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Bonnie Eisenman

Senior Writer | 148Apps

I'm a Princeton freshman and a computer nerd, bookworm, writer, and gamer. My iPod is my escape when I'm not drowning under homework or doing silly things like NaNoWriMo. I'm a longtime writer here at 148apps, and boy is it fun. Drop me a line at [email protected].

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Great Apps for College Students

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on September 12th, 2011

iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads abound on college campuses, and for good reason. iOS devices are great anyway, but for college students, there are myriad ways in which an iOS device can make life easier. When it comes to studying textbooks, taking notes in lecture, or even waking up to start the day—chances are there's an app for that. There are far too many useful apps to count, but here I'd like to list just a few apps sure to help college students manage their busy lives.

Paper textbooks may still be king, but e-readers are increasingly creating a presence in college classrooms. Digital versions are not only cheaper, but more portable, making e-textbooks an attractive option for many students.

For iOS, there are a couple of dedicated textbook readers, as well as more traditional e-reader apps. On the iPad, Kno and Inkling are both dedicated textbook apps. They have slight differences (Kno allows textbook rentals, for example, while Inkling allows single-chapter purchases) but both offer rich digital textbook experiences, with embedded quizzes and integrated video and images in certain textbooks. Meanwhile, the Kindle and other ebook apps also offer some textbooks.

Anki Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on September 5th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: ASTOUNDINGLY POWERFUL
Anki is not for the faint of heart, but its spaced repetition algorith makes it THE flashcard application for serious users. It's not without its flaws, and this iOS version is inferior to its desktop incarnation, but Anki's algorithm has won my loyalty.
Read The Full Review »

The Secret of Chateau de Moreau Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on September 2nd, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: A MARVELOUS MYSTERY
The Secret of Chateau de Moreau puts players in the shoes of suspect-turned-detective Antoine as he tries to discover the truth about his foster father's murder and clear his name. It's a very tight, well-made mystery title that should delight fans of the
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My iPod, Abroad: How My iPod touch Was Integral to Living and Learning in Japan

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on August 31st, 2011

This summer I did something a little unusual: I went to Japan. For two months, I lived with a host family, studied Japanese, and explored the small city I was living in. Quickly, one of my possessions became my most prized...my new iPod Touch, purchased just before my trip to replace a broken, older one. My iPod is my companion and entertainment source during normal life, but while in Japan it took on some extra uses.

For any international traveler or student, I think that having in iPhone or iPod Touch can be an enormous help. Here are some of the ways I used my iPod while in Japan.

As a study tool
I was enrolled in a summer language intensive program at the Hokkaido International Foundation. Theoretically, we fit a year's worth of language instruction into two months. (Yikes.) As a result, I was doing a lot of studying, and my iPod was a huge help in this regard.

Dictionary Apps
First, my Japanese/English dictionary app. I used Japanese, but other students used the free Kotoba or other apps like Midori. Regardless, all of these apps had marked advantages over traditional dictionaries. First and foremost, iPods and iPhones are far more portable than paper dictionaries or even "electronic dictionary" devices. Using an app was easy and fast. Furthermore, Japanese in particular is interesting because the kanji, or characters, are difficult to look up in a traditional dictionary. iPhone dictionary apps generally let you input kanji using a number of methods, including "handwriting," making them much more useful.

Hardly anyone used a traditional dictionary. In my program, of the 50-odd students I'd estimate that 75% of us had iPod Touches or iPhones, and just about everyone who did used either Kotoba or another dictionary app on a regular basis.

Secondly, I was desperately trying to learn quickly enough to keep up with my daily quizzes and weekly tests, which meant, for me, flashcards. My commute to school included a half-hour on the bus each way, making my iPhone an excellent way to discreetly study. Using a flashcard app was great because I could fit study time in during all my little breaks: standing in line, while commuting, waiting for dinner to be ready...it really was incredibly convenient.

I personally made extensive use of Anki. Anki is a stellar flashcard program that is primarily for the desktop, where it's free. The iOS version costs a somewhat-steep $25 and is less polished than its desktop counterpart. However, for me it was still a good buy. Anki's magic is that it uses a spaced repetition algorithm, introducing cards at intervals according to previous response data. So, I would see my new vocabulary and kanji very often while older cards would show up occasionally. I've yet to see a better way of handling data retention; reviewing hundreds of paper flashcards quickly becomes unfeasible. I flirted with other flashcard apps but none met my needs like Anki, though Anki does have its problems...and that pricetag.

