Contributing Writer with the 148Apps Network since June 6, 2011
Lisa Caplan has been reviewing apps and games on the best iOS review sites for several years.
Located in a balmy Montreal suburb, Lisa has a background in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and an Advanced Degree in Creative Writing and Lit. An old-school gamer, she has had an Apple computer by her side since 1979.
Lisa delights in her nine-year-old son, whose mastery of tech has long surpassed hers and when not reviewing, Lisa does freelance copy editing and technical writing.
Steel Media has worn many hats in the iOS world. They are an iOS ad publisher, publish the website pocketgamer.co.uk, and AppSpy video reviews. They also run The Free App Alliance, the iPhone Alliance and the iPhone and iPad Quality Indexes – meta-review sites dedicated to iOS apps. Who better then, to put out an all iOS magazine than this group? And, they have done just that with Swipe, an HTML 5 built, interactive magazine that will help you decide which apps and accessories you want or even need.
The first issue hit the App Store earlier this week and the launch issue covers some killer iPhone and iPad gear, a top-ten list of best RPGs and it even has a world-exclusive interview with Rovio covering their next game Amazing Alex.
The magazine gets it content from members of the iPhone Alliance community (which includes 148Apps Network sites), which is comprised of the best and most highly vetted global iOS review sites. This gives the magazine breadth and diversity of opinion not found elsewhere. The app really focuses on interactivity, and while it is only available on iPad right now, Steel Media is at work on an iPhone build that will use the smaller screen real estate to maximum advantage.
Swipe is completely free, no subscription or IAPs, so if you grab a copy, be sure to let us know what you think in the comments.
How many music cloud storage apps does it take to fill an iPhone or iPod touch? We’re not sure; they roll out so often it’s hard to keep track. On Tuesday there was a noteworthy addition – Amazon Cloud Player arrived on the App Store. It didn’t get much attention from Apple, but that’s likely because the service is very much like iTunes Music Match.
If you are a U.S. subscribers to Amazon’s music service you can now access your cloud-locker to stream your collection of MP3’s to your device. You can also download music to save bandwidth when you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection or for offline listening. Cloud Player also allows you to upload your existing music collection and access your iPhone or iPod touch music library. You can create and edit playlists, but you have to buy the songs and albums, or own them already, to store them in Amazon’s corner of the sky.
Cloud Player devotees get 5GB of free stooge. Add-on storage plans start at $20 a year for 20GB. Be sure to enable automatic downloads if you want your collection to stay current – the default setting is “off.”
The only limitation to Amazon Cloud Player on iOS is that Amazon doesn’t want to give Apple a 30% take on all sales, so like their Kindle app, content must be purchased on Amazon.com and then it gets synched to your device. Look for an iPad release soon.
Bejewled Blitz, PopCap’s incredibly popular timed variant of the classic match-three game Bejewled made its way from Facebook into the App Store late last year. The game broke iOS ground, being the first universal iteration of the archetypal puzzle and is integrated into the new Bejewled and Bejewled HD, which are similar to the PC/Mac game Bejewled 3. Now PopCap has given the iOS version a Facebook-style makeover that allows gamers to play without Facebook friends or linking their accounts.
This new “universal” mode in version 1.2 now has Game Center integration with worldwide leader boards. More importantly to fans, the iOS version now also has all the Facebook special perks like daily spins, rare gems, the ability to get multiple bonuses, and stats for as long as you keep playing. There will even be weekly tournaments against PopCap’s iconic characters as well as lots of in-app purchases in place of Facebook credits.
The Bejewled franchise has sold more than 50 million units so far, and this iOS fermium version should only help with what must already be an impressive bottom line.
Hipstamatic, an iPhone photography app that’s similar to Instagram, released an iPad magazine last week called Snap. The monthly showcases the best user-submitted photos. They have been doing that for some two years now, but with Snap they have a format that will reach more than just their own social media followers.
Snap Magazine, for iPad only, is divided into eight sections. Cultured is all about hipster lifestyle and street photography. Obsessed is for dedicated followers of fashionistas, celebs and other trends.
Situation has images from users on the front lines from protestors to random odd sightings, while Hip Stop looks at art, urban pop culture and hot spots. There is ever a section called Aventure in Hipstaland, which is based on Hipstamatic’s Facebook travel page. Slash is sort of a catch all and Lensed showcases actual photographer’s strutting their stuff.
The section that may be most helpful for growing a readership has a titillating name: Climax promises to to cover all “the unspeakable pivotal issues,” foremost amongst them, sex.
Snap Magazine is live in the App Store and available now.
The ADAs, as the Apple Design Awards are known, were presented for the 16th year at yesterday’s WWDC. The winners are those whose interface best exemplified the innovation the Cupertino elite hope to see on their platforms. Along with the honor and an inevitable boost in sales, winners receive a actual physical award complete with glowing Apple logo. This year there were three categories dedicated to iOS. Three apps were chosen for iPhone and iPad respectively and two student-developped apps were honored as well. We’re got the list for you below, but if you think Apple missed a great choice let us know in the comments.
