Archive for the ‘IT Applications’ Category
Staying in shape is hard work. As the tech savvy community that we are, we spend most of our time working in front of our computers and mobile devices. As a result, we often let our health take the back seat, never really finding the time to go to the gym or a fitness class and more often than not choosing fast food over much healthier options.
In the past, finding out the answer to these sorts of fitness or nutrition-related queries required going to an expert for advice or trawling the internet in the hope of finding an answer. Nowadays, things are a lot easier thanks to the health and fitness apps available on the App Store or Google Play. Because our smartphones and apps are always with us, they become constant reminders to check your progress, stay the course, and keep your willpower strong.
Here are the top 10 hand-selected health and fitness apps proven to be the most effective in terms of execution and, of course, results.
RunKeeper is a workout-tracking program that offers detailed stats about things like pace, distance, time, and calories burned. Features include detailed fitness plans to help you achieve a variety of goals (lose weight, improve endurance, run a race, etc.); real-time audio coaching to keep you encouraged; and built-in social sharing tools (so you can brag about those workouts with ease).
Cost: Free. Available on iOS, Android
Cyclemeter may very well be one of the most feature complete cycling apps you’re going to find, on any platform. Not only can you track every statistic you can possibly thing of, you can customize over 120 audio alerts to let you know exactly where you are during a certain ride. Cyclemeter also lets you share your workouts online as well as notify friends and family of exactly where you are, whether during a race or just for safety reasons. Cyclemeter has built-in training assistance to help you get ready for any kind of race you may be prepping for.
Cost: Free; $4.99 Elite Upgrade optional. Available on iOS
MyFitnessPal is a mobile app and website that gives you a wealth of tools for tracking what and how much you eat, and how many calories you burn through activity. Of all the existing calorie counters, MyFitnessPal is by far the easiest one to manage, and it comes with the largest database of foods and drinks. With the MyFitnessPal app you can fastidiously watch what you eat 24/7, no matter where you are.
Cost: Free. Available on: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone, Web
4. Pocket Yoga
Pocket Yoga is a self-guided yoga practice that you can customize to fit your schedule and experience level. Features include detailed voice and visual instructions that guide you through every pose, 150 illustrated pose images including correct posture and positioning, and a workout log that tracks your progress to encourage consistency.
Cost: Android ($2.99), iOS ($1.99). Available on: Android, iOS
Fooducate helps you eat healthier by scanning barcodes of products and providing a nutrition grade instantly, ranging from A to D. You can read unbiased information of a product, such as the controversy behind food coloring and make better, educated choices for your food intake. To help Fooducate, you can also submit products for analysis and write your own review.
Cost: Free. Available on: Android, iOS
No matter how much water you drink now, you’d probably be recommended by your GP to drink more. Drinking water is a key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle by keeping our skin looking younger, improving natural digestion and removing bodily toxins.
With intuitive gesture-based interaction, iDrated will help keep track of your water intake throughout the day and remind you should you forget to drink in a while.
Cost: $0.99. Available on: iOS
7. Smoke Free
We all know the effects smoking has on our health but giving up the habit can require a lot of willpower that some of us just don’t have.
Having visual feedback from your progress like how much money you’ve saved so far can be used as a big incentive to help us keep going.
Downloading Smoke Free can be the first step to becoming healthier.
Cost: Free. Available on: iOS
8. Workout Trainer
Workout Trainer is a fitness training app that comes equipped with thousands of free workouts designed for a wide variety of fitness goals, experience levels, and personal preferences. Features include a virtual fitness consultation to personalize and improve your experience; instructional photos, videos, and audio cues that illustrate every exercise; online support community; and a built-in music player.
Cost: Free. Available on: iOS, Android
Fitocracy is an RPG (role playing game)- like app that allows you to earn points and level up during your fitness journey. New friends and accountability buddies will cheer you on in an online social community that’s like Facebook but for fitness.
Cost: Free. Available on: iOS, Android
10. iTriage Health
Here’s an app that takes the concept of a medical dictionary to a whole new level. iTriage not only allows you to search symptoms and find potential causes, it suggests treatments and finds qualified facilities and doctors in your area. If you’re having a medical emergency and need to head to the ER or urgent care, this app can provide average wait times.
