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This Week at 148Apps: January 5 - January 9, 2015

Posted by Chris Kirby on January 12th, 2015

New Year - New Apps!

How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Take a look at what we've been up to this week, and find even more in our Reviews Archive.

Marvel Contest of Champions

One of the first comics I can remember buying with my own money as child, purchased from a newsstand near my great-grandmother’s apartment, was an issue of Marvel’s Contest of Champions. Contest of Champions was groundbreaking in a couple of different areas: it was Marvel’s first publication released in a “limited series” format, and it was also one of the first attempts to blatantly strip out any attempt at more nuanced story arc by instead offering three issues of heroes clashing against one another in page after page of epic battles as cosmic puppet masters tugged at their strings. Despite revisiting the concept a couple of times in intervening years, nothing ever quite captured that same spectacle that my five year old self felt while leafing through those pages. However, Marvel and Kabam are dragging the old chestnut out of mothballs again in the form of a head-to-head fighting game. And despite a couple of issues, it’s actually not the worst licensed game I’ve seen. --Rob Thomas

Area 777

How lucky do you feel? Area 777 is heavily dependent on luck, so you’d better hope that you’re a naturally fortuitous person. Thanks to that dependency, it’s not overly gripping. Even when it eventually introduces new chip types it feels like too little, too late. The concept behind it is that it’s part slot machine, part tower defense game. In reality, it’s almost all slot machine with a hint of tower defense. Each level consists of a slot machine, with enemies slowly making their way across it in order to cause you damage. You have to hit the spin button and, mostly, hope that the reels line up and you take them out along the way. There is some element of strategy in there, mostly through the acquisition of chips, but it’s fairly basic. These chips frequently correspond to an element, such as fire or ice, thereby allowing you to set the enemies on fire or freeze a reel in a particular position. It’s helpful but hardly enough to make you feel fully in control of the game. --Jennifer Allen


SimplePlanes gives players all the tools they need to build airplanes from scratch. But successfully making use of those tools means wrapping your head around all the different parts and physics that, presumably, actual engineers need to consider. The game tries to help ease players in with its extensive manuals explaining the difference between an airfoil and a fuselage, but absorbing that data takes time and practice. There are a few convenient shortcuts, like the ability to mirror the plane so players won’t have to waste time sculpting the perfect wing twice. But like Minecraft, the best rewards – whether it’s a speedy biplane or functioning VTOL aircraft – will come to those with the patience to literally construct them piece by piece. --Jordan Minor

Luna League Soccer

Luna League Soccer is the kind of soccer game that you’ll dive into for a few minutes here and there, but not exactly think too deeply about. It’s an arcade sports game through and through, meaning it takes seconds to master. On the left of the screen you have a floating joystick, while the right offers a contextual button that enables you to shoot, pass, tackle, or switch players depending on what’s going on during the match. It’s very simple to pick up, with each team bringing their own special moves to the fold. --Jennifer Allen

Maximum Overdrive

The graphics are pleasantly glitzy; the several environments showcase the developer’s penchant for being able to highlight artistic perspective and use of lighting and corresponding virtual colors. The animations are cool, and one can almost taste the kicked-up dirt. When the optional sound effects are tossed in, it’s hard not to appreciate the complete package of sights and sounds. When it comes to gameplay, off the bat I liked that I could get into the nitty-gritty with a minimum of interactions. As noted, this is mostly about destroying other combatants without being destroyed, and the tool at hand is a heavily weaponized truck on big wheels. The controls are virtual in nature, with buttons for shooting, accelerating, braking/reversing, and steering – the last of which can be switched to tilt or arrow control. With this, and after one picks the format (multiplayer vs single player), it’s off to the races. --Tre Lawrence

Hi.Q Health IQ

Online quizzes are a big deal these days. They’ve always been fairly popular but the rise of Buzzfeed, Playbuzz, Zimbio, and so many other places has really strengthened our love of answering a bunch of questions to figure out what animal/TV show character we are. It turns out such structures can be used for good as well, such as in the case of Hi.Q – Health IQ. It’s an app that offers you thousands of health-related questions, devised by experts, and can therefore teach you some valuable facts. Dive in and you’ll immediately notice that Hi.Q – Health IQ is stylishly laid out. Looking like it’d easily fit into a lifestyle magazine, each quiz is clearly described along with an attractive photo to further sell its purpose. Some quizzes may offer a lot of different questions but they rarely take too long to complete. Each time you answer a question the answer or an explanation is shown, meaning you’re constantly learning. --Jennifer Allen

Other 148Apps Network Sites

If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:


Amazing Ninja

Ninja. Running. Swords. Enter Amazing Ninja. Side-scrolling action is the name of the game. Our protagonist martial artist runs aggressively from left to right, looking to avoid or confront different obstacles on the left. The ninja is stick-figurish in appearance, is armed with a sword and has enviable ups at speed; jumping and slashing are his only means of recourse. Tapping on the left side of the screen invokes jumping; on the right causes a slashing motion. The first type of obstacle are the blue-colored “deserters” that are seemingly fleeing the very conflagration that our hero is eager to get to. These terrified soldiers can be dangerous in their haste, and can end a run by making contact. Slashing the deserters has dire consequences, and as such, our boy has to jump over the blues. --Tre Lawrence

