Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Favorite 32 IPhone Apps of 2011

Apple reports on their App Store website that there are over 500,000 Apps available for use on one of their wireless products such as the iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Last year we shared the Top 30 apps that I had on my iPhone at this postAnother year has come and gone and I'm still using an iPhone 3GS, but there are plenty of new Apps that have been discovered to brighten an old phone's day. 

This year we highlight the Top 32 Apps, so we cover the top two screen views on my iPhone, since each screen fits 16 Apps. 16 of these Apps were on the list last year, while 16 are new to the list in 2011.  Apps are categorized into 8 groups of 4 Apps which reflect rows on my personal iPhone. Apps appearing for a second year on the list are marked with an *. If you want to learn more about any of these Apps please click on the link provided in each App name for the App's presence on iTunes. I recommend all of the Apps from this list.

Before we look at the Top 32 list, here is a video of my favorite App of 2011--Flipboard. I like it because it combines my interest in research, news, and social media with an awesome design.

You'll find Flipboard as a top app in my News section below.

Communications and Contacts
  • Group: SMS, Mail*This App organizes contact information of people and businesses. It allows contacts to be put into groups and is a step above the contact App provided by Apple.   
  • iWife*This App allows a husband (like me) to call his wife with the touch of one button without having to dial the number. It acts as a speed dial to the programmed number for a wife.
  • My Dad. This App functions the same as iWife (see above), but there is a speed dial set for my Dad's phone number. 
  • Text Free + Voice*This App is great for sending and receiving texts in a way that avoids extra surcharges from ones cellular carrier. It is a great way to text free. The New York Times calls this App,"the fastest, most reliable, and easiest to use."
Calendar, Notes, and Lists
  • Awesome NoteThis is a great App for storing notes with a very colorful interface. A helpful feature is it can back notes up with Google Documents. This App was awarded to the App Store Hall of Fame in 2011.
  • List Master*This is a powerful App for creating lists and can be customized to fit a variety of purposes. It has a comprehensive search function that is very helpful for large lists and there is now a website that one can backup data from the lists to.
  • Pocket Informant*.  The App had a significant overhaul during 2011 and it continues to be the best App for syncing calendars with others. It also has a to do list incorporated into the application.
  • Shopper*This App contains grocery lists that can be synced with other iPhone owners to communicate purchasing needs on the go.
  • Bible*.  This App by You Version provides access to many different versions of the Bible, including audible options.  It also has a social option. Over 35 million people use this signature Bible App. 
  • iDevoteThis App provides a daily devotional to read both in the morning and evening. It also has a lot of extra features such as memory verses, Bible reading plan, and Christian news. Verses in the App are all in the English Standard Version of the Bible. 
  • Pocket Prayer ProThis App has the best structure, in my opinion, for organizing and remembering personal prayers. It also has some written prayers already included in the App.  
  • Reformation Study Bible (RSB)This App contains the entire English Standard Version of the Bible and has the study notes that are contained in the full version of the Reformation Study Bible which was edited by R.C. Sproul.
Social Media
  • BloggerThis is the official App for Blogger, where bloggers like me can edit (or create) their blogs. 
  • Facebook*The native Facebook App is still simply the best for accessing the popular social network. 
  • Google+This is the native Google+ App, a social media network born in 2011. Google+ has experienced phenomenal growth in its first year of availability, buoyed by it's concept of Circles to target messages.  
  • Twitter*The native Twitter App is still simply the best for accessing the popular social network. 
Finance and Special Utilities
  • BillMinderThis App can be set to remind user when they have a bill due and how much it is for.
  • ChaseThis App helps a customer work with Chase bank accounts. Some of the great features are the alerts that come when transactions that exceed a certain amount go through, and the ability to pay bills and transfer money to accounts directly from the App. One of their trendsetting features is that you can take a picture of a cheque and make a deposit form your phone without going to the bank. 
  • Jot Not Scanner Pro*This App acts as a scanner so the picture taken of the image can be turned into a pdf and transmitted to someone or place through a variety of options. (At the place I work everyone knows that I always have a scanner with me in my hip pocket if they get into a pinch.)
  • MapQuest 4 MobileThis App acts just like a GPS but without the price tag (it's free).  It provides audible directions to a programmed destination and will recalculate if it needs to. 
  • Car Minder*. This is a great reminder App when vehicle maintenance is needed, to record repair history, or for completing a gas log. It has the capacity to track multiple vehicles. 
  • GedView*. This is a must have App for an genealogist to be able to store genealogy records right on the iPhone. It is very versatile and has a lot of ways to organize geneaology information.
  • iLogger*This App does the work of many other log Apps. It is great for tracking diverse information and has a lot of features that can be customized. 
  • MyStuff2*. Last year MyStuff was on the list. This App had such a large overhaul in 2011 that the developer renamed it to MyStuff2. It can be used to track the things such as clothes, appliances, books, etc. One can take pictures of them and record important information as to the age and description of items. It has the same developer as iLogger (see above).
  • ConquestThis App is a game is played like the classic "Risk" game, but it has 36 different worlds to play in. The Developer has provided several updates during the year where new areas are added.
  • NetflixThis App allows one to access their Netflix account and watch movies directly on the iPhone. If one starts a movie, the app will continue where it was left off watching. 
  • TuneIn Radio Pro. This App provides access to over 50,000 radio stations around the world. It uses a very user friendly interface to search subjects and it will also recommend stations based on one's iTunes listening history. 
  • Yahoo! Sportacular Pro*The mother of all sport Apps. It gives live scores from any sport and it can be set to send in game alerts when ones's favorite teams are playing. 
  • AP Mobile. This Associated Press App provides notifications of breaking news and has sections for local news. It also links to, my personal favorite.
  • Autism News ReaderThis is an extensive list of news items related to Autism. I use this for researching for my blog called Autism Light. 
  • Drudge Report. This App covers news from the Drudge Report website and sends notifications of breaking news that Drudge gives his famous siren.
  • Flipboard. This is a fantastic App for with a pleasing interface for quickly viewing diverse news articles as well as integrating articles shared by friends on one's social media pages.  It creates a personal magazine based on the users interests and social media contacts. 

