iPhone Apps

Along with the launch of iPhone 3G, the iPhone App Store launched last week. There were some interesting things but nothing killer.
The first thing I noticed is that after the iPhone update that’s required to use the App Store, the iPhone is a bit more buggy. It lags more, and programs exit on their own sometimes. I’m hoping this gets fixed soon.
One of the first things I looked for and tried was Super Monkey Ball. At first I thought the controls were horrible, but after some practice I grew to think of the controls as simply “not very good.” It seems my calibration is a little off because I always roll the the left, even when my iPhone is perfectly even. Also, rather than the default forward/back position is neither perfectly vertical or lying down. It’s at something close to a 45 degree angle. I understand they wanted it to be at the normal angle you’d hold it, but it’s hard to know exactly what angle that is. There are about eight worlds, and at the beginning only world one is available. There was an easy and hard. I finished easy and it didn’t unlock world two so I probably need to finish hard mode to continue. Although I wish the controls were a bit better, after some practice it wasn’t too bad. I’ve enjoyed this so far and will continue to play this. Despite the problems, I think it’s worth the $10 to have the cool little game on my iPhone.
The second thing I looked into was Bomberman Touch: The Legend of Mystic Bomb. After playing Bomberman Live, I grew to really like the games. The controls were odd but kind of cool. Of course the iPhone doesn’t have a directional pad, but instead of simulating a d-pad with onscreen buttons, you touch the screen anywhere and then slide in the direction you want to go. Rather than the center of the “d-pad” being placed wherever you first touch, there is no center. If I place my finger on the screen and slide up, Bomberman will run up. Then if I slide my finger to the left without raising it, Bomberman will move left. Basically, every time your finger stops, the game re-centers the d-pad at your fingers location. The only problem is that if you move too fast, your finger never stops and it never re-centers. The game was fun, and the last zone was really hard, but it still took between two and three hours to finish the entire game. Overall I’m pleased with my $10 purchase, but it’s more because it’s cool to have a fun game on the iPhone. Had this been on Live Arcade or Steam, I don’t think I would have paid so much for it.
Next I decided to try some applications! First, I downloaded Facebook. When I first downloaded, all features weren’t implemented yet, but quickly the applications caught up. It’s nice to have the app and not need to go through the web browser. Also, being free, the app is priced well! The application doesn’t have everything that Facebook itself has of course, but it’s still just as complete as the mobile site and much faster than both. I’d definitely recommend using this application. I also tried using the MySpace app but didn’t do much after logging in and taking a quick glance. What I liked it about it is something you’d expect – it doesn’t look all crazy and stupid like MySpace normally does. No stupid profile songs either! And like the Facebook app, this one’s free.
After that I tried some music applications. I tried Pandora and Last.fm. Pandora is very easy to use and cool. You specify a song or artist you like, and it will play music that it considers similar. You can then rate a song positive or negative depending on whether or not you liked it. It works very well over wifi, but without it songs have to continually stop to buffer. It also won’t play in the background, which is disappointing. Pandora was free, and while I wish it would work anywhere, I’m still happy to use it in wifi range.
Last.fm is also free and works very similarly to Pandora. You specify a song or artist, and it plays music that is similar. It has some extra features that probably are supposed to set it apart such as band bios, a “similar artists” list, and a list of events coming up per band. However, the UI seems more cluttered. Also, like Pandora, this can’t be played in the background. I don’t really care about its features and would prefer Pandora. Given the space on the iPhone though, I’ll keep both of these around.
AIM was a complete let down. It worked alright as an AIM client except that like the music players, it stops working in the background. What good is AIM if it only works when it’s actually up and open on the iPhone? Not much. It was also free.
The last program I tried was SplashID. SplashID is made by SplashData and is a program I liked a lot on the Palm. It was one of the biggest reasons against switching from Palms to the iPhone. It’s back, and I love it. SplashID is simply an encrypted database of whatever information you want to store in it, although its intended to store passwords, bank information, and similar information. The iPhone version does everything I remember from the Palm version yet still uses an interface that blends in well with the iPhone. SplashID is $10 and worth it completely! The desktop application it syncs with is $20, but I didn’t feel the need to get it. Doing a normal iPhone sync will backup your data; you just can’t access or manipulate the data via your PC without the desktop software.
While the App store has been hit and miss, it’s delivered the App I wanted most. The games were interesting but overpriced for what they delivered. However, the promise of a Warfare Incorporated, an RTS I enjoyed tremendously on the Palm, version for iPhone coming soon, I’m definitely excited about iPhone games as well.