Senior Writer with the 148Apps Network since February 17, 2009
I'm a Princeton freshman and a computer nerd, bookworm, writer, and gamer. My iPod is my escape when I'm not drowning under homework or doing silly things like NaNoWriMo. I'm a longtime writer here at 148apps, and boy is it fun. Drop me a line at email@example.com.
Bonnie is not currently writing for the 148Apps Network.
iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads abound on college campuses, and for good reason. iOS devices are great anyway, but for college students, there are myriad ways in which an iOS device can make life easier. When it comes to studying textbooks, taking notes in lecture, or even waking up to start the day—chances are there’s an app for that. There are far too many useful apps to count, but here I’d like to list just a few apps sure to help college students manage their busy lives.
Paper textbooks may still be king, but e-readers are increasingly creating a presence in college classrooms. Digital versions are not only cheaper, but more portable, making e-textbooks an attractive option for many students.
For iOS, there are a couple of dedicated textbook readers, as well as more traditional e-reader apps. On the iPad, Kno and Inkling are both dedicated textbook apps. They have slight differences (Kno allows textbook rentals, for example, while Inkling allows single-chapter purchases) but both offer rich digital textbook experiences, with embedded quizzes and integrated video and images in certain textbooks. Meanwhile, the Kindle and other ebook apps also offer some textbooks.
Posted September 5th, 2011 by Bonnie Eisenman Our Rating: :: ASTOUNDINGLY POWERFUL, BUT FLAWED
Anki is not for the faint of heart, but its spaced repetition algorith makes it THE flashcard application for serious users. It's not without its flaws, and this iOS version is inferior to its desktop incarnation, but Anki's algorithm has won my loyalty.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Posted September 2nd, 2011 by Bonnie Eisenman Our Rating: :: A MARVELOUS MYSTERY
The Secret of Chateau de Moreau puts players in the shoes of suspect-turned-detective Antoine as he tries to discover the truth about his foster father's murder and clear his name. It's a very tight, well-made mystery title that should delight fans of the genre.
This summer I did something a little unusual: I went to Japan. For two months, I lived with a host family, studied Japanese, and explored the small city I was living in. Quickly, one of my possessions became my most prized…my new iPod Touch, purchased just before my trip to replace a broken, older one. My iPod is my companion and entertainment source during normal life, but while in Japan it took on some extra uses.
For any international traveler or student, I think that having in iPhone or iPod Touch can be an enormous help. Here are some of the ways I used my iPod while in Japan.
As a study tool
I was enrolled in a summer language intensive program at the Hokkaido International Foundation. Theoretically, we fit a year’s worth of language instruction into two months. (Yikes.) As a result, I was doing a lot of studying, and my iPod was a huge help in this regard.
Dictionary Apps First, my Japanese/English dictionary app. I used Japanese, but other students used the free Kotoba or other apps like Midori. Regardless, all of these apps had marked advantages over traditional dictionaries. First and foremost, iPods and iPhones are far more portable than paper dictionaries or even “electronic dictionary” devices. Using an app was easy and fast. Furthermore, Japanese in particular is interesting because the kanji, or characters, are difficult to look up in a traditional dictionary. iPhone dictionary apps generally let you input kanji using a number of methods, including “handwriting,” making them much more useful.
Hardly anyone used a traditional dictionary. In my program, of the 50-odd students I’d estimate that 75% of us had iPod Touches or iPhones, and just about everyone who did used either Kotoba or another dictionary app on a regular basis.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2008-09-27 :: Category: Reference
Secondly, I was desperately trying to learn quickly enough to keep up with my daily quizzes and weekly tests, which meant, for me, flashcards. My commute to school included a half-hour on the bus each way, making my iPhone an excellent way to discreetly study. Using a flashcard app was great because I could fit study time in during all my little breaks: standing in line, while commuting, waiting for dinner to be ready…it really was incredibly convenient.
