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I still own an iPhone 4S, and the arrival of iOS 8 and the new iPhone 6 line pains me.

First off, I should explain that I’m not some half-committed neo-Luddite with a knee-jerk fear of new technology. I actually picked up my iPhone 4S on the day it launched – it was shiny, new, and top of the line. It was like basking in the glow of a new relationship, where everything is perfect and you’re so in love. Then, a few months later and through no fault of my own, the person whose family plan I was a part of flaked out and I found myself bereft of service and unable to afford the deposit required to spin my old number off to its own line. My still-relatively young significant other then began its new life as an extra beefy iPod Touch.

Image Source: Nerdrepository.com

Image Source: Nerdrepository.com

I was phoneless for the next couple of years, then eventually acquired a prepaid on a different carrier because it was both cheaper and I wouldn’t be locked to a contract. After enduring months of terrible service (including not being able to get a signal at home, within almost-literal spitting distance of the second-largest city in the state’s downtown area) I finally found out that not only did my old carrier offer prepaid service, but they had just recently allowed the iPhone 4S to be activated on it. I was elated. I could have my phone back again!

But our rekindled romance was short-lived. Once the thrill of having a signal anywhere I went wore off, I immediately began to feel the immense weight of my three years away.

In the interim, Apple had launched and fully iterated the iPhone 5 and and was gearing up to move along to the impending iPhone 6 and the concurrent launch of iOS 8. As I worked my way back into the world of iOS devices, I began to feel increasingly like a relic from a bygone age. Most new apps were not only optimized for iPhone 5 and up, but an increasing number just flat-out wouldn’t run on my old hardware at all. And with each new iOS update, that hardware – already rapidly spiraling towards obsolescence – ran just a little bit worse. Also, my prepaid plan won’t support the 5 series phones at all.

And so, I’ve begun to eyeball the postpaid world once again.

Now mind you, even if I had the money I wouldn’t have been one of those people who obsessively acquires each new phone the second it comes out. I’ve always believed in getting my money’s worth out of a device before moving on. In fact, if I had upgraded a year or so back to, say, a 5s, I could likely be singing a completely different tune at this point. Maybe I wouldn’t yet feel that an upgrade was in order. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Now, after an arduous process that took several hours the other night, my iPhone 4s groans under the strain of running iOS 8. Some features are nice (the integrated Siri song ID via Shazam, the pull-down text message reply from the lock screen) and work more or less as intended. But beyond that, things chug and sputter along slowly and hiccups, glitches, and freezes are far-too frequent. I know some of this is inevitably the bugs that accompany any initial roll-out of new operating systems, but I would be extremely surprised if a fair chunk of it wasn’t due to the fact that I’m running it on a three year old phone that just doesn’t have the muscle to properly support it. And if I thought I was being left behind before with the iPhone 5 app optimization, well it’s about to get even worse.

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And that’s to say nothing of the new hardware itself. I got to put my hands on it a few days ago and I was pretty impressed. I feel like the size issue has been overstated by a lot of people. Despite being a pretty big guy I have surprisingly small hands, but even the iPhone 6 Plus didn’t feel too gargantuan for me to hold reasonably. And despite the fact that it’s an ounce heavier than my 4s, it actually felt lighter. And then there’s the fact that the regular iPhone 6 actually is lighter, despite being considerably bigger. The recently reported bending controversy doesn’t especially concern me either as I don’t wear super-tight pants. And even if I did, I’d most likely normally stash the phone somewhere else, like a jacket pocket or my messenger bag, rather than forcing it uncomfortably into somewhere it would have problems fitting in the first place.

While I loved (and still do love) my 4S, I just feel that our relationship has run its course. We had some laughs together and created some great memories that I will always cherish, but I think it’s time that we move on and see other people.

Whenever a shiny new gadget comes out, the same question runs through my mind: “Will this become an indispensable part of my tech arsenal, or will it be a glorious waste of money?” Things rarely seem to fall in between – either they change everything, or they change nothing.

Sure the idea of the Apple Watch is intriguing, but as I started my research into the device, the first hurdle I ran into was held in the first image I saw of it; the thing is huge and ugly, with a huge and ugly price tag to match.

applewatch08-600x335I have a lot of mobile devices: my iPad, my phone, and my Shine fitness tracker. Investing in something that boils all of those things down into a single fashion accessory might sound appealing at first but the reality is that, as a part of my daily wardrobe, it just doesn’t fit. In order to be able to have a functional touchscreen, the smallest possible face for the Apple Watch is 38mm. That’s kind of large for someone like me who has small wrists. Sure, it would let me reenact scenes from Dick Tracy (and that’s cool enough to merit serious consideration), but with its metallic 90s style Casio band and massive face it just looks plain silly. If Apple wants to not only become a part of my lifestyle but a part of my appearance, they are just going to have to try harder. Yes, I know they offer other bands, but the current iconic design is neither formal nor cool, and that just won’t do.

In truth, though, I haven’t worn a watch for several years now. With so many devices that keep time already taking up valuable room in my pockets, I haven’t felt the need to wear one. Once again the point would be to minimize the amount of stuff I carry, and in that regard the Apple Watch is intriguing – especially as more apps become available for it.

applewatch09But appearance aside, the biggest hurdle for getting excited about the new Apple Watch is that price. At $349, it’s unreasonable as a substitute for a bunch of tech gear I already own. Also, considering it needs to paired with an iPhone, which I do not presently own, the Apple Watch would be useless to me unless I bought one of those, too.

