Directr is a new iOS app from the company of the same name. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries no additional in-app purchases.
Directr is a social movie-making app that promises to help users make their home movies look more “professional.” It goes about this by providing a series of storyboard templates into which users may insert their own clips, and then the hard work of editing, adding music and titles is taken care of for the user. No knowledge of digital video editing is required, and the end results look surprisingly good — though they do tend to be festooned with the Directr logo, making it abundantly clear that the finished product was not entirely the work of the user’s own abilities.
Using Directr is very simple. Upon creating a new movie, users may either choose to start from a blank storyboard, or use one of the many available templates. Some of these simply include space for clips of a specific length plus a soundtrack, others include licensed content. One notable example includes footage from the movie “Jurassic Park,” into which users may cut their own custom videos that replace the first appearance of the dinosaurs to the main characters. Each storyboard template includes an “inspiration” video that shows an example of how it might be used, and many allow users to include captions or other text. The app also allows users to shoot multiple “takes” of each scene on the storyboard and then pick the best one to incorporate into their finished movie. Users may also import pre-existing video from their device’s photo library rather than shooting “live” if they prefer.
GuardianWitness is a new iOS app developed as a partnership between the publishers of the prominent British news periodical The Guardian and the telecommunications company Everything Everywhere, aka EE. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store.
The GuardianWitness app supports the web service of the same name, which is a social-powered news platform that offers aspiring photojournalists the opportunity to have their videos, photos and stories featured on the main Guardian site. The service regularly posts “assignments” and invites members to contribute relevant content before a specific deadline, after which the “best” content will be hand-picked and published on the main Guardian site.
Using the GuardianWitness app is simple. After signing in using Twitter, Facebook or a proprietary The Guardian account, the user is taken to the main “Browse” screen, which outlines the currently-running assignments. From here, it’s possible to see at a glance how many contributions each assignment has seen, the types of submissions that are accepted (photo, video and/or text) and how many days are left before the deadline expires. Tapping on an assignment’s title takes the user to a page of further information that provides a short blurb — often containing hyperlinks to The Guardian’s main site — and the button that allows a contribution to be submitted. The hyperlinks used prompt the user to open Safari every time rather than making use of an in-app browser solution — this is unnecessarily clumsy and could perhaps be refined a little.
Vu is a new iOS app from the developer of the same name. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries no additional in-app purchases.
Since Google announced that it would be closing down its Google Reader service on July 1, there has been a sudden surge in interest of apps and services that allow users to follow and consume Web-based content in an organized manner — preferably while maintaining the high level of customization that Google Reader offered. While dedicated RSS readers other than Google Reader seem to have fallen somewhat out of fashion in recent years, particularly among younger users, an area that has seen strong growth recently is that of news apps that “learn” from the reader’s tastes and allow them to fine-tune the content that is automatically served up to them. Just recently, we’ve seen the former “social browser” Rockmelt completely reinvent itself as such a platform, and there are numerous other examples, such as the popular “magazine-style” app Flipboard, that have been around for a while now. Vu is coming into an increasingly crowded market, then, but it attempts to distinguish itself from its rivals in a few ways.
Upon starting Vu for the first time, users may immediately begin browsing content, but in order to get the most out of the app they’ll need an account, as this allows them to “react” to stories and help the service learn about their tastes. Once that is taken care of, the user is taken to the main menu screen, which is arranged in a “card catalog” style a little like Evernote’s most recent updates. The available tabs include “Recommended Reading,” which includes stories selected by the Vu team; “Trending on Vu,” which shows stories that are proving of interest to the community, and “My Topics,” which allows users to browse content in a variety of broad topic areas. These topics are not very specific and do not appear to be customizable or removable — though the user may alter the order in which they appear by dragging them up and down in the list.
Photo Infinity Essentialz is a new iOS app from iSalam. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store in a limited form, with additional in-app purchases required to unlock its full functionality.
Photo Infinity Essentialz is a simple photo editing tool that allows users to import images from a variety of different sources and then process them with a selection of adjustable filters. Photos may be imported from the device’s photo library, Flickr, Picasa, Facebook, Google Images or via Bluetooth, or they may be taken then and there with the device’s camera. Once an image has been loaded, a single filter may be applied before sharing to Picasa, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, the camera roll, Bluetooth or email. In order to apply more than one filter at a time (or share to Facebook, oddly) in-app purchases are required.
Applying a filter is a simple matter of selecting it from a bar at the top of the screen to apply it, then sliding your finger up and down on the screen to adjust how powerful the effect is. There are a variety of filters available, including a selection of basic adjustments (brightness, contrast, hue, saturation and sharpness), cross-processing, embossing and “artistic” effects such as blur, oil paint, dithering, halftones and pixellation. There are also a series of “one time” non-adjustable effects including adding watermarks, equalizing, finding edges, inverting the colors or despeckling the image.
Spontly 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.
Spontly is a location-aware mobile social app that allows users to “check in” to events and then post photos and messages to that event’s dedicated feed. In this way, it can be used both by people at the event to interact with one another and perhaps see who else is present, and for those who missed out to see some pictures and thoughts from the event. It can also be used by event organizers to help promote their event, to post details that attendees might have missed, and also to get some real-time feedback on how the event is going.
Spontly requires a Facebook account to use, which will probably make it unpopular in territories where App Store reviewers have historically been resistant to Facebook-only social apps such as the U.K. The app does not use anything more than the user’s basic information and their birthdate, however, and as with other Facebook apps it is up-front about the permissions it requires. It would, however, perhaps be to the app’s benefit for the developer to provide a non-Facebook option not only for those who do not wish to connect their social presence to unfamiliar apps, but also for those who do not have a Facebook account at all.
