Welcome to the first part of a special rapid-fire edition of iPhone + iPad Gems! This week, we’re taking quick looks at a collection of 14 apps, most of which are new, along with a handful of iPad-specific updates to titles we’ve previously covered. Most of the apps are universal, but a handful are iPad-exclusive as noted below.
Our top picks from this batch are CollabraCam, Converter Touch HD, and Craigslist Pro for iPad. Read on for all the details.
CollabraCam ($6, version 1.0.1) by Apptopus is the most ambitious of the titles we’re spotlighting today—a highly impressive collaborative recording solution that enables iPad 2s, iPhone 4s, and iPod touch 4Gs to work together to shoot videos. So long as they’re on the same Wi-Fi network, one device serves as a director, monitoring the rest and sending them commands from a list of 10 choices: the director can tell any of the four cameras to pan left or right, track left or right, dolly in or out, tilt up or down, or change to a high or low angle. The command flashes on the iOS device’s screen, providing a silent cue whenever a change is needed. What’s amazing here is seeing one iOS device simultaneously monitoring the live camera output from the others, operating on only a one- or two-second delay—apart from the lack of an iPad-specific interface, it’s just plain amazing. Cameras are limited to turning their flashes on or off—if they have them—and seeing signals as to whether they’re recording or not.
There’s only one major issue that will bug some users: video output is limited to a maximum resolution of 640×480, and there’s a “record one at a time” rule, so as a result, the director is able to choose which of up to four simultaneous 640×480 streams to record at once—not fantastic given that most of the iOS devices are capable of recording 1280×720 videos, but not bad given how CollabraCam works. The director’s device handles all of the recording, saving each camera’s segments of the video separately. You can then do a rough mix of all of their parts natively, enabling you to either screen the “completed” footage end to end, or bring the videos into a better editing program. While the end result isn’t going to be pro-grade, shooting better-than-SD-quality videos using multiple cameras has never been so easy, and for $6, this tool unquestionably belongs in any budding director’s arsenal. iLounge Rating: A-.
Converter Touch HD – Fastest Unit Converter ($1, version 1.0.3) by HandyPadSoft is a seriously well-designed unit conversion utility that’s solely for iPads, and unlike similar apps we’ve tried for the iPhone and iPod touch. Skinned with what looks like a matte plastic texture, the screen is divided into three portions: a large display of the numbers being converted, a scrolling bar of 18 different measures—currency, area, force, pressure—and a collection of buttons that change contextually based on the measure chosen above. Pick your measure, touch and drag the unit buttons you want up onto the numbers above, and then tap one of the numbers to pull up a calculator. It’s incredibly efficient, attractively presented, and powerful—like Tapbots’ ConvertBot, minus the animations. It’s now our unit converter of choice for the iPad. iLounge Rating: A-.
Craigslist Pro for iPad ($2, version 2.91) by Escargot Studios does something that’s not easy in today’s world: it actually presents a web site’s content in such a considerably better fashion than the site itself that you’ll wonder why people accept the original. Admittedly, the Craigslist classified ads web site is almost deliberately dowdy, its text-heavy layout serving as a throwback to the newspaper ad pages it replaced, but Craigslist Pro tosses the site’s UI and limitations away: you’re able to search listings from multiple cities at once, use filters to improve your search results, and see photographically heavy results pages rather than just text descriptions. Posting capabilities are included, too, making this a comprehensive alternative to using the site’s classified section; all that’s missing is support for Craiglist’s Discussion Forums. It wouldn’t be a shock to see those appear here too in the future, and better, besides. A separate version is offered for the iPod and iPhone. iLounge Rating: A-.
Due – Super Fast Reminders, Reusable Egg Timers ($5, version 1.5) from Phocus is a universal iPhone/iPod touch/iPad application with an interface that was primarily designed for smaller screens. The concept: offer users a streamlined set of alarms and timers that can be programmed to go off or repeat on whatever schedule you prefer. Timers are simple second, minute, and hour countdowns that can be turned on or off individually, sounding one of a collection of noises when they’re complete. Reminders are traditional alarms complete with brief text details; you can set each with unique snooze settings, repeat them daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly starting on a date you prefer, and set the initial start time for minutes, hours or days. Completed reminders go into a logbook for later review or repetition as you prefer. While these alarms are built better and offer more customization than Apple’s—along with all sorts of other neat iOS integrations such as badges, and workarounds such as the use of Dropbox for syncing alarms, Due is a bit too expensive given what $5 can buy elsewhere in the App Store. Built into iOS devices, Due would be awesome; as-is, it’s a luxury relative to Apple’s Clock application, and one that will appeal primarily to a very time-obsessed audience. iLounge Rating: B.
Hitpad – See What’s Up (Free, version 1.3) is yet another smart option in the ever-increasing array of alternate news-gathering tools that have popped up for the iPad. Here, trending news topics are presented as a bar on the side of the screen—filtered into nine categories—with each topic serving as a launching point to aggregate five feeds: related Google news links, Tweets, Google videos, Bing-selected web results, and Google images. Tap on Apple Store and you’ll see that people are discussing the latest rumors about a special Store event, along with all sorts of additional links outwards to discussions and media on related topics. While Hitpad’s streams aren’t individually sorted with the type of AI that would focus the feed results on the actual reasons the topics are trending, they provide a quick and handy way to learn what people are talking about, and quickly find more. Small tweaks to tighten the UI and improve the value of the returned results would make this good, free app great. iLounge Rating: B+.
iWatermark by Plum Amazing Software ($1, version 3.0) is the iOS version of a tool we’ve been using on Macs for years now—a quick and easy way to add a text or graphic watermark to an image. On a positive note, iWatermark includes a large collection of fonts for the text watermarking, allowing you to swipe your way to a position, pinch to rotate and zoom, and use menus to set the opacity and color of the text. Graphic marks include a collection of decent presets, an self-supplied image, auto-generated QR Code, or even a signature you can “scan” by taking a snapshot with the device’s integrated camera. Any mark you create can be kept in a rolling menu for later use, too. But unlike the Mac iWatermark, there’s no batch processing feature, fonts are limited at most to bold or italic versions—sometimes not even those—and the UI is sparing, clearly designed more for the iPhone and iPod touch than the iPad. This is a good start, and the price is great, but iWatermark could benefit from features to increase its powers. iLounge Rating: B.