This month we’ve been keeping appointments, choosing childrens’ names, making friends with aliens, dancing the salsa, avoiding parking fines and making analogue music. Oh, and writing this…
While Apple’s iCal on the Mac, and the iPad’s Calendar program are just the job, the iPhone’s pre-installed Calendar is a pretty lame affair. This is mainly because it doesn’t have a built-in week view – and although we’ve tried, neither the Month nor List view are useful enough to help us stay on top of things.
Enter Week Cal (£1.19), which picks up all the entries in your existing calendar (including, in our case, the sync settings with Google Calendar) and adds a lovely, iCal-style week view. It makes great use of the iPhone’s screen, works in portrait and landscape, supports drag and drop so you can move appointments around easily, and has some clever double-tap features – for example, zooming in and out of a particular day when you’re in Week view.
You can save regular appointments as templates and then just drop them in at the correct time, link contacts to events, and use the calendar full-screen without any menus; even the Month View gives you more space for an event list under the calendar (and uses colour-coded dots to indicate appointments from different calendars). It’s always been hard to understand why Apple didn’t include a better calendar for the iPhone – now it doesn’t matter.
Although our child-rearing days may be behind us, it doesn’t mean we’re not sympathetic to the nightmare of naming your kids – Elliot or Andrew, Farrah or Fannie, Norah or Nebuchadnezzar? Back in the day we’d have loved Stork Drop (£1.19), which takes the heavy lifting out of choosing a name for your new arrival and offers an alternative to poring through enormous – and tedious – alphabetical lists.
Instead, you just load the app, set the arrival date (which then counts down on the icon’s badge) and tap the little cartoon clouds at the top of the screen (or give the phone a shake) then sit back as a selection of names tumble out of the sky.
Save good ones for later with a quick double-tap, drop ones you’re not sure of into the stork’s sack, check what other names are high on other Stork Drop users’ lists, get inspiration from themed name lists (for example historical figures, entertainment) or do it old school and trawl through the standard A-Z list.
In all Stork drop includes more than 7,000 names, each with a note on its origin and meaning from Aaron (teacher, lofty, mountain of strength) to Zula (brilliant, a city).
Although not normally fans of movie tie-ins (because most of them are cack), we’ll admit to having a soft spot for Paul (FREE).
Released to coincide with the latest Simon Pegg movie (slackers-rescue-alien) it has but one simple trick up its sleeve – take a face-on photo of someone and it’ll transform the photograph into a classic ‘Greys’-style alien face, complete with uncomfortably deep eye sockets, bulging forehead and pointy chin.
You can position the eye sockets and mouth – in case your face is a funny shape to begin with – and then let the app do the rest, after which you can share the results via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and so on. The graphics are entertaining (there’s a quite a nice phoney face/retina recognition scan with a pulsing green line that goes up and then down as if it’s really scanning your face), and the results are genuinely funny.
We’ve met some people who prefer their new alien face to their real original one. Oh, and there’s a link to the movie trailer as well – but only, you know, if you feel obligated…
Having been born with at least two left feet, the current craze for dance – jazz, tap, ballroom, on ice and no doubt in many other styles – has passed us by. No more. Thanks to DanceSteps (£1.19) we now have the opportunity to master salsa, rumba, samba and waltz, with more to follow.
DanceSteps is a simple but effective idea. The app displays a top-down view of two pairs of feet – red for the lady and black for the gentleman. Select your dance style, press Play and copy the steps as they’re danced in the app. Too fast? Then do it the sensible way. Begin your lesson by clicking the ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons to move through the lessons a step at a time and take note of the balloon help (that third movement in the samba is more of a skip than a step).
When you think you’ve mastered a sequence, click Play and see if you can follow it through. It’s no substitute for the real thing, of course. But for beginners – or anyone who needs a quick refresher on their way to class – it’s a valuable little pocket reference that’ll help you stay light on your feet.
While we may object to having to pay for parking, we genuinely resent running over time and getting slapped with a fine. That’s why we’ve been on the lookout for something elegant to keep an eye on the time for us, so we can always get back before the traffic wardens pounce.
So here’s Honk (£0.59p), a nifty little timer with a clever interface that helps you to keep track of how long you’ve got left on the ticket and where you’ve parked. It’s a doddle to use – just swipe your finger in an arc over the top of the on-screen meter to set how long the ticket’s valid for (this then appears as a countdown badge on the icon), and take a snap of where you’ve parked with the camera.
All the streets look the same? Scribble yourself a note over the top of the photo with your finger as a reminder. Honk doesn’t need to be active to work, the alarm (a car horn, natch) is nice and loud, and the map allows you to find your way back before the meter runs out.
When an app comes with a 57-page PDF manual, it’s either going to be very good or very bad. NanoStudio (£8.99) we’re pleased to report, is very good. But it needs that manual because despite making excellent use of the iPhone’s relatively small screen, it’s so packed with features that you’d soon get lost. Worse, you’d probably never find half the things that it can do.
In brief, this is a virtual recording studio suitable for recording instrumental music. It includes four ‘polyphonic’ synths (that means they can play more than one note at a time) with a total of 128 different sounds, plus a 16-pad drum machine for tapping out beats (though you can assign other instruments to the pads as well). There are also expression pads’, which let you alter the modulation of sounds while you’re playing them, and a pitchwheel for making notes go up and down.
By combining decent performance tools like this with some genuinely excellent analogue-style synth sounds, NanoStudio is a proper pocket studio. There’s a six-track sequencer for arranging, two insert and send effects per synth, a sample editor with four levels of undo, a mixing desk and the ability to export finished tracks as Ogg, Zip or WAV files so that they can be incorporated into desktop music projects.
There’s loads more, too. Oscillators and filters to fiddle with, quantizing, the ability to resample sounds and add them to your library, individual note editing and much more. In fact, the only thing that’s missing is a simple tutorial that shows you how to put your first song together. More pages for that manual then…
Company: Apple via the iTunes Store
Various, as above.
All apps available from the iTunes Store.