FireChat is a new free app from Open Garden that lets users send messages to other nearby users without an Internet connection or mobile coverage, using iOS 7’s Multipeer Connectivity Framework to link users together. Users can see what FireChat users everywhere are talking about, or they have the option of creating conversations for just nearby users. The nearby chat function works best within 30 feet and may be ideal for events or private conversations between friends in a larger group. FireChat has limitations — it’s not possible to create private conversations, for one thing — but it’s an interesting idea with lots of potential.
Google’s new Photowall for Chromecast is a free photo app described as a “Chrome Experiment.” Photowall lets users send photos from phones or tablets to a TV using Chromecast. The app takes users to a browser, where they can add pics one at a time. Anyone can participate using the provided link and code to make a live scrapbook of sorts. After the Photowall is finished, the app auto-generates a YouTube video of the experience. Google has some kinks to work out with the concept, but it’s a cool addition for Chromecast users.
Second Canvas Museo del Prado ($4) by Museo Nacional del Prado is a genuinely exciting app for art aficionados — a collection of 14 famous paintings found in one of Spain’s most famous museums, each rendered using “Gigapixel” (minimum 1 billion pixels) photography. In addition to giving users the ability to zoom in on the finest details of paintings by Rembrant, Raphael, El Greco and others, Second Canvas includes brief audio narration, text discussions, and location maps for each painting, plus non-Gigapixel images of over 60 other paintings that help to explain the others. While the Second Canvas app can be used at the museum to study the works in detail, the renditions of the paintings are so impressive that they can be enjoyed at home or elsewhere, as well. Interestingly, the Museo del Prado’s version of The Mona Lisa — a copy of the original attributed to da Vinci’s workshop — is sold as a $1 in-app purchase rather than included with the rest, a sign of the value the museum places on that particular work’s enduring mysteries.
The official Starbucks (free) app got a major update in version 3.0, and has since updated to version 3.1 with bug fixes and improvements. Redesigned for iOS 7, the Starbucks app now features a simplified view giving users easy access to paying with a Starbucks Card, checking rewards, locating stores, and giving Starbucks gifts. A messages section offers free app and song downloads and Starbucks deals.