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Vox - the music player you were waiting for?

Vox - the music player you were waiting for?

Source : https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/vox/id461369673?mt=12

Price - Free

Vox is another music player (Groove being my favourite on iOS and
Ecoute on Mac, at the moment) for Mac, that I came across today - let me tell you upfront - it turned out to be quite impressive. It's a minimal player and lets you customise the features so much that you can replace iTunes with this in a few minutes for all your music needs. Mind you, this is just music player and the focus is only on that aspect - it can't do anything beyond.  

It looks pretty in dark colours. You can customise it to use Mac's default keys to control Vox. The biggest plus is the ability to play almost all formats - including FLAC, AAC, OGG along with MP3. While setting up it gives an option to decide what are all the formats you want to play. It can also play music from multiple sources including folders and from your regular iTunes library. And the best thing - you can play songs from online radio services ($0.99 to enable, app is otherwise free). It supports Last.fm too. Vox's own playlist lets you drag/drop music files for playing. It also lets you to start music from the last played position. Also, you can launch/control Vox using apps like Alfred or Quicksilver. 

Vox has setup voting options on it's website where it let's the users to decide what features they want to see in future versions. I voted for almost all of them Happy. One thing missing is the iOS version of the app. I sincerely hope that it comes quickly. For earlier versions of the Mac OS they have a legacy version available for download.    


iOS 7 Folloup

The dust is settling now after the much-awaited iOS sneak peak at the last WWDC. Several betas have come out and they are improving the product in every iteration. The opinions were widely polarised initially and the dust seems to have settling now. I am humbled too and ate my words - nothing new as these situations are so associated with anything that Apple does. It's always been part of the magical story of the company that Apple is. I remember how surprising it was to see the new look and feel - it did look a bit of android (lock screen) and windows (fonts in Contacts, white background) in parts. The home screen and the actual app’s interface looked two extremes. The fact is I, like many others, refused to accept the simple fact that iOS has entered a new phase of life - in Six years it matured and grew.  iOS now clearly understands the crowd it caters to. Look at the two design issues I mentioned above - at the first look it seems like the lock screen is like one that they have in android, but the fonts? They are different. Remember the Roboto - See how subtle and beautiful the difference is. 

The era of instant gratification has caught many of us unawares and we missed the larger picture. We couldn't understand, to bring such a visible change, how confident the management and the engineering teams were, how much they trusted their intuition and how they visualised the future. I didn't see it, I admit Happy.

Apple. You taught me many things over the last 6 years.


iOS App Review - Part 1

Title : Thunderspace and Loom : Review
The two new apps I came across in the past few weeks are
1) Thunderspace; and 
2) Loom - both of them came to me randomly and immediately caught my attention as I was trying to solve the exact problems these apps cater to.

Thunderspace -  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/thunderspace/id636485814?mt=8
Price : $0.99, IAP
This is an unusual app. I have been on my regular Music discovery effort during past weekend and came across this one — this is a relaxation music app. It has a collection of recorded natural sounds like rain, wind or frogs crying in a rainforest — there is some variety there. It boasts of 8 different recordings - two of them, “Roof Garden” and “Waterscape” are readily available and rest you can buy for $0.99 each. These are live recordings and there is no mixing of any sort. For additional effect the app uses the camera flash to create a lightning effect — you can experience a real thunderstorm, right in your living room or bedroom, if you want to! Clever! The recordings are done by none other than Gordon Hempton - I was ‘googling’ on him and that’s how I ended up finding this app. Rest of the 6 tracks that comes as an in-app purchase can be heard on a trial basis — and among them the “Deserts” sounded most interesting. For me it’s the best soundtrack in the whole set. I had the additional reason of listening to Gordon’s work (I am a big fan!).
The app itself is a very straightforward one to use. It has a very simple interface and a small intro will get you ready to use the app. A vertical swap will bring up the settings menu - there are only a few features there where you have different options including playing the intro again. A horizontal swap on the home screen will take you to the play/pause screen and there is a flash icon that will either enable or disable the camera flash. Overall the design is very minimal and doesn’t boast any breathtaking functionality. The focus is very clearly on playing and listening. A good headphone - on that can do noise cancellation is highly recommended as the app has a brilliant 3D surround effect which in itself is a great experience. Apple’s regular headphones are good in a quiet environment - but not while travelling or in the streets. One drawback for me is that you need to keep the app open and if you switched to another the music stops.This happens even when the phone goes to sleep. May be this is for preventing app using up the battery but doesn’t work for me as I don’t want any disruption.
Overall a good app - if you are looking for relaxation.

