Apps

iOS 10: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE USELESS
October 4, 2016 5:52 pm

The craze of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus a few weeks ago and the flood of memes about it having no headphone jack is basically all everyone was talking about in September. Surprisingly though, iOS 10 seems to be where the actual rich changes are in Apple’s products. iOS 10 is good, a nice upgrade for those who are obsessed with more flash and less function. There is a huge amount updated, and I won’t go through all  of it, but here are my impressions of having it so far.

THE GOOD:

It is fun. It is entertaining. Siri is smarter and opens programs for you or just does what you ask with certain apps, like finding you directions to the closest gas station. The iMessanger has been greatly overhauled, almost too much for my blood. Maybe it is my age, but I don’t need ALL these features. You can draw with cool effects, send messages that slam into the conversation and search all sorts of gifs to send friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love all these things, but it getting to be too much. Like how often am I going to honestly send a neon drawn picture with kissy lips appearing all over it? The change in shape and design of alert banners seemed odd and unnecessary at first, but I’ve gotten used to them, they just hover for too long in my opinion. One of the best, and my favorite, things is that I can finally delete a lot of iPhone permanent apps that weren’t previously aloud to be deleted, so I am very happy about that. Also the quick menu that you get from the bottom is a little weird, but not terrible, the fact that you can swipe to media that is being played and change it there is pretty cool, but still slightly cumbersome.

 

THE BAD:

It is getting messy. I had to download ANOTHER app called Home which I automatically put into my group of dumb apps that I don’t need and just take up space. The messenger keyboard will sometimes get stuck sideways making me have to restart the app just to fix it so I can type. When I double click the home button, the app will shift sideways and I can’t select, scroll or close them, and so I have to lock my phone and unlock it to  get it to function correctly again.

 

THE USELESS:

Like I was saying in the “Good” section, the messenger is getting too cluttered, and has too much different functions that I am never going to use on a daily basis. The forced install app Home, which connects itself to you home system of light, TV or other electronics), seems cool, but if you don’t have everything already set up and have Apps or remotes for those things, you won’t ever need it. I guess it can be helpful because who really wants to get up to turn off lights with a light switch anymore? That was so last millennium (heavy sarcasm).  The new left swipe list of new and alerts looks unorganized and pointless to have, just like before, but now it is slightly different and I have no desire to learn how to use it effectively.

 

All in all getting the update isn’t that bad, it just has so much hullabaloo and so many bugs that it is kind of annoying. It is fun for sure, it really is, but it feels like a stupid app you download for fun because your friends did, but unfortunately it is permanently here and essential to the future function of you Apple device. I hope for some good updates and cleaning of iOS 10, because it does have the potential to be something great.

GOOGLE MAPS UPDATE TAKES YOU EVERYWHERE AND MORE
September 20, 2016 9:51 am

Google is everywhere. Google is the titan of the internet that can basically do anything, between Gmail, Drive, Chrome and Chromebooks, most of the world depends on it for day to day life. As this king of the interwebs, updates happen all the time, often with fun, great additions.

Google Maps is my favorite map app and I use it all the time. As soon as Google Maps came out years ago, I started using it leaving Mapquest in the dust. I use it all the time, going to various places everyday and I don’t know how I would get around without this app. But my issues were having to figure out the fastest route to all the places at home on my computer and I could never do it on the fly while out and about. So get ready everyone, Google Maps has brought multiple locations to shift around and plan out on the road.

The app itself and the update is as simple and as wonderful as always, but the new addition of multiple locations is practically perfect. Adding in the second and third places is just as easy as entering the first locations. For now you can add at least nine extra locations while organizing them any way that you need, having a grand total of ten locations not including your point of origin. That’s pretty impressive especially because of the perfectly smooth and fluid running of the app with all these other things it has to worry about. Moving around the addresses and switching and searching different places around is very easy and even searching for restaurants or gas stations nearby and adding them into your complex trip is also just as easy.

It is a great update and I’m very happy this finally made it too the app. I’ve been waiting a long time and now it makes my life way easier. Check it out and start planning some road trips!

MESSAGE SAFELY WITH SESAME
August 3, 2016 9:48 am

In a post by Edward Snowden, privacy can mean the world to some people. I don’t know about you, but between the regular run of the mill paranoia and the media hyped overplayed Orwellian way in which the government seems to have control over our information, I am honestly a bit scared.

A bit. Not too much. That’s probably because things are so bad that I might’ve just gotten used to it.

Regardless, privacy is a big concern to a lot of people nowadays. It is something that companies try their hardest to maintain. The Apple vs. FBI case earlier this year goes to show the extent to which a company will stand their ground in order to keep some sense of reliability with their customers. If privacy is your worry, check out Sesame.

