The iPhone’s default Clock app has an alarm clock feature that many people, including me, use to wake them up in the morning. And like most alarm clocks, it has a snooze feature. When snooze is activated, it will delay the alarm from sounding again for 9 minutes. So how do you hit snooze? The iPhone offers 4 ways:
The snooze buttons are:
Sleep/wake button on top
The up volume button on the side
The down volume button on the side
The Snooze button on the iPhone’s screen
To fully shut off the alarm, you must do the swipe-to-unlock gesture. There is, however, an exception to that rule. If you turn off the snooze option when creating the alarm (see example below), then the sleep/wake and volume buttons will shut off the alarm instead of acting as a snooze button.
Pandora Radio (free) is known as a music radio app with customizable stations that learn your tastes over time. But my favorite use for the app? To make me laugh.
Pandora also features tracks from comedy albums and clips of comedians doing stand-up acts. You can plug-in your favorite comedians—for me, acts like Chris Rock, Louis CK, and Adam Sandler—and Pandora will play clips from those acts and similar comedians. It works just like the music stations: you can vote whether you like the comedy or not, and Pandora will serve up more of what you like. In my case, it seems to be adult (very adult) humor.
So why do I say it’s the best way to listen to comedy? Well, sure, you can find comedy radio stations elsewhere, but what’s unique about the Pandora experience is that you’re not stuck listening to an entire comedy act if it’s not funny or in poor taste, you simply vote it down, and you’re on to the next clip. You tend to get the best bits of acts. And it’s all free, with ads of course, but you can pay $3.99 a month to get rid of them.
Google Maps (free) for the iPhone is now available to download in the App Store. Google Maps for iPhone brings back much-missed features like Street View and transit directions, as well as adding a few new tricks like voice turn-by-turn directions. It’s a beautiful looking app, too, with a minimalist, easy-to-use interface (although the maps themselves are not as good looking as Apple’s). No iPad version as of yet. Major features of the app include:
Voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions
Color-coded real-time traffic
Saved favorite addresses
Transit (bus, train) and walking directions
Street View, with new feature of going inside over 100,000 buildings worldwide
Zagat reviews, customer reviews, menus, book reservations
Google Earth integration
Shake iPhone to supply feedback and map corrections
Any downsides? As David Pogue of the NYTimes notes in his review, no Siri integration, which means, no saying “take me home” and getting instant directions. Interestingly enough, Pogue says the iPhone version of Google Maps is better than Google’s own Android version—hard to believe with no voice (Siri/Google Now) integration.
Google has created an SDK that allows other iOS apps to integrate Google Maps instead of Apple Maps.
Google Maps for iOS works on iOS 5.1 and the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4, which one-ups Apple Maps, as it does currently do not support iOS 5 and those devices.
The panorama mode in the iPhone’s Camera app is easy to use, but it also has a few non-obvious “hidden” features. Below are 3 of these hidden features.
1. Reverse the Panorama’s Direction By Tapping the Arrow
By default, the iPhone’s panorama mode requires you to tilt the iPhone from left to right. To reverse the direction, simply tap the arrow on the screen. Now you can start on the right, and tilt the iPhone to the left to create a panorama. Why would you want to change the direction? Because it’s easier to accurately select a starting point than it is a finishing point.
2. Finish a Panorama By Suddenly Moving the the iPhone in the Opposite Direction
You don’t need to tap the Done button to finish a panorama photo, just move the iPhone in the opposite direction you were creating the panorama. This is actually the best way to finish off your panorama, as reaching for the Done button could cause you to tilt the iPhone up or down, creating jagged edges in your panorama. Also note that you don’t have to fill the entire rectangular box the iPhone displays in panorama mode to make a panorama—you can stop at any time and still create a photo.
3. Take Vertical Panoramas of Tall Structures
Panorama mode isn’t just for horizontal landscapes, you can use it to record tall structures like buildings, trees, etc. To do this, simply hold your iPhone in landscape orientation while in panorama mode. Then you simply start photographing from the bottom up (or top down…see Tip #1).
The Otterbox Defender line of cases has made a name for itself by offering premium protection for past generations of the iPhone. The latest version, the Otterbox Defender for iPhone 5 ($20), follows the same tried-and-true formula as its predecessors: 3 layers of bulky protection—including a clear plastic screen protector—that provide peace of mind for your expensive smartphone inside. The key to Defender’s success has always been that it still allowed you to use all of the iPhone’s features, buttons, and ports, in light of alls its layers and protective bulk. For the iPhone 5, this is still true…well, for the most part…the only tricky area is the all-important home button. Read on to found out why.
