I traveled to New York City for an event this week and I usually stay at either a Hilton or Marriott in Times Square. However, this time I choose the W Hotel Times Square since it was in the same price range and located right next to the Marriott I would have chosen anyway. The current version of the SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) App offers keyless entry on your iPhone and Android phone. It also offers it via Apple Watch. I wanted to give it a try. Before you get started on your travels you will need to join the SPG frequent stay program. It’s free of course and if you stay enough nights in Starwood property you’ll earn perks. Next you’ll need to download the SPG App and register your iPhone for Keyless entry. I actually did this months ago. My work travel is booked through an approved travel agency. As it turns out this interferes with the automatic nature of the keyless entry process. If you book via their app or website then you’ll automatically receive your digital key in the app 24 hours before you arrive. This way you can go right to your room when you arrive. Since I booked via a 3rd party I had to go to the reception desk upon arrival and check in in the usual manner. The staff issued me a regular plastic card key and I requested Keyless Entry. The computers were running slow so she instructed me to go on up to my room and the key would be pushed to my iPhone. I got the push notification about 20 minutes later. Of course I wanted to try it. Here’s a video:
As you can tell from the video above it takes a few taps to get to the key. The staff person actually told me that I would probably want to start brining up the key on my device in the elevator. That way the key would be on the screen by the time I hit the door. That’s pretty good advice whether you’re using your smartphone or Apple Watch.
Real World Use
Sometimes the digital key just wouldn’t show up on Apple Watch
I left my room and went out for a few hours. When I returned for whatever reason the key didn’t show up on the watch. I’m not sure why, but I said no problem I’ll just use my plastic key. I pulled out the key and held it up to the door only for it to flash red. Yep, it had demagnetized. Argggh, then I remembered that it was on my iPhone. I pulled up the SPG app on my iPhone and it worked perfectly. Over the next couple of days using the SPG App on Apple Watch was hit and miss. Sometimes the key was there sometimes it wasn’t, but it worked on the iPhone 100% of the time. Hopefully these kinds of issues (bugs) can be fixed. It would also be nice to have the key as a “glance” on the watch to jump right to it. This would allow you to get to the key much much faster than the way it works today (when it works).
The SPG app also does a good job with Push Notifications as you near the property. You can also add a card to Passbook with your stay information. The push notification offered to bring up the key on my iPhone as I walked near the hotel from dinner.
The Bottom Line
We’re on the cutting edge with this technology. Most hotels have only just started rolling out this technology across their properties. Once the kinks are worked out it will be so nice to have this option on our mobile devices. It was also nice to have it work when the regular key didn’t.
You can get the SPG app here from the
You’ve seen one tip calculator you’ve seen them all. There really isn’t much to innovate in this category. Many will be quick to argue that with their superior math skills that they can just do the math in their heads and have no need for such apps. With all that said I’m always looking at the new entries in this market to see if there is one that I like better than the one that I’ve used for years. While I was checking out the newest apps for Apple Watch I noticed a tip calculator called Tipity and while my favorite calculator and conversion utility Calcbot offers one, there’s is lacking a couple of features such as excluding tax and rounding up/down. I decided to give Tipity a shot. The first thing I noticed on the iPhone was that the interface is very “text” based. Most of these apps have giant keypads to quickly allow you to enter the check total while Tipity concentrates more on showing you all the figures. Once you tap on a value then the numeric keyboard pops up and you can make changes. On this same keyboard you find the -1 and +1 to round up or down. In the settings you can choose to deduct tax (not tip on the tax) or not. If you enable it then you’ll be able to put in the tax rate on the main display. Lastly you can choose a star rating of 1 star (10% tip), 2 stars (15% tip) or 3 starts (20% tip) based the service you received. This way you can simply put the check total in and Tipity will do the math subtracting the tax and then calculating the tip plus giving you to the total with tax and tip included. I usually like to round up. This is something that I wish I could turn on in the settings instead of having to press the +1/-1 buttons each time.
The developer spent a lot of time making so you can customize the colors of your display to your liking.
A great app for Apple Watch
This is a perfect example of an app that fits perfectly on Apple Watch. There is no need to take out your phone. When the check arrives just fire up Tipity on your Apple Watch and enter the amount of the check.
Tipity will display the tip and total. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a rounding option on the Apple Watch version and this is even more of a reason why I’d want to turn it on in the settings.
Using Force Touch you can bring up the star rating display. Nice implementation and UI for Apple Watch.
The Bottom Line
Tipity is a good tip calculator for iPhone and iPad, but an even better app for Apple Watch. You can get Tipity here from the
When it comes to social photography sites, 500px comes to mind as being one of the best and definitely one of the most inspirational. I go there when I want to be blown away by photographic images. With that said, I rarely used their iOS App for more than just browsing. I upload to 500px from Lightroom using their Publishing Plug-in. However, with the latest update their App just became a whole lot more useful.
