18 May

Adobe Kuler app – essential!

I am going to start by saying this app is absolutely fantastic.

Also as a website, which most designers will be familiar with, this free app is an essential for experimenting with and choosing colour schemes. It selects colours from a photo you can either take or upload, and allows you to save these themes and share them (after signing in with your Adobe ID).

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I really find this a useful tool when designing, or simply to play around with for fun! It is interesting to see the colours translating directly from a photograph. I also like how you can search for photographs from Google or Flickr inside the app.

Have a go… only on iOS currently. Unfortunately Android users will have to wait. Or try something like the SwatchMatic app, and let me know how you find it.

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16 Feb

Airbrushing: an app for impossible beauty

There has been much controversy surrounding airbrushing over the last few years. I read a very interesting article on BBC News describing the effects on an adult, fully aware of the practice. The psychological effects on impressionable children and teenagers will be, of course, decidedly worse. Since technology has been making it easier and easier for anyone to edit out imperfections in photos, I decided to try it on myself.

I am a Photoshop… err… professional, but I didn’t want to show what an expert can do. We’ve all seen the evidence in fashion and gossip magazines; women with flawless skin and absolutely no flab practically 2 hours after giving birth. I wanted to show how technology has made this impossible beauty available to everyone. I downloaded the app Perfect365 on my iPhone (also available on Android) and set to work on one of my pictures.

First off, I chose a photograph that I was already quite happy with. I think I looked alright in it, until I started to change things.

I smoothed out my skin, I even got rid of some of my moles (which, lets face it, make me who I am). I even made my face slimmer, eyes whiter and larger. I may have gotten a little bit obsessed with making changes. I realised it was effecting me, someone who prides herself on not being overly image-conscious, a woman of substance and not superficial.

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Before and after

The thing is, I realise the ‘after’ photo looks fake. I realise that it is so altered that I can only now class it as loosely based on me. But still, there was something that made me want to try making one of my most loved memories and most hated pictures better.

The story behind this one is being on a lovely holiday to Paris, eight months pregnant, and after dragging myself up 200-300 steps to the top of the Sacré-Coeur wanting to take a lovely picture of me with the glorious view. Except you can imagine what I looked like after this feat. This calls for Perfect365…

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See? Addictive. I know a lot of friends who Photoshop secretly. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes it’s just intuition. The odd spot here and there, a stretch mark, a bit of excess flab. Where does it end?

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Making me perfect: even my cheeks shrunk.

The app works, a little too well maybe. It was so easy to make changes with a number of different selections and a slider for more extreme editing. The app has a colour palette for choosing makeup and even some rather fake looking wigs to top it all off.

The face slimming section surprised me. I had previously learned to live with my round, slightly chubby face. Is feeling this way down to new technology? I don’t think so. We need to be responsible with the way in which we use programs like this. We need to tell our children they are beautiful, because they are. There is technology out there saving lives and doing amazing things, beautiful things. This is not one of those things.

If you do decide to download this app and try it for yourself, do so at your peril. It could cost you your self-esteem, and in this day and age it is rather hard to build back up.

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07 Feb

Samsung vs iPhone: the debate continues

I’ve recently upgraded from a Samsung Galaxy S2 to an iPhone 5s. These two phones aren’t directly comparable; the iPhone is a much newer version, equivalent to the S4 in real terms.

I have noticed a few major differences though.

The iPhone feels more substantial, and the actual device is nicer to hold. The screen is quite noticeably smaller though, and I find myself missing the larger functional area of the Samsung. The iPhone has a few annoying design flaws too. I find myself accidentally hitting buttons that have been placed on the touch screen in the wrong position. This never happened with the Galaxy.

There is also the difference between iOS and Android, with Android being an open source platform. For some, this is a deal breaker, but for other users this makes no difference whatsoever.

