Our weekly app picks
It's Appday Sunday and that means we're back with more of our favorites to share. Every week we bring a handful of great apps to the table and share them with everyone. Sometimes they are new apps, sometimes old standards, but every time they are apps we love to use.
Give these a look and then take a minute to tell us all about the apps you are using and love so we can give them a try. We all find some of our favorites right in the comments on these posts!
1. Jerry Hildenbrand — Harmony
I'll be honest, the reviews of this app made me fight the urge to spend the money on the equipment it needs for a long time. In the end, I'm glad I spent the money and ignored the reviews.
Speaking of spending the money, you'll need to buy a Logitech Harmony Home Hub or a Harmony remote kit that includes one to make this app do anything. I like to imagine that a few billionaire playboys read AC and will have an employee run out and buy a handful of all things Logitech on a whim, but I realize that most of us need to consider a lot of things before we spend a hundred bucks. I know I do. If you are a billionaire playboy and want to hire someone to go out and buy you lots of tech toys, holler at me.
Now that we have all the dirty money stuff out of the way, here's what the Harmony app can do. It's a universal remote for your phone, but it's WiFi and not IR. The remote you might have on your phone is IR, and it probably works well to control some of your stuff, but Harmony controls all the same stuff and more. Your HUB can control TVs, receivers, game consoles, DVRs, lights, window blinds and all sorts of other automated stuff in your house. I use it to control all the things in my TV stand (a PlayStation, a Shield TV, my DVR, my receiver, my TV and a Steam box) as well as a handful of Philips Hue lights. You have control over all the features the individual dedicated remotes would have, and the ability to create scenes — which is why I say you might wanna buy a Harmony HUB thingy and use it.
About those scenes. I can create a "Watch TV" scene. At the tap of one button (in the app or on my remote) my TV comes on, my receiver turns on and switches to the correct input, my cable box/DVR turns on and 3 Hue Bloom lights and a HUE LED strip behind the TV turn on in the colors I've picked. I can then use my phone as a remote and do anything and everything to control all of it. When I'm done, a single tap shuts it all down. This is not exactly a new idea, but it's one that works even better with a WiFi/IR/Bluetooth setup that can control a lot more stuff.
Set up was a bit of a pain (but also nerdishly fun) and the app takes a lot of time to sync with the HUB and Logitech's servers when you start it up. Programming scenes is easy, and so far everything has worked better than I expected. I think it was worth spending the money on the equipment, and if you're in the market for a new universal remote, you should have a look at what Harmony has to offer.
2. Russell Holly — End Space VR
Space combat games have been making a huge splash on the Gear VR, and the number one question I get when talking about those games is WHY NOT GOOGLE CARDBOARD?!
Today, friends, is your day.
End Space VR is incredibly well done. You pilot a tiny warship by turning your head in every direction and pressing the only button Cardboard has to fire your weapon. As you take out enemy fighters, you earn power ups and shield replenishment to keep fighting into the next wave of battle cruisers. End Space VR also uses Google's new 3D Audio for VR tools to help you figure out where all of the people shooting at you are coming from, which is super helpful when three enemy fighters are tailing you.
3. Jen Karner — Guidebook
If you're as big of a geek as I am, you know that a few times a year something wonderful happens. Conventions. Filled to the brim with other geeks who love the same thing I do, and more to do than I can ever actually manage to get done. Considering just how unorganized I am, an app that has access to the schedule and map of a convention center is kind of necessary. Enter Guidebook.
I get everything I need when navigating a convention, and all on my phone. That includes being able to set alarms for the panels I want to see, and the schedules for the various areas in the convention. Guidebook is what I've used to plan out and work my way through conventions for the last several years. I can also see which friends are using Guidebook at the same event, and access everything even without internet.
4. Ara Wagoner — Disney Gif
I'm a Disney fan, and a gif fan. This app is a godsend for me, especially around holidays like Valentine's Day. Disney Gif offers up hundreds of gifs from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and even their ABC shows like Scandal and Once Upon a Time. Every day, a new batch of gifs will be featured, and this weekend, those gifs are all about sharing the love. Whether you need to find a hopelessly romantic kiss to send your sweetheart or a gagging character to send your fellow singles, Disney Gif has you covered.
5. Phil Nickinson — Alto's Adventure
Do you love skiing? Do you love llamas? How about non-sequiturs? Then you'll very possibly maybe love Alto's Adventure. (If you were a fan of Ski Safari, you'll want to check this out.) Your goal is to — wait for it — ski, and catch llamas. And collect coins. And do backflips and complete challenges and grow your scarf just as long as you possibly can. That's it. Point the dips down and tap when you need to catch a little air. The game is free, and if you find you're really enjoying it go ahead and pony up the $3.99 in-app purchase for double coins, which will make earning upgrades that much faster. I'm liking this one. My kids are liking this one. Now if only I could quit seeing llamas every time I close my eyes.
6. Andrew Martonik — Expensify
If you need to keep track of expenses, whether that's on a monthly, daily or trip basis, Expensify really is the gold standard. And while this app is designed for folks who are tracking spending for reimbursement or billing from a company, it really can be used for any sort of simple and short-term expense tracking you like.
Track basics like the cost of meals, transportation and supplies, but also your time and distance if you have to drive for work. You can even use your phone's camera to scan and automatically fill out reports from receipts. Then you bundle up individual expenses (from the app or the great website) into reports for particular projects, and have them sent to your email or directly to someone at your company. Expensify really is the best way to manage these types of work expenses
7. Alex Dobie — Citymapper
Citymapper is a fantastic app for navigating around somewhere new in the world, or just making the best use of your local transit options. In its supported cities, the app incorporates info from all all forms of transportation, including walking, rail, underground, bus, taxis (including built-in Uber support) and cycling. Planning a route is a simple as looking up your destination through the "Get Me Somewhere" feature, and Citymapper's excellent overview map lets you see stops and stations near you, with a useful overlay showing walking times. And for regular commuters, the SmartCommute feature lets you know the best way to get to and from work every day.
Best of all, the app itself is free, and wrapped in a slick Material Design UI. If you find yourself in Citymapper's 31 supported cities, the app is definitely worth a look — and if you travel regularly, it's a solid replacement for the many hit-and-miss, city-specific travel apps out there.