Protection. The Defender is built around offering top-tier protection for the iPhone 5, and thanks to its three-layered construction, it doesn’t disappoint. I should point out that “3 layers” really means only two layers protecting the body of the iPhone, then a built-in plastic screen protector as the “third” layer for the iPhone’s glass screen.
The inner layer is a hard plastic shell composed of two pieces that snap together around the iPhone. The inside of the shell is lined with soft foam to prevent the case itself from scratching the iPhone. Disappointingly, the edges and rim of the iPhone are not protected by this soft foam lining, which is exactly where the iPhone 5 is most easily scratched.
The Defender’s outer layer is silicone rubber, which you must slip, wrap, and tuck around the inner layer. It’s a bit of a chore to put on. The rubbber layer is relatively thick (thicker than most slim silicone cases) and takes on shock absorption duties. Together, these two layers combined create a protective thick padding around the iPhone that offers strength, rigidigty, and shock absorption.
Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★★★
(4 stars out of 5)
Review Summary: A bulky case that offers 3-layers of premium protection, including a built-in clear screen protector for the iPhone 5’s screen. You can’t get much more protection short of a waterproof case. Flaws include making the iPhone 5’s home button a bit more tricky to use (you have to press it just right for accuracy), but after a bit of a learning curve, the case nevertheless allows you to use all of the features and functions of the iPhone as expected.
Reviewed by: Art of the iPhone
Screen Protector. The third layer of protection is a built-in plastic screen protector. In terms of protection, this screen—along with the rest of the case—makes it less likely that your iPhone’s screen will shatter when dropped. The irony of using most iPhone cases is that if the iPhone is dropped just right, the front screen can still hit a rock and break the glass. Well, the Defender’s plastic screen protector doesn’t exactly offer perfect shock absorption, but it still will take on the brunt of any impact—meaning only a really wicked force will crack the iPhone 5’s special Gorilla Glass 2 with this case on.
The screen protector brings with it a few flaws. The first is that it just doesn’t feel as pleasant to the touch as the iPhone’s glass screen. Where my finger smoothly glides across Gorilla Glass, the plastic screen protector offers more resistance to my finger and just doesn’t feel as good. Another problem is that the plastic can take on scratches much more easily than Gorilla Glass 2, and since the protector is built-in, scratches could build up in the screen long term and obscure the screen. Contrast this with the iPhone’s Gorilla Glass 2 screen, which has a special coating that resists finger grease and other nasty oiliness, which means not only does it stay cleaner, but also makes the screen easy to clean with just a wipe on your pant leg. The Defender’s cheap plastic screen protector, however, seems to collect all types of grime much easier and does wipe off quite as easily. The final issue with the plastic screen is that the inside of it can collect dust, making it seem like your iPhone’s screen is permanently dusty.
The Defender’s multiple layers translate into a bit of hassle when taking the case on or off the iPhone. There is snapping of rubber latches into slots. There is stretching rubber around edges and tucking tabs into crevices. You also have to make sure the clear plastic screen is clean on the inside before putting it on. The Defender is not a case for quick removal or putting back on.
The Defender has a relatively thick rim that sticks up about a millimeter above the iPhone’s screen. This rim serves as a barrier when laying the iPhone face down, preventing the plastic-screen protector from touching the surfaces of tables, desks, etc. The downside of this thick rim is that the extreme sides and corners of the iPhone’s screen becomes difficult to access with the case on. In my experience, it wasn’t a problem when typing, but there were rare occasions when an app required that I touch the extreme edge of the screen and I found it a bit more difficult to do so with the Defender’s rim interfering.
Accessibility to the iPhone’s Features. Premium protection always comes with compromise. Because the Defender has built-in rubber flaps that must be pulled back to access the iPhone’s headphone, lightning, and mute-switch ports, those areas aren’t quite as conveniently accessible. But it’s important to note that those areas are indeed accessible, it’s just a bit more of a hassle, as you have to flip out the little rubber flaps to, say, plug in the lightning cable.
Biggest Flaw. My biggest disappointment with the Defender comes with the home button. The case covers the iPhone’s volume, sleep/wake, and home buttons with its own simulated rubber buttons. While the iPhone’s volume and sleep/wake button work perfectly fine with the case on, the home button is more difficult to operate. I quick discovered that, to use the home button accurately, I needed to use the tip of my thumb and press down in a particular “sweet spot”of the case’s home button. Only then will double and triple clicks accurately register on the iPhone. This little bit of learning curve for the case is unfornutate, but in the end, the home button can be accurately pressed with the case on.
