All posts by Macmint

Google Reader alternatives

Google Reader is no more. But while the popular RSS reader has been shut down, there are actually many other alternatives, including ones with excellent iOS apps. Since Google announced they were discontinuing the service, several lesser-known readers have been gaining attention, and other already-popular services have refined their offerings to capture even more users.

Here are a few of the most popular alternatives to Google Reader, all available through the app store so you can read your favorite blogs on your iPhone or iPad.

1. Feedly

By far the most popular alternative to Google Reader, Feedly is simple to use and has a clean, beautiful interface. It’s easily customizable to work similarly – and even better – than Google Reader did. Since Google announced the death of Reader, they’ve been adding new features, updating their iOS app and acquiring even more users. The great thing about Feedly is the number of options it provides, from social media sharing to integration with other services. Feedly has already been named “the service that everyone else will be using” and it’s not hard to understand why.

2. NewsBlur

Originally a web-based feed reader, NewsBlur now offers an app as well. You can read stories through it or on their original website, create categories and tags that help highlight the stories and topics you’re interested in and even create a “Blurblog” which will share your favorite stories in a blog type feed for others to read. NewsBlur is Free for up to 64 sites, but you can pay $24.00 a year for a premium account that gets you unlimited access and more frequent updates.

3. Pulse

For a different approach to RSS reading, try this visually appealing reader app. Instead of trying to imitate Google Reader or follow the usual RSS layout, Pulse makes your feed more image-driven. It also pushes the stories it thinks you’ll like the most to the top. For those who especially appreciate pictures and a visually stimulating user experience, Pulse is worth checking out.

4. Flipboard

Another unique take on an RSS reader, Flipboard is a magazine-like option ideal for those who love to read on their iPad. It’s also very image-driven, much like Pulse, but with an entirely different layout. Flipboard isn’t for everyone, but those who love it swear by it.

5. Zite

With a clean, newspaper-like look and feel, Zite has iPhone and iPad apps as well as the option to read it online via your computer. If you like a few images but an overall straightforward feed view, Zite might be your best bet.

Another option for keeping up with the blogs and websites you most enjoy is by following them on Twitter or Facebook. Some people don’t enjoy using social media, and others read the blogs they like through an RSS reader program even though they’re also a “fan” through social media. With a little effort, it is possible to set up an excellent newsfeed on Facebook or Twitter and keep up with it on your iPhone or iPad, especially if you use a social media client like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.
For some purists, none of the current options will ever quite take the place of Google Reader, although there are excellent alternatives. The best way to see which is for you is to download a few and check out how your favorite blogs appear on them. With so many reader services available, you’re likely to find something that will work for you.

Evernote : Remember everything

Evernote: it’s an incredibly popular download, virtually everyone with a smartphone or tablet has at least tried it, and it often divides people. You either love it or just can’t get into it.

To extend it’s range beyond just being an iPhone or iPad app, Evernote is also available for OSX. But can the program really increase your productivity or is yet another app that claims it’ll make your life simpler while really just wasting your time?

Those who swear by Evernote claim it’s best approached with a “go big or go home” mindset. Use it to the full extent of its capabilities, for everything you can, or don’t bother using it at all. When you only use a few of Evernote’s features it can be isolated and confusing, but it becomes incredibly useful when you default to it for bookmarking, web clipping, recipes, business card storage, note taking and so forth.

While it’s not the fastest app going, it is quite intuitive. Once you get into the habit of using it, Evernote becomes a valuable repository for all the information that comes your way each day.

Having the ability to access Evernote through both OSX and iOS apps adds to its usefulness considerably. If you’re out at a meeting, you can take notes on your iPad and instantly pull them up on your computer when you return to your office. Or if you start a recipe book through the program on your iMac and see something at the grocery store you want to make note of, you can jot it down or take a photo with your iPhone and include it.

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Evernote for Mac

Evernote on OSX is also useful if you’re making the transition to a paperless office. Using a scanner you can easily upload important documents, business cards and receipts then divide them into customized notebooks, according to content. From there, you’ll have access to everything, whether you’re at the computer or going mobile, and can add to the notebooks as needed. Don’t be hesitant to create lots of them, too! Evernote on OSX is ideal for grouping and storing lots of information and uses a handy tagging system that makes it simple to find files at a later date. You can even link contextual information from different notebooks together for ease of reference.