It also includes numbers for emergency hotlines and physician and nurse advice lines, so you can be connected easily to a real person who will give you feedback on your condition. All of this information can be saved on the app for your convenience.
Cost: Free. Available on: iOS, Android
Did you have a chance to try these helpful applications? Which of them did you like most? Let us know using the comments below.
The use of health apps has skyrocketed in 2014. Flurry, a mobile analytics company, has followed over 6,800 health and fitness-related apps, and sees a growth of 62% based on measurements of the number of times the app is opened and used. Overall growth rate apps otherwise is 33%.
By 2017 the app market is predicted to reach 26 billion users. Among its key drivers is the world’s aging population with its increasing need for medical care. In the United States alone, Tighe notes, almost 20 percent of Americans will be older than 65 by 2030, making them more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and other age-associated conditions. This changing landscape is forcing to create new ways to monitor people health and provide assistance with making health wise choices. And here mobile medical apps have already proved efficient and thus are gaining more and more popularity.
This boom has been also supported by most global IT corporations such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. So here are some recent actions in that area showing that these companies treat this market segment really seriously:
- Google recently launched Google Fit and directed towards more consumers within training and nutrition.
- Apple has partnered with the company Epic. Since Epic handles over 51% of the medical records in the US, it gives Apple a very solid position in healthcare sector. Apple has, in iOS8, also included a personal health platform, HealthKit, which integrates other applications and gathers information for the user will appear in Apple Health app.
- Microsoft invests in a separate solution and will with Microsoft Health Vault offer a platform where people can gather, store, share and use health data online.
- Facebook has integrated MapMyFitness so friends can cheer on each other, share results and compete against each other. This has also contributed to the large increase in the use of health and Fitness app, where distribution is large via the social networking channel.
There is even an opinion that the increased use of health and fitness apps will destroy the market for wearables. It’s hard for them to compete with mobile apps, as the number of smartphone users is really big. So when the software is already integrated into smartphones they automatically become efficient devices for collecting health data. To put it short, the benefits of using mobile apps to wearable medical-devices include 1/ cost savings because there is no need to develop a completely new device, 2/ enhancing existing platforms by adding more sophisticated sensing and data capabilities, 3/ using an interface that consumers know well and is already part of their everyday life.
Healthcare IT outsourcing
Health apps are built up not only by global IT companies, but also by healthcare providers to be used by doctors, specialists and by patients, of course. And here healthcare organizations increasingly take over the idea that IT outsourcing can help them bring their apps faster to the market while they could focus on their core activities.
This tendency has also been stimulated by changing government regulations concerning hospitals and clinics in lots of countries. And while some organizations are broadly outsourcing a mobile applications development, others are handing out the responsibility of IT management and overseeing their entire IT infrastructure.
The global healthcare IT outsourcing market is growing continuously. According to an article by Nearshore Americas, a recent study made by the Everest group states that the global healthcare IT outsourcing market is increasing at a compound annual growth rate of 12%. This gives us an insight on how much demand healthcare institutions now place on IT outsourcing services. According to TechNavio IT outsourcing in the global healthcare and life sciences sector is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 8.6% through 2019.
Among the trends to watch besides going mobile, there is hosting on the cloud by health-related organizations to make their operations safer, using analytics-as-a-service technologies due to growing interest in Big Data, etc. Therefore 70% of healthcare organizations worldwide are expected to invest in consumer-facing mobile applications, wearables, remote health monitoring, and virtual care.
So the world has been ready for a while to embrace healthcare apps and demand for them is not going to slow down any time soon. Among the top medical apps they call CDC Vaccine Schedules, Family Practice Notebook, ASCVD Risk Estimator, etc.
What health-related apps have you tried and which ones do you use daily? Thank you for sharing!
It’s the time of the year when we are getting ready to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. 2014 is almost over but you can still get in the spirit of Christmas and have a more fun holiday season with these Christmas applications.
- Touchnote – Christmas Edition
Free: iOS, Android
If you want to send beautiful Merry Christmas cards to friends or family, you can do it in a minute with Touchnote Christmas Edition. The app is full featured with lots of customization option which allows to add pictures and beautify them with fantastic photo designs and filters. Zoom, rotate and crop your photo with a single touch to fit better. The cards will be printed on beautiful, high-quality, textured, thick card and will be delivered within one working day.