I personally made extensive use of Anki. Anki is a stellar flashcard program that is primarily for the desktop, where it’s free. The iOS version costs a somewhat-steep $25 and is less polished than its desktop counterpart. However, for me it was still a good buy. Anki’s magic is that it uses a spaced repetition algorithm, introducing cards at intervals according to previous response data. So, I would see my new vocabulary and kanji very often while older cards would show up occasionally. I’ve yet to see a better way of handling data retention; reviewing hundreds of paper flashcards quickly becomes unfeasible. I flirted with other flashcard apps but none met my needs like Anki, though Anki does have its problems…and that pricetag.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-05-27 :: Category: Education
Homesickness and the iPod’s “Normal” Features
One thing I hadn’t counted on was how much I would miss “stupid” things like the sound of English.
In an environment that was all Japan, all the time, sometimes I wanted something familiar. So, I turned to my iPod for things like familiar music, photos from home, e-books, and TV clips from childhood shows. Also, since I didn’t really have internet access with my host family, my iPod became my primary device for using the Internet. Facebook might be a form of procrastination, but when it came to keeping in touch, a mixture of email, Facebook, and Tumblr—all of which I accessed and used from my iPod—helped me to stay connected with people from home.
On the non-homesickness front, I used the iPod’s camera when my “real” camera died or filled up with photos, or when I wanted to be more discreet. I used the Notes app frequently, too.
Do these uses sound trivial? Perhaps; and yet, they’re part of why my iPod was so precious to me while in Japan.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2008-07-11 :: Category: Social Networking
Really, my dictionary app and my flashcard app were a killer combination when it came to learning and living. With my dictionary app, I could save words I encountered in real life for later study, or look up crucial words on the fly to facilitate conversations. With Anki, I could engrave those words in my memory. And beyond the purely pragmatic, it was comforting to have my favorite songs, TV shows, and yes, apps with me when everything else was unfamiliar. The iPod and iPhone can do so much that it’s easy to overlook the little things.
I really do count myself lucky to live in an age where I don’t have to lug around a physical dictionary for when my vocabulary fails, and when my camera’s batteries die I always have a backup device. My iPod Touch made itself integral to my experience living and learning in Japan. Particularly for language students, I think that such resources are really invaluable.
Cryptograms: puzzles in which each letter from a quote has been replaced by another letter, creating a coded message. (I.e., A's become R's and B's become E's, etc.) Cryptogram is a simple app, but the puzzles are fun and cryptogram fans will love it.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Posted August 16th, 2011 by Bonnie Eisenman Our Rating: :: SLEEK AND SIMPLE
Photo Stats combs through the metadata from your Camera Roll and delivers shiny infographics about your photo-taking habits. When, where, and how do you love to take photos? Photo Stats has the answers. An uncomplicated app, Photo Stats nevertheless delivers on its pledges.
Travelling internationally can be complicated, and visiting a foreign city without doing some research is probably a bad idea. But why force yourself to do all the work when plenty of travel guides have already done the legwork for you? That’s the idea behind Smart Travelling Guides, which boast that they aim to “make the experience of worldwide travel more rewarding, less mediocre, and easier to navigate.”
Smart Travelling Guides provide recommendations for food, culture, nightlife, hotels, and shops. Trumpeting that it can find the “best places in town,” the app displays pictures of the place in question, an upbeat description, and finally provides a map. With more than 5,000 hand-picked recommendations, Smart Travelling Guides claims to provide a unique database of great experiences, from spectacular cups of coffee and delicious meals to luxurious hotels.
For the first seven days, the app permits access to all cities at no charge; afterwards, however, each city’s “guide” must be purchased. The app currently supports the following cities:
Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Dublin, Florence, Hamburg, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Marseille, Miami, Milan, Munich, Naples, New York, Nice, Palma, Paris, Prague, Rome, Salzburg, San Francisco, Stockholm, Valencia, Venice, Vienna, and Zürich.