Evernote for OSX is an ideal service for students, especially those who use the LiveScribe smart pen. LiveScribe pens allow you to write on high-tech paper and record sound in conjunction with it, then upload it to the Internet. LiveScribe has partnered with Evernote and allows uploading directly to your notebooks. Accordingly, students can take notes, keep them organized effortlessly and access them on a computer or mobile device. Within Evernote and LiveScribe you can even touch on any point in the notes and hear the sound that was recorded at the time it was taken – great for recalling what happened in class.

Don’t think of Evernote as just a tool for school or business, either. While it is a vital tool for keeping track of client information, meeting notes and so on, it’s also excellent for personal information. Use Evernote to organize recipes, health documents, photographs, clips of information from the Internet and more.

If you’re considering trying Evernote for OSX, make an effort to use it to its fullest extent, including downloading the tablet or smartphone apps. While an extremely advantageous program, if you only use it a little or worse, devote a lot of time to setting it up then not stick with it, it has the potential to be a time-waster.

New plastic iPhone available in multiple colors

As usual, the tech world is buzzing with rumors about the next iPhone. It seemed the moment the 4s was released we were already buzzing about the iPhone 5, and now that it’s old news, we’re all speculating on the possible features on the 5s. But this time around, Apple might be changing the game a little and releasing not one, but at least two new versions of their popular smartphone in order to compete with their rivals, Samsung.

Apparently, Apple is considering two different sized versions of the iPhone 5s – one with the current screen size and one even larger – as well as a cheaper model that will come in a variety of different colorful plastic casings to differentiate from the standard model dubbed the iPhone 5c.

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While Apple CEO Steve Jobs had called their signature 3.5 inch screen “the perfect size for consumers,” after his passing the next iPhone had a slightly larger display. Current CEO Tim Cook has also recently hinted at other changes to screen sizes and the company has apparently been looking into offering iPhones with 4.7 inch and even 5.7 inch screens sizes, to compete with popular Android smartphones and “phablets,” those bigger than a smartphone, not quite a tablet devices like the Samsung Note II.

But what’s even bigger news than the changing screen sizes is the rumor that Apple will be producing an even cheaper phone. It will reportedly cost $99.00 and come in five or six different colors, according to supply chain sources. The story is that suppliers have been approached with plans for the new budget iPhones, but that the final product is still unknown. Of course Apple changes specifications right up until the last possible moment, so it’s difficult to say with any certainty what the phones will actually look like and feature by the time they’re released. Still, it’s rumored that trial production for the cheaper iPhone model is currently underway.

Even trials and production of the cheaper iPhone is now subject to rumors, as it’s been stated by those in the know that mixing of colors is taking longer than expected, due to Apple’s high and idealistic standards. If true, it’s great to know that they’re applying that much effort to even their lesser models.

The latest buzz from industry insiders is that 20 million plastic iPhones are expected to ship from the manufacturer between October and December, but the final price for the cheaper smartphone is still yet to be confirmed.

One thing, however, is for certain. Given the constant speculation about the budget-priced iPhones and the larger models due out at the same time, it shows that Apple is feeling – and responding to – pressure to compete with Android smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Note. Apple products are still immensely popular around the globe, with consumers lining up overnight to be among the first with the latest “iGadget.” But despite that, the company’s revenue growth has decelerated in recent years, and Samsung has overtaken Apple recently in market share. Perhaps offering a wider range of options in size, features and pricing for the iPhone, similar to what’s been done with the iPad and iPad Mini, is just what Apple needs to gain their market share back.

New iOS 7 to include AirDrop

It’s good to share, and with the new iOS 7, Apple is making doing so even easier. With the upcoming release of the new mobile operating system, the company has built in an iPhone and iPad friendly version of Airdrop, their popular file-sharing platform. Long available on Mac computers, having an Airdrop feature on mobile devices has the potential to greatly impact user behavior and will leverage the significant strengths of Apple’s unified ecosystem.

Through Airdrop, users can swap photos, videos, web pages, contacts, social media content and even free versions of apps – essentially anything with a “share” button. Unlike other file-sharing services, everyone on an Apple device will have the same user experience. Airdrop is fully wireless, requiring a direct Wi-Fi connection to move shared content through the cloud. While Android devices and older iPhone apps require “bumping” phones together to instantly share content, it simply needs the sender and receiver to be physically near one another. The service is more limited in this regard, however, compared to similar options like Dropbox or Google Drive, which allow content sharing regardless of location.

