Waze, Echofon, Chrome: My 12 Favorite Apps of 2012
It's been a crazy year in apps. Apple released the iPhone 5, complete with larger screen and new OS, as well as the iPad mini, aka Jumbo iPhone. There were scores of updates from manufacturers and, as usual, thousands of new apps on the market.
I wrote about my favorite 10 apps of 2011 last year around this time. This year I give you 12 for 2012. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments. I'm always looking for new apps!
Battle of the Piney Woods: SFA vs. SHSU
TicketsSat., Oct. 1, 3:00pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulsa Golden Hurricane Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. UTSA Roadrunners Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 15, 6:00pm
Rice University Owls Football vs. Prairie View A&M University Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 22, 2:30pm
Admittedly, I use this mainly as a way to listen to local sports radio, but it's a damn useful music app even if Clear Channel invented it. It allows users to mix and match stations and music plus talk radio and the like. It's also great if you want to catch the stream of a station from home when you are on the road. Plus, the signal quality is excellent, so much so that I can listen while riding my bike with rarely a drop.
11. Hi-Def Radar
Out of all the weather apps I use, and I use a lot, this is by far the most simplistic and the most useful. It's just a great radar and that's it with dopplr, infrared and a couple other minor bells and whistles. The radar shows fast and is remarkably accurate.
The best traffic app on the market is still the user-driven Waze. As the app gains more and more users, traffic gets more and more accurate. I often find myself leaving it on as I drive to give other drivers an idea of what traffic is like where I am and it's super easy to figure out why the hell I'm sitting in traffic and how to get around it.
In the battle of online storage, there are some very solid contenders from Dropbox (which I also use and love) to Google Drive to iCloud to Amazon Cloud, but SugarSync is my favorite. It's very easy to use, inexpensive and, as all good apps should, it runs smoothly all the time. It's like magic to grab a quick look at a file from my phone when I don't have access to my computer.
There is no better app for keeping track of flights than FlightTrack. It is the single most functional tool I've found for making a plane on time or tracking one so that I can be at the airport on time to pick up whoever is flying in. The detailed map even gives weather conditions and the flight times are constantly updated.
The recently redesigned film and television database giant is better than ever. I'm always trying to find out who was in what and nothing makes it easier. Being able to quickly swipe through seasons of TV shows to get to single episodes as well is genius.
6. ESPN Scorecenter
I was not a big fan of the four letter network's app until its very recent redesign to keep stride with the excellent iPad version. It's clean, organized and much easier to use. I'm still a fan of Yahoo! Sportacular, but ESPN has won me over as my first call sports app.
I really wish the iPad version of Echofon was as strong as the iPhone version because the iPhone version is stellar. I've tried all sorts of Twitter apps including the official one, which has improved dramatically in the past year, but nothing stands up to the speed and ease of use of Echofon. The mute feature alone is worth every penny.
This was my number one app last year and it still plays a prominent role in my everyday life, but the overhaul this past year to the interface has made me a little less enthusiastic. What was supposed to make it easier to browse seems more cumbersome to me. Still, I keep track of pretty much everything I do through this brilliant note taking app every single day.
A couple years ago, the Facebook app was virtually unusable. Even within the last year with a fresh look, it was slow and clunky. But, recent changes have streamlined everything about it and it has markedly improved the overall experience. I still don't fully understand the strategy of separating out various apps for photos and pages, but they did add the share feature, which was long overdue, and they seem generally more responsive to user requests now, which has greatly improved the app.
2. Camera Awesome
I have literally replaced the internal iPhone camera app with this one and use it constantly. Not only is it great for taking photos with its separate focus and exposure controls, but it has a ton of great editing features, photo styles and export options. It is my favorite of all the camera apps out there.
1. Google Chrome
When the iPhone or iPad forces open Safari on a clicked link from another app, I roll my eyes because it is not remotely close to the experience of Google Chrome. But, even if Chrome were slower or less user friendly, the ability to sync it in all my devices -- laptop, tablet and phone -- is absolutely priceless. No more importing bookmarks or trying to remember links I'd been to recently. It's seamless and that alone puts it at the top of my 2012 list of favorite apps.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.