Martin on Mobile Apps

About this Blog: All smartphone and tablet apps, all the time. Veteran mobile tech journalist James A. Martin offers mobile app reviews, news, tips and more on a variety of major mobile platforms, with a focus on iOS and Android.

Martin on Mobile Apps

Best iOS Apps of Summer 2013

CIO.com blogger James A. Martin spotlights three more great mobile apps for iOS and discloses his number one favorite app of the summer season.

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In yesterday’s post, I gave shout outs to a number of my favorite iOS and Android apps that I reviewed during the past few months. Today’s post spotlights three more iOS favorites. (One of the apps is also available for Android.)

Mailbox

iOS; Free

This iPhone/iPod touch email app hit the App Store in February, and it was so popular you had to get on a waiting list to download it. Once I got past the velvet ropes, Mailbox proved to be a creative take on mobile email. In June, its developer, Orchestra Inc., released an update that helps take advantage of larger iPad screens.

What’s so special about Mailbox? The app makes it easy to clear out a packed inbox using touchscreen swipes and drags. You can "snooze" messages so they pop back up in your inbox later and you don't forget them. (This feature alone is worth the price of admission, which happens to be nothing; the app is free.) And thanks to a recent update, you can attach Dropbox files to your email. (Dropbox owns Mailbox.)

As of this writing, Mailbox is only for Gmail users and isn’t available on Android. I noted a few additional quibbles in my review. But I still strongly suggest giving Mailbox a try.

RunKeeper

iOS and Android; Free, with optional premium upgrade

I’ve been tearing through mobile fitness apps lately, and the one I keep running back to is RunKeeper for iOS and Android.

The app and basic service is free. But an upgrade to the $20-per-year RunKeeper service gets you many more valuable features, including the ability to track your heart rate during exercise and view all of the related data in a helpful chart. You do need a compatible heart-rate device (sold separately), which communicates with RunKeeper on your smartphone via Bluetooth. (I use and recommend the $200 Mio Alpha strapless heart-rate monitor watch.)

RunKeeper was updated in June with new social-media features, such as the ability to follow your friends' workouts live. But I like the app for other reasons, including the fact that you can launch music playlists with each workout session and control the audio cues you receive during workouts. You can also add photos and notes to each workout entry; snapping a photo of your treadmill screen’s summary and attaching it to a workout session can be helpful, for instance.

Speaking of treadmills, RunKeeper has one huge, inexcusable omission: There’s no option to select "treadmill" for your workout. You have to manually enter it. The app does have settings for rowing and elliptical machines, however.

Yahoo Weather

iOS; Free

The default iOS Weather app is tired and boring, so I pushed it off my iPhone home screen and replaced it with the slick, gorgeous Yahoo Weather app.

Seriously, this is a great app. Look up a city, and you usually see a beautiful Flickr photo that reflects the current weather conditions. If it’s partly cloud, you see a photo of the city's skyline dotted with clouds. (See the image above of San Francisco.) 

Scroll down, and you get an hourly forecast; a five-day forecast; a detailed forecast complete with humidity, visibility and UV index; a weather map; wind and barometric pressure readings, with two tiny windmills spinning; precipitation forecasts; and sun and moon positions. You don’t even have to look at ads, as is the case with many free weather apps.

Yahoo Weather isn’t as full featured as some similar apps, such as the Weather Channel’s iPhone and iPad apps. But for a quick look at weather conditions, Yahoo Weather is effective and a joy to use. Of all the apps I reviewed in the past three months, Yahoo Weather is my favorite.


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