Apps

My favorite apps of 2015

I feel the need to defend these apps in a way that I didn't for my favorite albums of 2015 list I posted yesterday. In part, this is because music's role in my life has a certain type of inevitability that makes it difficult for me to immediately understand its value myself. Secondly, the music I experienced this past year is worth so many more words than I could possibly type. Finally, apps, especially paid ones, tend to require a defense; a "why do I need to buy this?" Their value is also often technical and practical, and can be condensed down into a few sentences.

Productivity

Documents by Readdle

I can't remember what getting work done on an iPad or iPhone felt like before discovering this app. Think of this as the missing Finder on iOS.

Due

My new favorite for setting timers and reminders. I like how persistently it bugs me until I actually complete the task.

Workflow

Unbelievable automator for creating multi step workflows on iOS.

Scannable

For getting all physical paper into the cloud as beautifully formatted, text searchable, PDFs. Syncs effortlessly to Evernote, lightning fast, and zero step scanning.

Apple Notes

Stellar update this year to the notes app that comes bundled with Apple devices. I love the rich text formatting, web clipping, and list support.

OmniGraffle

A great app by the makers of two of my favorites: OmniFocus and OmniOutliner. OmniGraffle has come to replace Adobe Illustrator for me. It is my go-to for designing graphics. Specifically, I use it to design seating charts for my classes.

IFTTT

Amazing service for linking different internet connected services and devices. You can create if-then statements to automate them. Example: If I am tagged in a Facebook post, save that photo to my Dropbox. Another example: When I arrive at home, then turn on the lights in my house.

Paprika

Cooking game changer! My wife and I clip recipes from the web into this app and it formats them beautifully so we can isolate ingredients, directions, and set timers. It has a built in grocery list and meal planning feature that can send data to Apple Reminders and Calendar apps, respectively.

Overcast

I have been listening to a lot of podcasts this year. Overcast offers the best experience of all the podcast apps I have tried.

Music

forScore

Not a new app to me but I have really taken to organizing my scores on the iPad with this app over the last year. It has truly revolutionized my musical workflow throughout my band directing, private teaching, gigging, and church music directing jobs.

Tempo

Still my favorite metronome app on iOS.

Tunable

My favorite tuning app. Features gamified tuning, polyphonic tuning drones, just intonation, and simultaneous metronome and tuner playback.

Health

Using these apps (and more) in combination with the Apple Health app and Apple Watch, I have lost about 30 pounds since late August. Ok, really, I worked out and changed my diet some, but the apps helped.

Waterminder

Helps me set goals for water consumption and see my progress each day. Logging water is easy with the Apple Watch app and all data syncs to the Apple Health app.

Lark

This app is fun for tracking work outs and food, but I use it primarily to track the hours I sleep each night. It accomplishes this through the motion of my iPhone.

myfitnesspal

I have been using this app to track calorie and nutrition data for almost a year now. Really easy and addictive to use once you get into a routine.

Spire

This app, in combination with the wearable tracker by the same name, has allowed me to track trends in my breathing for the last few months. The app categorizes my breathing patterns into "focus," "tense," "calm," and "activity." When it senses a streak of tension, it sends my watch a message to breathe slower. It also allows me to set goals for minutes of focus per day, offers guided meditation, and syncs respiratory rate data to Apple Health.

Home

All of these require home automated hardware to be useful. By recommending them, I am recommending the devices themselves as well.

Harmony

Automated TV remote. No more fuss over HDMI inputs and multiple remotes. This app controls all of the things plugged into my TV and allows me to trigger different things on and off with simple one tap button presses.

Philips Hue

Lights that connect to wifi. These can be controlled from a phone app, automated with services like IFTTT, and commanded with Siri.

Sonos

High quality speakers that connect to one another over a home wifi network.

Games

Crossy Road

Shooty Skies

PAC-MAN 265

Limitations streaming iTunes music in the cloud with third party apps

Couldn't agree more with this post from MacStories. The original story they are covering is this post from the app developer Steamclock about limitations that third party apps have when accessing iTunes tracks stored in the cloud.

From Steamclock's blog post:

According to our latest stats, 17% of Party Monster users have been unable to play a song in their iTunes library, and 22% of WeddingDJ users have tried to cue a playlist that has so many unplayable tracks that we need to display a warning. While it’s a miracle that we’ve been able to maintain a 4 star rating through all of this, it’s not going to last if we stay the course.

Given all of this, we have a couple options. We could double down and go pro, catering to serious DJs who can load DRM-free music into our sandbox. Pro DJs who use our apps often have a large licensed library of songs, and won’t rely on iTunes Match or Apple Music.

Alternatively, we could steer towards the mass market, drop crossfading support, and regain full iTunes compatibility. We could also put in the work to add support for Spotify or other competing streaming services, and focus our apps less on playback features and more on having a great UI for queueing.

I am glad this problem is getting some publicity. I have been frustrated with the fact that iTunes tracks can't stream from third party apps for years.