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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bonnie is not currently writing for the 148Apps Network.
Namco Bandai’s newest game sounds…well, a bit wacky. Entitled “Bird Zapper!”, the game enlists players to help Skippy the Squirrel, who is enraged by the birds who short-circuited his music player. A bit of a complicated premise, yes, but the end result is easy to understand: the birds are squatting on the power lines, and with a swipe of your finger, you can knock them off!
Swiping like-colored birds will send them toppling from the power lines, and some birds will provide special bonuses or attacks. The more birds you dethrone, the higher your score. The power lines, and their birds, are set up in a grid-like arrangement. (Be sure to look at the screenshots; the graphics are bright and detailed, despite just featuring cartoon birds.) Because of the way the power lines are laid out, Bird Zapper! actually resembles a match-3 game like Bejeweled more than anything else, which is somewhat unfortunate. How many Bejeweled clones do we need? However, Namco hopes that it will still stand out.
Bird Zapper! will ship with three different play modes. In Survival, you swipe as fast as you can until your “power meter” is depleted. In Blitz, the goal is to reach the highest score in sixty seconds. Finally, Zen mode has no restrictions or time limits.
While Bird Zapper! has not yet been released, the website lists it with a “March 2011″ release date, so we expect to see this new title take flight soon. Namco plans to release Bird Zapper! as a universal app with both iPhone and iPad versions for $0.99, while an Android version will ship later for the same price.
One complaint that has been consistently leveled against in-app purchases is that it’s easy to accidentally make a purchase in real-world money by accident. In-app purchases, which can include anything from extra level packs to extra play time or ad removal, can often generate more revenue than the initial app purchase. With previous iOS versions, in the first fifteen minute period after downloading an app, in-app purchases can be made without having to re-enter you password. The Washington Post writes that parents had complained that, “in the 15-minute period after an app was downloaded, children were buying sometimes hundreds of dollars of purchases on games such as Smurfs’ Village and Tap Zoo — popular iTunes games that are also among the highest-grossing programs for in-app purchases.” In the Smurfs app, for example, a barrel of “snowflakes” or “Smurfberries” can run as high as $99. Besides, “fat finger syndrome” can also lead to unintended in-app purchases.
In response to such complaints, Apple has changed its handling of in-app purchases in iOS version 4.3. Now, a password will also be required to make an in-app purchase, though for fifteen minutes after entering your password that time you’ll be able to make multiple purchases. So, it’s a small hassle but if you’re making lots of purchases at once it shouldn’t be too bad.
Of course, you can also just switch of in-app purchases in the “Restrictions” section of the Settings app if you’re really concerned about your kid spending too much money of Smurfberries. At the price of a small inconvenience, this new setting should prevent some parents from getting too irate, but I do wish that Apple had made it an optional (albeit default) setting that we could tweak personally.
If you’re anxiously awaiting a means of preventing accidental in-app purchases, updating to iOS 4.3 should solve your problems.
Instapaper is routinely hailed as one of the best apps of the App Store (it was even among the first inductees to the App Hall of Fame). The sleek app lets users save articles for offline reading, and does so with such quiet competence that it’s a joy to use. I reviewed Instapaper back in May 2010, and loved it then; now, the 3.0 update adds even more features!
The full details on listed on Instapaper’s blog, but the main focus with this huge update is social. With 3.0, you can share articles to a bevy of social sites including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Evernote, and Pinboard. The app will even queue them up for later posting if you don’t have internet access at the time—jeez, I wish some of those sites would implement that feature for their own apps. Additionally, instead of “starring” articles, you now “like” them. Why is this significant? Well, with 3.0, you can browse your friends’ liked articles to see who’s reading what. To find “friends,” users can link their Facebook or Twitter accounts to Instapaper, or search for email addresses. Similarly, an “Editors” browser that features articles collected by “the best human curators on the web who recommend great articles for Instapaper reading.”
It should be noted that all of these social features are entirely optional—Instapaper isn’t forcing you into anything.
Other improvements are also welcome. You can now save articles to read later from an in-app browser, instead of installing that pesky Safari bookmarklet and having to leave the app. Instapaper is also apparently faster at downloading, and can download images as well. The app can also search through the content of downloaded articles, which is a very welcome addition.
Be aware that upon updating, the app will delete and re-download all of your old articles, which could potentially require an annoyingly long wait.
If you haven’t tried Instapaper before, now’s the perfect time to jump. The app, which is universal and thus designed for both iPhone and iPad, is only $4.99; if you’ve already purchased it, the 3.0 update is free.
