobile game of all time returns for a fourth installment, and this time it takes the physics off land and literally into outer space.  Each planet in the game has its own gravitational field, which all affect the birds that players can launch at the bad piggies. The game was debuted in March with a video presented by a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The NASA connection continued in August with the release of the first 20 levels of the Red Planet pack, which coincided with the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars.”

2. Where’s My Water? (Walt Disney) – This app is also a repeat from the iPhone app roundup: “This is a physics puzzler that involves water, pipes, cartoon alligators and rubber duckies. Players are required to fill Swampy the Alligator’s tub so that he can take a bath. In order to do that, they must dig through dirt and reroute the flowing water to Swampy’s tub.  They also have to avoid obstacles such as algae, poison mud and toxic mud. It has the distinction of being the 25 billionth app downloaded from the app store, by a user in China, and won an “Apple Design Award” at the 2012 WWDC.”

3. Pages (Apple Inc.) – This is the first of the top 10 iPad apps of 2012 that comes directly from Apple, instead of third-party developers. It’s more than just a mere word processing program.  Paired with iCloud and a Bluetooth keyboard, Pages transforms your iPad from just a way to consume data into a way to actually create amazing content of your own. And, using Mail and iTunes File Sharing, you can move your documents directly from the iPad to your Mac or PC.

4. Draw Something (OMGPOP, Inc.) – This is the last of the repeat apps from the iPhone list, and I’ll mention again that it benefits from the iPad’s larger screen. “This is the paid version of the app listed above in the top free iPhone apps, which means no ads in-app, as well as 2000 more words, 200 free coins and 5 free hints.”

 

5. Notability (Drive Sync Ginger Labs, Inc.) – This powerful note-taking app allows users to handwrite, type, record audio and add other media to the notes they’re saving. It also includes an auto-sync feature that allows users to save their notes and documents to cloud services such as DropBox and Google Drive. As an aside, I will also mention that my favorite culinary Mac user, Alton Brown (of Good Eats and Iron Chef America fame) has been tweeting with Post-It notes of late, and created the hashtag #MadeInNotability recently when he was tweeting from the road and ran out of physical sticky notes. Can’t get much cooler than that.

 
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Top iPhone apps of 2012

Published on December 29, 2012 by in Apple

What would the holidays be for an Apple blog if the site managers didn’t insist on a countdown of the top iPhone apps? Sure, it’s a little derivative, but it’s also a lot of fun – and a great place to start for our readers who’ve just unwrapped shiny new iOS devices for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Festivus.  So without further ado, our top 10 apps of the year, split equally between free and paid:

Top Free iPhone Apps:
1. YouTube (Google, Inc.) – This amazing app that started out as a way to share funny or interesting personal videos has disproven the old song lyric that “the revolution will not be televised”.   With a very few exceptions (explicit sexual or gory content), it’s possible to find just about anything on YouTube.  Users have taken the “Broadcast yourself” tagline quite seriously, and the whole world is watching.  This standalone app was added to the App Store in September after Apple dropped it from inclusion in the release of iOS 6.

 

2. Instagram (Burbn, Inc.) – This photoblogging/social networking app allows users to take their ordinary photos of, say, dinner with friends or family vacations and turn them into something approaching art with the use of free filters and borders. Make a digital image look like something that used to come out of a camera and had to be waved around in the air to be developed!  Be a total hipster and publish all this stuff to your Facebook page or Tumblr or Flickr (but not Twitter anymore…) – and then pray that the developers don’t decide to snag your private photos for advertising!

 

3. Draw Something Free (OMGPOP, Inc.) – Remember Pictionary? It was like charades, only with markers and easels and big white paper pads…now imagine that Pictionary and Facebook had a baby and put it on every smartphone on the planet.  That’s Draw Something.  In fact, with the Facebook integration, the game went viral and had 50 million downloads within its first 50 days of release. The free version is ad-supported, but both versions have in-app purchasing of “coins” that can be used to buy more colors and “bombs” for eliminating incorrect letters in a guess or giving drawers new word sets.

 

4. Flashlight (iHandy Inc.) – Handy little app that does just what it says on the tin; it’s a flashlight that uses the iPhone’s LED camera flash to light the user’s way in the dark.  It is ad-supported, and includes a compass as well as strobe mode and variable brightness.  Also note that the strobe can be made to blink out SOS in Morse code.

5. Facebook (Facebook, Inc.) – Here it is, the 800-lb gorilla of social media – an app for the site that everybody loves to hate, but can never give up on… It’s been updated this year, to be faster and leaner and it really does seem to be getting better as time goes on (even though the developers seem to be bent on changing it all as soon as everybody gets used to one layout).  Just about the only thing not available in the mobile app is the ability to play games, since the browser-based games are all dependent on Flash – and we all know what Steve thought about Flash!