At the moment, the Apple Watch really doesn’t offer anything truly new to justify itself. Perhaps after the watch is released and a few generations pass I’ll find it a more worthwhile investment. By then the price may drop and my old gear will be out of date and in need of an upgrade anyway. Until then, I think my Dick Tracy impressions will just have to continue to rely on my good old (free) imagination.

How iOS 8 has Improved My iPad Experience

After a solid week of use since its debut, here are my personal impressions of how iOS 8 has refined and streamlined the way in which I use my iPad on a daily basis.

Today is Looking Good

The improved Notification Center is by far my favorite feature of iOS 8 on iPad. The now fully-featured Today screen is finally at a place where it should have been years ago: as an integral part of the iOS experience and adding a whole new spectrum of usability to iOS devices.

On an iPad, a device typically chock-full of apps and games, this feature is even more appreciated. From the lock screen I can get an overview of the most pressing news stories (via News Republic), pop culture or meme-inspired articles that are perfect for passing a few minutes (BuzzFeed), a much more attractive weather report (Yahoo! weather), buttons for launching different functions in Evernote, customizable app shortcuts with Launcher, and a shortcut to where I’m up to in the book I’m reading with the Kindle app. It acts as a real hub of activity, allowing me to view my apps at a glance rather than closing and opening each one systematically.

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Better Connectivity

AirDrop between my iPad and my MacBook (running the Yosemite beta) is also a long-awaited feature I’m happy to see added to iOS 8, and is a much more direct way of transferring files between the two. Answering calls on my iPad if my phone is on charge is also a massive plus, meaning I rarely miss those urgent calls from work when my phone is in the other room.

A combination of the new-and-improved Notification Center, the updated Spotlight search, and a rejuvenated Siri will definitely silence some of the critics that previously questioned iOS’ productivity or speed of use, as the home screens have become more of a directory than the be-all-and-end-all of the iOS experience (to me at least).

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Better Luck Next Year

I’m still waiting for the Control Center to allow for some customization in the same way that the Notification Center lets you edit widgets (for example, a button to turn off data easily) and take proper steps towards becoming a mini settings menu. Hands-free Siri is a great touch, but until Apple comes up with a way to make it work without the constant use of a charger it’s not particularly helpful unless you’re sitting next to the plug socket.


iOS 8 has taken great steps in moving towards achieving true multi-device connectivity, as well as making the whole interaction process a lot more multi-faceted. As more apps add support for notification widgets, it’ll become even more capable.

In this installment of Who Wore it Best?, Skyvenger 3D: Orbital Debris and Bricks compete to see which is worthy of continuing the legacy of arcade classic Breakout.

NAVIGON iPhone 2.1 Route Blocking
I’ve been living with my iPhone 4S for the past two years or so, and if I was living in a world where I wasn’t bombarded with new phone announcements and people of the general public caring enough to upgrade constantly, I wouldn’t think my phone was obsolete. It’s a great feeling phone that does everything I want it to – plus a lot of stuff I don’t care to do. It’s not perfect, but neither are iOS 8, the iPhone 6, or the iPhone 6 Plus, so why spend the hundreds of dollars every year or two?

I’m not even going to attempt to answer that question. I’m merely using it as a rhetorical device to illustrate that the past two years of announcements of Apple hardware and services have not moved me to throw money at them, and here are a few reasons why.

Continue reading Why I Don’t Want to Upgrade to the iPhone 6 – or iOS 8 for That Matter »

applewatch09At long last, a brand new Apple product category is almost here. In 2015, five years after rewriting the whole tablet rulebook with the iPad, Apple looks to do the same to wearable technology with the Apple Watch. However, while watching its debut during the most recent Apple press conference, I couldn’t help but notice a disturbing trend amidst all the talk of fitness integration, luxury gold bands, revolutionary payment systems, and elegant digital crowns: when it comes to how we actually communicate with each other, Apple Watch seems like a big step back.


Continue reading Use Your Words – The Apple Watch and the Devolution of Language »

So, the new iPhones have been announced and we’re all excited, right? Well, maybe not entirely. It’s a funny thing being a self-confessed fan of a company and its products. While I don’t see myself as a blind fan to Apple, over the years I’ve happily owned 2 iPads, 1 MacBook Pro, and 3 iPhones. I’ll no doubt end up with another iPhone at some point soon too, but that hasn’t stopped me from feeling a little disappointed by the news of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

iphone6-02Much of it, I suspect, is down to wanting something life-changing again. The original iPhone, for me at least, was life-changing. Besides eventually leading me to a position where I’m writing this very article, it felt amazing to own one. The sheer potential of what I could do with it was amazing. I think every new iteration, I want that feeling again. Maybe I just expect too much.

As someone who prefers their phones smaller, I’m at a tricky crossroads. The iPhone 5 is big enough that it’s caused a permanent dent in my jeans’ pocket. Its camera is good enough that I’ve taken photos just as the sun is setting and it’s still somehow made it look like much earlier in the day. I do want the speed boost, though. I’m impatient. I like things to react as quickly as possible.

The other features? Not so much.

iphone6-01The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are set to be thinner and offer a better HD display, which is great. It’s not a deal-breaker, though. I’ve got an iPad Mini Retina which covers that, if not quite as well.

