Free

Google Maps

Google Maps App Now with Open Table and Uber support

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Let’s face it, Apple Maps is not as good as it should be. Therefore we look to other Apps for our daily navigation needs. Google Maps seems to be the gold standard and it keeps getting better. Although Google typically releases new features for their Android platform first, they still see the bigger picture and release updates for iOS as well. This new version has a fresher look that fits in nicely with iOS 8 and I’m happy that Google realizes they can’t be all things to all people. This means they add support for other apps instead of trying to compete directly with them. Who knows if that will continue, but in this version we have support for Open Table and Uber.

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If you locate a restaurant in Google Maps you can now pretty much do everything you need without leaving the app. You can see the menu which is available by the restaurant itself or powered by a 3rd party. You can call them and see the hours and if the restaurant supports Open Table reservations (U.S. Only) you can book your table right there on the spot. Of course you can also get turn-by-turn voice navigation from where you are to the restaurant as well.

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If you’re an Uber user you can now the estimated wait time and trip cost. This will be very nice to have when I’m on the road.

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I also like the new “nearby” view. Google Maps just gave raised the bar for all navigation apps to step up to. It just became that much more useful to me especially when I travel.

You can get Google Maps here from the iTunes.

GIF Keyboard

3 Must Have 3rd Party Keyboard Apps for iOS 8

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Now that iOS 8 allows for 3rd party keyboard apps to be installed, there have been some new entries into this space. Here are my picks for the 3 Must Have 3rd Party Keyboard Apps for iOS 8.

 

GIF Keyboard

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When I smiley face Emoji just isn’t enough you can now send an animated GIF. However, instead of having to find one on the internet or fire up another app, you can just switch to the GIF Keyboard, find the one you like and insert it right into your SMS text message. This keyboard is nicely implemented with categories making it easy to find the GIF you want.

You can get GIF Keyboard here from the iTunes.

 

Swype

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This is a popular 3rd party keyboard on other platforms and now it has made its way to iOS 8. When you bring up the Swype keyboard instead of tapping each letter to spell a word, you simply use your finger to drag through (swype through) the letters that make up that word. It has intellegence built-in to anticipate the word you’re trying to spell even if you don’t hit all the letters. For example when I wanted “cool” I just swiped through “c” “o” and “l” and it knew what I was trying to spell. I can see this keyboard being useful for people that always hitting the wrong keys with the onscreen keyboards of yesterday.

You can get Swype here from the iTunes.

 

Text Expander

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As I mentioned in a previous post, my favorite NEW keyboard is Text Expander. While iOS has had a “shortcut” feature for a while now, Text Expander goes way beyond the built-in iOS shortcut feature. You can configure snippets that are more than just one line. In fact you can do entire paragraphs. Also your snippets can have styling in them.

You can get TextExpander her from the iTunes.

Hyperlapse from Instagram

3 Must Have Apps for Posting Videos to Instagram

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When Instagram opened up the door to allowing people to post short 15 second videos, all of a sudden you were able to see a little more into the lives of the people that you follow. The Instagram app itself allows you to record and post videos directly complete with trimming and effects. Sometimes you need a little more! So here are my top 3 picks for apps to have in your toolkit when it comes to posting videos on Instagram.

Hyperlapse from Instagram

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This is Instagram’s newest app and it’s pretty cool. It let’s you record a longer video, but keep it to the 15 second max by allowing you to speed up the video. This is great for time-lapse, but without having to record for hours. Simply bring up the Hyperlapse app, press the record button to capture the motion in front of you and then once you’re done it will allow you to pick the speed. It will auto adjust the speed to keep it down to 15 seconds or less.
You can get it here as a Universal App for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch iTunes

 

Crop Video Square Free

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While Instragram now lets you post videos from other sources, unfortunately it offers nothing in terms of making the video fit the square aspect ratio of Instagram. Luckily there is this very cool app called Crop Video Square Free. It allows you to crop/size your videos down to fit perfectly on Instagram.

You can get it here for free iTunes

 

Instaweather Pro

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Instaweather Pro is a great app for posting nice weather information overlays over the pics you take and share. However, the latest version also lets you do this with videos too! You can create some cool weather broadcasts from your favorite spots and let Instaweather Pro do all the work of gathering the information and overlaying it on your video either in real time or afterwards. This is one of my favorite apps for Instagram and with the video feature it’s even more awesome.

You can get it here iTunes

 

Also see 9 Must Have Apps For Instagram Users

Mobile Passport - Officially authorized by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection

Mobile Passport is Finally Here!

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If you travel internationally then you know the joys of long Customs lines upon your return. It’s for this very reason that I signed up for Global Entry as soon as it was available. However, even without Global Entry, I always wondered why Customs was such an analog process. As your plane nears the United States, the flight attendants start handing out Customs forms. Of course most people don’t even have pens with them these days, but anyway you fill out the forms and then present them to a Customs agent after standing in a long line. They form asks the same basic questions about what you’re bringing back into the country.

Well now this process has finally gone electronic!

