Recommendation: Nuzzel

Nuzzel is an app that took me a second try to really start using it on a regular basis. What the app does is connect with your Twitter or Facebook account and shows what news your friends have been sharing. You have quite a few options for how you can set the app up (which can be seen in the above photo). I generally keep mine on “News From Your Friends” and have it set at 2+ friends, which just means I’m seeing content that two or more people I follow have shared. 

It really is a simple way to see what content is popular among who you follow on Twitter or your friends on Facebook and it’s earned a place on my home screen right above Tweetbot. You can grab the app on iTunes and on Google Play

Apple Introduces Apple Music

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by Deanna Chapman

Apple has officially announced their new steaming service, Apple Music. The service will launch on June 30th with a three month trial period for all users. After the trial period, the subscription fee will be $9.99/month or $14.99/month for a family of up to six people. Personally, I will be looking forward to giving the service a try and hope that I can finally effectively have my iTunes collection and streaming service all in one. There will be plenty of new features to check out with this release, however, the real question is, will more people prefer this over the streaming service they currently use? 

You can find out more about the service by checking out the full press release over on Business Wire.

Relay FM Announces Two New Shows

by Deanna Chapman

Relay FM announced two new shows on the network. Reconcilable Differences and Cortex just had their first episodes released this week. Relay quickly became my favorite podcast network when it first launched and I listen to almost every show on the network. I highly recommend checking out the new episodes. Here are short summaries on what they are about:

Reconcilable Differences:

First up we have Reconcilable Differences, featuring Merlin Mann and John Siracusa. We are thrilled to welcome these two podcasting powerhouses to Relay FM, and we are so happy with how this show is shaping up. On each episode of Reconcilable Differences, you’ll get to hear John and Merlin prod at each other’s backgrounds as fans of technology and pop culture, filling in holes, arguing minor differences, and generally teaching each other about the things they both love.

Cortex:

Now we come on to Cortex, featuring CGP Grey, in conversation with Myke Hurley. Over time, Myke has become increasingly fascinated by the methods Grey uses to get his work done, and this show will be exploring how he remains productive, while producing Youtube videos that are seen by millions of people.

Adding John Siracusa, Merlin Mann, and CGP Grey is huge for the network and I’m looking forward to the 10 guaranteed episodes for each show.

Relay FM Announces Two New Shows

App Review: Spark

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Spark is a brand new email client for iOS. The app is made by Readdle (Calendars 5, Documents, etc.) and has a lot to offer. Some of the main features are Smart Inbox, integration with other third-party apps, and the ability to use the share sheet and extensions offered in iOS 8.

Smart Inbox
Smart Inbox is the most upfront feature of the app. It will separate your emails into Newsletters, Notifications, an more with the use of cards. This shows a nice split between the various types of emails and allows for you to easily distinguish them. You can also view all of your email accounts at once or one by one and Smart Inbox will function in the same way. It will also learn which emails are important to you and only send you notifications for those emails if you wish. The settings offer a good amount of personalization. You can have notifications for all emails, smart notifications for only those you care about, or no notifications at all and you can customize them separately for each email account. There’s also a handy switch at the top of the app to quickly switch between Smart Inbox and Inbox. I’ve greatly enjoyed the Smart Inbox feature, but do still have all notifications on since I have only used the app for a handful of days.

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Usability
The usability of the app is fairly simple. The app utilizes swipes like those that were introduced in Mailbox and later in Apple’s Mail app. The swipes will archive, delete, pin, or snooze emails and you can change the swipes in the settings based on what you want as a long or short swipe and if you want to swipe left or right for that specific action. When you are in your inbox, there is a spot for widgets in the bottom right next to the compose button. When you hit that, options will come up to archive or snooze, and yet again, these can be customized. I found that the gestures were snappy and you could swipe through your emails quickly. The app also learns more than just what categories to place your apps in. As I began sending more emails with the app, it began suggesting signatures for me to use based on what I would frequently type since I had yet to set up signatures for any of my emails.

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App Integrations/Extensions
This is by far one of the biggest features for me. For whatever reason, Mailbox and Apple’s Mail app do not offer access to any other apps or the share sheet that has become a prominent feat in iOS 8. The app will integrate with Readability, Instapaper, Pocket, Evernote, OneNote, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box. I did find the lack of integration with to do and calendar apps a bit disappointing, but having access to the share sheet solves that problem for me.