Showboatr is a new iOS app from Nyquist Design. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with no additional in-app purchases.
Showboatr is a video-centric social network, but rather than simply allowing users to freely share videos, it instead focuses on various “challenges,” many of which are clearly designed to be both amusing and impressive. A typical challenge tasks users with anything from tearing an apple in half to licking a frozen object and getting their tongue stuck, and demands that they prove they at least attempted the challenge with a video. Other users who then watch the video can vote on whether or not they believe the person in the video “nailed” or “failed” the challenge.
The Showboatr app is split into a few distinct components. Users must sign in to the app first of all, either using a proprietary Showboatr account or Facebook, and are then immediately taken to the Challenges page, which is further subdivided into three categories. The “Collections” tab groups together various related challenges such as all the tasks that involve fruit, or scenes inspired by movies, or dance-related challenges; the “Staff Picks” tab includes the favorite challenges of the Showboatr team; and the “Popular” tab displays those challenges that have seen the most activity. In all cases, tapping on a challenge takes you to a page of information about it, where the description can be read, other users’ videos can be viewed and voted on, or the challenge attempted. Users may also challenge specific friends using either Facebook or email — in the former case, the challenge may be issued as a public post if desired.
Deciderr is a new iOS app from Decision Network, Inc. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store with no additional in-app purchases.
Deciderr is a mobile-social network designed to help people make decisions and solicit feedback by allowing them to pose “yes/no” questions to the community. You can also answer questions posed by other users and engage in discussions through the comments.
Deciderr requires an account to use. Initial account setup can be done using Facebook or Twitter, but the user must still provide their desired username, birthdate and bio manually when signing up.
Once into the service proper, the app’s main screen is split into five main components. The “World” tab allows users to browse questions submitted from all Deciderr users, regardless of whether or not they are following them. The “People” tab is a feed of just people the user has specifically chosen to follow. The “Feed” tab provides notifications of activity on questions, including answers and comments. The “Profile” tab displays a summary of the user’s questions and those in which they have been “tagged” with a Twitter-style @username. Finally, the button to actually ask a question is prominently displayed in the lower middle of the screen.
Slim is a new iOS app from Slim Labs, Inc. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with no additional in-app purchases. It’s currently highlighted in the “New” section of the store’s Productivity category. A Web-based version is also available, and a native Android version is set to follow soon.
Slim is a social media app that aims to allow users to trim all the irrelevant, useless content out of their various feeds in order to focus on the important updates. At present, the service only supports Facebook and LinkedIn accounts — a Facebook account is required to sign in at all, so those who only use LinkedIn are out of luck — but support for Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Salesforce and Yammer are apparently set for implementation in a future update.
Rather than taking a feed-based approach as with most social media apps, Slim displays a single update at a time and allows users to “swipe” between them. Users may mark the updates they would like to see more or fewer of by using some Last.fm-style “star” and “reject” buttons — from these, Slim apparently learns the user’s preferences and displays more relevant content over time, but it’s clear that there’s already some fairly heavy-duty filtering going on as soon as the app starts, as the vast majority of posts from my Facebook friends were nowhere to be seen. It would perhaps be better for the feed to start from an unfiltered view and allow the user to whittle it down to what they want rather than starting from an already heavily-sanitized position.
P.L.A.N. (short for Play, Live, Act Now) is a new iOS app from Pocket Media Private Limited. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store and carries no additional in-app purchases.
P.L.A.N. is the latest addition to the currently-fashionable crop of apps that allow users to attempt to organize their social lives. P.L.A.N. markets itself as a 21st century solution to the problem of plans changing at short notice — instead of phoning or texting around everyone to update arrangements, the theory goes, P.L.A.N. allows for a centralized means of keeping everyone abreast of plans and notified of any important changes.
Using P.L.A.N. requires Facebook as it uses this as a reliable means of assembling a friends list. Not everyone involved in making arrangements has to be a P.L.A.N. user, however — the service features Web-based functionality to allow non-users of the app to respond to invitations, but groups of friends will probably find it most efficient if everyone is making use of it..
Creating a new event is a simple matter of tapping the “New” button in the corner of the screen and filling in the relevant details: what you want to do, where you want to do it, when you want to do it and the friends you want to invite. Underneath that are two optional sections that allow you to customize what other attendees are allowed to “suggest” to the plan — changing the activity, location, time, date and inviting friends — as well as a deadline to RSVP, a minimum number of attendees and/or a maximum number of attendees.
Rockmelt is an iOS app from the company of the same name. It’s recently launched its third major revision, and is currently highlighted in the New & Noteworthy section of the App Store front page. It’s a free download.
Rockmelt has been through a few changes over the years. Originally taking the form of a Chromium-based Web browser for computers with a strong focus on social network integration, it has since evolved into a content discovery platform accessible through any browser. The Web-based component of Rockmelt’s service is currently invite-only, but the iOS app is available for anyone to sign into and use.
Upon starting Rockmelt for the first time, you’re prompted to provide at least five areas of interest that you would like to see in your “home stream.” The topics on offer are fairly diverse, but the requirement to choose at least five is odd — some users may only be interested in content from two or three of the available “channels” and yet are forced into picking several more. Presumably this is to allow users to expose themselves to a wider variety of available content, but it still seems a little unnecessary.