Archive Reviews

Review: Cannons

Not very often does an iPhone game really catch my attention and therefore my wallet. When I was younger I would play games on our computer, a Windows 95 machine, for hours. One of my favorite games was a little pre-bundled Windows 95 game called Pipe's Dream in which you rotated pipes so that sewage could flow safely across the screen. If you prevented an unsightly mess then you received points and moved unto the next level.

Cannons from Readdle is a new take on this old game. Instead of rotating pipes you rotate fuses to set off a series of cannons. There are two play modes: story and quick play. Unlike Pipe's dream there is a story that involves pirates, treasure maps, and navel warfare. It is not a literary masterpiece by any means, but is a really sets the mood. Thankfully it can have multiple save files, which is really convenient if you let family members play on your iPhone; this is something I really wish that other iPhone games had. The game was fun, fast-paced, and overall I really enjoyed it. The game also possesses some RPG elements to it with the ability to upgrade your cannons to larger and point scoring machines of war. Basically, the more booty you acquire the more you can upgrade your cannons and the bigger your cannons the more points you score. 


The sound is great and really gets you into the mood of the game and makes Cannons feel more like a classic gameboy game. The graphics are about as good as you can get for a puzzle game, but the hand drawn backgrounds and sprites are pleasing to look at. The game also lets you upload you scores to online leaderboards, which is a nice touch. I would have personally preferred to see something more social like OpenFeint, the leaderboard/chat/social network publishing community present in other iPhone games. I think this application would really benefit from integrating the free OpenFeint platform especially considering that puzzle games really emphasize on obtaining the highest score possible, but that is really my only gripe. 


Right now this game is $2.99 in the iTunes store and I recommend it. I honestly was not expecting the game to be this enjoyable, especially with the pirates theme. I think Readdle really made a fun little game here. It is nothing highly remarkable, but nonetheless fun. It is not always the flashy games that you end up playing over and over game but volumes can be said sound puzzle games like Tetris and Cannons.

By: Hunt Henning (www.thedigitalcheatsheet.com)

Cannons

Full Version: $2.99 

Review: Find A Metro DC - Metro iPhone App

When I was on vacation this past week in Washington DC, I had added a few applications onto the iPhone to help me plan out the sites I wanted to see. I knew we would be using the Metro rail for our primary mode of transportation, so I picked up the paper map at the Metro station. I'm a smart guy, I can use a map, right? Yes, but, it's not very well lit underground and it's kind of a hassle to pull out the paper map when you are toting around a lot of stuff like we were. On top of that, we walked out of our hotel and had no idea which way to walk to the closest metro station; the paper map doesn't really help out with that, and I hate asking directions.  

My solution was to check out the app store. I found 'find a metro dc' from jrbapps. This app was exactly what I was looking for. I tested it by having it show me the 5 closest stations from my current location. It show the stations and which train lines are serviced by them. You simply select the station you want and the location based services really shine by launching Google Maps with your start/end walking direction points already entered for you.

Once you get to the station, you can use the trip planner to choose your start/ending Metro stops. This is where it really shines, as the app give you clear and concise directions. It tells you where exactly which train line to use,  the direction it's going, how many stops, which transfers you may need to make, and even tells you the fare. I found this to be the most helpful, as it eliminates all confusion as to which train to take. To top it off, it's quicker than pulling out the paper map. 

If you aren't underground (no cell coverage), the app can also use your data connection and find the arrival times and delays for the trains. Be sure you do this before you go into the Metro station, as you will have no connectivity underground, at least not yet. I have heard that in October of 2009, there is going to be cell coverage in the Metro tunnels. If you just want the start/stop destinations and which trains to take, you don't even need to be connected, which makes this also compatible with the iPod touch, although slightly limited. Since the iPod Touch doesn't have GPS or 3G, it doesn't let the app live up to it's potential.

As an aside, this app also supports the Metro bus system, which I didn't try since we used the train. It's a nice added feature though. 

