What's Hot in Tech – Issue 18
Perhaps the most visually stunning game you've ever played
Monument Valley might just be the most elegant and intelligent game to hit our screens – available on iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle. The puzzle game is comprised of ten levels of beautifully designed, intricate buildings full of switches, doors, and obstacles. The goal is to get the main character, Ida, from start to finish by flipping switches and even rotating entire buildings so she can traverse in ways technically impossible, but made a reality through thoughtful implementations of perspective and defiance of gravity. The first level opens your mind to the idea of using perspective and when it hits you, you just go "whooaaa".
Put it all together and it's no surprise Monument won a 2014 Apple Design Award – recognizing the best apps in the Apple ecosystem each year. Monument Valley is a paid app, a reasonable $3.99. I'm a big believer in paying to enjoy a well-made game or app. The fact a talented team poured their brains into such an experience and are trying to make a living just like you is reason to recognize their efforts by ponying up. Run to your nearest app store and download Monument Valley if you haven't already.
Sunrise calendar app comes to desktop and Android
Sunrise is my favorite calendar app for mobile devices because of its simplicity, clarity, clean design, and useful tie-ins with Facebook (events, birthday reminders), Foursquare, LinkedIn, and more. iPhone and iPad users have been enjoying Sunrise for quite some time now, and it's time for Android users to get in on the action. Not only that, but they released a web-based version to keep you from having to turn to your phone every time you need to check your calendar.
I've been using the web-based version for a few weeks now and it's fantastic. I went with the "installable" offline version available in the Google Chrome web store, but you can also simply login at calendar.sunrise.am.
Foursquare splits itself in two, launches Swarm app
Foursquare launched in 2009 and has become a great tool for finding places to go and things to do. It's also been pigeon-holed as "the app for checking in and getting badges". While the latter is true and a way to keep things entertaining and mildly competitive, the app is effective for keeping up with friends and exploring what's around you. The exploration side of the app is right up there with the likes of Yelp, Google, and others, but brings the added value of knowing the types of places you like based on where you've checked in.
Foursquare finally decided it couldn't improve the exploration or check-in aspects of the app without splitting in two. As a result, we now have Swarm, the app for checking in and keeping up with your friends. Over the summer, Foursquare will see a redesign and a focus on finding places to go.
After a few weeks with Swarm, I'm digging the new approach Foursquare has taken. Swarm has taken the extra step and improved the experience of keeping up with others. If you're not into checking in everywhere, you can simply toggle on "neighborhood sharing" to let friends know your general position. Where Swarm got this feature right is by not placing your location on an actual map (ahem, Google Latitude), but by merely listing your name in the app along with the neighborhood you're in.
Swarm also introduced a new feature for sharing your plans ahead of time to see if any friends want to join. Friends can signal that they're interested or even leave a comment to decide when and where to meet up.
Morning app hopes to ease your morning routine
What do you do when you first wake up – reach for your phone? Cycle through a bunch of apps to see what's up? Morning is a new iPhone and iPad app aimed at simplifying your morning by providing a one-stop, simple and digestible dashboard of what's important to you. The app's single screen is completely customizable with up to nine different panels including time/date, reminders, weather, articles from your favorite website(s), calendar, stocks, commute, and countdown (e.g. until a significant date). Panels can be reordered based on personal preference and you can select from several different color schemes. Morning makes it easy to get a quick glance at what's important so you can feel in control of your morning routine.
Meet Dots' successor, TwoDots – another beautiful game
Last spring, Betaworks released their hit game Dots to the delight of iPhone, iPad, and Android users. The simple yet beautiful puzzle game challenges users to connect as many like dots in a set amount of time or number of moves. It won Best Visual Design for the 2014 Webby Awards.
Just over a year later, we now have TwoDots. The game utilizes the same concept with added twists and, most exciting of all, a level-based approach going all the way to level 85 – for now. The game also features a lot of beautiful illustration work, likely making it a design award front-runner once again. The game is free and does not require in-app purchases to fully enjoy the experience. TwoDots is currently available for iPhone with an Android version on the way.
- Dropbox released a new app, Carousel, focused on managing your smartphone's photos and automatically backing them up to your Dropbox account – available for both iPhone and Android
- Medium, the publishing platform full of terrific material, has brought their app to iPad for reading on your tablet
- Nuzzel is a new app for discovering the best articles shared by your friends on Twitter and Facebook – never miss another article in your stream or news feed again
As a tech enthusiast, early adopter, and avid reader, I come across a lot of gadgets, apps, websites, and more. Few things excite me more than sharing and discussing these finds with others. Follow me on Twitter where I share even more tech news and trends.
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