- Christmas RADIO
Free: iOS, Android
Holiday music lovers all over the world are in for a treat this Christmas because of the massively popular Christmas Radio application. This app allows you to enjoy a variety of Christmas hits from over 50 unique stations such as Xmas in Frisko, Jazz Radio Christmas, Christmas Lounge and Kristmas Kountry. There’s a North Pole Radio, which broadcasts directly from the North Pole – a detail that is sure to delight even the most skeptical of Santa-doubting kids; and probably more than a few adults, too.
- Photo Combine Xmas
Photo Combine Xmas is an amazingly simple and fun application that will combine your photo into a Christmas frame, which you can use any time and your photos any size. Features include; supports crop, scale and rotate, you can share it to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Email, supports retina display and full iPhone front and back camera support.
- Christmas Ringtones
The Christmas Ringtones Free app gives you a variety of Christmas songs to select from to help you create your own festive Android Christmas ringtones for the holiday season! Inside this Christmas app you will find ringtones that range from “old school” Christmas songs to Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas songs, as well as everything else in between. Other Christmas song genres include: Rock, Techno, Chimes and more.
- 25 Days of Christmas
Free: iOS, Android
25 Days of Christmas is a popular interactive countdown calendar to the big day, complete with numerous minigames and freebies. As the countdown progresses, more and more minigames are unlocked, allowing you and your children to have some quick fun between store stops.
- Ink Cards
Free: iOS, Android
Ink Cards promises to help create greeting cards for all occasions, including the holiday season, with this free studio app. Enjoy easy-to-use card templates and themes, as well as the ability to add in your own photos, texts, and customizations. Cards can then be printed up on high-quality 5×7 inch paper, complete with delivery. Additional features include a helpful “Thoughtfulness Engine” that checks your linked Facebook account, reminding you of incoming friend’s birthdays. That way you’ll be able to cook up a gift card and have it mailed in time.
- Christmas’ Joy Ingredients
One of the most important part of Christmas is all the delicious cakes and food that you get to eat. If you want to try something new this Christmas and cook some really yummy food, then you should definitely get Christmas’ Joy Ingredients app as it offers a lot of different Christmas recipes for homemade Christmas traditions. Apart from recipes, this app also offers a countdown timer, Christmas wallpapers and customized greetings.
- Gift Wrapping Ideas
One of the most important elements of Christmas is the exchange of gifts. One thing which can make your gift stand out from the rest is a unique and interesting wrapping. It can make any gift look amazing. If you wish to wrap your gifts beautifully and differently, then get this app as it offers some really unique ideas and techniques related to how you can wrap a Christmas present creatively and make them eye-catching.
Hope you will enjoy Christmas apps we mentioned above. Also let us know in the comments which other apps you have downloaded for Christmas. Happy Christmas!
Android is the world’s most popular mobile platform and has millions of users. The open source nature of Google’s OS gives the possibility to find a lot of fantastic applications for Android. And, of course, most people try to find some useful apps which are free of charge. So you can download them, try them out, and uninstall them if they’re not to your fancy – you’ve nothing to lose!
So here are the top 15 best new free Android applications for your tablet or smartphone.
1. Line Whoscall
With Line Whoscall, the user can instantly identify the source of calls and text messages even if the caller’s number is not in his\her contact list. Line Whoscall also helps block specific numbers.
The QuizUp app is a game, based on trivial pursuit, where a player can choose from over 400 topics, ranging from TV shows and books to sports and music, and can compete against other players in a particular topic that consists of seven multiple choice questions.
3. Link Bubble
Link Bubble is a free app for the Android which lets the user have a faster browsing experience specially when opening links from other apps.
When you open links from apps the Link Bubble will let you stay on your current page while the app is trying to load the link in the background and then displays it when it is ready, this way, you can still do some things on your current page while you wait for the other link to load.
Timehop is an application that collects old photos and posts from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, and dropbox photos and replays past.
Coursera is an awesome online service that allows users to tune-in to some great courses from more than 80 top universities and organizations free of charge. It provides free knowledge to anyone interested into expanding his/her horizons.
6. Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff
Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff is a free-to-play, city-building game in which a player must rebuild the town of Quahog from the ground up. Along the way, there are plenty of weird and wacky missions featuring the main characters from the popular FOX show.