The app’s database also provides information on how other users have rated a place. Making use of the iPhone’s hardware, the app can find places based on your current location. The travel guides also stay up-to-date thanks to online synchronization with Smart Travelling’s online database. (Such updates come at no extra charge.) As another ease-of-use bonus, users can also download content for offline access.
So, Smart Travelling Guides provides a great resource of select restaurants, hotels, shops, and more for travelers looking to take advantage of sightseeing in a new city. Next time you’re in Istanbul or Venice, perhaps Smart Travelling Guides will be of use!
Smart Travelling Guides can be downloaded as a free app, with extra “guides” unlockable via in-app purchase.
There are plenty of card games on the App Store, but Crack Cards, described by its creators as a kind of “backwards solitaire,” has quickly won fans after being featured as a “New & Noteworthy” app. The other thing that makes it unique? Crack Cards wasn’t developed by just anyone. Rather, it’s the creation of the advanced computers class at Thurgood Marshall Middle School.
Ryan Longnecker, an 8th grade teacher at Thurgood Marshall, said he turned to game development after realizing that traditional lessons about PowerPoint and word processing “just couldn’t keep the kids engaged.” So, he started branching out into web design and game creation. “Game design is one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever taught,” he writes. “Trying to keep everyone on the same page is nearly impossible, but the kids LOVE it and you see them light up when they walk in to the computer lab.”
Crack Cards, created as a class-wide effort, is the fruit of those lessons. Mr. Longnecker says that it’s based off of a game he played in his own childhood. The game’s rules are pretty simple. Four cards are dealt out each turn, and if any two cards share a suit, the lower can be removed from the game. This continues until there are no more moves available, and then four more cards can be dealt; the game ends when either there are no more moves or when only the aces are left. But while playing the game is simple, winning is a much more difficult proposition. The game’s description dares players to look past the luck to find the strategy.
For now, the game is single-player (apt, considering its similarity to solitaire) but the app’s description promises future updates with a Versus mode. Perhaps that’s the class’s next project!
The 8th grade advance computers class at Thurgood Marshall Middle School should be proud of their work—Crack Cards looks like a fun twist on the usual solitaire variations, and beyond that, creating an iPhone app is no small feat. I wish my AP Computer Science class in high school had worked on projects this interesting!
Crack Cards is available for $0.99 on the App Store.
Japanese is an extraordinarily impressive English to Japanese / Japanese to English dictionary. With an extensive dictionary database, flashcards, many ways of looking up kanji, and more, this app delivers everything one could want from a dictionary app.
We’ve seen partnerships between artists and apps before, but this one is news-making in its sheer scope. Lady Gaga has recently announced a partnership with Zynga to promote her new album, Born This Way, across a number of their games, including two of its biggest hits, Words With Friends and Farmville. Thought you could escape the pop idol? Sorry, she’ll be lurking in your virtual field now, too!
The promotion starts on May 17th. Farmville players will be able to visit “GagaVille,” a new, uniquely designed neighboring farm sporting unicorns and crystals, among other things. GagaVille will allow “little monsters” (as Gaga dubs her fans) worldwide to listen to unreleased tracks from the new album. And players who buy a $25 Zynga game card from Best Buy will also be treated to a free download of the new album.
Meanwhile, Words With Friends will feature a daily “Words with Gaga” contest, which will award real-life Gaga-themed prizes, ranging from concert tickets to a signed copy of “Born This Way. ” The contests have yet to be announced, but as an example Zynga says that players who play a special word (“UNICORN,” perhaps) might be entered in a sweepstakes. Finally, special edition virtual items will also be available across other Zynga games.
“I want to celebrate and share ‘Born This Way’ with my little monsters in a special way that’s never been done before,” said Lady Gaga in a statement on Zynga’s website. “Zynga has created a magical place in FarmVille where my fans can come play, and be the first to listen to the album.”
“We’re focused on creating cool new ways to entertain and surprise our players,” said Owen Van Natta, Zynga’s executive vice president of business. “Our partnership with Lady Gaga offers many new experiences…We want to thank Lady Gaga for working with us on this truly great surprise.”
