This week we are changing things up a little.  We wanted to make this a special post where we pay tribute to 2011 by selecting that one app, accessory, piece of hardware, etc that we couldn’t live without.  Hopefully many of our favorite items will also be yours. However, if they’re not, please feel free […]
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iSource Picks of the Year

This week we are changing things up a little.  We wanted to make this a special post where we pay tribute to 2011 by selecting that one app, accessory, piece of hardware, etc that we couldn’t live without.  Hopefully many of our favorite items will also be yours. However, if they’re not, please feel free to comment on our selections, and suggest picks of your own. Check out this year’s picks after the break.

 

iOS 5.0

Picked by: AliciaB

My Pick of the Year is iOS5.  After long and careful consideration I’ve decided that this piece of software is the thing that most delighted my iLife this year.

Although I do not each feature or app daily and despite the fact that many things are still a work in progress (iMessage I’m looking at you!) this is the thing that Apple can be most proud of birthing this year (yes even above iPad 2 and Lion). It was such a major release that it felt like I was getting a new phone.  And that’s a good thing, because I was feeling a major itch for something new around this past August/September. So I was most relieved and delighted to see that iOS5 did not render my iPhone 4 obsolete, I was still rocking one of the coolest smartphones on the planet, now with cool new features.

What I most like about the update for my iPhone are customizable Notifications, geotaggable Reminders, the effortless and indomitable Photo Stream and Over The Air syncing. Additionally the introduction of Multitasking gestures and Airplay Mirorring for my iPad 2 make a world of difference. I can’t remember how we used to live without these features. Of course a lot of things are aided and abetted by iCloud which delivers more or less a smooth user experience once correctly set up. Now that we know that it is by no means a given that you can get the latest software updates for your smartphone I appreciate it even more that Apple continues to be dedicated to upgrading and improving the software experience for users of iDevices. All in all a Very Good Thing that I heartily recommend (yes there are still people who have not yet updated).

(Free update) Link

 

 

MacBook Air

Picked by: Alex Jordan

 

I’ve written ad nauseum about my new MacBook Air on this site– but I’m in love, and I will be continuing to write about it. As you likely know by now, my MacBook Pro died way before it should have. I quickly replaced it with the top-of-the-line MacBook Air, which is simply the fastest machine I have ever owned. It is an awesome tool that I use to create my work. Whether that be graphics, the words that you are reading, or something extra– this machine handles it beautifully. I use to doubt it, but now I know that Solid State Drives are what make all the difference in modern computers. Gone are the days where CPU clock speeds are the only benchmark that correlates to performance improvements. You owe it to yourself to take a look at the MacBook Air, they’re worth the money. That is why it is my pick of the year.

Link

 

iOS 5.0

Picked by: Patrick

I absolutely agree with Alicia. iOS 5 is the best thing that’s happened in my usage of Apple devices this year. I use a MacBook Pro as my primary and only computer, so this was a big update year on the desktop as well – but I like (and use) the new features in iOS 5 much more than those in OS X Lion.

Alicia points out that iMessage is still a bit of a work in progress, but I still get a heck of a lot of good use out of it on both iPad and iPhone. AirPlay Mirroring is just huge fun and a hugely impressive feature all the way around. Notification Center is a BIG, big improvement. And multitasking gestures on the iPad 2 are great too. Oh, and of course the ‘PC-Free’ type features – including OTA updates and WiFi sync – are superb and very welcome. iCloud hasn’t wowed me thus far,  but it’s a useful addition as well.

More than anything, as Alicia points out, iOS 5 and iOS annual updates in general, are one of the biggest benefits of owning an iDevice.

(Free update) Link

 

 

iPhone 4S

Picked by: Jay 

There are a lot of great products out there that deserve attention, and I don’t mean for this to be the easy way out, but my can’t-live-without-product-of-2011 is the iPhone 4S. You may be yawning and thinking that’s an unfairly easy choice so let me explain why.

Unlike most of my colleagues here at iSource, I didn’t upgrade to an iPhone 4 and instead had been using my 3GS for the previous 2.5 years. I loved what it offered at the time. Yet as the technology rapidly changed, and the intensity of apps increased the demands on the device, I found I wanted features Apple didn’t offer (yet) – particularly with notifications. So I jailbroke, customized, made it mine, and also gritted my teeth when the 3GS labored to keep up with me: it felt like a bloated Windows PC needing a fresh start.

With the release of the 4S, I decided I needed the fresh start too. And I like it, love it, and want some more of it. With the upgrade came the retina display – what others had been seeing for over a year! If, like me, your vision might also be in need of an upgrade, the display on the iPhone 4/4S is a stunning improvement.

