If you’re finding that Daylight Savings Time is still messing with your sleep schedule, we have an iPhone app you can check out. Then we have an app that attempts to bring information security within the constraints of iOS. We also have an app that will help you find that next gas station on your road trip. For Mac, we have a Wi-Fi diagnostic tool. Finally, we have an iPhone app that helps you turn your photos into storybooks.
Sleep Cycle – iPhone
With the motion chip in the 5S, many people are skipping motion trackers and just using apps on their phone to count steps and motion. However, you’re missing out on the sleep tracking function. That’s where Sleep Cycle enters the picture. You boot it up when you’re about to fall asleep and set your wake up time. You then put the phone face down on the corner of the bed, you probably want to plug it in as it will be on all night. It then wakes you to a gentle tone once it thinks you are in the right cycle of sleep within a half hour of your wake up time.
You’ll then be able to see how you slept. The App keeps track of your sleep habits and gives you graphs of your best and worst nights. If you tend to work too much like I do, you’ll be reminded you should probably sleep more. The app is simple, but useful if you’re looking to track sleep. As an alarm, it is a bit too easy to snooze, meaning you’ll sleep a bit longer than you meant to, so slackers beware. However, if you’ve skipped a Fitbit for your 5S, this might be a good supplement to your movement data.
What’s Good: Excellent data keeping, easy to setup and use.
What Sucks: Alarm function really easy to snooze.
Buy it?: If you’re looking to track your app this is a good place to start, but you may want to set a second alarm. Check out Sleep Cycle on the App Store for $.99.
viaProtect – iPhone
Security Apps for iOS are always a bit odd, since often people believe that the App Store’s curated nature keeps the malware out. While there have not been any significant threats, fake apps that seek to harvest your data are still a possibility. (And have happened, read up on the issues with a “TOR” browser in the App Store.) Via Protect won’t intercept these downloads and quarantine them like traditional AV software, but it will show you where your traffic is going. This is a big step in seeing what Apps are doing with your data. It will also show you the active services on your device and how often they run. If you’re concerned about apps encrypting your data before sending it, you’ll see a breakdown of your traffic by that metric.
Though there is a lot of data here, it ultimately ends up being a pass/fail system. You can’t see which apps sent the data to where, nor which apps are encrypting your traffic. So you’ll need to remember to check this app every time you install something, or it may become difficult to find out where you risks are coming from. That said, this is still better than nothing.
What’s Good: Good way to audit where traffic is being sent to by your apps.
What Sucks: No way to see which app is sending data to a particular destination.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for basic security software on iOS, check out Via Protect. Grab it on the App Store for Free.
iExit – iPhone
One of the worst things about Road Trips is trying to find a place to eat. If it’s night, those signs with the list of Fast Food resturants are barely readable. iExit solves that problem by giving you a list of everything available at a given exit. There is a snag to this, it only works with Interstates. If you’re on a highway, this likely isn’t going to help. Though it does look like it will search for things in your general area.
iExit lets you to browse exits by state and interstate, helping you to pre-plan where you might want to stop. Combine this with GPS and you have the perfect replacement for one of those old AAA triptiks.
This app is likely only going to come in handy if you drive a lot, or are planning a big road trip. These kind of supplemental apps are best to stash in a folder with your GPS apps, and keep for those times when dinner discussions get a little tense.
What’s Good: Excellent collection of data, easy to use for both real-time and planned searches.
What Sucks: Doesn’t work with anything but Interstate routes.
Buy it?: iExit is a useful app to keep buried with your GPS, it’ll come in handy when you need it. Check it out for free on the App Store.
Wi-Fi Explorer – Mac
Being a geek can be hard work. At most family functions you end up spending time trying to diagnose people’s computer problems. Networking can always feel like a mixture of magic and science, especially when you don’t have any diagnostic tools. While the built in Apple tools can be helpful, sometimes you need something more heavy duty. For Wi-Fi issues, it often can be tricky to figure out the source of issues. Wi-Fi explorer gives you a lot of ideas about what your local airpsace looks like.
If you live in a crowded neighborhood, or an apartment building you can run into issues where wi-fi networks are all on the same channels, causing more interference. Wi-Fi Explorer helped me see that my 5 Ghz network was sitting in the same space as a neighbor’s router. A few adjustments on my end, and I was getting a little better performance. This isn’t an app you’re going to use everyday, but it’s going to solve a frustrating issue. This gives you data you can get from Apple’s utilities, but in a much more presentable and useful format.
What’s Good: Great data presentation, easy to use.
What Sucks: Not an everyday app
Buy it?: If you end up playing tech support for your family, or just want to troubleshoot your own Network issues, grab Wi-Fi Explorer. It’s available on the App Store for $2.99.
Steller – iPhone
Steller is the sort of App that Apple puts into its commercials. It’s got a neat interface, it emphasizes creativity, and it’s a bit self-indulgent. The app lets you use pictures and text to tell a story. It uses your photos in some predefined layouts. It creates a nice little storybook format that you can publish and share with others. The app has its own built in social aspect, but you can also share your creations on Twitter and Facebook. The app supports short video clips as well, leading to some interesting post options.
Steller is a neat app, but like Instagram, the quality of your experience is going to depend on the people you follow. The posts shared by the app’s creators often show off some of the more intriguing ways the app can be used. Since not everyone is an artist or aspiring designer, this app does have some more practical uses. You can create a really nice travel slideshow with some thoughts about your trip and what you did. Much better than just a generic album on Facebook to share with your friends and family.
What’s Good: Great interface and easy to design posts.
What Sucks: Limited customization options.
Buy it?: If you’re looking for a more interesting way to share your photography, Steller is for you. Check it out on the App Store for free.