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Conclave app is popcorn for pope watchers

Conclave Catholic news app

Conclave Catholic news app

Conclave Catholic news app

Free for iOS devices at Apple App Store and Android devices at Google Play

Leaders of the Catholic Church are assembled at the Vatican to pick a new pope, in the first papal conclave of the smartphone era. You know what that means: Someone has cobbled together a new app to let us track the proceedings from start to finish.

Conclave was created by Logos Bible Software, a major vendor of digital products for religious folk. The app has a clean and efficient interface that links users to the latest news about the papal selection conclave. There’s a link to videos from Rome and pointers to the best Catholic news sites. You also get a Twitter feed that singles out tweets relating to the selection process — even tweets that make fun of the whole thing.

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Speaking of fun, there’s a section with mini-biographies of the cardinals and a numerical “buzz” ranking that attempts to estimate the popularity and influence of each man.

The Catholic website calculates the score by using Google Trends to measure how many people search for a particular cardinal by name. They admit that this won’t predict the outcome of the conclave, but it lends an enjoyable “hot or not” flavor to the proceedings.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re Catholic, non-Catholic, or formerly Catholic; many people care about about the selection of the successor to Pope Benedict XVI. Conclave is a fine one-stop location for the latest on who’ll get to be the pontiff.

Takes video app

Takes video app

Takes video app

Free for iOS devices at Apple App Store

Another day, another cool video app. If you’ve learned to love Vine, Twitter’s brilliant tool for shooting six-video clips, you’ll probably get a kick out of this smart alternative.

Takes acts like an app for shooting still images. Touch the shutter button, the screen flashes, and there you are. In reality, Takes is shooting video, and the camera starts filming a couple of seconds before you hit the button. How it does this, I don’t know. But as a result, each shot is a little movie a couple of seconds long. Takes then stitches these shots together, with a nice dissolve effect that smoothes out the transitions. The results look like a slideshow, but one made up of moving images.

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Takes doesn’t have a time limit on videos, unlike Vine. And like other popular video apps, Takes makes it easy to add visual effects and a music soundtrack. Of course, you can share your shots with friends via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail.

It’s a golden age for video apps, and Takes is another excellent entry in the genre.

PowerFlask portable battery charger

PowerFlask portable battery charger

PowerFlask portable battery charger

$89.95 at

Here’s a pocketful of power for you. Designed to resemble an old-school hip flask for carrying liquor, it’s really a beefy rechargeable battery pack capable of charging your cellphone or tablet computer for hours of extra use.

The PowerFlask comes with an AC adapter for charging its own battery. It’s a big one, and so fully charging it takes about half a day. The PowerFlask includes a circuit to prevent overcharging, so you can just leave it plugged in so it’s ready to go when needed.

It’s got two USB jacks. One of them delivers one amp of electric power, suitable for charging a phone; the other, with 2.5 amps, can recharge an iPad or other tablet computer. You can even charge both devices at once. Indeed, with a splitter cable, the PowerFlask can recharge three devices simultaneously.

The device is compatible with the micro USB jacks found on most Androids and other smartphones. It also comes with two 30-pin adapters for connecting to Apple products, but there’s no adapter for the new Apple Lightning connector. The designers threw in a welcome extra — a pair of brilliant light-emitting diodes at the top of the flask that serve as a handy emergency flashlight.

While it’s hardly a substitute for a good swig of rye, the PowerFlask is a handy accessory for people who can’t afford to be without power for their portable devices.

As hip flasks go, this is one of the hippest.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at

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