The best entertainment apps: Keeping you entertained on the go

Entertainment apps are one of the gems of having a smartphone. Being able to watch video clips and movies no matter where you are is very convenient and enjoyable. So is checking out movie reviews and showtimes, checking out movie facts, looking up TV listings and the latest TV celebrity gossip, stumbling upon interesting web sites that are new to you, checking out funny memes, and reading stories about humorous moments in other people’s lives. All of this is thanks to what I consider my favorite entertainment apps: YouTube, Netflix, TV Guide, IMDb, Flixster, StumbleUpon, iFunny, and FML.

Everyone knows about YouTube and Netflix. They are must-have apps for any smartphone owner. I love being able to check out music videos on my phone, even if my laptop is in the same room . Hey, I get a little lazy sometimes, and sometimes my iPhone just seems a lot more convenient. If you are a Netflix subscriber, you should get the Netflix app for those times when your computer is being used by someone else or you want to watch a TV show episode while waiting around.

TV Guide is just a super handy app because it gives you TV listings and allows you to set alerts so you don’t miss the season premiere of your favorite TV show. In my case, “The Vampire Diaries.” Is it October 11 yet? No? Darn it. I’ve gone too long without my favorite TV vampire, Mr. Damon Salvatore (lol).

IMDb is one of the apps I visit most. I am a movie buff and I always have to know what other movies an actor or actress played in. IMDb is great at solving that frequent question, “I saw him in another movie, what movie was that?” Just IMDb the movie, find the actor, and slap yourself for not recognizing him in another movie you saw (just kidding!).

Flixster is a great app because it not only gives you showtimes of movies playing in nearby theaters, but it also gives you reviews of those movies. Thanks to Rotten Tomatoes critics ratings and user reviews, you can better determine if movies like “The House at the End of the Street” are worth seeing or not. FYI, it was worth seeing, even though my boyfriend didn’t enjoy it as much since it lacked full-on gore and ghosts or zombies. However, I enjoy thrillers with psychological twists, even though it wasn’t an award-winning horror flick.

StumbleUpon is just a nice little app for when you are bored and want to “stumble” upon a new interesting site. Just tell StumbleUpon your interests and hit the stumble upon button. You will instantly discover a new cool picture or a funny or interesting Web site you never knew about. In my case, an adorable kitten picture and a Web site full of funny puns.

I know iFunny is an iPhone only app, so I apologize to the Android users reading this. However, I’m sure there are similar funny memes apps on Android. I enjoy checking out the app once in a while and laughing at some of the funny memes on there. Plus, it’s always fun to create your own memes to send to your boyfriend for inside jokes.

FML is an app that I don’t check out that much, but felt it was worth mentioning. Ever have a bad day? Or just a really long day? Go to the FML app and read some of the stories by other people about their bad days. You will feel better instantly, and get a few laughs out of it.

Do you have particular apps that you go to often for your own source of entertainment or entertainment information? Feel free to share them here!

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The best music apps: Giving you access to the best tunes on the go

 

Today, I will be looking at some music apps that I think everyone should have at least one or two of on their phone. These apps have proven to be very enjoyable while walking, working on some light homework, or helping me discover what song is playing on the radio.

 

I love being able to select my favorite music artist or band and listen to a customized station of their music and similar music while I am either walking, relaxing or working on some homework.

 

Pandora

If you have never used Pandora on even your home computer, you are missing out. Pandora is a great little app that provides you with customized radio stations that are customized by artist or genre. Have a favorite music artist? Want to hear music similar to their music? Just create yourself a Pandora account, log in, and search for that artist. You will then be given a customized radio station that plays their music and music similar to their music. Plus, you can skip past songs you don’t want to hear or like or dislike songs so the station knows better what to play in the future.

 

Ever feel a little homesick for the town you grew up in? With TuneIn Radio, you can feel a little less homesick listening to that old favorite station you grew up listening to.