Olixar Light Bulb Speaker

We get pitched a fair amount of accessories to take a look at, and, frankly, some are very, uh, unique. Not all work, either; some are ambitious, but might have a fatal flaw. Or two. Or seven. In any case, mobile accessories can be interestingly varied. I’d like to say I am open-minded, and I do feel like a decent assessor of product, but every now and then, I am surprised. But hold a sec; let’s talk about the Olixar Light Bulb Speaker. The name says it all: it’s a light bulb that doubles as a bluetooth-enabled speaker. The review package MobileFun sent us highlights the unit; in hand, it is mostly white, with a gold mid-section. It is more streamlined than “regular” bulbs, but also weighs a bit more. It sports LED light too, and emits 3W light (which the distributor says is equivalent to 50W from a standard bulb. It screws into regular receptacles (the package comes with an adapter piece for European light sources) and works the same way. Turn on the switch, and it bathes the room in bright, warm light. It functions well upright and upside down. --Tre Lawrence

Amazon Fire TV

The past couple of years have definitely been the years of the streaming media unit. All the big players have a hat in the Big C, and with good reason: we like content. Lots of it. Enter Fire TV, the still-relatively-new offering from Amazon. Amazon provided us a gaming bundle package to check out, containing the black unit, black remote, power cables, batteries, and the optional bluetooth gamepad (one should ensure one has HDMI cable). It’s fairly svelte, a bit smaller than one would guess, coming in at 4.5 x 4.5 x 0.7 inches and just under 10 oz. It has a quad core processor and 8 GB of storage, and supports output of 720 x 1080p up to 60fps. Specs aside, there is little to dislike about Amazon Fire TV. It looks good, and is a veritable source of content. It has a lot of the go-to programs that can be downloaded to it: Netflix, WatchESPN, Pandora, Crackle, Showtime Anytime (based on provider) and, of course, Amazon Instant and Amazon Music, among other offerings. Setup is easy, and the included control is definitely a huge positive. On its own, as a streaming accessory, it holds its own against the competition. --Tre Lawrence

Also this week, Pocket Gamer reviewed Gunbrick and Sol Invictus, played Metamorphabet and Need for Speed: No Limits, and figured out how to play PS4 games on any Android device. All that and loads more, right here.

And finally, AppSpy kicks 2015 off by giving you the definitive rundown of the best Nintendo-esque games on mobile, showing you the first gameplay video of Need For Speed: No Limits, a world exclusive look at Team17's Flockers, and much more. Join us, won't you?

Marvel Contest of Champions Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Rob Thomas on January 9th, 2015
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SUPERPOWERED SLUGFEST
While the gameplay may be repetitive and a bit on the shallow side, Marvel Contest of Champions looks darn good while doing so!
Read The Full Review »

Newsstand Magazine Sesame Street S'More Now Available

Posted by Stephen Hall on April 14th, 2014
iPad App - Designed for iPad

The good folks at Sesame Street recently released their very first interactive magazine app, dubbed Sesame Street S'more, and it's available right now. In the 'magazine,' your child will find a variety of fun activities inspired by the world of Big Bird - including games, stories, puzzles, rhymes, reward badges, and "S'more!"

In the app, your child will learn many skills, including ABCs and 123s, listening skills, coloring, creativity, and self-expression. The magazine app also features Elmo, Grover, Ernie, Big Bird, and other Sesame Street stars, kid-friendly music and videos, read-aloud narration, and multiple learning levels.

You can download Sesame Street S'more on the App Store right now for free. Subscriptions cost $3.99 for single issue, $2.99 for an automatically renewing subscription, or $15.99 to get every episode for the year.

This Week at 148Apps: March 10-14, 2014

Posted by Chris Kirby on March 15th, 2014

Apps Are Us

How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Take a look at what we've been up to this week, and find even more in our Reviews Archive.

Block Legend

Block Legend is a colorful, whimsical matching game that has a quest structure and fantasy trappings to make it feel like an RPG/puzzle game hybrid. Adding some more persistence and gameplay layers has generally worked successfully to make simple games feel more substantial, and the same is true here. Block Legend isn’t some kind of epic, sprawling adventure, but it isn’t trying to be. Instead, the game is a solid puzzle game that adds to its basic mechanics just enough to make it feel more meaningful without feeling overwhelming. --Campbell Bird

Frontline Commando 2

Frontline Commando 2 represents some of what’s good and bad about free-to-play. It’s an actual game; one with a mobile-friendly design and actual gameplay. However, it will want money to play at a high level, and it is unashamed of it. Thankfully this cover-based shooter from Glu is an actual game, not just an automated simulation of a game as many free-to-play games are wont to do nowadays. While it’s simplified from other cover shooters, players still have to aim and fire, and move to new cover by tapping the arrows on screen when grenades and rockets come in. This simplification works for mobile though, and the controls work pretty well – even the aiming. There is some automation in the squadmates, but this actually works for the player’s advantage: in the heat of battle, I want them taking care of their own stuff without me saying anything. The whole package does a great job of making hectic action fun and manageable, and is consumable in short bursts. --Carter Dotson


MailDeck is an extremely convenient email client for the iPad. Both stylish to look at and practical to use, it’s the kind of app that will quickly establish its place as a core tool for any regular email user. Much of this is thanks to its relative simplicity. While it offers a bunch of more complicated things, MailDeck also really doesn’t take long to set up. Entering a few basic password and username details invariably gets things going with the option to color-code the account for future reference and convenience. For common setups such as Gmail addresses, MailDeck detects what to do and does the more complicated stuff such as entering server details. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for the emails to come through which is mostly dependent on how hefty one’s inbox is. --Jennifer Allen

