Review: iStudiez Pro for Mac and iOS

March 24, 2011

Okay, after a very long wait, here’s my first review.  I must say in the interests of full disclosure that I actually bought the apps in question myself, thankfully they weren’t that expensive.  You can check out the app I’m reviewing below here.

iStudiez Pro (iPhone/iPad/Mac), $2.99 on the iOS App Store, Universal to iOS devices; $9.99 on the Mac App Store:

I’ve looked at several organizational apps over the years, but the one thing that all of them lacked was keeping things in sync across any and all devices that I owned.  iStudiez Pro is the very first one I’ve seen that has really transformed how organized I am, and really makes me feel good about using the app on a daily basis.

However, I always like to know what problem that product solves in a review of said product.  The problem that this solves for me personally is that I used to be perpetually off target with assignment due dates, etc.  (You wonder, then, why I have been a college student for so long?)  iStudiez Pro not only solves that particular problem, but it also solves the issue of keeping track of grades, grade weights, session GPAs, etc.  So, it really is perfect for a college student like myself.

I have not gotten the chance to play with the iPad version yet, but that is because I do not have an iPad of my own, but my guess is the interface is eerily similar to that of the Mac OS X version.

So, let’s go through each of the interfaces of the versions I do have, and I will describe them in a text-based form, but nothing is better than looking at screenshots, which you can find at their website, which I linked above.

Firstly, the iPhone interface: On the bottom, you have four categorical tabs that you can tap (from left-to-right): Today, Calendar, Assignments, and Planner.

On the Today tab, you can keep track of when you have to be in class, any assignments that are due, and some other things.  On the Calendar tab, you can take a look see at a monthly view of your schedule or your assignments, and if you color-code your classes (as I did), your class schedule will show up as multi-colored dots.

On the Assignments tab, you can see what’s coming up in the near-term as well as the long term, and you can also see all your completed assignments and the grades therein, and you can also edit the grades that you receive as you receive your completed assignments back.

And finally, on the Planner tab, you can drill down into your classes, add new semesters, add previous semesters if you like, and also look at your holidays and instructors.  You can also look at your overall GPA, but there is a slight problem with this that I’ll explain in a minute.

Also, you can change your settings on the Today tab with an i (for “Info”) button on the top left hand corner.  Tapping it reveals 4 large buttons in the middle of the screen, 1 smaller button on the upper right, and several bits of information.  First is the name of the app, iStudiez Pro, and the version number; in my case, it’s Version 1.5 (343).  Then, you get 4 large buttons in the middle of the screen, Settings, Data Managing, Technical Support, and Tell A Friend.  Then on the bottom, there’s the credits and copyrights involved with creating the application.

The Settings button is pretty self-explanatory, as you can change the application settings here.  When you tap Settings, you get Today, Calendar, and Planner (as you do on the main screen of the app), but then you also get 4 other options you can change: App Icon Badge, Grades, Notifications, and Sync.  More on the syncing part later.

Tapping Today shows that you can actually change the Today Icon that shows up in the Today tab on the main app screen, as well as the phrases that show up when there are either a) no more classes today, b) a day off, such as a weekend, or c) a vacation day.

Tapping Calendar says that you can manage iOS’s built-in Calendar app events from within iStudiez Pro, and you can see the different views and change whether or not you can have week numbers show up in the Week view as well as whether or not you can have multiple dots, colored dots, assignment icons, and exam icons show up in the Month view.

Tapping Planner allows you to have a time interval of either 1 or 5 minutes, and you can also modify the standard class duration as well, which is quite nice.

Tapping App Icon Badge allows you to either show or hide the badge and show how many days in advance you want to show tasks within the App Icon badge, whether all tasks, all overdue tasks, or even intervals of 1-6 days, 1-3 weeks, or one month.  That is very nice, believe me.  Keeps me much, MUCH more organized as a result!

Tapping Grades shows a toggle switch for whether you want to keep track of grades or not, what grading scale you need to have, whether it’s Percents, Points, or different kinds of letter grades, from A-F, some Chinese or Japanese characters I don’t know (I guess those are for the Asian schools), HD-F, and A-F (+/-), the last one of them I actually use for my own grades.  You can also see the GPA scale, as well as toggle overall GPA on/off (again, more on this later), and whether or not you want the Smart Keypad turned on once you get your assignments back (TRUST ME, it is that much easier to use the smart keypad, so keep it on, PLEASE!).

Tapping Notifications shows a Notifications toggle switch for classes as well as assignments, along with some minor tweaking on how you get notified about your classes or assignments.  For classes, you can get notified at a certain time before your class (depending upon your time interval), and what sound you want to be notified with (quite nice of them to do that).  For assignments, you can set a default time that you can get notified that certain assignments are due, as well as the sound you want to be notified with (again, quite nice of them to do that).

Data Management is basically how you can back up your data in case of emergency, yada yada yada.  Technical Support and Tell a Friend are also equally self-explanatory.