 

TuneIn Radio

TuneIn Radio is a great source of radio stations across the country. It allows you to find your hometown radio station and listen to it anywhere you are. I love having the ability to listen to all the stations I used to like in my hometown and local stations. Plus, you can browse and discover radio stations you never knew about. Whether it be music, sports, news, or talk, you are guaranteed to have a huge array of radio station and podcast options.

 

Want music geared toward just working out? There’s an app for that thanks to Songza.

 

Songza

Songza is similar to Pandora, but takes the customizing option a step further. It allows you to find the right music based on the day and time of day it is. You can also explore customized stations by genre, activities, moods, decades, and culture. Some of the moods or activity options include music for cooking, unwinding after a long week, working out, waking up, studying, love and romance, and much more. After choosing the mood or activity you want music for, you can further choose an activity or genre, respectively. Songza will then give you a few options of stations that match that mood or activity.

 

Ever hear a song and you can’t quite remember who sings it? That’s what Shazam is there for.

 

Shazam

Shazam is one of those apps that will amaze you by its smart capabilities. Ever find yourself in the car or at a bar and a song comes on that you like, but don’t know what song it is and wish you knew? Shazam solves that old problem instantly. Just “Touch to Shazam” on the app, hold your phone so it can listen to the song, and within seconds, you will be given the artist and song title. You will also be able to access the identified artist’s YouTube videos, song lyrics, artist biography, and concert and tour information. If that wasn’t cool enough, Shazam recently gained the ability to recognize what is playing on the TV. Just the way you would discover what song is playing, you can also discover what show or movie is playing on the TV. From there, Shazam will give you the music played in the program, celebrity buzz about the actors, cast information, the latest tweets by the program’s cast, and more. Shazam is one of those handy music discovery apps that really shows the potential and future of smartphones and their capabilities.

 

Do you have favorite music apps that weren’t mentioned here? Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite music apps!

 

The best news apps: Keeping you informed the fastest way possible

This week and next week, I will be doing a “best apps” series. During this series of blog posts, I will review some of the best apps out there, from the best news apps to the best games apps. I made sure to check that all the apps I will list are on both the iPhone and the Android. Also, most apps I feature will be free, unless otherwise noted. Today’s post will focus on the best news apps, because I feel news is more important lately and in the upcoming months more than ever because of the upcoming presidential election. I believe that it is very important to stay informed on what is going on in the election race and in politics in general so that when November 6 comes, we can all make the best informed decision on Election Day.

 

CNN is the go-to app for the latest news all over the world and the United States.

 

CNN

CNN in my opinion is one of the best news apps. It provides world and national coverage and news on everything else that matters, including politics, entertainment, money, health, and technology. During my studies of how certain news stations lean more toward the left or the right when it comes to media bias, CNN has been considered the more moderate choice over FOX News and MSNBC. This makes it the best source of news for everyone, no matter your political leaning. (REWORD section about during my studies). The CNN app also gives you the option to receive breaking news notifications on your phone, which is handy and not too frequent that it becomes bothersome.

 

Flipboard allows all of your favorite news feeds to come together in one app, with a nice flipping feature to flip through articles with your finger.

 

Flipboard

Flipboard is a great app if you don’t want to have a ton of news apps on your phone but you pull your news from various sources. It also displays your Twitter and Facebook feeds in a nice format that you can flip through with your finger, as do the other news feeds you can get on Flipboard. I installed Flipboard because sometimes CNN doesn’t offer different viewpoints and I like to see if there are news stories from other sources that CNN didn’t cover. It’s also a nice way to view blogs or tech news you follow, such as TUAW and Apple News. It also allows you to follow YouTube feeds, such as the latest YouTube trends and barelypolitical.

 

BuzzFeed is a great social news app for checking out original reporting, insight into the latest news, and the latest viral content on the Web.

 

BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is an interesting news feed I discovered over the summer. It features the latest web culture/viral news, from highlighting popular YouTube videos to the latest celebrity sightings. It also features a politics section with a mixture of serious and not so serious news, a “FWD” section that features the latest popular tech news and other interesting tech-related stories, and a few other pop culture news sections.

