Welcome to Gadget Review’s new weekly app review column. We’re starting out with iOS apps only, but in the future we will extend to other OS ecosystems. If you have an app to recommend, please do so in the comments or via our social media channels.
Free, iOS 6 or above
Calendar apps have come and gone, and nothing has yet replaced the tried and true calendars from Google, Apple and Microsoft. Enter Mynd, an “intelligent mobile calendar” from Alminder Inc. This, loyal readers, is the game changer.
This native app syncs to any existing calendars you have (so you can still manage them from your desktop email client), but transforms the boring box format into an intuitive infographic and mutl-tab display that allows for easy information integration. Just from the launch screen, you can tell what your next schedule item is, how long until it occurs, who is scheduled to attend (plus their LinkedIn profile data), and even a recommended departure time based on traffic conditions.
By combining functions that otherwise require dedicated separate apps, Mynd makes managing a hectic schedule more relaxing than ever.
2. FTL: Faster Than Light
$9.99, iOS 6.0 or newer, iPad 2 or later
Though more and more people are playing games on their iOS devices, most of those games are pretty basic and, for self-identifying gamers, extremely boring. If you’ve been looking for a real-deal game to sink your thumbs into, buckle up for Faster Than Light.
A beloved PC game for years, FTL is finally available on second generation or later iPads. The premise is simple: you’re the captain of an intergalactic space ship, voyaging through an unknown (and awesomely randomized) universe. From there, things get more interesting, as you control every aspect of your ship and crew, navigating both enemy and friendly encounters and making snap decisions that can spell doom or glory.
This is a strategy game, first and foremost, but unlike some others it never gets old due to the randomized encounter engine at the core of the game. The UI/UX are peerless, and the art references both 8-bit arcade and anime.
Final verdict: BUY THIS GAME!
3. Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
$.99, iOS 5.0 or later
In my humble opinion, the worst part of the day is setting an alarm for the next morning. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore, thanks to Sleep Cycle, an intelligent alarm clock from Northcube AB.
When I first heard about “intelligent” alarm clocks, all I heard was “alarm clock.” But there really is a difference. Sleep Cycle measures your, well, sleep cycles, using the iPhone’s built in accelerometer (see, it isn’t in there for nothing!) and wakes you up at just the right moment, as you enter your lightest sleep cycle. This way, you aren’t snapping out of a deep sleep, and rather gradually slipping into wakefulness, which leads to a far more refreshed and ready feeling.
The app is highly customizable and spits out beautiful graphs and analytics for your monitoring pleasure. For those who have trouble sleeping, it can help identify the cause through its “Sleep Notes” feature. For those who have trouble falling asleep, it offers a range of lulling sounds and programs. And for all of you who just hate waking up, it will make your day that much better.
4. Data Count
In an era of data caps, we could all use a tool to help us avoid the additional charges that accompany all those streaming overages. Data Count, from Creo, is just the ticket.
Nothing complex here, just a simple tool that monitors your cellular (LTE/4G/3G) and wi-fi data and notifies you when you’re approaching your limit. It’s optimized for iOS 7 and perfectly matched to the Apple aesthetic. Clean, beautiful, and easy.
5. Monument Valley
$3.99, iOS 6.0 or later
Sometimes, apps transcend ones and zeros. They usher in a new way of life, perhaps, or offer a major social improvement. And, in rare cases, they become true art.
Monument Valley, a stunning new game from ustwo, is Art with a capital A.
Users guide a ghostly princess figure through mind-bending puzzle worlds using finger swipes, and none of the puzzles are particularly difficult. Turn back now if you’re looking for days and days of challenging gameplay.
Few mobile games have reached the level visual appeal that Monument Valley brings, with its otherworldly, MC Escher structures awash in vibrant colors that strangely evoke intense emotional responses. Each move generates soothing soundscapes that draw the player deeper into the game’s world. What is the princess looking for? What is this place? The experience verges on meditation at times, allowing the mind to wander while the fingers keep slipping and sliding through temples, castles and illusory galactic monuments.
6. Pinnacle Studio for iPhone
$9.99, iOS 7
Here’s one for the pros. Or anyone who takes a lot of photos. Which is just about everyone with an iPhone.
Corel Inc.’s Pinnacle Studio is the perfect solution for people who need quick, easy video, audio and photo editing capabilities on the go. Its suite includes montage templates, transitions, title templates, slow/fast motion, clip splitting, and much more. And with easy import, export and sharing controls, on-the-go creative work can be finalized on the big machine at home. Oh, and the video outputs at full HD (1080p)