For the Mac OS X version, the main window is as follows: Along the top of the application window, you have 6 clickable icons (other than the standard Mac OS X icons), from left to right: Instructors, Holidays, Overview, Assignments, Planner, and Sync Now (if you have the Cloud Sync function enabled, which I do).  The Overview shows you your calendar view, it’s much like the Today and Calendar views on the iPhone version rolled into one.  The Assignments and Planner are pretty self-explanatory, although the Instructors and Holidays are essentially split off from their places in the Planner on the iOS version.

Also, there is NO Lite version on the Mac, but there is a free Lite version on the iOS so you can try it out.

So, after looking over all of the pieces and facets of the app, what’s the bottom line?

Pros:

  • Allows for really nice organization of your schoolwork, and the Cloud Sync is a really nice feature.
  • The ability to keep track of current semesters is a lifesaver for me.
  • The customizability of the way that the app notifies you of your class times and assignments is a really neat bonus.

Cons:

  • Cloud Sync, while being a really nice feature, is exceptionally wonky, where some things don’t sync from iOS to Mac, and most things don’t sync from Mac to iOS.
  • Keeping track of previous semesters as well as the GPAs therein to keep track of your Overall GPA is a really badly implemented feature, because it does not take into account grade replacements, or anything that affects overall GPA.
  • Color-coding and keeping track of each and every assignment actually has to be done manually before you can keep track of it in the app, but the manual labor required to keep yourself organized is worth it in the end.

Rating (out of 10): 9.7

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Words With Friends Free

January 14, 2011

Being a huuuuuuuuge Scrabble nerd (and with the travel version of Scrabble to prove it), I went looking for free Scrabble replacement-type games when I remembered Words With Friends had a free version.

So, the main difference between Words With Friends and Scrabble is that it is essentially Scrabble by mail in that you have to wait for your opponent to take her turn.

But, the game is incredibly fun, if riddled with highly annoying ads.  But hey, the app is free, and I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.  If you want to play me, I’m BJWanlund on Words With Friends.


Verizon Event Wrapup

January 11, 2011

No iTunes Tuesday for today, because the Verizon iPhone 4 has finally been confirmed, and more details are sure to come out in the coming weeks till its February 10th launch (February 3rd for existing customers)!!!


Verizon Event Predictions

January 10, 2011

Tomorrow, my friends, Verizon has invited all of the technology press to come to a special event the week after CES (the Consumer Electronics Show).

What will tomorrow’s event bring?  Tomorrow’s event will most definitely bring the one thing that Apple bloggers and Apple followers have wanted for four years now: An iPhone that works on Verizon Wireless’s CDMA, or Code Division Multiple Access, cellular network, which is a very different standard than the iPhone’s current reliance on GSM, or Global System for Mobile Communications, networks around the world.

It has been a very, very, very long time in coming, but if AT&T and Verizon both share the brunt of iPhone users, then it will ensure a chokehold on the iPhone’s continued dominance, and allow for even more growth of the market than is even relatively possible right now.

However, the press (and even the iPhone-using Apple faithful) are divided on whether it’ll just be an updated iPhone 4 or a totally new iPhone, the iPhone 5 if you will.  I think it’ll be more the former than the latter.  I also think that the Verizon iPhone will also actually be a iPhone 4A (the A standing for Antenna), and that the iPhone 4A will be this year’s “generation” of the iPhone.

As a refresher course, here’s how the iPhone generations have stacked up over the last 4 years or so:

  • iPhone.  The original Apple iPhone, with the typically awesome and mesmerizing Steve Jobs presentation that we Apple fans have come to know and love.  Only worked on EDGE networks owned by what was then known as Cingular Wireless, and what we know of today as AT&T, the dreaded “Death Star” to geeks everywhere.
  • iPhone 3G.  The iPhone that I currently have, and quite frankly, it’s showing its age in a very major way.  My 2-yr contract with AT&T is up, and I feel that the next iPhone that I get will be from Verizon Wireless, even if I cannot stand Verizon’s lackluster at best customer service.  Worked on both EDGE and 3G networks owned by AT&T, and AT&T kept its chokehold exclusive on the iPhone.
  • iPhone 3GS.  The third year of the original iPhone’s general design elements, and this is the metric by which I am predicting the iPhone 4A as I believe the iPhone 4’s revolutionary antenna design isn’t going to be going away entirely until at least a year or two in the future, again this is the metric by which we are going by, and it saves Apple time as well as money ordinarily spent each and every year on R&D.
  • iPhone 4.  The current generation of iPhone, with revolutionary photography features such as HDR (High Dynamic Range), touch to autofocus (introduced the year before on the iPhone 3GS), and 720p HD video recording (the first iPhone of its kind to do that), plus the revolutionary antenna design I’ve mentioned previously and the overall revolutionary design of the iPhone 4, after three years spent at the R&D labs deep within the lair found at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, CA.

So, where do we go from here?  Probably Apple will give the R&D guys time to hash out the next revolutionary iPhone design (which we probably won’t see until at least June of 2012) and allow the iPhone 4A (Apple could come up with a better name, once again) to be the 5th-generation iPhone, much to everyone’s surprise and delight.