Devious Dungeon

There is one particularly influential game that has gone entirely underrepresented on iOS: Spelunky. While Devious Dungeon isn’t exactly that, it does come from that family of procedurally-generated action platformers, this one in particular may seem like a mobile version of Rogue Legacy. But while its inspirations may be clear, Devious Dungeon misses out on why those games were so good – being only mindless entertainment to tune out to. --Carter Dotson

Smash Hit

Endless runner games are a dime-a-dozen these days, running the gamut from highly addictive to boringly derivative. Smash Hit definitely leans toward the former of these rather than the latter with its fresh take on the popular genre. The basic premise of Smash Hit is to progress through an “otherworldly dimension” of structures, obstacles, and barriers while throwing metal balls at anything made out of glass – and players will find lots of glass to smash! Hitting crystals rewards players with more balls, which will be sorely needed to continue to progress farther and farther through the glass-filled world. Hitting 10 or more crystals in a row awards players with multiballs, which allows them to throw two, three, or more balls at a time for the price of one. Players have to keep track of how many balls are left and try to accumulate as many as possible along the way, because the game ends when the last ball is thrown. --Charlie Miller

Uncanny Comics

While the advent of digital comics has made the medium more accessible and affordable than ever before, it can still be a daunting task to know where to begin. Uncanny Comics is a Newsstand app that hopes to be the new go-to monthly guide for comic book fans and new readers alike. From the most critically-acclaimed new series, to exclusive interviews with the artists and writers, to the absolute classics, it’s all here and presented in a clear, concise, and entertaining way. Rather helpfully, the makers have included direct links on each page to the Comixology or Marvel stores, taking readers straight to the right place to purchase their comics. Right now navigation is restricted to the website only, though hopefully in the future it will redirect readers to the pre-installed apps. --Lee Hamlet


Fans of storytelling and animation should take notice of the app Pillowcapers: A Sleepy Adventure – an interactive storybook that is superlative in every way. This is the story of Sam, who recently had a birthday and received the sole present of a striped pillowcase. Little did he know that this pillowcase would be the key to his new life as a superhero where, when using the case as a cape, he will try to save the world; or at least his neighborhood. I actually find this app hard to write about because it simply needs to be seen. No words committed to the screen will do this justice as the colorful, stylized app includes simply wondrous animation that fully explores Sam’s transformation to superhero and fighting giant robots to save his community. This app is part amusing procedural as it walks one through the costumes and other preparations needed for hero-dom. The pillow triggers a secrete trap door where Sam, transforming into his new uniform, is led to an area where he receives his crime-fighting orders from a unique book, thus beginning his epic adventure. --Amy Solomon

Other 148Apps Network Sites

If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:


Out There

There isn’t a roguelike quite like Out There. A space simulation game where players find themselves adrift in space, scrounging for materials from planet to planet, solar system to solar system, trying to find their way home. Essentially, the game is turn-based. Players start out in a solar system, and can explore planets of two kinds: ones they can land on with materials they can mine for, or gas giants which can be probed for fuel. Each move uses up fuel, oxygen, or damages the hull, and players need to find the materials to refill and repair as necessary. Materials can be mined for that can build new parts and repair current ones. --Carter Dotson

Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous

Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous is the long-overdue launch on Android of One Man Left’s tilt-based arena survival series. Yes, one might say, “aren’t tilt controls the hottest control scheme of 2009?” Sure, but Tilt to Live has some of the best around: they’re precise while thriving on the chaos of actually tilting a device around. With plenty of options for customizing the tilt sensitivity and how one holds the device, this will make a believer out of the tilt control apostates. --Carter Dotson

Deadman's Cross

The best thing about Deadman’s Cross is that it takes a complete left turn from the standard card game RPG by adding in varied gaming styles that have never before been seen together. The basic idea in Deadman’s Cross is that the world has ended and the few survivors left after the zombie apocalypse use teams of zombies, known as deadmen, to defend themselves. These deadmen need to be hunted down to be added to the army and taken care of to grow in strength. This boils down to a very familiar deck like interface in which each zombie the player owns is a card. The standard options for boosting a cards strength by absorbing other cards are there and at certain levels cards can be fused together to create stronger versions. --Allan Curtis

And finally, this week our pals across the pond at Pocket Gamer pretended to be doctors in Surgeon Simulator, nuked the world in First Strike, and saved baby Mario in Yoshi's New Island. All that, plus banned iOS games, free-to-play Crazy Taxi, and more right here.

Uncanny Comics Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Lee Hamlet on March 11th, 2014
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: EXCELSIOR
Uncanny Comics is a great resource for interesting articles and exclusive interviews, but it needs some fine-tuning to make it more interactive and iOS-friendly.
Read The Full Review »

Apple Reports App Store Sales Top $10 Billion in 2013, $1 Billion in December Alone

Posted by Jeff Scott on January 7th, 2014

Apple reported today that the App Store topped $10 billion in sales in the 2013 calendar year with over one billion brought in during December alone.

“We’d like to thank our customers for making 2013 the best year ever for the App Store,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “The lineup of apps for the holiday season was astonishing and we look forward to seeing what developers create in 2014.”

Also mentioned by Apple in their press release, developers have now earned (minus Apple's 30% cut) over $15 billion in revenue from app sales and in-app purchases. Hit the jump for the full release.

iOS 7: How Could Apple Improve It?