Sesame is an encrypted messaging app. While Messenger from apple is very good as is, it is not enough sometimes. The paranoid tin hat wearing version of me never thinks general encryption is enough. I have to stop watching Mr. Robot.

Sesame works just as you would think, they promote your right to “own all of your data and messages.” The app is great, you can customize little things, you can change who can and cannot save your messages, it has end to end security encryption so that both users are protected, a feature that Facebook JUST added that we talked about earlier this week.

It also has one of the best features that I have ever seen on any app, ever. The “unsend” button. No matter how far back you send a message, you can unsend it. Fantastic isn’t it? It’s everyone’s dream button. How many times have you sent something and you wish you hadn’t. Let Sesame make that dream a reality, and in doing so, save you from getting in a lot of trouble.

The app is only available for from the App Store for now, but if you are lucky enough to have an iPhone, make sure to keep your information protected from the government fat cats and the oligarchs trying to destroy our society. As of the time of this post, it has been taken down an you can sign up to be put on a wait list for it here.

SNAPCHAT: CURRENT THOUGHTS OF A GHOST
July 20, 2016 6:29 pm

A few years ago, a friend mentioned Snapchat to me as an app specifically purposed for sending and receiving naked pictures that immediately disappeared after the user viewed it. While I thought this was a great way to make it harder to store, share and publicly humiliate people who send nude photos of themselves to others, my genitalia is quite camera shy, so this was not for me. Only after being told that I could do other stuff on Snapchat by a much smarter friend did I enter the ghost world.

funny-snapchat-darth-phoneSoon after joining, I discovered just how fun Snapchat is, and with continuous improvements happening, it’s only gotten better. Their filters are frequently updated, unique, silly, and also allow the user to be creative with each one of them. As a proud recluse, the only reason why I’d even consider travelling the world is so I can see all the different geography based filters Snapchat has to offer in each city and town.

No other photo/video based app has those features nor can compete with the up-to-the-second spontaneity of the app. Whether it’s Vine or Instagram, a narrative arc seems necessary within each post in order to even legitimize its existence. With Instagram, it’s nearly taboo for somebody to post more than one image a day. Seriously, I’ve seen countless examples of people prefacing their post’s caption with an apology for sharing, god forbid, TWO photos in one day. Snapchat does not have this problem, all photos or videos that the user chooses to share get bundled up into the their “Story,” so there’s no timeline flooding to worry about. No apologies necessary.

In a surprising development, however, the app championed for its entertaining disposability has decided  to make a strong commitment to journalism. Over the past few updates, major media outlets and TV channels like Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, MTV and Comedy Central began popping up at the top of the “Stories” page featuring videos and articles made specifically for the app. At first, they were tiny little circles that were easy to ignore. Now, they’re bulkier rectangles demanding more attention. They’ve also added a new page labelled “Discover,” which is entirely dedicated to those outlets.

At first glance, this can certainly be taken as a blatant “fuck you” to the ghosts of Woodward and Bernstein (neither of them are dead), as well as the distinguished history of journalism as a whole. But if executed well, this wouldn’t be the first time an app created for inane intentions became a hosting ground for brilliant voices who may not have been discovered otherwise.

When Twitter began getting attention, Ashton Kutcher was the first master of the medium somehow. Yes, Ashton Kutcher. This can not be forgotten. He was the first to hit a million followers and it was actual news. Athletes like Charlie Villanueva and Gilbert Arenas used Twitter as an easier way to get in trouble instead of them having to risk a broken hand by going all the way to a nightclub and punching somebody in the face. As the site grew, smarter people began using it in smarter ways. Activists like Deray McKesson and Johnetta Elzie (or simply, @Deray and @Nettaaaaaaaa) used Twitter as a way to organize the Black Lives Matter movement. Comedy writers started getting book deals left and right. And as Twitter implemented new features, writers had better ways to expound on richer ideas incapable of being summed up in 140 characters.

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What worries me about Snapchat is how it doesn’t seem to be following the template of Twitter’s template. The potential is certainly there and the Story feature has already been well utilized during major events by prominent figures. The problem is that most of the notable examples of heavily followed Snapchat users are celebrities who were already famous to begin with. Snapchat did give DJ Khaled’s relevance a boost, however, the appeal of his snaps to begin with was that he wasn’t exactly starving for the boost to begin with.

Any good social media app worthy of its over inflated IPO obviously needs some celebrities, though. Just look at how well it worked out for Dane Cook and MySpace. The celebrity base is necessary. But aside from the famous folk and those aforementioned media outlets, there isn’t an easy way for a regular user be shown to a wider audience.

