Enter the mix with Ninja Jamm

Ninja Jamm is a new iOS app from record label Ninja Tune. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.

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Ninja Jamm is a music-remixing app that allows its users to take a selection of Ninja Tune tracks and albums and play around with them to create their own custom mixes. These mixes can then be uploaded to Soundcloud to be shared with the world — and in the meantime, Ninja Tune and its artists are getting some extra promotion from fans.

Ninja Jamm is a fairly complicated application, so it opens with a straightforward, clear tutorial walking users through all elements of the interface. Essentially, remixing a track involves triggering various loops and different times and then applying various effects over the top. This is achieved in a variety of different ways.

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Keep your friends close with Socialite

IMG_2353Socialite for Facebook is a new iOS app from independent developer Bryce Satterfield. It’s available now as a free download from the Apple App Store, and also has an optional, separately-sold Pro version available that removes ads.

Socialite’s core concept is to provide an app that allows users to reconnect with one another based on their location as listed on Facebook. In order to use the app, the user must first provide their “home” location via GPS and optionally their phone number, then connect with Facebook. Once this is done, the user is then able to browse their list of friends according to geographical proximity and then interact with them accordingly.

When browsing the app’s “Friends Near Me” list, the user may view their friends either in a list sorted by proximity or on a map showing their current (or last checked-into) location. From either the list or the map, the user may tap on a friend to view a summary of their profile, which includes their Facebook profile picture, their name and their current location. From this page, it’s possible to view the friend’s Facebook profile (an option which switches to the dedicated Facebook app rather than viewing it within the Socialite app), send them a message either via Socialite (if the friend has it installed) or their Facebook profile, call them (if they have signed up to Socialite and provided their phone number) or “nudge” them. “Nudging” Socialite users provides an immediate notification; “nudging” non-Socialite users sends them a Timeline post informing them that you are in the area.

The app can be set up to automatically notify the user when their friends are within a certain distance of them. This facility can be customized — by default, the user must be 100 miles or more away from their defined “home area” before they will receive notifications of friends being nearby, and notifications will be received if friends are within a 50-mile radius. These distances may be relatively “small” for larger countries such as the U.S., but in smaller countries with smaller urban areas (such as the U.K.) the minimum distance of 50 miles is actually a significant way away — by several towns or cities in many cases. It would perhaps be more practical to have had the facility to see when other users are in the same town, or within 5-10 miles rather than 50.

This issue aside, Socialite has the potential to be mildly useful. Because it’s based on Facebook check-ins and location information rather than third-party services such as Foursquare, it’s a good means of easily keeping tabs on friends in the area. The fact it uses Facebook also means that it isn’t reliant on its own proprietary network — in fact, it’s not really all that clear why Socialite even has its own proprietary network, since all the features the app offers (sending messages, calling, nudging/poking) are already present in Facebook.

The app is free but ad-supported, with inconspicuous banner ads on the app’s main menu. The aforementioned “pro” version removes ads for $1.99 and claims to offer “additional perks,” but doesn’t elaborate on what these might be in the App Store description. At present, the ads are unobtrusive enough and the app isn’t fully-featured enough to justify a $1.99 price point. The developer should perhaps consider implementing the removal of ads via in-app purchase rather than an unnecessary separate download.

Socialite has some potential but doesn’t really do very much at present. This is fine for the free incarnation, but those paying for the app will probably expect a little more for their money. The app itself is certainly well-presented and intuitive to use — it’s just a little limited for now.

You can follow Socialite’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.

Enjoy the forecast with Beautiful Weather

Beautiful Weather is an iOS app from the company of the same name. It’s available now as separate free downloads from the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and carries optional in-app purchases to unlock “premium” features.

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As the name implies, Beautiful Weather is an app that aims to provide an aesthetically-pleasing look at the upcoming weather in the user’s current location or in various locations around the globe. The app’s App Store page implies that there is a focus on the U.K. and Ireland, but the app is capable of retrieving weather information from all over the world.

Upon starting the app, the user is given a brief tour of the complete interface, beginning with the daily forecast, which displays basic information for the user’s current location. Like most other weather apps, additional locations may be added and swiped between for comparison. Beautiful Weather immediately distinguishes itself from your average weather app with its high-quality Retina display graphics and soothing background music that adapts to the time of day and current conditions.

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Track your favorite artists with Songkick Concerts

IMG_2398Songkick Concerts is an iOS app from the company of the same name. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with no additional in-app purchases. The app has been available since June of 2011, but the recently-released version 2.0 is a significant update based on user feedback, and is currently featured in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store front page. An Android version is also available, but this has not yet been updated to the new version.

Songkick is an app and Web service that allows its users to find when their favorite artists are next performing nearby. The app does this via a two-step process: firstly, it scans the device’s music library (including the user’s entire iTunes library if they are an iTunes Match subscriber) and automatically “tracks” all of the artists present under the (possibly fallacious) assumption that if the user owns music by someone, they must like them. Secondly, the user’s current location is used to determine their nearest venues. Unfortunately, during testing, the automatic location finder failed to find any local venues in my specific district, but manually widening the search to the whole city’s name did work. Using the manual search function, it’s possible to add multiple locations to be tracked.

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Display your photos with Pictures Collage

IMG_2389Pictures Collage (or, to give it its full name, “Pictures Collage — blender your multiple photos to one image”) is a new iOS app from AppsDoctor (listed as “Maggie Q” on the iTunes Store page). It’s available now as a free download with an optional in-app purchase to upgrade to a “Pro” version. The app doesn’t make it particularly clear what the benefits of upgrading to “Pro” are, but presumably it removes the obtrusive pop-up ads that occasionally appear while using the app.