Posted by Carter Dotson on September 18th, 2013

iOS 7 is a great update to Apple’s venerable OS. Not only does the visual overhaul bring a fresh take to the experience, but there’s lots of great little tweaks that just make the experience better. Heck, the ability to add Newsstand to its own folder is worth the download and installation on its own. But iOS 7 is not perfect: here are some things that could be added to the OS to make it better.

Better game save management

If Apple wants to make sure that iOS is a great gaming platform, they need to ensure that gamers can ensure that their progress in games can be preserved and transferred across devices. iCloud is so fraught with reliability problems that developers still dread using it. Finding a way to separate out a game’s save data from it being deleted would be a killer feature for iOS 8, especially since games with large file sizes and the longest experiences are the first to go when space needs to be freed up.

The return of quick tweet and Facebook posting buttons

Conspicuously missing from iOS 7 is the ability to tweet and post to Facebook from Notification Center. They weren’t a primary way to share things, but to share while in another app or to just quickly fire off a tweet, the feature was great. Unfortunately it’s been cut down in the first release of iOS 7, when improvements like image posting would have been great.

Interactive notifications

Say what you will about Android, but the ability to immediately reply to a text message or a tweet, or archive an unwanted email without switching apps is great. iOS could really use such a feature – it’s the kind of multitasking that’s non-intrusive and incredibly useful.

The ability to set third-party apps as default

If I want to open links in a third-party browser, use the built-in email sending feature to send from my email app of choice, or even just use a third-party photo management app, why can’t I? Apple’s own apps are generally very good, but third-parties who focus on certain features can often do better. Apple should allow users to set third-party apps to achieve certain actions, instead of still having to use awkward workarounds.

Custom notification sound options for all apps

Some apps still think that it’s okay to use the default notification sound. Some apps use custom sounds, and choose poorly. Yes, that car engine revving sounds cool but it also freaks me out. iOS manages notifications centrally, so why not have the ability to set custom sounds like I can with ringtones?

These are just a few of the features that could make the iOS experience better. Considering how iOS 7 was all about doing just that, I think there's still a bit of a ways to go before it's fully there.

5 Years and Counting - The App Store Then and Now

Posted by Rob Rich on July 12th, 2013

Over one million apps have made their way onto the App Store during its five years of existence. A million. That's a pretty miraculous number when you think about it. However it's not the amount of apps we have to pick from that I find so fascinating, but rather just how much things have changed since 2008. Pickings were comparatively slim at first, and many developers were just starting to dip a toe in the waters of Apple's new smartphone.

On top of that, the technology itself has changed tremendously in a relatively small amount of time. It makes me wonder if anyone from 2008 would even recognize current iOS devices, and by extension the App Store. Would a newer Apple initiate have any idea what they were looking at if they somehow managed to take a trip to five years ago? I think it warrants a look at how the hardware, the App Store, and the apps contained within it have evolved.

2008 - The Beginning of the Beginning

The App Store's first year was a rough but promising one. The iPhone 3G rolled out to coincide with Apple’s new software venue and the original iPhone was still viable. The iPod touch was also present and accounted for, while the second generation appeared closer to the end of the year. Even at this point many developers were eager to push these early iOS devices to their limits, to make them more than just a phone or an .mp3 player with a fancy screen.

Handy apps like Pandora Radio, Last.FM, Facebook, and Yelp were to be expected, but that didn't make them any less impressive to have on a handheld platform. Others such as the intuitive personal organizer Evernote, the eerily accurate song-identifying app Shazam, eWallet’s convenient and secure account password management, and MLB At Bat with its extensive baseball coverage further capitalized on the particulars of the hardware and its general portability. Of course there were also some pretty unnecessary options out there, too. Flashlight kind of served a purpose but was also fairly pointless. It wasn't as bad as stuff like More Cowbell!, though.

At the same time, the games available on the App Store were beginning to show people that "mobile" didn't have to equal "mediocre." Sure there were a few simple ports of the odd classic such as Ms. PAC-MAN, Vay, and Scrabble, but there were also some impressive iOS renditions of popular console games like Super Monkey Ball coming out. Potential mobile gamers also had a few really special titles such as Galcon and Fieldrunners to tide them over. When all was said and done there were over 7,500 apps on the App Store by the end of the year, with more being added every day.

2009 - Moving Right Along

The following year saw even more impressive releases as Apple's digital marketplace began to expand. The second generation of iPod Touch was the bright and shiny new toy at the time, but it was followed shortly by the iPhone 3GS in June while the latest and greatest third generation Touch closed out the year in September. It all meant better processors, better CPUs, more advanced operating systems, and so on. All stuff that developers needed to acclimate to, but also stuff that meant they could push their boundaries even further. There was no loss of steam when it came to content, either: the App Store finished off 2009 with well over 100,000 apps available.

Many of the basic smartphone necessities were covered, but there was room for so much more. Especially while the technology was improving. Plenty of people used their iPhones as phones, sure, but with the addition of Skype they were able to enjoy the added functionality of instant messaging and voice chat without cutting into their data plans (so long as a wifi connection was present). Big companies were really starting to take notice as well. That same year Starbucks and many other big businesses threw their virtual hats into the ring with their own apps designed to make life a little bit easier for their iOS-using customers. Practicality was also becoming an even bigger focus. The Kindle app gave iOS users a practical e-reading option, and Dropbox was there being Dropbox. By which I mean "an awesome and super-convenient way to transfer files between multiple platforms." And this same level of refinement could be seen creeping into the games as well.