Ironically, this is what made the app such a sensation in the first place. The path Snapchat wants to take gives great hindrance to a user’s drawing power due to the privacy afforded to them. Standard features on social media simply can not be done at this present time because of this. There’s nothing comparable to a Re-Tweet, a Like, a Share, or a ‘Person You Should Follow’ feature. There isn’t even anything in place that allows someone who read and enjoyed a certain media outlet’s Snapchat article to follow the author’s personal account. And while Snapchat Live does show a collection of snaps by individual users pertaining to a major event, none of their usernames are shown there . It’s also kind of a mystery to me how someone gets featured on Snapchat Live in the first place.

Such a lack of accessibility to an organic, non-famous, user’s account really delivers a blow to the whole “social” aspect of Snapchat. The skeezy, yet well intentioned, foundation of Snapchat needs to be reconfigured in order to help make the voices who want heard on there can get exposure without Buzzfeed or Comedy Central press credentials. If left in its current state, there simply won’t be a high likelihood of there being Snapchat’s version of a Vine Star or Twitter Sensation, just a bunch of dicks with dog ears.

NOW…AND THEN?
July 11, 2016 5:20 pm

IMG_4249Here at ATYPICAL SOUNDS, we’re always looking for cool apps to feature, whether new or not so new. Sometimes this research leads us into something of an internet rabbit hole. This is what happened when I tried to review the Now app. Now is advertised in the iTunes app store as a program that can tell you what’s happening in the world based on the trending topics of Instagram feeds you follow. The Huffington Post even called it “Your social secret weapon.” 

Opening the app, I was immediately asked to rate it, “share with a friend,” and try their newer app Context. It’s hard to have faith in an app that tries to make you leave before you can even use it. Eventually, I was directed to personalize my Now feed by entering my Instagram login. Doing this got me a white screen with an error message. Thinking that maybe I had entered my username or password wrong, I closed the app and reopened it, but was never allowed to enter my Instagram login again.

Without turning this into an even more longwinded story, I’ll just say that trying to use the search criteria to find any trending topics got me a screen that was half of a map and half blank. It was at this point I noticed the app hadn’t been updated since 2013. My favorite part of this goose chase, however, was finding a link to the app’s website and being greeted with an article on “How to Clean Your Kitchen with These Useful Tips”. I would say that maybe the license on the domain name lapsed and some weird third party had taken over the site, but who the hell knows.

The same developer has also created a series of other apps, including Facegame. (some kind of video-based social network), Quickie (video calling that cuts off after a few seconds), and NOPHONEZONE (an app that times how long you have not used your phone for). Based on the reviews in the app store, they all function about as well as Now does. I need a drink.

CAUTION: POKÉMON GO’ERS AT PLAY
1:30 pm

Never have I seen a game do what Pokémon GO is doing right now in our world. Let me paint a picture for you…

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Last Saturday, my wife and I were in Rockville Square, Maryland, a hub for people and shops, and we decided to go on a walk to hunt some new Pokémon. We found a huge amount of items and Pokémon to catch on every street corner. As we meandered around looking at our phones, we slowly saw other people and groups all walking to the exact same places, on their phones, and we realized they were playing the same game, hunting for Pokémon, interacting with this augmented reality. I was surprised at how many people were there to find virtual creatures and ended up bonding in a half-real life, half-online way. It was a truly surreal moment to see everyone gather in this part of the city like that.

To break it down, Pokémon GO is an augmented reality game in which the game tracks your location and has placed various things to interact with throughout every inch of the real world. You will be brought to real places of significance. Without even trying, this app with have you walking around for an hour and visiting places in your city that you’ve never been before. Pokémon Go is broken down into three key elements, catching and training Pokémon, finding Pokéstops and battling at Poké Gyms.

File_001Catching and Training Pokémon

To catch Pokémon, you have to go looking for them. It’s fairly random, but more populated places will help you find more Pokémon. When you find a Pokémon, your camera will come on and the Pokémon will appear to be in the real world, and it’s pretty awesome. There are items like Incense and Lure to attract Pokémon to you. Also catch as many as you can of all Pokémon, you’ll need them to strengthen your Pokémon. For more tips to actually train your Pokémon and evolve them, click here.

Poké Stops

You’ll find these at various places of interest: memorials, gazebos, or gas stations. Get close enough to the Stop to snag the items there. You’ll need all the items you can get, and there are often Pokémon lurking by, so hunting for Poké Stops is an easy way to progress quickly.