I am frequently looking for better Apps, so this top 32 for 2011 reflects a moment in time that can be fluid. 2012 promises to be another year of change. If you have a favorite App that is not mentioned here than feel free to mention about it in a comment to this post so that others may read about it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Google Plus Sparks Ideas for Causes

Ray Krock, the founder of McDonalds said, “The two most important requirements for major success are: first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.” New media, especially the infant Google Plus, can help causes,  like the one I am privileged to work for, raise awareness and rally support for diverse social issues by being visibly inspiring without tiring and creating a thriving social media environment with a variety of options to participate.  Here’s why I am sold on Google Plus for causes even though at the present time business accounts are under development. I thoroughly expect when they are released that the business accounts will be as good as personal accounts, if not better.

1. Circles. Being able to easily create and customize private names for Circles, place people in them, and then target messages to these specific groups are steps forward for personal and business imaging. Applicable messages can be sent to and received, for example, by clients/customers/supporters, legislative representatives, family, local community figures, or work colleagues.  In addition, a message can be sent to a person’s email address if they don’t have a social account (we all have relatives that refuse to join social media, don’t we), assuring inclusivity.

2. Spark. The Spark feature that allows people to search for subjects reflecting their self-motivated interests and then easily share them with their Circles is seemingly the next generation of search.  So when someone has an interest in my cause they can search for a spark on the information right through their Google Plus account.

3. +1 and Google Search.  The +1 feature allows a public testimony for information  as it goes viral and the groundbreaking feature is that +1’s can be linked to a tab on one’s Google Plus account and are visible  by one’s connections in the massive Google search system. After using Google Plus for several weeks, I was amazed at another feature. Anything shared by someone in one’s circle is matched with Google Search results. So if someone in my circle Google searches for “child abuse” they will see my name under any website I have publically shared in Google Plus just like they can see my +1’s.  Wow!

4. Hangouts. Google Plus’ Hangout feature provides free video conferencing for up to 10 people to collaborate and potentially do community organizing to help change the world. 10 really is a nice working number. I’m looking forward to the day when we can get partners and stakeholders into Hangouts focused on preventing child abuse and neglect.

Individuals and organizations have different types of relationships.  Knowing they can separate people into Circles that represent those relationships, means control over the content they share with them. Taking the open platform popularized by Twitter to the next level, this is encouraging the early adopters of Google Plus to meet new people with shared interests through social media that could birth relationships to change the world in unprecedented ways.  Expect to hear more and more creative uses and positive results from Google Plus in the future as public officials, community leaders, businesses and nonprofit organizations start to use it to selectively and successfully communicate with the world through new media. 
Alan Stokes, New Media Coordinator
Prevent Child Abuse Michigan (Michigan Children’s Trust Fund)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Google + Praise

Google + is a real winner for me personally. As one who uses social media some in my day job and has an above average experience with the main players in social media both personally and professionally, I can tell you that while Google + won't cause me to run right out and cancel my Facebook or Twitter accounts, it has quickly earned my vote as the top social media option for me personally.  I say this even though it is still in Beta (users by invitation only) and they are continually making improvements to it.