I still haven’t decided which I prefer. There are more similarities than differences, so it is hard to say definitively that one is better than the other. Next time my contract is up though, I’ll have a hard time choosing. There is another major difference – the Galaxy is cheaper. For some, the choice is clear. For now, I’m hanging on to my S2 as a back-up phone. Are you loyal to one brand in particular? I’d like to know your thoughts.

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02 Jan

Fitbit app review, connected to the Flex tracker

Fitbit Flex

I treated myself to a Fitbit Flex when it featured on a Boxing Day Lightning Deal on Amazon. I purchased my new toy for £55.99, RRP £79.99. I’ve been interested in this for a long time, but only now have taken the plunge.

The Fitbix Flex is a tracker that records the number of steps taken, distance travelled, and minutes of light, medium and heavy activity. It also has a ‘sleep mode’ that monitors the time you spend in bed, the length of time it takes to get to sleep and the amount of times you wake during the night.

It’s better than I thought it would be, and the sleep monitor is really interesting. It’s great for setting goals, and monitoring your progress. I’ve been using it for just over a week now and I must say it’s quite addictive, checking your steps on the dashboard and trying to hit target of 10,000.

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I downloaded the app to go along with it, but only realised later that my phone doesn’t automatically update with the tracker. I’ll need to upgrade to a newer model for that. If my phone had the capability of syncing with my Flex then I think I would use the app more. As it is, I just use it sporadically to update my food log, as and when I remember to do so.

Still, it is all very well designed, easy to use and looks pretty awesome. It’s been a week now, and I still smile to myself when I tap the tracker on my wrist and it flashes lights at me like something out of a sci-fi movie.

I recommend this to all fitness enthusiasts, or anyone like me who is just interested in this kind of thing. It’s pretty cool, comfortable to wear, and waterproof too – although I haven’t tested this. Make sure your phone is compatible first though, check out the complete list of devices here.

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15 Dec

Escape the Titanic: A “Free” App

It’s not. I’m going to start off by saying it most definitely isn’t free.

Escape-the-Titanic

I downloaded this app because I love the film, and it was on the trending list on Android Play. But after playing a really fun, well-designed puzzle game for maybe twenty minutes (I wasn’t timing, but it didn’t feel like long), I got to a stage where it asked me to pay to continue with either answers or hints. They are both paid-for options. The other option was a tiny ‘no thanks’ link at the bottom. Naturally, I pressed ‘no thanks’ and waited to continue without my answers or hints.

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It took me back to the main menu. I pressed the play button and it the same ‘answers or hints’ screen loaded. You can’t progress without paying for hints. It’s 61p for hints, and £1.85 for full answers. So, not a lot for the hints but as this review from Gamezebo points out, the hints are just basic instructions and not at all helpful.

But I wouldn’t know. I refuse to pay for a game that calls itself free. And a quick scan of the reviews on the Android app store reveals that a lot of other people have felt duped by this too. Okay, so you get a few puzzles for free, but it should at least come clean in the description.

As for the few puzzles I did play, I did think it was fun. I like a good puzzle game as much as the next geek, and the imagery was great too. I felt like a cartoon Jack Dawson.

It’s a shame it was advertised as free, when it should have just been advertised as 61p. It’s better to have less people downloading the app, than making everyone annoyed by it!IMG_2737

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15 Dec

Free Theme Park game in app store

Theme Park app by EA

Theme Park app by EATheme Park, originally released back in 1994, was a firm favourite of mine. I remember spending a fair few evenings constructing and managing my amusement park on my second hand Playstation.

So when EA released the Theme Park app, I had to give it a go. On Android and in the iTunes App Store, Theme Park starts off just as fun as I remember. Yes, the control isn’t as easy on a smartphone as it was on a console, but the game is still great. The only thing I’ve found, as with a lot of these free apps, is it takes a long time to get anywhere with the game and it begs you to pay for stuff at every opportunity. I’d rather just pay a flat rate for the game instead of paying for tickets.

As I said before in my Candy Crush review, I don’t like paying for upgrades. I will buy games, and I will buy apps if they are particularly useful (although I’ve yet to find one that falls into this category), but I won’t buy tokens, tickets, coins, or any other paid-for item on a ‘free’ app.

