Resident app enthusiast Emma O’Leary takes the latest and greatest mobile applications for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone for a test drive. We hand-select our monthly app reviews based on app popularity, their utility features, creative execution and technical delivery. Check out our top 5 apps for this month. Hope you enjoy folks.
Price: Free Developer: Headspace Meditation Limited
Headspace is an app designed to help people relax through the use of soothing narrations and simple animations. There is a selection of plans to download to use with Headspace, the one I tried out was for beginners. The “Take Ten” plan only requires 10 minutes for 10 days, not too demanding for people with a tight schedule. The narrator, Andy, talks you through some breathing and relaxation techniques that accompany animations. The app is also scattered with simplistic characters and has a nice green almost pastel colour theme, which keeps in tune with the calming theme. This app differs greatly from other relaxation and meditation apps I’ve tried before, most consist of “calming” soundtracks of a breeze or waves crashing and a messy design. Which is usually a photo of the sea and information boxes thrown across the page.
The design was by far my favourite part of the app. It ties in perfectly with the whole relaxation concept of the app itself. Other apps I’ve tried out have been really untidy, looks wise, most with a generic sea or landscape background with text scattered across it, whereas this is well structured and very unique. The colour scheme consists of pastel blues and greens with strong oranges and purples. There are also little illustrated characters on various sections of the app and throughout the short animated videos. Overall the app flowed perfectly, easy to use interface and it looks the part.
Technology wise headspace has really invested in animation, with the main driving force being their animation aided relaxation method. After trying out some other apps that are targeting the same market, I have to say nothing stands out as much as headspace. Other apps, such as “Simply Being” or “ Take A Break” seem to be concentrated on audio tracks, which I found a little boring compared to Headspace. As someone who doesn’t really use these kind of apps I can’t say if these relaxation techniques really work. Reviews I’ve read so far are all positive with users asking for more programs and saying how it helped them sleep better.
I’d give this a 3 out of 5, it’s a brilliant app and works perfectly but then again it’s not really for me.
Price: Free Developer: Hipster Inc.
Hipster is a social networking app that encourages you to send “postcards” to your friends. These postcards are photos altered with a “theme”, or filter. To be honest when I downloaded this I took one look at it and thought Instagram. It’s basically the same idea but you call your filtered image a “postcard”, the themes are also nothing new. Like Instagram you can add friends, upload to a number of social networking sites, view “most popular” and “newest”. When trying the app out I ran into a problem with using an image I had previously taken, it would not upload at all. I tried a ridiculous amount of times and even with different pictures and nothing! It worked fine with taking a photo there and then. I can’t see this doingas well as Instagram as it seems to have loyal following and is one of the most popular photo applications on the market at the moment (Facebook recently bought it for 1 billion). Hipster is a free but then again so is Instagram.
I actually preferred the design of this app to Instagram, Hipster has a much more polished design andalmost vintage feel to it which goes hand in hand with the picture filters. It took me a little time to get used to the interface as it’s slightly different to Instagram but it’s easy enough to get the hang of it.
Technology wise Hipster is a clone of Instagram, as it’s the same basic idea. Although “Hipster” has a more personal feel to it as you can add a little message and your location to the back of your “postcard”, which you can then send to a friend and also upload to your social networking site.
Reviews are slightly mixed about this app, while people are declaring their love for this they add a little side note stating problems like freezing and it doesn’t work. I don’t think “Hipster” will do as well as Instagram, as it has a cult following and peopledon’t seem to be tiring of it anytime soon. I think it will certainly do better than apps like Streamzoo, which has many glitches, as it works (almost) perfectly.
I think I’d give this maybe 2 and a half out of 5. Simply because I had trouble uploading a picture and I already have Instagram.
Price: Free Developer: Yelp Inc.
