Some of you might have noticed that this weekend saw brand new episodes of Black Mirror hit Netflix. Even though the episodes generally follow the same basic theme, it's very much like the Twilight Zone in that nothing is quite what it seems. That's not something that happens all that often with modern fiction, and it's a bit of a shame. Aside from Black Mirror the closest we seem to have come is M Night Shyamalan, and we all know how that ended up.
Has there every been a Black Mirror episode about apps? I can't remember one, but maybe there should be. Until then, here's your lot for this week
Android: Squid (Free)
These days you don't have to make digital notes by typing, but finding software good (and simple) enough to get it done properly can be a little bit tricky. Squid is a fairly decent option if you don't like the other options that are available to you.
It is, quite simply, a handwriting app designed for you to make notes without having to resort to a keyboard. How you write is up to you, it would be with your fingers, a stylus, or whatever else works with your phone's display. But this is more than just a note-taking/handwriting app. Not only can you export your notes as a PDF or image file, Squid also lets you share your display to devices like Chromecast - effectively turning your phone into a miniature whiteboard of sorts. The premium version of the app also lets you import PDF documents to annotate, or even sign digitally, in a way that seems much easier than some of the alternatives.
Squid also has many of the other features you'll find in note-taking apps. The option to change colours, tools, pressure sensitivity, and so on.You only get the basics in the free version (pen, eraser, and a selection tool), but if you want to unlock more (and the option to draw shapes) you'll have to subscribe to the premium version. That's £1 a month or £6 a year.
As mentioned, the premium version lets you import PDF documents, take more diverse notes (with journals, music writing, graph plotting, diagrams, and more), and the chance to securely backup your notes to cloud services en-masse.
You should also try:
Noon Pacific (Update): This one sends you brand new personalised music playlists every week, and the new update gives it a massive design overhaul. It also has unlimited skips, play specific tracks, and it's totally free. [Free]
Within - VR: A place to find yourself new and exciting VR content, from creators all over the world. It's all story-driven, so don't expect any gameplay, but if you're looking for a reason to dust off that Cardboard headset, this is the one for you. [Free]
Flychat: If you're a fan of Facebook Messenger's floating chat bubble, this app brings that same feature over to WhatsApp, Telegram, Hangouts, and other major messaging apps. [Free]
iPhone: Notes on Blindness VR (Free)
VR is opening up a whole new set of experiences for people, and Notes on Blindness is the latest. It's based on the life of John Hull who, after many years of deteriorating sight, became completely blind. To help make sense of it all, he began to make audio diaries chronicling his thoughts and experiences. Those audio diaries have been adapted to film, and form the basis of the six-part story told within the app.
Each chapter focuses on a specific memory detailed in John's audio diaries, and presents it to you using a mix of audio and 3D animation. Think of the animation as a sonar-like visual effect, not too dissimilar from the 2003 Daredevil film.
The idea here is for immersion, so you're going to have a much deeper understanding of what's going on if you wear a VR headset and headphones. But not having a headset doesn't mean you can't experience it for yourself.
You should also try:
Annotable: A powerful image annotation tool, with everything you would want to add to your images easily and quickly. Getting all the tools are going to cost you, though. [Free - with in-app purchases]
Mapstr (Update): One for leaving your own custom bookmarks on a map of specific areas, now with its own User ID system and an iMessage app for sharing stuff more easily.
TGBBO: Step by Step Better Baking: One for fans of baking, or The Great British Bake Off, with everything you need to improve your baking skills and make some spectacular puddings. [Free]
iPad: Scanbot 6 (Free - with in-app purchases)
iPads have cameras, and while most of us have enough sense to not use them in the real world it does feel a shame that it doesn't get used that much. Thankfully there are apps like Scanbot, which lets you do something useful with that neglected camera module.
This may be the sixth major iteration of the Scanbot app, but the general purpose hasn't changed all that much. It turns your iPad's camera into a scanner, snapping pictures of paper and documents in the real world. If it detects a document it'll do it automatically, and if not you'll have to snap a picture and do everything manually. A pretty handy tool, all in all, since we can't really carry around a proper scanner all the time.
The new version means everything's been overhauled, with a billion new features for you to choose from (figuratively speaking). Included is the option of editing PDF documents, annotating work, on-demand optical character recognition (OCR), easier printing, a more focused and user-friendly interface, and support for OneDive, OneNote for Business, and Amazon Drive.
Unfortunately most of these features and locked behind pay walls. The free version only has the scanning feature (in high quality thankfully), and paying £4.49 will give you access to OCR, search, editing features, and document signing. Paying £5.99 gets you Scanbot Pro, which is absolutely everything the app has to offer. Upping that price to £7.99 and you get an extra copy of Scanbot Pro to give someone else (and presumably share the price), and the chance to support the devs and feel good about yourself.
But if you still don't have a scanning app, or you're sick of the one you do have, you have a shiny updated one to try out.
You should also try:
Crop Video: A simple video editor, designed for beginners and professionals, letting you trim, cut, and split your shots as you see fit. [Free]
Substitutions: One that shows you exactly what food can be substituted with something else, ideal for anyone suffering from allergies, intolerances, or any other such things. [£1.49]
Tinkerblocks: A coding play tool for kids, teaching them the concepts of coding in the easiest way possible and letting them create fun new things. [£2.29]
Windows: Phone Pins (Free)
This is a pretty basic app, but the simplest things can often be the most useful. Essentially it lets you pin phone contacts to your phone's start screen, using the Live Tile function. From there you simply tap the tile, and you're automatically ringing that particular person.
Each tile can be customised however you feel like, based on the in-app settings, and all the usual stuff. The app is also capable of functioning as a communications shortcut of sorts. You open the app and you're met with your contacts, and from that list you're able to phone or text each one without having to navigate elsewhere.
So as I said, simple, but it's bound to be a huge timesaver. It's just a shame that you can't seem to be able to pin the option to text someone instead of just calling.
You should also try:
Spoticast (Update): This third-party Spotify app just added radio station support, letting you create your own stations based on artist, genre, and more. [£3.89]
HMRC: The official app for managing your tax account, looking at when your next return is due, track forms you've sent to HMRC, check your account status, and more. [Free]