Homesickness and the iPod's "Normal" Features
One thing I hadn't counted on was how much I would miss "stupid" things like the sound of English.

In an environment that was all Japan, all the time, sometimes I wanted something familiar. So, I turned to my iPod for things like familiar music, photos from home, e-books, and TV clips from childhood shows. Also, since I didn't really have internet access with my host family, my iPod became my primary device for using the Internet. Facebook might be a form of procrastination, but when it came to keeping in touch, a mixture of email, Facebook, and Tumblr—all of which I accessed and used from my iPod—helped me to stay connected with people from home.

On the non-homesickness front, I used the iPod's camera when my "real" camera died or filled up with photos, or when I wanted to be more discreet. I used the Notes app frequently, too.

Do these uses sound trivial? Perhaps; and yet, they're part of why my iPod was so precious to me while in Japan.

Really, my dictionary app and my flashcard app were a killer combination when it came to learning and living. With my dictionary app, I could save words I encountered in real life for later study, or look up crucial words on the fly to facilitate conversations. With Anki, I could engrave those words in my memory. And beyond the purely pragmatic, it was comforting to have my favorite songs, TV shows, and yes, apps with me when everything else was unfamiliar. The iPod and iPhone can do so much that it's easy to overlook the little things.

I really do count myself lucky to live in an age where I don't have to lug around a physical dictionary for when my vocabulary fails, and when my camera's batteries die I always have a backup device. My iPod Touch made itself integral to my experience living and learning in Japan. Particularly for language students, I think that such resources are really invaluable.

Cryptogram Review

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on August 29th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Developer: Norman Basham
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 2.1

Graphics / Sound Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Game Controls Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar


What's a cryptogram? Generally, a cryptogram is a text written in code. In the iPhone/iPad game Cryptogram, however, a cryptogram is a puzzle in which every letter in a text has been swapped to a corresponding letter, and you try to decipher the result. (This type of encoding is technically called a monoalphabetic substitution cipher.) Cryptogram comes packed with such puzzles. It's a very simple game, but also one that has the potential to keep code-lovers busy for hours.

Each puzzle is a quote that has been transformed into code, and the player's goal is to decode the puzzle. Each code-letter corresponds to one "real" letter, so to try and decode the message the player must guess which letters correspond to which. By default, Cryptogram will tell you if a guess is incorrect (and penalize you if so) but this option can be switched off.

Of course, random guesses won't do much good. Instead, making educated guesses by using things like frequency and letter/word combinations is the key to solving the cryptograms. For example, a single-letter word must be "A" or "I"; similarly, words like "THE" and "AND" are easy to guess, and letters that are repeated back-to-back (like the L's in "WELL") are also good hints.

There are plenty of puzzles included with Cryptogram, with more available via in-app purchase. The original puzzles are sorted by length (though don't assume that longer puzzles are harder; sometimes more data makes a puzzle easier to solve). Game Center integration provides leaderboards and achievements, though I was somewhat disappointed by the unimaginative "I've solved x puzzles!" nature of the achievements. If I had one complaint, it would be that the keyboard is sometimes too small. But in general, the app is elegant and its design gets out of the way of the puzzles it revolves around—always a plus in my book.

Cipher-lovers will find plenty of entertainment with Cryptogram. It's a very old concept, and certainly not unique, but Cryptogram is a solid app with plenty of puzzles, and I've enjoyed it a lot.

Photo Stats Review

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on August 16th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: SLEEK AND SIMPLE
Photo Stats combs through the metadata from your Camera Roll and delivers shiny infographics about your photo-taking habits. When, where, and how do you love to take photos? Photo Stats has the answers. An uncomplicated app, Photo Stats nevertheless deliv
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Travel Intelligently with Smart Travelling Guides

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on June 6th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Travelling internationally can be complicated, and visiting a foreign city without doing some research is probably a bad idea. But why force yourself to do all the work when plenty of travel guides have already done the legwork for you? That's the idea behind Smart Travelling Guides, which boast that they aim to "make the experience of worldwide travel more rewarding, less mediocre, and easier to navigate."

Smart Travelling Guides provide recommendations for food, culture, nightlife, hotels, and shops. Trumpeting that it can find the "best places in town," the app displays pictures of the place in question, an upbeat description, and finally provides a map. With more than 5,000 hand-picked recommendations, Smart Travelling Guides claims to provide a unique database of great experiences, from spectacular cups of coffee and delicious meals to luxurious hotels.