Conclusion:

If you are visiting or live in the Washington DC area, this app is a steal at $0.99 cents. It took me out of a few stressful situations, like finding the correct train and the closest Metro stop when we were walking after dark. This app totally removes the hassles and stress from using the DC Metro for tourists. 

Find A Metro DC from jrbapps

Price: $.99 USD

Review: Sygic Mobile Maps America

 

Since the release of the iPhone 3G and it’s inclusion of the GPS functionality, people have dreamt of using the iPhone as a GPS unit. Unfortunately until the release of the iPhone 3.0 software this feat was impossible due to Apple’s restrictions on the SDK. Finally with the new iPhone 3.0 software, developers can create their own GPS solution provided they bring their own maps (Due to licensing restrictions Apple cannot use Google Maps). Sygic is one of the first GPS solutions out of the gate for the iPhone. It really surprised me with its excellent set of features.

I will begin this review by saying that this application is fast. Even though I have an iPhone 3GS this application is fast enough I imagine it will be smooth experience using it on the standard iPhone 3G. Maps load quickly and the GPS locates your position almost instantly. Speaking of that if it cannot obtain a location for you immediately you can tell the application to wait for a signal, use your last recorded location, or manually type in a location. If you have to hope back into the application after taking a phone call or changing a song the application will quickly adjust itself appropriately to reflect your new location. Text on the screen is easily readable and the maps are both colorful and easy on the eye.

Sygic GPS treats itself like more of a standard GPS unit than an iPhone application. There is a lot of poking at the screen, but despite the lack of muli-touch the application gets the job done. The people at Sygic promote road safety (There is a safety prompt at each time you boot up the application) and I can see how having this simplified interface design and easy navigation is designed to keep your eyes on the road. The interface is noticeably responsive and the iPhone’s screen is a joy to tap on compared to other full-GPS units. You can use Sygic is either portrait or landscape mode. Landscape mode being better for viewing and portrait being better for controlling your music or answering a phone calls if the need arises.

 

Speaking of these extra iPhone functions unfortunately due the restrictions set forth by Apple answering a phone call will shut off the GPS, as will switching to any other other application. This is not Sygic’s fault and they more than make up for this by having the GPS software resume quickly. If there is anything that is disappointing is that currently there is a slight glitch in the current version of the software if you are listening to music via the iPod function. If you change the music’s volume while you are navigating for some odd reason the GPS volume lowers itself and then you find the music completely overwhelming the GPS’s turn-by-turns prompts. Until they fix this issue the best solution for listening to music as your navigate with Nygic’s GPS is being sure to adjust the volume of your radio instead of the iPhone’s own volume rocker. This makes sure the GPS’s volume remains on the same level as music while allowing you to turn up your music volume. This is my only qualm of this software and I imagine that this is a simple fix in future versions. If you are not listening to music the GPS’s voice is loud and easily understood.

Like any standalone GPS solution Sygic provides points of interest for you, but like any GPS it uses it own information. I do not know if it is possible, but integrating Google Map data into these points of interest would be nice. I would love the ability to search for “Best Buy” and be able to see any local Bestbuys the same way the native iPhone maps does.

 

Like any good GPS unit Sygic gives you turn-by-turn directions with a quite understandable male voice (Sorry, no options to use a woman’s voice). My only gripe is that by default whenever you turn on some roads the GPS will audibly pronounce its legal number instead of the actual road name. Thankfully Sygic provides plenty of options, including the ability to decide on what the GPS narrates. Speaking of options, Sygic is nice in that it gives you the choice of what kind of map you want, whether it be 2D or 3D. The GPS software will by default automatically adjust itself during the night so that you do not have a glowing orb of white light pulsing from your dashboard. You can also select which language you want the GPS to be in so that if you were ever traveling abroad you could use their other map software in your own native tongue.

