Inbox makes email meaningful again by filtering out the noise and allowing only those emails that actually merit your attention into your inbox. If you’re a gmail power user and haven’t tried Inbox yet I highly recommend taking it for a test drive.
Herein the NeuBible App I found a beautifully polished app whose emphasis is solely on quick access to scripture with further emphasis on font.
2015 has rang in and you’ve decided this is going to be your year to read the Bible cover to cover so to speak. I’ve put together a short list of apps to get you started. There were many worthy Bible Apps to choose from but I’ve narrowed the list down to my three personal favorites. The good news is you can’t really go wrong with any app that brings you…well the good news right?
The Bible App by YouVersion is the most downloaded Bible app at 166 million downloads and counting. It’s been my go to Bible app for at least the last 6 years. The Bible App is best known for giving away free unfettered access to virtually any translation or language you might fancy and a robust selection of devotionals to boot. You’re most likely to find a devotional by your favorite author, pastor, or publisher in its library. Part of the reason for its success is the fact that you’d be hard pressed to find a single platform it’s not available on. This past year saw the addition of a social feed to discuss your favorite verses and insights with friends and video content most notably from the Lumo Project and the popular Bible Series that aired on The History Channel. I personally love that I can easily switch between any Bible translation and find a plethora of devotionals and reading plans on any topic to suit my mood or need. In fact one thing I’ve struggled with is staying current on a one year reading plan while being teased with so many tempting (pun not intended) choices. Bonus if you’ve got kids, check out their accompanying free The Bible App For Kids. It’s chock full of interactive storyboard kids’ games of popular Bible lessons.
If you’re familiar with Logos Bible Software then you’re already likely aware of their suite of Bible apps. One of them is the Faithlife Study Bible App and I’ve listed it here because I stumbled on this gem last year and found myself even more distracted from my traditional one year reading plan in The Bible App. Basically it’s a free study bible complete with maps, pictures, exhaustive study notes, and even videos. It’s library is so huge it can actually be a bit daunting. The only caveat is the only free translation is their in-house Lexingham English Bible (LEB) translation unless you’re willing to pay for popular translations like the NIV or NLT which are available for free on the aforementioned Bible App. Nevertheless it’s a feast of biblical knowledge and even serves up a daily dose of sharable Bible word art each day. If you’re serious about going deeper in your Bible study this is a must download and is available on most major platforms and the web. Tip- be sure to create an account for their Logos content store because I was pleasantly surprised at Christmas time with a free $20 to spend on anything which I used to buy the NIV translation which is transferable across their suite of apps and services including the next one in this list.
Also from the folks at Faithlife /Logos Bible Software and recently released in December. You see both The Bible App and the Faithlife Study Bible App are robust at what they do good which can be a bad thing if all you want to do is open the app up and just pick up reading the Bible where you left off distraction free. Enter the Every Day Bible App with its straightforward top to bottom reading design. It’s literally a Bible app devoted solely to a one year reading plan. You can’t select chapters or verses, study notes, maps, social feeds, or even highlight individual verses or phrases. You simply open the app each day, start at the top, and read to the bottom where you check a box marking that day complete. It serves up a mix of old and new testaments with some nice Bible Word art mixed in and if you’re faithful with it then 365 days later voila you’ve read the Bible through and start over. It’s become my choice to read the Bible through this year and thanks to the aforementioned $20 gift I’m able to read it in my preferred translation. I will still flip to the Bible App for shorter devotionals, topical reading plans, and social feed but the Every Day Bible App will be my workhorse year round solely due to its simple and fast formula. Note it’s only available on iOS and the web for now.
* It should be noted the Bible App by YouVersion is a ministry of LifeChurch.tv, a multi-site church based in Oklahoma of which I’m a devoted member of.
I lauded the arrival of iOS 7 more than another other iteration of Apple’s mobile software mostly because I was so ready for its new flat look but it doesn’t remotely compare to my anticipation for iOS 8 and with it the arrival of third-party keyboard support. Apple’s stock keyboard has been much maligned for every successive iteration of their software and for me has been the single greatest point of frustration with iOS. Reasons for my frustration are quite simple and don’t really have much to do with snazzy gestures or pretty color templates so much as it has to do with accuracy. I simply just can’t master typing on the stock keyboard. It’s really quite maddening how poor I can be at times. It’s not rocket science but for reasons both known and unknown I can nary type a single sentence without an error and at this point I’m honestly resigned to the fact that I just suck at it. I had great hope that some third-party keyboard would come along and rescue me from my unmanageable thumbs. By the title surely you’ve guessed by now I was disappointed with the results. So here’s what lead me to the ultimate conclusion that I am ditching all third party keyboards for the stock Apple keyboard.
