Pygmy Reviews #45 – iOS Apps

Speedtest (Free)

One Line Description: Test the speed of a cellular or Wi-Fi internet connection.

Nothing too special here. The companion app to the Speedtest website, it doesn’t offer much beyond testing the speed of an internet connection. It can use over Wi-Fi or cellular and provides the pin, download and upload speed based on a single test. Different servers can be selected and tested against, or it can just select a server automatically. There is an option to switch between displaying data in Mbps or Kbps, but that is about the only option besides server location. It is ad-supported, but they can be removed for a fee. It’s unclear how much data this app consumes per test, but it appears that it is probably around 15 MB or so. This app does what it’s supposed to and can be a nice diagnostic tool for slow connections.

CanIStream.It (Free)

One Line Description: An app to quickly check across multiple services to see if a movie/TV show is available for streaming.

CanIStream.It is a useful website for checking the availability of a movie or a TV show across different streaming services. It will also show whether or not it’s available for purchase from a few places. The app accomplishes exactly what the website does, just from an app instead of a browser. The results seem relatively quick, but the matter in which the results are displayed on the app (pretty much the same form as the website) require unneeded side scrolling. It’s clear that this “app” is just a port of their website modified slightly to fit better on a small screen. Any time side scrolling is required on something that absolutely doesn’t need to have it, someone did something wrong. The problem is that there is no mobile version of the website. Just a splash page to download the app or search the desktop site. So the reality is this is the best option by default. And while it is clunky, it gets the job done in quick fashion. Hard to argue with that when it’s free.

Breaking News (Free)

One Line Description: A news app that focuses on up-to-the-minute stories aggregated from around the web and social media.

The generically named Breaking News app has a lot to offer. Putting people’s political agendas aside, it seems to provide a solid look at extremely current stories by aggregating headlines and links from around the web, including pictures. The app itself looks like a Twitter feed, full of short blurbs/headlines with a relative time, some sort of category, and sometimes a link. These categories are like “tags” in a sense that they allow a user to filter news stories by them1 but are not like tags in the sense the stories tend to have just one directly associated, and then a bunch of them listed under “related topics”. The push notifications are good, but whether or not they do/don’t include truly important things is up to the opinion of the user. Twitter is an excellent place to be made aware of something that is going on, the Breaking News app offers a great place to find out more details. It’s hard not to see this app being useful to anyone who is interested in current events since it’s high level of filtering means it’s easy to remove unwanted topics.

Groceries ($0.99)

One Line Description: A list manager focused on shopping, specifically groceries.

IMPORTANT: It should be noted that there is currently a bug under iOS8 where the QuickType suggestions overlay the entry point for items to a list, making this app almost unusable. This app hasn’t been updated since February, but, per the developer a fix is coming.

There is no shortage of grocery list apps in the App Store, and every one offers something different. Even Apple’s own Reminders can be (and is) used for keeping track of what to buy at the store. It’s difficult to determine if Groceries adds a whole lot that other similar apps don’t, but it gets the job done. It comes with a built-in database of foods, which can be modified, so that it can autocomplete items as they are being added to the list. Different shopping lists can be created, so if a user wanted to shop at multiple stores they could easily keep track of the lists separately. When the user is adding a new item they must first start typing, and then a list of suggestions appears. After fully typing (or tapping) an item, Groceries then requires a quantity, leaving it blank seems to assume “1”. The app has smart filters that appear as tabs on the side that allow the items entered to be filtered based on their category in the database. In other words, it’s easy to just see all the fruits and vegetables with one click.

Sliding one way on an item marks it green, swiping another way swipes it red. Presumable the red color is meant to be used for things that are no longer needed. One of the things Groceries does by default is essentially make all lists re-usable. So marking something as read seems to indicate it is not needed at this time. Anything marked one color or the other automatically moves it to the bottom of the list, making it easier to see what items remain. Individual items can be added or removed, or the entire list can be reset so all items are marked as needed again. The entire list can also be quickly deleted. For someone who buys the same things every week, this is a nice feature, but deleting and re-adding a new list each week for people who are more random is a bit of an inconvenience.

The app also offers some sharing features (which I have not used) to easily share a list with people, but this doesn’t seem to include any sort of syncing, just sharing of a list. Overall it’s a good app2, but not so great that it’s worth switching to if another app is satisfying needs.

  1. Either to see more of the same topic, or less []
  2. Minus the deal breaking iOS 8 bug []