Apple Store App Updated with Self-Checkout & In-store Pickup Features

While I do most of my shopping online there are times that I do need to pick things up in person. Anything to get me in and out of a crowded store is always appreciated. The Apple Store App has been good for purchased Apple and 3rd party products online, but now the App has been updated with features to make it more usable when you are visiting a brick and mortar Apple Store too. The first new option is "EasyPay" (self-checkout) and you can do this directly on your iDevice. All you need to do is enter the store, connect to the Apple Store WiFi and then most shelf items (accessories) can be purchased right from your device. You scan the barcode, sign-in with your Apple ID and pay for the item(s) using your saved credit card. This is great for those times when you want to run in, pick up something quick and get out. Note that Apple doesn't allow you to do this for the more expensive items such as iDevices and computers. For those high ticket items you will still need an Apple Store employee to ring you up.

The next update involves ordering items, but having them shipped to your store instead of your home/office address. I gave this a shot while traveling and had the item shipped to the Apple Store in the city that I was visiting. Once I got the email letting me know that my item was in, I headed over to pick it up. Once I got to the store and connected to the WiFi there I got a push notification letting me know that my item was ready and that Brandon would meet me near the front door to give me my item and I could leave. Very cool and convenient.

While these updates are nice to have the native iPad version of the Apple Store App is still missing in action. 

You can get the Apple Store App for Free here from the Apple Store - Apple


Create Hollywood Special Effects on your iPhone with Action Movie FX


By now you've probably seen the movie Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol or at least the trailer. In one of the scenes Tom Cruise seeming barely escapes death by a flying car that crashes to the ground right behind him. We all know that these effects are often done with green screen and CGI, but what if you could do these kind of effects right on your iPhone with a few taps of your finger. That's exactly what Action Movie FX allows you to do. You fire up the App, choose your effect, record your scene in the App and then choose where in your clip's timeline you want the effect to happen. Tap a button to process the video and you're done! The saved movie will be 720p resolution even on an iPhone 4s that can record in 1080p.

Here's one that I did last night while setting up for my event



I was blown away by the quality of the overlay considering that I had to do absolutely no keying on my own. What's even more amazing is that the App is FREE! Once you have your processed video you can save it to your Camera Roll, Send it via email or post it on Facebook right from the App. Of course once it's on your Camera Roll you can upload it to just about any other service or App such as YouTube. The App comes with three scenes, "Missile Attack", "Car Smash" and "Demolition Rock". There is an option to do an in-app purchase to buy more effects. However, to date I've not been able to get the store to load in the App. Once it does I'll gladly buy some more effects at $0.99 each.

UPDATE: The FX store finally loaded in the App and there are 4 more "2 Packs" of effects to choose from (8 total effects) at $0.99 per 2 pack.

You can get Action Movie FX for FREE here from the iTunes


Apple’s Cards Lets You Send Custom Greeting Cards from your iPhone


The concept is simple and it's not a new one. There are a few different Apps on the App Store that let you turn your iDevice photos into printed post cards that can also be mailed to just about anyone. All you have to do is build the card in the App and the service takes care of the printing and mailing. Apple has entered this arena with custom greeting Cards. The Cards App is simple you start with a category and then once you pick the card you like from a given category you are three steps away from having a custom greeting card sent to a friend, colleague or family member. If the card you choose allows for a picture on the outside or inside you'll get to choose one of the pics on your iDevice. Then you can edit the text on the inside and lastly address the envelope before placing your order. Thankfully the App let's you pull address from your Contacts to speed up the process. These Letterpress cards run $2.99 and that's complete with envelope and postage. 