So many of the App Store's most notable games and franchises came out around this time. It was almost a mobile rennaisence of a sort. This was the year Real Racing first blew mobile gamers' minds, even causing some of them to question the legitimacy of in-game video footage until they were able to see the finished product for themselves. Zenonia was just a fledgling action RPG at the time, and while a lot of people liked it I doubt they knew just how many sequels it would spawn. The same goes for Pocket God, although with updates rather than multiple releases. Flight Control began to eat away at peoples' free time, Angry Birds and Doodle Jump hit it big (like, super big), and Myst and The Sims 3 further displayed the potential for major releases on mobile platforms. Oh, and Canabalt almost single-handedly invented and popularized a genre.

148Apps Roundtable: iOS 7 Hopes, Dreams, and Blue Sky Wishes

Posted by Rob LeFebvre on May 31st, 2013

At 148Apps, we use iOS a lot. I mean, a LOT. What may be an inconvenient feature to the average user is possibly a daily chore to folks like us, who use their iPhones and iPads every day, hour after hour.

As we sat and talked about our hopes and dreams for the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 7, we figured it might be cool to get a couple more folks in on the conversation, like Aaron Watkins, a public relations guru with Appency, and Tim Harris, currently President of Industrial Toys, developer of the much anticipated upcoming core sci fi shooter game, Morning STar.

Aaron Watkins, Appency
One of the trends I've seen recently is brilliant software developers coming up with much improved versions of native apps. Better mail, better calendars, better contacts apps... yet it's still impossible to get rid of the apps that came with the device (Newsstand can’t even be put in a folder!). We've had better maps now for quite a while - Apple's own attempt at maps has been a bit of a disaster and I would venture to guess that more people use third party map apps like Google for their navigation needs. 
That being said - Apple needs to give the maps app a feature face-lift. Automatic routing when you go off course has huge room for improvement, and searching for items along a route would be a great cure for my Starbucks habit. 

Along the line of phone organization for the OCD - as the hard drive space gets larger and larger in progressive phones, more and more apps end up on our phones and I would love to see folders within folders to do additional subdivision of content. The same goes for contacts, where the ability to create contact groups needs to be available on the phone itself. 

The app store itself has plenty of room for update. The native phone app store on its last major redesign went from a place where the top 10 apps were readily visible to  a system where its really the top 4 that get all the visibility. A combination of the best elements of the last version and this version would be an ideal solution.  With the problems associated with app discovery, it would be great to see more categories - but my pie in the sky hope would be a system in which third parties could create white labeled app stores that used an iTunes based system and billing mechanism, but allowed others to create their own curated content stores that they could locate on their own websites. Why cant a travel magazine have their own iPhone app store where they highlight the best apps they have looked at, and sell them directly on their website without all the current redirection. 

Oh - and one last thing - developers need to be able to respond to reviews in the app store. Its basic customer service!

Rob LeFebvre, 148Apps
Good stuff, Aaron. There is lots of room for improvement in discovery, including categories and stuff. A curated app store for different groups would be cool, too.

Personally, I'd like to see the iOS update to include a lot of the stuff we're seeing from Android, like more customizable home screens, widgets, and the ability to define default apps, even if they're not Apple ones.

I'd love to be able to turn wireless and Bluetooth on and off without having to dig for the Settings app, and for gods sake, let us login to multiple accounts on the App store. Sigh.

I'm also really hoping for a better, more unified look and feel. The skeuomorphic stuff gets a bad rap, and while I don't think it's that big a deal, I'd love to see a flatter, less faux-anything look and feel. 

I'd like to see Game Center improved, as it just feels kind of tacked on, right now. And lets get it on Android, or just give up and embrace Google's new push.

That's all I can think of at the moment, I'm sure I'll chime in more as the discussion gets going. 

Carter Dotson, 148Apps
What I really want to see from iOS 7 beyond just a new visual look is something that significantly streamlines and de-clutters the user experience. Are we so sure that the standard grid of icons is still the best way to go about using the multitude of apps on our phone, especially with the sheer number that's out there? Why must I still go to Settings in order to turn basic settings on and off?  As well, for those of us that have used iOS for years and have gotten used to the incremental changes, it's easy to forget that for many people, iOS has a lot of complex aspects to it.

Considering that Android and Windows Phone have experimented with different ways to display important content in creative ways, I would love to see an Apple take on making the experience more user-friendly and intelligent. If there's a better way to use our myriad devices here in 2013 with everything they're capable of, shouldn't it be Apple leading the way? iOS has felt static for a while, and I hope there's more than just a new coat of paint coming.

Tim Harris, Industrial Toys
I agree with the sentiments about management of apps, and my main hope is along those lines.
The running app tray needs work. There should be a more user friendly view to see what apps are running, and a better way to close them. The search screen and the pull-down screen are underutilized for this type of thing. The current "double tap the home button" sucks, and manually closing everything to free up the device suxxors. Toggles like Wifi, Do Not Disturb, and Airplane Mode should be easier to find and one click and allowing users to bring their most-used out of Settings and into “normal” screenspace would make life easier.
I’m also going to pile-on Rob’s Gamecenter thing. We’ve seen slight improvements to Game Center over the versions, but it’s never gotten to a level that game developers can get excited about (or users, for that matter). I’d love to see friending, challenging, incentivizing and deep-linking get better. Achievements should be able to be integrated into the games innards rather than being tacked on so that we have to write our own systems to make it all work. Points should mean/do something. Gimme gimme.