For the first seven days, the app permits access to all cities at no charge; afterwards, however, each city's "guide" must be purchased. The app currently supports the following cities:

Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Dublin, Florence, Hamburg, Istanbul, Copenhagen, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Marseille, Miami, Milan, Munich, Naples, New York, Nice, Palma, Paris, Prague, Rome, Salzburg, San Francisco, Stockholm, Valencia, Venice, Vienna, and Zürich.

The app's database also provides information on how other users have rated a place. Making use of the iPhone's hardware, the app can find places based on your current location. The travel guides also stay up-to-date thanks to online synchronization with Smart Travelling's online database. (Such updates come at no extra charge.) As another ease-of-use bonus, users can also download content for offline access.

So, Smart Travelling Guides provides a great resource of select restaurants, hotels, shops, and more for travelers looking to take advantage of sightseeing in a new city. Next time you're in Istanbul or Venice, perhaps Smart Travelling Guides will be of use!

Smart Travelling Guides can be downloaded as a free app, with extra "guides" unlockable via in-app purchase.

Middle School Class Creates 'Crack Cards,' a Game of Backwards Solitaire

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on May 25th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

There are plenty of card games on the App Store, but Crack Cards, described by its creators as a kind of "backwards solitaire," has quickly won fans after being featured as a "New & Noteworthy" app. The other thing that makes it unique? Crack Cards wasn't developed by just anyone. Rather, it's the creation of the advanced computers class at Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Ryan Longnecker, an 8th grade teacher at Thurgood Marshall, said he turned to game development after realizing that traditional lessons about PowerPoint and word processing "just couldn't keep the kids engaged." So, he started branching out into web design and game creation. "Game design is one of the hardest lessons I've ever taught," he writes. "Trying to keep everyone on the same page is nearly impossible, but the kids LOVE it and you see them light up when they walk in to the computer lab."

Crack Cards, created as a class-wide effort, is the fruit of those lessons. Mr. Longnecker says that it's based off of a game he played in his own childhood. The game's rules are pretty simple. Four cards are dealt out each turn, and if any two cards share a suit, the lower can be removed from the game. This continues until there are no more moves available, and then four more cards can be dealt; the game ends when either there are no more moves or when only the aces are left. But while playing the game is simple, winning is a much more difficult proposition. The game's description dares players to look past the luck to find the strategy.

For now, the game is single-player (apt, considering its similarity to solitaire) but the app's description promises future updates with a Versus mode. Perhaps that's the class's next project!

The 8th grade advance computers class at Thurgood Marshall Middle School should be proud of their work—Crack Cards looks like a fun twist on the usual solitaire variations, and beyond that, creating an iPhone app is no small feat. I wish my AP Computer Science class in high school had worked on projects this interesting!

Crack Cards is available for $0.99 on the App Store.

7 Little Words Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on May 23rd, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: SPELLBINDING
7 Little Words is a fun game, even if it is simple; it combines letter tiles with crossword-puzzle-like clues.
Read The Full Review »

Japanese Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on May 20th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarstar :: FANTASTIC
Japanese is an extraordinarily impressive English to Japanese / Japanese to English dictionary. With an extensive dictionary database, flashcards, many ways of looking up kanji, and more, this app delivers everything one could want from a dictionary app.
Read The Full Review »

Lady Gaga Promotes New Album through Words With Friends and Farmville

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on May 17th, 2011

We've seen partnerships between artists and apps before, but this one is news-making in its sheer scope. Lady Gaga has recently announced a partnership with Zynga to promote her new album, Born This Way, across a number of their games, including two of its biggest hits, Words With Friends and Farmville. Thought you could escape the pop idol? Sorry, she'll be lurking in your virtual field now, too!

The promotion starts on May 17th. Farmville players will be able to visit "GagaVille," a new, uniquely designed neighboring farm sporting unicorns and crystals, among other things. GagaVille will allow "little monsters" (as Gaga dubs her fans) worldwide to listen to unreleased tracks from the new album. And players who buy a $25 Zynga game card from Best Buy will also be treated to a free download of the new album.

Meanwhile, Words With Friends will feature a daily "Words with Gaga" contest, which will award real-life Gaga-themed prizes, ranging from concert tickets to a signed copy of "Born This Way. " The contests have yet to be announced, but as an example Zynga says that players who play a special word ("UNICORN," perhaps) might be entered in a sweepstakes. Finally, special edition virtual items will also be available across other Zynga games.

“I want to celebrate and share ‘Born This Way’ with my little monsters in a special way that’s never been done before,” said Lady Gaga in a statement on Zynga's website. “Zynga has created a magical place in FarmVille where my fans can come play, and be the first to listen to the album.”

