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FEATURED APPS / REFERENCE

TrashSmart by Clorox 


trashsmartI'm a sucker for an app that's free and simple. There's nothing to lose. If I don't like it, or never use it, I just delete it. No loss. In the interest of full disclosure, outside of the financial and social categories, I end up deleting most free apps. They typically waste time and space. TrashSmart flips the tendency. It helps find time and spaces to eliminate waste responsibly. trashsmartProperly labeled recycling bins are provided throughout Manhattan, and the city has the largest, most ambitious recycling program in the nation. When I travel, it becomes much easier to give in to temptation by tossing unwanted items in the nearest receptacle. With TrashSmart - which isn't fancy or trendy, just practical - you can quickly locate the best places to recycle any item within five miles (or up to 50 if you're super-committed). You just use your current location or zip code, enter the name of the item you'd like to recycle (batteries, plastic shopping bags, toner cartridges, children's toys, you name it), and you'll see all the best and nearest locations, in map and list display. Each location comes with full info: address & phone number, directions, and a full list of everything the location will accept as a recyclable item. I can't guarantee I'll stop wasting time downloading free apps destined for deletion, but one thing's for sure. TrashSmart has a permanent home in my utilities folder. Available in the App Store
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FEATURED APPS / FINANCE

Mint for iPhone 


MintMintAs one of over seven and a half million users of Mint.com, I was excited when their incredibly popular iOS app, appropriately called Mint, appeared on the list of this year's Appy Awards entries. It felt like seeing an old friend, both because I also use it daily, and because its previous version already earned the finalist distinction in the 2011 Appys. Having followed their progress over the years, it's great to see that they've never stopped improving and growing. Whatever level of discipline you have with personal finance, every penny still counts, and Mint's app does an amazing job helping you keep track of yours. Over the years, we've seen countless online services that promised to simplify the daunting task of keeping track of your money, and most have failed to deliver anything close to ideal. Then Mint rose up to the challenge and made what used to be a dreaded chore ridiculously simple and even fun. From daily account balances and transactions, to the performance of your IRA, it syncs with nearly all US online financial institutions, frequently adding support for new ones. But like a trusted family accountant, it goes beyond simply tracking your balances. It constantly analyses the bank's fine-print terms and interest fees for all of your connected accounts, and unobtrusively suggests better alternatives, backing its suggestions by instant calculations of how much you would save in the long run by switching from the accounts you currently have. MintTrue to the popular convention that mobile devices are best used for consuming content, and full featured PCs - for creating it, the Mint app for iPhone is more of a companion to the Mint.com website than a complete stand-alone money management tool. For starters, you need to create an account on Mint.com to be able to use the app in the first place. As another example, the app offers a simple visual way to stay within your budgets with color-coded progress bars, but you have to set those up on Mint.com website first. One feature I'd love to see ported from the website over to the app is the insanely simple tool is has for tracking your earning and spending trends. While the app does have a simplified version of this feature which keeps tabs on your bottom line since the beginning of each month, I find the omission of the website's more sophisticated analysis tool from the mobile app unfortunate. Those who are still weary (and rightfully so) of trusting just any old website with logins and passwords to their entire digital life can rest easy. The Mint app uses the same 128-bit encryption that most banks use, keeping your data as safe as it can get. And on your end the app is locked with a unique 4-digit PIN that you can set so that no one can get access to your information should your device get lost or stolen. Best of all, the app is completely free and has no ads of any kind, so there's no excuse for letting your debt control your life any longer! Available in the App Store
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FEATURED APPS / TELEVISION & VIDEO

VH1 Co-Star 


VH1 Co-StarVH1 Co-StarAs any reality television aficionado will understand, I feel a deep and meaningful connection to crazy attention whores whom I will never actually meet. My latest obsession is Drita D'Avanzo of VH1's Mob Wives fame. Maybe it's her Staten Island accent, her acrylic nails pointed at close range in other wives' faces, or her tumultuous relationship with behind-bars hubby and former drug dealer Lee D'Avanzo - whatever the reason, Drita has a certain je ne sais quoi that keeps me hooked to the VH1 hit. In today's world, where TV can be as addicting as heroin or diet cola, most Americans don't just watch TV. We live it. We text, tweet and Google search bios of celebs and characters as they appear on the screen. It was only a matter of time before TV networks hired competent media gurus who make it easier to get our fix, and this shall forever be known as "co-viewing." VH1 Co-StarEnter VH1 Co-Star. The entertainment app is designed for both addicts and casual viewers to use while watching VH1 shows. The scrolling activity stream "WatchWith" allows VH1 programmers to insert contextual bonus content like photos, factoids and polls that coincide with everything happening on the show. Features also include trivia, blogs and bonus videos, as well as tweets and Facebook postings from the show's followers. I'm as addicted to trivia as I am to Drita's name-calling antics, so VH1 gets extra points for stimulating my mind and finger tips. All I need to do is sit back, relax, and move my eyes rapidly between the show on TV and the scrolling comments on my iPhone. Users can authenticate themselves through Facebook or Twitter, but I was able to follow much of the content without that process. My iPhone's GPS determines the time zone, so the network's schedule syncs with my location. When Mob Wives is playing on the east coast, there is Drita's tight and tanned face on the app's home screen. Co-Star lives up to expectations - it is an entertainment app and totally worth the free price tag. My only question now is: How will the app work when I start watching new episodes of Pop Up Video? Available in the App Store
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FEATURED APPS / IPAD PUBLISHING