Poké Gyms

After your beginning hours in the game, you choose one of three teams, Mystic (Blue), Yellow (Instinct), or Valor (Red). The gyms are fighting grounds for the different teams and here, you battle to gain control of the Poké Gym and territory for your specific team. There seems to be no overall goal for now or major purpose for controlling the Gyms except bragging rights (if you have nerdy friends who, they probably have already posted some memes about the teams).

Overall the game is pretty fun, it isn’t perfect, and the server issues and long load times can be really rough sometimes. Down the road other features could be added, says CEO John Hanke. It might be a while before new features come, but that’s reasonable because the game is less than a week old. If you want to casually run around and catch some Pokémon or become crazy with powerful Pokémon, this game will satisfy your needs while enjoying some fresh air and good exercise. But please, be aware of your surroundings, be safe and don’t get in trouble. Get ready to walk more than you ever have while awkwardly bumping into other people playing the game, download the app and GO. “Gotta catch em’ all,” right?

BROADCAST YOUR IDEAS WITH ANCHOR
June 20, 2016 4:53 pm

The ways in which we connect and communicate in this age are so vast that you can talk about a plethora of topics in a plethora of ways. Most of which that happens online however, usually lead to misinterpretations of meaning.

Anchor is an app that acts as a 21st century ham radio of sorts, but not quite. The app allows you to be the anchor of your own radio show with a bunch of other people. The app, only available at the apple store, makes global connectivity and global discussions easy by sharing short audio clips in seconds. People will respond to your broadcasts and have the opportunity to share their opinions on these things.

The great thing about this app is that it allows the users to partake in conversations that are important and relevant. The sample Anchor conversation on the site is one that talks about political correctness in the 21st century. A topic that gets talked about so much that at this point it is extremely commonplace.

You get to hear a conversation from both sides of the argument, at the same time you get something that you definitely miss out on if it is on Twitter or a forum type discussion; tone. Tone is so easy to get wrong online, this isn’t the case with Anchor. Cadence and vocal volume can add so much more to the intent of the content of your argument and Anchor sure helps with that.

I don’t have much to complain about when it comes to this app, it is a good-looking app and works great with really good user ratings. Unfortunately, the only complaint that I have, and one that seems to come up very often, is the fact that it is only available for iPhones.

If you’re an outspoken person who wants to partake in an honest conversation without the shouting match that seems to happen while talking on reddit and other sites, then check out Anchor, you’re gonna love it.

ANIMAL FACE: A BOREDOM APP AT ITS FINEST
June 7, 2016 12:11 pm

Well, this app is pretty self explanatory, you put an animal on someone’s face. Seemed pretty stupid at first, but I am pleasantly amused at how much fun it became. It isn’t a life changing app, but if you’re bored or have some animal inside jokes with friends, then it can be a “hoot.”

The menu and user interface is pretty easy to get around. It’s simple enough editing tools are nice and allow for your mayhem for making silly pictures easy. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised at how many options there are for animals, various faces of the animals, and even things like ears and wings. But, obviously, to get all the faces and frames, you have to pay a few bucks here and there, which you can’t be too mad about for the amount of content that is available for free. The last nice touch is that you can grab pics from your library or just take a picture on the spot, other tools lack choice, therefore Animal Face get some extra kudos.

I am seriously surprised at the number of people that have downloaded it and given it 5 stars. Obviously a lot of people are spending time and money for it to have so many high reviews. Google Play has had over 47,000 downloads and 28,000 of them have given it a 5 star rating. iTunes doesn’t tell us how many have downloaded it, but there are over 2,000 5 star ratings from people who have downloaded it.

For a free app, it’s actually pretty high quality, and I see why people use it, but I would never bother keeping it on my phone for more than a few days. If you want to see your friends with cow heads and roaring lion faces, enjoy. Here are a few I did, so show us your favorite Animal Faces and tweet us at @AtypicalBeasts!

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8 FREE MUSIC-MAKING IPHONE APPS
April 15, 2016 9:00 am

Everybody likes music, but not everybody can make it all by themselves. Well that’s okay, because technology has the answer! Here are a few solid apps:

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Soundprism App

Tonepad: Picture a 16 x 16 matrix, each point representing a note in the pentatonic scale. Time is horizontal, pitch is vertical, and the instrument is a cool, muted synth, pure and serene. The program cycles through the matrix like clockwork, a measure of music before repeating. Couldn’t be simpler! Start with a blank slate and build your masterpiece from the ground up, or shuffle everything around and take it from there. Go crazy! You can even flip or rotate the matrix, just to see what happens. Sounds totally different, right? Weird! Notable downsides include ads (yuck!) and just the fact that it’s pretty basic when you think about it. Not sure how it got on this list. [3/10]

