Last rays of sun on the trees today #sunset @ The Fillmer Farm instagr.am/p/DRN_h
Every since the very first iPhone came out I have been trying to find ways to make the camera on the iPhone a viable photography choice when a DSLR was just too big, bulky, and basically unavailable. Most photographers would have scoffed at the thought of using a cell phone for any kind of serious photography, but as has happened with the field of photography over the years, things change.
I took my first photo with an iPhone on December 15th, 2008 at 9:23am, and from that point I have since taken a little more than 7,000 images with an iPhone in one version or another. With the release of the iPhone 4 Apple made realistic photography an option. The screen resolution and the over abundance of really cool camera and photography apps has made mobile photography legit (most posts on this blog that have iPhone photos are tagged iPhone).
Being a photographer that actually was around when we were shooting 35mm and transparency film, I have been a little slow to jump totally on the mobile photography platform, but with so many great apps out now it’s made iPhone photography fun. My top three of all those apps on the app store are listed below. You can click the image just below to see a full size screen shot of all three apps in an example progression.
With all these apps I would highly recommend shooting an original and working with a copy to preserve the original image. Many if not most of these apps will completely alter the image forever and you can’t go back, so be sure to have that original image saved.
Best iPhone Camera Apps
- Camera+ – Great all around photography editing app
- PicFx – Best app for filters, and textures
- Instagram – Best social networking photo sharing app
Camera+ is probably the most versatile app available. It has been around quite a while and has a very large number of adjustment-post editing possibilities. It has several shooting options for focus, a grid (standard on DSLR’s), a better zoom than the basic iPhone app has, and several ways to adjust the image before you shoot. The image editing features are more flexible than any app I have tried. It allows for the most filters, and gives you a large number of “effects” which are basically overlays on the image.
One of the best features of this app has nothing to do with the way it edits photos but with the fact that it doesn’t “require” a square crop to be taken. That allows the full 5mp camera depth to be used. It allows for sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Cost $.99 (at this posting it’s on sale). Download Camera+ on iTunes
The PicFx app is basically an app you can apply cool filters and textures to your images. The biggest drawback to this app is the fact that you must use a square crop on the image which reduces the image size significantly. The best part about this app is the textures. It has a large number of choices and it gives you an easy to use opacity meter allowing for even more unique looks. Will allow you to share on Twitter and Facebook. Cost $.99. Download PicFx on iTunes
This app has exploded in popularity like many things that have an element of social networking attached to it. The cool thing about Instagram is it’s quick and easy ability to share quick and quirky edits with friends. The negative aspects of this app is that it’s limited to basically people with an iPhone.
It has no web application, which means it has no way to see a full stream of photos, no url to give to someone, no profile, no rss feed, or any of the things we take for granted with most other applications (like Flickr). It is also quirky to add new friends, but all info and sharing take place within the app. You can share to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, or email.
This app would be fantastic if it had an app available for Android and a web presence. I have read that both are on the way but with the main focus of this app being a social networking app it needs to be available outside the iPhone. Cost: Free. Download Instagram on iTunes
Since the new iPad2 and the Apple iOS 4.3 was released last week I have had several people at church ask what “Christian” apps I would recommend for their iPad or iPhone, and I finally just decided to do a blog post about it. Since there really was only one app I would call a “Christian” app that applies to a lot of people that I would highly recommend (YouVersion), I have included an overall top ten I would recommend for people just starting to use an iPad or iPhone instead.
This list can easily apply to anyone wanting to get a lot of good use out of their new iPad, I say that above only to show that this app list is from a Christian perspective on currently available apps and I would consider all of these safe to download, and would also provide some productive value in your daily use of these two devices.
If you are new to the iPad or iPhone App Store then these might be a good place to start. For those who have been around the iPad for a while now these may seem old news, but I still like to evaluate the apps I use periodically to determine if they are still worth keeping. Most of these below I have used now for more than a year. I tend to find a good app and stick with it while the developers continue to improve it’s performance and features.
