What Apps I Use Most – I Try First #1

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I Try First is a column where I try apps and share with you their taste. It updates at least one time each week.
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This first post is a little different. It includes those apps I currently use and recommend most, while future posts will mainly focus on new apps and new updates of them.
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Here we go.
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Usage Frequency Top 10 (according to iPhone’s “battery usage” function)
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I recorded how much I used the apps on my iPhone by referring to the “BATTERY USAGE” function under “Settings”.
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No surprise to see Facebook, Instagram, Evernote and WeChat rank high, but the other six are all very helpful too.
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Icon clear
Clear
Frequency: open almost every hour
Cost: £3.99
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Among the countless to-do apps, Clear could be one of the coolest. All functions in Clear are controlled by simple and playful gestures. And they are very easy to learn with a step-by-step tutorial, which itself is a to-do list.
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What I like most about Clear is its beautiful user interface. The color transition from the top to the bottom shows a decrease of priority.
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三个level
The three-level interface allows me to organise different categories easily. 
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左滑右滑
Swipe right to finish an item. Swipe left to delete.
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pinch + drag
I can use my fingers to pinch apart two bars to create a new item, or simply drag a bar to change its priority.
Clear has done a very good job organising my to-do lists and making the item-creating process effortless. It also gives me a strong sense of accomplishment by swiping a finished item to the right and hearing a refreshing buzz sound.
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With Clear, I find my life a lot more efficient, which is the key criterion to evaluate to-do apps. With its fresh UI design and user friendly gestures, I find it better than most other apps in the same category.
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Click here to download Clear.
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Icon drafts
Drafts 4
How frequent: 5-10 times every day
Cost: £7.99
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Being a student and media worker, I always need to type down news ideas, story outlines, interview questions – anything from rough ideas to detailed plans. Drafts, which has been updated to its 4th generation, satisfies my need for convenience, quickness and simplicity.
I do use other note apps (Evernote for example) as well, but to me, they are for more delicate circumstances (at least with stable Internet connection). As many others, I turned to lightweight apps in recent years, and found Drafts. Once opened, it shows me a very simple interface with only an input window and a keyboard. I just need to type what came to my mind and choose whether to send it somewhere or to close it with autosaving.
drafts 1
Email, Message, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, social media… Drafts provides as many output methods as I can imagine. Very helpful.
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Since I started to use Drafts, my workflows have been smoothed a lot. With so many platforms and circumstances to write in, Drafts plays the role of a perfect entrance. It allows me to avoid unnecessary steps and write down my thoughts as soon as possible.
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drafts 2
In Drafts, I can edit my text in the unit of paragraph (left pic) and change font, page color and brightness to make writing experience more comfortable.
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Now everything gets easier. First have an idea. Then open Drafts to write it down. If I were in London tube, I would never have a chance to open Evernote. Drafts is my easiest entrance whenever an idea occurs.
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When it comes to outputting, I can create personalised “actions” by combining several steps (for example: 1.share my text to Tumblr 2.create an Evernote note for archiving 3.open Tumblr to check the post). In this way I can finish a string of actions with one click. That’s another huge advantage of using Drafts.
Click here to download Drafts 4.
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Icon plant nanny
Plant Nanny
Frequency: 10 times per day
Cost: free
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Plant Nanny is an app that very well reflects the idea of “gamification”. It relates how much water I drink to how much the virtual plant gets watered, thus I can record my water intake in a very playful way.
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It is both easy and interesting to use Plant Nanny. My suggested water intake is calculated according to my body information. Then what I need to do is just to choose a cute plant and start recording how much water I drink.
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plant nanny 1
Each plant has four growth stages. Drink more, and it will grow.
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More than 30 species are waiting for users to plant.
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Besides those cartoon plants which trigger my curiosity to see their final appearance, an achievement system is also included in Plant Nanny. For me, who is so obsessed with collecting and fulfilling achievement, this really pushes me to drink more water.
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So no matter a user is like me or just using Plant Nanny for its cuteness, it will both become a efficient health assistant. So there’s no wonder that Plant Nanny could rank 1st in the app stores of 15 countries.
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Click here to download Plant Nanny.

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Quartz
Frequency: every day
Cost: free
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When I first knew Quartz, it was just a news website that I couldn’t access in China. I remember my friend, who’s a reporter in Quartz, recommend me to subscribe it by email. However, this time when I saw Quartz’s new app, I was totally amazed.
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The way Quartz delivers news is revolutionary. A news app’s traditional elements such as tabs and lists can not be seen in Quartz. Instead, it uses the format of “conversation” to tell me news. After trying it, I dispelled all my worries about its feasibility. Gossips are always more fascinating than news, so why not delivering news in a gossiping way?
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quartz
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Besides texts, other common elements in Messages or WhatsApp are also used in Quartz. I have received emojis, pictures, gifs, videos, musics and even locations. All of them are combined very well to make users both informed and entertained.
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The only disadvantage of Quartz could be that I can’t explore news on my own initiative. But I don’t see much problem here. Most people today use various kinds of apps and websites at the same time, so Quartz doesn’t need to be users’ only choice. To me, it’s a very playful complement to other sources.
Click here to download Quartz.
castro
Castro
Frequency: every 2-3 days
Cost: free
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No matter how traditional and new media are fighting for survival or expansion, it is a fact that podcast remains its popularity. Listening to podcasts has always been my routine when I’m on the way or before sleep. I agree that many contents can be better expressed in an oral way, so I’m still searching and listening to high-quality podcasts.
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castro 1
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The UI of Castro is designed with extreme simplicity, even without an “explore” function. Yes, the only way to add podcasts to the playlist is to search manually. But I don’t see it as a problem, as Castro include a wide range of sources. All the episodes (not only English ones, but also many in other languages) are listed in the format of timeline. Clear and easy to organise.
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castro 2
A lot can be adjusted in Castro, to ensure a satisfying hearing experience.
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However, to explore new podcasts, I still need to use other apps (for example Overcast) as supplement. But I always turn back to Castro for listening, just because of its simplicity.
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Click here to download Castro.
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Icon best before

Best Before

Frequency: every day
Cost: ¥6.00 (only available in App Store China)
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Yes, the Internet of Things is still yet to come, but I have Best Before. It helps me solve the problem of organising things that are not stored electronically. Among the apps released recently, Best Before is not the fanciest, but one of the most functional.
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best before
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Everyone can understand how to use this app without a tutorial. Add an item after you buy it. Then choose a “best before” date and set an “attention” date. All the items are automatically listed in chronological order, with red or green color showing “turning bad” or “still fresh”.
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best before 2
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Best Before is not only for food, as identities, medicines, memberships, lease and insurance can also be recorded in it. Once I restock or renew stuffs, items can also be updated. Very convenient.
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Though I have just used Best Before for 2 weeks, I’ve already been habituated to check it every day. Now the chance to leave food expired has decreased a lot. And I will keep using it until the Internet of Things come to my life.
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Click here to download Best Before.
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I Try First is a column where I try apps and share with you their taste.

For other posts, please click here.

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