Best iOS apps this week
Third in a series. The holiday season is well and truly behind us now and there's lots of big and important new releases and updates in the App Store this week. One of the most significant is a new app from Google which sees the search giant challenging Apple’s own iTunes Store (albeit with some very important Apple-appeasing limitations).
Elsewhere, cloud storage service Box announced that it has rewritten its app to make it "super-fast, simpler to use and more immersive", and as an incentive for users to try it out the app now comes with 50 GB of storage for free, which definitely makes it worth the download. You can read more about the update here.
As always there’s the usual mix of great apps and games -- both paid and free -- available for your consideration.
If I miss an app that you think should definitely have been included (and it's a busy week so that's always a possibility), let me know in the comments below. I'm particularly interested in any hidden App Store gems you might have uncovered.
Right, there's a lot of apps to cover, so on with the show.
Paid App of the Week
Ever recorded a video on your phone in portrait mode? It looks all right when viewed on the phone's display, but incredibly stupid when watched on a horizontal screen -- like your TV, tablet or PC monitor. It doesn’t matter what the content is, portrait videos on YouTube never look good.
Horizon is a clever app that sets out to prevent you from accidentally shooting video in portrait mode. Once installed it will record all video in horizontal mode, auto-straightening your videos while recording, using your device’s gyroscope. You can hold your phone in portrait mode, sideways or keep rotating it, and the video will always be recorded in the same -- correct -- orientation.
You can add filters, shoot with the front or back cameras and share the videos afterwards.
Free App of the Week
This new app from Google lets you watch movies and TV shows rented or purchased through Google Play. This makes it a sort of competitor to Apple’s iTunes Store. You can’t actually purchase content through the app (there’s no way Apple would allow that), but it’s easy enough to fire up your device’s web browser and do your shopping there.
Now iOS users have a choice of where to buy and watch media from, and Google Play Movies and TV offers a very important advantage -- if you acquire a film or TV show through Google Play you’ll be able to watch it on any iOS and Android devices you own.
The app lets you browse and watch content on your iPhone or iPad, and comes with Chromecast support too.
This actually came out last week, but didn’t make it into my selection then. Jelly is a Q&A app from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, that lets you use images to find answers to questions. You take a snap, crop, zoom and reframe it as necessary -- draw on the shot if needs be -- then ask your question. It works with all of your existing social networks.
Outread -- Speed Reader ($2.99)
If you’ve ever wanted to learn to speed read, this app can teach you how by "guiding your eyes through text with a rhythmically moving highlighting marker". It promises to reduce your reading time without affecting your comprehension, and supports Instapaper, Pocket and Readability.
A useful app for anyone who needs to have off-the-record chats. It’s like Snapchat but for text, and aimed at the business sector. The messages appear one line at a time and disappear once read. You need to swipe your way through them, which prevents the text being captured in a screenshot.
Polamatic by Polaroid ($0.99)
This Polaroid-inspired camera app has been updated for the first time since 2012, and rebuilt from the ground up. It lets you frame a print -- there's a choice of 36 authentic Polaroid frames -- apply filters (there are 36 of those too), add light leeks and flares for that realistic Polaroid look, and then add a caption to the bottom of the frame, and share the results.
Shadow Blade ($2.59)
Ever wanted to become a ninja? (Of course you have!) Shadow Blade from Crescent Moon Games lets you put your ninja abilities to the test. The action platformer has you guiding Kuro, a "young man on his quest to become the Shadow Blade" though 40 levels, avoiding traps and sneaking past (or over) enemies.
Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition ($14.99)
Offers in-app purchases.
Although it’s one of the more expensive games in the App Store, you do get what you pay for in this excellent iPad RPG. The game is essentially a touch remake of Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn and its expansion, Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal. The area artwork has been remastered from the original renders, and the game features full widescreen support.
The RPG was supposed to arrive in December, but ended up (in the words of Trent Oster, the game’s creative director) getting "stuck somewhere in the App Store plumbing". Still it's here now, and well worth the wait.
Apple’s App of the Week
Offers in-app purchases (although currently free).
This camera app is a bit like Vine. You press and hold anywhere to record, then release to stop. You can do this as many times as you like to create multiple clips and then apply filters (with dynamic light leaks) during playback. You can add a soundtrack from your library, and share the finished result on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, iMessage, or via email or AirDrop.
Spark Pro, which usually costs $0.99, is currently free and lets you import and edit videos from your camera roll.