Nice but it could be better

First off I'm a little surprised that this isn't a Universal App for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. While it does work on all iOS devices it doesn't take advantage of the iPad's screen size. Portrait cards get no love in this App either. Everything is landscape. While landscape only cards aren't the end of the world, the designs are fairly basic too. Luckily some designs don't require a photo. While I love photos, not every card situation requires one. I'm also a bit surprised that Apple doesn't allow you to "sign" the card. After all you are on a touch device and a "handwritten" signature option would be a nice touch. Lastly, because the cards are mailed through the postal service as regular 1st Class Mail, you have no tracking info. Apple doesn't say where the cards are being mailed from, so you can't really guess about delivery times. Aside from these little things (I actually expected a little more from Apple), the App does work as advertised and it makes sending custom greeting cards pretty painless.


UPDATE – you do get a status Push Notification

I sent two cards out on two different days. The 1st one went out and got delivered yesterday and I had no idea about when it would be delivered. However, today low and behold I just got a push notification on my iPhone stating that the card arrived at the local post office and should be delivered today. Scratch that from my gripes :-)


You can get Cards for Free here from the iTunes


iHandy Level

Yes, I'm one of those guys that can't walk past a crooked picture without straightening it. Luckily iHandy Level is a great App to check to make sure that things are in fact level. This Free App makes use of your iPhone or iPod touch's accelerometer to give use a visual live display of a classic bubble level. While it's pretty accurate, you'll want to increase your accuracy by calibrating it with something that is known to be level first. The calibration process only takes a few seconds and then you can go around and check the pictures or other items in your home or office to make sure that they are level. This App is part of a larger set of Carpenter Tools, but they broke this one out and now give it away for free. It seems to work well and I can't really find anything wrong with it. It even has a nice hold feature so that if you're trying to check the level of something that is perhaps to high to see your display.

You can get iHandy Level for Free here from the iTunes


Logitech Harmony Link App Turns Your iDevice into A WiFi Remote

I've seen all kinds of Apps that will turn your iDevice into a remote of some kind. I've reviewed a few in the past. In this case Logitech aims to turn your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch into a Universal WiFi remote. The problem is that the iPhone doesn't have an IR port and most likely your TV, Receiver, Bluray player, etc. weren't designed to be controlled via WiFi. To get around this hardware limitation Logitech sells a small piece of hardware called the Harmony Link (see my review here). The Harmony Link is the bridge between your WiFi network and your IR controlled devices. Once you have the hardware setup then you can head over to the App Store to download their Free Harmony Link App.

Harmony Link for iOS has some great features

First off this is a Universal App taking advantage of iPad and iPhone/iPod touch screen sizes. As you might expect the experience on the iPad is visually more compelling simply because there's more screen real estate. However, having a Universal WiFi Remote in your pocket is pretty cool too. One problem this App solves is one that I've had with every other Universal remote that I've tried and that is the ability to rearrange the buttons to your taste. You can even eliminate ones you never use. For example, if your TV has a Picture in Picture feature, but you never use it and don't even have it setup, then why have that button on screen taking up space? Since this solution works via WiFi there is no reason to point your iDevice at your TV setup. This also means that you can turn stuff on before entering the room or turn stuff off that someone (we won't mention their name) left on. 

The Harmony Link App on the iPad provides additional benefits like a visual guide. It's pretty cool to "see" what's on TV at any given moment and then with the tap of an onscreen button your watching that show. Also since the iPad screen is larger you get almost all the buttons for all the devices of an Activity on screen at once. For example, I can control my TiVo and TV at once. While this works great, I do wish that there was some DVR integration here. I'd like to tap a "Record/Schedule" button without having to go to my TiVo App. However, unlike the experience on the iPhone and iPod touch you can't easily change the button layouts.


The Bottom Line

While this isn't an App Only solution, it is probably the best one out there for control a variety of different IR based audio and video gear. I'd like to see some additional customization features and the ability to sync the current status of the Harmony Link between mobile devices. Otherwise, the Harmony Link works as advertised and let's you put away all those remotes you've got lying around.

You can get the Harmony Link device here.

You can get the Harmony Link App for Free from the iTunes

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