Category Apps

Counting Fun for Kids in ‘The Lonely Beast 123’ App

The Lonely Beast 123 App

If you have kids you’ll know just how much they love playing with phones and iPads. One of my favorite kids apps of late has been The Lonely Beast 123. It’s a follow up to The Beast’s popular Alphabet app and it features a new flash card adventure that teaches numbers and counting in a fun and entertaining way.

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Paper finds it’s partner in Pencil

Paper finds it's match in Pencil

Paper, probably the best sketching app made for the iPad, has expanded their offerings from digital to physical with the release of their new stylus, Pencil. This is no ordinary stylus though, Pencil has palm rejection technology, a built-in eraser, and a tapered tip to allow for a variety of brush strokes. It also charge that lasts for about a month, but recharges in only 90 minutes.

Physically, it takes it shape from the carpenter pencil, revitalizing the classic design for our modern world. It also comes in two materials, a beautiful walnut or a graphite colored aluminum which has a bit more weight. It’s honestly a beautiful object despite it’s purpose and I think it’s really admirable to see FiftyThree, creators of Paper and Pencil, branch out into a physical product.

Lastly, if you’re not interested in sketching, you might be interested in the design of the Pencil site, which is a lovely experience in and of itself.

Tweetbot and Fantastical – iOS 7 Redesigns Done Right

Tapbots’ Tweetbot and Flexibits’ Fantastical both rose to the top as alternatives to their bland, dysfunctional counterparts. Tweetbot‘s cutesy-machine design characteristic fronted far more capable power features in comparison to Twitter’s official app. Similarly, Fantastical ditched the stock calendar’s leather-ridden look for a simpler aesthetic to enhance its also powerful features.

Both are similar in that they payed heavy attention to user experience, and were rewarded when they became hailed as better alternatives to the apps they set out to replace. Also, both held out on their iOS 7 redesigns to maintain exactly that: perfecting their indisputable designs rather than immediate aesthetic upgrades. And as of last week, both have finally hit the store.

TFIB Tweetbot 1

TFIB Tweetbot 2

Tweetbot‘s redesign is everything fans had come to expect. The past look, though very to distinct, leaned heavily on the skeumorphic trend. In Tweetbot 3, Tapbots converted to a flattened scheme, but without sacrificing the charm. Gestures are still integral to its experience, as conversation views or Tweet data are available with basic swipes. Tapbots focused on the content with in-line image previews, great full-screen viewing that allows you to interact with the picture, and a Instragam-esque timeline that displays edge-to-edge the images attached to tweets.

TFIB fantastical 1

TFIB Fantastical 2

Fantastical also simplified their past look with their update. In adding a few new features – such as reminders – and beefing up their already wonderful natural-language input, the app’s more powerful, yet feels lighter. It’s almost as if Fantastical was meant for the thin typography and bright colors of iOS 7. Its redesign is a balance of power and beauty.

So why include both apps in one post? Functionally, they have nothing to do with each other. Because Tweetbot and Fantastical, with updates having come around the same time, are examples of how to do an iOS 7 redesign right. They didn’t show up on day one, but they did maintain the charm and usability people fell in love with. Now they’re just polished up for the shiny new environment in which they now live.

Both Tweetbot 3 and Fantastical 2 are on sale. Grab ’em before the prices go up!

Not a Game, Not a Book – it’s Device 6

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Swedish app company Simogo knows how to take iOS gaming seriously. Their past releases like Year Walk and Beat Sneak Bandit took the casual arcade style of mobile gaming and wrapped it in a uniquely illustrated look. And while neither of these two games – nor the others before them – played the same way, they both were certainly iOS games.

Their latest app, though, is much more difficult to think of as a game. You could say that you play through it, yes. But you also read it, watch it, and listen to it. You’re better off saying Device 6 one experiences rather than plays.

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The UX Archive observes where design has been and where it’s going

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Try explaining UX design to someone who’s unfamiliar. It’s tough. Unlike the typography or colors that make up an application’s aesthetic, user experience is invisible when done well. That’s why for mobile app makers and designers good UX can be a tough thing to nail down. How do you implement design ideas when the best ones are fundamentally unnoticeable?

For designers Arthur Bodolec, Chris Polk, and Nathan Barraille, the answer is in observation. Observing how others have tackled user actions, and making note of what’s worked and what hasn’t. To do this, they created the UX Archive – a site meant for logging examples of popular apps and identifying how their design goes about certain challenges.