“We’re focused on creating cool new ways to entertain and surprise our players,” said Owen Van Natta, Zynga’s executive vice president of business. “Our partnership with Lady Gaga offers many new experiences...We want to thank Lady Gaga for working with us on this truly great surprise.”

This isn't the first time that Lady Gaga and Zynga have teamed up, however. In March, the two combined their efforts to raise over $3 million for Japan relief. Whether or not this new venture will produce similar results (albeit this time profit) remains to be seen, but I suspect that "GagaVille" will be quite the hit. At the very least, Gaga fans should find a lot here to enjoy. For more information on this newest Gaga/Zynga promotion blitz, check out the website dedicated to the event.

Relive Memories with Frisbee Forever

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on May 16th, 2011
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Who doesn't love a good game of Frisbee? Take the game of catch, add a spinning disk, and boom: suddenly the game is that much more exciting. I'd rank playing Frisbee as one of the great cliches of American childhood, right up there with baseball games and ice pops.

For those looking for a digital Frisbee fix, there's now a solution that requires no manicured lawn or even real-life friends, and its name is Frisbee Forever. The officially licensed game is now free, and offers all the Frisbee goodness an iOS gamer could ever want.

From the app's description:

Get ready for blast-off. Fly at breathtaking speed across more than 100 crazy tracks. Twist and turn in the California Theme Park, climb the majestic mountains in the Wild West or send the waves blazing in the Pirate filled Caribbean oceans. There’s a level for everyone!

Play with cool classic Wham-O® Frisbees® or brand new discs only available in Frisbee® Forever. Collect more than 100 Frisbees®, with plenty of trophies and secret bonuses to achieve.

If all of that sounds a little more complicated than a typical real-life Frisbee game, well, it is. In Frisbee Forever, there's no circle of friends going through the same motions for all eternity. Instead, players navigate their snazzily decorated frisbees through hoops and soar over whimsical landscapes. Most of the game focuses on flying your Frisbee over and through said landscapes, rather than throwing it. To see it in action, check out the video below.

It's not often that free games look this good, though to be fair Frisbee Forever is a freemium game. Still, the brightly colored Frisbees are mostly free to fly.

Frisbee Forever is a universal app, designed for both iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad, and is available now for free in the App Store.

Hey, That's My Fish! HD Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on May 9th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: PENGUIN-TASTIC
Hey, That's My Fish! is a fun strategy board game with a surprising amount of depth. The fact that it includes cute penguins is just a bonus.
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Etsy Lovers

iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
By Bonnie Eisenman on May 5th, 2011
Our rating: starstarstarblankstarblankstar :: DECENT
Etsy Lovers is a fun app for browsing items on Etsy. Unfortunately, you can't buy items, and it crashes occasionally. Those issues aside, it's a fun, solid app.
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Meal Snap: Magical Calorie Counting with Your Camera!

Posted by Bonnie Eisenman on April 18th, 2011
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Calorie counting is sensible in theory, but precisely measuring every morsel is a hassle at best and at worst, impractical and ridiculous. I'm not claiming to be a nutritional or behavioral expert, but honestly, how many people do you know who faithfully record the contents of every meal? However, a new app seeks to solve this problem of inconvenience with an amusing solution to innate human laziness. Called Meal Snap, its concept is simple: take a picture of your food, and the app will report exactly what you've been eating.

Meal Snap lets you take pictures of the meals you eat, and then magically tells you what food was in your meal. Oh yeah, we give you a rough estimate of the calories you ate too. Food tracking has never been easier.

Makes you feel like the app is actually...intelligent. Of course, the "auto-magical" food detection isn't perfect, so perhaps our iPhones can't yet become self-aware and take over the world. However, Meal Snap is still very impressive in that it focuses on a key barrier to food-tracking—inconvenience—and eliminates it almost entirely. You'll probably have your phone on you whenever you eat, and snapping a quick photo is much more efficient than manually scribbling down a detailed list of your meal. (Plus, even if the "auto-magical" detection fails, you still know what you've eaten thanks to the photo!)

You can do more with Meal Snap than just get instant information. The app allows users to share photos using Twitter and Facebook, and you can browse through previous days' meals, viewing total calories per day and reviewing old pictures.

Meal Snap is certainly a very cool idea, and, if the app's estimates are accurate, a potentially very useful app as well. We love seeing apps that make innovative use of the ubiquity and capabilities of iOS devices, and Meal Snap definitely fits that category!

If you'd like to give Meal Snap a spin, it's available now in the App Store for $2.99.