By Eric Bauer
We're all sick of campaign ads.
But let's face it, for the next few weeks you won't be able to avoid them unless you disconnect your TV, radio, computer, and phone. Your best defense against this political blitzkrieg is to be aware and informed.
Or so believe the makers of Ad Hawk, a free app that identifies the campaign ad you're listening to and tells you who's behind it, where their money comes from, and where they stand politically.
It relies on technology similar to Shazam, the hall of fame app that identifies the song you're listening to, and using it couldn't be simpler.FULL ENTRY
By Elizabeth Comeau
By: Lyonel Douge
Available on: iPhone
Should you get it? Yes, if you need a reminder to get up from your desk job
OK, I fully admit that the idea behind this app sounds foolish and unnecessary: An app that reminds you to get out of your desk chair and stand up at various intervals during the day.
But I'm a web producer. Other than the fact that I'm training for a half-marathon, my entire day is spent sitting down at my computer.
StandApp is really straightforward: Download the free app and tell it at which specific interval you would like to be reminded to get up.FULL ENTRY
By Dante Ramos
If you're a political junkie, your productivity at work and at home has flat-lined because of all the time you spend clicking through the latest polls from Ohio and Virginia on your desktop or laptop computer. Fortunately, there's an easy way to reduce your productivity in plenty of other settings, too. Talking Points Memo, which started years ago as a liberal blog but has blossomed into a one-stop shop for lots of political information and analysis, has released a well-designed app that compiles all manner of public polls and organizes the data in an easy-to-swipe way.FULL ENTRY
By Damon Kiesow
Reviewing: It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
Company: Peanuts Worldwide LLC
Platforms: iPhone, iPad
Tested on: iPhone 4G, iPad 2
Should you get it? Yes, but...
If you are of a certain age, Charlie Brown animated holiday specials probably rank up there with Schoolhouse Rock as fun childhood TV memories. If so, you probably want to download the latest of the Peanuts series to make its way to the iPad and iPhone.
The apps are similar and target young or pre-readers with a very book-like presentation - with scenes taken from the TV specials - and enhanced by audio narration and some selected games and interactives.
The apps are fenjoyable even for slightly older kids, but the younger ones will have a lot of fun swiping through the pages and having the story read to them, and watching some of the simple animations.
However, there are some not-so-great features as well. The price, $4.99 is not bad for an eBook but it is more than the $0.99 parents expect to pay for an app.
More of an issue - to participate in some of the interactives and games, the reader is required to create an account, or sign-in via Facebook. Not likely for a 5-year-old, so parents will need to do this if their child wants to "join the gang" to create a costume and go trick-or-treating.
The good news: kids can carve a digital pumpkin in the app for free.
By Rachel Raczka
By: Conde Nast Digital
Platforms: Tested on iPhone, available for iPad, Android, Nook Color, Windows Phone, and Kindle Fire
Should you get it?: Yes.
Let me preface this review by saying: I cook a lot. And I bake more than I cook. So I spent a fair amount of time using this app. But don't let that scare you away; I recommend the app for the experienced cook as well as the kitchen novice.
Touted as a portable version of the popular website that proclaims it's "for people who love to eat," the Epicurious app features the same seemingly endless supply of recipes sourced from the Conde Nast treasure trove of the likes of Bon Appetit, Self, and Gourmet magazines.FULL ENTRY
By Joel Abrams
By: SVEN Studios
Should you get it?: Yes, if you want to heroically swipe words
As the Schoolhouse Rock song about zero taught me many years ago, there are all kinds of heroes. A word hero is apparently someone who can find words in a four-by-four grid and quickly swipe them. The mind boggles at this definition.
Playing [WordHero], you test the speed of your brain and your fingers against hundreds of people around the world, all looking for as many words as possible in the same arrangement of letters.
The app puts you in a league based on your average score, so beginners don't end up competing against folks with freakishly large vocabularies. The app does validate your words against a dictionary that is quite sizable.FULL ENTRY
By Kailani Koenig-Muenster
Reviewing: Stitcher Radio
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android phones and tablets, recent models from Blackberry, Palm, and Nook, Amazon Kindle Fire, desktop
Should you get it?: Yes, if you're interested in expanding the kind of content you get through radio
Sometimes you just don't want to stare at a screen anymore. If you're like me and you spend a significant part of the day surrounded by the glow of computers, TVs, phones, and other devices, your eyes can glaze over. When it's time to close them and just listen, back comes radio.
