Digital Life
11:01 pm
Sun October 16, 2011

Apps For Exercise, Eating And Sending Postcards

Originally published on Tue October 18, 2011 8:05 am

Part of an occasional series on mobile apps.

Today's smartphones have applications that can help you track your latest jogging route — and find a place to eat afterward. And if you snap a nice picture along the way, they'll even let you use that to make a postcard.

Talking about the latest roundup of amazing apps, Slate's tech columnist Farhad Manjoo tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that as a new father, he's been trying out new apps as he sits awake with his young son in the middle of the night.

Manjoo says these apps are worth checking out:

Anthill: With an emphasis on "tactical trail defense," this game takes itself seriously while having fun. The object is to defend the anthill — and worker ants — by deploying warrior ants.

Chefs Feed: Famous chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali share their recommendations on where to eat. For now, it only covers four cities, but more are on the way.

Chewsy: This restaurant app emphasizes ratings and photos for specific dishes from a menu — not for the overall experience. But like Chefs Feed, it's not in every area yet, Manjoo says.

RunKeeper: Like other fitness apps, this workout tracker uses GPS to compile stats about your workout. But it's expanded beyond jogging to include biking and walking. Runkeeper can also track your heart rate.

Fitocracy: Combining elements of social media with gaming, this app awards points for different workouts. As you exercise more, you gain badges — and bragging rights.

Postagram: This postcard app (similar to one featured in Apple's new iOS 5) allows users to take a picture with their phone and have it sent via the postal service, along with a short note.

Manjoo also hosts Slate's video series, Killer Apps. Watch him review Fitocracy:

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host: And now let's talk about the smartphone business, which has several parts to it. There's the hardware, like the guy I saw yesterday who just bought his first iPhone. There are the phone contracts. And then there are the apps, meaning the programs you can download on to the phone sometimes for free, sometimes for 99 cents or a few dollars.

We got a review of a few apps from Farhad Manjoo. He writes for Slate.com and hosts a video series called Killer Apps. He's also a new dad, which means he's often awake in the middle of the night - a good time to try out new apps.

Let's talk about some of the things that you could do with a baby on one arm, if necessary. There's an app here called Postagram. And the logo, it looks like a little stamp. What is it?

FARHAD MANJOO: Yeah. So, Postagram is based sort of on another very popular iPhone app called Instagram. And what Postagram does is it takes your photos from Instagram - and you can also take photos from anywhere else on your iPhone or Facebook.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

MANJOO: And it turns those photos into real-life postcards. So you can put in someone's address and mail them a postcard of your photo.

INSKEEP: So if the baby is falling asleep in one arm, and you've got the phone with the camera in it, of course, in the other arm, you could just snap a shot of the baby and send it off to grandma, basically, as a postcard.

MANJOO: Yeah. Yeah. And in four or five days, she'll get it and be very happy about it.

INSKEEP: Now, while dealing with the baby on one arm, have you also played this game - and I'm going to it now on the iPhone on my hand - called "Anthill"?

MANJOO: Yeah. This is a blast, this game. It's sort of has the thing that I love most about iPhone - and this is also available on iPad - games for these devices, which is that they're - they can be kind of tremendously, instantly addictive.

INSKEEP: Mm-hmm.

MANJOO: So Anthill, what you do is you are basically defending an ant hill. You basically draw lines on the screen to send your worker ants to go get food, and then you draw lines to send your warrior ants to go attack all these other bugs that try to attack your ant hill.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Oh, there we go, Hold on. I have...

MANJOO: Yeah.

INSKEEP: ...instructions from the manager of the worker ants telling me what...

MANJOO: Yes, he's a taskmaster, and he's basically telling you how to direct your ants. It's totally fun. It starts out easy, but then in a few levels, it gets really difficult and kind of frustrating, but in a fun way.

INSKEEP: Well, I'm feeling a little sedentary, so why don't I push on this app called RunKeeper? And the logo is someone who looks like they're running.

MANJOO: So RunKeeper started as a way for runners to keep track of their runs. And now it's for other kinds of exercise, too - for walking, for biking, for swimming.

INSKEEP: Rather than having that mileage clicker on my hip, I'd be carrying this phone, and it's going to keep track of where I go?

MANJOO: Right. Exactly. So you carry the phone and you start the app. And it uses the, you know, the GPS chip in the phone to figure out where you were, where you started from. It also can tell how fast you're going. And the great thing is that it does this automatically, so each time you run, it just keeps this data. And then you can go back and look at RunKeeper.com, and it keeps a very detailed list of all your stats.

INSKEEP: And it also says here - there's a function inside this program, post to Twitter, posts to Facebook. So I could announce to the world that I ran 13 miles, or that I actually got rather tired of the whole exercise after about four blocks and walked home. Either way, it'll be on...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MANJOO: Yeah. I mean, I think the theory is that if people are looking at your runs and if you're kind of sharing them with other people, you might be motivated to actually keep up with the running because you might want to impress other people.

INSKEEP: But once we finish our rigorous exercise, we can go try this other app on the smartphone, which is called Chefs Feed. And there's a subtitle on here, now that I've loaded it. And the subtitle is: I'll have what their having. Is that the whole deal?

MANJOO: This is an app, it's kind of designed exclusively for foodies. And so Chefs Feed works - it's a review app like Yelp, for example where, you know, it tells you various restaurants to go to. But the only reviewers here are famous chefs. So it tells you the places that, you know, chefs you might admire go to themselves - and not their own restaurants, other restaurants.

INSKEEP: Oh, okay. Looks I can do New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, some other places, San Francisco.

MANJOO: Yeah. And they - on the website, they say they're going to be adding more cities soon. But right now, it's just the big cities.

INSKEEP: Are apps getting so pervasive, they're changing our lives?

MANJOO: I - you know, I think so, especially if you sort of consider the way they occupy time that you otherwise would have been, you know...

INSKEEP: Thinking.

MANJOO: ...thinking, walking without having a screen in front of your face. So I think, in that way, they are.

INSKEEP: Farhad Manjoo is the technology columnist for Slate. Thanks very much.

MANJOO: Cool. Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.