Metacritic is perhaps the single largest aggregator of “entertainment” reviews, tracking online buzz for movies, games, music, and more. Metacritic’s enormous popularity is largely due to its publication of “Metascores”—a score out of 100 calculated by weighing and comparing “trustworthy” reviews of a particular item that lets readers determine the overall critical opinion of something at a quick glance.
Now, Metacritic is bringing its massive influence to the iPhone and iPad with a Movie Finder app. Movie Finder by Metacritic provides users with movies’ Metascores and displays showtimes for theaters anywhere in the US. You can also stand in front of your local movie theater and launch Movie Finder to have the app tell you what shows are playing, along with their accompanying review information. Finally, the app also lets you rate a movie or email or text your friends about it.
Of the new app, Marc Doyle, Editor in Chief of Metacritic said,
“Metascores have become a trusted guide to what many decide to see. Movie Finder from Metacritic makes those decisions even easier when you’re on the move.”
Movie Finder by Metacritic is now available for free on the App Store.
Are you indecisive? Paralyzed by making the most mundane of decisions? Don’t have a coin on hand? Well, then, the answer ought to be simple. Turn to your friends to make all of your banal decisions for you!
Okay, okay, I kid—sort of. In fact, there’s an app for this problem, too…or there will be soon. With upcoming app QuikPiq, you’ll be able to snap a photo of each potential choice, and the app will create an online poll that you can instantly post to Twitter or Facebook, or just send as a private link. The app’s developers suggest a number of uses, from choosing a shirt at the mall to picking a restaurant for dinner. Personally, I see it as being far more useful for decisions that affect more than just your own life—imagine sending a poll to all your friends, asking which movie everyone wants to see when you meet up for the weekend.
While QuikPiq has yet to be released, the developers have fleshed out the process pretty well. After creating your poll, you send it out to your friends. Then, they have the ability to vote and comment on your options, and you’ll receive the results from within the app. Additionally, your friends won’t need to download anything in order to vote. Ideally, shortly you’ll have everyone’s opinions on hand to facilitate your own decision-making.
Of course, QuikPiq is competing with an old and established means of making decisions…using your own brain, or, well, actually asking your friends. However, it does have the added advantage of being able to ask all your friends at once, and the incorporation of pictures sounds like a nice use of the cameras embedded in our ever-present iPhones. Look for QuickPiq sometime in 2011. As the website notes, the app is currently in “top secret mode” but you can sign up to be a beta tester, if you wish.
The promotional video below demonstrates the awesome, not-yet-realized power of QuikPiq.
Halfbrick, the developer behind Fruit Ninja, has reason to be proud. The fast-paced fruit-slicing game has won many hearts. Our own Carter Dotson, reviewing the HD version, wrote that “The game is simple and addictive. It’s the kind of basic mechanic anyone can pick up and enjoy in seconds, and keep playing for hours, especially in Zen mode, where the quest for high scores can keep you playing for long periods of time.” Fruit Ninja has apparently won over App Store customers as well, and is now celebrating its 6 millionth sale.
But how exactly should Halfbrick celebrate? Apparently, they want to make amends. Luke Muscat, lead designer of Fruit Ninja, remarks that without growing fruit, there won’t be any more fruit to slice! The press release continues:
To celebrate the sales and make amends for fruit death worldwide, Halfbrick has partnered with the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation to help give something back to juice lovers. Yep, there is a charity specifically dedicated to growing fruit! The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation plants orchards around the world to benefit communities and the environment. Halfbrick has committed to sponsoring a fully functioning orchard in a low-income Native American community as part of FTPF’s Reservation Preservation program. The harvests will not only provide fresh, healthy sustenance but also income for the long-term benefit of the tribe.
A little whimsical? Well, naturally (have you seen Fruit Ninja?). However, sponsoring an orchard sounds like a great way to mark a milestone, as it not only resonates with Fruit Ninja’s theme but hopefully can make an impact as well. The developers promise that you’ll be able to monitor the orchard’s progress through their blog. Halfbrick is also teasing that some new content for the game itself is in the works. Mm, tasty.
Congratulations to Halfbrick for hitting 6 million—and for coming up with such a creative way to celebrate it!
Attention, ladies and gentlemen! We gather here today to celebrate a true App Store milestone: Angry Birds has sat at the #1 spot for a total of 250 nonconsecutive days. Angry Birds—a juggernaut of a game in which players sling the titular avians at the fortresses of the opposing pigs, has seen amazing success. Released on December 11th, 2009, Angry Birds has jealously guarded its perch at #1 with much success.