 

 

Top Paid iPhone Apps:
1. Angry Birds Space (Rovio Ent. Ltd.) – The number 1 mobile game of all time returns for a fourth installment, and this time it takes the physics off land and literally into outer space.  Each planet in the game has its own gravitational field, which all affect the birds that players can launch at the bad piggies. The game was debuted in March with a video presented by a NASA astronaut aboard the International Space Station. The NASA connection continued in August with the release of the first 20 levels of the Red Planet pack, which coincided with the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars.

 2. Draw Something (OMGPOP, Inc.) – This is the paid version of the app listed above in the top free iPhone apps, which means no ads in-app, as well as 2000 more words, 200 free coins and 5 free hints.

 

3. Camera+ (tap tap tap LLC) – In addition to being named one of the top iPhone apps of 2012, this is

the 10th most popular App Store app of all time.  Camera+ functions as an alternative to the standard iOS camera app, adding basic and advanced editing tools (including special effects and lighting filters) and an image stabilizer. It also integrated sharing with FacebookFlickr, and Twitter.

4. Where’s My Water? (Walt Disney) – This is a physics puzzler that involves water, pipes, cartoon alligators and rubber duckies. Players are required to fill Swampy the Alligator’s tub so that he can take a bath. In order to do that, they must dig through dirt and reroute the flowing water to Swampy’s tub.  They also have to avoid obstacles such as algae, poison mud and toxic mud. It has the distinction of being the 25 billionth app downloaded from the app store, by a user in China, and won an “Apple Design Award” at the 2012 WWDC.

5. Angry Birds Star Wars (Rovio Ent. Ltd) – Released in November, this is the 5th game in the Angry Birds franchise. In this iteration, the birds have taken on the role of the Rebel Alliance in opposition to the Imperial force/Stormtrooper parts played by the Pigs.  The birds and pigs have all taken on the identities of various Star Wars characters, including Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi.  (Notable for his absence is Yoda…)  The game begins on Tatooine, and also includes locations from the Star Wars universe such as Hoth and the Death Star.

 
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Top 10 Apple gifts – a last-minute buyer’s guide to Christmas morning

Published on December 22, 2012 by in Apple, iPad, iPhone, Mac

“‘Twas the weekend before Christmas/and all through the stores/the shoppers were panicking/what do Apple fans adore?”  If you’re sweating the last few purchases for the Mac and iOS lovers on your Christmas list, we’re here to help. (Of course, we can’t help but think you should’ve been doing all this a bit sooner, but that’s another story…)  So without further ado, we present our Top Ten last-minute Apple gifts list for Christmas 2012.

1. iPod Shuffle – At only $49, this half-ounce wonder is just about the perfect stocking stuffer for anybody on   your list.  It holds 2GB of   music, supports multiple playlists, podcasts, audiobooks and Apple’s VoiceOver technology.  Choose from 8 brilliant colors to suit any taste. iPod shuffle holds hundreds of songs and gives up to 15 hours of playback time from a full charge.

2. iPod classic – This is the best fix for serious music junkies.  The iPod classic is 160GB of anodized aluminum and polished stainless steel, with a 2.5-inch screen and up to 36 hours of battery life on a full charge.  $249 buys the ability to take your entire media library with you wherever you go – up to 40,000 songs, 200 hours of video, 25,000 photos, or any combination of the above.  It also supports Genius mixes and multiple playlists.

 

 

3. iPod Touch – This is the best gift to give to someone who wants a pocket-sized iDevice, but doesn’t really want to make the financial commitment to an iPhone.  Also made of anodized aluminum, iPod touch comes in 5 vivid colors that are bonded right to the metal, and in a choice of 32GB ($299) or 64GB ($399). Both models also boast a 4-inch Retina display and 5-megapixel iSight camera. Facebook and Twitter have been integrated into iOS 6, and Siri comes to iPod touch for the first time with this model.

 

 

 4. iPad mini – This is Apple’s newest iOS device.  It’s pencil-thin, weighs just over half a pound, and handles all of your apps and media with the greatest of ease.  Want to surf the web? Safari has you covered.  Rather read a comic book? There’s an app for that.  Think you’ll play a game instead?  The App Store is your playground. The 7.9-inch screen is big and bright enough to show you everything you’re looking for, but small enough to fit into a purse, backpack or messenger bag.