 

Pocket is the perfect solution for when you find an interesting article you don’t have time to read at the moment, but want to read it later.

 

 Pocket

Pocket is a very handy app that saves news articles for you. Don’t have time to read an article but want to read it later? Or you don’t want to forget an interesting article you just read that you want to share with a friend? Pocket is your solution. Some apps have a “Read Later” option built right in, while others let you e-mail the article to add@getpocket.com. You can also send an article to the Pocket app on your laptop via e-mail or a Pocket plug-in. Just refresh the Pocket app, and you can read those articles at a later time that suits you.

 

What are your favorite news apps that you check on a daily basis? Feel free to share them here and give feedback on the apps that I have mentioned, whether you use them or not and if there are similar apps that do the job better.

iOS 6: The best thing to come to the iPhone

In Wednesday’s post, I briefly mentioned iOS 6, the newest operating system on the iPhone. Well, after updating to iOS 6 Wednesday night and exploring the changes since, I thought I would review iOS 6 for those of you who have just updated to it, haven’t gotten around to updating to it yet, or for others who are debating getting an iPhone.

First of all, if you have an iPhone 4s, iPhone 4, or an iPhone 3GS, and haven’t updated to iOS 6 yet, I recommend you do it through iTunes on your computer. The update is fairly quick on the computer versus the slower speeds one may encounter by trying to update directly on their phone via a Wi-Fi network. All you have to do is make sure you update your iTunes to the latest version, restart your computer, hook up your phone adapter to your USB port to sync your phone and it will start the update process. The update shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes.

The first new feature I had heard about and checked out right away was the new Facebook integration. Right in your settings below Twitter will be the new Facebook settings option. From there, you can choose to have your Facebook events and birthdays integrated through your regular calendar app. Your Facebook friends’ birthdays will now appear in your notifications bar and within your calendar app, so you never forget a birthday.

The Facebook photo integration is one of the best new features, in my opinion. Before I bought my iPhone, I had an Android phone from the Samsung Galaxy line. It would let me upload my pictures directly from the picture itself. When I got my iPhone, I saw that I no longer had that option and was disappointed. Now, you can take a picture, go to the picture you want to upload, and upload that picture directly to Facebook from the options button. This is a feature that has probably been long-awaited on the iPhone. Another handy feature of the new Facebook integration is the new option to post a status directly from the pull-down notifications bar. You can also now send a tweet directly from the notifications bar.

 

This is the new options menu for photos, which now includes the option to upload photos directly to Facebook, instead of having to open the Facebook app and upload photos.

 

Another significant change in iOS 6 is the major improvements to Siri. Siri now can do a lot more things than she used to be able to do, including giving you sports scores, telling you who are the main actors in a movie, giving you movie showtimes and movie reviews, opening apps for you, and more. She also will post statuses to Facebook for you and send tweets to Twitter. Siri is still in the Beta stage, so she may not post what you want on the first try, as I have discovered. It took me three tries for her to accurately write what I wanted her to post on my Facebook. It helps if you speak slowly and loudly to ensure that she will correctly interpret what you want posted on hopefully the first try. Regardless, I find it pretty cool that Siri can now post Facebook statuses. She’s becoming a much better virtual assistant.

 

Siri now will give you reviews of a movie you are interested in seeing, which is very handy if you would rather not dig through your IMDb or Flixster apps to see if a movie is worth watching.

 

Another change worth mentioning that I have found handy is the new “Do Not Disturb” option in settings right above the notifications settings. Probably most of you leave your phone on at night after you make sure that it is turned on silent. But that still doesn’t stop your phone from lighting up in the middle of the night due to notifications. If you are like me, you have been almost asleep but you sense a light in the room and look over to see your phone lit up. You reach for your phone, wondering if someone texted you, when you should just be going to sleep and not worrying about your phone until you wake up.

You can now set “quiet hours” during which you do not want to be disturbed, such as from 1 a.m. until 9 a.m. Your phone will then not light up to notify you of any calls, missed texts or other notifications during that time. Also, if you are afraid of missing an important call from a family member, just make sure you have people whose calls you cannot afford to miss listed as favorites in your contacts. Then all you need to do is select the “Allow Calls From” option and set it for “Favorites.”

