The Week's Top Android, iPhone, iPad, and Windows Apps

By Tom Pritchard on at

Is it me or is it cold in here? No joke, it feels like the local temperature has just dropped over the past three of four days, even though it was only last week that we were struck with a minor heat wave. Or at least I was. Maybe nature just hates me and messes with global weather process just to see me suffer a little bit more.

Here's another dose of my suffering for you all to enjoy. After sifting through many an app, this is what I have for you this week.

Android: JifiCal (Free)

If you have a Samsung device you should find this app is available to you. If not, you're out of luck. It's a voice recognition app with a difference, since it's restricted to helping you manage your calendar in a more natural way.

Using it involves opening up the app, or tapping the little microphone button inside S Planner (if that's the calendar app you're currently using). From there you say what you want to add to your calendar, check over what the JifiCal thinks you said and make any adjustments, before saving it. As you can imagine the idea is that it's a little bit quicker than doing it

The problem is that JifiCal can't handle too much information at any given time, nor can it create events over custom time periods. You can't, for example, add in a week where you may be on holiday since JifiCal only lets you put in a single date and the times within it. You can opt to repeat every day, month, and year, but that's about it.

It does understand basic colloquialisms like morning, dinner, etc, and you can go into the settings to customise what time will be associated with each one. That way when you create your event you don't have to say specific time as you can generalise and it'll understand what you're doing. It's worth mentioning that JifiCal's voice recognition isn't brilliant beyond month names and the aforementioned commands. Personally I found trying to name individual calendar events by voice alone to be more trouble than it's worth, and ended up adding them in manually.

JifiCal is far from perfect. But if you need to add a quick event into your calendar in a hurry it's not a bad option to have on hand. While it doesn't do anything you can't already do with S Voice, it is helpful to have that voice command button inside S Planner and it does take a fewer steps to get the final result.

You should also try:

Swiftkey Keyboard (Update): The ever-popular keyboard app has rebuilt its language engine, taking advantage of neural networks to improve your recommendations. Red Dwarf fans can also take advantage of support for Esperanto. [Free]

Parallel Windows for Nougat: Android Nougat has native split-screen support, but there are limitations. This app conquers one, letting you open up two windows of the same app and use them in tandem. [Free]

iPhone: Amity (Free)

In the world of WhatsApp, Telegram, and all those other similar applications, is there room for another messaging app? Apparently so, because Amity has arrived to try and muscle in and stake its own claim in the territory.

The main thing that sets Amity apart from the competition is just how much stuff it manages to squeeze in. There doesn't appear to be any video or voice calling, which seems like a strange set of omissions, but everything else is there. Group chat, video and voice messaging, image sharing, and so on. It also has a few less-widespread features including location sharing, the ability to share your current battery level, and the chance request everything you can send from your contacts.

Everything you send and receive is saved in a single place, so you don't have to lose access to anything. There's also a live mode that unlocks special features if you and the person you're talking to happen to be in the app at the same time.

In the grand scheme of things there isn't much here that you can't get elsewhere. The lack of voice and video calling (plus the fact I see no mention of end-to-end encryption) might make a lot of people resistant to change. That said, if you're losing faith with the current crop of messaging apps for whatever reason, know that there are other options available.

You should also try:

Vanilla Bean: A restaurant guide, helping you find vegan restaurants all around the world [Free]

Today: Habit Tracker (Update): A habit tracker letting you track your habits using a custom dashboard that uses a card-like interface. It's now possible to check in multiple times during the day, along with multiple other enhancements. [Free]

RAW by 500px: One for mobile photographers, letting them use their iPhones to take pictures in RAW format, using manual controls, and take care of the editing process there and then. There's also a marketplace you can use to sell your photos when they're done. [Free]

iPad: Swift Playgrounds (Free)

Apple has a lot of products that run apps, so it has created its own programming language to help people develop for them. Naturally that means Apple has a vested interest in making sure as many people as possible are able to code in Swift, and that is where Swift Playgrounds comes into play.

Swift Playgrounds is designed to make coding in Swift fun, by guiding the user through a number of educational lessons that take the form of interactive puzzles. Once you've worked through the puzzles, you can tackle extra challenges that help you explore and understand some of the more complex aspects of the language. New challenges are set to be released at regular intervals, so you should have plenty to keep you going until you're able to start coding for real.

Swift Playgrounds also has a number of built in features that lets you use what you've learned and put them into practice in the real world. That includes controlling Bluetooth devices from your iPad, taking direct control of your iPad's internal hardware, and more.

You should also try:

White Noise+ (Update): The popular white noise app got an update, and now you can create customisable mix of sleep-worthy sounds. [Free]

Sign Easy (Update): An update for iOS 10, with a bunch of new features to improve how you use that app. That includes Apple Pencil support to make those signatures extra accurate. [Free]

Periscope (Update): The livestream app has a bunch of bug fixes, as well as the option to increase the size of chat text and auto-playing video. [Free]

Windows: Plex (Free - with subscription)

It's taken a while, but now an official (stable) Plex app is made on Windows 10 mobile devices. So if you like Plex, and hate beta software, you can add it to another one of your many devices right now.

If you've used Plex on a phone before, this should be nice and familiar to you. The only major difference is that this one has a Windows-inspired design scheme. But anyone who's used to using Windows devices shouldn't be at all surprised by that.

The only downside is that much like Plex's other mobile offerings, the free version of the app doesn't allow for any sort of media playback. You can use it to manage your libraries and control Plex on other devices, but if you want to be able to watch all your saved content on your phone you'll need to pay £3.89 or have an active Plex Plus subscription.

The only major difference here is that this version of Plex also has Continuum support, which means you can 'unlock' the full desktop version of the app by connecting your phone to a computer and mouse. I can't see many situations where this might occur, but it's good to know that the option is available to you if you dislike mobile interfaces.

You should also try:

Microsoft Band (Update): Microsoft Health has changed its name, because who are we kidding. Nobody was really using this unless they had a Microsoft Band, so Microsoft has just gone and made it official.

Desktop App Converter: Developing apps for Windows? You'll want this. It takes apps from the Windows app store, and coverts them into mobile compatible apps ready to be beamed across to Windows phones across the world. [Free]

Universal Emulator: This one got taken down when it appeared on Xboxes, but now it's back on everything else. With it you can emulate all your favourite games from the NES, SNES, Sega Gensis, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advanced. [Free]