In honor of Angry Birds’ amazing success, we’ve decided to take some space to reflect on the game that has redefined App Store success.
The Dawn of an Era
Angry Birds launched on December 11th, 2009 to modest success and minor fanfare. The original game included sixty-three levels and a single world. The story was present from the beginning: the pigs steal the birds’ eggs, and the birds set out to get their revenge by destroying the pigs’ castles. (Fun fact: the green pigs were inspired by the then-current swine flu epidemic.) Originally, there were five kinds of birds; leaderboards and achievements had yet to be added. Rovio fiddled with the price a little (for about a week, the game cost $1.99) but the real changes were yet to come.
People liked the original Angry Birds. They laughed. But it wasn’t yet a phenomenon.
Reaching—and Taking—the Skies
The 1.2 update really started the fire. A few months after its original release, the 1.2 update brought forty more levels in two distinct new “worlds,” leaderboards, and more complex structures, such as (gasp) triangular shapes. Then in April, the 1.2.1 update added the usual slew of extra levels, “golden eggs,” and the new “boomerang” bird. Shortly afterward, armed with these improvements, the birds barreled their way to the top of the charts. I’d say that the rest was history, but that would be implying closure…and Angry Birds is still chugging away. The chart below graphs the rise of the Angry Birds era.
Angry Birds took the #1 spot for all paid apps on April 27th, 2010 and has rarely been knocked from its perch since. How has Angry Birds done so well? Well, that’s the multi-million-dollar question. Personally I think it’s simply that Rovio found a “sweet spot.” Angry Birds has the potential for great depth and complex tower structures, and yet it only takes a few pictures to demonstrate how to play the game. Each aspect is carefully crafted and balanced, with new ideas surfacing with regularity. The charismatic birds and pigs don’t hurt, either. But I think Angry Birds’ success is also a function of Rovio’s careful, relentless promotion of the game and willingness to experiment. Angry Birds Halloween grew into Angry Birds Seasons when Rovio saw an opportunity for a companion app, and they capitalized on the characters by creating plush toys and have supposedly been working on other merchandise. Most importantly of all, perhaps, is that Rovio simply hasn’t stood still.
Marching (er, Flying) Onward
After reaching #1, Rovio didn’t rest on its laurels. Instead, Rovio has pushed out oodles of Angry Birds-related developments, both in terms of traditional updates to the main app and more creative endeavors. We won’t go into too many details, but here’s a small sampling of Angry Birds developments since the app’s initial peak.
On April 4th, Angry Birds has sells its millionth copy. Soon, the 1.3 update delivers more updates and a total of five million sales.
In fall 2010, Angry Birds goes to its first new platforms. Among the first are Nokia phones through the Ovi store and webOS. Angry Birds eventually heads to PSP, iPad, Android Marketplace, Mac, and Windows.
Angry Birds Halloween is released with themed levels as a separate app. It eventually becomes Angry Birds Seasons, a companion app to the main Angry Birds app.
Angry Birds plushies: So many people clearly loved the birds that Rovio decided to create some tangible plushies. The toy birds and pigs started shipping in December and can now be bought from Rovio’s online store.
In celebration of the game’s one-year anniversary, the “Ham ‘em High” update introduces new levels and the Mighty Eagle. The Mighty Eagle, a one-time in-app purchase, allows players to blaze through one uncompleted level per hour. It’s the first in-app purchase from Angry Birds.
Angry Birds Rio is announced. A tie-in with Rio, an upcoming movie from the creators of Ice Age, Angry Birds Rio will be an all-new game set in the Rio universe.
Super Bowl commercial: During the 2011 Super Bowl, Angry Birds made an appearance in a commercial for the upcoming movie Rio. The ad included a code that unlocks an extra level in the game.
Where to Now?
No app has come close to Angry Bird’s grasp on the #1 spot. For comparison, the second-place contender is not Doodle Jump or Pocket God, but the Moron Test, with a (relatively) measly 38 days at #1. Angry Birds has single-handedly redefined App Store success. Will anyone else ever be able able to replicate this feat?
But having achieved such great success, how can Angry Birds become even more awesome? The upcoming Angry Birds Rio is mostly a mystery, and I think it’s a great opportunity for Rovio to reconsider, improve upon, and maybe even reinvent parts of Angry Birds. It should certainly contain some great new ideas, given the developer’s track record. We’ll also be seeing Angry Birds on a lot more devices in the future, as Rovio has already announced plans to port their hyper-popular game to the Wii and Xbox 360.