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Customization
I touched on this a couple of times already, but Readdle did a great job with making Spark cusomizable. You can customize the Sidebar, Widgets, and Swipes from the Personalization screen. You can get to it from the bottom right of the sidebar, much like the compose and widgets in the Inbox. This is a huge plus for users because not everyone will want to have the same standard settings.

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Overall Impression
I really enjoyed using the app, but I may wait to make it my main email client until it has the Mac version to go with it. I often find myself only sending quick replies on my phone and deferring to my laptop when a response requires more thought or typing. The extensions and app integrations are by far the best feature for me since my current mail client, Mailbox, does not have them. I hope the wonderful people at Readdle will have the app extended to the other Apple platforms soon to give a great all-around experience with email. I look forward to seeing how the app progresses since it’s a great 1.0 version. You can grab the app for free here and if you’re interested in an even more in-depth review, check out Federico Viticci’s over at MacStories.

**Note: I did not cover the Apple Watch app portion because I have not been using email clients on my watch.

GW Commencement 2015 Tim Cook

Tim Cook recently spoke at George Washington University’s commencement. Even if you are not a fan of Apple and don’t use their products, I highly recommend checking this out if you have twenty minutes to spare. Tim Cook is not only the CEO of Apple, but he’s someone who is always doing what he believes is best for the environment and people around him. 

GW Commencement 2015 Tim Cook

Read Later: Pocket Vs. Instapaper

by Deanna Chapman

I’ve been thinking about talking about technology as well as music for quite some time now. And I decided I would start with another topic I have quite the passion for, reading. Pocket and Instapaper, for those who may not know, are services and apps you can use to store articles away for later reading. I found myself having less and less time to read articles in the moment I’d come across them and found out about these services. You can, however, easily get carried away with saving hundreds of articles and never reading through all of them. I do my best to stay on top of it and at least catch up on weekends or nights when I have spare time. Anyway, enough of that. Here are my thoughts (and what I think are some key features) on Pocket and Instapaper and why I ultimately ended up sticking with Instapaper. 

Pocket

Key Features

  • Share with friends
  • Extension
  • Better media playback
  • Tags

Pocket was the first “read later” service I had stumbled upon. And even though I used Instapaper more, I decided to go back to Pocket for a couple months. I found that certain things were better such as media playback and saving videos in general. They also had a share with friends feature where you could email an article directly to someone and they have recently enhanced it to allow you to have a conversation with said person. I never used the feature, so it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. Overall, I think Pocket is great, but didn’t have a few things that I really enjoy with Instapaper. I do, however, see how this is great for people who like to share articles with friends and family. I mainly share articles via Twitter and both do that job well.

Pocket provides an app for Mac and iOS. When I initially used Pocket, I had the Mac app open and found I didn’t like having too many apps going at once so this second time around I stuck with using the web view in Chrome. However, I used the iOS app quite a bit to save articles as I’d browse Twitter and Reeder. The extension wasn’t quite as fast as the new one Instapaper has implemented, but it did give you the option to add tags to what you were saving. Overall, I found Pocket would be better if I was using it with others to send articles back and forth.

Instapaper 

Key Features

  • Speed reading
  • Article read time
  • Fast extension
  • Folders

When Instapaper was first introduced to me, I had used Pocket here and there but never really stuck with it, so I decided to give this one a shot and it stuck with me a bit more. Now I use it on a daily basis. In the web view and in the mobile app, you get a nice clean view. You can make some simple changes to the background color for easier reading in different lights, but other than that, there’s not much customization. One downside is that sometimes pictures and videos don’t parse as well in Instapaper as they do in Pocket. In the web app, Instapaper will also give you an estimated read time for each article, which I love because then I can look and see which articles I can quickly get through and which will take up more of my time before even clicking on them.

On iOS, I’m currently running a beta version of Instapaper and a new feature for testing is speed reading. I’ve tried it out a couple of times so far and really enjoy it. You can adjust the speed that the words appear and it’s a great way to quickly get through articles. It even gives you the ability to pause it and resume later if you need to. The extension has also been approved and is extremely quick. I love the fact that you can move articles into a specific folder right when it saves. Instead of a read time listed on the iOS app, you get dots that appear in the bottom right corner to show the length of an article (i.e. 3 dots, is a fairly short article, while one with 6 or more is longer). With Instapaper, I liked the idea of folders more so than tags. There’s not really a reason for this, I just think it looks cleaner with how the folders are implemented in the web and iOS apps.Ultimately, I’ve been greatly enjoying the improvements Instapaper has been making and will be sticking with this service until I have some reason not to (which I don’t imagine will happen any time soon).