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Good Times for iOS Users

It is a great time to be an iPhone owner. The last two weeks or so have seen the release of some of the most exquisite, well-designed apps in the App Store today.

Tons of excellent writing has already been appearing on some of my favorite websites so I won’t go into massive amounts of detail. I just want to remark on some of the highlights and to let you all know that, if you haven’t downloaded these apps yet, you’re missing out on some of the best the platform has to offer.

1Password 4 was released the other night. I’ve long been a huge fan of the original app, buying it for anyone who has either shown an inkling of interest or demonstrated a large amount of identity theft risk. The changes are all really nice and, rather than go into a ton of details, just take my word for it. It is worth the $7.99, even if it is simply to further the hard work and effort of the folks at Agilebits.

Twitterific was released and I wasn’t too sure I was even going to bother with it. I have switched over to App.net (ADN) and have been very happy with Felix as my main social networking application. But I am weak. After seeing the screenshots and hearing the praise on ADN, I decided to take the plunge.

The app design is a clinic in usability and it is one of those apps that makes you happy to use it. It supports all of the main features, as well as adding some nifty ones like Dark/Night mode. The downside of Twitterific is that I’m using Twitter again. It was good enough to bring me back (for now!).

Google Maps came out the other night to unsurprising fanfare. The fawning press have waited for this app with the same zeal they had for finding Apple Maps problems to hype. It was going to be the savior of iOS mapping and set the world right again.

In truth, it is a really nice mapping app. The transit directions are great, as they always have been. The vector graphics look really nice and clean and overall the app is far more polished than I expected from Google.

That said, there are some issues – some just nitpicking but some I’d consider pretty glaring. There is no way to map directions directly to a contact from your Contact list. This seems like a bafflingly obvious use case and it seems fishy that it’s not there.

The app also has a fairly obtuse interface, hardly surprisingly for the same company that is responsible for the Android settings screens. Some controls are expertly hidden, some gestures don’t do what you expect them to do and if you shake your phone (or drive over a few bumps) you will be asked if you’d like to provide feedback. Admittedly, I can see the humor in driving down a dirt road, late at night, lost due to bad phone directions and having the bumps trigger a screen asking if you’d like to report a problem, but I don’t think that’s what they were going for here.

Since people are so gung ho about reporting every time the Apple Maps app led them to the wrong place, I think I should disclose that Google Maps expected me to make an illegal left hand turn across a 2 lane highway (ignoring the New Jersey jughandle to my right). It cost me about 5 minutes but there were no disasters like those of the recently-lost idiots in Australia.

I’d still say its worth a download. The app itself is small and it’s never a bad thing to have more than one mapping app on your phone.

The folks behind Fantastical have introduced an iOS version of their stellar Mac app. Innovative, slick interface design and seamless execution has convinced me to use this as my main calendaring app these days. Highly recommended.

Sparrow got a surprising update to support iPhone 5’s larger screen and still continues to be my go-to for Google-based mail. (Google released their Gmail app recently but their method for switching accounts was obtuse and fiddly and the omission of a Unified Inbox was baffling.) While I’m intrigued by the upcoming Mailbox for iPhone, Sparrow will see me through until then.

The Simple banking app continues to improve, now with the ability to photograph checks for deposit – something I’ve wished for as a way to improve an already-stellar banking service. I am banking more and more with Simple and I haven’t been disappointed.

All in all, a great week for iOS apps. I’m aware it is none too easy on the wallet but let’s be real – these apps are still cheap and they’re a small price to pay to have these great developers keep doing what they do.