Apps I’m using a lot, February 2016

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these. In fact, it was last spring.

The way I’ve used my phone has changed and so have the apps I’m using.  I hadn’t taken a step back and looked at how my apps had changed until this weekend. And what I found was that I’m still using a lot of the same apps — and where I’m not, it’s because something better has come along. There’s very little loyalty in the app market and I think the comparison shows it. Links on the icons will take you to the App Store.

Lots more analysis after the image.  I talk about winners and losers and why some apps have been relegated to the dustbin.



The Disapppeared

Let’s talk about what survived and what didn’t. Let’s start with what didn’t.

Twisted Wave Editor, a great single-track recording and audio-editing app, got moved off my main screen. Why? Is it because it’s a single-track audio editor? Yes and no. I had it on there for a long time because it was the best recording and editing app out there. But its fatal flaw has always been not having multiple tracks. The app development folks at WoojiJuice worked with a bunch of journalists to create an extended version of their Hokusai multi-track audio product that took all the good things about Hokusai (ease of use, multi-track recording) and did some journalism-specific things to it. The result was Ferrite, which is about as solid and perfect as you could want to do journalism with it. I haven’t touched Twisted Wave since I downloaded Ferrite, and it’s all due to feature set.

Voice Record Pro went into the Mobile Bits folder, too (where I store apps I don’t use but don’t want to delete).  VRP is a great app — free, creates high-quality and easily exportable audio recordings. But it never developed to the point where it could edit and getting it to work with external mics was sometimes tricky.

Diptic and Diptic Video both disappeared from my workflows, replaced by PicPlayPost. Diptic as a collage app that only did photos (though it did allow you to put text over the photos) was too single-use for me. Diptic Video did the same thing as PicPlayPost, just not as well. I was a big fan of the Diptic apps, too, but the combination of feature fragmentation and competition relegated it to the bits bin.

StoryByte is gone, which is a shame because it did traditional slideshows really well. The company went out of business, or at least closed down the app.

360 is now in Mobile Bits because, well, it got old and outmoded. I love it because it’s fast and keeps the processing on your phone. But Bubbli does a better job of the 360-degree thing, provides a more interactive phone experience for the user and creates a sharper image. On the downside, Bubbli’s processing and hosting is on their servers.

Storehouse is gone, too. It didn’t even make Mobile Bits. I deleted it. The company created what was basically a “Snowfall for mobile” tool that combined scrolling text with images. It worked beautifully. Then they went in a different direction and got rid of a lot of the social features that made work easily shareable. It became unuseful (if that’s a word).

And then Meerkat. I’m not even sure what to say here, other than Meerkat got hit by the 1 million-pound gorilla (that would be 71, 429 stones for my audience in the British Isles) that is Periscope. Periscope made it so easy to go directly into the Twitter feed. The downside is that you have to use an accessory service, like Katch to archive those compelling live streams.

Why did apps disappear from my main screen? Mainly it’s since they were surpassed by other apps. It’s a competitive marketplace and if you don’t innovate you die. We can call this the “Voddio problem,” after the first-to-the-market full-featured mobile audio and video gathering/editing app. They stopped improving the app in 2013, just as mobile journalism began to really take off.

The Survivors

If we look at the apps that survived since last spring, they all have improved themselves, with two exceptions.

FiLMic Pro stayed. At one point last year I didn’t think it would. The app’s codebase went to dirt, it was crashy and had problems building media libraries in iOS8 (everyone did, though). But the company kept at it, rewrote the entire app and kept improving it. They fixed a lot of the interface mistakes they made in 2014-2015, made it more reliable and continued to innovate. To be honest, there are at least four other apps out there that have similar or better functionality than FiLMic. But only FiLMic combines all those apps functionalities in one place that works. Also, I’m a big fan of their customer service.

Camera+ stayed. All of the good camera apps took advantage of iOS8’s manual controls features. Camera+ managed to not be crashy when they did this. And they’ve continued to refine their interface and controls to make it easier to shoot with the app. The in-app editing functions continue to develop; it’s not the equivalent of Snapseed, but it probably accomplishes 85 percent of what I need.

Clips made it through, despite no longer being supported by the developer. The last major update before being purchased by Google included being able to copy and split clips, which was incredibly helpful. It’s still there because it’s still a useful app for me — if I need to do light and fast editing, that’s what I usually use. There’s no thinking involved with it. And it’s stable. I do wonder if it makes it another year on my screen.

Video in Video hasn’t been updated since 2013 and is growing long in the tooth. But it works. I can do picture-in-picture in a couple different apps, but it’s so easy in ViV.  Just like Clips, I wonder if it makes it another year.

PicPlayPost manages to wow with sequential video collages. It’s easy to use and the collage templates provide lots of ways to tell a story. It survived the year because I use it a lot — I often find it the easiest way to tell a story. And it’s effortless to teach people to use.

ChartMaker Pro continues to be really useful to make numbers interesting. I’ve not run into an app that’s better than it for doing the seemingly simple task of graphing and then sharing to the camera roll.

Type A remains my favorite app. The ability to write extended captions on photos and bind them to the photo, save them to the camera roll and then share them is unrivaled. No other app does this as well. Not many apps even do this. It hasn’t been updated since 2014, though, so I wonder how long it will live. Not a lot of innovation keeping it alive — but it is useful in a niche where nothing else has surpassed it.

ThingLink is another example of a niche app that’s useful. They’ve done some innovating, but it’s mainly around because there’s nothing better to do interactive images from the field. I would put LapseIt and Hyperlapse, Steller and Periscope into the same category: Niche apps that no one has surpassed. There hasn’t been a great deal of innovation around any of these. But they still beat out anything in the category.

Pinnacle Studio Pro is kind of old, kind of new. It’s built on the Pinnacle Studio chassis, which I think is the best mobile video editing platform out there. But it adds a bunch of features to the old version.

The New Kids

Video Crop is new for this year. The fact that I’m using it makes me angry because SHOOT YOUR GODDAMN VIDEO HORIZONTALLY. But if we’re going to be platform-devout in how we think, we may get a piece of video destined for Snapchat or Instagram (and thus vertical) that we want to repurpose for a more traditional viewing experience. We need to crop that to a 4:3 or 16:9 ratio. This app allows us to do it. Still, every time I use it, a white stone disappears into a black pool in my soul.

Title Master is in there. It’s a production app: It puts words over images. Woo. But it does it well and I find it easier to use than its main competitor, Gravie.

Bubbli‘s a new kid on my screen. Love it. Talked about it up above. Sharp images and a way to replicate the 360 video coming out of the Theta cameras is nice. Wish it didn’t have to be hosted on their servers, though. Maybe they’ll figure out how to shift the processing to the phone…

Luma Clip is a light, fast and free post-production app that allows me to trim and change the speed or direction of clips. It’s part of a host of post-production tools that Luma Touch — the company that makes Pinnacle Studio and Pinnacle Studio Pro — have in development.