Google Photos (free) — Perhaps the biggest news in apps this week is Google’s launch of its new Google Photos app, announced Thursday at the company’s Google IO conference. Google’s approach to managing photos has taken a strange route from the original Picasa acquisition to Google+ Photos — the latter move essentially saddling a pretty nice photo app with a social network that many users chose to eschew. However, with Google Photos it looks like the company has wisely decided to break out its photo management solution into a separate app and web service that brings the best of what was found in the Google+ implementation without requiring users to get at it through a social layer. Photos can be automatically imported and backed up from the camera roll on your iOS device, and what’s particularly great is that Google is providing unlimited storage of photos up to 16 megapixels in resolution and videos up to 1080p. While Google implies that photos may still be recompressed on upload, they won’t be scaled down unless they’re over these limits, so the “High Quality” option will likely be more than adequate for the vast majority of casual users. For purists and professional photographers who prefer original photos be stored, an option is available to do so, but it will use your Google Drive storage allotment, so you’ll need to pay for whatever storage you use over 15GB. The app also provides editing capabilities, so you can apply filters, adjust colors, and more, and Google has brought over its “auto-awesome” features debuted on Google+ Photos in the form of an Assistant that will provide the ability to automatically create montages, stories, collages, and animations, or you can just select a group of photos manually and build your own from there. Google also brings its search power to the cloud-based photo library, allowing you to ferret out your photos with ease — not only is text within images fully searchable, but Google can even index landmarks — for example, you can search for something like “Eiffel Tower” to pull up photos of your Paris trip, or even search for something like “food” to filter out your food spotting shots.
Korg iM1 ($20) — Nostalgic electronic music fans will have something to be absolutely thrilled about with Korg’s latest iPad app, which provides a faithful reproduction of the legendary Korg M1 music workstation. This is not merely a collection of sampled sound banks; to build this app, Korg used PCM data from the library of the original M1, and analyzed the circuit diagram of the original design, replicating it in the app, and even involved engineers from the original M1 design to tweak the app to get the sound of the original unit. Korg then added some newer high-tech developments appropriate to the modern era, including a KAOSS pad, the much-requested Filter Resonance feature from the original hardware, and an increase of up to 18 effects parts. The app also bundles in not only the core sounds of the M1, but with in-app purchases you can get all 19 of the original M1 ROM cards and the sounds of the M1EX and T-series. A “Smart Sound Browser” makes it easy to navigate through the library of more than 3,300 different sounds, and even provides a ranking based on how often other iM1 users around the world select them. MIDI compatibility allows you to use an external controller such as a keyboard, so your iPad can be leveraged as a sound module.
Moleskine Timepage ($5) — There have been numerous attempts over the years at challenging the standard design of calendar apps by doing something different, with varying levels of success. Now Moleskine throws its hat into the game with Timepage, an interesting new calendar app that presents your schedule as a continuous scrollable timeline, while integrating fluid gestures for navigation, as well as weather information for planning your day. Timepage provides natural language event input for easily scheduling events, and provides travel time support — a feature we haven’t seen much of at all outside of Apple’s own Calendar app — with time calculations not only for standard walking and driving directions, but also public transit, cycling, or hovercraft. A “Today in History” view is also provided when tapping on an empty day, providing interesting factoids.
AmpliTube/AmpliTube Free ($20 / Free) — IK Multimedia’s big update to its signature mobile guitar studio app takes sound quality to the next level with the same amp digital signal processing found in its desktop applications. Version 4.0 now also features more than 100 pieces of available stomps, cabinets, and mics, including 16 high-end studio mics added to the in-app purchase catalog. An optional new “Cab Room” feature has also been added that allows for 3D miking of cabinets by deploying two different microphones, and two FX channels can also be added after the amp to provide even more sonic configurations. The update also now provides greater consistency across all versions of the app, with complete project compatibility between the iPhone and iPad versions of the app, as well as a new UI to simplify browsing through available in-app purchases, and an improved design aesthetic that brings the app more in line with iOS 8.
Inbox by Gmail (free) — Originally debuting last fall as an invite-only beta for Gmail users, and then gradually rolled out to Google for Work organizations, Google announced today at its IO conference that its Inbox for Gmail app is now available to everyone. Google for Work users will still need their administrators to enable it, but invitations are no longer otherwise required to use the app or the web-based service. Along with this announcement, the latest update to Inbox for Gmail on iOS adds a new Trip Bundles feature to keep all of the emails for a particular trip together in a single bundle, new settings to swipe-to-delete and set signatures, and an Undo Send feature to take back a message a few seconds after hitting the “Send” button in case you change your mind.
Pixelmator for iPhone ($5) — We were impressed with Pixelmator’s arrival on the iPad last fall, providing a desktop-caliber photo editing solution that felt right at home on the iPad. While iPhone users were initially left out of the fun, that’s now been rectified with this latest update that turns Pixelmator into a universal app; if you’ve already bought the iPad version, this update can now be downloaded and installed onto your iPhone, providing the same powerful capabilities in the palm of your hand. The update also adds a Metal-powered Distort tool for pinching, bumping, twirling and warping areas of your images, a Clone tool that lets you duplicate areas of your image, and a Repair Selection feature to instantly repair selected areas. This is accompanied by a huge list of other improvements and fixes.