Also, there might be other Apple-related announcements at the Verizon event being held tomorrow at 11:00 am East Coast time (8:00 am Cupertino time), such as the 2nd-generation iPad, possibly with a cheaper price and less versions to boot.  Yes, I know that the rumors have it that the iPad 2 will have no less than three different versions, but I cannot believe that Apple would do something so bizarre and un Steve Jobs-like as to add a whole other new version of the iPad 2 when 1 or 2 versions will do just fine.

I also think that Apple will take a different tack with the pricing for the iPad 2, possibly pricing the iPad in line with the Kindle and Nook, possibly pricing the Wi-Fi only iPad at any of the lowball prices, whether it be free (hah, fat chance of that with no contract), $49, $99, $129, or even $149 and the Verizon/AT&T 3G iPad at a price that is just above that, much like the $139/199 pricing strategy that the Kindle and Nook are using right now.  Apple wants the iPad in everybody’s hands by the end of 2011, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple took this sort of strategy to heart.

I also think that the iPhone could possibly also go free (to me, the next logical pricing milestone after $100 and $50), but I would venture to say that Apple has been known to upset the apple cart quite a bit, and they could revolutionize how free phones work.

How they work currently is basically a total bait-&-switch sort of deal.  Basically, you go into a Verizon store (or an AT&T store, or any other cell phone service provider’s retail store) and you get a free phone, BUT you have to sign a 2-year contract and you also have to pay a lot of money per month to allow the cellphone’s service provider to recoup the costs of taking you on (which normally happens within 2 years anyway).

But, what Apple could do is very revolutionary: They could offer a free iPhone, no contract required.  Yeah yeah I know, it sounds an awful lot like a bad sequel to a great Phil Collins album called No Jacket Required, but work with me here, people!!

But why would Apple want to offer the iPhone for free sans contract?  There are three different markets that could very easily benefit from this move, especially on Verizon’s networks:

  1. Youth, such as tweens, teens, young adults, and college students.  Using the iPhone, the hottest phone among that market, as a prepaid phone would make all sorts of young people into Apple geeks.  And if Verizon tweaked its prepaid plans in order to accommodate this lucrative market as well, they would invariably have a hit on their hands.
  2. Folks who might not otherwise be able to afford such an expensive luxury.  A humongous market expansion tactic, being able to offer your phones for free to the increasing number of folks who struggle just to pay their bills and stay in their houses every month, would give Apple a lot of users, and possibly some money to boot from app sales or prepaid plan & card sales (if Apple were offered a cut).
  3. Apple geeks who might already have an iPhone who might be looking to upgrade their iPhones, but are reluctant to upgrade to yet another 2 years on AT&T.

While I fall into both categories 1 thru 3, there are a ton of other Apple geeks who want the latest Apple tech toy, and don’t really want to pay the excessive early termination fees just to have that latest iPhone/iPad/etc., such as Allison Sheridan, of the Nosillacast Podcast, hosted over at podfeet.com, which is a technology podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh (and iPhone, and iPad) bias.  These markets are largely untapped.  Even though there’s a similar device, the iPod touch, Apple has historically neutered the iPod touch so as not to cut into their iPhone sales.  If Apple made the iPhone into a free phone, Apple wouldn’t need to do that anymore, and the iPod touch could very easily be Apple’s new source of revenue from that class of devices if they wanted to do exactly that.

Finally, the one thing that I am absolutely certain WON’T happen at tomorrow’s Verizon/Apple event: Apple pricing its computers at the low, low price of free for all low-end models of all Apple computers (possibly even upgraded with Verizon/AT&T cellular data chips inside of them), as well as free upgrades and accessories to trick out your computer up to the retail price of said low-end models.  I don’t think that this will happen for two reasons, both of which are very good.

  1. While Apple does need to make serious inroads into the educational market, I’m not so sure that this is the way to do it. Maybe Apple’s path to educational dominance is through the iPhone and iPad, the former of which already dominates the smartphone landscape here at Western Carolina University by a long shot.  I see so many more iPhones (many of which are iPhone 4s, surprisingly) here than I do Android and other smartphone devices.  If Apple were to price the iPhone and iPad at a reasonable, approachable level for your average broke college student, they could have the educational market cinched up in a neat little bag without having to take a hit in the computer sales department.
  2. Apple might be flush with cash at the moment, but unless there is a gigantic payment from Verizon to make VZW and AT&T the exclusive American purveyors of the iPhone, none of this will happen.

Of course, #2 has reportedly already been disproven (Verizon reportedly DID make such a gigantic payment to keep itself and AT&T as the exclusive purveyors of the iPhone in the US), but until it has been reported as factual instead of a big stinkin’ rumor, I won’t believe it until it has happened (or Apple announces the above, one or the other).

Of course, check back within a few days and see if I am right on any of this (which I am not, I’m sure of it)!