By Daniel B. Kline
Since Dunkin' Donuts has more of a blue collar image than Starbucks, the company was not as quick to embrace the app world. That said, once the popular doughnut-and-coffee chain made the move, they developed a mobile experience that rivals the one offered by its hoity toity competitor.
Like the Starbucks app, the Dunkin' app lets you put cash into a virtual gift card that can be refilled via autopayment. The app also has a store finder that ties into GPS and the ability to send gift cards. The app also offers coupons and app-only deals much like the Starbucks app.
So there's nothing revolutionary here. The Dunkin' Donuts app works like the Starbucks app, but that's not a bad thing, given that the Starbucks app offers a blueprint for how retail store apps should work.
The visual interface may even be a little crisper and easier-to-read than the Starbucks app. Dunkin' uses a very clean, minimalist interface using splashes of its trademark orange set against a white backdrop.
Overall, if you like Dunkin' Donuts, this app makes it easy to find a place to indulge your caffeine habit. Of course, there aren't too many places in Massachusetts where finding a Dunkies is a problem, but should you be in one of those remote places and find you desperately need a large iced coffee, this app will get you there with no hassle.
By Daniel B. Kline
While a lot of companies have apps for their customers, the Starbucks app may be the best retail app available. The coffee chain has pioneered the use of your phone as a payment device, and it’s almost too easy to take a Starbucks gift card and make it your payment method through your phone.
Basically, a cardholder simply inputs some data and the balance gets transfered to your phone. You can set up automatic reloads that make sure your virtual card is never empty. This, of course, also creates an odd disconnect between buying something at Starbucks and actually spending money. When all you have to do is hold your phone up to a digital scanner to pay, it simply does not feel like spending money, which might lead to overspending.FULL ENTRY
By Daniel B. Kline
Trivie offers fairly basic trivia action in a game show-style format. Players must either create an account or log in through Facebook to play, and all games are head-to-head against either a friend you invite or a stranger you are matched against randomly.
The basic game play has players competing in a four-round match where the early rounds are multiple-choice questions and the final round is a single question a la Final Jeopardy. There are rotating free categories as well as a selection of topics that can be paid for. You can also buy other items in the game like fancier avatars or the ability to earn credits to buy even more stuff faster.
Trivie works much like Words with Friends or an online board game like chess or checkers in that once the first user completes a round, he must wait for his opponent to play before scores are compared and the second round becomes playable. This makes for somewhat unsatisfying game play as playing a round takes longer than many games with similar styles of play.
In addition, over the handful of games I played with strangers, it seems that if one player builds a commanding early lead, the other tends to not come back to finish. If that happens, instead of a forfeit victory, the player in the lead is simply stuck in an unfinished game. And, since Trivie does track how many victories a player has, creating a big lead only to have your opponent not finish can be somewhat frustrating.
Trivie's website claims the app has more than 75,000 trivia questions and in frequent play, I did not see a repeat very often. The questions are somewhat easy in general and the game is more aimed at the Wheel of Fortune audience than the Jeopardy crowd.
Trivie is a decent, but not great, app that suffers from the intermittent game play. A single player option would be nice, as would faster gameplay.
By Joel Abrams
I recently put in a bid for The Boston Globe, but was unsuccessful, so I bought Boston.com. Not in the real world, but in Tiny Tycoons - a sim where instead of growing crops, building a city or running an amusement park, you take over real-world real estate.FULL ENTRY
By Daniel B. Kline
Having a useful website does not always translate into having a useful app. Take countless travel apps that perform poorly when compared to their online versions. So just because OpenTable has an easy-to-use, especially useful website does not mean that would carry over to the app.
In this case, however, those fears were unfounded as the OpenTable folks have delivered a perfect, simple, and elegant app. Like its online parent, the OpenTable app lets you make restaurant reservations. And while the website can sometimes feel cluttered and a little hard to navigate, the app offers the bare minimum. There are no bells and whistles; but in this case, you don't need them.
The OpenTable app makes it incredibly easy to use your phone to make a restaurant reservation – be it for tonight in Boston, or six months down the road in San Francisco. After registering (or logging in with an existing account), you simply pick a location, a date, and time. Once you enter that data, a list of available times at various eateries come up and finishing the reservation is just a couple of clicks away.
There's nothing fancy about this app. It doesn't do much to help you decide between the restaurants (though you can see menus and read reviews from other OpenTable customers). You can also get directions by accessing the Maps app from the OpenTable app, but none of that is the point. This is an app that lets you make a reservation in a few simple clicks and it does that fabulously well.
OpenTable also has a rewards system tied into your account where you get points for every reservation you make and keep. Those points can be traded in for gift cards good at any OpenTable restaurant. Since the app offers a useful service without offering a kickback, the rewards system is simply icing on an already delicious cake.
By Robert S. Davis
From a viewer's perspective, there are few things more dramatic and immersive than a panoramic photograph. But for photographers, the production of such sweeping images can be an onerous task that at first required specialty cameras and film as well as time and expertise.
Digital photography facilitated production, allowing photographers to stitch together many photos in an image editor or via a camera's built-in software. And now app-laden smartphones that rival the image quality of point-and-shoot cameras make producing stunning panoramas easier than ever.
At 99 cents, Occipital's 360 Panorama app offers iOS and Android users a powerful tool to create not only standard panoramic photos, but truly immersive, 360-degree images with sweeping views from sky to shoes. Image quality is often excellent and the app offers several options for sharing photos.FULL ENTRY
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 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 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 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