Category: App Reviews

Review of IndyCar – The Required Season Companion

I am a big racing fan. Each Fall, usually in October and November my sports watching goes to nearly zero. Baseball and racing are done until March the next year. One series I love to watch is IndyCar. The US-based open wheel series has struggled for many years but competition is better now than it has been for decades. New aero packages after the death of Dan Wheldon in 2012 (which, ironically, he was testing for the league during the 2011 season) have tightened up the racing and with F1 winner Juan Montoya returning last year (and winning the Indy 500), the 2016 is shaping up to be one of the best.

Along the way, IndyCar has done a great job of continually improving their app for Android.  The app, designed for both Android phones and tablets, brings all of the season information as well as news and highlights from your favorite driver and team.  While the 2015 version of the app was solid, the recently released 2016 version has built upon that platform.  There is a huge amount of information on the series, teams and drivers to be found in the app which will keep you completely up-to-date with all the happenings of the series.  If you like the IndyCar series, this app is really a must have for you.  It is on par with having MLB at Bat for baseball fans.  It’s essential and dare I say a required download.

Review of Google Camera for Android

Any smartphone you buy today be it Android, iOS or Windows Phone, will come with a camera app for the built-in camera of the device.  Some of these are appallingly bad while others are fantastic.  Fortunately, regardless of the platform you chose, you have a lot of camera apps available in respective app stores to help fit your needs a bit better.  In the case of Android, one of the simplest yet easiest to use camera apps is Google Camera.  Yes it is made by Google and it is a robust camera app alternative.  It doesn’t have the huge number of filters or other special tricks but it does do one thing really, really well:  Take photos.  With its simple user experience and focus on the taking of the photo itself, Google Camera gives you all you need to take a great picture with your Android phone, leaving it to other apps for post processing.  Personally, I’m good with this approach and having used this app for a week or so now, I’m pretty pleased with it.  I think you would be too.

Google Camera for Android – Free – Download Now

Review of ESPNF1 – A Must Have for Formula One Fans

If you have read this blog or followed me on Twitter for any amount of time, you know that I’m a huge Formula One fan.  I started watching F1 in the mid-80s and my passion for the sport is as strong as ever.  My team is Williams-Martini Racing and I have a particular fondness for Finnish drivers (they have insane car control) of which one of the two in F1 these days, Valtteri Bottas, is a Williams pilot.  The season is less than two weeks away and I cannot wait (and to be fair, I can’t wait for baseball to start either. Go Rockies!)

While there is no official F1 app for Windows Phone, there are several good ones in the Windows Phone Store.  I have found though that one of the best for news, information and features about the sport, ESPNF1 is the must-have app.  ESPNF1 is, as the name suggests, developed by ESPN who have a some great sports apps in the Store, and it provides you will the latest news about the goings-on in F1, video features, track information and current Driver and Constructor standings.  It is one of the most comprehensive F1 apps available with only a few areas of improvement that would complete it.

ESPNF1 for Windows Phone – Free – Download Now

Review of Tetra Lockscreen – Great Lockscreen Alternative

Like many elements of Windows Phone, the Lockscreen is one of the areas of personal expression on the platform.  Whether you decide to display your favorite photo, Facebook or Twitter photos or the Bing wallpaper of the day, it gives you this individual touch along with updates and information on your email, Facebook and other apps that you can choose.  Tetra Lockscreen takes those and pushes the Lockscreen up a level in functionality.  This app allows you to have that photo background of your choice or Bing but also brings a whole new level of content beyond just your messages, email and Facebook updates.  It makes the Lockscreen interactive and allows you to see details of your calendar for the day, your location, local weather and even can provide you a stopwatch.  It is a great example of the flexibility and power of Windows Phone.

The app comes from the Microsoft Garage (which was literally a garage on the Microsoft campus at one point) and is one of several apps that developers have released for Windows Phone and Android.  While the app isn’t officially supported by Microsoft, the Garage apps have all performed well and Tetra Lockscreen is no exception.  If you are looking to spruce up your Lockscreen with a bit more content, look no further than Tetra Lockscreen.