Before I explain my personal love for Google+, there are several great resources to help one get the most out of Google +.  Below is a CNETTV introduction to Google+ by Rafe Needleman on YouTube.

Simon Laustsen has a cheat sheet on the basics of Google+ that thanks to the collaborative resource of Google + has quickly made it's way around the world.   Simon lives in Denmark and the only 3 people we have in common at the time this was written is Larry Page (CEO of Google), Mike Elgan (Silican Valley, CA), and Newt Gingrich (US Presidential Candidate).  Page 1 of Simon's Cheat Sheet (English) .  There are additional pages to the Cheat Sheet that you can find readily available.

In a more detailed way than Simon's Cheat Sheet, 120 diverse people are working on a Collaborative Document to show early adopters of Google+ how use it to it's full potential.  See a story about this collaborative resource at the following site. 

The above three resources should help one to feel pretty comfortable using Google+ to the fullest extent possible.   Now on to why +Alan (as Google+ shows)  likes it so much.  When one logs in to Google, a black top bar lists links to all one's Google products (Calendar, Gmail, Documents, etc.) and after signed up with Google+, that area is accessed through a link that has +(the person's first name).   Here are 8 reasons I like Google+ a lot (not in any order of importance).

  1. Finally Able to Include People Who Aren't in Social Media.   I have some people in my life that are very close to me that are not on any social media.  From time to time I post something that I really wish they could receive.  With Google+, all I need to do is add their email and my post is sent to them via email.  They don't have to be signed up with any social media account to receive the good news from +Alan.  
  2. Avoid Certain Posts Going to All My Network.  The Circles in Google+ allow one to place people in certain groups (the name of which is kept confidential from anyone else).   This means that I can limit some of my posts to circles that the information actually applies to.  For example, I have a son with autism and therefore have a circle on Autism and many of my posts related to autism resources will be directed to an Autism Circle on Google+ and won't clutter the feed of all my friends. 
  3. Get More Use Out of Other Google Applications.  Because Google+ is integrated into Google it makes it easy to open GMail, Google Calendar, Google Documents, etc.  from the top black Google bar within Google+.  This easy access means I'll undoubtedly use these other products more.  
  4. Research with the Spark Search Feature.  I can save search subjects in my Spark tab and do repeated research on them.  This functions much like the Twitter search feature in theory, but actually searches Internet material on the World Wide Web not just what is on Google+.   I entered my name as a spark and a  news story came up about a surfer named Alan Stokes. 
  5. Private Names on Circles.  I like the fact that I can call Circles what I wish and no one is going to be offended.  The name of the Circle is private and is custom established by the user to help with targeted posts.  In fact, one of my first questions on Google+ was whether people would know if I put them in a Circle called Fools.   The answer is no they would't know and no none of my Circles are for Fools (for the time being at least).   
  6. No Game Apps to Clutter Up The Stream.   If one likes playing games and thinks that all their friends are interested in knowing when they reach a new level of achievement then Google+ probably isn't for them.  I see no reason why Facebook won't continue to own the gamer crowd.   So far Google+ isn't trying to compete with the Game App scene and doesn't appear to have any in place.
  7. Selective Sharing of Location.  Location sharing concerns me in terms of privacy and Google+ has an excellent system in place for that.  Like all other posts, pictures, links, etc. one's location can be sent to just a specific circle or circles that the user feels it relates to.  So as long as you set up your circles up right you don't have to worry that your boss will see you were out late on a work night at a party in his neighborhood, especially if he/she wasn't invited.  
  8. Following New People is Encouraged.   In Google+ it is easy to follow anyone and put them in a Circle.  Thus, Larry Page, the CEO of Google is in over 124,000 circles at the writing of this. Does he know many of those people. I doubt it.  These are people that want to read his public comments in their news stream.   Remember Larry Page is not put out because with Google+ he has the mechanism to post as much as he wants to a limited audience, bypassing the masses of his admirers.  That is why the cartoon below is appropriate to an extent.  

Someone can follow one's public comments in Google+ for purposes of personal enrichment and it doesn't matter to the user as long as they are only seeing one's public comments.  Just because one is following me doesn't mean I have to put them in a circle to receive any personal posts.  

On July 15, I posted on Google+ the following short analysis of why I liked Google+.  I end with this brief summary.  

In Praise of Google+ Google+ is like a hybrid of Facebook and Twitter that allows one to move back and forth smoothly between the full range of public discourse with the world and private conversations with those closest to us. And to accomplish that lofty goal they have harnessed the search, research,  communication, and organizational resources already part of the Google offerings.