Regardless of where Angry Birds heads, its current success is richly deserved. Angry Birds is a great game with an amazing amount of replay value and an incredibly funny, if silent, cast of characters. Congratulations to Rovio for 250 days at the top!
‘Snake’ is one of the oldest videogame concepts out there. Starting as a tiny character, you gobble up food and your body grows until you collide with either your own tail or the game’s boundaries. It’s a fun concept that starts out very simply, but eventually becomes a tricky balancing act of maneuvering your own body while still trying to grow.
Danjerous Labs loves Snake, but even they believe that a Snake game for iOS devices needs to fit its a platform. On the other hand, they didn’t want to sacrifice the game’s integrity in the process, and weren’t satisfied with many of the Snake-inspired games in the App Store. So, to fill this perceived need, they wrote their own version of Snake. Developer Jeremiah Konkle says, “My approach was to strictly maintain the core concept of the “self-evolving puzzle” while updating the graphics, sound, and only slightly the gameplay to make this concept truly *fit* the iDevice gaming platform.”
Danjerous Labs’ game, Reef Snake, is their answer to “Snake on the iPhone.” Reef Snake includes a visual reboot, with a fluid snake rather than one bound to moving rigidly, and an underwater setting. Additionally, rather than buttons the game uses tilt controls, again as a nod to the differences between an iPod and, say, a computer. Game Center lets users compare their high scores. The core components of the classic, however, remain: keep eating until your “become lost in your own maze,” as the app’s description puts it.
Reef Snake walks a fine line between embracing the abilities of iOS devices and staying true to Snake’s roots, but it seems to have pulled that feat off with at least some success. Watch the above video to get a feel for Snake’s gameplay, and if you feel so inclined, download it too—Snake is available now in the App Store for free.
If you’ve ever crouched behind a wooden “stage” and voiced make-believe stories while “talking” with your sock-covered hands, the aptly-named Sock Puppets should feel very familiar. The app removes the material features of sock puppets: you won’t be making your own puppets, or flapping real hands, and the physical stage is gone. The spirit, however, remains, and Sock Puppets lets you step easily into the role of puppeteer with minimal fuss. As the controller of a host of different sock puppets, you can couple your voice with your puppet minions make your own lip-synched videos. It might lack the nostalgic charm of a physical collection of sock puppets, but hey, iPhone apps are all about removing the need for pesky reality, right?
Each video starts with a backdrop, which you can populate with Puppets, props, and scenery. Record yourself singing or talking in the app, and Sock Puppets attaches the audio to a given sock puppet, who then lip-syncs along automatically. While singing, you can also manipulate and move the puppets and props in your video. Just like in real life, you can use the sock puppets to tell stories or hold a funny conversation. The app also suggests recording alongside a friend if you want to add more voices to your characters. Once you’re done, you can play back the video and watch the animated sock puppets flap their mouths and act out your dialogue with true cartoony puppet style.
The app also lets you share your creations. Sock Puppets includes options for exporting your videos via Facebook and YouTube, should you wish to grace the world with your fantastic videos.
With an included cast of different sock puppets as well as different props for you to use, it would seem that Sock Puppets is truly trying to supplant the physical puppet theater. A darned shame, but then again, who can resist this onslaught of cheerful, silly puppet minions?
I don’t know why, but adding “zombies” to any genre of app seems to instantly make it cooler. So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see that yet another zombie game is making its debut—though Capcom’s Zombie Cafe adds a unique twist. Instead of killing zombies…you’re employing them! The app’s description lays out the basic premise nicely:
It’s hard to find good help, which is why you’ve partnered with an evil corporation to use zombies as free labor to build your café empire.
Makes perfect sense to me! Anyway, as the manager of your new Zombie Cafe, you’re responsible for catering to your customers’ every whim and milking them for their money. It seems to be based on restaurant sims like Diner Dash, but with zombie-themed additions. Zombie-themed fare has replaced normal diner dishes, so for example, you’ll be getting a “handburger and flies” instead of a normal burger. And if you’re short on staff, you can even inject your customers with a toxin to turn them into more zombie minions. (What was that about evil corporations again?) However, by the same token, if you work a zombie too hard it may decide to munch on your customers, which is hardly good for business. Additionally, you can send your zombie minions to attack your competition, stealing toxin and recipes from other cafes.
These combined undead twists add up to a humorous almost-parody of a rather repetitive genre. If Diner Dash and its clones feel just too vanilla for you, a helping of brainy humor might be just what you need. Plus, it’s nice to see a zombie game that adds more than just a “skin.” Too often zombies replace humans just because they look more menacing, but these undead waiters actually do change the gameplay.