Camera wise, things are looking better. At least when it comes to the iPhone 6 Plus’ optical image stabilization, which looks fantastic. The iPhone 6’s improvements, however, are good but not awe inspiring. I want something I can show off to others and they can immediately see the difference and think ‘wow, I want one of those’. It looks like I’ll have to go for a bigger phone in the form of the 6 Plus if I want that.

Touch ID and fingerprint technology is great, but much like the contactless payments via Apple Pay, it’s not something I can see myself using every day. It’s just a nice quirk. A little bit like Passbook.

The biggest delight to come from this for me is the battery life. My iPhone 5 needs charging every night now and was never great two years ago. It’ll be good to not be so reliant upon my charger again. Still though, where’s the wireless charging? Now that’d feel futuristic and it’d be so practical, too.

iphone6-09It’s a tough one to call. Besides better battery life and multi-user support (seriously, where is that? I want to be able to switch to a guest account, hand my phone to my young cousin, and not be worried that they’ll dig around in the wrong places), I’ll admit I can’t list a plethora of things I want to see in my phone – but then I never can. That’s why I don’t work in research and development. Those exciting changes are what I’ve enjoyed about new iPhones. Being told a new idea that’s made me think “I never thought of that. Awesome, I can’t wait.”

I’ll eagerly buy an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus at some point in the future because I want the speed boost, but I’ll be honest: what I really want is something that I can point out to folks and yell “See? See how awesome that is!” and I don’t feel like I’ve got that this time around. Instead, I’ve got steady but a little bit safe. Is it a matter of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Maybe, but I’ve still got that itch for revolution rather than evolution.

On today’s Who Wore it Best?, similar iOS games fight for superiority. So what better games to pit against each other than Writer Rumble and Stay Dead, two radical spins on the fighting game genre?

Who Wore it Best? takes a break from all the bloodshed to check out two decidedly tranquil and nature-loving puzzles games: Phantom Flower and And Then it Rained.

2K Games has officially announced that Bioshock is coming to mobile. The announcement is an exciting one, although there’s also this pervading sense of worry – even anger – that some seem to have about it. So I’d like to take a few moments to try and explain why being able to play Bioshock on your iOS device ain’t so bad.

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1 – Rapture in Your Pocket

Some people have asked me why I’d even want to buy a graphically inferior version of a game I probably already own for as much (or possibly more) than I could buy a “better” version for, and the answer is simple: portability. Of course it looks better on the systems that have high-end specs and lack a 2GB install cap, but I’m not about to drag my console of choice and a TV around with me everywhere I go.

Being able to play Bioshock on my phone – even if it’s not graphically up to par with the other versions – means I can return to Rapture any time I want. If I’m traveling, waiting in line, have downtime and no PC/console handy, and so on, I can simply pull out my phone and start throwing plasmids around.

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2 – No In-App Purchases

This is another concern/assumption I’ve seen a lot of and it makes me sad. There’s this automatic (and severely biased/unfair) notion that mobile games must include in-app purchases. This is simply not true. There are a number of premium games on mobile that don’t offer any sort of in-app purchases, a couple of which have even come from 2K Games.

Remember XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Civilization Revolution 2? No in-app purchases. So when 2K says Bioshock won’t feature any in-app purchases there’s little reason to doubt them.

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3 – More Games Means More Games

Mobile ports of big-name, AAA games tell us one very important thing: mobile ports of big-name, AAA games are possible.

Just about anyone who doesn’t immediately write-off mobile as a gaming platform (perhaps they were bitten as a child?) will admit to thinking things like “I wish this was on iPhone/iPad, then I could play it whenever I want!” With each successive port of a big-name game, the more likely we are to see more of them. It doesn’t have to be big AAA games, either. There have already been ports of other less ‘mass-appeal’ favorites like The World Ends With You and Dragon Quest VIII, and in the case of the former the port is even arguably (not really arguably) better than the original.

BioShock is coming to iOS. Don’t bother quoting Andrew Ryan’s famous opening speech. You are not entitled to the sweat of your brow. That sweat belongs to your iPad screen, where it’ll collect like an oily cloud as you dispatch spider splicers.

2K Games’ drive to stuff BioShock onto mobile devices is commendable. It’s also a little mind-blowing for anyone whose iPhone gaming experience began with Doodle Jump in 2009 (hint: Me). But it’s been seven years since the original BioShock hit Windows and Xbox 360, and it makes sense for the hit shooting/adventure game to conquer new, albeit smaller, territory.

I haven’t played BioShock since conquering the original release way back when, so the time is probably ripe for me to put on my diving helmet, attach my drill-arm, and dive back under the waves. Here are five reasons why I’m looking forward to revisiting Rapture.

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5 – I’m looking forward to a more private game experience
BioShock is a single-player game, but that doesn’t necessarily equal a single-player experience. If you play your console games in your living room, and many of us do, chances are you initially played through BioShock while a back-seat player pointed at a rampaging Big Daddy on your TV and hooted “OOH! OOH!” like a demented orangutan.

BioShock on mobile stands to be a darker, quieter, more solitary trip through Rapture, which is how 2K intended for things to be. Moreover, we can plug in headphones and let the anguished moans of the dying underwater city permeate our brains. Good way to wind down before going to sleep, right? Right?