 

Thanks to the new “Do Not Disturb” option, I will no longer be bothered by my phone lighting up in the middle of the night, even if I forgot to put my phone on silent.

 

There are many more new changes in iOS 6, but the last important one I will highlight is the new “Reply With Message” option. We have probably all been in a situation where someone calls but we don’t have the time to talk and may have either let the call go to voicemail or declined the call. Now you can be more polite about it with the option to respond to the call with a simple text such as, “I’m busy right now, but I’ll call you back later.” You can also set a reminder right on the incoming call to remind yourself to actually call that person back, instead of forgetting to call them back.

 

These are the three default messages I have created to reply to an incoming call with if I am busy at the moment

For the list of the rest of the new iOS 6 features, go to http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/. If you have downloaded iOS 6, what are your favorite features? Where do you think there could still be room for improvement in the next iOS? Feel free to leave your comments!

The iPhone 4s vs. the iPhone 5: Is there going to be much difference?

The iPhone 5 in all its glory.

 

A lot of you may have already heard that the iPhone 5 will be officially released this Friday. As an owner of the previous iPhone model, the iPhone 4s, I wanted to compare the specs between the two phones to see how much better the iPhone 5 is actually.

I have had my iPhone 4s since about June and have loved its functionality ever since. It is the perfect size and has all the specifications I could want, from a very high-quality 8MP camera to Siri, my handy virtual assistant. When it comes to size, the iPhone 5 will be bigger than the iPhone 4s. It has a 4 inch screen versus the iPhone 4s’s 3.5 inch screen, which gives the home screen an extra row for app icons. I find the 3.5 inch screen to be the perfect size, and find the screen of a lot of Android phones, like the Samsung Galaxy SIII’s 4.8 inch screen, to be too large for a phone.

Another big difference is the size of the charger with the iPhone 5. It has a much smaller connector as opposed to the 30-pin connector on the iPhone 4s and iPhone 4. This becomes a problem with those of us who have iPhone charging accessories, such as battery packs and alarm clocks. I bought a digital alarm clock that gives me the option to charge my iPhone, which comes in handy when I just want to charge it faster and don’t need to use an outlet. Because of the new connector size to charge to the iPhone 5, alarm clocks like mine will become obsolete.

Other significant changes include an A6 chip versus the A5 chip in the iPhone 4s, which means the iPhone 5 will have faster processing speeds. The 4G LTE capability will be a greatly needed improvement for many in LTE-capable areas, but unfortunately makes no difference in my area with my Sprint carrier, along with many other suburb and rural areas.

Let’s look at the iOS 6, which was just released today and I will be updating to tonight. A lot of other new improvements to iOS 6 which will all be on the iPhone 5,  can easily be put on older models like the iPhone 4s, iPhone 4, and iPhone 3GS, thanks to the iPhone’s ability to easily update to the newest operating system. So Siri’s advanced capabilities will be available on older iPhone models, along with the many other new features, including Facebook integration, turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions, improvements to Safari, and many more changes. To see all of the changes in the update, you can go to http://www.apple.com/ios/whats-new/. To see a review of iOS 6, go to http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9231379/Apple_iOS_6_review_A_worthwhile_upgrade?taxonomyId=77.

So, if you are debating whether to wait for your two-year upgrade eligibility to buy a newer iPhone or will be a first time iPhone owner who is unsure about the expensive cost of $199, I would recommend either waiting until the iPhone 5’s price gets lowered next year or buy the iPhone 4s, which will only be $99 on contract. But if you are eligible for an upgrade soon or really want to get your hands on the new, shiny iPhone, by all means go for it and enjoy! To discover all the other changes found in the iPhone 5, go to http://www.apple.com/iphone/compare-iphones/.

See the official iPhone 5 trailer below to learn about all the new changes.

 

Do smartphones really act as extra limbs?

