This year's top 5 must-have apps

Originally Posted Online: March 15, 2013, 9:56 am
Last Updated: March 16, 2013, 12:00 pm
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By Benjamin Payne,

Last year, more apps were downloaded in Apple’s App Store than there were humans living --roughly 34 billion more. But that figure pales in comparison to the staggering ratio of poor apps to their quality counterparts.

To cut back on your search time, we've found a handful of apps you might have overlooked that definitely are handy. Check them out: 

Discovering new music: Songza (For Android and iOS, free)
Internet radio apps like Pandora work for a while until they start churning out the same 10 songs per channel.

Enter the playlist-based app Songza, which doles out stream suggestions based on your mood, be it introspective, cocky and anything in between, as well as whatever activity you’re engaged in, ranging from “Lying Low On A Sunday Afternoon” to “Driving in the Left Lane.” 
The nifty concierge tool accurately guesses what you’re most likely to be doing based on the day of the week and time, such as “studying” on Tuesday afternoons, “Waking Up Happy” Saturday mornings and “Walking Away From Explosions” Friday nights.

Finding music you’ll actually enjoy based on what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, or when you’re listening may sound like a crapshoot at first, but Songza’s smart decision to stay clear of artist-based channels surprisingly is effective and makes it much easier to venture outside your musical comfort zone.

And for all of the zany innovation Songza brings to the table, nothing is more impressive than its complete lack of ads.

Going to the movies: RunPee (Android and iOS, $0.99)
Imagine Indiana Jones without the boulder chase, "ET" without the flying bicycles, "Se7en" without the ... You get the point. So many movies just wouldn’t be the same without that pivotal scene.

For this reason, the app developers of RunPee screen every new release, watching for the craziest twists, funniest lines and anything else remotely must-see to pinpoint the few nonessential lulls in the plot ideal for leaving the theater to grab some more popcorn, make a call, or as they intended, run and pee.

So as not to disrupt anyone’s viewing experience, a vibrating alarm discreetly notifies the user whenever such a break time is coming up. Once your intermission is over, simply read a summary of the few minutes you missed before reentering. RunPee also can brief you on the first few minutes of the film if you’re running late, as well as reveal whether there is a bonus clip after the credits.

“Because movie theaters don’t have pause buttons," the app reminds us, you need this app.

Looking for a come-up: Mokriya Craigslist (iOS, free and $.99 versions)
While there are plenty of Craigslist apps to choose from, Mokriya’s takes the gold. Not only does it boast one of the slickest, most intuitive user interfaces out there, it’s the only third-party Craigslist app to be officially licensed by Craigslist itself.

Part of the allure of Craigslist always has been its nostalgic, bare bones 1990s look reminiscent of the days of dial-up. Mokriya manages to maintain this tradition of a simple aesthetic by way of its minimalist layout while catapulting the classifieds' outmoded functionality into the 21st century. Long overdue features allow users to keep tabs on their favorite listings, set up alerts for notifications for whenever a new listing of specific criteria has been posted, and upload listings on the go.

Available only on the premium version ($0.99), these tools are well worth the dollar since they aren’t available elsewhere, included.

Winning an Oscar: 8mm Vintage Camera (iOS, $1.99)
Pricey Super 8 cameras and film dried up the cash flow for production of the documentary “Searching for Sugar Man,” before director Malik Bendjelloul could finish shooting.

Nevertheless, Malik managed to not only pull off the remainder of his film without breaking the bank or the film’s visual continuity, but also go on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature thanks to 8mm Vintage Camera. The app, that is.

Often touted as the video equivalent to Instagram, this is more than just a hipster’s palette of presets. With an array of film choices to jump from generation to generation and an arsenal of lens options to adjust the ambiance, 8mm is the flux capacitor of camera apps, cinematically transporting you to whichever decade of the past century your heart desires.
A frame jitter button, 4:3 aspect ratio option and projector sound capability finish off the authenticity, giving your media an aged look convincing enough to fool the Academy.

Getting in shape: Cruise Control (iOS, $4.99)
With the weather showing occasional signs that winter might be coming to a close and spring may be more than a myth, running season is just around the corner. If in pursuit of a faster mile or just some prodding to shake off the cabin fever, check out Cruise Control. Once a target pace, heart rate, or stride is set, the app scans your music library, tweaks the tempos without altering pitch (no chipmunks here), and gradually speeds up the beat during playback in an effort to coax the runner into hitting their goal.

The developers still have a few kinks to work out, since it occasionally spits out unnaturally sounding tracks. But the underlying algorithms driving the technology are solid and anything but a gimmick, having been developed by university physiologists researching the science behind exercise.

If you’re not looking to hack into peak performance, Cruise Control’s free run mode follows your footsteps, synchronizing beats per minute with your current pace.


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, Oct. 2, the 275th day of 2014. There are 90 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The ladies have adopted the fashion of wearing representations of insects in the flowers on their bonnets. Some look very natural.
1889 -- 125 years ago: T.F. Cary, former Rock Island alderman, has accepted a position as salesman for a Chicago wallpaper house and plans to move to that city.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Work on the new telephone building on 18th Street between 6th and 7th avenues is progressing rapidly.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Rock Island's new theater at 3rd Avenue and 19th Street will have a name significant of its location. The "Rocket" is scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Two of Rock Island's newest water towers were vandalized last night, including the one at 38th Street and 31st Avenue, where police took five Moline boys into custody about 9 p.m..
1989 -- 25 years ago: Some of us who live in the Quad-Cities take the Mississippi River for granted, or at least we used to. But the river is not taken for granted by our visitors. And most Quad-Citians are realizing the importance of the river to this area as increased emphasis is placed on tourism.

(More History)