Pygmy Reviews #18: iOS Apps

Fantastical ($3.99)

One Line Description: Simple calendar app that supports natural language entry.

Fantastical for Mac is pretty much the gold standard of natural language entry calendar applications. For those not familiar with the concept, the idea is that you can type “dinner at joes on monday 8pm” and it knows exactly how to create the event. Fantastical for the Mac came out about 1.5 years ago, but the iOS version just recently showed up.

Fantastical for iOS is a nice looking application, and it’s very simplistic. Maybe that’s a good thing, but in this case it doesn’t do a whole lot for me. The default view is a quick shot of five days, the current day plus two days before and two days after. Beneath this is a list of upcoming events. Thankfully the list view starts with the currently selected day which by default is the current day. I am not sure what the point of showing the previous two days in calendar view is though. Why would I constantly need to know what I did previously?

I have been using QuickCal on my iPhone for natural event creation for quite some time now. It’s only 99 cents, and has frequently been marked down to free. If all you want is the natural entry you can save $3 by going with QuickCal instead. If you want a full featured calendar, you can do better than Fantastical.

Downcast ($1.99)

One Line Description: Podcatcher app that serves as an alternative to iTunes.

Downcast has been my podcatcher of choice for a while now. I switched after Instacast 2 left me wanting more. It’s clearly not as good looking as Instacast, but it’s got some nice features and is very reliable. It has most of the standard features of good podcast apps, variable play speed, streaming, etc. Outside of that, I don’t need a lot from my podcasting application.

One great feature of Downcast is playlists. The best part about the playlists is that you can completely customize what podcasts are included. This has allowed me to create a “favorites” playlist of just the podcasts I want to make sure I listen to as soon as they come out. It’s a well maintained application and is only $2.

30/30 (Free)

One Line Description: A time-based task manager.

30/30 is different than other task managers. It basically involves creating a string of tasks with a set amount of time for each. Then when you are ready to start, you start the timer and the first task starts counting down. After the task completes, a notification pops up, and optionally the next task could automatically start. The app has little icons and customizable colors for each task, and lists can be saved and re-used. The app supports iCloud syncing so that multiple devices can sync.

It has some minor quirks though. Tasks can’t be saved and re-used. Most of the time I enter the save 5-10 things and it would be great if they could be saved, instead of just saving entire lists. The app also shows the end time of the last task in the list once the timer has been started. It would be nice it if would show this end time before hitting go, instead of forcing the user to do math to figure it out. Overall, this is a very useful app if you do time boxed activities frequently.

Interesting ($0.99)

One Line Description: Smart news aggregator that grabs popular stories.

Kind of a new application that is very simplistic. Interesting has four tabs, each representing a different category. The four categories are Design & Technology, News & Politics, Entertainment & TV and Sports. The app uses some sort of proprietary algorithm on their servers to grab stories from mainstream websites and determine their popularity. The app then puts these stories in their respective tabs in some sort of order (I haven’t been able to determine what), which a little number to indicate it’s popularity. The stories open the actual stories on their actual websites in the built-in browser. The stories can be saved to Pocket, Tweeted or one of the built-in iOS tasks (Copy Link, Open in Safari or Mail Link).

That’s really all there is to this application. It’s nice when you just want to find something quick to read without doing a lot of work. I don’t use it enough for it to be a better news source than Twitter. I am very disappointed that it only has support for Pocket, and not also Instapaper, but because you can copy links it’s a manageable problem. If you often find yourself in situations where you want something current to read without much effort, or want to catch up on the big stories of the day, this is a great app. But because it doesn’t have any sort of customization, it’s limited.

Wikipanion for iPad (Free)

One Line Description: Wikipedia client iPad

I haven’t had a Wikipedia app for my iPad before. I typically found the website to be sufficient on the iPad, but for some reason after getting my iPad Mini I decided to try one. Wikipanion was one of the first apps I tried way back on my first iPhone. It was nice, but eventually I bought Articles and never looked back. The version of that I have is iPhone only, so I decided to try the free version of Wikipanion1 It’s well designed and fast, but doesn’t bring a ton of extra features for the table. There are two font choices, search with a page, bookmarking and that’s about it.

A lack of features isn’t a bad thing. I generally use Wikipedia just for quickly looking something up as opposed to a place I spend a lot of time studying. Speed is an important feature of Wikipedia apps for that reason. You really can’t be free, so this is definitely a good option.

  1. There is also a paid version that has some extra, but not required features. []