Apps for grabs

  • The Night Sky, a virtual-reality guide to the stars for Apple Watch OS 2.0, supports new multitasking features and the new Spotlight search system in Apple’s newest iPhones
  • Air Wings, a new free app for Apple iOS devices, uses the AirPlay feature to bring spectators into the action
  • Some of the most popular apps being downloaded by iOS 9 users belong to a new category in the App Store: content blockers. These act when you surf the Web, blocking the kind of behind-the-scenes code that websites use to track your online movements to serve you advertisements.

Apple’s newest iPhones are hitting store shelves this week. Many millions of older iPhones and iPads are also getting an upgrade, as the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9, is now available.

What apps should you load on your new mobile device—or your updated iOS device? We have some ideas.

For some simple gaming fun that shows the power of Apple’s new hardware and software, try Air Wings. This free app puts you in control of a paper plane (and other, more advanced toy planes) flying around various hazardous situations. You rotate the phone to control the plane, flying it around to pick up rewards and weapons to use against others’ planes.

The clever part comes when you turn on Apple’s AirPlay feature and stream data to an Apple TV. At that point, the game shows two views. On the phone screen you see the player’s point of view. But on the TV you see a “spectator view,” which offers a different perspective on the gaming arena, allowing observers to say helpful things like “It’s behind you!”

Air Wings is easy to learn and great fun to play alone or with live opponents over the Web.

A $3 app, Duet Game, shows another feature of iOS 9. Duet is an abstract game with simple graphics in which you manoeuvre colourful playing dots through fast-moving barriers and obstacles. It’s the kind of game that sounds silly but is addictive. And with iOS 9, you can now tap an icon and record your in-game exploits as a movie, then quickly edit and share it on social media.

Some of the most popular apps being downloaded by iOS 9 users belong to a new category in the App Store: content blockers. These act when you surf the Web, blocking the kind of behind-the-scenes code that websites use to track your online movements to serve you advertisements.

Purify, for $4, is perhaps the simplest app in this category, with an unfussy interface. By using the app you can turn off advertisements and ad trackers, and also prevent websites from using external fonts and images (which have to be downloaded and can slow your browser). To “whitelist” or unblock a favourite site, you tap an icon in the sharing panel in the Safari browser, making the site work as normal.

The app seems to work smoothly and I find it speeds up browsing. But it’s worth remembering that blocker apps are controversial. Many websites rely on income from advertisers to create and deliver the content you enjoy, and ad blockers limit what is shown. It’s also odd to pay for an app that prevents other businesses from making money.

Flipboard Flipboard, a free news aggregator for iOS smartphones

The Night Sky is one of my favourite apps, and it’s even better in iOS 9. The app is a virtual reality guide to the stars: You hold your phone up to the sky and the app calculates what you can see overhead, then displays it with interactive graphics on the screen.

On compatible iPads, Night Sky supports the device’s new multitasking feature, so you could use Night Sky in one window and do a search for more information on, say, Jupiter, in the other window. It also connects to Apple’s new Spotlight search system, so you can search for stars, constellations and so on from outside the app, and then activate the app when you find something you like.

For Apple Watch OS 2.0, released earlier this week, Night Sky is even cleverer than before. It offers powerful features like the ability to explore the sky view on your wrist, and it gets alerts when the International Space Station is going to fly over. It’s entertaining, educational and just $1.

The news app Flipboard is a great way to keep on top of what’s happening in the world because it aggregates all the news you know you are interested in from multiple sources. The app essentially grabs news items from many news sites and presents them in a neat digital magazine format, rich in images. You control how the magazine is built because you can tell the app, for example, that you prefer to see tech news instead of political news.

In iOS 9, Flipboard has gained deep search powers. This means that with just a quick swipe from the home screen you can search for relevant news topics inside Flipboard without even opening the app. Flipboard even has Apple Watch integration, sending the top 10 news stories you may be interested in to your wrist for quick consumption. Best of all, Flipboard is free.

For those of you interested in business productivity apps, check out Readdle’s $10 PDF Expert 5, which is all about reading and annotating the kind of PDF file that is often shared between businesses.

PDF Expert is now iOS 9 compatible, so on iPad you can edit PDFs alongside other apps, perhaps using them as reference material.

And don’t forget Microsoft Office apps, which you may be surprised to hear are rather good on iOS 9, supporting all the multitasking you can do on iPads, including the coming iPad Pro. Downloading apps like Excel and Word is free for iPhones.

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Topics : #gadgets | #Apple

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