 

 

5. MacBook Pro (15-inch, non-retina) – Call me just a little bit old-fashioned, but I’m not quite ready to let go of optical drives – or the ability upgrade your own RAM.  The 15-inch MacBook Pro offers users the best Mac OS X experience, along with the ability to be portable at a moment’s notice.  Firewire 800, Thunderbolt and USB 3 ports mean that your notebook should talk to just about anything you can introduce it to.  It also reads SD cards up to 64GB.  Max it out at 8GB of RAM and a 1TB internal hard drive, and you’ll have everything you need to be productive for a good while – at least until Apple releases its next sexy beast of a notebook! 

 

 6. AppleCare Protection Plan – The very best one-size-fits-all accessory for any piece of Apple gear is the AppleCare Protection Plan.  When purchased at the same time as your new hardware, it provides 3 years of global hardware and software support (2 years for iOS devices), both in person at the Genius Bar as well as over the phone with trained technical professionals.  What that means is direct access to Apple experts for questions on a wide range of Mac topics, including using OS X, iLife, and connecting to printers and AirPort networks. Prices for the protection plan range from $29 to $349, depending on the particular piece of hardware you’re covering.

 

7. iTunes Gift Cards – Of everything on my list, this is the biggest no-brainer of the lot.  It’s the best all-around stocking stuffer for anyone who has just about any kind of Apple hardware, and your lucky recipient is sure to love what they eventually purchase with it.  Best of all, it never expires or goes out of style.  What’s also lovely about these little guys is that you can buy them practically anywhere (which these days can even mean your local gas station) and they work for anything in any of Apple’s app stores. 

 

8. Apple EarPods w/Remote and Mic – It used to be that if you wanted to get decent earbuds for your iDevice, you either had to cough up $79 for Apple’s in-ear headphones, or try to navigate the zillions of different 3rd-party options available at every electronics store and mega-mart from here to Timbuktu.  Now, with the release of iPhone 5 and the new iPod touch, Apple has stepped up its headphone game while dropping the price at the same time.  EarPods are less than half the price of the alternative to the original ubiquitous white earphones, but still have better customer ratings at Apple’s online store.

 

9. iFlash Dual USB (3 Amp) car charger (USB-to-microUSB cables included) – This is the first 3rd-party hardware to be included on our list.  It’s not something that you’re going to need right on Christmas morning, the hot second you unwrap your new shinies from Apple, but it’s something you’re going to want to order from Amazon pretty quickly.  $11 buys an amazing amount of peace of mind for families with multiple mobile devices and want to travel without worrying about batteries dying.  This unobtrusive little dual-USB car charger will top up both tablets and phones, and comes with 2 USB-to-microUSB cables.

10. iCade –  For those who remember a time when video games were fed with quarters and played in public, we offer this nifty trip in the WayBack Machine.  iCade started its life as a ThinkGeek April Fools’ gag, but there was such an overwhelming demand that the retailer actually partnered with a manufacturer to make it a reality.  Pick up the free Atari’s Greatest Hits app from the App Store to get Missile Command for free; the rest of the retro games in the bundle can be had via in-app purchase for $9.99.  Then all that’s left is to slip on your Vans, crank some Journey on the radio and get your old-school game on!

 
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The Mayan Apocalypse, be sure your data survives – or at least catastrophic hardware failure

I learned many things in the time I spent supporting Macs professionally; one of the most important was about how to protect (often irreplaceable) data.  I also learned that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who’ve already lost data, and those who haven’t lost data yet.  So today, in honor of the Mayan Apocalypse (which could still totally happen, we don’t know!) we’re going to take a look at some of the best ways to back up all of your important stuff.  Every good data backup/recovery plan should include both local and off-site storage; you never know when fire, flood or zombie horde is going to destroy either end of that chain.

The first, most basic backup option is an app that’s totally free and baked right into Mac OS X – Time Machine. This is Apple’s own backup utility, and it’s been included in every OS X release since Leopard (10.5).  Time Machine’s initial backup is essentially a snapshot of your internal hard drive at that given moment, with the exception of anything you’ve told it to ignore as well as the Time Machine volume itself, and ideally saved to an external hard drive.  Once this snapshot is completed, then Time Machine continues to make incremental backups of any changes to data on the drive it’s backing up.  This happens hourly; then the hourlies get compressed into dailies, dailies into weeklies, weeklies into monthlies and so on, until you run out of space on the external drive.  The very best thing, hands-down, about Time Machine is that it’s Apple software and as such is fully supported by AppleCare technicians.  This means that when (notice I didn’t say “if”) you experience Mayan Apocalypse-level data loss, your friendly neighborhood Apple techs can walk you through restoring from your Time Machine backup.