While Capcom hasn’t released a gameplay trailer, check out the video below for a revolting teaser clip:
Should you wish to try your hand at zombie-restaurant-management, Zombie Cafe is lurking in the App Store for the low, low price of free.
There’s a lot of good to be said about the Music app. It makes managing massive music collections as painless as possible, and we can even create and edit playlists on the go now. But there’s one feature that I keep quietly wishing for…a queue. Sometimes I like the current song, but not the one I know is coming next; I want to finish this song while being able to pick the next one. Instead, the Music app forces us to either cut off the current song or wait for the song to finish (and then quickly select the song we want next). It’s a small annoyance, but still. I like my Apple gadgets to be perfect. I don’t want to think about their limitations!
Hence: Instant Queue to the rescue! Instant Queue is a bare-bones solution to the “queueing problem.” With Instant Queue, you can select one or more songs to be played next. And…well, that’s it, really. Instant Queue will remain running in the background thanks to multitasking, and will automatically play the songs in your queue in order. Note that you can’t import playlists or save queues.
I don’t know if the “queueing problem” really warrants an entire app, but nevertheless—whenever I run into it, it’s like an itch begging to be scratched. To continue the analogy, Instant Queue is a simple, efficient backscratcher. It doesn’t try to replicate all of the Music app’s features, though it mimics its appearance. Instead, it focuses on solving a single, irritating problem. And solve it it does.
If you, too, suffer from the “queueing problem,” check out Instant Queue on the App Store.
We all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, the fairytale children who trailed bread crumbs behind them to mark their path in a confusing forest. Thankfully, we have more reliable methods of tracking our paths—and Magic Measure is a new iPhone app that aims to do so using your iPhone. Magic Measure drops digital breadcrumbs in your wake and “magically” measures the distance you’ve traveled. It’s certainly more convenient than trying to hunt down a trail of real crumbs.
To determine the distance between two or more locations, you simply have to open the app and tap a button when you reach each marker. Magic Measure pulls data from the iPhone’s well-known location feature, which allows your iPhone (or internet-connected iPod Touch) to determine your location using GPS. It then calculates the distance between each point, overall distance, and the latitude and longitude of each point.
The real “magic” of Magic Measure, however, relies on multitasking. Set Magic Measure to gather “breadcrumbs” in the background, and it will periodically check your location. When you’re done with your hike, jog, commute, or other journey, you can view your path, which is represented as a series of red pushpins (“breadcrumbs”) stuck into a map. Your path also includes data such as distance between each “breadcrumb” and total distance traveled. Best of all, you have to put in truly minimal effort (a button push) to have Magic Measure do the heavy lifting of tracking your journey for you.
The developers of Magic Measure note that the app can only be as accurate as the information it’s given, and therefore recommend treating Magic Measure’s distance estimates as, well, estimates. Nevertheless, the estimates are close enough to provide some interesting data.
Magic Measure is available on the App Store for $0.99.
Tap Tap Revenge will forever be remembered as the first true music game on the app store. Since the dawn of the App Store, Tap Tap Revenge and its subsequent sequels have defined music games on iOS devices. To put it into perspective: the previous iterations of Tap Tap (including Tap Tap Revenge Classic, Tap Tap Revenge 2.6, and Tap Tap Revenge 3) are three of the top ten all-time paid downloads in the App Store. Yikes.
Tap Tap Revenge 4 debuted about a month ago to record downloads, continuing the series’ tradition of rampant popularity. Tap Tap Revenge 4 brings many changes to the table along with its tried-and-true formula. The game still revolves around tapping “notes” as they scroll towards you, but now there’s also an Arcade Mode and up-to-date global leaderboards thanks to Game Center. You can also engage in online battles against other players. Given that Tap Tap claims 15 million players, you ought to be able to find someone to test your tapping skills against. The graphics are also much spiffier, though now the company recommends you play on a third- or fourth-generation device.
Of course, one of the foremost reasons people love rhythm games is the music itself. Tap Tap Revenge 4 includes plenty of paid tracks like its predecessors, but there’s a decent library of over a hundred free songs as well. Additionally, Tapulous promises that a new free song will be released every week. The music trends toward the mainstream, but that doesn’t make it bad. You’ll find hits from artists like Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Rihanna, Owl City, and Avenged Sevenfold, just to name a few of the stars on Tapulous’s lineup.
Tap Tap Revenge has a long and successful history on the App Store. This fourth iteration delivers more of the same, but in this case, “more of the same” should be more than enough to sate even the most rabid rhythm-lovers. For now, Tap Tap Revenge is free on the App Store. Grab it while it’s hot!
