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Jesse Virgil

Jesse is a freelance writer that's passionate about about technology, apps and various forms of entertainment. When he's not busy trying to find the next great app to review, he enjoys writing on his own blog, recapps. You can follow Jesse on Twitter and Google+.

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My first iOS experience came by way of an iPod Touch that was given to me at Christmas  in 2008.  I remember feverishly setting it up so I could comb the App Store for goodies; making sure to download all the best apps and games available at the time. Now that Christmas is upon us this year, some fortunate few are being introduced to iOS for the first time.

When you find your way into the App Store for the first time, you’ll soon discover that it houses a lot of apps. Like, millions. Many of them bring a unique feature to the iPhone that you don’t get from first-party apps, but then there are the apps that compete with Apple’s offerings. Now, being that Apple owns and operates iOS, its apps often include killer features that you won’t find in third-party alternatives. However, even with this advantage, some third-party apps are capable of offering a superior experience.

With this in mind, I’ve rounded up a list of what I believe to be the best free and paid alternatives to Apple’s first-party iOS apps. Read on and get ready to download! (more…)

About a week ago I expressed a sentiment on Twitter regarding iCloud Reminders integration into third-party apps. Having transitioned to Reminders for all my to-dos and lists some months ago, I’ve found myself wanting a bit more from the first-party app. Reminders works well enough, and I mainly use it because it’s accessible almost anywhere and allows me to use Siri. However, being the app enthusiast I am, I can’t help but wonder why more productivity app developers don’t include Reminders integration into their apps.

Those familiar with Fantastical 2 and/or Calendars 5 know that these apps do a spectacular job with Reminders integration, which works hand-in-hand with a calendar app. But what about apps like Clear, Wunderlist and Any.Do? While the developers of these apps may not care to integrate Reminders, developers of similar apps could possibly see the value in doing so. Enter developers Taphive, who saw fit to do this very thing with their highly customizable to-do app,Tick. (more…)

Most iPhone owners I meet are content with using the apps provided by Apple. Whether it’s from lack of interest or uncertainty about what’s available in the App Store, they stick with what’s provided to them and go about their business. I, on the other hand, only use a few of Apple’s apps for which alternatives are available and stash the rest away in a folder. There are many reasons why I opt for third-party apps, but anyone that visits an app review blog, such as yourself, probably doesn’t need must explanation why they’re often much better.

With iOS 7’s release, a few of Apple’s apps that I abandoned long ago got a reprieve; mainly due each app’s stark redesign from their iOS 6 predecessor. Of those apps, iTunes Movie Trailers is by far one of my favorites. Beforehand, I was using a combination Wigglehop, Fandango and Google for all my theater going excursions, but now Apple’s all-in-one movie app offers nearly all the information and features I’ll ever need. (more…)

Don’t judge a book by its cover–a valuable piece of advice I was taught early in my life, as I’m sure a lot of you where as well. More often than not I find this old adage to be profoundly true, but, at times, I find it incredibly difficult to live by. I, like a lot of individuals, find it easier to embrace something that’s pleasing to the eye. Sometimes it turns out well, which I’m sure most Apple device owners can attest to (just holding my iPad mini is one of my favorite past times), but other times I’m reminded why the adage rings so true.

Taasky is an app that was on my radar several months before its launch. I had seen it showcased on several blogs and Dribbble because of it’s beautiful and sleek design. I was enamored, to say the least. So, when the app found its way to the App Store I was quite pleased, and downloaded it with haste. What I discovered after spending a mere few minutes with the app, however, was another lesson involving books and their covers. (more…)

Attention iPhone owners! You know how you can never seem to find a great music streaming service for iOS? Well, Google has released their Google Play Music app on iOS, which features their All Access service with library of 18+ million songs. At long last, I can ditch the gigs of music on my iPhone and tap into this cloud music business I’ve heard so much about.