If you have the NEW Mobile Passport App you can now create a profile including taking a CURRENT photo of yourself (nope the app doesn’t allow you to choose one already saved on your iPhone), the same info that’s on your current passport and save it in the App with a pin number. You can then answer the questions in advance on your iPhone. It will create a digital receipt with a bar code that can be scanned at a kiosk upon your return, therefore bypassing the long lines. Since this is NEW, it has limitations. The first being the airlines. Currently (as of the writing of this review) it’s only supported on Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France, Air Tran, British Airways, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM, Korean Airlines, Southwest and Virgin Atlantic. The second and perhaps the biggest limitation today is that it’s only supported at ONE airport and that’s nation’s busiest airport Atlanta (ATL). If that bugs you, just stay turned. These things take time to roll out. The same was the case with TSA PreCheck. It was only at a few airports at first and only supported by a couple of airlines. Now it’s at just about every airport I’ve flown through in the past year.

 

The Bottom Line

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I’m happy to see this process go electronic for the masses! I don’t think this app will benefit me as a Global Entry member, but it will certainly help when I’m traveling with family members, friends and colleagues that aren’t in Global Entry. By the way, you still need to bring your Passport! This app is only to speed up your return. You still need your regular Passport/IDs for travel. Thanks Dave Helmly for the heads up on this app. The app is iOS only at this point with a “Soon on GooglePlay banner on the developer’s website”.

iTunes.

Amazon Local Register: Amazon's Mobile Point of Sale - Accept Card Payments

Amazon Local Register Aims To Take on Square and PayPal

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I’ve been a very happy user of Square pretty much sense day one. Square broke down the barriers for individuals and small companies to be able to accept credit/debit card payments right on their smartphones and tablets without the typical monthly fees charged by banks. If you never accept a credit card payment, then you never pay a dime. You’re not locked into any kind of monthly fee or commitment. This has been PERFECT for me. I do accept credit card payments for the occasional photoshoot or when a friend owes me money (you know who you are!). The only time I pay is when I actually accept a credit card payment. Square takes a cut (2.75%) off the top of the transaction and deposits the remainder in my checking account the next business day. PayPal jumped on this bandwagon a little too late for me. I always liked PayPal and still do, but by they time they came out with their solution for accepting credit cards (2.5% per transaction) I was already very comfortable with Square. Also with PayPal Here, even though the money (minus the transaction fee) is credited to your PayPal account almost immediately, PayPal can take up to 3 days before the money is in your bank account after you initiate the transfer “manually!”

Amazon enters the market and significantly undercuts the competition!

When you already have two big players in the field, what can you do to make a dent? Significantly lower the price. That’s exactly what Amazon did. They are offering their service at a mere 1.75% per transaction for anyone that opens an account by October 31, 2015. That rate be in effect until 12/31/2015. On January 1, 2016 you would start paying 2.5%, which is still less than Square’s current rate.

How’s the App?

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Since this is an App site, the focus will be on the Amazon Local Register App itself. I downloaded the App two days before my card reader (cost $10 with a $10 credit towards your transaction fees) arrived. It’s a free app of course and it’s a universal App for iPhone, iPad an iPod touch. I installed it on my iPhone 5s and iPad Air with no issue. Unfortunately you do need to create a NEW Amazon account. Amazon will not let you log in with your existing account for some odd reason. It was easy enough to do right in the App. The only problem I ran into was that after my account was created I wanted to go ahead and add the bank account info so that when I accept cards the money can be transferred. I started the process and needed to switch apps to 1Password to get my bank account numbers and when I switched back I had to start the process all over again. I wasn’t gone that long and it seems that you can’t leave the process once you start it. So I advice you to have your routing, account number and login info handy before you start.

The app lets you enter in transactions with or without item names. You can also create a library of items that you sell on a regular basis. This is very handy as I have a few different photography packages. There were no real surprises here as it had the basic functions that you would expect from this kind of app. You can also enter your cash transactions as well. The app allows you to enter multiple items at different prices and then charge them all with one total when ready. I love the quick “discount” feature as well. If you want to give a customer a percentage discount, just tap the discount button and key in the percentage and the app will do the math. Once you tap the charge button you can then swipe the card and have your customer digitally sign. You can also accept payments by keying in a card number manually, but you’ll pay 2.75% (still cheaper than Square and PayPal here) for those transactions as they are a bigger risk for fraud.

Room for improvement

One of the things that bugs me about this app is the frequent need to sign in while you’re in the app. I understand the need to confirm your identity when you’re asking for a report such as the My Money report. However, once I sign in and then tap to see other “Reports” I’m asked to sign in again. I just signed in two seconds ago. Why do I need to sign in again?

I ran a test transaction and was given the opportunity to email a receipt. Email receipts are the only option at this point. Square offers receipts via SMS and Email.

 

Overall the Amazon Local Register app has the features that most people will need, although the Square app has a few more bells and whistles and looks more like a modern “register”. I’m sure the Amazon app will improve over time, but for right now if you’re just looking to save money on fees, the Amazon Local Register app can’t be beat. We’ll see how Square and PayPal Here respond.

iTunes.

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