As a newcomer to Dublin, I’m not familiar with a lot of places; hidden restaurants and shops in the corners of little side streets are all unknown to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve come to Dublin and wanted to try out a certain restaurant but could never find it. If this is you, Yelp is your best friend! Free and no account needed to use the service, Yelp helps you find exactly what you’re looking for in whatever part of the world you may be. You simply type in your destination, what you’re looking for (café, bar, shop, hotel etc) and you are provided with a detailed list or if you like there’s a photo gallery option. The photo gallery is brilliant, excellent for helping you find your destination! You can also filter by cost, best match, distance, highest rated and opening times. I will definitely be using this next time I’m looking for a restaurant or hotel.
Design wise I thought overall it looked really well. Its also very accommodating to user, with the option to view your search in a text list or photo gallery, making it easier to find your location. The app provides you with a map location, address, review and photo. The interface is brilliant and very easy to use you simply type in your location and use the filter to narrow your search down, and you’re ready to go!
Yelp incorporates a bit of augmented reality into its app; it has a monocle function, which allows the user overlay business information, such as names and reviews, onto the world around you. This would have to be what gives Yelp the edge in the app market. If you make an account with Yelp you’ll be able to bookmark your favourite places, brilliant if you’d like to revisit somewhere.
Yelp is definitely ahead of the rest with its outstanding monocle app. I also think the picture gallery is a great idea.
I would give Yelp a 4 out of 5, it runs so well and looks brilliant too.
Price: Free Developer: Zite Inc.
Zite is a personalised magazine app, which lets you pick and choose categories you’re interested in. The app brings articles, based on your interests, together in a newspaper style layout. When you set up your account you are given roughly 3 pages of categories to choose from, so there’s something there for everyone. The home page is made up of top new stories from around the world and at the right hand side is a list of your interests or selections. Simply click on one and you’ll be given an endless number of articles from all over the web. When you select an article you’d like to read it comes up in pop-out window. I really liked this as I thought it would direct you to another site and you’d have to select “back” and lose your place in the page (something that really annoys me about Reddit).There are also great options when you select an article suchas “more from this journalist” and “more about…” whichever topic the article was about. I think this is a brilliant application as it cuts down the user’s time looking all over the web for articles of their interest and would be excellent for people who read online newspapers or magazines.
Zite’s design is very minimal, perfect for an app with so much content. It has a very polished, clean feel to it. Everything from the colour scheme to the font is very clean cut. The layout is almost that of a newspaper, with a little more order. The title, snippet of the article and most times an image appear in neatly places columns. I really liked this design, as other news apps like daily mail, are pretty much like newspapers, very messy and nearly impossible to read.
Zite gets better with every use, as it adapts to and learns more about your interests from which articles you read.
I’d give Zite a 3 and a half out of 5. I really like the whole design and concept of the app but I find myself forgetting about when I go to read articles.
Price: Free Developer: Domino’s Pizza Group Limited
Food delivery apps, to me, are an excellent idea. Perfect for anyone who has no credit, no intention of cooking and plenty of wifi. At first I had trouble with the app recognizing my address but after a few attempts it worked. Once you have your address in, you are greeted with a vibrant, pizza filled layout with a little tool bar at the bottom of the page (pizzas, sides, subs, drinks, desserts, deals, basket). It also tells you what Domino’s branch you’ll be ordering from and their phone number. When you select a tool bar option you get a sliding menu with a picture, description and price of each type of pizza. Once you’ve selected your type, size and crust you’re ready to go. You can watch your orders cooking and delivery progress. Overall the app is well structured and easy to use. Since deliveries usually don’t start till 5pm there is a pre-order option, which is ideal as that’s not an option for over the phone deliveries.
The design of the app worked really well with the concept. The interface is simple, straight forward and very colorful, staying true to the logo colours; blue, red and white. The layout and flow are very logical so there’s no second guessing and the user should know exactly what to do from the first use.
You place your order, wait and then eat. Simple! A brilliant feature is you get to watch your order’s process or track it. You can watch how much time it takes for your order to be placed, prep, bake, quality check and delivery time. Which really puts your mind at rest if you’re unsure about ordering via app.
I don’t think the app itself has much competition as its the official dominos app. There aren’t many other big brand delivery apps on the market at the moment, so Dominos is definitely one step ahead of the rest. 4 out of 5, lost a mark as it took a few attempts for it to recognize my address.