Jeff Scott, 148Apps
I think my big hopes are around openness. Rob mentioned this a bit with the ability to choose default apps, like Maps, email, browser. But I think it goes beyond that. App to app communication needs to be enhanced. We've seen really interesting things done with Audiobus, and Apple must love it since Garage Band was one of the first apps to support it. More of that for all media types or in general, data. Open up Siri, the notifications tray, basically loosen the grip. It can be done without making the phone look like some 13 year old kid has designed it.

Apple also need to open up with the App Store. Give developers the tools they need to sell, support, and grow. The App Store economy is larger than the GDP of most countries in the world. It's time to give it the support it needs. I have a gut feeling the reason not as much has been done is because iTunes is still based on the now ancient java based WebObjects. It's ancient, fragile, and a beast to change. It needs to be replaced, but that's no easy task.

And I agree with Carter on the look and the grid of icons. That hasn't changed since the first user interface, the Xerox Alto in 1973. Forty years is too long. Some may say that it works, but when you have 500 apps installed, it just doesn't work. We need a new interface, other than a grid of icons.

Search may be the answer to some of these issues. And I expect Apple to make some big advances with Siri, hopefully in iOS 7, but certainly going forward.

Now, the big one. The one I have been hoping for since the iPad was announced. Multi-user logins for iOS. In particular an iPad that is shared in a family. It's a must. Parents don't want kids in their email, kids don't want parents in their Clash of Clans villages. There is so much that could be done with a good multiuser system. I have too many ideas, but we'll save that for another time. But, to me, this is a must have, and it must be in iOS 7 because it was needed in iOS 5.

Basically, Apple really needs to bring it with iOS 7. I personally think they have been left in the dust by Google and Android. Even Windows Phone and Amazon have shown some insights and features that Apple should have and could have done first.

Tim Harris, Industrial Toys
Oh, yes-- I'd like to take a moment to be a crybaby. The existence of app updates destroyed my sanity, thus my tears. It's not that I hate updating much-loved and much-used software. Quite the contrary, I get excited about the latest and greatest from my favorite developers. However, the current iOS visits two very specific evils upon me, turning me into a compulsive update checker/reader/clicker:

1. it won't let me choose apps to automatically update when updates are available, and 2. it won't let me update as many applications as possible when I am short on drive space.

Every couple of weeks, I find myself with over 100 update notifications and when it gets to that level, I'm stuck updating every app click by click. Some intelligence to the app update process would save users tons of time and self-loathing. It would save developers angst, too, making valued updates more likely to reach their install base.

Rob LeFebvre, 148Apps
Alright, I'll whine a bit, too.

Please let me take care of the stupid red number at the top of my apps that use the badge notification icon. I'd really like a "mark all as read" option in Mail. I'd love to be able to have the red badge of shame go away when I open an app and close it - not just when I open an app, take care of all the stupid stuff, and then close it, 30 min later. 

Also? Let's make it a lot easier to buy in-app purchases with one account when we originally "purchased" the app with another. Does it really matter which account we're using to download an app, vs. buying smurfberries for?

Aaron Watkins, Appency
As someone with kids, I dont know if making in-app purchases too much easier is a good thing- I dont want my 10 year old, or my 4 year old for that matter, purchasing things. That being the case, I would love to have kid modes where I can hand my iPad over to my youngest and only show for her apps that I have pre-selected as appropriate, and then do the same and have a different set for my 10 year old son. Maybe even a "play mode" and a "homework mode" that could be used in schools or for when you give your kid the device to look up vocab words and end up discovering he has been playing RoboKill the whole time.

Thanks to one and all for their time on this topic. Will Apple give any of us what we want? Only time will tell, as Apple is set to announce iOS 7 for the first time at WWDC this June. Keep your eye peeled (ew, gross) on 148Apps for all the lowdown when we know more.

148Apps' Best Apps of 2012: 10-1

Posted by Carter Dotson on December 28th, 2012

This is it. Our favorite apps of 2012, the ones that took our devices to new levels of usefulness. Have your own picks? Tell us below in the comments!

10. Fantastical: What makes the iOS version of this Mac calendar app so great? Jennifer Allen says that it’s because of its natural language features. “Adding an event is a matter of tapping the plus button, like with many other calendar apps. Usually, this is where things get slow and cumbersome with users having to slide through times and dates to find the right one. Fantastical makes it so much easier. Users just type what’s going on. Meeting Joe for lunch tomorrow at 1pm? Type that in and the app understands perfectly. … Excluding typos, it’s tough to fool Fantastical, it’s that accurate.”

9. 1Password: Remembering passwords, especially secure ones, is difficult. Thankfully, version 4 of this password app is extremely easy to use and also comes with extra features for easily filling out private information. As David Rabinowitz says: “The sheer number of different types of information 1Password can remember is extremely impressive and comprehensive. It can store all of the usual things, like identities, credit cards, login information and such. But, it can also remember driver’s licenses, social security numbers, software licenses, wireless routers, and even notes if there is something to store that doesn’t fit in one of the many included categories. The app also has some really impressive advanced features, like syncing to iCloud or Dropbox.”

8. Pocket: Read It Later underwent a stylish renovation with a new name, and the result was this dramatically-improved experience that’s now one of the best cross-platform reading list apps available. The app is perfect for keeping up with longform articles, and its integration with apps like Tweetbot means that it's easy to save an article to Pocket from iPhone, and read it later on the iPad. It’s for more than just reading articles, videos work extremely well with it as well. Now, to just solve the problem of having too many saved things to get through.