The Daily 


The DailyThe DailyThe first thing you notice about The Daily, is it's not simply a re-purposing of print content. It seems to defy conventional categorization. News Corp has wisely eschewed the convention of pretend page turning or flipboard-like page flipping for simply sliding between pages. Is it a newspaper? A magazine? It's as immediate as a newspaper, actually as immediate as the Web, often updating and adding stories throughout the day. It's as slickly designed as a magazine. Copy is well-written and beautifully presented and illustrated. Videos are placed like photos, waiting to expand and play. Pages often expand downward with additional content, polls and interactive charts invite you to touch and animate them, and sudoku and crossword puzzles invite you to sign into the Game Center to share the interactive game with friends. The DailySharing content doesn't end with game scores. Touch the share icon and a transparent screen slides up, post your comment to The Daily, Facebook, Twitter or email, or record a voice comment. When I posted to Facebook, the Facebook comment interface carried the icons from Facebook mobile, with red badges indicating two messages and four alerts. Very helpful. Navigating is a breeze. Touch The Daily logo and you're presented with a table of contents. Touch any story and you're taken there immediately. You can also navigate through by sliding page to page, or dragging a white dot along a thin blue scroll bar. Or tap the icon in the upper right corner and scroll through story by story in Cover Flow mode la iTunes. The overall effect is to keep you completely abreast of where you are within the publication at any time. If that's not enough, a simple menu bar stretches across the top or bottom of most layouts with the headers of each section: News, Business, Gossip, Opinion, Arts & Life, Apps & Tech, and Sports. The daily is neither a newspaper nor a magazine, but rather an iPub, an immersive tablet experience, well designed, informative and accessible. At 99 cents a week it's a steal. Available in the App Store
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FEATURED APPS / GAMING

Poker Pals 


Poker PalsWhen it comes to app games, I'm all about Words With Friends and DoodleJump. I consider those gems my "one-two-punch" to boredom's annoying face. Well, more bad news for boredom! Poker Pals just boarded my Addiction Train, so now I'm enjoying a triple-punch combo! Poker PalsI downloaded the free version of Poker Pals this morning, which contains unobtrusive ads. When you begin, a tutorial holds your hand throughout your first three turns, making it very simple to learn the basics of gameplay. Naturally, you have to understand the hierarchy of poker hands, but other than that, the app does an excellent job of explaining its crossword puzzle-like hook. At the start, three random cards appear on the grid-like playing surface (similar to Words With Friends). Each turn, you play cards in a single direction - either horizontally or vertically - and score points based on the strength of your hand. Things get cool when you try to make multiple poker hands in other directions, crossword-style. (In a neat touch, jokers at the corners of the board automatically turn into whatever card will score you the most points.) To find opponents, you can use Facebook Connect, invite your Game Center contacts, choose random players, or reach out to your personal, poker-loving contacts. I lost my first game to automated "Easy Eddie," 460-380, but I'm hoping it won't be long before I'm winning with ease. After that, I'm sending invitations to my friends Ralph, Cheryl and Mike. They beat me at real poker all the time. Revenge will be SWEET! Available in the App Store
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BUSINESS MEDIA APP / FEATURED APPS

