Three Quick App Reviews


As this holiday season reaches its crescendo, thousands of iOS developers worldwide are releasing new applications in hopes that their work will be recognized and appreciated by hundreds of thousands of new iPad or iPhone gift recipients. This post takes a brief look at some of the latest diversity of app releases available today: an app for your health, for your time and for your leisure.
Fitness Coach
This inexpensive universal app developed by Korean-based everTHINK contains an exercise library with over 330 videos, covering lower to upper body strength training and endurance routines. Weight and measurement metrics can be manually recorded and tracked for a somewhat loose interpretation performance analysis and increased fitness over time. For example, if your chest is growing in size while your waistline is shrinking, it's likely that your physical fitness is improving. Fitness Coach also includes a built-in calendar to plan your workout schedules.
Fitness Coach
Some of the English translations in the text is suspect but adequate overall. Beyond the exercise reference videos and the workout calendar, there's not much else to the app. everTHINK doesn't offer online progress tracking, heart rate monitoring, diet/caloric intake facility or other enhancements with the program. But for what it offers for both iPhone and iPad users at the price, those interested in firming up and trimming down after all those holiday meals will find Fitness Coach to be a useful reference and digital wellness motivator.
Developer: everTHINK
Price: $1.99
Rating: 4/5 stars
Wake Smarter
Developer Crop Duster Media has created an application for busy non-Siri-enabled iPad and iPhone owners who prefer to *tell* their devices what time they need to wake up. They also want to have the news of the world and the current weather forecast read to them. And they also want to tell their devices what songs to play.
Using the SemVox speech recognition and playback engine, Wake Smarter accomplishes all these things somewhat well. Speech vocabulary is limited to just a handful of discrete commands - this is no Siri after all. But for those iPad and iPhone owners who have no plans on obtaining an iPhone 4S, it's a glimpse of what Siri-enabled devices have to offer.
Essentially, Wake Smarter is an alarm clock that can be set via voice instead of touching controls on the screen. It is also a sleep timer that can be queued up with music to fall asleep to. Wake Smarter is also a text-to-speech RSS reader, a spoken interface to the onboard iTunes playlists, and a weather forecast agent that translates text weather reports downloaded from the web into spoken word. This Swiss Army knife of a program can convert text-based Twitter tweets and Facebook posts into speech as well.
It's $2.99 asking price is reasonable considering that the developer is also probably spending a decent portion of that revenue on the embedded SemVox library license. And since legacy iPhone and iPad/iPad2 owners may never see Siri on their devices, Wake Smarter is the closest spoken word interaction they might have with their devices. And even after the speech recognition novelty wears off, the app still remains a useful alarm clock that is at least as good as competing programs that cost the same without Wake Smarter's built-in speech recognition feature.
Price: $2.99
Rating: 4/5 stars
Snowboard Hero
Fans of popular console-based snowboarding video games, like EA's SSX series, will find Snowboard Hero an adequate placeholder until a more hardcore snowboarding title comes along. The graphics are acceptable, though a bit lower on the polygon count that I'm used to in these high speed race titles. The number of special moves is also constrained, as are the variety of outfits and equipment. Nevertheless, it's an acceptable microcosm of the snowboarding titles found on the big consoles.
What is becoming the norm of iOS game titles is the inclusion of in-app upgrades. Snowboard Hero is no different with its encouragement to purchase credits that can be applied to a variety of outfits, snowboards, skills and the like. 
Snowboard Hero
The game applies the standard race course plus special moves objectives. Using the iPhone or iPad's build-in motion sensors (Snowboard Hero is a universal app that scales appropriately for either the iPhone or iPad hardware), direction is easy to control. Speed boosts can be initiated with a finger flick, as can the special moves and point-grabbing tricks. For snowboarding enthusiasts and fans of those games, Snowboard Hero is a fun virtual winter excursion at the right price.
Developer: FISHLABS
Price: $2.99 + in-app credit purchases
Rating: 4/5 stars
With so many new products in the App Store these days, it's getting more challenging to separate the digital wheat from the chaff. The three apps featured in this post represent at least some of the wheat that has made its way to the App Store this holiday season!
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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.