Somewhere in all the buzz leading up to the launch of iOS 8 and with it third-party keyboard support I came across news that a third-party app available on other platforms had set the Guinness World Record for fastest typing. Its name was Fleksy and after reading up on it I was immediately sold on its gesture based predictive algorithm. It seemed so fluid and quite slick. You see my crutch is simply typing accurately. I can spell just fine. I know how to structure a sentence. Still it’s a mystery to me why I err so much because I don’t have fat fingers, I consider myself very dexterous, and my thumbs keep in shape playing Xbox nevertheless I’ve always sucked at typing on the iPhone. The UI presented to me by Fleksy just seemed to hit the sweet spot because unlike most other keyboards including Apple’s it doesn’t try to predict as you type instead it just tries to predict what you just typed. Translation, it basically auto corrects your spelling. After downloading iOS 8 Fleksy was the first new app I installed. Frustration set in immediately as the keyboard crashed the very first time I took it out for a spin. After about a day of constant crashes I would learn that all iOS 8 users were experiencing the same thing and that the issue was baked into iOS 8 and affected all third-party keyboards. I would stumble on a couple more days until I just turned off the keyboard entirely to wait for Apple to offer up an update to fix what was a widely reported major bug. The first update supposed to fix the bugs we would quickly learn could brick phones and a successive update for the update would promptly come out soon after. I gave things a couple more days to smooth out before downloading that update. What’s important to note here is in that brief period while Apple was ironing out the kinks to the kinks so to speak I got some time with the updated stock Apple keyboard and discovered as advertised it had improved by leaps and bounds over the last one. It’s prediction engine was quite good and I would have to say did cut down my errors to some extent. That didn’t stop me from reactivating Fleksy once I finally downloaded the iOS update with fixes for third-party keyboards. I had after all already made my mind up to ditch yet another stock Apple feature for a better alternative something I have successfully done with practically every other stock Apple app or feature to date where alternatives existed.
Sadly Fleksy would turn into a maddening disaster. The predictive gestures were fun but what sunk it for me from almost the first day was its over corrective tendencies. How can you over correct the spelling of a word you ask? Simple really. Take the word “gun” for example. Typing it correctly would often yield a different word like “fun”. It begs the question how does this happen really? Wouldn’t in the hierarchy of rules a correctly spelled word take precedence over really any other rule? With Fleksy replacing a correctly spelled word with another word entirely happened astonishingly frequently. This left me altogether pissed off frankly. If I couldn’t correctly type in a word and have it accepted (especially since we’ve already established how much trouble I have typing accurately to begin with) then what is the point really? I researched the 3 major keyboards getting buzz at launch (Fleksy, Swype, and SwiftKey) and I’m not sure if I made it past two full days with my first choice, Fleksy, before moving on to my next choice. SwiftKey.
The lure for me about SwiftKey was really 3 things. First it was free which helps considering I had to purchase Fleksy, next it incorporated swipe to type gestures and learned your typing patterns getting better the more you used it (allegedly), and last you could always tap away if you didn’t want to swipe. I was at first really impressed with it but quickly discovered that learning your typing patterns was too much of a good thing. If I incorrectly misspelled a word in the same way a couple of times well…the incorrect spelling became its default first prediction thereafter. After 2 or 3 weeks I found myself full circle with the keyboard over correcting too often albeit now with a slew of misspellings. I could easily reset the keyboard to rid myself of all my polluted predictions but as I stated with Fleksy what’s the point of using their keyboard then? Truly frustrated I took a brief hiatus from third-party keyboards and went back to the stock Apple keyboard. At this point though I found that I had grown quite fond of the swipe to type gesture. It just felt more natural for one-handed use especially with the bigger iPhones that have virtually eliminated the ability to type one-handed so I finally convinced myself to drop a buck and download my third option. Swype. As luck would have it Apple would make it the FREE app of the week the very next day. Go figure. Nevertheless I found myself as with SwiftKey quite smitten with it I think mostly because it worked better (at first) than the previous keyboard I had tried, but not perfect. In fact Swype‘s fatal flaw is no different from all the others for me. Over correction. I don’t understand it really. I found it had trouble acknowledging swipes for words with two identical successive letters but not in the way you might think. For example I can’t tell you how many times it replaced “to” with “too”. Such a common word…too pun intended! Ultimately I concluded I was spending just as much time correcting Swype‘s predictions as I was correcting my own typos in the stock Apple keyboard so like I’ve stated the other two times what then is the point?!
