Cooking Dash 2016 (free) — While some may feel that the “Dash” series of time management games have begun to get a bit stale, it’s hard to deny that they can be pretty addictive for a lot of users, and as much as the style remains the same, the developers have done a pretty good job of keeping most of the new entries feeling pretty fresh and interesting. This latest instalment is no exception, as Flo moves on to a reality TV setting as a celebrity chef, moving through a variety of restaurant environments in front of a live studio audience. The play concept remains much the same as in previous versions, with the goal being to tap around the screen to make Flo pick up and prepare items in that are being requested by customers. In this case there’s a collection of a half-dozen ingredients that can be chopped, breaded, grilled, and/or fried in various configurations, as well as toppings and the classic coffee machine. Ingredients and equipment can be upgraded by spending in-game currency, and of course the game takes the “freemium” approach to encourage players to spend real money to expedite upgrades, although it’s still quite fun as a casual game without having to spend any money at all. A “prep kitchen” adds an extra dimension to the play, allowing you to unlock and create special recipes as you progress through the game that can attract VIPs to your counter to earn extra bonuses. If you’re a fan of this time management game genre, this one is most definitely worth a look and you’ll probably find it hard to put down.
Disney Gif (free) — When Apple announced support for third-party keyboards in iOS 8, Disney was certainly not anywhere on the list of developers we would have expected to come to the table, yet here they are with Disney Gif, a keyboard replacement for your iOS device with an official, licensed collection of animated Disney artwork. Of course the Disney classics are all here: Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and more, but there’s a nice additional bonus since Disney now owns the rights to Star Wars – you also get a collection of about two-dozen animated gifs of classic scenes covering everything from A New Hope to the modern animated features. A set of about three dozen GIFs from various ABC shows is also included, since of course that’s a Disney property too. Gifs are presented in the keyboard view and can be copied to the clipboard with a tap, and then pasted into a Messages conversation or email (or anywhere else that can take pasted graphics), or you can tap-and-hold to see a larger preview of any given image. If you’re into sending animated GIFs in your conversations, it’s a fun little app and the officially sanctioned content means that you’re getting proper, high-quality GIFs compared to many of the other solutions out there. The app itself is free, but of course Disney is selling premium content packs as in-app purchases for around $1 each, and although the selection is currently pretty limited (there are only two “Frozen” emoji packs as of this writing), it’s pretty likely it will be expanded in the future.
iTunes U (free) — Apple’s educational resource app gets a major 3.0 update, bringing with it tighter integration into the classroom environment. With this update, students can now submit homework assignments and annotate PDF assignments directly in the app. An integrated grade book has also been added for instructors to track student progress, and a new chat feature allows for one-on-one conversations between students and instructors. Assignments can also now include multiple attachments.
Swarm by Foursquare (free) — When Foursquare first debuted several years ago, many users found the game-like features of earning badges and “mayorships” for checking in at locations to be one of the more enjoyable and differentiating features of the app. Unfortunately, when Foursquare went through a major update last year and moved check-ins to the new Swarm app, the mayorship feature was diminished to a user’s own social circles, setting a lower bar by taking away much of the competitive edge. Foursquare has clearly listened to the feedback, as this latest update to Swarm brings back global mayorships, a feature that will please many hardcore fans of the service. Mayorships and other achievements can also be shared on Facebook or Twitter with a single tap for additional bragging rights.
Zipcar (free) — The popular car sharing service’s app gets a nice big update that sports a completely redesigned UI and adds support for the Apple Watch, so you can easily check on your car reservation or extend it on the go. The new design may be a bit jarring for regular users of the app, but it does follows the conventions being adopted by many other recent iOS app updates, replacing the bottom tab bar with a left-hand navigation drawer. The user’s Zipcard number is now shown at the top of the menu, and the map and list views have been integrated to help locate nearby cars more quickly. The app also supports switching between multiple accounts, adjusting search times from the results screen rather than having to initiate a whole new search, and accessing detailed location information directly from the pins on the map. Additional searching and filtering options have also been added, and you can even add upcoming reservations directly to your calendar.