This isn’t the first time that Lady Gaga and Zynga have teamed up, however. In March, the two combined their efforts to raise over $3 million for Japan relief. Whether or not this new venture will produce similar results (albeit this time profit) remains to be seen, but I suspect that “GagaVille” will be quite the hit. At the very least, Gaga fans should find a lot here to enjoy. For more information on this newest Gaga/Zynga promotion blitz, check out the website dedicated to the event.
Who doesn’t love a good game of Frisbee? Take the game of catch, add a spinning disk, and boom: suddenly the game is that much more exciting. I’d rank playing Frisbee as one of the great cliches of American childhood, right up there with baseball games and ice pops.
For those looking for a digital Frisbee fix, there’s now a solution that requires no manicured lawn or even real-life friends, and its name is Frisbee Forever. The officially licensed game is now free, and offers all the Frisbee goodness an iOS gamer could ever want.
From the app’s description:
Get ready for blast-off. Fly at breathtaking speed across more than 100 crazy tracks. Twist and turn in the California Theme Park, climb the majestic mountains in the Wild West or send the waves blazing in the Pirate filled Caribbean oceans. There’s a level for everyone!
Play with cool classic Wham-O® Frisbees® or brand new discs only available in Frisbee® Forever. Collect more than 100 Frisbees®, with plenty of trophies and secret bonuses to achieve.
If all of that sounds a little more complicated than a typical real-life Frisbee game, well, it is. In Frisbee Forever, there’s no circle of friends going through the same motions for all eternity. Instead, players navigate their snazzily decorated frisbees through hoops and soar over whimsical landscapes. Most of the game focuses on flying your Frisbee over and through said landscapes, rather than throwing it. To see it in action, check out the video below.
It’s not often that free games look this good, though to be fair Frisbee Forever is a freemium game. Still, the brightly colored Frisbees are mostly free to fly.
Frisbee Forever is a universal app, designed for both iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad, and is available now for free in the App Store.
Calorie counting is sensible in theory, but precisely measuring every morsel is a hassle at best and at worst, impractical and ridiculous. I’m not claiming to be a nutritional or behavioral expert, but honestly, how many people do you know who faithfully record the contents of every meal? However, a new app seeks to solve this problem of inconvenience with an amusing solution to innate human laziness. Called Meal Snap, its concept is simple: take a picture of your food, and the app will report exactly what you’ve been eating.
Meal Snap lets you take pictures of the meals you eat, and then magically tells you what food was in your meal. Oh yeah, we give you a rough estimate of the calories you ate too. Food tracking has never been easier.
Makes you feel like the app is actually…intelligent. Of course, the “auto-magical” food detection isn’t perfect, so perhaps our iPhones can’t yet become self-aware and take over the world. However, Meal Snap is still very impressive in that it focuses on a key barrier to food-tracking—inconvenience—and eliminates it almost entirely. You’ll probably have your phone on you whenever you eat, and snapping a quick photo is much more efficient than manually scribbling down a detailed list of your meal. (Plus, even if the “auto-magical” detection fails, you still know what you’ve eaten thanks to the photo!)
You can do more with Meal Snap than just get instant information. The app allows users to share photos using Twitter and Facebook, and you can browse through previous days’ meals, viewing total calories per day and reviewing old pictures.
Meal Snap is certainly a very cool idea, and, if the app’s estimates are accurate, a potentially very useful app as well. We love seeing apps that make innovative use of the ubiquity and capabilities of iOS devices, and Meal Snap definitely fits that category!
If you’d like to give Meal Snap a spin, it’s available now in the App Store for $2.99.
Mozy is an excellent online backup service whose main draw is pure ease-of-use. Install it on your computer, choose what to back up, and the service automatically syncs all selected files to Mozy servers. Mozy will then periodically back up your files, so that you can set it up once and then forget about it. (Because of smart selections like “all Word documents” or “everything in folder X,” you don’t need to explicitly reconfigure your backup sets all of the time, either.) Mozy accounts come with some free storage space, and you can purchase more if needed.
