HomeRun, Name Skillz, Digital D1, and other amazing apps of the week

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Awesome Apps
'Appy weekend.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

This week we find out that Halide has added yet another awesome new feature to the iPhone’s best camera app, that the AudioKit team has busted out yet another amazing (and retro) synthesizer, that Name Skillz exists to help you remember people’s names, and that HomeRun has scored — yes — a home run with its HomeKit-controlling Apple Watch app.

Audiokit Digital D1 synth

Let's get digital.
Let’s get digital.
Image: AudioKit

AudioKit, the developer behind the incredible Synth One, is back with the Digital D1. It’s a virtual analog synth inspired by the synthesizers of the ’80s and ’90s. In addition to its rad retro synth sounds, you get effects like reverb, a phaser, delay, distortion and that ’80s essential, chorus. More than a gigabyte of samples have been squeezed in (and compressed to make the app just 150MB to download).

Price: $9.99

Download: Digital D1 Synth from the App Store (iPad)

Name Skillz

Practice remembering names with Name Skillz.
Practice remembering names with Name Skillz.
Screenshots: Name Skillz

Sponsored: Are you terrible at remembering people’s names? I can remember a face for long after I’d rather have forgotten it, but even if I repeat a name over and over in my head as soon as I learn it, it leaks out like iPhone designs leak from the Chinese supply chain.

Name Skillz is designed to help you remember names. The app’s makers bill it as “like Duolingo for your memory.” You can practice by learning common U.S. names, then test your new “Skillz” by practicing them on virtual groups of people.

The app uses memory-training techniques to help you turn names into more memorable pictures, so you might actually find yourself better at remembering everything.

Price: $4.99

Download: Name Skillz from the App Store (iOS)

Halide (again)

Halide layers on features unavailable in the native iOS Camera app.
Halide layers on features unavailable in iOS’ native Camera app.
Photo: Cult of Mac

If it seems like the Halide camera app is in our roundup almost every week, that’s because it is. The thing is, even a simple update from Halide is more exciting than many brand-new apps. This week Halide has fixed the iPhone XR’s Portrait Mode.

The iPhone XS uses two cameras to detect the depth of everything in the frame. The XR only has one rear camera, so it relies on software trickery to detect objects and separate them from the background. Currently, Apple has limited this capability to something iPhone XR is really good at spotting — faces. Portrait mode on the XR only works on people. But if you use Halide instead, it makes a stab at applying Portrait mode to any subject. (This is in addition to the camera app’s amazing manual controls and Smart RAW capability.)

Price: $5.99

Download: Halide from the App Store (iOS)

HomeRun

It's an automation home run!
It’s an automation home run!
Image: Sunya Limited

HomeRun lets you trigger HomeKit scenes from your Apple Watch. For many of you, that’s enough information to set you off to the App Store for this $2.99 gem. Set up your controls on the iPhone app, then just tap the scene you want in the Watch app’s Scene Grid. You can customize icons and colors to make them easy to spot on the watch screen. There’s even a section for adding complications, giving super-fast access to your most-used scenes.

It’s a niche app for sure — it requires that you have an iPhone, an Apple Watch and enough HomeKit accessories that you’ll want to control them from your wrist. But it’s a growing niche, and HomeRun seems to be a pretty slick implementation.

Price: $2.99

Download: HomeRun from the App Store (iOS and Apple Watch)