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Square Cash – Perhaps the easiest way to send money, ever

Cash by Square – Perhaps the easiest way to send money, ever

Doing things simply can oftentimes be the most difficult challenges to overcome. Since it’s inception Square, the company that helps companies of all sizes sell things, has proven itself to be a valuable resource because of it’s simplicity. They took the complexity out of selling and managing a cash register and made it so anyone call sell anything.

Square Cash – Perhaps the easiest way to send money, ever

Now Square has gone one step further and made it drop dead easy to send money to anyone with an email address, simply calling it Square Cash. As you can see above, all you do is go to your inbox or download the Cash app, put in a value and an email address and that’s it. Square has taken this idea of simplicity so far that when you’re on their site and scroll to the bottom you’ll see a link that says “Account.” When you click it you’re taken back to the middle of the page where at the top it says, “You don’t sign up, you just send an email.” Simple.

If you’re interested in trying out Square Cash and you think The Fox Is Black is a valuable source of inspiration or enjoyment, feel free to send a donation to Any amount is totally appreciated.

Callism Makes Your Phone a Phone Again

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It’s always great when a third-party app replaces a bad stock Apple app. Mailbox killed Mail, Drafts shamed Notes, Google destroyed Maps, et cetera, et cetera. And now there’s another one for the list – this time for the phone: Callism.

I know what you’re thinking. “I never call people anyway.” But that’s Callism’s point. It simplifies an already infrequent task. Most people find themselves calling only a handful of people, and the process of scrolling through a list of contacts feels redundant. Callism learns from your habits and puts that handful of people at the top of your list. That in itself should be enough to trump the first-party phone app.

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Clear, the App with Timeless Design

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Back in the iOS 6 days (man, remember those days?, there were a few apps that might foreshadow what was to come in the fabled “flat” iOS 7 redesign. One of the most prevalent was a to-do list app called Clear. It was gorgeous – simple color gradients, bold typography, and dead obvious gestures that made the app a delight to use. In the context of the rest of the OS’s awkward linen textures and embossed buttons, Clear stood out as the indisputable way of the future.

So now that we’ve arrived at this less-skeumorphic landscape, how does Clear hold up? Better than ever. In fact, it didn’t take much to return the app to its lead among other iOS 7 redesigns. With the just released Clear+, the typography was lightened, a few UI elements were added, and iCloud syncing was introduced to support a new iPad version.

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Instapaper’s Fresh New Direction

Instapaper Redesign GIF

The app Instapaper‘s been around for a while. Its creator, Marco Arment, introduced it as the first read-it-later service back in 2008. As just a web product, users installed the Instapaper bookmarklet to save articles for reading in their browser. When the iPad came out in 2010, however, things changed and Instapaper became a product all about reading articles on the go. Eventually Arment’s many other projects became a hindrance to Instapaper, and he decided to sell it in hopes of keeping the product fresh.

That brings us to today. The company Arment sold it to, Betaworks, is fresh off their wonderful revamp of Digg; and has been steeping Instapaper in their labs for the past couple months. After a quick testing period, Betaworks released their redesigned web component to the public last week. Kind of like the service’s beginning, Instapaper‘s getting a fresh start in the browser. And taking a look at this redesign, it appears the future’s really shaping up well for the old favorite.

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Blackbar: Not Your _______ iOS Game

Blackbar - An game for iOS

If you don’t know Neven Mrgan, you should. By day he’s a designer at Panic, Inc. where he works on their famous “shockingly good” software such as Coda and Transmit. But by night, Mrgan works in collaboration with others on projects for iOS. Mrgan’s previous game, The Incident, was as much aesthetic as it was fun to play. It nailed an 8-bit look and sound reminiscent of vintage arcade games, combined with a gameplay style that can only be described as the hellish opposite of Tetris.

Mrgan’s latest game, however, is a bit simpler. In Blackbar, the player reads mail. Mhmm. Mail. But the twist lies in that each new piece of mail has large redacted chunks of text – and it’s up to you to figure out what those words are. Unlike most iOS games, Blackbar figured out how to tell a story by simply playing the game. The further you get in your mail, the more aware you become of the dystopian society you and your correspondent live in.

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