Apple also has one more backup method available, as part of its iCloud service. It requires Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8), as well as iOS 5 or later for iPhone 3GS and up, 3rd-gen iPod touch and up, and iPad. It’s a little more a la carte, in the sense that it doesn’t start with the snapshot of your whole hard drive that Time Machine does.  According to Apple’s support article about purchasing more iCloud storage, “iCloud customers are provided with 5 GB of free cloud storage. Purchased music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books, as well as photos in your Photo Stream don’t count against your 5 GB of free storage.”  This is really important information to have, especially when you consider that most of the money people spend with Apple is in the form of media content that Apple won’t replace if you lose it. (“Some iTunes Products, including but not limited to Content rentals, may be downloaded only once and cannot be replaced if lost for any reason. It is your responsibility not to lose, destroy, or damage iTunes Products once downloaded, and you may wish to back them up.”) Potential iCloud customers should also note that its storage tops out at a measly extra 50GB of space for $100/year, which you have to keep paying if you want to retain access to stuff you’ve put in Apple’s cloud.

Other companies offer backup services for Mac users, and lots of them are in the cloud.  We’ve all gone digital these days, it seems, and hard copies of anything just seem kind of passé.  One you can’t avoid hearing about if you listen to any kind of commercial radio is Carbonite.  The company offers unlimited, encrypted online backup of a single Mac for $59/year.  However, if you’re looking to back up more than one Mac in your home, you’ll be looking at spending a minimum of $229/year for a business package.

One company that seems to combine the best of both cloud storage and easy-peasy Time Machine usage is DollyDrive. You’re literally able to purchase space from the company that then functions as a virtual external hard drive that you can point Time Machine at, set it like a Crock Pot and just forget it.  And that 50GB top end for iCloud?  That’s the entry level with DollyDrive, and even paying them month-to-month will only set you back $60 over the course of a year for it.  Their prices drop pretty respectably when you start paying for multiple months in advance.  You can also back up multiple Macs at no extra charge (just make sure you pick a plan with enough room) and for $100 they’ll even ship you a specially-prepared physical hard drive so that you can get your data safe in the cloud before the apocalypse happens.  I mean, come on, what’s not to love about a company that uses the Mayan Apocalypse (or lack thereof) as a selling point for its services?

Last but certainly not least, understand that there is a difference between backups and archives.  An archive is a static collection of data that isn’t going to change anymore, and needs to be able to last for a long time.  A backup is a collection of data that is subject to change, such as pictures being added to a camera roll, emails from your creepy ex being deleted, or spandy-new Justin Bieber songs being added to your iTunes library.  So even if you have a backup you trust, it’s also a good idea to have an off-site archive of your most important information, so that you don’t lose it and so that it can be easily accessed for a long time to come. I found an excellent ZDNet article about how to archive data for the long haul; it’s definitely worth a read.  The long and short of it is that your (often-irrepleaceable) data is valuable but storage is cheap, so buy lots and keep it in a safe place away from your home.  CDs and DVDs in a bank safe deposit box are a good start.  Make sure to choose open source formats wherever possible.  For documents, good-quality hard copies are also a good backup to your backup.

If you employ even some of the suggestions listed here, your data should safe from just about anything except the Mayan Apocalypse.

 
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SOFTFlex Touch for iPad Review

Soft Touch Flex

A few days ago I received a package in the mail from Soft Touch Manufacturing. This is a little company that you might not heard of. However they had a product that they wanted reviewed. I had a few ideas about the product before it was shipped to me, however this is a new accessory and very few people have had the opportunity to mess around with it. Because of this, even with my amazing research talents, I had no real idea what I was getting my hands on. I present to you the Soft Touch Flex!

 

 

I was mildly interested to give this product a trial run. I opened up the box with a little interest, and found that this system was everything that I was promised.

The holder (as it is described by the manufacturer) was incredibly easy to put together. It was as simple as connecting and tightening the bolt. My iPad 3rd Gen fit easily into the spring powered grips and it was able to hold the weight of my iPad in every position that I had attempted to use it! This made it rather easy to find the best spot on my desk for the mount. There were a few basic limitations that were caused more by the basic nature of the iPad than anything else. One such limitation was the iPad touchscreen. This requires you to mount it within arms reach. The flexible design of the holder made up for this by allowing you to have a bit more freedom in where you mounted your iPad. It works like you would expect. Just slide the iPad into the loving embrace, and let the Flex hold on to it for you.

There were a few details that troubled me. First, though the construction feels sturdy enough, it is still plastic. The arms themselves feel like they could be the weakest link, and should anything fail, it would be that.

Even though I have only used the Flex for a few days it has already found a permanent place on my desk. I would highly recommend picking one up if you, like me, enjoy using your iPad as a part of your every day computer work.

My Apple Approved Rating: 5/10 (Nice product does what it’s supposed to… if I had plenty of spare cash I would buy one)

 
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