Okay, so that was probably an unnecessarily snarky opening, but please forgive me if I don’t get excited about yet another streaming music service that’s incredibly late to the party. Especially when the last service to land on iOS ended up being rather lackluster (I’m referring to Xbox Music for those that didn’t wish to click the link). I can only speak for myself, but as a member of the Rdio faithful, Google’s music service has a lot to prove for me to even entertain the notion of jumping ship. Let’s find out if it can do just that. (more…)

Calendars 5 is the newest iteration of Readdle’s calendars app (Calendars+ being the previous version). Readdle has been a developing team I’ve long admired, as they’ve consistently produced high quality productivity, utility and business apps that get the job done, plain and simple. In September, I wrote a how-to article that features their Printer Pro app, which makes it incredibly easy to print from an iOS device to a non-AirPrint enabled printer. I should also state, for the purposes of full disclosure, that I’m a member of their beta program.

Be that as it may, I always find myself being very critical of new calendar apps, and make no exceptions with Calendars 5. The iOS 7 Calendar.app has done little to sway me in using it full-time. Fantastical 2 is a quite good, overall, but I just don’t like how the events list functions. Sunrise is my favorite calendar app, which I recently reviewed, but it lacks some key features (discussed in my review).

While it may seem like I’m attempting to boast about how I’m never satisfied with calendar apps, or that I’m just incredibly picky, I assure you that neither are the case (at least that’s what I keep telling myself). A calendar is a very important tool in most people’s lives, so when using an app for calendar management it’s important that it makes this task as easy as possible. With that in mind, let’s find out if Calendars 5 has what it takes to get the job done. (more…)

Do you ever have a moment in which you thought you really liked something, but then over time you started to feel the opposite? This sometimes happens to me with apps. I’ll write a raving review, and a few weeks later I’ll start to notice issues that didn’t make themselves known early on, or they were noticeable but weren’t annoying just yet. Luckily, I’m often given a chance to review apps a second time when they’ve received a major update, which provides me the opportunity to provide are more impactful analysis on whether the app is worth its weight in gold.

On this occasion, I’m taking a second look at noidentity’s Next, which enables you to track day-to-day expenses to get a big picture of your spending habits. In my initial review, I stated that Next was really fun to use, and that “between the design eye candy and extremely enjoyable sound effects, I actually look forward to entering an expense.” In September, version 2.0 of Next was released, giving me a chance to reassess what makes the app good and no so good. Read on to find out how my opinions have changed. (more…)

Tapbots has enjoyed much success with their third-party Twitter client–Tweetbot. Though Twitter’s own app has the bulk of iOS users, Tweetbot is widely regarded by many as the best iOS Twitter app (The Iconfactory’s Twitterrific 5 being a second contender for the title). Such accolades are certainly warranted, as Tweetbot provides users with a slew of fantastic features (e.g. timeline syncing, muting) that are nowhere to be found in Twitter’s own offering.

When iOS 7 was first introduced at WWDC in June, the stark new design lead many to wonder what Tapbots would do with Tweetbot. After all, the app’s dark and heavy textured design doesn’t lend itself to iOS 7’s focus on simplicity. After months of hard work, Tapbot’s dynamic duo—Paul Haddad and Mark Jardine—put those question to bed with the release of Tweetbot 3. (more…)

Writing app reviews is a great gig, mainly because it gives me an excuse to “audition” apps on a constant basis. I have a need to research and find new apps, or test out the latest and greatest offerings, to determine if they fill a crucial need. Because of this, most apps don’t end up spending much time on my phone, as they’re often being replaced. I’ve used over a dozen notes apps, for example, which get replaced every other week or so (I’m currently using Simplenote, which may finally bring some stability).

With that being said, I’m always pleased when I encounter an app that stands up to scrutiny and outshines the competition. I shared a similar sentiment in my recent Pocket Casts review, which is by far and away my favorite podcast management app. Now, I refer you to my favorite calendar app–Sunrise. Redesigned and refreshed for iOS 7, let’s find out how this calendar app has progressed since my initial review in April. (more…)

I may not speak for everyone–and judging by a bevy of social media comments I’ve see, I don’t– but I’ve really enjoyed iOS 7 thus far. From the moment the update install finished, I was captivated by an experience that was both new and familiar. Even now, I still find myself unlocking my phone just to play with the new OS. To say iOS 7 is a major change is an understatement, and I know it’s easy to feel lost or confused about how certain functions now work. Also, there’s quite a number of new features to tinker with.

That’s where I come in. I’ve perused iOS 7 in order to compile a list of useful tips and tricks, which I hope will be of great use to you. So, journey forth and discover! (more…)

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