Pictures Collage is, as the name suggests, an app which allows users to create collages of their favorite photos. Unlike many other photo collage apps, however, which tend to simply provide a variety of different frames into which users may insert a few photos, Pictures Collage allows the freedom for users to lay out and display their photos as they please, moving, rotating and resizing them around the page and editing them in various ways.

Pictures Collage makes use of a simple, minimalist interface. Only four buttons are visible on screen initially — the button in the top left provides access to frames, effects and editing tools; the button in the lower left displays a help screen; the button in the lower middle allows access to the camera, photo library and the ability to add text boxes to the collage; and finally, a “cloud” button in the lower right provides access to sharing services. There is also a button simply marked “Photo Collage” in the upper-middle of the screen, but this takes users to the App Store page for a seemingly-unrelated app by a different developer.

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Oogababy brings baby photos into the 21st century

mzl.exqmkswi.320x480-75Oogababy is a new iOS app from the company of the same name. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with no additional in-app purchases.

Oogababy is the latest in a line of specialist apps to allow parents the ability to create a private social network centered around the growth of their children. Beginning by inputting the data for their first child — regardless of whether or not it has been born yet — parents (or prospective parents) can then make use of the app to record various “moments” and “milestones” in their child’s life and share these things with family and friends.

The main part of the Oogababy app is split into three main components. Firstly, the Oogaboard allows users to view information on any or all of the children the user has recorded with the service, including their name, sex, date of birth, star sign, number of moments recorded and recent memories. The Oogaboard also offers an age calculator and milestone tracker, but these must be “unlocked” before they can be used — the age tracker unlocks after two “moments” have been shared, and the milestone tracker unlocks after two friends have been invited. Neither of these objectives are particularly difficult to accomplish and will likely prove to be one means to recruit additional users, but locking features like this feels a little unnecessary.

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Hear the news with Umano

IMG_2380Umano is a new iOS and Android app from the SoThree, Inc. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store and Google Play, and carries no additional in-app purchases.

Umano is an audio-centric app that pulls in news from a variety of sources and then allows the user to listen to these articles read by professional voice actors rather than relying on text-to-speech systems. Content covers a wide variety of categories and the app essentially allows users to build their own audio news shows either for streaming online or listening to offline.

Using Umano requires either signing up for a proprietary account or signing in using Facebook. This step is necessary as the Umano service keeps track of which articles the user has listened to as well as their “likes” and personalized playlists. The service’s core principle of allowing users to listen to the news would probably work just fine without the need for a user account, but by featuring one it allows users to personalize their experience as well as share interesting content with their friends. App Store reviewers, who are sometimes hesitant to sign up for accounts for services that do not necessarily “need” them, do not appear to have responded negatively to the need to sign in, which is a positive sign.

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Make your images ‘pop’ with PopAGraph

IMG_2370PopAGraph is a new iOS app from Flambe Studios. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with additional in-app purchases available to unlock “premium” features. It’s currently highlighted in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store front page.

PopAGraph is a photo processing app that aims to distinguish itself from the many Instagram wannabes out there through one key feature: selective processing through masking, allowing users to pick out a specific part of an image and make it “pop” out of the page through various methods.

Using PopAGraph requires that users load an image from their device’s photo library to start — there’s no camera function in the app itself. Once an image has been loaded it can either be cropped to 1:1 square proportions suitable for sharing on sites such as Instagram, or kept in its original format. After this, the user is invited to create the “mask” for their image — a process which isn’t explained particularly well to those who aren’t overly familiar with this method of selective image processing. Essentially, the user must paint over or around the object or other element they would like to “pop” out of the page. An optional “Lift” function automatically fine-tunes the mask to the detected edges of the object, so there is no need to be overly accurate — the edge detection method is pretty good, if a little slow to process.

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Create a personalized radio station with We7

IMG_2366We7 is a mobile app from the company of the same name, which is a subsidiary of U.K. grocery store giant Tesco PLC. The app is currently available as a free download for both iOS and Android devices, though it appears it is only available in selected territories at the time of writing, presumably due to licensing constraints. This review is based on the iOS version.

We7 is a simple free music-streaming app designed around the principles of creating a custom “station” based on the user’s own tastes. In many respects, it is similar to Last.FM, but lacks an attached social network and instead focuses purely on the music.

In order to use We7, users must first create an account or sign in. This can be done quickly and easily via Facebook Connect — somewhat clumsily implemented here via a pop-up window rather than a call to the native app — or alternatively the user may sign up for a proprietary account by providing some minimal personal information. Either way, once into the app proper, the user is presented with a wide selection of music to listen to. A “miniplayer” bar at the bottom of the screen cycles around popular tracks and can be set playing at any point, while two pages of “stations” (organized according to what is popular and by “theme”) allow the user to jump straight in to a mix of their choice.

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Manage your social life with Ketchup

mzl.esjkjhmk.320x480-75Ketchup is a new iOS app from Reddyset LLC, also available as a Web-based service. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries no additional in-app purchases.

Ketchup is an app designed to help people manage their “real world” social lives and encourage friends to hold each other to their promises. Essentially, it is a means through which friends can indicate which activities they might be interested in participating in, and inviting others to join them. Using the app, they can arrange meetups for various purposes and record how often they have managed to keep up with various members of their social circle.

Using Ketchup requires a Facebook account to quickly and easily retrieve the user’s friends list. Reddyset may wish to consider implementing some sort of proprietary account system at some point, as App Store reviewers in certain territories — most notably the U.K. — tend to react negatively towards social apps that do not offer any options other than Facebook to sign in. The benefits of using Facebook Connect are obvious — quick and easy registration and the ability to access a friends list that is already in place rather than having to create a new one — but some users prefer to keep their third-party apps away from the social network’s prying eyes, and others still don’t have a Facebook account at all.

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