7. Launch Center Pro: App Cubby expanded out their popular Launch Center application for easy access to actions on iOS with this new Pro version that brings new features and a much-improved interface. Angela LaFollette says “Launch Center Pro is ideal for users who like to save time and works perfectly sitting in the iPhone’s dock. Once you use it, you’ll never be able to stop. It’s packed with a lot of features, and its intuitive and sharp interface both make it attractive to all iOS users.”

6. Adobe Photoshop Touch: While a stripped-down Photoshop experience has been available on iOS for a while, this expanded experience is the photography enthusiast’s best friend. David Rabinowitz says that “ Although it doesn’t offer as much as its full-featured older brother on the desktop, it’s the best photo editing experience available for iOS. Beginners who have never used Photoshop before won’t feel overwhelmed by the app. The desktop version is known for being extremely powerful and full featured, with an at times cluttered and confusing interface, but the tablet version really only includes the essentials.”

5. The Magazine: Marco Arment’s bi-weekly magazine, with several original articles from talented writers, is probably the best justification for keeping Newsstand around at this point. It has a fantastic minimalistic design as well, which is to be expected from the creator of Instapaper. The topics are varied and provocative, great for a short-but-satisfying read, and it's only available on iOS.

4. Sparrow: Apple rarely approves third-party mail clients, so the fact that this one made its way to the App Store is a blessing for users. Sparrow makes it easy to navigate one’s inbox, quickly seeing unread emails, easily going from one mail to the next, and getting to see just who’s emailing with Facebook integration. It was so good that Gmail acquired the dev team, and the Gmail app is already seeing the dividends of the acquisition. While new feature development has stopped, Sparrow isn’t going away, thankfully: it recently got an update for the iPhone 5 and remains perhaps the best independent mail client on the App Store.

3. Google Maps: You never know what you have until it's gone, and such is the story of Google Maps. Ever since Apple’s mapping solution replaced the default Maps app in iOS, which was powered by Google, suddenly people missed Google’s solution. Well, splitting the app away into a third-party release proved to be a great move: while it is yet to see iPad support, the transit directions are a huge help, turn-by-turn navigation has been added to the app, and it's just generally a better experience than it was before.

2. Tweetbot for iPad: Tapbots brought their Twitter client from iPhone to iPad this year, and while the iPad experience is great enough on its own, the synchronization is the app’s real strength. Being able to easily sync unread position between iPhone, iPad, and even the later Mac version is just an amazing experience that works exactly as it says on paper. It’s the best Twitter experience available, period. Enjoy it while it lasts, thanks to Twitter limiting the number of users that an app can have using Twitter.

1. Paper by FiftyThree: This drawing app is incredibly beautiful, allowing for pieces that look incredibly realistic to be brought to life in the app’s virtual pages. But it may be the fact that it’s actually so easy to use, even for non-artists, that it is extremely compelling. Jennifer Allen saysPaper by FiftyThree does for sketching and artistry as iA Writer does for the writer. It’s simple and unsullied by menu bars and buttons. Instead it’s all about expressing creativity.”

INFINITY Comic Fanzine Relaunched and Reinvented for iPad

Posted by Lisa Caplan on August 6th, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

If you are among the ever-growing number of digital comic and graphic novel enthusiasts, there’s a new free magazine on Newsstand called INIFNITY that's worth checking out. Designed for the iPad, it has the look and feel of any glossy digital bi-monthly without an overload of interactive features. There’s Twitter integration and audio commentary, but the magazine maintains an old-school feel with its attention focused on comic books and related genres.

The new iPad offering is actually a reinvention of a small comic fanzine that bears the same name which popped onto the scene in the 1980s. During its run it had a knack for finding stars on the rise, and the new iteration plans to do the same while also offering news and interviews with today’s big players.

The launch issue has tons of news and mini reviews, quotes from famous grapic novelists like Art Speiglman of Maus fame and features an interview PJ Holden about his commando-themed comics being banned by Apple, along with a preview of his latest, Murderdrome. There is also a one-on-one with David Lloyd on his graphic novel Kickback, a look at the art of Simon Russell and capsule reviews for several iOS titles.

Favorite Four iPad Magazines - Summer Sartorial Edition

Posted by Lisa Caplan on June 20th, 2012

In the world of couture it's already Fall/Winter 2012-13, but here in reality, summer is hot - literally. With the season came Time Warner to Newsstand, which got us poking through their offerings and finding ourselves drawn to lighter beach fare like fashion magazines. This week we look at our favorite four fashionista periodicals for those planning what to wear now and to see what's on the catwalk for Autumn.


ELLE US has couture, trends, and very readable articles. On top of the high-end glossy magazine, there are some really cool features. Enjoy an ELLE "Personal Stylist" - just upload your image and try on looks directly from the app. There is also a great Inspiration Board where you can put your favorite pieces to create a digital, sharable collage - perfect for Pinterest. The July issue just came out and features a look at Selena Gomez in a TDF top, a huge spread on instant outfits for any occasion, and a guide to vacation dressing and packing.


This venerable Conde Nast publication, Vogue, made its iPad debut in May and each issue is packed with all the great fashion and articles you've come to expect on top of some cool interactive features including videos. The July issue has a fantastic one of Emma Stone doing a special photo shoot where she reveals her "vampy" side and talks about her role in the latest Spiderman summer blockbuster. This issue also looks at what every girl needs on her summer fashion checklist and peeks down the runway at the haute-couture for fall.