I’ve been mulling this question over for some time as my frustration level has continued to build. Not mentioned with these three different experiences is the one factor that is the same across the board that muddles all of these third-party keyboard experiences. Crashes. Yep they are still a constant despite Apple updates meant to address these crashes. I know it’s not just my phone because in the middle of this experience I actually switched iPhones (for other reasons) starting from a clean slate rather than restoring from a backup. Users still complain of the constant crashes. They’re certainly better than at launch but nevertheless they are a daily miff. Honestly it’s astonishing really how prevalent they are and how little attention it’s getting. There’s another factor that has influenced my choice to spurn third-party keyboards. Emoticons or lack thereof. Support for them varies between the apps I tested with Fleksy doing the better job nevertheless emoticon support seems more or less an afterthought. I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s a combination of both iOS restrictions and/or lack of creativity on the part of third-party app makers to incorporate them better. It seems petty to include this as a deciding factor but I must admit to embracing emoticons as a significant portion of my day to day mobile communication and to have it buried sometimes 3 taps back is off-putting to say the least.
It’s taken me two and a half months to finally throw in the towel but I finally did. It really boiled down to simple math for me. In the negative column you’ve got a common theme of over correction, constant crashes, and a case of emoticon denial. In the positive you’ve got an improved stock Apple keyboard that at least is stable and better at offering you up predictions while not jamming them down your throat. Ultimately though the deciding factor for me was my general level of frustration. When I use a third-party keyboard I have this expectation that it will work better than the stock one and that some launch bugs are expected but not to this degree. I expect it will not just be pretty but actually make the task of typing easier or more efficient for me. None of these have remotely been up to the task. I got more frustrated using third-party keyboards than with the stock keyboard which I guess in part is because I have come to accept some level of frustration already over the years with the stock keyboard. I’m left now with only one choice to return to the Apple stock keyboard.
Now that I’m reluctantly all in on the Apple keyboard train I offer a couple of thoughts for the masses who might agree with me. Why can’t we have different colors schemes for the stock keyboard baked in? It’s surely not because it’s not possible; I find a different color themed keyboard when I’m utilizing spotlight search versus Messages already. How about long presses to a secondary keyboard much like Swype already employs? Yes I know there’s already the trick to long press the 123 button already to get to that secondary keyboard but it’s nowhere near as intuitive as the Swype keyboard in this regard. What about adjusting the size of the buttons like Fleksy offers? This one really seems like a no brainer especially with the bigger screens for the new iPhones. How about the option to add a top row of numbers or characters so I can easily tap out #comeonalready? Am I asking too much…really? Final parting thought, I wonder how long it’s going to take me to untrain all the different gestures and shortcuts I’ve learned the past 11 weeks and just get back to my normal pace of error laden typing? Er I feel worse off than when I started.
It doesn’t matter what operating system you’re on and how you organize your screens there’s always one main go-to screen. In iOS that’s called the home screen. Everybody organizes their apps in different ways but one thing remains fairly consistent and that’s the most important or most often accessed apps typically end up on the home screen. I actually arrange my screens based on themes. For example I have a full screen devoted just to camera and video editing apps. Since they are my guiltless pleasure I have nearly enough to fill up an entire screen. I reserve another screen for entertainment apps such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, iTunes, etc. The theme my home screen has going for it though is quick access to my most used apps. I’ve decided to share my home screen with a brief description of the apps encompassing it. Think of it as my top ten list for app recommendations (in this case top 28 list because that’s how many can fill up my iPhone 6 screen including the bottom four located on the dock).