Theme Park has therefore taken a very long time to progress.

EA Theme Park gameplay

There have been some other very angry reviews of this app, like this one from Jim Sterling on Destructoid.

I don’t feel that strongly about it. I still enjoy playing it, but I’m sure the nostalgia of the original game has a part to play in that. It’s given me the urge to dig out my old Playstation instead.

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03 Dec

Your photos on marshmallows: why do I love this?

Instamallows

It shouldn’t be great, but it is. Imagine getting a parcel you haven’t ordered, so you immediately rip it open with a mixture of excitement and confusion. The box reads ‘Boomf, Magical Mallows’ and you are still none the wiser. What is this? Opening the box reveals a set of 9 bite size marshmallows, each printed with a picture of you and your best friend on that amazing holiday you had last summer.

Boomf box

THIS IS THE BEST PRESENT EVER. Except that you have to eat them, or it’d be a waste, right?

I don’t know why I like this idea so much. It’s personal, it’s quirky, and I don’t even know what the point of having photos on marshmallows is but I would be thrilled to get some.

You order from the Boomf site, and choose your photos directly from your Instagram account. It’s a great extension of the Instagram app – a use for the collection of photos that would otherwise just stay on your phone.

So really, download Instagram if you haven’t already, and get snapping.

Instamallows

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03 Dec

I thank LEGO® for the 4+ app

LEGO® App4+My son loves Lego. I love Lego. I like having a little boy as an excuse to play with Lego. Then they released an app aimed at 4-7 year olds (Android and iOS) and I let the little one loose on my phone, sticky mitts and all.

It has two games in the app. The first is a build-a-car scenario that lets you select from various lego parts, and you can unlock more of these for free. Then you press a button to drive your vehicle and collect lego studs. My son cheers and claps when he gets to the end and triggers the celebration.

The second game is puzzle building, consisting of click and drag action. There are lots to chose from, and this would keep my son amused for a very long time if I were to let him have my phone for that long.

It’s design is great, the Lego branding is superb as always, and the gameplay is fantastic for toddler/pre-school children. My son is two, and he loves it, although he needs a little help from time to time. It’s a brilliant way to keep him amused while I do the washing up.

LEGO® App4+

I’d rather be playing this app myself though.

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03 Dec

Blackboard Learn app review

Blackboard have released an app on Android and iOS. It’s always handy to have access to information on your phone. It goes with you everywhere, and great for someone who is always on the move.

Blackboard Learn app

I also find it so much easier to have an app to use than having to try and find the specific webpage on a mobile. Mobile sites are often dysfunctional or you face the endless zooming and navigating of a desktop site. I use my phone for a good chunk of my online browsing/researching so this is really useful.
Although, for timetables etc. downloading PDF documents to your phone isn’t ideal, and the one criticism I would have is that these should be posted as pages to view rather than links to documents.
I will be using this app throughout my course though as it is so easy to use.
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02 Dec

I’m all Tapped Out: The Simpsons app review

Simpsons Tapped Out

I feel as a human being, we are all instinctively born with knowledge of the Simpsons. As a 90’s kid, the Simpsons has always been around, and probably always will be. When I first started playing the EA app The Simpsons™: Tapped Out I suddenly realised how many people I knew that were already playing it, and more importantly, how much further ahead they were!

This app was instantly addictive. I enjoyed reading the little storylines that go along with the quests, and I chuckled to myself when clicking on the different characters and hearing their catchphrases. I found that I progressed quickly in the beginning, which is important otherwise you feel like you are getting nowhere.

You know you’re hooked when you find yourself bragging to your other half, ‘I got the Chief Wiggum, have you?’.

As far as game play goes, it’s easy to get the hang of, and enjoyable, if a little repetitive. Therapeutic might be a better word. It’s a little like a Farmville/Sims mash-up, but much better. And you can make Nelson say ‘ha ha’ on cue.

 

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