 

As you can probably tell you Sygic is very much like a traditional GPS for better or worse. While it does not innovate nor does it really use any of the iPhone’s unique features I really appreciate this application. It functions as a reliable GPS unit that provides an excellent experience for me while I have tested it over the last two weeks. While the application is $79.99, it is much cheaper than a traditional GPS unit and the iPhone’s screen undoubtedly is much better than many of the GPS screens I have seen around town. I think the application provides tremendous value and that you should seriously consider purchasing it if you are looking into GPS software for the iPhone. There is no need to wait for other solutions because if all your looking for is a great GPS program that will get you from point A to point B then you will be satisfied with Sygic.

By: Hunt Henning (www.thedigitalcheatsheet.com)

Sygic Mobile Maps America - Turn-by-Turn Voice Guided GPS Navigation

Full version: $79.99

Sale version: $39.99

Review: Boxcar - Push Notifications for Twitter

Does your favorite Twitter application not support Push notifications? Probably not. This is where a third party can step in and provide a specific service. This is what Boxcar does.

Essentially Boxcar is an intermediate app that polls your twitter account every couple of minutes and then sends a push notification to your iPhone or iPod Touch that you have a new Direct Message or Mention (@reply).

 

 


When a new message is detected, you will see the message and get an audible notification that you have received one. Don't worry, you can easily disable this to keep it from annoying you if you are popular twitter user.

 

 

 

 

Once you click on the notification, it will launch your twitter client of choice. Currently Boxcar supports Tweetie, Twitterrific, Twittelator, Twitterfon Lite, Twitterfon Pro, and Twinkle. Boxcar is even granular enough to use combinations of apps with @messages opening one app and DMs opening another. It's your choice.

 

 

 

 

 

If you open up the Boxcar app, you can even type a DM to someone and if they are a Boxcar user it is pushed to them instantly, negating the whole polling every couple of minutes. While this is an added feature, I double it will be heavily used by most, as they will just DM from their regular twitter client.

 

 

Boxcar works as advertised, right now. My biggest concern is that the developer has to keep his server running and be able to grow with it as the Boxcar user base increases. If it gets extremely popular, growing is no small feat.  I love that Boxcar is also one of the only services that doesn't charge a small subscription fee.

 

Conclusion: I think Boxcar is a cool little app and brings push notifications to my iPod/iPhone when other twitter clients can't.While this is great on the initial purchase for $2.99 and that's all you pay... if he ever decides to let the server lapse, it goes down, etc... so do your twitter Push notifications. On the flip side, for $2.99 who cares

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Boxcar from Appremix
$2.99 USD

Review: PhotoFrame - Make Your iPhone A Digital Photo Frame

Want something more than black staring back at you when your iPhone goes to sleep? Do you love to show off your photos, or how about showing products from your companies latest range. Then this application could for you.

PhotoFrame turns your iPhone into a digital photo frame. Not only that, as well as rotating through your photos it also displays the time, day and date on your screen, so if you're non watch wearing it does away with having to wake your phone to check the time on a regular basis.

It's interface is clean and easy to use, and PhotoFrame comes loaded with some attractive images to get you started. Customization is easy if not entirely clear at first. There's no icon for setting the preferences nor are the preferences in general settings. It was just by pressing the screen that I discovered clicking on the date the preference panel appears.

As I said customization is easy as there are only two settings to choose from. Slideshow speed and your images from which you can add up to 20 from your iPhone photo library and that's it, you're done.

The application also supports shake to shuffle images and if you want to speed up the slideshow you can flick through the images by touching them with your finger.

The downsides; it has to be manually started each time you want it to start up. It would be a nice fix in the next upgrade if you could get it to start automatically, and it's a bit of a killer on your battery life. I spend my time turning off everything so  I can save battery life, so do I really want to turn on something that's going to drain it more?

That aside, I do like the app and use it from time to time.

Verdict:
If you love your photos and like to show them off it's worth a dollar to you.

By: AQBenkie (www.learnmacsonline.com)

PhotoFrame

$0.99