You know what really grinds my gears? Pointless proprietary tech. I don't mean proper innovative useful stuff, but things that are clearly there to make it difficult (or impossible) to not buy overpriced accessories. I say this because I burnt through another headphone cable, with uses a stupid locking mechanism. An official replacement was £15, and a Chinese knock-off was £10-£12. An adaptor I had didn't fit, until I hit it in with a hammer that is.
Probably not the best idea, but hey it worked. Now I get to use all the cheap cables I like. But enough about a not so unpopular opinion, let's move onto this week's batch of downloadable mobile goodness.
Android: Eat This Much (Free)
The problem with trying to eat healthily is that eating badly is so much easier, since you can do it totally mindlessly. Eat This Much is designed to solve that, by putting your diet on autopilot. Essentially, you tell it a bunch of information (including how many calories you want to eat, meal size, and so on) and it'll do all the hard work for you.
To kick things off, you have to say exactly what you goals are: lose weight, maintain weight, or build muscle. Then you determine how complex you want your meals to be, and how much you're willing to spend per day. Then you need the information about your physique, and what kind of diet you want. So vegan, paleo, gluten-free, none of the above, and so on. It also gives you the opportunity to chose certain foodstuff you refuse to eat. Like broccoli, veal, or whatever. From there you customise your plan by defining how many calories you eat, what macronutrients you should have (i.e. % of carbs, protein, fat, etc), and if you want to avoid too much salt and cholesterol.
That's pretty much all you need to do. Once you hit the homescreen you can tell the app how many meals you want to have sorted for you, and it'll generate them without any effort. Unfortunately you only seem to be able to see a full day's worth of meals on the free version at any given time. That means if you want to plan ahead without paying, you're going to have to keep generating new sets of meals and writing them down. Thankfully all the recipes and stored in the app and easily searchable, so all you need to do is write down the basics and make sure you don't lose them. You can also add your own custom recipes, in case there are some meals you really enjoy.
You should also try:
Velociraptor: Google Maps is great, but it has been missing an important feature: speed limits. Velociraptor brings that to your phone, in the form of a floating bubble displaying the current speed limit. [Free]
Google Photos (Update): A handy update to Google's Photo backups this week, ditching the all-or-nothing attitude to photo backups. So now you get to selectively choose what ends up in the cloud and what doesn't. [Free]
Drivemode (Update): The hands-free driving update got a welcome change this week, and now lets you respond to messages from multiple popular messaging apps with nothing but your voice. [Free]
iPhone: Hooked (Free)
This one is a little bit different, because it's a different way of storytelling. Rather than relying on prose or scripts, Hooked tells thriller-style stories through the medium of text messaging. So basically, you're reading through a series of text messages that tell different parts of a story. Think Tales of the Unexpected revamped for the smartphone generation.
It's a pretty novel idea to be honest, even if it's not actually novel material. It's nice and simple to. You start off each story, read a message, and then tap next to get the next one. Over time it paints a picture of what's going on, before ending. So, exactly like any other story ever written. Once you've read it, you get the chance to like or comment on the story, follow the author, and then move onto the next one.
It took me a little while to realise that Hooked does have a homescreen, since it seemed to just throw me straight into the story. Getting to it is a bit weird, as you have to tap the screen until a small menu bar appears and then hit the back arrow. Really it would be much nicer if you could swipe at the left side of the screen and be taken there. But I digress. The homepage is pretty much your standard homepage. There's a feed of popular stories, a search function, and a place to write your own stories. You also have your own profile that shows what you've read, who you're following, and so on.
It's a nice little app, and if you're looking for some interesting bite-sized material this is a nice option. You will need an internet connection, however. Just be warned, the comments sections are filled with people spamming away trying to get views on their own stories. Luckily there are some people interested in actually talking about the tale they just read.
You should also try:
Spoon Guru: One for anyone struggling to stick to a specific diet, or trying to avoid certain food. It's got personalised recipe and product recommendations, featuring over 200,000 supermarket products. This is ideal for anyone suffering from a food allergy or intolerance. [Free]
Railbuddy: A handy app to improve your commute, sending you automatic rail updates from 90 minutes before departure, and displaying everything about your route on a single dashboard. [Free]
This: A simple app that makes it easy to add annotations to your pictures. No fuss, no flair, just plain and simple stuff. [£1.49]
iPad: Hippo Pics (Free)
This is one is a collaborative photo editing service, tenuously linked to Instagram profiles, where people can upload their photos for people to edit and mess around with.
The basic gist of it that you upload photos from your camera roll ready for an editor to turn up and fiddle around with your image. Anyone can apply to become an editor, but it doesn't seem to be something everyone can sign up for. You actually have to email Hippo Pics explaining why you should be an editor, and it's encouraged that you include a portfolio.
The downside is that how your photo is edited seems to be at the discretion of the editors, rather than you explaining what you want. Browsing through some of the edits, and you can see that what the final result is varies drastically. The feed in the app shows you all the edits, but holding down on the image brings up the original so you can see what changed More often than not you end up with little tweaks, like colour changes and so on. Otherwise you end up with such major changes there's barely any of the original photo left (that's an rare extreme, but I did see a couple of examples).
Still if you're willing to let people play with your pictures, this is a nice way to get something interesting out of them. Even if you have little control over the process.
You should also try:
Airmail: The powerful customisable email app for the iPhone finally arrives on iPad, and bringing new features like custom shortcuts and TouchID short. [£3.99]
Garden Compass: An essential tool for gardeners everywhere, letting you identify any plant, flower, pest, or problem by snapping a picture of it. The best part is it's determined by real people, not computer algorithms. [Free - with premium subscription]
Google Calendar (Update): This week Google pushed out an update designed to help you achieve your goals, by automatically working them around your existing schedule. [Free]
Windows Mobile: Send Anywhere (Free)
This one should seem handy for a lot of people, since it's a way of sending and receiving lots of files quickly and easily. No emails, no size limits, no compression, no need to sign up for anything. Which, all-in-all, is pretty damn great.
The great thing about Send Anywhere is that it's so incredibly simple to use. You choose the files you need to send directly from your phone, and choose whether you want to send them directly or store them in the cloud for 24 hours. Sending directly requires someone connect with your device within 10 minutes, but in the cloud they obviously have a much larger window to deal with.
Once you've got the files all sorted, all you need to do is pass on the six-digit alphanumeric code to the intended recipient. They enter it into the app on their device, and the files will start downloading straight away. It's so simple, even a child could do it.
So there you have it, another method of sending people a bunch of files quickly and hassle free. Worth a try, right?
You should also try:
Awesome Tube: A third-party YouTube app, with everything you need to browse the internet's most popular video site. All wrapped up in a very Windows Phone interface. [Free]
InstaBoom: A third party client for Boomerang, Instagram's own video looping app. So now those of you on Windows can enjoy making gif-like images of your own. [Free]