IFTTT (If This, Then That) lets users mash up different services into “recipes” that can do things like automatically download new Facebook photos you’re tagged in to Dropbox, send starred emails to Evernote, or call you in response to a text message so you can escape a bad date. But connecting it to a device extends the possibilities even further.
8. Chrome Remote Desktop (Google)
Chrome Remote Desktop app allows for remote access to Mac or PC from Android device, whether smartphone or tablet. The new app is an extension of Google’s previously launched Chrome Remote Desktop screen-sharing service, which allows to share desktop’s screen with other Chrome browser or Chromebook users.
9. Sunrise Calendar
Sunrise is a free calendar made for Google Calendar and iCloud. Connect with user’s G account and the app will automatically import all the data you’ve entered into its own attractive format. Add and edit events via the app and they’ll sync up with anywhere you use your Google calendar.
10. Yahoo News Digest
Yahoo News Digest provides a definitive summary of all the important, need-to-know news. Digests are delivered twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. All the top stories are summarized and presented with the key information that you need to stay on top of what’s happening.
It’s available in four editions: the US, UK, Canada and ‘rest of the world’.
11. Ginger Page & Grammar Keyboard
Ginger Page is a comprehensive English writing application that provides all the tools needed to compose high-quality English text everywhere one might write. This is accomplished by providing live rephrasing and proofreading capabilities and also offering quick access to important complementary writing tools like contextual synonyms, translations and definitions.
12. Aviate [Yahoo]
Yahoo Aviate is called “the intelligent homescreen that simplifies your phone.” With the app, you’ll be able to get information you need at the exact moment that it’s useful. It shows weather and news apps throughout the morning, productivity apps while you’re at work and music apps while you’re driving. It has a clean, simple layout, with organized apps that cater to the user, displaying information based on what it knows you’re up to.
13. Path Talk
Path Talk is a new app from Path which replaces SMS and Facebook with Path Talk to message friends, family, and groups for free. Messages you send in Path Talk are automatically erased from servers 24 hours after you send them, so you can now be yourself in conversations.
Path Talk can automatically tell your friends when you’re in transit, in the neighborhood, or even low on battery so your availability is always understood—removing the headache of misunderstandings in conversation.
EverythingMe‘s contextual launcher aims to customize your Android home screen so that you get exactly what you need every time you switch on your phone. The system is pretty simple — look at the apps you have installed, when and for how long you use them and then tailor a homescreen layout to show what it thinks you want before you do.
MyRoll is an intelligent mobile gallery app that displays all your best photos as ‘moments’, automatically organizing your snaps based on its analysis of each photo’s make-up. In a nutshell, it prioritizes shots that are in-focus, contain smiling faces, bright colors, and so on.
What new Android applications do you like? Have you already tried to use those mentioned above? Welcome to share your thoughts and experience.
Skype ID: kate.kviatkovskaya
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development
There is no doubt that mobile industry is one of the most intensely growing nowadays. Any product that earlier used to be desktop or web is moving towards going mobile. Everyone is taking designing experiences for smaller screens seriously. As for the web, we’re seeing swarms of recently updated sites that are employing responsive design or more mobile-friendly layouts. This is quite critical, especially when you consider that accessing the web from mobile devices is on track to surpass desktop usage in a just a year or two.
With so many mobile apps/sites out there you have to do all it takes to deliver a good mobile product that will be competitive on the market. The key input for success here often is conditioned by the convenience of mobile services. You have to start predicting what the customer wants to see when they try a mobile application or website. The use of mobile context in delivering mobile experience is just one of the big challenges that application developers face. Here’s a number of the most important challenges we see.
1. Mobile Context
There has always been emphasis on context – the idea of being sensitive to where users might be and what they might be doing at the same time that they’re using your app/site. Is a user in line at the grocery store or on the living-room couch? Is a user connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi access, with fast page loads, or an infuriatingly weak Internet connection? Are both of the user’s hands holding the device in landscape orientation, or is the user using only the right thumb to navigate the interface in portrait mode? We have to think about all of this. Basically the customer’s mobile context consists of:
Preferences: the history and personal decisions the customer has shared with you or with social networks.
Situation: the current location, of course, but other relevant factors could include the altitude, environmental conditions and even speed the customer is experiencing.
Attitude: the feelings or emotions implied by the customer’s actions and logistics.