However, accessing those backed-up files hasn’t always been the easiest, especially from the iPhone. Now, there’s a shiny new Mozy app that lets you view all of your stored files straight from the iPhone.
The new Mozy app lets you view files according to their placement within your backed-up folders, or search all files at once. You can open .pdfs, play music, view photos, and even watch videos. Also, you can email files from within the app or publish photos to Facebook. Mozy lets you download files for later use, or open them with other iPhone applications. If you’re concerned about security, you can add a four-digit passcode as well.
I personally used Mozy Home for a few years, and in that time it twice saved me after a computer crash. Backing up your files is important, folks! If you don’t have a Mozy account, you can sign up easily and get two free gigabytes of storage. And if you’re already a Mozy user, well, this new app just adds more functionality to an already-solid service. Being able to access your files as easily as possible is always great.
Of course, there are other, similar apps on offer in the App Store (Dropbox instantly comes to mind) but it’s good to see Mozy rolling out new features nevertheless. If you’re a Mozy user or want to try it out, Mozy for iOS is available now in the App Store.
Most uses for the iPad are purely recreational: watching movies, checking email, playing Angry Birds. However, some apps are far more than just entertaining, or even useful—some apps have the potential to create real, meaningful change in their users’ lives. OneVoice aims to be such an app. An iPad app that focuses on simplicity and usability, OneVoice is an “augmented communication app” that speaks for its users.
OneVoice lets users either select from a display of icons or type in words to form sentences and phrases, and then speaks the words aloud. Thus, OneVoice allows its users to “speak” by tapping out their desired phrases. The developers intended for it to help people with communication disabilities, whether those disabilities were caused by stroke or traumatic brain injuries, autism, multiple sclerosis, or another cause.
The developers also cite the general clunkiness of most “augmented communication” apps and devices as a major source of inspiration for creating the app. By contrast, OneVoice tries to keep things simple and prizes usability over stuffing lots of functions into a complicated package. OneVoice also offers plenty of customization—users can select from different voices, add their own vocabulary, upload personal pictures and icons, and turn to the keyboard when they exhaust the icons.
OneVoice is available in the App Store for $199. That’s significantly more than your average iPad app, but the developers are quick to stress that it’s cheap considering the app’s market:
Designer Nathan Barry of Legend was inspired to create the affordable, easy-to-use application after learning that many people affected by speech disabilities cannot afford the devices currently available on the market. At $199.99, OneVoice is significantly less expensive than similar devices, the most common of which cost many thousands of dollars. OneVoice can change the way people with speech disabilities interact with their families, friends, and the world around them.
It’s always inspiring to see truly great uses of the iPad, and I think that this app qualifies as such. Most games and apps are geared towards entertainment or procrastination, but OneVoice has a much more meaningful goal. Be sure to watch the demo video to see the app in action.
LoobJ isn’t shy about the grandeur of its vision. Created by Amidio, Inc., to show off their new music format, .loopj, the iPad app boldly claims to be the first “interactive DJ station” and seeks to make music more “interactive.” The folks at Amidio believe that most dance tracks can be split into five “layers” that will always sound good together, so accordingly LoopJ allows you to manipulate five layers for every track. From the app’s description:
Think of LoopJ as of a mini DJ-optimized version of Ableton with fixed layout, optimized for touch-screen performances, always ready when you’re on the go.
You don’t need a separate MIXER, since there are 2 .loopj decks always playing together at the same time, always TIME-STRETCHED to have the same BPM, so you’re always guaranteed a perfect mix. Loading new tracks is seamless and doesn’t interrupt the mix.
You can even spice the mix with LP/HP multitouch filters and 3 built-in FX – Rhythmic Delay, Gate Splitter, Glitch Repeater. You also have a Global HPF Filter which is basically a Fast-EQ.