Dedicated devices like the Kindle remain popular among book lovers—but did you know that you can get your eBook fix on your iPhone or iPod, too? There are a ton of great apps out there, most of them free, which put all that eReading power right at your fingertips.
Which one to use, however? In this roundup, we take a look at some of the top eReader contenders on the App Store. Scroll to the bottom to see which app we like best! Please note that this roundup focuses on the iPhone and iPod, not the iPad, though many of these apps are universal.
Amazon’s Kindle app has a lot going for it. First and foremost is the Kindle Store, which is probably the most robust of all eBook stores and has relatively good prices. Kindle owners should be happy to know that you can transfer any Kindle eBooks attached to your account straight to your iPhone with this app! Reading ebooks in the Kindle app is also a breeze—the app’s interface is clean and simple, with some customizability and quick response times. I particularly like the free sample chapters. Keep in mind that Kindle books have their own DRM, so you can’t transfer them to other eReaders.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-03-04 :: Category: Books
Stanza was arguably the first successful eReader in the App Store, and it remains a contender. Stanza allows you to import your own eBooks from a variety of formats and offers the most customization options out of all the eReaders. (It was the App Store pioneer of the reversed black-screen-white-text option, which is beloved by those reading at night.) Additionally, Stanza makes it easy to access Project Gutenberg’s archives of free classics as well as integrating with a number of partner stores. Alas, Stanza lacks the coherency of the Kindle or Nook book stores (and their lower prices!). But if you want total control over your eBook library, Stanza remains the way to go. Note that Amazon now owns Stanza, giving them two strong contenders in the eReader ring!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2008-07-13 :: Category: Books
Formerly the B&N eReader, Barnes and Nobles’ NOOK eBook app is similar to the Kindle app in that it comes tied to B&N’s preexisting eBook store. So, if you own a NOOK, you can access your full B&N library from your iPhone. Barnes and Nobles’ store seems to be somewhat smaller than Amazon’s Kindle store, but still boasts an impressive selection and low prices. The iPhone app itself is gorgeous, featuring colorful book covers and the usual bevy of customization options for the reader. The reader responds snappily. One unique feature to Barnes and Nobles’ eBook approach is the “LendMe” feature, which lets you share books with other users. Nice!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-08-17 :: Category: Books
Kobo is relatively new, and focuses on new and best-selling books. The glossy interface focuses on being pretty, but there’s a fair amount of functionality here, too. The store section of the app works wonderfully, with a number of handy categories. One new book is offered as a free download each week, and the prices are fair. Unfortunately, some trouble comes with the reader aspect. While the interface mostly stays out of your way and feels quite natural, it also suffers from the occasional crash. Ah, well; Kobo remains a nice contender, and it does support Instapaper integration.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2009-02-26 :: Category: Books
You’d think that Apple’s own pet bookstore would have shown up earlier, right? Unfortunately, the iBookstore leaves much to be desired in terms of both pricing and selection—I don’t think it’s comparable to Barnes and Nobles’ selection yet, let alone Amazon’s massive Kindle Store. Additionally, iBooks has a nasty habit of crashing right when you’re getting to the exciting part. I complained about many of these issues last June, and yet many of the problems persist half a year later.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-04-02 :: Category: Books
There are many strong contenders in the eBook space, and almost all of the popular apps are very, very good. If you own a Kindle or a NOOK, stick with the corresponding app. None of the eReader apps are sufficiently advanced to warrant giving up your existing library.
Otherwise, it’s a much tougher decision. After careful deliberation, I favor Kindle for iPhone. The Kindle app works wonderfully, with few bugs and a consistent history of updates. Additionally, its massive Kindle Store provides more eBooks than you could ever read. It’s a close race, but the Kindle app’s confident competence makes it the winner in my book.
Recording audio is great, except when you play it back and realize, with some frustration, that you can’t see what’s being talked about—whether it’s a reference to diagrams on a blackboard, a lecture slide, or even a person. As for video, well, it requires a lot more storage space, as well as a steady hand.
Eidetiq aims to combine the best of both worlds with their new iPhone app. The name “Eidetiq” is a play on the real term, “eidetic memory,” or what pop culture calls a photographic memory. Loosely termed a “note-taking” application, Eidetiq allows you to record audio as well as snapping pictures. Turn the app on, and then take pictures when necessary. The app then plays back the recording with the pictures synchronized in time to the audio. A free piece of desktop software allows you to sync those recordings to your Windows or Mac machine as well.