Until my smartphone, my relationship with radio had only stayed alive because of the car. I'd listen if I was driving and I didn't have a CD or MP3 plugin anywhere, or if I wanted to dip into the latest news headlines. But I'd almost always end up switching back and forth between the same four or five stations, and I could never call up a favorite show or a specific, contemporary topic on demand.
Now with several radio apps, you don't have to choose and settle. I started with TuneIn Radio, which boasts more than 40,000 stations and streamed seamlessly on my Android phone. Then as soon as someone recommended Stitcher Radio, I haven't gone back.FULL ENTRY
By: Kristi Palma
Reviewing: HT-C Flashlight
By: Health & Fun Appz
Should you get it?: Yes! If you have to be awake when the sun is down, it will come in handy more than you think.
One of my favorite apps on my Android is the flashlight app. It's one of those things you don't realize you need until you have it. Like a lint brush.
For starters, I wake up for work at 5 a.m. That means it's still dark and my hubby is softly, blissfully snoring. It means if I turn the bedroom light on, I may wake him up and face a confrontation that's less than blissful.
Enter the flashlight app. It turns on your camera's LED light so you can use it as a flashlight. With one quick click, I am peering into my jewelry box in the dark corner. I am digging for that green and silver necklace to match my skirt. And doing it discreetly (you're welcome, honey!).FULL ENTRY
By Martine Powers
Talking with friends about money is awkward.
There's always that moment at the end of an otherwise lovely dinner when the check arrives ("Sorry, we don't split bills!"), everyone throws down cash, and somehow the table is $15 short. Cue accusatory looks. Usually, the most weak-willed member of the group - rarely the one who underpaid - ends up footing the remainder.
Now there's help: Splitwise, the app that serves as an objective third-party arbiter and doesn't mind prodding friends to fork over the appropriate cash.FULL ENTRY
By Matt Pepin
Colleague Zuri Berry recently pointed out how lousy the NFL '12 app is, and I couldn't agree more. By the second week of the season, I'd abandoned it as my second screen on Sundays, which left the door wide open for something else.
Enter ESPN's Fantasy Football app, a far more entertaining and convenient experience than simply logging on to ESPN.com to follow your fantasy football team.FULL ENTRY
By Joe Allen-Black
By: Stephen Jam
Should you get it?: Yes, if you hate having to ask yourself "how much longer?"
My phone is how I keep track of phone numbers, addresses, food recommendations, my collar size ... (you get the picture). Anything I can file away digitally, I will. It leaves more room in my brain for important things like which Kardashian is which.
So when I started getting excited for a half-marathon in November, I wanted my phone to start telling me every day how much longer I have until I run 13.1 miles in Disney World. It was irritating for me to constantly look up the date and the do the math.
Enter DaysUntil. This free app for Apple products tells you how much longer until an event will happen. That's its sole purpose, and it does that extremely well.FULL ENTRY
By Swati G. Sharma
It's Friday night. As usual, I have plans with a group of friends, and again, as usual, no one can decide where to go.
But no worries - it's the Matchbook app to the rescue!
I open the application on my iPhone, and voila! A list of restaurants that I jotted down - either recommended to me by a friend or a spot I walked past at some point - appears on my screen.
The Matchbook app provides a simple service: It keeps track of restaurants, bars, or cafes you wish to explore at a later date.FULL ENTRY
By Zuri Berry
Reviewing: NFL '12
By: NFL Enterprises LLC
Price: Free (with in-app subscription)
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android
Should you get it?: Only if you don't know how to operate your mobile Internet browser.
I think everybody is done complaining about the NFL's impasse with the referees now that there has been a labor resolution. The zebras returned for Thursday night's football game, and harmony was restored on the playing field.
But not in cyberspace. The complaints are still streaming in from the NFL's mobile app (iOS, Android), which went from an incredibly useful secondary screen with video highlights from each game last season, to a slowly updated and now costly expense.FULL ENTRY