I will have an in depth review of a few of the apps listed below in upcoming blog posts, it was just too long to list right here. In the mean time, here is the brief overview of each of the top 10, plus four extras that almost made the cut:
Top Ten Best iPad / iPhone Apps
- YouVersion – Bible app
- Official Twitter app – Social Networking
- Facebook – Social Networking
- MaxJournal – Journaling or Diary
- Amazon’s Kindle app – eBook Reader
- The Daily – Daily News and Current Events
- USA Today – Daily News and Current Events
- Pandora – Music
- Evernote – Notes/Archiving of All Kinds
- Netflix – Movies
Rating, 9/10 :: Best bible app available, period. It’s free, has tons of translations and is constantly updated. Most heavily developed app (possibly ever), has both iPad and iPhone formatted versions, and you can download some translations for offline reading. Access to live events, post to Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and email, loaded with features and still be developed. The best of the best. Price, free. (app info)
Rating, 8/10 :: If you are on twitter this is the first (but not only) app to have. Price, free. (app info)
Rating, 4/10 :: Still included because of it’s siginificance but no official iPad app available, only iPhone app, which is awesome. Still, you can bookmark the Safari homepage but surely Zuck is working on an iPad exclusive app for Facebook. After almost a year, we still only have impostors available. (app info)
Rating, 6/10 :: Best journaling app available for iPad (no iPhone) but has room for improvement. If you’re not a big fan of MaxJournal, try iJournal for $4.99 with a higher rating but has less features. MaxJournal has far more features and options like fonts, import-export abilities (though somewhat limited), and the ability to create multiple journals. Price, $3.99 (app info)
UPDATE: According to the developer they are possibly handing off this app to someone else, best to keep an eye on development if you are a heavy users of this app. Hopefully they will work it out. Another option (a few here too) is to use MacJournal from Mariner, which has a long running desktop app to sync with. They then added an iPad/iPhone app, so it’s not just a mobile app developed, it’s full fledged. The reviews are all over the map but I have used MacJournal Desktop app for years and love it.
Rating, 8/10 :: Best eBook app reader, recommended over iBooks, Nook, and several others. I picked Amazon’s Kindle app over all the others for 3 reasons; (1) total books available, (2) price of available books, and (3) features. In depth review coming soon. Another GREAT feature of Amazon’s Kindle app is that you can access your highlights and bookmarks via the cloud at https://kindle.amazon.com/, that alone got me to switch from iBooks. Price, free. (app info)
Rating, 8/10 :: New to the app store but has great content, always updated, highly interactive. This is the future of newspapers or online news in general. Complete review available, see Pros and Cons of The Daily app for iPad. Price $9.99/Mth or $40/year (app info)
Rating, 9/10 :: Best overall rounded source for news with a dedicated app for the iPad. Not as feature or design rich as The Daily but more in depth news and constantly updated. Price, free. (app info)
Rating, 9/10 :: Best music streaming app available, at least until Spotify can get out of the UK and over to us here in the United States. If you like music I would highly recommend the paid version at $35/year, you get commercial free music with higher bit rates. Price, free. (app info)
Rating, 8/10 :: Best app for saving and archiving notes of all kinds, syncs across all platforms including a desktop app. This is the archival app, scan, scrape, email, text right into a cloud based note program that integrates with a host of other apps and programs. They offer a free service but once again I recommend the premium version of their service (app is free) as they give you much more for a small price. Price, free. (app info)
Rating, 7/10 :: Online steaming movie app for both iPhone and iPad. Title selection needs improvement but it’s getting better every month. Most new releases are delayed and not all titles are available for streaming, some you still have to get the DVD mailed to you. Netflix has led the way in movie streaming and I suspect delays in titles or other issues like that are not their doing but the movie industry. Price, app is free but service will cost $7.99 per month. (app info)
Other Apps That Almost Made the Cut
- QR Code Reader – many free apps available, reads QR codes placed in magazines and on products
- Official NASA app – see review at Space Shuttle Discovery’s Last Launch and the iPad NASA App HD
- Noteshelf – great note writing app, like a notebook on your ipad (app info)
- Accuweather – best weather app for it’s radar maps and forecast (app info)
Yesterday the world finally got to see STS-133 launch after months of delays. It’s the 39th mission of Discovery and the 133rd flight of the Space Shuttle program, and was originally slated to launch on September 16, 2010. I went down to the cape with my Nephew in November hoping to see the launch then, but came about 4 hours shy is getting to see it live.
This time around however I watched it on the iPad NASA App HD. The app is also available for the iPhone but if you have an iPad you basically have an HD TV to watch the launch live. Not even DirectTV right now is offering NASA TV in HD (which is ridiculous). Besides being able to watch NASA TV live in HD you have a host of other information, photos, schedules, and everything you might want NASA-wise.
I wish other companies like Fox News, CNN, ESPN, and the like would look at this app and see how easy NASA made it to watch their broadcast. I understand with the others is a money thing, but the technology is there and the other broadcast companies are only going to gain viewers by offering a mobile platform for their customers. Kudos to the NASA tech guys for making this one of the best free apps for the iPad.