Here’s my list in order from top to bottom and left to right according to the included screen shot (click on any link to download):
1) Fantastical – I’ve tried several calendar apps and I just keep returning to Fantastical. I believe it really sets the benchmark for calendar apps. I prefer agenda (list) views over calendar (monthly) views and an agenda view is front and center in this app. Rotating your screen horizontally gives you the traditional calendar view so it should appeal to everybody. It’s always worked fluidly and flawlessly for me and easily bests the stock Apple Calendar App. You’ll notice that speed and reliability are very important to me as you read through the rest of this list.
2) Photos – I’ve replaced virtually all of the stock Apple apps except for 9, 8 of which show up on my home screen mostly out of necessity. There are other photo apps but in my experience the stock Photos App gives me the fastest access to my pics and until iOS 8 was the only place you could delete photos.
3) Litely – As previously mentioned I’ve got another screen that houses all my photo and video editing apps except for this one (and Instagram but it’s also a social network). With its dozens of preset filters and zippy/simple interface it’s really my secret sauce to serving up endless sunsets that are so easy to come by in my part of the world out to my social feeds. Turns out Litely was written by the same guy who wrote seven of the original Instagram filters.
4) Google Maps – One word…Awesome! Does any other mapping and navigation app come remotely close? It recently saw an update to Google’s Material Design experience and it’s oh so lovely to look at.
5) Checkmark 2 – Little known and still overdue for an iOS 8 update it’s still the best reminders app in the App Store in my opinion. It’s best feature is location-based reminders with the ability to postpone said reminders. For example you can set a reminder to take out the trash 10 minutes after you arrive home because if you’re like me and if your phone dings in the car the second you pull into the driveway then by the time you get in the house and are gang tackled by the kid and dog you’ve done forgot about the reminder 5 minutes later.
6) Safari – Necessity here because though I love Chrome on any other platform Safari just offers a zippier experience in iOS though that’s changing as Apple is opening up their walled garden more and more.
7) Settings – Necessity again because I change a system setting at least once a day (usually wallpaper) or am usually looking to connect to a wifi network.
8) App Store – Because I shop for apps and look for updates daily. Still a choppy experience but getting better.
10) Weather – This is the lone Apple app that I actually prefer over third-party apps because I think Apple got it right. I’ve tried a half-dozen weather apps and I recently dumped them in favor of the stock Weather App because it just does one thing and does it well. It quickly displays all the pertinent weather info upon opening the app and does it blazingly fast. It’s got a decent flat interface that doesn’t fill your screen with ads like so many other weather apps do.
11) Evernote – This one’s actually just filling a void left behind when my favorite note taking app was shuttered. I was a big fan of Springpad, a direct competitor to Evernote until it abruptly closed up shop. When it did it offered a streamlined method to port all of your notebooks directly into Evernote hence it’s arrival on my home screen. Nothing against Evernote which actually is quite pleasing on the eyes and is certainly light years more robust than the stock Apple Notes App.
12) Rise – Rise is my alarm app. I was duped into purchasing it with the allure of tapping the screen anywhere to snooze but found out after the fact that you had to leave the screen on all night in order to take advantage of its full feature set. Leaving the screen on all night albeit dimmed just seems silly so I don’t. Nevertheless I keep it because it’s stock set of alarm sounds and remaining feature set are better than the stock Apple Clock App.
13) Mail – Another Apple mainstay but only on my home screen until Inbox (see below) accepts my Hotmail account.
14) Wunderlist – Bar none the best list making app and I’ve tried them all! Super easy to use and uncluttered but can be as feature rich as you want it to be (think sub lists for lists). Especially love sharing a grocery list with my wife because you can go back through completed items and re-add them to the list again. Handy for things you need every week like milk and bread. Completely free to use and ad-free to boot. It syncs shared lists with ease and allows you to drag to reorder items. It’s the small things that count and being a lifelong list maker Wunderlist truly lives up to its name.
13) Drafts – One thing Apple’s stock Notes app does well is it allows you to dive right into creating a note fairly quickly. Drafts one-ups it. The app defaults to opening right into a brand new note every time you open it. It’s got a nice selection of fonts and share options so for me it really has replaced the stock Notes App more so than Evernote has. At $9.99 it’s a bit pricey though. I’m still on an older version and waiting for a deal to upgrade to the latest but it’s still the fastest app period when needing to tap out a quick note.