Tetra Lockscreen – Free – Download Now

Review of PCGS Photograde for Windows – Coin Grading Made Easier

Coin collecting has been something that humans have done almost since coinage was invented.  Often referred to as the “Hobby of Kings” during the Renaissance, over the past two centuries has become more affordable and easier to do than ever.  Those who collect coins seriously, Numismatics, today now have the benefit of technology and applications that even a few years ago was not available.  When I started collecting back in the mid-80s, coin grading and cataloging all had to be done by hand.  Now, it’s all done with apps but there is – and always will be – a human judgment factor when it comes to grading coins.  That is where an app like PCGS Photograde can make it easier for the seasoned collector and those new to the hobby.

PCGS Photograde comes from the company Professional Coin Grading Service, or PCGS.  They have been professionally grading coins for 30 years now and have had apps on various platforms to help hobbist leverage their experience to grade their own coins.  The PCGS Photograde app for Windows is the most comprehensive coin grading app available and gives high resolution photos of a wide range of US coins to help you determine the grades of your own coins.  It is a great way to figure out if that Lincoln Wheat Cent is a Fine-12 or an Extra Fine-20 and while that may not sound too exciting, it could mean in some cases hundreds of dollars difference in value.  Whether you have been collecting for a long time or just starting out, take a look at the PCGS Photograde app to help you grade your coins.

PCGS Photograde for Windows – Free – Download Now

Review of Autodesk Pixlr for Windows 8.1 – Powerful Photo Editor for Everyone

When it comes to photo editing apps for Windows 8.1, they come a dime-a-dozen (kind of like weather apps).  This means in order to raise above the fray that the app has to be exceptional and feature rich.  You get that with the recently released Autodesk Pixlr app for Windows 8.1.  The Modern app gives you a host of editing functionality from the start with powerful auto correcting features to enhance your photos.  The real power of the app comes when you sign up for a free Pixlr account.  Then you can download literally hundreds of filters, frames, stickers and other effects to add to your photos.  Autodesk Pixlr is easy to use and works comfortably on touch enabled tablets as well as mouse or touchpad driven laptops and PCs.  It has become my go-to photo editing app on both my Windows PC and my Toshiba Encore 2 tablet and for the price of exactly zero dollars, it is hard to beat the value.

Autodesk Pixlr for Windows 8.1 – Free – Download Now

Review of NextGen Reader – Great Feedly Reader For All Your Windows Powered Devices

Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, has been around since the mid-90s and is a way for websites like this one to publish a “feed” to subscribers providing the highlights of posts so users don’t necessarily have to visit the site until they want to do so for a particular article.  In fact, you can subscribe to the RSS feed for right here and most of the Windows and Windows Phone dedicated sites have their own feeds.  Likewise, RSS readers or aggregators have been around a long time as well.  These app allow you to gather all of your RSS feeds into one place so you can read them in one place at one time.  When it comes to Windows and Windows Phone, one of the best readers out there is NextGen Reader.

NextGen Reader leverages Feedly where you actually configure the RSS feeds and presents them in a modern, easy-to-read and navigate app for both your Windows 8.1 PC and tablets as well as a Windows Phone 8.1 version that is equally as solid.  The app allows you to quickly and easily read your feeds, supports the Modern Windows 8.1 app design and on the Windows Phone version, supports Live Tiles and pinning on your Start screen.  NextGen Reader is as close to a universal app as you can get in the current Windows 8.1 world (true universal apps are coming in Windows 10) but it does mean that once you buy the app at $2.99, you get the app on all your Windows powered devices.  If you are looking for a good RSS/News reader for your devices, take a look at this one.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

NextGen Reader for Windows Phone – $2.99 (Universal App) – Download Now

NextGen Reader for Windows – $2.99 (Universal App) – Download Now

Review of NPR One for Windows and Windows Phone 8.1

One of the new apps in the Windows and Windows Phone Stores that is a real bright spot is the NPR One app.  National Public Radio, or NPR, released the app last week for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 to bring you news and information from your local NPR station as well as news and information from the wide range of NPR shows to your devices, completely free.  With smooth navigation and powerful search functionality, the NPR One app is a must have for those who listen avidly to National Public Radio.

The release of NPR One last week covered both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 to the closest thing that the platforms today have to Universal Apps.  Functionally they are identical with only modifications for the UIs coming into play.

NPR One for Windows Phone 8.1 – Free – Download Now

NPR One for Windows 8.1 – Free – Download Now

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