App Roundup is our monthly feature which highlights a select number of mobile apps that we find to be not only useful, but fun and stable as tested by our techs. At the end of each month we put together a short list, give some basic feedback and details on each app and provide a stability rank.
Stability rank based on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being most stable.
1. Google Reader
We start this month’s list off with another Google product. Google Reader is an RSS feed grabber with search functionality and sharing features. Google Reader is like an inbox for all the news you want to gather and read. If you already have RSS feeds setup within your browser or through another PC based reader then finding the feed through the Google Reader app will be a cinch. However, if you don’t know the feed, the search function quickly finds all the blog or news feeds associated with your search terms. A simple click of the subscribe button and the feed is setup in Google Reader. Along with simple setup and search are options for placing the feeds directly on your home screens. You can either have an RSS icon which displays the number of unread articles or a news ticker which cycles through the articles in a feed. The app updates feeds in the background, but has a refresh button if auto-sync isn’t turned on. Images within articles display clearly and are a big help when reading a how to on the go. Be warned though, once you add a few subscriptions you’ll realize how much you’ve been missing and it might be hard to stop reading.
Stability Rank: 5
2. Words with Friends
If you aren’t one of the over 2 million Facebook fans of ‘Words with Friends’ then here is a brief explanation of the product. It is very similar to Scrabble, in fact you wouldn’t even notice a difference unless you are a huge scrabble fan. Like any competition type game, Words is turn based. Time between turns can last as short as minutes to as long as days, even more than a week so no pressure to keep playing a new word immediately. The Words dictionary is a little more liberal than that of Scrabble so you may see some words accepted that are borderline, but it’s all in good fun right? Words has notification, sound and vibrate settings to control how your phone reacts with the game. There is very little explaining needed other than you will need to know a player’s username in order to initiate a game with them.
Recent updates have improved the overall performance of this app, but there are still some sticky moments with its stability. Occasionally, games get lost in the void so to speak. A player makes a move and unfortunately the other player never receives the move, leaving both players waiting on each other to play. Unfortunately, at that point the game cannot be completed and players have to wait for it to timeout before it will disappear from the queue. The upside is that multiple games can be played with multiple players at the same time so losing one game is not that big an issue.
Stability Rank: 4
We’d be hard pressed to find someone who both has a Twitter account and a smartphone and doesn’t already use a Twitter mobile app of some sort. However, the native Twitter app is such a good app we just had to include it. In some ways, using the Twitter app on a mobile device is more intuitive than using Twitter from a PC. The stream is the main focus and looking over one’s profile, searching or tweeting is a touch or two away. Tweeting is pretty basic, but a nice feature of the mobile app is the ability to save tweets as drafts. Drafts allow you to write tweets up for later or save an incomplete tweet until you can get back to it. The syncing of new follows is a bit off most of the time, but with constant following back and forth happening by the second we will overlook that shortcoming. Lists and mentions are also viewable through the Twitter app as well as blocking if necessary. Search is quick and all trending topics are displayed on the search start screen.
While there may be other Twitter apps available with differing tools or utilities, Twitter’s own app is more than adequate for most Twitter users. Some users have reported force close issues with the Twitter app, but we experienced no such lock ups and as a result we give it a 5 out of 5 for stability.
Stability Rank: 5
If you find yourself using your phone as much as or more than your PC and you aren’t using Evernote already then you must have a photographic memory. Evernote is simply put the best note taking app available. Evernote is like a second memory for all the things you want to remember, but don’t have a pen and paper to make note of. Writing a review or covering all of Evernote’s features would be an article all by itself, but suffice to say there are enough features in Evernote to keep the most active phone user satisfied. Along with basic text notes, you can take image captures, use maps and create notebooks filled with notes. Evernote requires a signup so that you can have a username associated with your Evernote account. Evernote syncs all your notes to the cloud so that you can access them from anywhere on any system just by logging into your Evernote account. Additionally, Evernote assigns you an Evernote email address for use when sharing notes with others. If you are a business professional who needs to lock down information on your phone, then Evernote is what you need as you can set a PIN lock for your notes. The free version has some limitations, such as limited quota (60mb) and no offline notebooks.
There are numerous personal storage settings that we aren’t going to cover. Evernote is not only one of the best note taking apps, but frankly one of the overall best apps available. Bottom line, even if you think you don’t need this app, give it a try and see if you don’t start to use it more and more.
Stability Rank: 5
5. Barcode Scanner
Ever wonder what those weird barcode looking things are on posters, ads, online or wherever? They are called Quick Response Codes (QR Codes). Through those codes information can be shared to users who scan them. Information can range anywhere from basic contact information to business cards to coupons or promotional offers. Basically anything. With the Barcode Scanner app you can scan those QR Codes and share in the information being passed around. Additionally and likely more appealing to the average user is that Barcode Scanner can scan barcodes from retail items as well. Scanning the barcodes gives you the ability to research the product or browse for prices through a shopping feature. The app is extremely simple to use with just a tap needed to start up and then just aim your phone’s camera at the barcode, no clicking required.
We haven’t had any problems with the app, but it’s worth mentioning that some QR Codes are complex and store larger than normal amounts of data. In those instances they may be difficult for Barcode Scanner to read and process. After you install this app, try it out on the QR Code below.
Stability Rank: 5
Keep in mind although we test the apps, some react differently given the wide range of phones. Always read reviews to help with decision making and make sure you read the app descriptions and info for additional details regarding functionality.
Want more? View last month’s App Roundup!
Let us know your thoughts on any of these apps in the comments. Have you used or tried any of these apps? What has been your experience? Would you like to see a specific app reviewed? Let us know!