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Top Apps of the Month - February 2016



With a leap, a skip and a jump, we've arrived in March, and as far as the UK goes, it still feels like the middle of winter. The days are longer, but the frost is unrelenting and we've been blighted by a series of snowfalls that are just that little bit too light to be exciting.

What we can get excited about is the continuing influx of new, interesting apps on the market. We're getting perilously close to a new iPhone so it seems like developers are trying to get as much mileage out of the current iOS as they can before it becomes obsolete, and Android aren't far behind. Here are some of February's top picks.


DroidArt

Free (In-App Purchases) - iOS

This is one of the most interesting 'photo filter time waster' apps we've seen in a while. Simply select any image saved to your phone, whether it be from the camera roll or pulled from some random corner of the internet and DroidArt will transform it into a painting

iTunes
This isn't some crappy, half-hearted overlay either, there are a whole range of different art styles to choose from. The actual conversion process is a bit slow, and you can pay to speed it up, but if you're in such a hurry to see a photo of your dog turned into a Van Gough style piece that you're willing to put money towards it being done faster, it might be time to rethink your life. 


Otto

Free - iOS

iTunes
If you haven't caught the podcast bug yet, you're most certainly missing out. They've been around for so long now that it's easy to miss just how much more diverse and essential they've become, but jumping in with no previous experience of them can be more than a little bit daunting.

That's where Otto comes in. Purporting to be the 'Pandora for podcasts', this neat little app can provide you with a taste-tailored feed of all the best and most interesting podcasts, and the more you use it, the more it attunes itself to your preferences.

It's only been out for a little over a week, but seems to be seeing new improvements almost on a daily basis. The feed can seem somewhat random at first, but as you move from cast to cast you're basically being given the most diverse, personal radio station you could ever want.


Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy

£8.38 - iOS/Android 




Seeing this available on the app store/Google Play almost put me into a state of shock. If you want an indication of how far and fast technology is moving, just look at this, you can now download a game originally for the PS2 and Xbox and play it on your goddamn phone.

Fahrenheit was the first major release from developer David Cage, better known for Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, games which play out like interactive movies, phasing player control in and out as the narrative progresses and offering multiple different story strands depending on how the player behaves.

Fahrenheit was far from the first game to try this format, but it was one of the games which brought it to the forefront. It's a chilling, Twin Peaks-esque tale of murder, mystery and mysticism, and now you can puzzle your way through it on your daily commute. It's been available on iOS for a year, but the Android release, plus a sizable update earns it a place on the new apps chart, in my book.


FocusList

£3.50 - iOS

iTunes


Ever heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It's a method of time/workload management devised by developer, entrepeneur, and author Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. It's basically a method of breaking up activity into small chunks, usually 25 minutes, intesperced with short breaks. I used it when I revised for my GCSEs and A-levels, on the advice of a teacher.

The thing is, it's not the easiest thing to keep track of, especially initially. Well, now there's an app to do that job for you. All you have to do is input a list of tasks you intend to have finished by day's end, and then the app will break it down into blocks, allowing you to schedule them accordingly. 

It's not an overly complex app, and the price tag is questionably steep, but it presents all the information in a slick, engaging way, and excellently keeps track of what otherwise might be heinously complicated schedule of work. Ideal if you work from home, or freelance, or both. 



Vivo: Live Wallpapers

Free - Android

Google Play
One of the biggest advantages of an Android phone is how much more varied the custom themes are, and how many apps there are on the market to increase their reach even further still. Vivo might be the best one yet.

Using a set of parameters, you can procedurally generate patterns which are never the same twice, based on a range of 7 different shape classes. The result is hypnotically beautiful, but not so garish that it'll distract you from whatever else you might happen to be doing at the time. 

By editing the colour, scale, speed and position, you can transition between a huge range of different possibilities. 


Mealime

Free - iOS

Some people grow up with cooking more or less hardwired into their DNA, others learn it from a partner or a close friend, but some will come into it late and the idea of cooking for yourself, having never done it properly before, can be terrifying. Where do you begin? Buying recipe books? Making a list of ingredients to buy each week? Well now, you're best bet is to download Mealime.

iTunes

The first thing you're asked to do is put down a list of likes, dislikes, allergies and other dietary needs (veganism, for example). That done, it will gather that information together and use it to randomly assign you weekly meal plans, all designed around food for 1. This includes recipes, shopping lists, basically everything short of actually cooking it for you.

The meals are healthy, and tend to stay with the 30 minute or less prep time window, since the app is designed for people who would otherwise count themselves as too busy to cook. 


Final Fantasy IX

£15.99 - iOS/Android


Normally, I simply would not include such a pricey app on this list, much less one that takes up 3.2GB (and requires 4 free to even be downloaded), but this is a big exception. Gradually, all the FF titles are being translated to a mobile format, some of them have worked excellently (Final Fantasy IV - actually improved on the original), while others have been embarrassing (Final Fantasy VI - inexplicably hideous), but IX is the first fully 3D one to be tested on this format, and damn if it isn't a good transition.


The game is as good looking as ever, smooth as silk and packed with options to make the run of the game smoother for those who just want to experience the story without all that infamous FF grinding. IX in particular, while regarded by some as the best FF game ever made, is notorious for long stretches of grinding, even days at a time.

Think of it this way though - £16 would net you 4 or 5 puzzle app games, that would cumulatively get dry and repetitive after a solid day of play, with this, you'll get the odd stretch of grind in between wildly diverse sections of core gameplay and a fascinating story, and the whole thing will probably take you weeks to finish even if you devote yourself to it diligently.



Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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Top Apps of the Month - February 2016 Reviewed by Callum Davies on Tuesday, March 08, 2016 Rating: 5

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