14) Misfit – This is the accompanying app to the fitness tracker I use (the Misfit Flash). The Jawbone Up app gets all the attention for fitness trackers but I find Misfit’s to be more than par for the course. It’s got a crisp flat design and for an app that I frequently check throughout the day I can’t honestly think of a single hiccup I’ve ever experience. It’s quite stable and that should always count for something.
15) Google News & Weather – Seems I’m always trying out a different news service. This is the flavor of the month for me. It’s claim to fame is being able to Google any term and creating a whole news feed on it. For example when I was researching the aforementioned Misfit Flash fitness tracker prior to purchase I created a whole news feed that offered up several pre-launch reviews since it was new to the market. It also tipped me off when it was finally available for purchase since they were being tight-lipped on the exact date. It also shows a snap shot of local weather on its home screen.
16) Asana – Another list taking app. This one’s claim to fame is that’s an enterprise app. I’ve begun to track my projects and daily to-dos in it at work. Not sold on it yet and really it is meant for team collaboration which I don’t do a lot of because that’s how I roll.
17) Kindle – The king of reading apps. No other reading app comes close to its feature set yet it will get out of the way when you need it to and let you just read. I bought into the Amazon reading ecosystem long ago when I preordered their 2nd generation Kindle eReader and have never looked back. The Kindle App a mainstay on my home screen and each successive version adds clever little things to further enhance reading experience like page numbers, percentage completion, their X-Ray service, and estimated time remaining to read.
18) Pocket – A read it later service. It literally is formerly known as “Read It Later”. It’s an app that allows me to read web links that I save to read later in an uncluttered mobile friendly canvas. It gives the Kindle app a run for the money on number of reading features. It’s one of the few apps that actually gets the low light reading experience right by offering a dark gray background with off white text rather than the deep black with bright popping white letters most other reading apps do. It’s so much easier on the eyes in the dark.
19) Paper – Facebook sucks but like the other billion people on the planet like it or not I’m stuck with using it because all my other friends use it. Paper is one of the rare things they cooked up that actually enhances the experience. Born out of one of their labs it’s basically a heavily gesture based alternative to the traditional Facebook App sans ads (for now). It also allows you to subscribe to a stream of curated news feed. Not fond of their daily selection of news content I’ve turned off those feeds and use it exclusively for viewing and posting to my Facebook feed over the decidedly vanilla and cluttered traditional Facebook App.
20) Twitter – Nothing flattering to say here. Does its job adequately, no praises per say but no complaints either.
21) Instagram – I must admit to a bit of nostalgia for Instagram. It did after all spawn my shutterbug app addiction. It works well and stays fresh enough. I just never understood it’s love affair with square photos. Why does it always seem when technology gives us more screen real estate something comes along to put black bars all around it? Still mad they sold out to Facebook too. Forever tainted but like Facebook, we’re stuck with it because everybody uses it. At least it’s been mostly left alone to thrive since selling out and the few ads that I’ve seen begin to populate my feed are usually tasteful.
22) Bible – Did you know this app has been downloaded 161.4 million times and counting?! There are actually better apps for traditional bible study (see Faithlife Study Bible) but the Bible App has the best overall package with a thriving social feed and an ever-growing library of free community supported devotionals many authored by prominent Bible thumpers.
23) Phone – These next four apps encompass my dock apps that show up on every screen. The first is the stock phone app and I’m beginning to rethink its place here as I consider how little I use it. I don’t place a lot of calls and most usually am on the receiving end of calls so I’m not sure I can justify its coveted place anymore in the dock. I’ve never really pondered searching for a replacement phone app. Open to suggestions…
24) Inbox – This is Google’s next great thing. Think Google Now for Gmail. It’s currently an invite only affair and I’m super glad I snatched an invite. It replaced my all time favorite app (Mailbox by Dropbox). Though I believe it still carries a Beta moniker it certainly doesn’t feel like it. What Inbox does is basically serve you up a feed of emails automatically organized in categories like Promotions or Financial but rather than leaving you guessing at content by what the subject line says it will pull out the pertinent parts and put them front and center. For example it will offer a link to track a package without having to open the message or serve you up a movie ticket confirmation number right in the subject line. It is also written with a heavy dose of Google’s new Material Design experience which personally I can’t get enough of. It takes liberally from many of my favorite features offered up by Mailbox and even gives you the option to add reminders to your message feed which just seems to be a natural place to add reminders after all. How has nobody else thought of that yet?