This morning Amazon released the new Kindle iPhone App, or an iPhone eBook reader. Since I do not yet (but probably will soon) have a Kindle the news of the Kindle iPhone app was really intriguing, but I started wondering if the app was putting the horse before the cart. The very first reaction on the Internet was people saying they were disappointed they bought the Kindle and now they can get this on their iPhone. Totally wrong way to look at it altogether. What Amazon did by making an iPhone app for the Kindle was make their product more relevant and more useful than it was last week.
I won’t go through a comparison between the two, there is a great review over on CNET, see Comparing Kindle 2 with Kindle’s iPhone app, but one of the great features is being able to read a book between the two devices. It doesn’t come quite as close as Seth Godin’s request in Reinventing the Kindle (part II) to share books between Kindle users, but it comes closer. If Amazon keeps going down this road they will really make the Kindle a breakthrough device.
Breakthrough in the same way the iPod was for music, the Kindle can potentially be for books. Everyone grumbled about the price of the iPod, and it took until the 2nd generation for me to plunk down the money for one, but after a while, people realized that the iPod revolutionized the way we listen to music. There will always be people who want to read on paper, but for many, paper is a hassle, uses trees, and culturally is on the same track and path as Kodak 400 speed print film, but it’s more than just that. Don’t blink, traditional media is going fast, and in some cases pretty much gone.
- Photography – Print Film —> Digital (almost totally complete at this point)
- Music – Vinyl –> Tapes –> CD –> Digital (niche markets for anything non-digital)
- Movies – Film –> Tape –> DVD –> Download (slower but almost there)
- TV – Tube –> Cable –> Satellite –> Streaming Live (computer only is coming)
- Books – Paper –> eBooks / Digital (the slowest of the 4, but catching up)
- Magazines / Newspapers –> Paper –> Digital (totally dying media in paper form)
My wife is currently working on her Master’s degree and last semester she spent something like $300-$400 on books. After the Kindle 2 came out, I started looking at which books she bought were available on the Kindle. About 30-40% of them are currently available, at $9.99-$15. She paid $40-$50 for some of these books which can now be downloaded on the Kindle for $10. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out the savings potential for College students all over the world, and seeing that Amazon is working on things like iPhone Apps is only going to make the Kindle more and more relevant in our society’s future.
Sometimes we go kicking and screaming into the future, and change comes with a fight. The Kindle / iPhone app is a great example of a transition of all forms of media to digital, it’s just a question of how long will we hold on to the past print mediums because that is what we are use to today.
Update March 2011
I have since written an update to this post in light of the iPad, which makes eBooks even more appealing, you can read that posts Printed Books vs iPad or Kindle eBooks and the Future of Books
We are just about to launch a new website (details coming closer to the end of the week) and Twitter is highly integrated into the framework of the website, so I thought I would highlight some of the better applications you can use with Twitter for Free (mostly).
People often ask me, “what is twitter”. I should just write a post about that, but this is assuming you already know about Twitter, at least a little bit. Some of you Twitterholics will recognize most of the top 5, but be sure to check out the ones at the bottom which I consider up and coming.
What Is Twitter?
If not, I have determined there is no one answer to “what is Twitter“, but for me, it is a free flowing exchange of ideas and thoughts with people who may have never been able to meet or contact in any other way. I have talked to musicians, politicians, and a lot of other ians that I would never have access to before Twitter. It is a two way street of course, but Twitter is far more than just “what am I doing”.
Because Twitter has made their service somewhat open (meaning they provide an API for their systems) there have been many people and companies that have developed great applications and services for twitter. On a side note, I would argue (slightly) that Twitter is at risk of becoming the next AOL without making themselves a true open source project, but that is also for another post.
So if you are looking for some great things to do with Twitter, here is my short list.
1. The Ultimate Desktop Application, TweetDeck
If you read no farther than this first item, you have hit the best right off the top. Tweetdeck is THE desktop application that pulls out the potential that is Twitter. Tweetdeck really deserves a post all its own so I will make this recap brief. Once you get to the point where you are following more than about 25 people on Twitter it is time to install Tweetdeck.
It allows you to add twitter groups to filter out different users (I have a group just for news where all Twitter news feeds like CNN, AP, etc, go so I can see them independently of all my other tweets. You can view Twitscoup which is a live running tag cloud of converstions on Twitter, and of course you can send out new tweets with a shorten URL field for posting links.
2a. Mobile iPhone Apps :: Twitterific
If you have an iPhone (or Blackberry), that will really unlock the potential of Twitter (a Blackberry will do but honestly, the apps really don’t compare to the iPhone, but they do have corresponding Blackberry apps too). Twitterific is the place to start. This free iPhone app is one of the best ways to follow a larger number of people with basic @reply, direct, and tweet functions. You can also see user info and tag favorites within the iPhone app.
