APPLE released the iPhone 7 last week along with iOS 10, a major upgrade for its popular mobile operating system. What better time to download some apps to take the new hardware and software for a spin?
In one update, Appleâs messaging system, iMessage, got a turbo boost. It now lets people embellish conversations with stickers, interactive drawings and animations. The messaging system even gets its own App Store for downloading third-party stickers and games.
My favorite sticker app is Star Wars Stickers from Disney. The $ 2 app provides a number of cute, animated, cartoon images of characters from the âStar Warsâ franchise, including BB-8, Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO with his classic âOh, my!â catchphrase.
You can send the stickers as stand-alone images or drop them on top of written messages or photos. Add them to selfies youâre sending in iMessage, and suddenly the Death Star is exploding above you. The free Pac-Man sticker pack is another great option for some retro fun.
The Grammar Snob sticker app, for $ 1, lets you add editorial red ink over a text message to fix a friendâs bad grammar.
Sticker Pals, which is free, is a more contemporary option, with hundreds of animated cartoon characters and special effects, as well as a neat feature that lets users send stickers to friends for their use. And the free Aardman Face Bomb sticker pack includes funny cartoon faces in the style of the Aardman animation studio.
Apple iMessage also lets you play games within the app. With classic games like Words With Friends, which is free, this feature makes chatting throughout a game easier, so you can express your feelings when someone gets 50 points by dropping a word on a triple-word-score square. In addition, Chess42 is a free chess game that you can play directly inside an iMessage chat.
There are also plenty of utility apps that can make iMessage more powerful. The Doodle: Schedule Maker app lets users set up a simple in-message voting system for particular dates â perfect for trying to pin down a time to get together with one or more contacts. Doodle is free.
When you need to split the bill, try Circle Pay, a digital money-transfer system that lets people send dollars, euros or Bitcoin through iMessage. The Circle Pay app requires some setup and registration, but it works simply in the iMessage interface, and it, too, is free.
The app iTranslate brings dynamic automated language translation to iMessage. You can chat with someone who speaks a different language and translate the conversation in real time, without having to leave the chat interface. Itâs free, and it works fast and quite well, though the controls can be confusing and sometimes, as with any machine translation, the result may sound like a Spanish or Portuguese version of Yoda.
Another test of the new iPhoneâs performance is how it handles games. Monument Valley, which is $ 4, is a highly regarded 3-D puzzle game with clean, abstract graphics and simple gameplay: You have to guide your character through an architectural labyrinth thatâs part M. C. Escher, part artwork all its own. Donât be surprised if you stop just to admire how pretty it is.
The Obscura app, at $ 5, lets users take full control of the photographic powers of the iPhoneâs camera app. You can adjust the ISO and focus to get really creative; itâs almost like using a digital single-lens reflex camera.
Move beyond Appleâs built-in keyboard with Microsoftâs impressive Word Flow, which is free. Get a deeper understanding of how we measure time on Earth with the lovely Cosmic-Watch clock app for $ 4. Back up your photos and documents to the cloud with Google Drive, which is free. And finally, turn your iPhone into a capable document scanner for $ 4 with Scanner Pro 7.
DataMan Pro is a popular app for tracking which apps on your phone are consuming the most mobile data. The app has been updated for iOS 10. Itâs $ 6 and also works with Apple Watch.
The third-party keyboard app SwiftKey has always been popular because its predictive text features are great, but on Android, its makers have just taken the app to a new level. SwiftKey now has neural artificial intelligence, so instead of a simple suggestion algorithm, it looks at what youâre typing and tries to grasp the context of your message so it can provide better suggestions. SwiftKey is free.