We were happy to see Time Warner bring InStyle to Newsstand. The magazine is a fresh lighter look at fashion. The monthly has lots of tips on how to get the hottest styles for less, and how to put them together to make eyes pop and jaws drop when you make your entrance. The new July issue downloads really quickly, has stories on Salma Hayek and Justin Bieber, great hot weather makeup looks and tips, and over 150 "chic steals" to love for under $50. Oh, there's also some frozen treats that would make any "it" girl want to risk the calories.


NET-A-PORTER, from the website of the same name is a weekly that's part magazine, part shopping portal and part fashionista web haven. The app is simple to use, and full of great looks. This week, the editors have an article on the hottest one-piece swimwear. Check out Issa London by Daniella Helayel (of Kate Middleton now Duchess of Cambridge's engagement dress fame), who reinvents mod on the runway. Then, after drooling and possibly buying, go discover the secrets of the summer sundress. The best part of the app is that you can touch on an item to get more details, the price, and purchase your must-haves right from your lap.

Favorite Four Apps for Mother's Day

Posted by Lisa Caplan on May 9th, 2012

Mother’s Day means so many different things to so many different people that it’s hard to create a list of just four apps for the occasion. There are great gifts to purchase right from iTunes and the App Store, and tons of apps to help you find the right present. But we decided to keep the focus on free or inexpensive apps that will make moms feel special this Sunday and leave them with more than a memory to treasure all year long.

Slow Message

There are a ton of special-for-Mother’s-Day e-card apps, but once sent and received, they tend to be filed away no matter how much sentimental value they hold, like real cards. Slow Message offers an alternative to make mom happy year round. The app allows users to write emails and arrange to have them sent out in daily, weekly, or monthly intervals. While the app doesn’t have card templates, it’s a wonderful way to keep the love flowing even when life’s so busy there’s hardly time for a text message. And while we're using it, we can set up annual birthday and anniversary emails too.


A phone call or card is wonderful, but nothing beats seeing your children’s faces, especially when they are away from home. And while many moms are tech savvy and iOS ready, some older mothers and grandmothers still find new technologies overwhelming and lots of geek-moms use non-iOS devices. Since almost everyone has access to some sort of mobile or desktop computer with a camera, Skype is the perfect cross-platform app for catching up and sharing events. And, if your mom is one of the sort who isn’t techy, spend the time teaching her how to set up and use it as a time to bond.

Fotopedia – Women of the World

What better way to show mom that you appreciate everything she does and everything she is than by celebrating the beauty of womanhood with her? Oliver Martel’s free collection of photographs of women from – you guessed it – all around the world is full of stunning images that celebrate every facet - modern and traditional - of being part of the fairer sex. The app has a wonderful permanent collection and a series of changing photo stories that commemorate different cultures, occupations, rites of passage and of course, lots of photos of mothers.

iPad Newstand Subscriptions

Looking for something more tangible? Does your mom have an iPad? If so, one of the best gift ideas - one that keeps on giving and doesn’t cost too much - is a newspaper or magazine subscription. There is something on Newsstand for almost every mom. The New York Times has a section for every interest, and if that’s too pricey or not her style some other great choices include:

Happy Mother's Day!

Zinio Updates For New iPad

Posted by Lisa Caplan on April 17th, 2012
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: A MULTI-MAGAZINE SENSATION :: Read Review »

Zinio has long been a serious player in digital magazines distribution, on and off iOS. Zinio first appeared on the App Store in April 2010, but offered digital magazines on its website well before that. Zinio's iOS app updated recently and is now optimized for the new iPad’s retina display. With a vast catalog of first and second tier magazines and with periodicals available across various mobile and PC platforms, Zinio is proving they can stay competitive. Download speed has also been improved considerably in this update.

The quality of individual digital magazines is always dependant on the publishers, not Zinio or any distributors. Some magazines look like what they are - prettified PDF's. But, when magazines like National Geographic take advantage of all the interactivity, particularly now with the crisper text and images, the reading experience parallels any on Apple's Newsstand where many magazines have yet to be updated for the enhanced display.

Zinio's update shows the company's continued dedication to iOS as a platform. Until Apple can bring in more partners like Rolling Stone and somehow urge or compel all iOS native magazine publishers to support its best and newest features - a slow process considering major publications like Time Magazine, The Nation and The Atlantic have yet to adopt Newsstand, much less adapt to the latest iPad's specs - Zinio should continue to hold their market share and possibly even see it grow.

Vogue Updates, Adds Full Issues

Posted by Kevin Stout on April 3rd, 2012
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Popular fashion magazine, Vogue, has updated its iPad app to become a full-fledged Newsstand app. Full issues of Vogue magazine are now available for the iPad. In addition to full issues, Vogue has also updated to support the Retina display on the new iPad (third-gen) and added auto-renewing subscriptions.

As expected, print subscribers will have free access to the iPad version. Non-print subscribers have a few purchasing options. Single issues of the magazine can be purchased at $3.99 an issue. A one-month subscription (that renews automatically from month to month until cancelled) will cost $1.99 per month. A one year subscription (still automatically renewing) will cost $19.99 per year. Both subscriptions come with free trials, one month for the month-to-month subscription and three months for the yearly subscription.

While Vogue focuses mainly on fashion, issues will contain content from a variety of topics including art, photography, politics, celebrities, food, and health. The Vogue app is free to download.

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