Beatwave: Boy, do I wish I had known about this little gem before bothering with that last one. Beatwave totally blows Tonepad out of the water. Not only can you add a drums to the matrix, but you can layer that onto the synths for a richer texture, and you can string along different sections all in a row, just like in a real song. Reorder those verses and/or choruses however you see fit. It’s intuitive, musically stimulating and ad-free. Now we’re talking! [6/10]

Figure: Where Tonepad and Beatwave are calm and linear, Figure is an energetic and versatile EDM paradise. Start with a highly customizable beat, throw down a phat bassline and solo on top with the lead synth. Each instrument’s tone, range and rhythm can be tailored to any passing fancy, along with the global tempo, key and tonality, so your only limit is your imagination. Isn’t that just life though? [8/10]

Auxy: This is a lot like the first two in it’s loop/matrix dynamic, but it requires a little more technical knowledge. You might be able to get a handle on Beatwave more easily, but in the long run you can do more with Auxy. Jeez how many of these are we gonna get?  [7/10]

Soundprism: This one is a mindfuck, no doubt about it. We’ve navigated beyond the “oh this is nifty” plane and are now firmly entrenched in the “I’m writing The Great American MIDI arrangement” state of being. Look pal, if I’m making serious music for other people to hear for real, I’m not doing it on something I downloaded onto my phone. Ableton, Pro Tools, Logic, or get the fuck outta here (sorry Garageband).

That said, this app is absolutely amazing. It’s like a whole new kind of instrument. Like how with an accordion you get one hand playing the bass chords and then the other playing the melody on a keyboard, except the “keyboard” here is another matrix of chords, and you can modulate between them by cycling through the color-coded modes. Rows are arranged by thirds to create triads, leading columns to represent pitch and therefore inversions (it makes sense when you try it, I promise). Musically intricate yet intuitive and engaging. Forget what I said before about not making serious music on my phone–this shit is for real. [9/10]  

Launchpad: This little number is just a simplified DJ pad (and by “simplified” I mean “still very complicated but just not as expensive”). Mix and match a huge number of preset loops to create a cacophony of EDM madness (or, you know, whatever). Similar to the last one in that you can do a whole lot of serious musical stuff with this, but just not as original. A well-executed substitute for expensive hardware. [8/10]

Groovemaker: I don’t even wanna start with this one. Picture blacklights and glowsticks. You can do some cool mixing/looping/waiting-for-the-bass-to-drop kinda stuff here, but the music itself is pretty lame. [4/10]

Garageband: I know I was talking shit about Garageband earlier, but it came from a place of love. Garageband was, is and will always be a great place to start making music. Almost as serious a DAW as the rest of them, and already installed on every Apple product you own, you really should check it out if you haven’t already. I’ll give it an honest rating here (don’t wanna make Soundprism feel bad), but in my heart it’s a 10. Always has been, always will be. [6/10]

COME TOGETHER WITH ABBEY ROAD RED
March 25, 2016 11:53 am

Abbey Road has a history of over 80 years. Its name is a brand in of itself. Abbey Road Red is a new open innovation department started by Abbey Road. What does that mean? Abbey Road is using its name and its expertise to mentor small startups.

The service is one that is almost unprecedented. A recording company has gotten ahead of the curve by teaming up with music innovators and is using themselves in order to help them get ahead. The start-ups are given access to Abbey Road’s resources, from their studios to their managing or related expertise.

I know what you guys are thinking; why would Abbey Road do this? It makes no sense. It does. In doing this, these startups not only get Abbey Road to test run whatever technology is being invented, but Abbey Road gets first trial of innovative new technology that could shape the vast music business. Not only that, but a cut of the profits.

The service is not a fixed one, it is one that varies from start up to start up, Red is not a one size fits all but a way to mentor in whatever way is possible. Because of that, not every start up is taken. In order to be considered it seems like a vision is a must. The 3 different start-ups that are starting the first round at Red, all seem to have not only a set goal in what they want out of Red, but also a clear and thought out vision, as well as a means to achieving it. These start-ups are very impressive on their own, and this is what Red is banking on.

Their first “class” will be starting this spring with 3 startups that are all varied in their uses. Cloudbounce offers an online automated mastering service. Uberchord is a guitar learning app with algorithmic lessons that gradually get harder as you begin to learn and master the guitar. And Ossic is a startup that is working with 3D headphones, a project for which they’ve raised over a million dollars for on Kickstarter. These are all start-ups that are not exactly safe bets, but with the help of Abbey Road, they could sure be something great.