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4 – I’m looking forward to frightening fellow commuters with the Waders’ “Jesus Loves Me” schtick
BioShock players know that when the words “Jesus loves me…” begin floating down an empty, wet hallway, it’s not time to join in a sing-along. It’s time to make sure your gun is loaded and your wrench is within easy reach. Wader splicers believe themselves to be angels of death, and they’ll belt out the lyrics to “Jesus Loves Me” when they’re in a particularly creepy mood. Consider cranking up the volume on your iDevice so the dude watching over your shoulder as you play on the bus can get an earful.

3 – I’m looking forward to working (carefully) towards the game’s “good ending”
Kill one Little Sister and the world loses its frickin’ mind. You assisted with the horrific medical experiments that were conducted on your own people in Auschwitz, Brigid, but y’know, go ahead and chew me out. It’s OK.

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2 – I’m looking forward to juggling my phone’s data
BioShock for mobile will reportedly hit the 2 gig mark, or just under it. Talk about an opportunity to comb through my game collection and dispose of games that are gathering digital dust. Remember when games were a once-a-year treat at Christmas or on birthdays?

1 – I’m looking forward to coming up with new curses as I struggle with touch screen controls
BioShock for mobile has controller support, but I’ve not picked up an iOS controller yet. I don’t know if I ever will. So it’s touch screen controls for this Little Sister. That means numerous opportunities to groom new, creative curses that your mother will not approve of. Gosh dang it all to heck.

Who Wore it Bests? answers the call of the wild and looks at two games with gun-toting animals: Crazy Dogs and Armed Beasts.

It’s an advergaming assault on Who Wore it Best? as Grindcore and LINGsCARS compete to see which is the best interactive brand engagement.

Who Wore it Best? goes searching for a fresh spin on the match-3 puzzle game and two challengers emerge: Spin It and Perplexity. But who prevails?

It’s archery-filled madness on Who Wore it Best? as The Legend of the Holy Archer and World of Gibbets both aim for the bullseye.

iphonekiller7With the ever-increasing power of iOS devices and the ever-present desire of license holders to make money, there’s no time like the present to think about bringing some older (and even some newer) games and franchises over to mobile. There’s also no time like the present to compile a list of 10 games and franchises that would be a great fit for mobile, but are still mysteriously absent. And that’s exactly what we did!

Below is our take on what we think would work well on iPhones, iPads, and iPods, ranked by how inherently “mobile” they might be. Why did we choose what we chose? Well because they’re great games, for one thing. That, and because their inherent nature would make them incredibly easy to interact with using a touch screen, make use of an accelerometer or gyroscope, or otherwise put iOS hardware to interesting use. Of course if there’s another game or franchise that you think would be a particularly good fit, leave a comment and let us know!

Continue reading 10 Games and Franchises that Should be on iOS but Aren’t for Some Reason »

Who Wore it Best? takes on its most puzzlingly high-profile case of cloning yet again with Threes! vs. 2048.

Are you angry about the new Comixology app, which removes the ability to buy comics from inside the app itself? If so, you should be just as angry at Apple for their policies making such an absurd situation, where an app can offer the ability to consume the content it sells without actually selling it, as much as you are at Comixology/Amazon for inconveniencing you.

Comixology-MoreBooksThe economics for the change are clear: they were giving 30% of every sale to Apple, as per App Store policies. That’s the way it’s been since the App Store opened – every time money changes hands, Apple takes its 30% cut. When in-app purchases were introduced, Apple kept the rate per transaction the same: 30% on everything. Thus, when Comixology sold a comic for $3.99, they only got ~$2.80 from it, for a book they had to sell for the same price on their site, by Apple policies.

It’s likely that this 30% cut hurt Comixology’s bottom line – they are beholden to a number of outside forces and right holders for the comics they sell – and the move to Amazon apparently provided them the opportunity to change their selling model.

For years, Comixology's "Comics" app was one of the top grossing apps on the App Store - especially on the iPad. Source: AppAnnie</a<

For years, Comixology’s Comics app was one of the top grossing apps on the App Store – especially on the iPad. Source: AppAnnie

So, that 30% fee on transactions that Apple takes is problematically high. Certainly, it can be justified for paid apps: Apple provides approval, storage, bandwidth, tax collection, and a variety of services beyond just taking the money, in order to justify taking such a cut of a developer’s revenue.

But for in-app purchases, Apple is serving as little more than a payment processor, though they do track whether non-consumable IAP is owned by the user. And 30% is exorbitantly high for payment processing. PayPal merchant fees are 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. Amazon charges the same for transactions $10 or above, with a 5% + $0.05 per order for smaller transactions. These aren’t counting the bulk volume discounts that these processors provide.

You could go to your local comics shop or to a vendor at a convention, and using a Square credit card reader, they can sell you that comic at a 2.75% per swipe fee. So what right does Apple have to be taking 30% on a similar transaction? I think they should be allowed to take a reasonable premium on top of payment processing for the App Store services they provide, but it’s clear that 30% is unreasonable, especially for low-margin fields like the sale of music, movies, and comic books.

And because Apple specifically restricts outside payment systems, there’s no recourse for anyone who wants to offer media or subscription services through an app but to not sell said services in the app itself. It’s why you can’t buy a Netflix, Spotify, or Dropbox subscription from inside their apps at all – because Apple can’t take their steep tax.