Some of the features I like about Twitterific is you can click through to links and photos and they open in a twitterific type browser on your iPhone that allow you to open and close without having to launch Safari. What I have found that you can’t do, is see a list of your favorites, which is something I would like to do, but that is minor for what this app does.
2b. Mobile iPhone Apps :: Tweetie
If you can ignore the name, Tweetie is probably hands down the best iPhone Twitter app available. It costs $3.00 through your iTunes account but is well worth the price. It has far more functionality than Twitterific (the free version) but I don’t find it quite as fast to use. What you can do with this iPhone app that I have not found with any other desktop or mobile app is manage multiple accounts.
If managing multiple accounts is important to you, this is about the only way I know to do it without having to log out and log back into the other account. For that I would have paid $10 for this mobile app. Some of the other things you can do with Tweetie is view @replies on one page. For those who complain that they are overwhelmed by the people following them and replying to them, Tweetie is built just for these popular Twitter divas (I love you. I really do€¦but€¦) who are just so popular on Twitter it is impossible to keep up with effectively on anything else. I am going to pick on Anne Jackson just because I love her blog and her work in general (sorry Anne).
Tweetie is one application that will allow you to still follow the conversation with anyone and everyone that wants to send you an @reply without actually following them. Just tap the button at the bottom for @replies and see all those replies coming in from people you don’t follow. Tweetie also has several unique functions under the “more” section. One that is really wild is the “nearby” link. This will allow you to see who is close to your location by using the GPS on the phone. I used this last time Deb and I went to Gulf Shores and it worked great.
3. Tweet Grader
Do you love stats. Then Tweet Grader is for you. Find out how you are doing amongst all the other Twitter users, find local people using Twitter, and see a host of different stats about your own usage. This and the next one may be the vain uses of Twitter but I find them very very useful to help improve everything about how I use Twitter.
Tweet Grader, if you notice, is a user entered stat grade, and you can check anyone, not just your own Twitter ID (like mine here, still sitting at #6 in Twitter Auburn behind some great people). This has several uses as well but all in all a great stat tool for Twitter.
4. Mr Tweet, the Networking Assistant
This is the most recent addition to my Twitter life. Mr Tweet is quickly becoming the most useful tool that I have found for Twitter. Tag lined as “Your Personal Networking Assistant for Twitter”, it allows you to do three things. (a) find new people based on my recent activities, (b) find recent followers I am not following, and (c) check my own profile and usage stats.
What this does is pull data that you can probably not find by just surfing around. It gives you useful information like how likely the person is to reply to your tweets, how many tweet per day they average, and what their network of followers looks like. You have to follow Mr Tweet on twitter before they will start calculating your information, and it is updated every two weeks.
Being a photographer (even one on Twitter), this is my favorite of all Twitter uses. Twitpic has become an incredible source of information. That actually posted one of the first photos of the US Air flight that crashed in Hudson river here http://twitpic.com/135xa. It ended up almost crashing the Twitpic servers but it showed how useful Twitter is as a journalistic tool for everyday people. This photo was one of the first to circulate the Internet after the crash. It wasn’t by CNN or Foxnews, or MSNBC, it was by a Twitter users using Twitpic.
Twitpic is one of the easiest Twitter tools to use. All you do is sign into Twitpic and they give you an email address that uploads to your twitter account. You can take a photo with your cell phone (for those who have cell phone cameras) and upload it to twitter on the fly, right then and there on the spot. Facebook has done this with their iPhone app so it works in a similar way if you are familiar with how that works. If you don’t have a cell phone with a camera, just use the desktop uploader and start sharing your pics.
Are You Ready for Twitter Now?
So if that isn’t enough for you to ponder on Twitter, there are a few other cool tools of note. With Twitter allowing the use of its API data there are almost endless applications available, but the great ones find a need and build upon that to make something we will find value in using.
- Twhirl (desktop app)
- Hashtags – a great search tool – http://hashtags.org/
- Eventbox – combines all kinds of social sites
- Summize – Twitter search, Summize before Twitter bought them, great job on this one
- Twingly (http://www.twingly.com/) – something I am pretty hip on using right now
- FriendFeed (another combining tool)
- Dial2Do – very interesting tool that might prove very useful
So take the plunge and get started with Twitter. Just don’t tell me no one cares what in the world I am doing. It is far far more than just that. It is a free network to exchange ideas and thoughts with the world. Oh, and if you want to follow me on Twitter, here you go http://www.twitter.com/scottfillmer or @scottfillmer on Twitter.