The iPhone’s front and rear cameras work fine with the case on—large cutout areas surround the rear camera/LED flash/rear microphone as well as the front camera/earpiece, so those areas are clear to work as expected (although…*gasp*…left unprotected).
Fit and Feel. The Defender is in no way a slim case. It doubles the iPhone 5’s size and weight, which is a shame, too, because the iPhone 5 is Apple’s slimmest and lightest iPhone ever. The case by itself weighs as much as the iPhone (both weigh around 4 ounces). But despite its bulk, the case feels good to hold in the hand. The silicone rubber is slightly textured, supplying both grip for slip prevention as well as a comfortable surface feeling.
Looks. The Defender is available in 8 different color schemes, all two-toned like the iPhone 5 itself (except for the all-black Defender). I reviewed the good-looking gray/white version, but there is also pink/white, blue/light blue, purple/light purple, etc. The Defender it is no way a stylish case, but on the other hand, for the protective monster it is, the case does have a certain charm. I find the gray/white version to be especially attractive in real-life use.
The Otterbox Defender for iPhone 5 ($2X) offers a premium level of protection while still allowing you to use all of the features of the iPhone—a nice achievement, albeit not without some issues. The Defender’s biggest flaw is that the iPhone’s home button become less sensitive when covered by the Defender’s own simulated home button. You must learn to press it just right for accurate operation, but once you do, the home button works as expected. Another issue is with the Defender’s built-in clear plastic screen protector, which doesn’t feel as comfortable to operate as the iPhone’s Gorilla Glass 2 screen. Overall, the Otterbox Defender is a case you buy to fully protect your iPhone from rough usage, and for this purpose, we can highly recommend it, despite it flaws in accessibility.
The Incipio DualPro case ($29) for iPhone 5 is a dual-layer case that combines an inner silicone sleeve with an outer hard-plastic polycarbonate shell to offer above-average protection. The DualPro would be an excellent case except for a small but annoying design flaw involving the iPhone’s home button. The devil is in the details, so read on for my full review.
What It’s Made Of. The Incipio DualPro case is made of two different layers that fit together to form the entire case. The inner layer, which is the first you’ll slip around the iPhone, is made of a soft silicone rubber. The outer layer is made from a harder material—polycarbonate plastic, which Incipio calls “plextonium” for their own “proprietary” blend of polycarbonate. This layer snaps around the softer inner layer and provides strength and rigidity for the case.
Protection. Combined, the DualPro’s two layers offer above-average protection—good enough for most everyday drops and smashes, but falling short of premium protection. Each of the DualPro’s materials serves a protective purpose: soft silicone adds shock absorption and inner scratch protection; hard plastic adds strength and durability. However, both layers are much too thin, even when combined, to be a premium protective case.
Fit and Feel. The DualPro feels solid and sturdy in the hand due almost entirely to the hard-plastic exterior, which is well designed and does not creak or bend with applied pressure. The outer layer’s surface also has a slightly soft feel to it thanks to a special manufacturing process. The only downside in this area actually comes with the hidden inner layer, which is disappointingly loose. But because this layer is covered by the hard plastic exterior, it’s not an issue.
The case hugs the home button a little too close.
Accessibility and Device Functionality. One unbreakable rule for iPhone cases is not to interfer with using the iPhone. Unfortunately, the Incipio DualPro interferes with using the iPhone’s home button and front screen—in a subtle way, to be sure, but it’s annoying nonetheless. The case’s rim creeps too close to iPhone’s home button, interfering when you press down on it. It’s merely annoying and doesn’t stop your use of the home button, but it’s enough to deduct points. The too-thick rim also interferes in a similar way with the edges of the iPhone’s screen.
Looks. The Incipio DualPro is a sporty, good-looking case available in several different colors. I reviewed the gray with neon-yellow highlights version, but there 6 color combos in total, including more subdued themes of black with gray highlights, and white with gray highlights.
The Incipio DualPro ($29) is almost a great case for the iPhone 5, but unfortunately, the rim of the case creeps a little too close to the iPhone’s home button and screen edges, slightly interfering when those areas are touched or pressed. It’s not a killer flaw, but enough to keep it from being a great case. Add in a hard-to-access mute switch area, and the Dual Pro falls to just being an average case that offers above-average protection.
Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★★★ (3 stars out of 5)
Review Summary: The case’s rim creeps a little too close the iPhone’s home button and screen, subtly interfering when those areas are touched or pressed. It’s a small annoyance, but enough to keep this otherwise excellent case with above-average protection from being a top iPhone case.
