Ever since the iPhone App Store launched, I’ve been busy trying out a load of free and paid applications. By the time you read this blog entry, I’ve likely downloaded many more apps, so I won’t even try to do any comprehensive reviews. I can tell you already that this feature means I will never have to worry about getting bored while traveling. Sure, the iPhone has been great for this before 2.0, but there was some extra work involved, like loading it up with videos and music from my computer. Now, as long as I have a cellular connection (which means everywhere except for planes and Yosemite), I can download a new app and enjoy it immediately, right from my phone. I’m really really glad that I don’t need to open up my computer to do this.
I’m just going to go through the current list of apps on my iPhone and let you know what I think:
Ugh, I can’t believe I just used the phrase “social networking” on my blog. But the iPhone makes stuff like this actually useful. Here’s what I’ve tried:
Eh, it’s about what you’d expect. Not too different than the already good web app.
I’ve driven past their office like a billion times since moving out here, so I finally decided to give it a try. It lets your contacts see where you are at all times, which is potentially good for meeting up with friends who you didn’t know were just down the street. Like most of these services, it’s only good if your friends are on it. Right now I have one contact, who is over 2,000 miles away. I doubt I’ll be receiving any notifications that we’re close anytime soon, but if I do get an alert, that will be pretty cool. The app is pretty bare right now; I can’t change all of my account settings without going to a web browser. One funny thing about Loopt is that it’s so new, their password reset procedure requires you to call their customer service number, which is not open on weekends.
I still haven’t become a huge Twitter user, but I like this app. It lets you upload photos and also updates your location. And it (along with most apps in the category) may become more useful when the push notification thing is launched in September.
Google Mobile App
Searches your phone and the web.
Well, I’ve always liked fancy remote controls, so I’m a fan of this. I’ve used it with both iTunes and my Apple TV, and it works as advertised. It even lets me select which speakers I want to use in iTunes.
Like Loopt, I signed up for this service just for the app. I think I actually created an account a couple of years ago, but never used it. I really like that it works over EDGE, even though it has the occasional buffering hiccup. Because of this app, I’m going to start seriously looking into an solution for hooking my phone up to my car’s audio system. It has more music than my iPhone can hold. It’s better than satellite radio because the station is customized just for me. It’s just awesome. The audio quality is about as good as I’m already used to with FM radio.
If I really like a song, and I don’t already own it, there’s a quick link for me to download it from iTunes. Unfortunately, though not the fault of Pandora, this cannot be done without WiFi, which is required by the iTunes Music Store app. Another limitation that the developers cannot control is the fact that the music won’t continue playing in the background, so I can’t use my phone for anything else while listening on Pandora. This is probably a good thing for driving though, and in most cases where I’m not in the car, I can just open Pandora on my computer anyway. One annoyance I do have is that sometimes there appears to be a bug with the volume slider not working, but hopefully that will be fixed in an update.
And I don’t want to get too off-topic, but isn’t it ridiculous that I can’t just immediately plug my phone into my car and have it work? The car is two years old. It would probably cost the manufacturer less than a dollar per unit to add an auxiliary input jack. I can’t believe that this isn’t standard by now across all models. This of course is the same industry which considers floor mats an “option,” so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised.
This is a silly free game, and while amusing, Apple may regret the precedent it has set by allowing the app to be listed in the “Productivity” category. The game is simple, hold a button for as long as you can, but people at work were oddly competitive with it.
Super Monkey Ball
I’m pretty horrible at this game so far, but it looks like it will help to keep me entertained on long flights. It’s a little confusing where the resting/level orientation of the phone is, and just how much tilting is necessary, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.
I saw this demoed on YouTube a few months ago and wanted to try it out. It’s fun and simple.
This is my favorite game so far, because I think it will be able to keep me entertained the longest. I’ve seen this (or a similar) game on a computer before, but I think that the touch screen is probably the best interface for it. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t use the phone’s orientation for any functions, but I think that might be good for cutting down on frustration. The animation and physics are amazing, and even the sound effects are incredibly dynamic for a cell phone game. I took a few screenshots to illustrate it. To take screenshots on your own iPhone, simply hold down the home button and then press the on/standby button on top of the phone. A PNG will be saved to your photo library.
What you have to do is try and fill up buckets with water and other stuff. Let’s take a look:
My solution for Level 4.
My solution for Level 5.
Now let’s take a look at the controls. To move an object’s position, just drag using your finger. To rotate, tap an object to select it, and then drag the surrounding circle. If you drag out, the circle gets larger, which allows you to more precisely control the rotation for more difficult puzzles. This is why the touchscreen UI is awesome.
Large control circle for fine-tuning the rotation.
Smaller circle for faster adjustments.
Use the pinch method to zoom in. Yay for Multi-Touch!
Here’s one solution. It starts pretty easy.
Okay, back to the game:
My solution for Level 6.
A free flashlight app.
That’s it for now. Let me know of any other good/bad/fun apps in the comments!