Apps like Kindle have to sidestep just why they can't actually sell you books in the app itself

Apps like Kindle have to sidestep just why they can’t actually sell you books in the app itself

Why would Apple, a seemingly pro-consumer company in the way that they design their products to be easy to use, do this? Well, they’re not actually a pro-consumer company. They’re a pro-Apple-consumer company. Everything they do is designed explicitly to get you to stay with Apple products. Ever thought about getting an Android or Windows Phone but decided not to because you didn’t want to lose iMessage? Exactly.

Remember that Apple sells music, video, and books of their own (though not comics to the scale that Comixology does); they have a weighted incentive to make it hard for outside sources to provide them on the App Store unless they pay the exorbitant 30% fee. And when people are inconvenienced by app makers because of Apple’s policies they get mad at the app maker, not Apple, which has to cause a chill to run up the spine of anyone struggling with a similar decision as Comixology.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Google has a similar setup with in-app purchases where they take 30% of every transaction, but they provide alternatives. Specifically, they have a policy that enables Comixology to still sell comics through their app through their own payment system: “Developers offering additional content, services or functionality within another category of app downloaded from Google Play must use Google Play’s in-app billing service as the method of payment, except: where payment is for digital content or goods that may be consumed outside of the app itself (e.g., buying songs that can be played on other music players).”

Thus, Android Comixology users can still buy comics through the app. Those who relied on Google Play credit to buy books will find themselves out of luck. Of course, Google doesn’t have a monopoly over content distribution or an interest on keeping people as tied to Google Play and their own services, but it’s still a better way to operate than the monopolistic way that Apple does. The 30% payment processor fee for in-app purchases is still on the exorbitant side, but the nature of it is a lot more fair.

So, what Apple ultimately has is a situation that’s meant to give off the illusion of consumer-friendliness by making it only possible to spend money through iTunes accounts, when it really restricts the freedom that people have to get the content they want, where they want it from.

If a solution that’s actually friendly to users (and not just to those who buy in to the Apple system) is to happen, it’s going to require public pressure. They could enact the exact same policy that Google Play has, for one. This same policy is the one that allows Starbucks to allow for store credit refills through direct credit card or PayPal payments. It just needs to be expanded to cross-platform media so that users don’t get left out in the cold, or compelled to buy from Apple’s stores. Give them actual choice.

Or Apple needs to make their tax on in-app purchases – these purely digital transactions – a smaller fee, in order for it to be viable for sellers in high-margin transactions involving media. Somewhere from 5 to 10% may be more reasonable than the current 30%. Whatever the solution I believe change needs to happen, because right now, the ultimate loser from Apple policies are ordinary people who have had convenience taken away from them because of corporate politics.

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scroogeAh, the Great App Store Pricing Debate. For years people have been arguing over the cost of mobile games. What constitutes “too much?” Where’s the line when it comes to free-to-play monetization techniques? Should developers have deep discounts and temporary giveaways? Should consumers simply expect everything to go on sale and wait accordingly?

The recent Dungeon Keeper debacle is a good example of this. Gamers and critics alike have railed against it for using various monetization techniques and associating itself with the classic PC strategy series, and many point to it as an unpleasant indication of where the video game industry (especially mobile) is headed. It’s an issue that’s almost as complicated as the initial Freemium vs. Premium debate; so let’s take a closer look at everything and try to make sense of it all.


Continue reading Pricing Games on the App Store – Premium isn’t Dead, Freemium is Here to Stay, and it’s Everybody’s Fault »

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Most developers get one masterpiece. One magnum opus that they get to unleash on to the world.

Simogo released two in 2013 alone.

Both Year Walk and Device 6 were absolutely amazing experiences, not just games, and so different from almost everything else this year.

yearwalk_02Part of what made them stand out was just how emotional they were: Year Walk used limited dialogue and details to make players care about what was happening in the world by experiencing and being frightened by it for themselves. Device 6 was a lot more wordy as a very book-esque experience, sure, but it managed to get players engrossed in a mysterious universe while slowly unwrapping everything that was going on.

Both games played with their fictional aspects: Year Walk made full use of its companion app to complement the game and eventually have a profound effect on it. Its metafiction proved to be just as much of a psychological dance as the game itself. Device 6 had direct commentary on games, rating systems, and trying to get currency to buy things that served as the overlay to the experience. But it also tried and succeeded at being like reading a book that played with the very nature of text layouts and reading to create an unsettling universe.

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – Simogo’s Twin Masterpieces, Year Walk and Device 6 »

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There are a lot of apps that were released in 2013, and it’s easy for some of the great ones to fall through the cracks. 148Apps’ staff has gotten together to discuss some of our favorite apps of the past year that you might not have heard of. These are our favorite underappreciated apps of 2013.

