Shelfie, B-Social, NYT Now, NewsGIF, And Emojic 8 Ball Are Our Apps Of The Week

This week I have a weird round of apps. WWDC is coming up where we’ll see our first looks at the evolution of iOS, and OS X. It’s also our first look at what stand alone apps are like on the Apple Watch. If you have any wish list features, make sure to hit us up on Twitter. We’d love to discuss what you think the future of Apple’s OS’ should look like.

First up I have an app that tries to help you redeem your physical books for discounts on ebooks. I’m also taking a look at the newest attempt by the New York Times to make it in the app age. I close out the week with a look at the latest joke app from XKCD.

Shelfie – iPhone


I have problems. I love to read on ebooks, but I still buy the physical book to keep in my collection. Not because I fear some surreptitious editors changing my texts behind my back, but because I really like the huge collection of books that. (I also collect vinyl, so I am an edge case.)

It always bugged me to have to pay for every book twice, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Shelfie let’s you take pictures of your shelves to OCR book titles, and offer you a discount on the ebook. There’s also a bit of a social network but there doesn’t seem to be much of that function built out yet. The OCR on the titles works surprising well, but I would prefer to be able to manually enter the titles it can’t identify.

What’s Good: Great way to turn your physical books into discounts on ebooks.

What Sucks: No way to manually enter titles, social features seem half baked.

Buy it?: If you’ve got a big collection of physical books, download Shelfie. Download it for free on the App Store.

B-Social – iPhone

I wavered on weather to include this in the app or the game column. I decided that because its primary goal was self-improvement, B-Social was more app than game. If you’re someone who is always absentmindedly fiddling with your phone when you’re supposed to be talking to someone or working, then B-Social is there to show you how long you can manage to not touch your phone.

You get a total time you’ve spent ignoring your phone as well as your current session time. You can see your daily totals, as well as how your various stats compare to other users. The data is anonymized, so you won’t be able to directly challenge your friend who refuses to stop chatting on Facebook every time you meet up at the bar.

What’s Good: Fun app that tracks the amount of time you ignore your phone.

What Sucks: Lacks a challenge mode.

Buy it?: If play around on your phone when you should be doing other stuff, see if B-Social can help you break the habit. Pick it up on the App Store for $.99.

NYT Now – iPhone


It would be hard to not acknowledge that NYT Now is a pretty blatant copy of The Economist’s Espresso app. It gives you the same daily news round up, but it also includes breaking news alerts from the Times. The app is designed pretty well, with a nice scrolling history of stories and briefings from each day.

You can also customize it to include your local weather. This doesn’t require a subscription to the Times. Like Espresso, NYT Now is meant to be an advertisement for the wider publication. You can also add a Today widget that gives you some of the more recent stories in Notification Center.

What’s Good: Easy way to get a brief rundown of the News. You can set alarms for the round ups and notifications for breaking news.

What Sucks: Needs to be more clear on how to set up the alerts.

Buy it?: f you’re looking for a brief news rundown and breaking news alerts, check out NYT Now. Download it on the App Store for free.

News GIF – iPhone


If NYT Now is a bit too serious for your tastes, NewsGIF might make a better run down of the day’s news. You get headlines and user submitted GIFs paired together. They essentially crowd sourced Buzzed and skipped the click bait headlines.

If you tap a story you see the other GIFs that have been submitted, and vote on your favorite. You can also submit your own GIFs for a story. There are some light social elements, you can sign in using Twitter and follow other users.

What’s Good: Funny way to browse the news.

What Sucks: Small community means that breadth of stories is limited.

Buy it?: If you want a take on the news that isn’t very serious, pick up NewsGIF. Download it on the App Store for free.

Emojic 8 Ball – Web

Emojic EightBall

Randall Munroe has made XKCD into a nerd empire of webcomics, books, t-shirts, animation, and now a weird little app. There is no utility to the Emojic 8 Ball, but it is a hilarious riff on the classic kids toy.

You enter your question into the text box and hit submit. Rather than getting something like “Reply hazy try again” you get random emoji. I asked “When will the Apple TV come out?” and it returned a skull. I asked “Should I stop writing and spend the day playing Mario Kart?” and it returned police boat. Okay so they’re not all going to be spot on.

The novelty of the Emojic 8 Ball is going to be in showing your friends and asking it silly questions and hoping for silly answers. This is a novel concept that’s executed well.

What’s Good: Fun concept, very easy to play around with.

What Sucks: Not much staying power. At least this Magic 8 Ball isn’t going to end up buried under a pile of crap.

Buy it?: If you’re looking for a quick distraction, or just a fun app to share with friends, check out Emojic 8-Ball.

Mac geek? Gamer? Why not both? Mike is a writer from Wisconsin who enjoys wasting immense amounts of time on the Internet. You can follow him on Twitter.