Since LoopJ is in large part a showcase for Amidio’s .loopj format, the app is entirely free and includes five free tracks to get aspiring musicians started. However, this also means that to import your own music, you’ll need to convert tracks into 20 .wav loops, four loops per five layers. Or, a separate in-app purchase allows you to record to .wav from within the app.
LoopJ’s main interface is bright and colorful, with an array of different colored blocks that seem to encourage exploration. I highly recommend watching the embedded video to get a sense of LoopJ in action, because it’s difficult to convey how a DJ app works with simple words. There’s an impressive amount of functionality packed into this app, and it’s free—do you need a better excuse to start playing with your music?
LoopJ is available in the App Store now, for iPad only.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Posted April 8th, 2011 by Bonnie Eisenman Our Rating: :: FANTASTIC FANSERVICE
The Hippogriff Cookbook is an amusing, light-hearted cookbook full of good uses for that rare delicacy, hippogriff meat. You could actually buy it for the included recipes, but I find its main value to be in the humor.
You can never have too much of a good thing, which is why app updates always make up happy. In this case, the app in question is Tilt to Live, one of the select apps to receive 148apps’ Editor’s Choice designation. Reviewing the game upon its release, writer Arron Hirst said that, “Tilt to Live is a fast paced tilt-based action title in which the overall aim, is to try and stay alive for the longest amount of time, possible…Tilt to Live is an exceptionally well designed, visually pleasing and frantically challenging action title.” Now, owners of the iPad version, Tilt to Live HD, can enjoy playing with their friends as well thanks to the new ¡Viva la Coop! update.
Released earlier for iPhones and iPod Touches only, the ¡Viva la Coop! update is now available for the iPad version as well. To play co-op mode on the iPad, you need to have an iPad, a copy of the game, a friend with an iPad and a copy of the game, and also the Viva la Turret update on both copies. Phew…that’s expensive. If you fit into that category, however, you can enjoy a friendly game of cooperative play. The multiplayer update only allows you to play with other locally via Bluetooth, however. The embedded YouYube trailer does a good job of explaining how co-op works, but basically, one player (the black arrow) controls a turret and defends the other player (the white arrow) who runs around collecting jewels.
¡Viva la Coop! is a free update for Tilt to Live HD owners who have purchased the Viva la Turret expansion.
Doodle Jump used to be one of the App Store’s juggernauts, and still has over 2 million players on its Game Center leaderboards. A simple, captivating game, Doodle Jump featured an alien-like “doodle” in his quest to jump from platform to platform unto infinity. Now, Doodle Jump developers Lima Sky have partnered with Universal Studios to promote the upcoming movie, HOP.
The new amalgamation is named “Doodle Jump: HOP The Movie” and stars E.B., the Easter Bunny’s son, who needs to hone his jumping skills before he can take over his father’s job. This new game concludes that the best tutor is, naturally, “Doodle the Doodler” from Doodle Jump. I didn’t know that our green, long-nosed friend had a name, but there you go. Doodle Jump: HOP plays out much like the original Doodle Jump, with tilt-based controls and ever-ascending platforms. However, unlike Doodle Jump, HOP is divided into levels, which increase in difficulty as you go:
Hop your way through the Easter Bunny’s top-secret candy factory. Save Easter from a chick revolt led by Carlos and his fellow fluffy workers and earn the privilege of becoming a true Easter Bunny by completing all 25 levels. Unlock a new level every day leading up to the film release as you spring up to towering heights and gather different Easter eggs.
Unsurprisingly, the game has also received an Easter-themed graphical skin to match the new theme.
Doodle Jump’s partnership with HOP comes almost concurrently with Angry Birds Rio, another famous iPhone app / new movie promo game. The difference is that Angry Birds Rio seems to have added some significant changes, whereas other than the graphical update and addition of levels, Doodle Jump: HOP remains faithful to its original. Whether or not that’s a plus is entirely subjective, but I think it’s an interesting decision.
