Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thing 23: Evaluate 23 Mobile Things

Thing 23 asks us to evaluate the 23 Mobile Things program. I am really glad that I did this program. I tried a lot of apps I wouldn't otherwise have downloaded, and discovered some features on my phone that I wasn't aware of. I think I'm much more adventurous in downloading apps and giving them a try, instead of thinking, "I'll never use that" and not downloading it. I'm especially glad I got the Apps Gone Free app because it will keep me trying new apps. It's no hassle to delete apps from my phone, so I might as well give something a whirl.

I think my favorite part of doing this training was seeing the wide array of app choices. I'm now more likely to search for apps when I think, "There should be an app for that," and am often pleasantly surprised to find that there is an app or multiple apps. For example, during the course of 23 Things, I thought I was experiencing some decreased mileage on my car, so downloaded MileageKeeper to keep better track of this, and also temporarily downloaded an app to test my speedometer (turns out when I think I'm driving 70mph, I'm actually going about 67mph).

I didn't really connect with anyone via this training, but I did have a couple of friends like Katie of the Floating Lush who did the program, as well. When it's all over, I'll probably poke around and check out the blogs of those who completed the program.

I am not sure what the actual completion rate is for these types of trainings, but it doesn't seem very high. Maybe making the prizes more prominent, or giving suggestions from past participants about how to keep on track and motivated would have been helpful. When it got to be mid-May and I realized I was only up to Thing 9, I set a daily calendar reminder on my work calendar to write a blog post first thing each morning, which is the best time for me to write. Then, when on a good WiFi connection (at my parents' home), I went through and downloaded all the apps I wanted to try for all of the remaining Things. This way, I had them all on my phone (I kept them all on a separate page, in order, so I knew which apps were for the training) and could play with them whenever I had a lull at work, or see how they worked 'in real life.' This seemed to work really well for me, because then I was able to write a blog post days or even weeks after getting an app and having a lot of time to test it.

Happy apping!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Thing 22: Discovering Apps

In Thing 22, we are asked to discover some new apps. I downloaded Apps Gone Free a few weeks ago, and so far, have been pleased that I got it. I was also able to recommend it to my husband, and because of it, he downloaded a calendar app that he really likes. I honestly don't even remember which apps I got via Apps Gone Free, but it seems very handy to get ideas for new apps.

What I'm really excited about are some of the apps I've downloaded to help during my upcoming trip to Germany and France. I'm used to using GPS and Google when traveling in order to find my way and confirm that a restaurant is a good pick, but there are no guarantees that I'll have WiFi when we're in Cologne or Paris, so it was reassuring that some of these apps have all that information within the app and no need to connect to the internet. I downloaded enough apps to create a whole folder of them (and yes, that's Pippa the dachshund's face on my phone):
I read good things about the offline maps in the Paris Travel Guide app, and the Paris Metro app seemed like a must. I also downloaded the GuidePal Paris app and then was immediately prompted to download their even better app for free. The TripAdvisor City Guide for Paris was also highly recommended, and I found a free app for self-guided walking tours of Cologne, Germany.
iPhone Screenshot 2
Also, not sure how I found it, but I got the Postagram app, which allows you to send a photo postcard from anywhere using your own photos. I think this will be cool to have, and theoretically, I could send many postcards during our trip without ever having to buy stamps! Isn't technology wonderful?
iPhone Screenshot 1 
I may have to do one last 23 Things post to review all of these apps after our trip. Stay tuned for an update in July!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Thing 21: Free-for-all

Thing 21 is a free-for-all to share our favorite apps, and I have a few I'd like to highlight.

I'm big into tracking my money, because I hate debt and want to retire someday, and my favorite app/website for this is or the app version of the site. I know some people have a hard time trusting all of their financial info. to this app, but I never had qualms about this (no money can be moved around within the app or on the website, it's only a way to view account balances and see progress toward goals) and so I am a superfan of this app and will recommend it to everyone. I love that I can know at any given moment how much I've spent in the various categories each month, if I'm on-track to my savings goals, and more. I actually think I'm more likely to know about fraudulent activity on any of my many accounts (brokerage, savings, 401k, IRA accounts, etc.) and be more aware of any fees I'm being charged than I would be if I just logged into my main banking accounts. This makes it very easy to see an account balance multiple times a day.

Second favorite is the Fitbit app that goes along with my Fitbit Flex activity monitor, which I got for my birthday at the end of April. At around $100, the Fitbit Flex isn't the cheapest activity monitor, but I like the bracelet style and the feedback it gives me (plus the silent alarm feature has been helpful). This app has definitely helped make health and exercise more fun, as I can see how many steps I take each day, how many calories I burn, how much sleep I got, and it's helped me to lose those pesky extra pounds of winter weight.

And, last but not least, my favorite game for my phone is definitely Dots. It's such an elegantly simple game, and each round of the timed mode is only 60 seconds, so it's something you can play during a commercial break or just a few rounds while in a waiting room. You simply connect the matching colored dots (in lines and--for more points--squares), they disappear, making it easier to connect more dots of other colors, and then you get a score based on how many dots you cleared. The purple dots in the upper left corner are just calling out to be connected in a square:
The more dots you connect, the higher your score, and the more Time Stops, Expanders, and Shrinkers you can 'buy' to make the game easier and get a higher score.  Clear those green dots, and more dots will take their place...

They've also recently added challenges so you can go up against your friends or random players. My last high score and my all time high score are below--do you think you can beat me?

Also this week, they released a new game, TwoDots, that I've been playing. It's the same general idea of connecting dots, but instead of timed mode, your goal is to connect whichever color in as many moves as you're given. So far, I'm really enjoying it.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thing 20: Games

Thing 20 requires us to play! I downloaded Minion Rush, but wasn't able to actually play it since it needed to download additional data, and then I'd be told the servers were busy. Bummer, since I really like the Despicable Me films. Someday I want to have a dog and name him Kevin. At least the attempt was humorous, with the messages on the wait screens:

So instead, I'll highlight a few of my favorite games. The first is Battleline. I got the actual board game Battle Line for my husband a few years ago, since I was on the hunt for games which can be played by two people and involve strategy, without having too many rules to learn, similar to Lost Cities, which also has an app version. Battle Line fit the bill perfectly, and I later discovered its availability as an app for our iPad. When I got my iPhone, it asked if I wanted to download the game there, as well. It can be played against the computer in single player mode, but I have to admit it's much easier to win against the computer than it is against a real human, so I prefer the two player mode. You basically try to make better sets of cards than your opponent in order to claim more flags. Five flags total or three next to each other, and you win. I won this game pretty easily:
The next two are games I got for free via those handy Starbucks cards, and I haven't mastered either of them, but they Mr. Crab and Duet. They both involve having good timing, which I haven't, but I still think they are both very well-designed games.

I'm going to save my VERY FAVORITE game for the next Thing. Stay tuned...