I love using iBooks to read books on the iPad & iPhone, but there is one feature that can be annoying: highlighting text. You see, iBooks lets you highlight text simply by dragging your finger over it. The problem is, this often leads to accidentally highlighting the text when turning pages or casually touching the screen. To make matters worse, trying to delete those highlights can have the comically opposite effect of creating even more highlights. There is an easy solution to removing the highlighting. Below is a quick way to delete those highlights.
1. Tap the Table of Contents button at the top left:
2. Tap Notes:
3. Swipe the note, then tap Delete:
4. Tap Resume in the top left:
And that’s it. You’ll be taken right back to where you left off reading, and the highlighting will be deleted from the text.
When importing photos from my iPhone to the Mac, I’ve found the default method—using iPhoto—to be slow and clunky. There is a better solution, however. It’s called Image Capture, and it’s built right into the Mac.
Image Capture connected to my iPhone 5
Image Capture is a fast and lightweight application that comes with every modern Mac. The application can import photos and video from cameras, iPhones, and other devices. Just connect your device to your Mac, launch Image Capture, and import. It runs much, much, much faster than iPhoto. You can import all photos/video at once, or choose only select photos. And perhaps best of all, you can even choose the photos’ destination—for example, the desktop or a specific folder—something iPhoto won’t let you do.
You can have Image Capture automatically open whenever you connect your iPhone to your Mac, speeding up the photo-import process even more. Here’s how.
1. Open Image Capture and connect your iPhone to your Mac.
2. In Image Capture, make sure your iPhone is selected (highlighted) in the left column:
2. Click the icon in bottom left corner of Image Capture:
3. Click on the drop-down menu beneath the text Connecting this iPhone opens:
4. Select Image Capture:
And that’s it. Image Capture will now automatically launch whenever your connect the iPhone to your Mac.
Image Capture lets you delete photos off your iPhone without importing them first, something iPhoto will not let you do. So if you just want to delete all of your iPhone photos at once, or a select few, this is a great solution.
While single-source news apps like CNN and NYTimes are good, I personally like a lot of variety in my news. That’s why I use news apps that aggregate thousands of news sources and display what’s most interesting, entertaining, or important. Listed below are 6 of my favorite.
News360 (free) uses over 20,000 newspapers and magazines to deliver the best and most-interesting content in a beautifully designed, minimalistic interface. The app’s main screen shows Top News, but you can customize content by selecting specific topics or news sources to follow.
Probably my favorite feature is that it makes it easy to find dozens of different takes on a single major news story. You can also swipe through dozens of images from different sources for a particular story, another favorite feature of mine.
Sharing of articles via email and Facebook, Twitter, G+, email
Evernote and Instapaper support
Save stories for offline reading
Sign in to Twitter or Facebook and get personalized news based on your tastes
2. SNews Free
SNews Free (link) is Google News, only as a native iPhone app. This is not merely a generic browser that loads Google News, it tweaks the site to fit more headlines on the screen. And it has a scrollable row of buttons for various news topics (Business, Sports, etc), that can be rearranged to personal taste. You can also add your own topics (like “Apple” or “iPhone”), and do so without having to sign into your Google account. Even though this is the least slick of all the apps here, it’s also one of my most-used. One annoyance though, the app used to be called GNews but recently had to change their name, but the app still shows as GNews in the iPhone’s Spotlight search. I also wish I could prevent some sources from showing up—there are many online news sites that exist simply to spam Google News with copycat news written in poor English.
Prismatic (link) presents news in a clean, minimalist way. It also has a wide variety of news sources with lots of customization options where you can tweak what shows or doesn’t show.
Prismastic has a cool menu system for saving/sharing news stories—you simply hold your finger on the screen and menu options will pop-up around your finger, then you just slide your finger to the option you want. Each article is labeled with keywords, which you can tap to view more articles based on the keyword. My only annoyance with the app is that it places 3 Twitter quotes commenting on the article in the middle of articles—it disrupts my reading flow sometimes.
SkyGrid (free) has a tile-based interface similar to CNN’s app, but SkyGrid has thousands of news sources where CNN is only 1. SkyGrid uses a grid of tiles that use images from news articles. Each tile has a headline representing a news story. When you tap a news story, you are presented with another grid featuring several sources covering the same story. Tap again and read the story. It’s a great way to get perspective on a news event.
SkyGrid offers a personalized page where you can add your own topics (Apple, Knitting) or specific news sources like CNBC or blogs like Daring Fireball. You can “follow” specific news events. There are also the typical sharing tools for Twitter, Facebook, Text Message (iMessage), or email. There is also support for the all-important Instapaper.