What I love, however, is not what most people tout: Siri. For me, Siri is still too beta to embrace. I find it fails to perform at the level everyone else gets it to work. (I also didn’t have great luck with it as a standalone app on the 3GS). Far too often when I use the dictate feature from the keyboard, it fails. When it works, its impressive, but it’s lackluster performance hasn’t become the go-to feature of the 4S for me.

What the 4S does have is such impressive zippy performance! That dual-core A5 chip makes it gazelle-like in doing everything – from complex multitasking to the ease of typing. Rarely has it suffered from the 3GS performance anxiety where I felt obligated to force quit everything. It’s responsive and keeps up with me.

Also, the 8MB HD camera with the improved native Camera app, makes the 4S a point-and-shoot-camera killer. Gone are the days of carrying a dedicated camera for kids’ events. Having a more tightly integrated camera, with a better phone (yes, I don’t suffer from the number of dropped calls the 3GS had) and internet device, makes the whole package a major improvement over what I was using.

Is the 4S perfect? Nope. The battery life could absolutely be better, but it’s and improvement over what I was experiencing with my 3GS. The display could be larger – I envy some of the smartphone screen sizes I’ve seen – but I don’t know what another phone size would be like to carry in my pocket.

Overall, I wouldn’t want to be without it. And if Siri moves out of beta and becomes more reliable, I can see how I would love it even more.

Link

 

Dropbox

Picked by:  Thomas

My pick of the year is definitely Dropbox. It has become an integral part of how I work and think, so much so that I make purchasing decisions around whether or not an app supports Dropbox. Thankfully, Dropbox has become nearly ubiquitous in the past year. More and more apps sync with Dropbox, thereby making it painless to keep my files in sync across my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro.

iCloud may eat into some of Dropbox’s game in the coming year, but I still really like the metaphor of a magic box that you can access from any device with an Internet connection. iCloud still relies too heavily on having mirror versions of apps across multiple devices. So while I do appreciate the iCloud syncing on apps like SoundHound and iA Writer, I find it limiting that the synced data is easily accessible within the respective apps (e.g. iA Writer drafts in iCloud are easily found within the Mac and iPad apps, but it’s much more difficult to find their files in Finder).

I love how Dropbox lets me choose what apps I want to use on a given platform as long as I point them to the same folder. I prefer iA Writer on the Mac, but love using WriteRoom on the iPad, and it’s Dropbox’s flexibility that allows these separate apps to seamlessly access the same data.

Dropbox also kicks ass in other miscellaneous areas:

– hosting a Minecraft server is made easier when it’s stored on Dropbox. Any of my friends can host, and the files are updated across everyone’s systems  because the folder is shared

– it’s still easier to sling photos to my Mac through Dropbox than it is to rely on Photo Stream, which requires Aperture or iPhoto be loaded (I still think that’s silly)

– Dropbox makes for a great flash drive in the sky and the native Dropbox app lets me email big files remotely, right from my iOS devices

I don’t think I’m blind to the downsides of Dropbox and cloud storage (remember the login fiascos from June?), but the pros still far outweigh the cons, as far as I’m concerned. I love being able to take all of my notes and thoughts with me wherever I go, without once having to think where the most recent versions are.

(Free)  Link

 

 

Apple TV (2)

Picked by:  Brandon

 

My pick of the year is the Apple TV (2). While it’s far from the perfect device, the Apple TV has completely changed the way we entertain in our home. When we have people come over we now turn on the Apple TV, set it to a music genre that suits our visitors and let the slideshow feature run. We have thousands of pictures from our lives and with the Apple TV they no longer just sit on a hard drive unseen and unshared. There’s nothing better than being able to share your life events with friends on the big screen without making them sit down and watch a boring slide deck. With the ATV we can just let the show run in the background and when someone sees a picture that interests them we talk about what was going on. If you have an ATV – try it next time you’re having people over. You’ll be surprised how many great conversations it can spark up. We also use the ATV for the conventional uses – streaming movies / music from our iTunes library and Netflix, but by far my favorite use is sharing.

The problem with the Apple TV is that it’s almost a useless device if you don’t have a computer in the house to just sit around and serve up content since the Apple TV doesn’t have any storage space or USB capability. Sure you could stream from Apple directly, subscribe to MLB / NHL / Netflix, but where the Apple TV really shines is bringing your library to the big screen. So, my big wish for the 2012 Apple TV is that Apple brings it some way to connect to direct storage for content. All in all though, if you’re tied into the iTunes ecosystem and you don’t have an Apple TV – you’re really missing out.

($99)  Link

 

 

There you have it! Hope you enjoyed our Picks of the Year. Please let us know what you think, and share with us some of your favorites in the comments.

 

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