Getting a good contextual awareness will require collecting information from many sources. For instance it could be mobile device itself, the local context of devices and sensors around them an extended network of things they care about and the historical context of their preferences. Gathering this data is a major challenge because it will be stored on multiple systems of record to which your app will need to connect.
2. Device Proliferation
Another challenge facing mobile developers is device proliferation. It looked like mobile app development process was pretty well defined: build your app, make sure it looks pretty on a 4-inch smartphone and a 10-inch tablet, then submit it to an app store. Most app developers prioritized a few popular devices, such as the iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPad.
It’s not quite that easy now, and it’ll be much tougher in the near future. Picking the most popular devices will become more of a challenge as device types and platforms proliferate. Google and Apple already support tablets of different sizes and, with Windows 8 now shipping, developers can expect to find a whole range of larger touch-sensitive devices, such as Hewlett-Packard’s Envy series.
3. Voice rather than Touch
There are a lot of situations where you would want to build voice input into your app today. For a running or fitness app, a phone is likely to be strapped to a person’s sweaty arm. The same is true while driving. Modern applications are to let people use their devices while keeping their eyes and hands off it.
4. Hybrid Applications
With each release, popular mobile operating systems get better at supporting HTML5 and its attendant APIs. That capability will let companies reuse more code across multiple devices, which will be important in keeping app development costs down taking into account the proliferation of connected devices and form factors.
5. Cloud Powered Mobile Applications
With the power of the cloud, the mobile application market is about to change radically. Several industry analysts predict that mobile applications will gradually move to the cloud and move away from being installed and run directly from the handsets themselves. Instead, cloud powered mobile applications are accessed and executed directly from the cloud through a mobile web browser interface and several technologies facilitating this change are already available. HTML5, for example, is necessary for enabling caching on the handset, so that users will experience uninterrupted service levels despite fluctuations in network service delivery.
Cloud powered mobile applications are not limiting their choice to one platform. Application developers also have real advantages from mobile cloud computing. The largest benefit is that it allows them to have access to a larger market. This means developers will have a much wider market which means they can bypass the restrictions created by mobile operating systems. But with greater developers’ power comes greater responsibility for security and performance. Expect more developers to be on call for application support in the new model, using triage to handle defects and investigate degradation to production services. Those tasks have traditional been the domain of systems administrators. Expect IT operations personnel to become integrated into development teams and to start their work at the inception of an idea.
I think the challenges mentioned are some of the most important ones. What are the challenges you have already faced in the mobile development? Even more interesting to hear about the challenges you are envisaging for the near future! As usual many thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Some people will argue that it’s not worthy comparing Tomcat and JBoss, because one of them is a superset of the other. In fact JBoss is bundled with a forked version of Tomcat. So JBoss is Tomcat plus:
* JMS messaging provider
* Web Services engine (JAX-WS and/or JAX-RS)
* Management capabilities like JMX and a scripted administration interface
* A powerful data grid solution (Infinispan)
* Advanced security, e.g. out-of-the-box integration with 3rd party directories
* A dynamic and powerful clustering engine
* Transaction management service
Still many decision makers have to choose between these two, so lets’ take a deeper look at them.
The JBoss AS is an application server based on Java. It is an open source server and is usable in any operating system supported by Java.
Apache Tomcat, or its more widely known name Tomcat, is a servlet container (meaning it is a Java class that operates under the strictures of the Java Servlet API – a protocol by which a Java class responds to an http request). This is an open source server, providing a ‘pure Java’ HTTP web server environment in which code written in Java is capable of running.
Tomcat is only a servlet engine and JBoss offers many more functionalities out of the box. Still JBoss is no longer a heavyweight monolithic container, but a modular application server featuring true classloading isolation, modules loaded on demand, domain management and exceptionally lightweight container. It has a pluggable architecture and if required, you can unplug features from JBoss to make it essentially a Tomcat servlet container.
At the same time the plus going in favour of Tomcat is that it is fairly lightweight, and it means less memory requirement and a faster response. At the same time if you need certain JEE features beyond the Servlet API, you can easily enhance Tomcat. For example, if you need JPA features you can include Hibernate or OpenEJB and JPA works nearly out of the box.
Tomcat is hassle free and might be the right choice when you are not using much of Java features. It is a very good fit if it comes to web centric, user facing applications.