Heyday

heyday1heyday2The tagline for Heyday is “Journaling Reimagined,” and that’s pretty apt. The app will run in the background on iOS 7 devices and track where you go; matching those GPS coordinates up with business locations and with photos you take. The app then presents you with a detailed map and list of locations you have been each day. After a couple weeks of use, it’s fun to look back and see where you’ve been and what you’ve done; all gathered automatically. – Jeff Scott

Rando

Rando-4Rando-6Rando is the photo sharing app that wanted to do everything different than Instagram, to even having circular photos rather than square ones. It was the anti-social network, but there was something cool about getting a photo that no one else got, and sharing photos just for the sake of sharing a cool, random photo; not to try and get likes for it. – Carter Dotson

Debt Down

debt down 6debt down 8Debt Down is one of those apps that I wish I didn’t need to bother with, but I’m very glad to have it around. It truly does help me to visualize my debt – and my progress in getting rid of it – very easily. I only wish I’d been able to use it sooner! – Rob Rich

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – 148Apps’ Staff Discusses Their Favorite Under-Appreciated Apps of the Year »

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Every year, with thousands more apps and games being released on the App Store, it becomes increasingly difficult to single-out just which are the crème de la crème of this ever-growing iOS market – and more specifically, which of them truly set a higher standard in terms of innovation, uniqueness, and individuality. Be it a game designed for the iPhone or iPad, anything developed and released on the iOS market in this day and age has to have that special something to grab our interest and retain it for months to come. In no particular order, here are a selection of the most notable games and apps of 2013 that raised the bar in one way or another.

Games

morphopolis01screenMorphopolis – Quite possibly one of the most visually stunning games I’ve seen all year, Morphopolis‘ astounding presentation and imaginative world designs are what truly sets this hidden object puzzle game apart from those of a similar style. The beautiful hand-drawn watercolor hues bring every aspect of the game’s artwork to life, while the folksy ambient soundtrack sets a beautiful and warm tone to suit the mellow and relaxing pace. What is so immensely likeable about the puzzles in Morphopolis is that each of them is original, unique, stylish, and distinctive in nature, with every single one utilizing the environment in some manner to build upon the atmosphere.

RidiculousFishing-1RidiculousFishing-3Ridiculous FishingRidiculous Fishing is a game that without a doubt deserves everything it’s achieved this year as it’s nothing short of spectacular. Yes, it’s a fishing game. Agreed, it’s ludicrously silly, simple, and every part as ridiculous as it sounds, but it’s also beautiful in every way. Alongside it’s fantastic art style and fluid control system, this is the kind of game that is suitable for anyone.

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – The Most Distinct Apps and Games of the Year »

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candycrushsagaCandy Crush Saga would be perhaps an ill-fitting choice for the game of 2013: it was hardly the “best” game of the year by traditional “Game of the Year” metrics, and it didn’t even release in 2013. But Candy Crush Saga was still the game that defined mobile gaming in 2013.

There weren’t many games that were the cultural phenomenon that Candy Crush Saga was: walk down the aisle of an airplane and there was always someone on a tablet or phone matching fruits around. It was the one mobile game that friends who never talked about mobile gaming would talk about. And it wasn’t just casual gamers: anyone who’s friends with Touch Arcade editor Eli Hodapp on Facebook suffered the wrath of his lives requests for a while there.

The thing that was most fascinating about Candy Crush Saga, though? Did anyone really have an unequivocal, gushing love for it? Whenever the game would be brought up, there was always some degree of resentment toward it for being so addictive, in the sense that people just could not stop playing, paying, and bugging their Facebook friends with requests.

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – Why Candy Crush Saga was the Biggest Game of the Year »

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I’m the kind of person who my entire family comes to with any tech or game related question. For my soon-to-be career in the IT world, I’ve probably already heard every silly computer related question I can think of; such as my parent’s worrying I deleted all of their email in their Yahoo! email account when I reformatted their computer to my uncle calling me to tell me how this site he saw on an infomercial cleaned up his PC. Every facepalm, of course to those in the know, was from lack of knowledge of computers and technology.

So when it came to my grandmother – who is old, fragile, and not in the greatest of health – needing an upgrade from her ancient Mac Book this year, I candidly suggested she go to an iPad instead of a new computer. “Why?” my family asked, “How can a tablet replace a computer?” To which I gave them a brief summary of all the reasons I could come up with to justify the purchase of a $500 tablet versus a $1200 MacBook. The iPad’s size, weight, cost, and usability were all crucial to my argument for the iPad versus another laptop.

Me with my grandmother at my wedding in 2010.

Me with my grandmother at my wedding in 2010.

Eventually I won out in this discussion, thus beginning a sort of experiment to see if my dad’s mother could adopt to a mobile touch screen device. To many in our age group, the idea that someone may have trouble with an iPad sounds almost absurd. But keep in mind this was part of a family that I had to verbally instruct over the phone as to how to launch Skype on their MacBook.

The first baby steps of this experiment were to introduce her to popular apps, such as the iPad email interface, Safari, and Facebook. Facebook took great strides in 2013 to make their mobile app to have nearly all the functionality of the browser based version. I was even able to help her figure out how to hide the posts from a distant relative who’d post quite frequently about Justin Bieber and how much she’d spent on clothes. My grandma is cool like that.

hqdefaultNext up was showing her various forms of entertainment on the device. Now again, this amazing lady still owns two SD TV’s, so an iPad with it’s Retina display is by far the best visually striking screen in her house. I showed her various video apps; such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and even lesser known ones such as VUDU. Because I also deal with iOS games on a consistent basis, I introduced some simple but really fun games I thought she might be interested in trying. Two of them, which appeared to catch on with her, were games I considered to be some of the best but most overlooked games of 2013: 4 Thrones and FlowDoku.