The developers have plenty of suggestions for how to use Eidetiq. These range from the standard lecture recording—record audio, plus pictures of relevant diagrams or problems—to medical applications, such as a doctor recording a patient’s description of their symptoms along with photos of the injury. Despite its “note-taker” moniker, the developers intend for Eidetiq to be much more.
“Never ask again – what did the teacher just say?” said Jason Novak, CEO, Chubby Weasel Technologies…”The app allows you to focus on what you’re listening to in the moment, and then go back and document the highlights.”
Eidetiq is now available on the App Store for $4.99.
Posted January 7th, 2011 by Bonnie Eisenman Our Rating: :: HIDDEN POTENTIAL
Wizard Hex takes some time and experimentation (or a trip to the developer's website!) before you can understand all of its rules, never mind its nuances. Nevertheless, it's a surprisingly fun and deep strategy board game, and well worth a look.
Ladies, we all know that periods can be an enormous hassle if you’re not keeping track—but then, keeping track is a hassle in itself. Period Tracker aims to make planning for your period much simpler, with a free menstrual calendar app that not only lets you track your period, but will also predict your next one.
The app includes a bevy of features, but simplicity is the rule. Inputting your “data” requires as much complexity as you want. When your period starts, you tap a single button; then, if you feel like it, you can add more information each day. The app can track everything from your symptoms (headaches? nausea? bloated?) to your mood. A freeform Notes box lets you record extra information as well. It also calculates how long it expects your period to be, and will predict when your next one will start.
And if you’re tracking your period out of more than curiosity, and are instead trying to get pregnant, Period Tracker also calculates when you’re likely to be ovulating or “fertile.” You can also note on which days you and your partner have been intimate, if that’s your goal.
Oh, and Period Tracker can be discreet, too—no obvious icon, and the option to password protect the app. Ve-ry nice. If you want to export the data, however (say for your next visit to the doctor) the app will allow you to send out your data via email.
So, if you’re a woman in search for a way to track your menstrual schedule, check out Period Tracker. It comes in both paid and free flavors, but the free version has all of the functionality described.
We use our iPhones for games, email, procrastinating, texting, and web browsing (and sometimes making phone calls, I guess). But iHealth wants your iPhone to do more still. Instead of an all-around awesome entertainment and productivity machine, what if your iPhone could help you manage your health, too?
Of course, we’ve seen weight loss apps and blood pressure logs before. But iHealth’s new Blood Pressure Monitoring System is different: it couples a handy app with the actual hardware.
Available soon in the iHealth Blood Pressure Monitoring System is comprised of a blood pressure arm cuff and a portable, battery-powered dock which doubles as a charging station. Fire up the accompanying app, and testing your blood pressure becomes an easy matter. Not only will the app give you a reading, but it also stores the information so that you can later view your daily blood pressure history. This allows you to track your blood pressure over time as well as graph the data. You can also share the data with a family member or doctor.
What’s great about this is that monitoring your blood pressure at home correlates to having it under control, and therefore better health: a recent report found that those who monitored at home were 50 percent more likely to have their blood pressure under control. From iHealth’s press release:
“Regularly monitoring blood pressure in a relaxed consistent setting gives users the most reliable information on the status of their cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Andrew Brandeis, a practicing physician at Care Practice in San Francisco. “More important, iHealth—for the first time—reveals trends and fluctuations in the data and enables the user to easily share the information using their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, which encourages and reinforces lifestyle changes in real time.”
The iHealth Blood Pressure Monitoring System will be on sale for $99.95 at iHealth99.com soon. The way I see it, iHealth is one of many examples of how the iPhone is far more than just another smartphone—it can do some really amazing stuff, with real results. Who would’ve thought we’d ever be able to conduct a blood pressure test on our cellphone? This is more than another “cool app” like Smule’s long-since-released Ocarina; iHealth actually has the potential to improve lives.
We loved Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite for iPad when we reviewed it this summer (and boy, isn’t that a long name?). Now there’s even more to love: the app has added support for PowerPoint editing, making its feature set even more robust.
Let’s backtrack a bit. Quickoffice is a mobile productivity suite (pardon the bulky term) that allows you to edit documents on the go. It supports viewing and editing all of the main Microsoft Office file types: Excel, Word, and now PowerPoint. (Note, however, that PowerPoint editing is only supported for Office 2003 versions; the new format, .pptx, cannot be edited.) Additionally, you have the option to sync your files with a number of online services, including Google Docs and Dropbox. So the addition of PowerPoint editing adds a welcome functionality to an already robust app.
