Carousel (free) — We were intrigued by Dropbox’s photo gallery app when it first debuted last spring, finding it an interesting spin on photo management for users who preferred to keep and sync everything in file-based cloud storage. While the first cut of the app was fairly basic, a series of updates have brought it into its own as a viable alternative to Apple’s own iCloud Photo Library. Carousel 1.8 takes some big strides in this direction, adding support for organizing photos into albums that can be shared and viewed via Dropbox.com, a new “Flashback” feature that highlights photos from years gone by, and a “Free Up Space” feature that lets you easily remove photos from your Camera Roll that have been backed up to Dropbox when you’re running low on storage space on your iPhone. The app also gets some UI design changes, with the Time Wheel scroller now sliding in from the right-hand side rather than being ever-present at the bottom of the gallery view.
Fleksy Keyboard ($1) — With the addition of long-awaited support for custom keyboards in iOS 8 has come a plethora of options all competing to be the keyboard of choice on users’ iPhones and other iOS devices. Fleksy has remained one of the leading options, morphing from a standalone app into a system-wide keyboard, and then aggressively adding new features. Version 5.0 adds a whole new dimension to Fleksy with support for even further customization through extensions and cool new themes. Extensions now provide users with “plug-in” features such as GIF keyboard support, an extra numbers row, one-handed mode, and much more, allowing users to build Fleksy to their own needs without adding needless bloat to the app. A whole new set of theme packs are also available, including branded options, and are now packaged into individual groupings that can be bought via in-app-purchases for between $1 and $3.
Modern Combat 5: Blackout ($4) — A major Christmas update to the fifth installment in the classic FPS series for iOS devices gets you into the holiday spirit with holiday jingles, seasonal masks, blizzard effects, and Christmas decorations throughout. At the core, the update also adds new multiplayer features on the two classic Scramble and Overtime Modern Combat maps, Squad Battle rematches, and multiplayer leagues. New class skills have been added for supporting nearby allies, and the level cap has been increased to 120. Additional new content has been added in the form of masks, kill signs, and weapons, and a new iOS 8 Today Extension lets you check your status and rank right from the iOS Notification Center.
Workflow ($3) — Mac users familiar with OS X’s Automator app will appreciate what this powerful new iOS automation app brings to the table, ultimately allowing a series of processes to be created that you may not have even thought possible on the iOS platform. You can create “workflows” through very straightforward drag-and-drop composing from a collection of over 100 actions that can be used as building blocks, even integrating with third-party apps and services such as iCloud, Dropbox, and Evernote. A set of sample workflows are included to get you started, showcasing features such as building animated GIFs from a series of photos, building PDFs from Safari, and getting one-tap directions to the nearest coffee shop. Workflow even provides iOS 8 style share sheet support, so you can kick off workflows from just about any app that supports sharing. In short, Workflow adds an incredible level of flexibility and options for iOS power users who may have felt constrained by iOS’ limitations in the past.
Shazam (free) — Another pretty big update to the venerable music discovery app, version 8.2 focuses on making the app more intuitive and easy to use, with a reworked home screen that provides quick access to the artists you’ve Shazamed, latest Shazam charts, and Shazam updates from your friends via Facebook. A new “Play All” button has also been added that provides the ability to listen to full playlists anywhere across Shazam, and you can more quickly rate tracks in the new in-app player, swiping left or right to either save a track to your “My Shazam” list or skip it. Users can also now connect to their Spotify or Rdio accounts to listen to full versions of Shazam tracks, and even add tracks to Spotify playlists right from Shazam.
SimCity BuildIt (free) — Originally debuting as a limited pre-release, EA’s freemium take on the classic city-building game is now available worldwide. Build up your small town into a sprawling metropolis by managing supply chains to produce the raw materials and finished goods that you need to construct residential buildings and develop them from trailer parks to sprawling luxury condos. You’ll also need to provide city services to keep your sims happy, ranging from meeting basic needs such as power, water, fire, and police coverage, to providing optional parks, transportation and education services, and diversions such as gambling, entertainment and landmarks. Of course, in true SimCity fashion, disasters are in here too, in a slightly new form that allows you to earn bonuses for successfully cleaning up and rebuilding after you’ve unleashed a meteor strike or alien invasion on your city. While SimCity BuildIt employs a typically “freemium” model, gently encouraging you to advance via in-app purchases, we’ve found that it’s actually one of the better freemium games in terms of its ability to enjoy without feeling the need – or even temptation – to spend a cent.