On the other hand, since Doodle Jump: HOP is a promotional game, it’s also free—so there’s no reason for fans of the original not to try this new version out. Doodle Jump: HOP The Movie is available in the App Store now.
Gameloft is infamous for, err, being “inspired” by mainstream hits, and GT Racing, Gameloft’s answer to Gran Turismo, was no exception. With local and online multiplayer, 6-player races, Gameloft’s typical slick graphics and over 100 vehicles, GT Racing won plenty of fans. However, there was one thing it lacked…at least by App Store standards. GT Racing wasn’t free.
Gameloft is apparently banking on the App Store’s love of all things free, as it has recently converted GT Racing: Motor Academy to GT Racing: Motor Academy Free+, a freemium title. The new freemium version doesn’t cost a cent to get started, but to unlock all of the content, you’ll need to fork over some cash.
Gameloft’s own PR writers are quick to extoll the virtues of the new, freemium model:
Download the game for FREE and take your first steps into the huge and fascinating Career mode. Pass driving tests and win races to progress as you unlock more cars and events with in-game credits and XP. Hours of racing thrills are waiting for you now!
And for those who want to unlock everything lightning fast, you can purchase XP multipliers and credit packs directly from the game.
So, most of the content is unlockable for free…if you’re willing to put in the time. Otherwise, you can pay cash to advance more quickly. Additionally, some features such as multiplayer now require an in-app purchase. The original GT Racing: Motor Academy, which was a single paid purchase that unlocked all content, is no longer available for purchase.
GT Racing: Motor Academy Free+, on the other hand, can be download now in the App Store. Just be aware that it’s going to take up a lot of space!
Touchgrind, a skateboarding (or “fingerboarding”) game that beautifully demonstrated the power of multitouch, debuted in the early days of the App Store. At the time (all the way back in 2008!) we called it a “great game with a finger controlled board and fantastic and innovative physics and control.” Since Touchgrind, Illusion Labs hasn’t released too many titles, but they’ve all been of extraordinarily high quality; Touchgrind, Labyrinth 2, and Sway all won “Editor’s Choice” designations from us. So, then, it’s with great excitement that we view a new trailer from Illusion Labs. It looks like Touchgrind is finally getting a sequel!
The trailer doesn’t contain too much information, but it’s tantalizing nonetheless. The sequel will be called Touchgrind BMX, and instead of a miniature skateboard, players will control BMX bikes, though of course the focus will still be on performing finger-twisting tricks. Touchgrind BMX is scheduled to hit later this spring.
From the video, we can see that the game retains the gorgeous graphics that have become Illusion Labs’ signature. Additionally, players will have separate control of the front and back of the bike at the very least—unsurprising, considering that Touchgrind BMX is being billed as “the world’s first true multitouch BMX game.” The video shows off a number of tricks, with the promise of being able to post replay videos to YouTube for your friends to gush over. We can also see a variety of bikes and locales. As the description boasts, “Your skill and imagination are the only limits to unlock bikes and locations all over the world.”
I think “teaser” is definitely the appropriate title for this trailer. Still, it’s got us pumped. Touchgrind was hugely fun thanks to its fantastic controls and physics, and Touchgrind BMX looks like it’ll expand upon those strengths. “Spring” is just about here, so we should be able to see how well Touchgrind BMX carries on its predecessor’s legacy soon enough!
Going to SXSW this weekend but don’t want to sort through the massive list of performers? It turns out that there’s even an app for this specific niche. From the folks at Top Drawer Apps comes SXSW Artists. Top Drawer Apps is the developer behind My Artists, a gorgeous little iPod-replacement app, and now it looks like they’re branching out with SXSW Artists.
The idea behind SXSW Artists is simple. A lot of groups are performing at the music festival in Austin, Texas, this week, but do you really want to dig through the entire listing to find out if your favorite artists will be there? This app tries to make that process a whole lot simpler, by scanning your iPod library and presenting you with groups it thinks that you’ll be interested in seeing. Of course, artists whose music appears in your library will be suggested, but the app also suggests “related” artists or artists in genres that you like.