There have been a couple of challenges in this adventure however, as anyone going from the familiar to the unknown can be a little daunted. My grandmother had issues figuring out her email, having been used to browser based clients. However, I was able to introduce her to the wide array of Google apps available on iOS, merging the Google and Apple worlds into one. She found the Google Mail client pretty useful for her needs, as well as Google Drive, so I could send her stuff such as wedding photos from the event that occurred some 3 years ago. Additionally, I was able to set her up with Skype on iOS so she could watch my sister’s wedding, as well as the TED Talks app so she could see the various topics discussed.

apple-ipad-29There was also a little trouble getting my elderly grandmother adept at using the on-screen keyboard. Luckily the keyboard on an iPad is relatively big with easy to read buttons, especially in comparison to any Android device. It also responds perfectly to touch, with little to no issues responding appropriately. Once she learned to adapt to using a touch screen to not only replace the mouse but the physical keyboard as well, things seemed to go much easier.

The farm I spent a lot of time on as a kid at my grand parents.

The farm I spent a lot of time on as a kid at my grand parents.

My grandmother means the world to me, and it’s absolutely devastating knowing she is nearing her final days on this Earth. But the notion that I could help simplify her life a little bit makes me feel a tad better. From helping her get a device that her frail body will be able to manage to setting her up with and showing her how to use some apps that were similar to what she was using on a MacBook, I feel as though my grandma has a great computing device, an awesome means of communicating with the outside world, and something that will help improve her life overall; regardless of how long or short that may be. Technology has many uses beyond business, entertainment, or whatever else. Sometimes it’s just as simple as using it to aid the ones you love.

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Comic book purists who like their comics bagged, boarded, and boxed may disapprove, but there’s no doubt that digital comics have revitalized the comic book industry these last few years as more and more people embrace the platform on their tablets. Below are just a few of the ways and reasons to go digital this year.

Comixology

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Where better to begin than with the biggest comic book store on iOS: Comixology. Featuring titles from DC and Marvel (sharing content from their respective apps), Valiant, Image, and a plethora of indie publishers – their thoughtful collections, frequent discounts, and generous giveaways are a great avenue for discovering new series and lesser-known works. Digital format is also often the only way to read out-of-print comic books or issues that would cost a fortune to purchase from online merchants.

20131220-155109.jpgComics have often been thought of as a perfect medium between literature and cinema, and Comixology’s Guided View technology only strengthens that idea. Delivering the content in a frame-by-frame format not only makes reading possible on smaller devices, but really builds suspense unlike anything comic readers will have previously experienced. Especially since there is no opportunity to have a cheeky peek at those bottom-of-the-page spoil-the-surprise panels.

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – The Dynamic Duo of Digital Comics and iOS »

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Twas the week before New Year’s and all through the land, no humans were eager for the diet they planned (Deep sigh). It’s the same story every year: not long after the ball drops in Times Square and the champagne runs out, people all over the world face the dreaded New Year’s Resolution. After all the eggnog, fudge, and candy canes, it’s no surprise that losing weight and getting fit tops the list. And these days there are a plethora of digital goodies out there making anyone’s quest for fitness that much easier. Many of these apps even throw the motivation and inspiration in for free. In other words, you’re running out of excuses. You can thank me later.

So, Happy New Year! Here are some resolutions to those resolution blues.

Workout (7 Minute Body Fitness Exercise)

7 minute workout 17 minute workout 2No time or money to join a gym? This app’s for you. Choose “Matt” (McConaughey-like), “Arnold” (Schwarzeneggerish), or “Kate” as your trainer and off you go! It’s just a 7 minute workout – 30 seconds for each exercise, with 10 seconds to transition. Warm up with jumping jacks, followed by the wall sit, some push-ups, abdominal crunches, and so on. The 8-bit trainer graphic demonstrates each move to some pretty funky music (fortunately, with one simple tap the music goes away). Bonus – the app will even log workouts to your calendar. And if 7 minutes just isn’t enough, hit repeat and do it again!

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – Happy New Year’s Resolution: Fitness Apps for All! »

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Cynics would have you believe that the App Store is full of Match-3 puzzle games, Endless Runners, and attempts at stealing money through a multitude of in-app purchases. OK, so the App Store isn’t perfect and those games are certainly out there (and a plentiful amount of them are still fun!), but that’s far from all that’s available.

In the spirit of it being the end of the year and the ideal time to look back at what the App Store does so well, I took a look at some of the best experimental delights out there. These are titles that are a little bit different from the norm, either in terms of having a very open ended storyline or through offering a way to interact that’s unconventional. As many of us wind down for the Christmas and New Years break, it’s the perfect time to relax and try something a little different.

Luxuria Superbia

luxuria1luxuria2For the shy or easily embarrassed, Luxuria Superbia is a title that’s perhaps best played away from less open-minded members of the family. It’s a musical and visual journey requiring one to stroke and touch the petals of a flower, watching and reacting accordingly to how the game responds to sensuous touches. It’s a title that could well make one blush as they play it, but it’s also the perfect example of what the touch based interface of the iPad and iPhone can truly offer when experiencing something different.

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – The App Store’s Experimental Gaming Gems of the Year »

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Minecraft has been a full-blown phenomenon for quite some time now and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the sandbox builder, it’s influence is undeniable. Lots of games have tried to replicate its success with varying degrees of success, but what’s interesting is just how different many of them turned out to be. Some are 2D, some are 3D. Some implement more structured gameplay like tower defense elements on top of all the user-defined construction mechanics. A few almost feel like a randomly generated Metroid. Heck, some even incorporate a ecent number of RPG elements.

Honestly, there’s been quite the creative crop of blocky sandbox games on iOS for a while now, and this year was no exception. So naturally we decided to put together a list of some of our favorites.