Atlantic Magazine Digital Edition 


Atlantic
MagazineThere's plenty of free content to enjoy on The Atlantic's free iPhone/iPad app, and that's good enough for me. With anything "free," I set my expectations to a certain level. That way, I'm rarely disappointed and usually pleasantly surprised. Atlantic MagazineIn comparing notes with most of the Atlantic reviewers on Apple, yes, I am indeed easy to please - my standards don't seem to be as high as the average critic. The most common complaint is the app's current inability upon closing to return on relaunch to where you left off, which for me - with what I consider a browsing app - is a non-issue. I understand the frustration, but I'd rather have more free content with a hard close, than less with a placeholder. The main page gives you eight full-length stories considered "Top News," all with full-page treatment, and easy to browse with an east-west swipe. The "Channels" cover everything you expect: politics, business, entertainment, technology, national, international and life. My favorite feature is the in-app video player, which is seamless and crisp. My advice? Manage your expectations, click "free" and enjoy. Available in the App Store
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BUSINESS MEDIA APP / FEATURED APPS

Kiosk Pro for iPad 


Kiosk ProIf you've been to the Apple Store, you've probably seen them, those cool iPad-based interactive displays that recently replaced all paper placards next to products on display. This concept isn't new, and the "kiosk" or "demo" mode for computers has been around for a while. Now, with the new Kiosk Pro app for iPad, anyone can set up a full-featured professional kiosk to present their products and web sites full screen, with no navigation or status bars. The $2.99 Kiosk Pro app, which has a free Lite version and the advanced $29 Kiosk Pro Plus, was developed by the same folks that have spent decades custom making kiosk applications for the likes of Amtrak, Boeing, CocaCola and IBM. The interactive displays in the Smithsonian were also made by them, and now the very best in kiosk development is distilled into this remarkable and inexpensive app. Kiosk ProKiosk Pro app comes with more settings than most people might need, but the initial setup is fairly simple. You set a homepage and the Allowed Domains list to limit the sites your visitors can navigate to, or leave it empty for unrestricted web browsing. Turn on the Digital Sign mode to completely disable the iPad's touch screen and turn it into a non-interactive digital signboard. For kiosks located in high traffic areas (like an expo hall at a big convention) there's a helpful time-out feature - after a set number of minutes of use, Kiosk Pro automatically navigates to a "Goodbye" page and then cycles back to its preset homepage, giving more visitors a turn at your kiosk. Another awesome feature is the option to display all web pages and media from local files stored on iPad directly - a godsend for any location with spotty or slow WiFi or cell service. For multiple kiosks deployment, even if they are in different locations, the External Settings File feature allows you to globally change any of the settings in seconds. Assign a unique ID for each iPad to change individual kiosk's settings remotely by changing the corresponding values in an XML file and uploading it to your server. Monitor your kiosks remotely by setting Kiosk Pro to email you if your kiosk loses power. Speaking of power, the Kiosk Pro Plus version lets your kiosk take a nap with the overnight Dim Mode, setting it to automatically go to sleep and wake up at the times you want. Overall this is one of the best apps for the job we've seen in a while, and it offers many clever and innovative features. For serious applications you'll probably want to purchase once of the hardware kiosk pieces from the developer's website, to secure the iPad itself and restrict use of the Home Button. But even without the hardware component, the app doesn't skimp on features and offers a complete solution to turn you iPad into a professional kiosk device on a small budget. Available in the App Store
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FEATURED APPS / SOCIAL NETWORKING

WeeMee Avatar Creator 


WeeMeeAll great historical figures have their equally memorable clones. Katie Holmes has Suri Cruise. Homer Simpson has Bart. Corey Feldman had Corey Haim. Austin Powers has Mini-Me, and now I have my WeeMee. WeeMeeThe WeeMee Avatar Creator lets me clone myself into millions of WeeMees. With over 40 hairstyles, hundreds of clothing and accessory options, 26 pairs of sunglasses for sunny days and 15 themed backgrounds to play in, I can't decide whether to put on my Snooki look with orange skin and black hair bouffant, or channel Farrah Fawcett with long, wavy hair and a red bikini. I can clone myself anatomically correct, and add color and shade to everything from eyes to underwear. My WeeMee (I call her 'MiNE') gets more unique with the 'closets' feature that lets her shop for trendy, premium and branded items. Adding seasonal accessories, pets, Apple products and beverages (with and without alcohol) makes this app fun and personal. WeeMeeCreating avatars in WeeMee is easy - I had a small army of adorable MiNE's within minutes. Navigation features are identified with playful icons. I can save to the gallery, post to Facebook and Twitter, and add wings and panda slippers before you can say "Dolly." Available for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, the app includes a built-in address book so I can create avatars for my friends and use them as the contact's image. I couldn't help but dress my (male) boss as a mermaid under the sea, and my best friend looks good in vampire garb creeping in the forest. WeeMee saves my army of avatars in a gallery which means I have easy access to a new persona each day. The app organizes my 'closets,' which allows for quick wardrobe changes and background switches. Today I'm in Aspen, tomorrow off to Paris! I plan on sharing my new WeeMees with my friends and family. There are more than 50 million avatars in WeeMee, so I have a lot of cloning to do to claim my place in history as the woman with the most personalities. Available in the App Store
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FEATURED APPS / MUSIC

