Staff Picks: iOS apps you should check out now

Staff Picks: iOS apps you should check out now

While you might recognise some of these apps, others may be ones you might never have run across

It's no surprise that the App Store has gotten a wee bit crowded over the last few years. With millions of iOS devices activated every year, and tens of thousands of app developers itching to make software for those devices, there's new and cool stuff (along with new and not-so-cool stuff) arriving on the Store every day. Trying to keep up with it all is a fool's errand, as we at Macworld know all too well.

So instead of reporting on every new app out there, we've decided to focus instead on the just the ones that have recently captured our imaginations (and perhaps a spot on our homescreens), whether they're tiny apps from budding developers or the top-grossing apps that everyone is using. Our hope is that, while you might recognise some of these apps, others may be ones you might never have run across. All of them, we think, are worth a look.

Chris Breen: Yahoo Weather

Look, I know that it's cool to dig up little-known apps in the hope of exposing them to the wide world, but I'd like to sing the praises of one that you may (or should) already have: Yahoo Weather. It beats the hell out of me why Apple doesn't include a Weather app on the iPad but the fact is, it doesn't. And given how great Yahoo Weather is, maybe that's a good thing. It's free, you get a beautiful interface, the weather and forecast information you really need, some details about the day and night's conditions, lovely interpretations of precipitation and wind data, and a live weather map. Even if you currently rely on Apple's Weather app on an iPhone or iPod touch, it's worth your while to check out Yahoo's version. Odds are, you'll switch.

Serenity Caldwell: Beats Music

I didn't think I was going to take Beats Music for a spin, but Chris's hands-on and MacStories' Federico Viticci's strong support of the service convinced me to give it a listen. And you know what? They were both right. I gave Beats a rather eclectic range of music to pick from, and the app has surprised and delighted me at every turn. Thanks to its discovery engine, I'm jamming out to a whole range of artists I would have never stumbled across otherwise. And while a tad gimmicky, Beats' "The Sentence" can fill an oddly satisfying music void. The app itself is super-slick, and though there are a couple of weird UI decisions, I'm rather pleased with this strange little music app. I just signed up for a subscription, and I hope it sticks around.

Dan Frakes: Habit List

Like many people, I keep to-do lists. But many of my tasks are things I do regularly--every day, several times each week, weekly, and so on--and I don't want to clutter my lists with them.

Which is why I love Habit List (App Store link), an app for tracking your habits--or encouraging you to make specific tasks habitual. You add your regular tasks to Habit List and give each a schedule, which can be as simple as every day, as specific as every Tuesday and Thursday, or as vague as "3 days per week." You can also enable a reminder for each task, configured for the specific time of day you specify.

Each day, you see a list of only those tasks you want to complete that day; you swipe each as you complete it, which dims it and moves it to the bottom. But what makes Habit List so compelling is its habit tracking. Next to each task is a circle: green for tasks you've been completing on (the number inside the circle indicates your current streak); orange for those you've missed ( the number indicates how many in a row); and gray indicates a more-flexible task--missing it today won't affect your streak. Tap any task to view your complete history for that task: the total number of completions, the current streak, your longest streak, and a calendar view showing the specific days on which you completed it. You can even see your weekly, monthly, 6-week, and all-time completion rates. The app is a great motivator for those pesky exercise goals, as well as anything else you wish was a habit.

Roman Loyola: Flow Free

My oldest son threw down the gauntlet. He said I couldn't post more perfect scores than him in Flow Free, a free game where the object is to connect dots of the same color on a board without crossing lines and without leaving any board space uncovered.

I thought I'd play a few boards and let my son bask in the glory of beating his old man. But over 90 boards later--all perfect scores, mind you--I have to admit, I'm hooked. The game nicely combines a very simple interface with the progressively difficult task of mapping out your dot connections, and the goal of a perfect score, where you complete a board with a minimum number of touches on the board, adds to the challenge. Because the game is free, you have to deal with ads and pitches for in-game purchases, but that hasn't stopped me from maintaining a slight lead over my son in our perfect scores tally. Sometimes you have to learn your place in this world the hard way, son.

Dan Miller: Yahoo News Digest

I've come to really appreciate the new Yahoo News Digest. It provides just what it purports to: A twice-daily update of the day's most important news stories. Each story gets a quick summary (sourced from reputable outlets such as Reuters, Associated Press, and so on), followed by Twitter comments, Wikipedia entries, relevant graphics, and more. These entries strike a great balance between the quick hit and the ability to get more information if you wish. It won't replace RSS for me as an in-depth news source. But for catching up on the subway home, it's great.

Dan Moren: Authy

The problem with increased security is largely that it's less convenient. For example, I've enabled two-factor authentication on many of my online accounts, but I hate the idea of being barraged with text messages every time I want to login. Fortunately, that's where Authy comes in: the iOS app, which supports both iPhone and iPad, lets me collect most of my common two-factor tokens in a single place, and its simple design makes it easy to differentiate them. Authy even lets me securely back up all my tokens, so that I don't have to go through the time-consuming process of re-entering them when I upgrade to a new device. So, really, it's the best of both worlds: better security and less inconvenience.--Dan Moren

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