Minecraft – Pocket Edition

repl_minecraftMinecraft – Pocket Edition was actually a little late to its own party on iOS. When it first arrived it fell far short of expectations, but just like the PC original it’s been steadily improving ever since. What was once a simple 3D block placement exercise has been fleshed out to include enemies, crafting, fishing, and more. Of course since the PC version has continued to grow the iOS port still hasn’t managed to catch up, but it’s made some really incredible strides.

Junk Jack X

JunkJackX-6It would be easy to take a look at Junk Jack X and dismiss it as nothing more than a 2D Minecraft, but nope. It’s actually a very well-made 2D adventure with a heavy emphasis on crafting, exploring, and combat. This sequel of sorts also managed to add multiplayer, animals that can be raised, clothing, character customization options, and a whole heck of a lot more. There are numerous planets to explore (and actual incentive to explore in the first place), and your inventory is tied to your character as opposed to the world so you can bring all your stuff with you while you travel.

The Blockheads

TheBlockheads-16Initially I expected The Blockheads to be nothing more than a 2D Minecraft (see a pattern emerging?), but oh my goodness I could not have been more wrong. Instead of a rehash minus a dimension, we have an incredibly unique take on sandbox crafting. One that hits all the right world exploring and building notes, while also incorporating sim-like elements as players guide their little Blockheads around the environment. What’s even more awesome is that they’ll continue to perform queued up actions even while the game is turned off! So even if you can only drop into a game for a few minutes it’s still possible to get quite a bit of stuff done.

Terraria

Terraria-2Terraria was one of the first “It’s like Minecraft, but” games, and just like pretty much everything else on this list it’s definitely not that simple. It’s more of a massive randomly-generated adventure game. Complete with NPCs to buy items off of, rare loot drops, special bosses, dungeons, and more. And this iOS port is no slouch. Some concessions had to be made (because of the touch screen, of course), but it’s been adapted to the new platform quite well.

Growtopia

What’s interesting about Growtopia is that it’s designed to be an MMO of sorts, but with a crafting motif. Well, it’s actually “splicing” and not “crafting.” Players combine items to generate totally new ones, which are then grown from the ground. It’s a little weird and a little different, but you’ve got to admit it’s also pretty intriguing. Just be aware that, as it’s an online game, you’ll have to learn to live with the constant inclusion of other players.

Block Fortress

blocktower07I freaking love Block Fortress. It’s this compelling mix of random level generation, resource management, base-building, and wave defense that never fails to entertain. Materials earned from harvesting and fending off waves of enemies can be used to improve your arsenal and bolster your defenses, and there are quite a number of defensive options at your disposal in the first place so you’ll be busy for quite a while. The upgradable everything that players can tweak using resources saved up from their various playthroughs also sweeten the deal significantly.

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One year after another, everyone always gets consumed with the latest and greatest games. People are usually focused on what’s next, and that was the case for me as well in most situations. However, after not giving much appreciation to shmups on iOS, my mind was changed after reviewing Danmaku Unlimited 2 earlier this year. All of a sudden I didn’t mind the idea of using my finger to play shmups rather than my previously preferred method of a console controller. This year, being focused on the present also reminded me of previously-released games and making a journey into familiar addictions; but this time on iOS.

IMG_0098IMG_0103One of the best things about shooters is that they usually come with a good scoring system for the leaderboards. I love shooters, so I am greatly addicted to high score runs and placing myself near the top of the rankings. So naturally with my new found love for shooters on iOS came an even bigger addiction to placing as high of a score as possible on Game Center leaderboards. All of a sudden I wasn’t just reviewing games like Danmaku Unlimited 2, Plasma Sky, and Liberation Maiden; I was learning to master them by earning a respectable placement on the leaderboards and then sharing that with friends.

I pretty much did my best to put up a quality time or score on all games I reviewed this year that came with a leaderboard. 2013 was also a year of Game Center addiction.

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – A Year of Finding Familiar Addictions on iOS »

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Writing has always been a passion of mine because it allows me to express myself. Although while writing is something that I’m passionate about, I also enjoy expressing myself through various other forms like drawing, scrapbooking, and graphic designing. Recently, one area of interest in particular has caught my eye: embroidery. Not just the process of actually embroidering items, but creating digital embroidery designs for others to stitch out with their machines.

Crawl Walk HuntSince I own virtually everything Apple, iOS apps have become a major part of my life. There are many apps that I use for my own personal amusement, but most of the apps that reside on the home screen on my iPhone and iPad are there to help me run my small business online. Not only have these apps helped me to get started in doing what I love, they continue to help my business to grow larger.

My main go-to app is Etsy. I set up an Etsy shop a little over a year ago, and it has helped me to achieve more than I could imagine. Most use the Etsy app to browse for unique and handmade items to buy, but there’s another side to Etsy that few know about. With Etsy, I am able to view the essentials about my shop such as orders, revenue, and views, and I can also communicate with buyers through conversations directly on my iPhone. I receive notifications instantly, which ensures that my customers are always getting quick responses. Etsy even allows me to add new items to my shop, change its appearance, and do virtually everything the website offers. My favorite feature is that the app makes a “cha-ching” sound with each sale that I make, which always brightens my day.

Continue reading 148Apps 2013 wrAPP-Up – How I Used Apps to Help Me Launch and Run My Small Business »

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