Company: Halfbrick Studios
Summer is here and more people are taking to the skies, roads and rails to travel than at any other time of year. It’s great to bring a proper DSLR camera along for professional quality photos, but they are bulky and not always the best options when you are on the move. And, with the iPhone 4S, it’s no longer necessary to bring along a standard point-and-click digital camera at all. Whether your iPhone has the latest optics or not, there are tons of apps that make taking, enhancing and sharing vacation pics easier and more fun. This week we look at our four favorites.
HDR, when speaking of photography, stands for High Dynamic Range and there are many apps that achieve a full range of tones, lighting and detail by superimposing different photos of the same composition onto one another and manually or semi-automatically adjusting them to achieve rich realistic end results. The photos can be beautiful, but most apps require at least some degree of knowledge about HDR to function well. Simply HDR, however, takes both the mystery and layering away. With a single image and some behind the scene magic, photos come out looking lush with no effort. That said, the app does come with a slider for smoothing and several HDR effects including black and white.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2011-06-20 :: Category: Photography
If you are vacationing anyplace with a killer view – skyline or landscape – a panoramic image allows you to capture a much wider view than traditional photography. As always there are many apps for that, but for ease of use and great results 360 Panorama remains our choice. This universal app allows you to take individual photos and patch them together seamlessly to create stunning vistas. The app uses the iPhone’s gyroscope to enable a full 360 degree view and stitches the images with amazing speed.
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2010-07-30 :: Category: Photography
Group and family vacations call for group and family shots. But trying to get a photo on the fly where everyone looks good is next to impossible. Someone is always looking away, blinking, or making a funny face. GroupShot solves this problem by letting you import several snaps of the same group in the same setting – you really want to snap the base images quickly so everyone stays aligned – and then with the simplest gestures you can swap out funny faces from one photo and replace them with a better facial expression from other images.
The same developers also make make StillShot, another great tool for travellers, specifically those who shoot more video than they take photos, but still want to have an album to browse through later. All this app does is capture frames from video and convert them to stills, but it does so with remarkable ease and great looking results.
iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
Released: 2012-05-01 :: Category: Photography
Facebook is still the most popular photo sharing venue, and they recently released a dedicated camera app that puts all your friends’ photos in an easy-to-navigate stream and let’s you share yours. The app has a few fun Instagram-like effects, and pictures can be cropped or rotated, but what makes Facebook Camera shine is speed. Uploading pictures to Facebook is not only faster than with third party apps, it even beats uploading to Facebook directly by several seconds. Vacation time is precious time, and this app will help you keep your eyes on the view, not on your iPhone screen.
As E3 gets underway, expect lots of new games and major updates to existing ones. One of the first in the latter category is to the hugely popular create-any-object puzzle and sandbox game Scribblenauts Remix.
Earlier today, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment launched version 2.0 which comse with what they describe as a “free playable “God” Avatar”. There is now also a World Pass extension pack which hosts worlds six, seven and eight, making up a total of 30 new puzzles. The extension pack is available as an in-app purchase for $.99, but if you already bought the furst extension pack these new worlds are included as a free upgrade.
Another new IAP, “Mystical Creatures” gives players nine unique avatars to choose from including Baba Yaga, Kappa and Doppelgänger. You can take on these mysterious identities instead of always playing as Maxwell. You can now also gift the app directly from inside the game, instead of going through the App Store.
I’m unclear on what, exactly, the new avatars do, besides add a cosmetic change, but the World Pass will add a lot of replay value. If you’ve updated and upgraded already, let us know what you think of the new features in the comments.
Brainergy, a new puzzler from BulkyPix, takes a familiar style of game and gives it an environmentalist slant. Developed by Pohlm Studio, the goal is to convert elements into energy sources to clean up and power the world.
The graphics are minimalist and the basic gameplay is simple. Just position things like solar panels over sunshine to convert it to energy. You can harness rain, wind, and more in increasingly complex arrangements as you try to find the best possible solution. The game is set on Earth, and takes players on a journey to 13 cities to battle the greenhouse effect.
Brainergy has six types of energy and 14 converters to help players solve the 50 included puzzles. The game explains how the various conversion processes work and offers other tidbits on point in much the same way that Fruit Ninja teaches fruit facts. In other words the environmental education is not part of the gameplay, but rather offered after the round where you can choose to read it or not.
Still it’s interesting to see a major game publisher putting out a title that focuses on something of greater social and intellectual merit than how to best kill zombies or make matches of three. If you try Brainergy, we’d love to know what you think in the comments.
Spotify, one of the most popular on-demand social music services, updated their iOS app last week. There were a lot of fixes and a few tweaks, but the biggest news is that the app now uses push notifications.
Spotify is a great way to listen to almost any artist, song, or album you can think of, but one of the primary functions of the main desktop app is the social connectivity. You can follow friends from Facebook, subscribe to their playlists, and even send them music. Now the app is focusing its attention on this aspect by notifying users when a new friend joins, when a playlist you subscribe to has been altered or when someone signs up to listen to your mix.
