Thousands of mobile apps are released every week, but most have little to no appeal to the casual smartphone or tablet owner. Here are some new or recently updated iOS and Android apps that are highly functional and could very well become mainstays on your device's home screen:
Typically, weather apps are bare bones, but Yahoo! has done a fine job breaking the stereotype with this offering, which is one of the most visually appealing on the market. For starters, it includes big, beautiful photos (pulled from Flickr) to go with its weather forecasts. You get the kind of data you expect -- temperatures, precipitation and so on -- as well as live radar feeds, extended outlooks, interactive heat maps, satellite feeds, and sunrise and sunset times. The design is breathtaking and condenses all pertinent weather report information on one scrollable page.
Quite possibly the most noble app to be put out by such a massive company (Google), One Today brings a different nonprofit group or project to your attention every single day and asks that you donate one dollar to the cause. Hopefully, you'll share your donation through social media and inspire even more giving to people and organizations who are trying to make the world a better place.
SendHub from InfoReach is the latest in a long line of apps that seek to make business communications easier, while also keeping your personal number as personal as possible. Offering a voice-over-Internet alternative phone service, SendHub gives you a free business line in any area code and allows you to text and call right through the app. There's also nifty features like call forwarding, group texting, voice mail and all the rest. It's got a few bugs skittering about in its system, but it works well and is definitely a great step toward keeping your business and personal lives separate.
The team behind Evernote, the software suite for organizing and note-taking, has outdone itself with the latest update to Skitch, which allows you to make collaborative annotations to documents and images. Skitch's recent update adds a "summary" feature that lets you see all of the annotations on a particular document, among other features. Skitch also includes the ability to add stickers and text to PDF files. When you're done, you can send your annotated documents either through email or through your Evernote account.
Sketchbook Ink (iOS, Android; $4.99)
Turn your iPad or Android tablet into a drawing pad with Sketchbook Ink, developed by the reputable Autodesk Inc. team. Once you download Sketchbook Ink, you'll have a full art kit at your fingertips, without any of the hassle of actually procuring art supplies. The app allows you to work with multiple layers, a color editor to create custom swatches, multiple presets for line weights, the ability to zoom in and out, and more. You can save your Sketchbook projects and return to them later or export them through email, Dropbox or an SD card.
-- By Appolicious.com, Tribune Media Services
Clear as a Bell
Amid the avalanche of new technology, an old-technology recording may be the most amazing. Smithsonian researchers have recovered the voice of inventor Alexander Graham Bell from a 128-year-old wax-and-cardboard disc housed at the Institution. At the end of the 4 1/2 minute recording made in 1885, Bell says, "Hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell." To hear Bell's voice, go to bit.ly/bell-audio
Amazon in hot water
Web domain suffixes will soon be expanded from the traditional .com, .gov and .org to include individual names. Amazon.com, for example, has applied for .amazon, but the retailer is drawing a flood of protest. British newspaper The Guardian reports that Brazil and Peru are objecting because the governments want the suffix for their Amazon -- the geographical area and the river.
Raise a Glass
Google Glass won't be available to the general public until next year, but the futuristic wearable computer has already garnered a lot of interest and curiosity. Glass users can surf the Web or take a picture using the tiny screen that sits above a person's line of vision. Google has just released its first informational video on how to use Glass. Go to bit.ly/googleglasshowto
-- PETER KING