25) Songza – If there’s one app on this list I would encourage anyone to download it has to be Songza. You simply will not find a larger library of curated playlists anywhere. You can pick from moods to genres to activities. Google recently purchased and incorporated these playlists into the Google Play Music App but for now seem content to leave this free ad-supported service intact. The ads aren’t in your face either and mostly consist of a small static banner at the bottom of the screen and you can rest assured that no loud car commercials will interrupt your feed like so many have ruined the Pandora experience for me. Please download it, you’ll thank me later…tip check out the “Songs From Apple Commercials” playlist. It’s delish!
26) Messages – And finally the last app in my dock is the stock Messages App because it’s adequate for me especially now with the latest feature set added with iOS 8. Most of my friends use iMessages so really it’s a no brainer for me. I’m actually aware of the plethora of better alternatives but truthfully none of my core friends and family use them so…
I’ve never been a big fan of Yelp (partial to Foursquare for social aspect) but Yelp’s latest feature has me taking a second look. Today it’s iOS app was updated to include the ability to order food and pick it up or have it delivered directly from restaurants all within the app. Their blog describes this ability at select locations is provided now through partnerships with sites like delivery.com and Eat24. This is not a new idea as I can order Pizza Hut directly through my XBox and other native apps but to have the ability to use a popular location search service like Yelp and place your order at the same time I gotta say I like. I can’t stand calling orders in; it’s a weird pet peeve of mine. I usually volunteer to pick up carry-out just so long as I don’t have to call it in. I just don’t like dealing with people on the phone and I know I’m not alone in this. It’s this sort of no hassle formula that makes services like Groupon so successful. What if you could also schedule a yoga or dentist appointment once you’ve located the office? Yelp claims that ability is coming also.
Regardless of religion or lack thereof one thing nobody can deny is the Holy Bible is a historical document translated thousands of times over that has stood the test of time. 5 years ago a network of churches, Bible societies, and individuals teamed up their resources and created a Bible App. It brings the Bible and hundreds of translations and versions that continue to grow to most anyone in digital form on the web or through app form for free. It continues to rank high in most apps stores for popularity and in about an hour it is expected to eclipse 100 million downloads. Quite a milestone, congratulations! Maybe you can be lucky number 100 million, download it here.
Welcome to my new series that I will called App Discovery. I will provide posts like these periodically and they will differ from App Reviews by their depth. In this series I will try to highlight apps I feel worthwhile for fellow Tekkies to check out so it is presumed that I offer at least a TekYa rating on apps showcased here.
To start I would like to showcase an app I’ve found to be at least novel if not timely. Timehop available only on iOS serves one purpose and that is to serve you up daily doses of precisely what you did exactly one, two, three years ago and so on. It does this by tapping into all of your social network feeds and regurgitating what you were doing, where you were doing it, what you were saying, and pictorially what you were sharing years past on the same date. It can tap into all the usual suspects like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram. It goes deep on the photo front by syncing with Dropbox Photos, Photo Sync, Flickr, and even your iPhone camera. Syncing with all services is as simple as signing in and okaying the usual obligatory do-you-really-want-to-give-all-access questions and for me synced flawlessly.
I love the reminders of all things past. A couple days ago I was reminded that my son started crawling for the first time three years ago which is fantastic considering next year on the same date it’ll be displaying this year’s Instagram reminder of my son taking his first jumps into the pool and swimming. One of the toughest things for apps to do is to garner at least once daily usage. This app’s formula is perfect for such success. I look forward to finding out what surprises await me each day since there’s no way to either look forward or backwards in the app unless, of course, if you want to methodically dig down each individual social feed. The last morsel of history the app gives you is a snippet of news from years past via USA Today such as the six year anniversary of the first iPhone launch.
I will say the app isn’t very old and thereby is a bit buggy in its infancy. I’ve waited for an update before going ahead and recommending it. The latest update seems to have brought some stability however I am still unable to share to Facebook which seems silly anyways since I would likely just be resharing an already shared moment. Nevertheless if you are fairly active on social networks I highly recommend the app. It does one thing and does it simply and well and that almost always garners a TekYa rating in my book.