Our favorite iOS Apps, September edition

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As we do every month, Macworld staffers got together to chat about the best apps they’ve been using recently. Here are some that have recently captured our imaginations (and perhaps a spot on our homescreens), whether they’re tiny apps from budding developers or the top-grossing apps that everyone is using. Our hope is that, while you might recognize some of these apps, others you might never have encountered. All of them, we think, are worth a look.

Chris Breen: Lords of the Waterdeep

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After a long break from gaming, I’ve rekindled my interest not only in computer and console gaming, but board games as well. In particular I’ve been looking at strategy games. These tend to be complicated and invariably include dense manuals. I learn better by doing and so I use the iOS equivalents of some of these games to show me how the game is played.

My current favorite among these games is Playdek’s $7 implementation of Lords of Waterdeep. It’s a reasonably faithful rendition of the collect-resources-and-perform-tasks board game and allows you to play online or against the device’s AI (which invariably beats me). Regrettably, it currently displays only in portrait orientation. Yes, the Dungeons & Dragons theme isn’t for everyone, but once you look past it, you’ll enjoy the opportunity to pursue quests and do the dirty to your opponents when afforded the opportunity.

Serenity Caldwell: Hyperlapse

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It’s no secret around these parts that I’m a bit of an Instagram addict; there’s something really exciting to me about limiting yourself to certain crops and shots in order to tell a good visual story. Instagram’s Hyperlapse offers limitations of a different sort, focusing on timelapse video.

You can take video of just about anything—flying, driving, panning across a beach—and Hyperlapse condenses and stabilizes it into a beautifully-rendered timelapse, offering almost cinematic results. I’ve been having far too much fun playing with it over the last few weeks, and recommend you pick it up and take it for a spin if you like shooting any sort of video.

Dan Frakes: Plates

Our extended family frequently dines out as a group, and we have a lot of fun—until it comes time to split the bill. We’ve got kids and adults, alcohol drinkers and non-drinkers, heavy eaters and light, so splitting the bill equally isn’t really an option. (We’re also a family of details, so everyone would prefer to pay their correct share.) Over the years, I’ve tried a slew of bill-splitting apps, but none has gotten the details quite right. The free Plates (App Store link), however, recently earned a spot on my iPhone.

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When you launch the app, you tell it how many people ate, the total bill amount (minus tax and tip), and, separately, the total tax. On the right, you get a display that looks like a table, with a plate for each diner. (The idea here is that each plate represents a person at the actual table where you’re sitting.) For each item on the bill, you enter the price and then drag it to the person paying for that item; if multiple people shared the item, drag the price into the center and then tap the corresponding plates to divide the cost. At any time, you can tap a plate to see that person’s assigned items. And if there are items you want to divide equally, just save those for the end—with one tap, you can split the remainder of the bill.

When you’re done assigning items, you choose the tip percentage—it’s divided proportionately based on each person’s part of the bill—and choose to share the final bill details by email or text. Choose the recipients, and you then drag each name to the corresponding plate to assign totals. Everyone then gets a text or email message with a link to an attractive webpage displaying the bill breakdown. (I’d rather see the splits right in the email message, but the webpage approach is handy for texting.) It’s an easy solution to a messy task, and it’s sure to satisfy even the penny counters at your table.

Dan Moren: HanxWriter

Sure, it may seem silly to use a piece of 21st century technology to recreate one invented a hundred years ago, but there’s still something delightful about the HanxWriter typewriter app—and it’s not just the involvement of acting legend Tom Hanks. The app’s viscerally satisfying, from the ka-chunk sound of tapping the keys to the bell that triggers when you reach the end of a line. Purists can even opt to disable the Delete key for a real typewriter experience.

staff picks hanxwriter

I challenge anybody not to sit down at the app and start pounding out their next hardboiled crime novel. The basic app is free, but for additional typewriter models, ribbon colors, and the ability for multiple documents (alongside other features), you’ll need to turn to in-app purchases.

Roman Loyola: Pocket Linesman

I realize that Pocket Linesman (free) is an iOS app that’s for a niche market—that market being soccer referees, of which I happen to be a part. But over three milion kids participate in youth soccer, so that means there are a lot of soccer coaches and parents, and this app could be useful to them, as well.

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Pocket Linesman can be used to record the basic stats of a soccer match. It has a timer that I use as a backup to my wrist stopwatch (I wish Pocket Linesman’s reset button was a little bigger, though), a scoreboard that you modify by simply tapping the team’s name, and sections for match details, notes, and tracking penalities. If you’re not a fast typist, you can use the app’s helpful Voice Notes feature to make a recording of your dictation. If you need to turn in match reports to your league’s office, the app allows you to generate and email match reports.

The app hasn’t replaced the written gamecards I’m required to use, so Pocket Linesman serves as a digital backup and archive of the games I’ve officiated. And when I’m watching my sons’ matches, I use the app to record the results. Its interface isn’t fancy, but the app allows me to keep a nice little database that I can easily refer to when I’m at youth soccer events.

Jason Snell: Rules

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From the minds of TheCodingMonkeys, the developer of the excellent Carcassonne for iOS, comes the $2 action puzzle game Rules. In Rules you scan a 4-by-4 grid that’s populated with cards, each one featuring a numbers and a picture. The object of the game is to remove the cards in the correct sequence, as determined by a series of rules (hence the name), before the clock ticks to zero. With each grid you clear successfully, a new rule is added, and the longer you take to solve a puzzle, the less time you have to solve the next one.

The next thing you know, you’re reciting the rules in your sleep: whales, then any animals, then green monsters, then any monsters, then nines, then odd numbers, then greens, then highest to lowest… all while the clock just keeps ticking away. The games sounds and graphics are beautifully executed, and if there’s ever a game to make the visual centers of your brain more active, this is it.

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