Also added, a new user guide helps newcomers explore some of Spotify’s features as they translate to iOS, Retina display interface and album art, and better offline synching,
All these changes are welcome, but what’s still missing is Spotify’s genre and user-created radio stations, and their integrated third-party music discovery apps, things we hope to see in future updates.
Sony’s Music Unlimited service, which works similarly to Spotify, Rdio, and other “all you can eat” music services, has had an Android app since June of 2011, but iOS adherents to either the free or premium online music service have been waiting for a way to stream their collection through an iPhone. As of last week, the wait is over. Basic users can play songs form their music stored in Sony’s cloud, and the full on-demand service is available for subscribers. There is also a 30-day free trial to get new users to convert.
For free you can stream, as the name suggests, endless ad-free pre-programmed genre stations, get song and artist suggestions from Sony and listen to the tracks you own. $.3.99/month opens the on-demand catalog, give access to premium channels and let’s you create and edit playlists. The app is getting lukewarm user reviews so far, and we’re disappointed it’s not a universal build, but if you use the service and have tested the app we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Python fans are certain to welcome the best bits from the penultimate season of the BBC sketch comedy in a new iPhone app: Python Bytes 3 – Monty Python Series 3. If you have a flair for the obvious, you’ll correctly assume this is third in a series of apps that feature the best skits from the cult-classic, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
The 20 most popular skits from series three are presented in a style that looks like Terry Gilliam had a hand in the design. The app launches right into a random sketch, and a shake of the iPhone launches another arbitrary dose of funny.
Tapping on a video toggles a menu where users can select specific sketches, create playlists and even delete scenes – a nice touch for space-freeing purposes. The app, like the rest of the series, sells for $2.99 – a fair bit less than buying the complete season and a fair bit less tiresome than a YouTube search. The app even comes with some cast audio commentary.
Let’s be honest, while vintage Canucks (like this humble Python head) were weaned on British sketch comedy, for an American audience it’s a decidedly acquired taste, particularly in its retro-absurdist Python perfection. There were always laugh-beer-out-yer-nose moments, but for each one, if we’re being candid, there was also an unmitigated dud. That makes this final greatest-hits package a perfect lightweight introduction for those who haven’t yet reached the point where even bad python is good python.
Check out the trailer from the first app to see the UI:
For the movie industry the Cannes Film Festival is one of the most important events in which to preview films and watch the stars. The 65th annual festival is happening in France right now, but if you weren’t able to secure an invite or make the journey, hope is not lost. Film buffs and star gazers can keep tabs on the festival with The Hoolywood Reporter’s new iPad app, Hollywood Reporter: Cannes Film Festival. And, if you did get there and find the opulence a little overwhelming, this app serves as an on-site guide as well.
Calling itself the ultimate companion, the app provides almost-live news, film reviews, and of course, lots of video for those of us watching from afar. Look for lots of Red Carpet moments, gossip from exclusive parties, extensive photo galleries and oh and did I say videos? Ardent fans can even download The Hollywood Reporter festival dailies to see what’s happened so far and not miss any of the remaining action.
And for those on scene there are interactive maps, extensive screening listings, and a mini Cannes travellers’ guide. We envy those enjoying the movie nights on The Riviera, but for the rest of us, this app brings home almost everything except the sun, sand, and surf .
A mobile social discovery app, WhosHere, updated yesterday, adding free video chat to the universal iOS build. The app allows users connect with an new emphasis on keeping random hook-ups safe(ish). The developers say “the biggest problem in meeting people online today [is] knowing that the person you are speaking to is exactly who they say they are.”
Exactly how they propose to solve this problem and provide a layer of security is unclear, but I think the idea is that providing personal details like phone numbers, addresses and information about where you are located at any given moment is best done in a video chat rather than by email or SMS, so people can speak “face-to-face.” Some users complain there are a disproportionate number of men to women using WhosHere, so perhaps this move is intended to help remedy the imbalance ?
The service, clearly, is primarily for dating and casual connections, and gets tepid fan reviews, but if you’re already using WhosHere, video chat should be a welcome addition. Certainly it unleashes some, um, creative communication potential beyond simple safety concerns. If you’ve used this service or test out the new feature let us know what you think in the comments.
Fans of Disney Mobile’s hit game Where’s My Water - both the free and paid version – have a lot to be happy about. Disney just added iCloud support for cross-device game synching, and lots of new levels.
In the paid version of the game, 20 Lost Levels – free version classics – have been added to their own chapter, and Disney announced its intention of updating these regularly. And, if fans have purchased Cranky’s Story, a distinct game mode available throughin-app purchase only, the story wraps up in this update than with an additional 20 levels, making a total of 80 for the extra $1.99.
Players who have the free version of the game haven’t been left out either. A new chapter entitled “Days of Summer” is out with 12 new levels that aren’t in the paid version. These introduce a new gameplay element where players control the water levels on the beach where they meet Swampy tanning. And, as an added bonus, if one gets three ducks on all 12, five Swampy’s Pick levels from the paid version unlock.
Disney is being very clever here, giving players a reason to get both the free and paid versions, and adding quality content to exiting IAPs. Let us know what you think of both updated versions in the comments.