SXSW Artists is (surprise, surprise) powered by the same engine that My Artists uses; however, unlike the latter app, SXSW Artists is free. Take that with a grain of salt; the app description notes that SXSW Artists is not affiliated with the SXSW® Music and Media Conference, which is probably why it has to be free.
Regardless, this is a great idea and an excellent way to make browsing through the performance listings much easier. Tailoring results to your personal tastes is a rather nice touch, in my opinion. If this sounds useful to you, grab SXSW Artists in the App Store now for the low, low price of free.
StarMaker Interactive, the developer behind Auto-Tune Birthday, writes that “Jay-Z may have pronounced Auto-Tune dead”…but hey, Auto-Tune The News has 240 million views, so clearly plenty of people find Auto-Tune’s distinct sound hilarious. That’s the idea, anyway, and it’s the reason why we have this…monstrosity?…on our hands. In this app, Auto-Tune meets perhaps the most unremarkable, aged song in popular culture: “Happy Birthday.” I think that the app’s description sums it up best: “You singing “Happy Birthday” + Auto-Tune + Facebook = The best birthday wall post your friend will get!”
Auto-Tune Birthday is an iPhone app that lets you sing and record yourself singing Happy Birthday, and then auto-tune the resulting song. From there, you can post the recording to Facebook or send it via email. When posting a song to Facebook, the app allows you to add photos, graphics, and a personal message as well as the recording.
The app includes ten “versions” of the Happy Birthday song, including Hip-Hop, Rock, Samba, Synth Pop, and more. Auto-Tune Birthday also ties into Facebook so that it can send you birthday reminders. Check out the results in the video below.
“Facebook users have become accustomed to receiving the somewhat impersonal ‘Happy Birthday’ wall posts on their birthdays,” says Nathan Sedlander, President and Co-Founder of StarMaker Interactive, “Auto-Tune Birthday’s studio-quality Auto-Tune and easy integration with Facebook lets users create fun wall posts that stand out, have a personal touch, and are generally more awesome.”
The app’s developers have experience with harnessing Auto-Tune to hilarious effect: their Auto-Tune Christmas app produced funny versions of Silent Night.
Auto-Birthday is available in the App Store for $0.99.
One side effect of the App Store is that we tend to take our entertainment from “small” sources, like a few minutes of Angry Birds or skimming a Twitter feed. But the folks behind The Atavist hope they can persuade us to take the time for a more in-depth experience. The Atavist is a new app, for both iPhone and iPad, that aims to present readers with unique, engaging long-form nonfiction.
The Atavist offers a new kind of nonfiction storytelling and narrative nonfiction, with a series of original stories designed specifically for the iPad and iPhone. More sustained than a magazine article but shorter than a book, each Atavist story is original — reported and written by skillful, award-winning nonfiction authors.
Each Atavist story includes an audio recording of the author reading their work aloud; multimedia elements such as an accompanying soundtrack, videos, and maps; and “smart timelines” that orient the reader without giving away plot twists. Additionally, half of each purchase goes towards the author. And yes, you do have to purchase each individual story, though the app is free. Each story costs $2.99.
Unfortunately, at the moment The Atavist’s library is limited to a mere two stories: Lifted and Piano Demon. That’s hardly a broad enough foundation to stoke a reading revolution in the App Store. Compounded by the cost per story, which is a tough sell in the App Store’s often ruthless market, and it’s easy to see why The Atavist has yet to take off. Until the app gains more content, it’ll be hard to shake the “demo” feel. And then the Kindle app and its rivals have done a good job of keeping reading alive in the App Store.
Regardless, if you’re curious about what forms literary journalism could potentially take on the iPhone and iPad, The Atavist is very interesting. Download the free app (and, if you wish, free previews) from the App Store at the link below.