Integrated Camera with Manual Controls
On iPhone the update adds not only a built-in camera, but also the ability to take pictures with iOS 8 aided manual controls. This is probably one of the best implementations I’ve seen in terms of ease of use. You have a simple button that toggles from automatic to manual. Once in manual you can adjust focus and exposure. Snap your shot and it’s sent to the Camera Roll.
Adobe Creative Cloud Editing
Once you snap your shot with the built-in camera or any other camera app you can bring it up for editing. The editing features are powered by Adobe Creative Cloud in that you have the same editing features found in apps like Photoshop Mix. The same “Looks” and same ease of editing that people love in Mix.
Import from Lightroom Mobile
If you’ve used Lightroom Mobile to sync certain collections with the cloud, those same collections appear in the 500px App for you to import from. This gives me another hook into Lightroom and best of all it’s wireless/cloud based.
I stay logged in, but if for whatever reason I log out it’s that much easier to log back in since the app now integrates 1Password support right into the login screen.
The Bottom Line
This is now by far the most feature rich Social Photography app that I know of. 500px just raised the bar.
You can get it here from the .
Over the weekend I decided to do a little ariel photography and video with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+. After I shot my video, I wanted to edit down to a short clip that I could share on Instagram. Of course one of the biggest limitations with Instagram video is that it can only be a maximum of 15 seconds in length. I figured the NEW Adobe Premiere Clip App would be up to the task. This App would give me the flexibility of starting the process on the iPad and if I could get the edit that I wanted great, and if not I could send the project to the desktop and finish it in Premiere Pro CC. I was able to get the edit I wanted in Premiere Clip.
The editing process
I had one long 7 minute video. The idea was to cut up the video to the 2-3 scenes that I wanted. I also wanted to add a title at the beginning as well as some stock audio. Premiere Clip allowed me to do the edits I needed and I really liked the royalty free soundtrack that I was able to pick right in the app. Once I was done I published the video to the Premiere Clip gallery (optional, you can keep your videos private) and from there I could save it back to my Camera Roll. Now in order to go to Instagram I needed the video to be in a 1:1 square aspect ratio. For this last step I used the Crop Video Square App.
Here’s the video:
OMG You flew near an airport???
The last few seconds show a plane landing at the ATL airport and as soon as I posted the video I had friends and fans freaking out about FAA regulations. Before you lose it and become unglued, note that I’m well aware of the regulations and more importantly so is DJI. In the latest firmware for the Phantom 2 Vision+ DJI built-in “no-fly zones”. The Phantom 2 Vision+ has a GPS that once it detects that you’re near or within a no-fly zone it will AUTOMATICALLY limit the height in which you can fly OR not even allow it to lift-off. I was close, but not that close. My flying height was AUTOMATICALLY restricted and it was fine to make the video that I made. Breathe, breathe… For more info see DJI’s video on their safety features here.
You can get Adobe Premiere Clip for FREE on the .
There are several AMAZING image editing apps for iOS. I have several of them on my iPhone and iPad. However, what I’ve come to realize is that I rarely open most of them. It’s not that they aren’t great. It probably has more to do with the fact that I just don’t need to do a ton of detailed image editing on my mobile devices. If I capture an image with my iPhone it’s usually to share right then and there or shortly thereafter. At this point I may want to do some global adjustments such as exposure, shadows and highlights and perhaps a crop. Well iOS 8 pretty much has that covered now built-in. So when would I need more? When I want to do a few more things to the image such as add a border, add text and perhaps a couple of local adjustments such as spot removal. That’s when I need an App and like I said there are lots of great apps out there. However, I’ve found that Photo Editor by Aviary has the most straight forward and easy UI. Launch the app, open your photo and simply slide to the desired edit that you wish to perform. The edits are fast and good.
There are more filters than I can count. This App does what I want to do 90% of the time. I especially like the Meme Text feature! It took me a minute to find it, but Undo is a gesture. Swipe left under the pic to undo and right to redo and yes it has multiple undos and redos.
Once you’re done with your photo you can share it in all the usual places and even upload to Walgreens to Print it.
What doesn’t it do?
There are no layers. If you’re looking to do compositing and removing backgrounds, then this is NOT your app. You’re better served by Adobe Photoshop Mix or Photoshop Touch.
The Bottom Line
Yes there are Apps that do more. However, for my day to day image editing needs on my iPhone and iPad this one hits the sweet spot of offering just what I need and doing it in a clean fast way.
You can get Photo Editor by Aviary here from the
BONUS: If you have an Adobe ID you can unlock Aviary’s complete collection of photo editing supplies (a $200 value) for a limited time. Once unlocked they’re yours to keep forever!