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Weekly App Store Picks: November 21, 2009

Another week passing means another batch of fresh apps pop out of the Apple approval oven and land in the App Store. As ever, I’ve selected four of the best from this week’s releases for you to check out.

My top pick for this week is TimeTuner, an absolutely essential clock radio app for just about anyone who uses an alarm clock. Plus, I’ve also been looking at WorkSnug, Harbor 3D and AutoStitch.

TimeTuner ($1.99)

The iPhone Clock app does a valiant job of waking me up, but sometimes even Apple’s own apps need a bit of jazzing up. Enter TimeTuner, a gorgeous alarm clock app with a chic, ever-so-slightly ’80’s style. The app includes a glowing green LED clock, alongside a customizable radio tuner.

Even without the alarm clock functionality, the radio tuner alone is a powerful app, certainly worth more than a couple of bucks. Powered by Radio Time, the tuner portion of the app is much more than regular Internet radio. TimeTuner started by recommending a selection of local Helsinki-based stations, minutes later I’d even tracked down my favorite London station, Resonance FM, and even assigned Dublab FM as one of my presets.

The app is also more than a nice clock radio. It’s location aware, which means it adjusts the time and stations depending on which city you just arrived in. There’s a swish sleep timer that’s only a scroll away. It’s got a fail-safe back-up alarm, plus you can even use your own music library as wake up tunes too.

The app has already found a new home on my iPhone’s main page, it really is that good. If you wake up with an alarm every morning, TimeTuner is an essential app. It’ll temporarily transform your iPhone in to a stylish alarm clock that sounds gorgeous too.

WorkSnug (Free)

I’ve now got two augmented reality apps. One for finding restaurants, movies and other points of interest. The other for looking for local Wikipedia and Wikitude results. WorkSnug does away with hunting for yummy food and engaging film, instead it’s a tool that helps you track down a space to work in the city.

The folks behind the app have apparently visited, rated and reviewed every place that’s listed. You can find out about free Wi-Fi, coffee quality, power outlets and noise levels, among other things. Note that the app is 3GS only and that it only just launched in London. WorkSnug will be coming to San Francisco soon, so in the meantime, nomadic freelancers should grab it anyway, before the app costs a few bucks.

AutoStitch (Free $1.99)

After going all out with a vast selection of iPhone camera apps, I’ve now cut down to the bare essentials: QuadCamera, Flickr and PhotoForge. As great as these apps are though, they can’t make panoramas. AutoStitch, on the other hand, effortlessly jigsaws your snaps together to create excellent panoramic imagery.

The clue is in the name with AutoStitch. With this app, there’s no marking images, laying photos out, or manual labor of any kind. Simply take your photos using your favorite camera app, open Autostitch, choose the photos to be stuck together and the app does the rest.

AutoStitch does some very clever stuff in the background, unsurprising given that is was originally developed at the University of British Columbia, Setting aside the complicated stuff though, the app is essentially an intelligent panorama maker. It takes what is usually a laborious process and, in the spirit of Apple, it just works.

Harbor Havoc 3D ($1.99)

It wouldn’t be right to discuss line drawing games on the iPhone, without first mentioning Flight Control. Spawning an array of wannabe’ clones, Flight Control is a simple and oh-so-satisfying game that finds you guiding a variety of planes to their designated runways.

Harbor Havoc 3D takes the Flight Control concept a step further, cloning and then improving upon the gameplay. It’s your job to guide a variety of different boats to the correct port by drawing a line from the boat to the color-coded port. So far, so familiar.

After level one though, Harbor Havoc 3D mixes things up by throwing in helicopters and helipads. This means that you’ve got to calculate speed and distance on two different plains. It’s a devious yet compelling twist. While the game certainly isn’t 3D, it’s jolly good sea-faring and airborne fun. Much like Flight Control, it takes moments to learn and is just as moreish.

That’s all the picks for this week. What apps have you been using?

11 Responses to “Weekly App Store Picks: November 21, 2009”

  1. Hi Olly,

    Thanks for the review! We’ve been hard at work on planning and developing the next two releases. Some new features are going to be added (many based on customer feedback).

    Push notification is something we’ve been contemplating. It’s has it’s pros and cons and we’re still debating it.

    With tens of thousands of uses of TimeTuner around the world now, we have very few reports/emails from customers about the foreground/background application process… most people that have experience with other apps (including clocks) realize that unless their apps are running, they don’t function.

    Maybe one day Apple will alter the SDK to allow background processes from 3rd party developers.

    Thanks again for the great review, much appreciated.


  2. Jeremy — the limitations of the SDK don’t negate TimeTuner’s reliability as an alarm clock. There are enough alarm clock and other apps out there functioning perfectly well as long as they run in the foreground. Most devs make that fact clear on their iTunes App Store pages. It even states this requirement on the TimeTuner page on the iTunes store, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

    I read the US store reviews too. Yours is the only one that says that text messages or other events cause the alarms to fail. A few reviews that have problems are to do with the fact that those users don’t understand the concept that an iPhone app must run in the foreground to be operational. If that fact is stated on the apps App Store page, then that is not really a problem with the app. It’s a problem with the OS.

    But there also seem to be numerous reviews from people who have no problems whatsoever, who presumably understand the concept of the ‘foreground’ app — i.e., launch the app before you go to bed. It would (will?) be cool if Apple opens up the OS to multitasking applications and background processes but that’s not happening yet, which is too bad.

    Perhaps you have something anomalous going on with your setup?

    • Hey Brett,

      As you know from the above writeup, I dig the app and it’s now a regular part of my routine.

      Although it’s not essential, I’m wondering what the possibility is of integrating Push Notifications in the future?

      I appreciate that this would render the radio portion of the app redundant (as the app would be closed), but it would be a useful addition for us users.

      I’d like to hear your thoughts on that.

      And well done on creating a truly excellent app!

  3. I am aware of the limitations of the SDK in regards to the apps running in the background, but I still think this is a significant enough problem to warrant my statements that this app is not that reliable as an alarm clock.

  4. Jeremy, in response to your post…. no third-party apps work unless they are running. Anyone with a single iPhone app usually knows that. Apple does not allow developers to create apps that ‘run in the background’. It’s a limitation of the iPhone OS, not the app. The same holds true for any radio, clock, game or other iPhone app.

    Text messages and incoming calls do not disable TimeTuner’s alarms. They do, however, sometimes over-ride the auto-lock feature of the iPhone, allowing the screen to go to sleep. But the app is still there, running behind the blank screen, alarms and all. Again, a function of the iPhone OS and not the app itself. I receive calls and text messages all the time while running TimeTuner, and after those events, the app reverts back to where it left off.

    Maybe you should contact the developers, [email protected] if you have any questions or issues. It’s hard for devs to troubleshoot, or offer advice to anomalous situations or setups via blog postings or reviews.

  5. While TimeTuner app is a good looking app and a nice idea, the alarm function of the app does not work unless the app is running. This really renders the app useless for an alarm. Even if you fall asleep with the app running, all it takes is a text message or call while you are sleeping to switch off the alarm. I tested it 4 times first to try and get it working before I realized the issue. Went to comment on the itunes store to find that others have the same problem. As you are promoting the app here, I thought it would be helpful for you to know this. I found the app through your recommendation

  6. As far as I know, Autostitch has always been $1.99… but it’s so worth it. I tried Panolab free version and I found it a real pain to line up the images together. Not bad if you have just two or three, but if you have more, especially vertically too, then it becomes a nightmare with the colour brightness being different too. AutoStitch really is painless and that earns my money.