So just what can you use Airdrop on iOS for? Ideas are as varied as sharing meeting notes in the office, playing multi-player mobile games with strangers during your morning commute or having retailers Airdrop coupons into your PassBook app. Developers can use it to offer in-app freebies to customers who download from them, and friends can even Airdrop trial versions of apps to one another’s iPhones.

With all the tremendous capabilities that Airdrop for iOS 7 has, there are a few concerns as well. Critics cite safety as being their primary issue, as Airdrop could potentially alert strangers to your location and result in you receiving unwanted information. Furthermore, some technology experts believe Airdrop will leave users open to greater risk of having their files hacked. In response, Apple has stated that consumers have a choice of privacy settings, with the ability to accept data through Airdrop from anyone with a compatible device, from only their contacts or even from no one at all. The company has also stated that files within Airdrop are fully encrypted.

Other critics have questioned the usefulness on Airdrop for iOS 7, considering other private file sharing services do exist. But Airdrop can really set itself apart if businesses and developers maximize its potential by sharing trials, coupons and other perks with customers. That alone would make it different, and in many ways more useful, than other services.

In order to utilize the new Airdrop for iOS, Apple fans must have an iOS 7 compatible device, namely an iPhone 5, iPad Mini, fourth generation iPad or fifth generation iPod Touch. It’s also necessary to have an iCloud account.

The chief benefit of Airdrop for iOS 7 is the improved ability to simply and easy share a wide range of content with others. So could you see yourself using it? Or are you more likely to stick with services like Dropbox that have long offered iOS apps, even though they may not have quite the same capabilities?

App Store celebrates 5th Anniversary

The App Store has just celebrated its fifth anniversary. Can you believe it? In some ways, downloading apps has become so commonplace it’s hard to think back to the days before Angry Birds and FourSquare. Yet at the same time, it doesn’t feel like it should be that old.

The App Store was launched on July 10, 2008 and proffered a mere 500 apps. A few of the most notable initial offerings were eBay, Travelocity, Facebook, Yelp, Shazam, Super Monkey Ball and MLB.com.

Five years later, there are probably Mac users who have that many apps on their iPhone 5s! The App Store was immediately popular, with 10 million apps downloaded in just four days. By April 4, 2009, 1 billion had been downloaded and by June 7, 2010, a whopping 5 billion downloads had been completed through the App Store. As on May 16, 2013 there had been more than 50 billion downloads!

Today, there are more than 900,000 apps available; a far cry from those 500 we started off with. With nearly 1 million apps on the market, there’s something for nearly anything you can think of. There are apps to monitor your sleeping patterns, apps that let you simulate making toast, there is even an app that claims it can help you determine whether a watermelon is ripe or not.

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the App Store, Apple has created a special page in the iTunes Store highlighting popular apps and milestones. It’s also offering a selection of popular paid apps for free for the week. They’re good ones, too! For those who want to take advantage of the offer, the gaming apps are Badland, Infinity Blade 2, Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery, Tiny Wings and Where’s My Water? The other apps are Traktor DJ, Over (a photography app), How to Cook Everything, Day One (a journaling app) and Barefoot World Atlas.

It’s incredible to think how quickly technology has developed since Apple released the original iPhone in 2007. In just five short years we’ve gone from the revolutionary first iPhone, which had Safari, html email, YouTube and threaded text messaging to more choices of stunning and useful apps than we can possibly imagine.

In that short period time we’ve upgraded through several versions of the iPhone and also witnessed the initial creation and several generations of the iPad, the iPad Mini and the iPhone 5 with retina display. Accordingly, as mobile technology has developed, apps have too. Today there are versions of apps created specifically for iPads and new Apple devices with retina display.

With rumors swirling about the impending release of an innovative new iPhone and the possibility of Apple “phablets,” what might we see developers release in the App Store between now and 2018? Considering just how quickly mobile technology has developed in the last five years, it’s anyone’s guess. But regardless of what currently unfathomable device Apple releases in the next few years, there is one thing we can be guaranteed of. There (will be) an app for that!