In case backend integration comes into play, a JEE application server should be considered. Last but not least, migrating a WAR developed for Tomcat to JBoss should be a 1 day exercise.
Some people still argue that instead of using application servers, one can still deliver a full stack application using Tomcat + Spring adding the right frameworks and writing the Spring integration layer with these frameworks. That’s for sure true. Still the logical question is what price you will have to pay for that. The JBoss project can be focused around average – to junior developers. Mastering the same complex stack of technologies with Tomcat and Spring requires skilled and well paid developers.
To make it short, Tomcat is merely an HTTP server and Java servlet container. JBoss is a full-blown JEE application servers, including an EJB container and all the other features of that stack. On the other hand, Tomcat has a lighter memory footprint (~60-70 MB), while JBoss weigh in at hundreds of megs. Tomcat is very popular for simple web applications, or applications using frameworks such as Spring that do not require a full JEE server. Administration of a Tomcat server is arguably easier, as there are fewer moving parts.
However, for applications that do require a full JEE stack (or at least more pieces that could easily be bolted-on to Tomcat) JBoss is one of the most popular open source offerings. JBoss has a larger and deeper user community, and a more mature codebase.
So, we should not really care anymore about which is better, but focus on the application requirements. However, you can still use the best of these two worlds in your enterprise applications.
It would be great if your could share your opinions on this topic :) Thanks in advance for your comments!
With the iPad’s domination of the tablet space and the iPhone continuing to enjoy strong sales, interest in development for these two platforms keeps growing. If you’re getting ready to jump into iOS development, these practical insights will help you get started.
First of all you need a Mac. It may sound like a conspiracy theory to get folks to buy Macs, but without a Mac you won’t be able to get your application onto a device for testing. And you need to be testing on a device.
You really should get an iPad and an iPhone or iPod Touch. Yes, there is a simulator. But the truth is simulators only go so far in replicating the experience a user will have. Even “simple” applications can be a joy to use in the simulator and a hassle on an actual device. And since you’ll likely want your application to work well both for iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad, you will want to get an iPad and either an iPhone or an iPod Touch (the two are identical as far as development is concerned).
Objective-C is a bit of a throwback. While Objective-C supports modern programming elements like object-oriented code, it is a fairly low-level language, too, and it clearly has not strayed too far from C.
XCode is radically different from Eclipse and Visual Studio. Coming from the Visual Studio system, with a couple of minor detours into Eclipse, you’ll find XCode a bit jarring. The focus is really less on everything that happens in the toolbars, sidebars, and menus, and more on what happens in the middle of the screen, which is writing code as text. This isn’t to say that XCode isn’t visual or that it lacks tools. But the overall system simply has a different philosophy from the kitchen sink approach that Eclipse and Visual Studio take.
XCode is ready to work with Subversion or Git. Out of the box, XCode comes equipped to work with Subversion or Git. You are still free to use any other source control system you want (through command-line tools, if they don’t have a GUI system or XCode integration). But if you already use Subversion or Git, you will be happy.
You should sign up for your developer account early. It can take up to two weeks for your developer account to be approved. The sooner you sign up, the sooner you will be able to get your app deployed to your test devices or uploaded to the App Store for approval.
There are different types of developer accounts. Developer accounts come in three major flavors: individual, company/organization, and enterprise. The main difference between individual and company/organization is that the latter allows you to create users within the account who can access it. Individual accounts are limited to a single user. Enterprise accounts are an entirely different beast: They allow for private deployments, which is exactly what an IT department writing apps for internal use needs. There is also an academic account for students, which allows some access to the developer program.
You can write code without a developer account. The good news is, if you are just learning, and are willing to forego deployment to a test device or putting your app in the App Store, you can use XCode and the iOS simulator without a developer account. The developer account has lots of benefits, including early access to betas and such, but for learning purposes, no account is needed.
iPads are not just big iPhones. When designing UIs, it’s tempting to think that iPads are just large iPhones. While this is more or less true at a code level (apps that run on iPhone will run on the iPad, though iPad-specific apps will not run on iPhone), it is a big mistake for designing the UI. An iPad’s bigger screen allows you to pack a lot more information on the screen without overwhelming the user, and the larger screen size will affect what kinds of UI widgets can be comfortably used.