If you’re bored with mainstream news, Digg (free) is a beautiful and minimalistic app that always has something interesting to read. And no ads! Easy to browse through, lots of content from varied sources, and good typography make this app a pleasure to use on the iPhone. The app even lets you save stories for offline reading. There are the typical sharing tools for Facebook and Twitter.
6. Alien Blue
Alien Blue (free) optimizes the popular website Reddit for the iPhone. Reddit is an alternative news source, much of it created or posted by Reddit’s own users. It’s kind of like a bulletin board where people can vote up what is most interesting—and where most of the voters are teenagers or twentysomethings. I don’t have a Reddit account, but I do enjoy browsing the front page for the top posts. Alien Blue is my favorite iPhone app for doing so. The free version has a ton of features, like access to your Reddit account, voting on stories, and changing font size and look of the app. The Pro version ($1.99 in-app upgrade) has even more features.
Other Cool News Apps:
The following apps didn’t quite make my cut, but all have cool interfaces and are worth checking out, you may like them better than me:
Circa News (free) is beautiful and minimalistic. It also takes a unique approach on news, showing you brief chunks, and you swipe to dig deeper into evolving stories to reveal more facts. There’s a bit too much swiping and not enough text for my tastes, but it’s a cool app nonetheless.
Summly (free) has an interface that is smooth and beautiful, and it presents news from various sources in a slick yet minimalistic way. Navigation is done by swiping in various directions. I get a bit lost at times in the app, but it’s still a cool app to check out.
Flipboard (free) is a great app for Twitter and Facebook, but I find it only so-so for browsing multiple news sources. It turns any content source into a beautiful magazine that is a pleasure to flip through.
Pulse (free) was a former Apple iPad App of the Year. It presents news headlines in a tile format. You can personalize the app by choosing various news sources to follow. I personally like the “list of headlines” format verus the “grid of tiles” format, but if you’re of the latter persuasion, check out this app.
You’ll never watch a YouTube video using the Brownees app for iPhone ($1.99), even though YouTube is the only site accessible in the app. That’s because Browness is focused solely on audio. The app “rips” audio from YouTube videos and saves it on the iPhone for later offline playback. Why would you want to do this? For free music, of course.
It’s been a “free music” theme week here on Art of the iPhone (check out my reviews for the similar apps Free Music Download Pro and McTube Pro). Brownees is solely focused on collecting free music from YouTube, and it works as advertised, although it’s far from being perfect.
How It Works. To save a song for offline playback, you simply choose a song, and once it starts playing, you simply add it to your Favorites list. That’s it. Eazy peazy (although you have to make sure the “Offline playback” tab is set to On). Unfortunately, music stored on the iPhone must stay inside the app—it can’t be downloaded off the iPhone onto a computer or sent into another app.
Finding Music to Download.Brownees is great if you know the specific song or artist you’re looking for, but not so great if you want to discover new music. There is a Search tool for finding music on YouTube. There is also a somewhat mislabeled “News” tab that shows the top 50 music videos on YouTube, which can help discover new music. But other than that, there is no way to browse genres of music. There is no web browser, new artist section, etc.
A Basic Music Player. As a music player, the app is pretty basic. It has the requisite play, pause, etc, controls, and the ability to create playlists. The music controls do work outside of the app, meaning you can control the music from the iPhone’s lock screen and via headphone control dongles. I only mention this because in another similar app I recently reviewed (McTube Pro), the music controls did not work outside of the app.
Other Features. Brownees has Facebook integration that supposedly lets you share your Brownees playlists with friends, making it easier to find and download music, but I couldn’t it get to work. You don’t need a Facebook account to use the app, but you do need to either use Facebook or create a Brownees account. I was unable to find the reason or use for a Brownees account.
Cons *Updated*. I found the app to be buggy. There were times when various features stopped working, and I had to force close the app and restart it. Also, the app’s first language is apparently not English, and some translation from Spanish has occurred to put it in the US App Store. I know this because occasionally I’ll see a menu option in Spanish.
*Update* After more use, I’ve discovered many more serious bugs with this app (as of version 1.3 of the app). Deleted music does not, in fact, delete, and suddenly reappears in my music library. Saved music many times can’t be played until you use the force-quit the app (force quit is done by double clicking the home button, holding finger on app icon, tapping the red close button, then relaunching). Hopefully, the developers can squelch these bugs, because it’s hard to recommend this app for long-term use if these issues remain.
Like the other 2 “Free Music” apps I reviewed this week, I can recommend downloading Brownees because, hey, free music. But I also found the app sloppy, limited in functionality, and buggy. But in the end, it gets the job done. Again: free music…saved to the iPhone…for offline playback. What’s not to love?