Welcome to my blog, where I will write about the great technology of smartphones. This blog will feature app reviews, commentary on the latest tech news, and my personal thoughts about the current and future state of the world of smartphones. I decided to write a blog about smartphone technology because I personally love reading articles and blogs featuring app reviews and the latest thoughts and news in the smartphone world. I believe that smartphones, and in my personal experience, the iPhone 4s, are one of the best inventions in this modern world of ever-changing technology.

A few days ago, I stumbled across an interesting article on CNN.com about how smartphones can make us “superhuman” by how much they help us live our lives, so much so to the point where they are almost like an extra limb, or a “phantom limb,” according to CNN writer John D. Sutter. The full article by Sutter called “How smartphones make us superhuman” can be found at http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/10/tech/mobile/our-mobile-society-intro-oms/index.html. This article is part of  “Our Mobile Society,” an ongoing series of tech-related articles that CNN.com will feature through October 7. “Our Mobile Society” can be found at http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/tech/our-mobile-society/index.html.

“This is the first time in the entire history of humanity that we’ve connected in this way,” Amber Case said in a 2010 TEDWomen lecture. Case is known as a “cyborg anthropologist.” “And it’s not that machines are taking over. It’s that they’re helping us to be more human,” Case continued to say. “They’re helping us to connect to each other. The most successful technology gets out of the way and helps us live our lives.” See Case’s speech at the 2010 TEDWomen lecture in the video below.

 

I very much agree with this statement by Case. I have heard people say that some people are addicted to their phones and that it is not healthy. But that is not true. Smartphones do help us live our lives, even though some people may view them as interfering with our lives. They can be lifesavers.

What if you don’t have the phone number of someone you are trying to get ahold of? If they are on your Facebook, you can easily send them a quick message on the go. Need information quick for a restaurant or store and you are nowhere near your computer or a phonebook? No problem. You can either Google the place or look it up in the White Pages or Yelp apps. In need of movie showtimes? There’s no need to look up the information in the newspaper or call the theater for showtimes. As long as you have Flixster or another movie showtimes and reviews app installed on your phone, you are all set.

Smartphones allow us to catch up on the news no matter where we are with the simple tap of our fingers, listen to our music collection on the go, check the weather when we are in a hurry, check our bank balances and that’s only the start of it. Smartphones have made some of the most time-consuming tasks a lot easier, which allows us to live our lives better.

Phones have become so cherished that an estimated 68 percent of phone owners keep them at their bedside as they sleep, according to the CNN article. I am one of the guilty 68 percent. Sometimes I fall asleep with the phone next to me on the bed after I’ve checked Facebook and the news before I go to sleep. Most of the time I have it on my desk right next to my bed because the alarm clock on it wakes me up better than my regular alarm clock. Then as soon as I wake up, I instantly check my phone for any missed texts and check Facebook and the news.

I don’t know what I would do without my iPhone. As a full-time graduate student with a part-time job, having my iPhone on me at all times is very helpful when I am on the go. I am no longer reliant on my laptop for most things and I can get in contact with people a lot faster via text, mail and Facebook.

As a graduate student, I often find myself multitasking with both my laptop and cell phone, with the aid of Starbucks. Even on the go, my smartphone is always extremely helpful and does often serve as a “phantom limb.”

A couple days after the CNN article was published, the writer wrote another article featuring some of the responses to his article, which ranged from “Smartphones also make us SuperStupid” to “Smartphones have created a generation of narcissistic snobs who think they know everything.” I feel comments like these are made by individuals who have never owned a smartphone and are possibly envious or by individuals quick to judge based on a few bad behaviors they have witnessed in others. Either way, smartphones are here to stay and they are the way of the future, in my opinion. To read this rebuttal article, go to http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/11/tech/mobile/smartphones-superstupid/?iref=obinsite.

What are your thoughts on smartphones and their potential in the present and future? Do you agree that smartphones are like a “phantom limb” that make us to an extent superhuman? I’d love to hear what you think, so feel free to leave a comment.