Musicshake Remix [UPDATE] 


Musicshake
RemixAs a weekend DJ hobbyist, I was naturally intrigued when the guys over at Musicshake Remix submitted their B.o.B. Feat. Hayley Williams "Airplane" app for our consideration. While my colleagues pondered their next featured apps, I snapped this one up, and went straight to "work." I have always wanted to produce my own remixes, and with computer tech the way it is these days on the dance floor, why not? The irony is, the ease with which digital mixes are produced has spawned a plethora of remixes - both sanctioned and bootlegged - and tracking down and previewing new mixes consumes most of the free time I have around DJ bookings. Such is life. Musicshake RemixHello, Musicshake. Remixing is simpler than you might think. Dance music (and most pop music as well) is broken down into 32-beat blocks. A typical refrain plays out over 16 beats (four measures) and repeats and resolves over the next 16. A verse is typically two 32-beat chunks strung together. Never was the simplicity of this structure more evident than when playing around with Musicshake apps - they have a number of them, most of them free, though "Airplanes" goes for $2.99. Heck, B.o.B. has to make his Benny's somewhere, right? Anyway, Musicshake breaks these 32-beat blocks into literal colored blocks. Vocal, guitar, keyboards, drums, bass, these are all their own rows of blocks and inside each block you can select which 32-beat segment you want to play, swapping bits and pieces around however you like, surprisingly enough, never ending up with a really bad mix. Start out acapella and then bring in a beat and then the whole enchilada. Or start out full throttle and drop everything after the first block. Or, give up control and "shake" for a new random mix. Shake is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. I first tried valiantly to shake my phone and get a remix. But you actually tap the shake button to get it to "shake" the mix up. Additional features include sharing the song on the Musicshake Web site, Facebook or via email. To share though, you have to set up a free account on Musicshake.com. The site lets you do a lot of what the app does and purports to have over 1.3 million different samples to work with, but that's for a whole other review. When you go to share your song it will post to your Musicshake profile and then that link will be shared with Facebook or via email. There is one thing I will warn you about. Music is not a lightweight medium. The first thing I noticed was how long it took for the app to download. Once it was loaded, it announced it had saved download time by not downloading everything. Downloading the pop samples took twice as long as downloading the app itself. Also, if you buy this one app, you had better really like B.o.B.'s song "Airplanes" because it's the only song this app produces. Though, overall, the Musicshake apps are a wonder and the music mixes they produce, even completely by what appears to be random switch ups, are fun to make and listen to. Happy thanksgiving! UPDATE: After this article was published, we received a comment from the Musicshake developer: "Regarding this passage - "Shake is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. I first tried valiantly to shake my phone and get a remix." - it is actually not a misnomer. You can get a remix either by shaking your phone or the shake button." Maybe it's supposed to work that way, unfortunately on my iPhone 4S it refused to do anything when I shook it - repeatedly. -J. McEwan.Available in the App Store
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FEATURED APPS / TRAVEL

Alaska Air 


Alaska AirRemember that languid moose strolling through the opening credits of Northern Exposure back in the early 90s? (Classic!) Though filmed in Roslyn, Washington, the show heightened my interest in visiting Alaska, and an episode featuring the aurora borealis peaked my wanderlust. Fast forward to 2011, and my interest in the last frontier is back, baby! Alaska AirAlaska Air's iPhone app has everything you need to arrange your transportation. All the standard features you'd expect from a great travel app are present and accounted for: mobile boarding pass options, text & email flight alerts, gate & boarding time info, flight check-in, seat-changing options, etc. But the app also has handy & unique features, including a personal travel concierge who can set parking reminders, remember hotel & car confirmation codes, and remind you of specific day-of-travel resources to help you skip those long lines at the airport. And for peace of mind, all benefits of Alaska Air's website are easily accessible. Our 49th state is one of those distinctive places you have to make a special effort to see. Thanks to Alaska Air's iPhone app, the special effort feels fairly effortless. But Alaska Airlines isn't just all about the last frontier. As we just learned, they're actually based out of Seattle, and are the U.S.'s 8th largest carrier with flights in and out of U.S., Canada, and Mexico. All aboard! Available in the App StoreAvailable on Android Market
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