There are plenty of reasons why having a document editor on the iPad can be useful—not only does it give you access to all of your documents when you’re away from the computer, but it also lets you edit them if you find yourself with free time. On the other hand, now your iPad brings your office with you…but, c’mon, there are worse things than being a workaholic, right? If you’re interested in Quickoffice for iPad, I highly recommend reading our review. A premium-priced app, Quickoffice is available for $14.99 in the App Store.
WINta—that crazy acronym stands for “War Is Not the Answer”—is a new music rhythm game that claims it’s trying to reinvent the genre. WINtA does away with the now-typical “track of notes” approach. Instead, different shapes appear on screen, and you tap them in rhythm with the lyrics. The game includes one free song; others are available for in-app purchase at $0.99. The developer promises that more free tracks will be released in the future, along with other paid songs.
Speaking of the developer, WINtA is the brainchild of developer Masaya Mastuura, a Japanese developer. The app’s description calls him the “inventor” of the music genre, citing his 1996 release Parappa the Rapper. Also, Ngmoco is publishing WINtA, so the game features full Plus+ integration, including leaderboards and achievements.
But perhaps happiest of all: WINtA is part of the OneBigGame organization, meaning that ten percent of the profits from each extra track you buy go towards OneBigGame’s partners. Currently, OneBigGame is partnered with the Starlight Children’s Foundation and Save the Children. The Starlight Children’s Foundation works with children with terminal illnesses and their families, while Save the Children works to improve many aspects of children’s lives.
WINtA is a simple game with a simple premise, but it’s hard not to like a game built for charity. Plus, Winta is free to try…so why not give it a download? Unfortunately the game isn’t compatible with early-generation iPod Touches or iPhones, but those with newer devices are free to go.
It’s hard to believe it, but Pocket God is already on its 36th update. If you’ve somehow missed it, the now-classic app gives users an island populated with charismatic “pygmies,” along with myriad ways of torturing the poor souls. Fire ants, lightning, sharks – the pygmies have gone through a lot since Pocket God’s long-ago debut. They even have their own comic now, which has also received an update. But first, let’s look at the main app.
The 36th update, named “Konkey Dong,” is the last of three primate-inspired updates. I’ll let the app’s updated description speak for itself:
A new gorilla idol appears on Ape Mountain (when the banana tree is visible). Drop a pygmy into the grip of the stone gorilla, and the real gorilla, Konkey, will come and kidnap the Pygmy! If another Pygmy is around to witness, he will attempt a rescue and start the mini-game Konkey Dong. This is our biggest mini-game yet. Inspired by the old school arcade game of yore, it has 5 levels and they are as addicting as they are challenging! Tilt the device to move left or right, tap the right to jump, hold the upper left to climb up a ladder, and the lower left to climb down a ladder. Avoid rolling boulders and beetles!
That’s not all, however. In addition to the gorilla-themed additions, the main Pocket God app has also added a Japanese Skin Pack via in-app purchase and a free Fishmas Pack. The Fishmas pack includes, um, everything you need to celebrate Fishmas. Which is apparently like Christmas. But with dead fish.
Okay, moving on before the dead fish begin to smell. Pocket God Comics #4 is now out, and readers can apparently expect everything from a “half-naked Santa Claus” to Pygmy Zombies in the recent additions. Excellent!
And finally, the charismatic pygmies from the comic are also starring in a new Fishmas-themed video. Merry Fishmas, everyone, and enjoy this slew of Pocket God updates.
FaceTime is great for face-to-face videos. What’s not to love? One-on-one video with instant, real-time interaction…of course, there are other circumstances that could greatly benefit from such a structure, and the developers at 39 inc believe they’ve found another “sweet spot.” But instead of live video, they’re tackling live drawing with their SyncPad app.
SyncPad is an iPad app that bills itself as “FaceTime for drawings.” In many ways it’s like a real-time, wireless whiteboard. No matter how far you are physically from your friends or coworkers, the app lets you meet online in a SyncPad “room” and engage in a live doodling session. Whatever you draw is instantly synced to other users, and vice versa.
SyncPad isn’t entirely limited to iPads, either; a read-only mode is available for normal, HTML-5 compliant web browsers (like Safari). The read-only mode even works on other iOS devices. This means that you can email a special link to others, and they’ll be able to see your SyncPad drawings without needing the actual app, whether they’re on a computer, iPhone, or iPad.
As for the whiteboard app itself, it includes a handful of different colors, an eraser, and the ability to import pictures from your library.
SyncPad’s focus is clearly on providing a seamless, minimum-hassle wireless whiteboard. I have to admit, it’s a pretty cool concept. Check out the video below to see SyncPad showing off.