Well, it is that time of year when we all dip into our pockets a bit and give the gift of gaming and productivity to those around us (especially if you want folks to shell out the $9.99 to play Carcassone). This year, I started publishing my own set of App Reviews. I started publishing my own, when I realized that some of my favorite games were not covered by a lot of review sites. There was nothing out there to help me find the best SciFi games or games that you can learn from. There has been a lot of trial and error in my review process, but in general, I review apps in three broad categories: Games, Productivity Apps, and Education Related Apps.

This Holiday Season, I am choosing to highlight those applications that have a special place in my heart. The apps on this list have been with me for varying lengths of time, but they have all hooked my interest and kept me coming back for more. These are the apps that I have on my iPad after all of the gaming and productivity testing that this year brought. I hope that you find these apps as engaging as I did.


Over the past year, I have played a ton of games on my iPhone and iPad. I tend to sneak in gaming when I have a minute between meetings or am sitting by myself at lunch or on the commute. This list goes beyond the games that I have highlighted and really looks at the apps that I routinely use, rather than the apps that have been released. These are the games that, for me, are the best investment. I find myself coming back to them more and more. This post is just a list, but if you want to see my review of each app, click on the links to be taken to it.

1. Craft the World

A great application! If you do not believe that this app is number one on my Apps list after a short week on the app store, check out my review and video.

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2. Hearthstone

The game that keeps on giving. With 20 Million world-wide players, it is hard to imaging this game not continuing to drive the deck building genre. Check out my review and video.

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3. Fist of Jesus

It seems a bit blasphemous to be talking about Fists of Jesus during advent, but what the heck. It is a fantastic game. My video highlights the gameplay.

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4. World of Tanks: Blitz

What a fantastic game WOT Turned out to be. With the recent winter expansion, this is one of the best shooter games for the iPad. My review walks through the new tank line and basics of gameplay.

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5. BioShock

In the world of Console Ports, iOS is pretty lacking. BioShock hit the scene this year and is a fantastic game on a mobile screen. Check out the gameplay video here.

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6. Galaxy on Fire 2

This game has been on my iPad for years. I love the mixture of pirate gameplay and an engaging – yet portable storyline. I took the time recently to do a decent review of this app for my Blog.

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7. First Strike

First strike came out just recently, but it has been a great game to play. I am happy to report that I have almost defeated the game – except for the new content of course. You can check out my review on this page.

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8. Faster than Light (FTL)

Another older game that is freshened up with some new updates and content. It was just released that a new major update will be coming our way soon. FTL is a great game and my review will show you why.

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9. Dustoff: Vietnam

This game just came out but it really does hit the spot when it comes to chopper games on iOS. No other game is quite as engaging or fun to play.

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10. Minecraft PE

Being able to create anything that you want on your iPad is a Miracle. I do not care if you are a fan of Minecraft or not, it is pretty amazing that we can have an open-world sandbox on a portable platform. I love it, and you can see why here.

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As this year progressed, I found that I was becoming increasingly less productive when I was using technology (I really hit Technology Overload). In order to help curb my downward productivity spiral, I started looking at the systems I use to be productive. My systems were broken and isolated. As the year went on, I started searching for integration platforms to help me manage my workload. Eventually, I found a slew of services that work with my technology needs to make me more productive. These apps are key pieces of my system.

1. Todoist

Over the past few months, Todoist has revolutionized the way that I approach my Tasks. With integration from IFTTT and a wide range of other partners, it is the perfect Task List for a mobile professional.

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2. CloudMagic

Todoist, Evernote, Pocket, and Trello integrations from your inbox. Send messages directly to your task list or projects. If CloudMagic had a web-app, it would be the perfect platform.

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This was the first integrated task list that I started using on the iPad. It was fantastic. With Evernote integration and GTD/Eisenhower grids, it is a great todo list app. If it integrated with more services, I would still be using it.

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4. Trello

I use Trello to track on-going projects both at-work, and at-home. With integrations from common partners, it is a great service to track all aspects of a project with a team.

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5. Calendars 5

Simply the best calendar app on the iPad. There is nothing else to say.

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6. Dolphin Web Browser

I am still on the fence a bit about this one, just because iOS 8 added some great Evernote features. It is on my list for the “Send to Mobile” integration, and the Wifi Broadcast capability.

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7. Buffer

You may have seen this post through my buffer feed… enough said.

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8. Evernote

My Digital Horde. I keep everything that I use and reference in Evernote. I am waiting for the day that “Digital Horders” breaks down my door and makes me purge.

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9. Blogsy

After trying most of the WordPress programs for iOS, Blogsy is my clear favorite. Which basically means that there needs to be more competition…

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10. Diet Coda

I am a coder, and having FTP, HTML, and CSS access on my tablet has been invaluable. Sometimes you just need to fix that image.

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Education is why I got into this business of reviews in the first place. In previous years, there were tons of apps that had historical or simulation bends. This year has been pretty bleak for Education related apps on iOS. Several great apps series were phased out when iOS 8 came out, and several others have shown such promise and ultimately been let downs. The shining light this year seems to come from Medical and War simulations, which have become simply amazing over the past 12 months. These apps are the best educational apps that I have seen on iOS over the past year.


1. Plague Inc.

Embrace your inner virus and destroy humanity (in conjunction with the CDC).

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2. Bio Inc.

Just incase Plague Inc. is too “global,” you can attack a single human in Bio Inc. This app is great at discussing precursors and medical conditions that make you more susceptible to disease.

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3. Democracy 3

Mind blown! I have a friend who writes for the Center for Responsive politics, and I bet he would fully understand and beat this app. It makes my mind feel like eggs in a frying pan (“This is my brain on Democracy 3″). Great application to US Government classes.

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4. European War 4

Napoleon, revolution, war, cannons, and red-coats. All you could want (except for battles in Lexington and Concord).

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5. iStudiez Pro

If you want an updated digital version of a student planner, this is what you need.

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6. iTeacher Book

Works with iStudiez Pro to allow teachers to manage their classrooms. Would be higher on the list if it was updated more regularly.

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7. Move the Turtle

Do you want to teach programming to a 3 year old? This is the way to do it! I am not joking!

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8. iTunesU

Simply the best reference library on the iPad. Has hundreds of college courses for free in a wide range of fields.

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9. Otus Teacher

This looks amazing. What I have seen teachers do with this app is remarkable. I am looking forward to using it with my students next year.

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10. Explain Everything

Videos, photos, and voice over. In an easy to use and easily exportable format on the iPad.

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 The Greatest

In the world of apps, I must say that I have seen a lot of tools and resources come across my iPad this year. The app store followed its usual pattern of ups and downs, with education related products being the worst hit. While I am a big fan of a lot of the apps and games that came out this year, there is one that sticks out in my head as the Greatest. Luckily, I am not alone in this opinion as it was just named Time’s Game of the year.

This is an education game to its core. When I first started playing 80 days, I did not know what to expect, but it reminded me of the old “Carmen Sandiego” games that I played as a child. After a few short journeys into the app, I was sold. Educationally, students have to engage in and travel the world. It is a fantastically engaging geographical app for the iPad, and is simply one of the best interfaces that I have seen in a long time.

80 Days will be my favorite, and most highly recommended iOS Education app until we see an honest port of the original “Carmen Sandiego” or “Oregon Trail” hit the App Store.

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