Loom - https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/loom/id655641185?ls=1&mt=8
Price : Free, IAP
The default Photos app has been a toughie for me ever since iOS came out and add the fact that photos take up so much of space on my phone. I carry my iPhone around a lot and most of my photography is done using iPhone makes it ever more tough. It limits me carrying my favorite music library with me as I need to make space for Photos/Videos. I came across Loom by chance and I was impressed by the simplicity of the app. It can create albums so quickly and lets the user move the photos as and when required. They have apps for Mac, iPad and iPhone - all kept in sync using iCloud. Its another straightforward application, that needs a simple access permission from you to upload your photos to cloud. By default the app gives you 5 GB of storage for free, and you will need to spend $40 for 50GB/Year and $100 for 250 GB/Year for 10 g and. This is way cheaper than Dropbox or EverPix (I had ruled out Dropbox as it’s not primarily a photo sharing app and Everpix looked complicated and almost like iPhoto to me). It uploaded 800+ photos from my iPhone quickly enough and it was immediately in sync with my Mac and iPad apps. Loom’s interface is simple enough - and you know what’s the best feature for me? The Passcode Lock. I so needed this for my default application and can’t see why it’s not there even in iOS7.
Loom has a simple interface with your timelines shown at the top and the devices listed after that - I enabled only my iPhone for the tests as my iPad library has so many photos taken by the Junior - he uses both the front and back cameras and shoots photos at will Happy. Uploads work quickly and you have the option of uploading only on wi-fi or having uploads work all the time (nonstop). In fact either methods are non-stop they stop after a small time and they drain your battery. Some times it mysteriously hangs. Otherwise it work swell in the background. You can build albums on the fly - just select by touching and holding on a photo - even if the photos are still uploading or move photos into a new album or create an album within another album. I found these features very attractive. Moreover, the original version of your pictures are stored on loom’s servers and you are presented with a compressed version which saves valuable disk space on your device ( this was the first feature that attracted me!)
Drawbacks? One I can think of is the lack of video support. But loom is already working on it as per their blog. As its in a beta mode I am hoping to see more features being added. The simplicity of the interface and overall look and feel is very impressive.
At last I have a minimal looking and easy-to-use replacement for Photos app on my home screen.
*Note: Access to Loom is “invite only” at the moment. I guess they are a bit mindful about the scaling issues they might face.


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iOS 7

iOS 7 is a big departure. But while doing this apple has managed to confuse some of us a bit. There are of course many mind blowing changes - like the one for the Photos app (renamed cutely as "Moments").  Or the Weather app - it literally killed my favourite weather app from Yahoo Sad. The new Music app is perhaps the best app for music - even better than my favourite Ecoute. iTunes radio is also well designed. 

Then what's my issue?   My thing starts with the Home screen itself. There are two extremes there in terms of look and feel. While calendar or clock looks simple there is extreme textures in use in the case of Passbook or Store icons. Reminders and notes look odd too - they all look totally contrasting. Some of the colour choices are confusing - while I am not expecting to see pure black and white in use, considering how minimal are the options for customisation they had to strike a balance. This is what was playing in my mind while I was listening to the keynote last night. The control centre looked a lot like Windows phone to give another example. 

I understand it was almost like this we felt when the iOS came out first. It will definitely go through many iterations in next few years before it settles for a permanent look. But iOS rarely changed its standard set of icons in all these years.

Otherwise iOS is something only Apple can visualise and execute. The design shift is quite visible and detailed. They have gone for an all-flat approach that works brilliantly in most of the cases. I am waiting for my first hands on experience at the moment - it could change my opinion Happy.